Homeschooling? Mainstream? I’m Shocked!

This piece came across the Designated Conservative‘s digital desk this morning (excerpt below – click here to read the whole article).   I hope that the conclusion doesn’t surprise anyone these days….  

The closest I’ve seen to surprise that homeschoolers are everywhere was back in 2002-03 when our (former) Mayor and (former) Police Chief pushed for a “daytime curfew” ordinance to make it a crime for “school-age” children to be out on a public street or in a public place “during school hours.”  After homeschoolers packed a public hearing on the ordinance, the Police Chief backed down and the ordinance died. 

Home Schooling Goes Mainstream

By Milton Gaither

Everybody knows somebody who is teaching a child at home

Article opening image: Mother helps child with homework in kitchen.“I never really told anybody about my music at school, only my really close friends,” Cheyenne Kimball told People Magazine in 2006. “Then [school officials] actually aired the show around the whole entire school, and that caused a lot of problems. I was a straight-A student and all of a sudden I didn’t want to go to school anymore because of the things people were saying. That’s why I’m homeschooled now.”  Cheyenne, winner of NBC’s America’s Most Talented Kid at age 12, recording artist, and star of her own MTV show, is just one of many high-profile Americans whose educational choice is home schooling.

Movie stars Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, married in 1997, home school their two children along with Will’s nephew. Why? “For flexibility,” Pinkett Smith told an Essence reporter, “so they can stay with us when we travel, and also because the school system in this country—public and private—is designed for the industrial age. We’re in a technological age. We don’t want our kids to memorize. We want them to learn.”

While home schooling may have particular appeal to celebrities, over the last decade families of all kinds have embraced the practice for widely varying reasons: no longer is…

…home schooling exclusive to Christian fundamentalism and the countercultural Left. Along with growing acceptance of home schooling nationally has come increasing diversification of who home schools and of what home schooling actually means.

Though parents and tutors have been teaching children in the home for centuries, in the late 1960s and 1970s there emerged for the first time in the United States a political movement that adopted this practice as a radical, countercultural critique of the public education system. Conservatives who felt the public schools had sold out to secularism and progressivism joined with progressives who felt the public schools were bastions of conservative conformity to challenge the notion that all children should attend them.

By the early 1990s they had won the right to home school in every state.  Some home-school advocacy groups have attempted to secure a federal law or Supreme Court ruling that would establish uniform national guidelines grounded in First or Fourteenth Amendment rights, but to date such efforts have failed (to the great relief of home-school advocacy groups that oppose this strategy).  Home schooling thus falls under state law, and these laws vary widely.  A complex matrix of specific statutory language and judicial interpretations emerged out of the maelstrom of political activism over the issue that started in the late 1970s.

In Indiana and Michigan, for example, there are virtually no restrictions on home schoolers and very little accountability to government. Home-schooling parents are not even required to register.

If you are a Michigan homeschooler and you happen to run into Dr. Pat Montgomery from the Clonlara School in Ann Arbor, make sure to offer her a big “Thank you!” for our state’s homeschooling legal environment.  Dr. Montgomery and her legal team have defended some of Michigan’s homeschooling ‘pioneers’ in court, and their efforts resulted in precedent-setting MI Supreme Court decisions and changes in the state School Code that continue to benefit and protect homeschooling families. 

In Pennsylvania and New York, state agencies oversee and regulate home schooling in a number of ways, from curricular requirements to parental qualifications to mandatory home visits by certified personnel to obligatory standardized testing.

By the 21st century, state laws were well established and uncontested, though nearly every year state legislators or judges, especially in the most permissive states, seek to increase regulations on home-schooling families in the name of accountability. Such initiatives nearly always fail due to the astonishing grass-roots organization and political mobilization of home schoolers.

The most recent challenge to home schooling arose when a California court cited a 1929 state law that ostensibly requires home tutors to be state-certified. After several months of protests and concomitant uncertainty for the 160,000 home-schooled children in the state, the court reversed the ruling to permit home schooling as a “species of private school education” and came surprisingly close to finding in the federal Constitution a right to home school.

Reliable nationwide numbers are difficult to obtain, but the National Center for Education Statistics estimates that from 1999 to 2003 the number of home-schooled children increased from around 850,000 to roughly 1.1 million, a 29 percent jump in four years. Movement leaders suggest even higher estimates of around 2 to 2.5 million children currently being home schooled.

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