Know What Your State Expects From You
Let’s talk about homeschool laws by state. Keep in mind here that the laws break down into 4 categories according to the HSLDA website. Now, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the organization HSLDA, the acronym breaks down to the Homeschool Legal Defense Association. HLSDA is an all powerful group which will be the topic of a future post.
Legal Categories for Homeschool Regulation by State
- States requiring no notice
- States with low regulation
- States with moderate regulation
- States with high regulation
In states where regulations are lowest and require no notice, the only legal requirements parents have to meet are:
- Teach the required subjects
- Use a written curriculum
Okay, wow…Seriously?! That’s it folks. States like these don’t have any fail safes for the children being homeschooled, but parents are covered. Just how protected are these parents?
The Home School Legal Defense Association was created in 1983 by Mike Farris and Mike Smith, two religious lawyer dad’s who wanted to protect their “rights” to school at home. Their website mission statement is as follows:
“HSLDA members have 24/7 phone and email access to our staff of attorneys and legal assistants, who can help you understand the homeschool law in your state and will go to bat for you if a school official or other authority challenges your homeschool. Our 80,000 members—families like you!— also receive personalized advice on everything from homeschooling a high schooler to teaching a child with special needs from our team of education consultants”.
I was stunned to read that “After a family joins HSLDA, there are no further charges of any kind for defending them in court. HSLDA pays in full all attorney fees, expert witness costs, travel expenses, and all other court costs permissible by state law for us to pay”.
My parents depended on this membership to get them free of several investigations into our “school”. This explains why social services never had a chance of looking in on us.
In the FAQ section of the website, the response provided to a question about defense in cases of child protective services investigations is:
In every contact with a child abuse investigator or police officer regarding allegations of abuse or neglect, HSLDA provides assistance and advice to our member families. If the investigation focuses on homeschooling, we may provide you representation until the matter is resolved. Should court action result in non homeschooling matters, we likely won’t remain involved beyond consulting with your retained lawyer.
HSLDA has in the past, and may choose in the future, to take cases that are not materially related to homeschooling but in which there has been a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. We reserve the right to accept such cases at our sole discretion”.
The Fourth Amendment is quoted as what gives parents the “right” to homeschool, but let’s take a closer look. Basic essentials of the amendment according to The Legal Information Institute website states that; “The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides that “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
The ultimate goal of this provision is to protect people’s right to privacy and freedom from unreasonable intrusions from government. However, the Fourth Amendment does not guarantee protection from all searches and seizures. It protects only those done by the government and deemed “unreasonable under the law”.
So how does this mean that parents have some sort of “God given right” to teach their children at home? I just see an amendment that lays out the persons’ rights to privacy. This in no way proves that we have a RIGHT vs. the PRIVILEGE to teach at home. What a flimsy idea to bulwark the argument behind why homeschooling should be seen as a legal right to practice.
HSLDA is the form of protection my parents used to avoid having child protective agents enter the house and speak with any of us kids. I believe there was only one instance where my mother was unable to avoid an investigation. During the divorce proceedings between my parents, the court was trying to learn if she was mentally fit to have custody of my youngest siblings.
The Breakdown of Homeschool Laws in Each State
Let’s get back to the breakdown of homeschool laws in the states. It appears that there are only 5 out of 50 states that have high regulations for homeschooling. Those states shouldn’t surprise you though: Vermont, New York and Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, the small, more liberal leaning states.
18 states have moderate laws and regulations, while a whopping 16 have low regulations and standards. Kentucky, where I grew up, has moderate and not even the lowest regulations. Even though we weren’t the state with the most relaxed laws, there were no requirements or tests to measure learning. There are no expectations that parents prove they are teaching the required subjects, and that the child is actually making progress.
This is what really impacted my siblings and me. No higher legal powers were even remotely concerned about checking in to see that school work was actually being done. We knew several families that were so very relaxed about their school efforts. There were cases where children were allowed to decide if they did school work or progressed in their grades. Some of our teenage homeschool friends would brag that they had evaded school work and weren’t even past fifth grade.
There were some kids, women specifically were expected to place their attentions upon making themselves proper home-makers and potential mothers. As a result, school and education came second to their womanly duties as wives, child bearers, home-makers and midwives. This all sounds very archaic and from a time that seems farther away than it actually was. It is a miracle that my sisters and I had the foresight as young girls to want to prepare for college and careers.
I think often about how much different my life would have been if I had actually been taught. Or if I had not simply provided with the tools for self-instruction. What child has that much foresight to be responsible enough to handle their own learning? How can they succeed without better oversight and a leadership figure to create structure and ACCOUNTABILITY?
I understand that children do their own homework after school lets out. But seriously, what kid, even those driven and excelling, can be expected to provide themselves with the best education? Especially without instruction and completion of exams and projects to measure their understanding. That would be some incredibly disciplined and mindful child well beyond their years. The question I have is, does this kind of child exist? And is it reasonable, wise or even fair of parents to expect this from their child?
These deficiencies in protections for homeschool children is why we need serious reforms to legal expectations for parents and communities. I will upset many here by saying that we should be looking at homeschooling as a wonderful privilege to improve learning. It shouldn’t be seen merely as a “right” or a way to keep children away from secular influences. We have to assume the tremendous responsibility and become more accountable. Only then can we be capable to provide a “superior” education for our children.
The main lesson to be learned here is that regardless of what state you reside in, do your due diligence. Register your homeschool, buck up and be ready to take responsibility for being a TEACHER. After having read some other blogs by stay-at-home homeschool moms, one thing popped up over and over. I saw lots of moms telling other moms to relax and not stress about the details. I know life is hard, busy and demanding, but this is not what they need to be fed. All teachers at any school children attend, went to school to learn how to become effective educators.
They have tools, tips and tricks most moms who have never truly taught before do not have. I want to encourage you as a prospective homeschool parent to not let yourselves off the hook. If you are going to be solely responsible for even 1 single child’s education, you will need to do some research. Start by learning some teaching habits and getting ideas from real professionals and feel the weight of this decision. Discover what this will entail for you and your child. Even if I had kids that I wanted to homeschool, I would have to go through a period of preparation. After this only, could I feel empowered enough to teach subjects that I thrived in and especially those I struggled with..
What Not to Do as a Homeschool Parent
The next thing I will state right here and now will seem like a no-brainer. Your decision to homeschool does not mean that you are going to be able to do household chores and tasks during school hours. Multi-tasking in this way is not effective. I read some blog posts by moms talking about how they combine chores with learning time. They encourage having the kids fold and do laundry while learning. This does not benefit a child in any way shape or form. School time is school time, then they can be given chores and tasks to tackle before they take leisure time. But, the two things should NOT be combined. It has been proven that multi-tasking is a convenient figment of our imaginations. This is due to living in a society where our focus is on being better, faster, and more efficient. You can only do one task at a time and produce the best possible results. Like driving and talking on your phone, our attention tends to focus more on one activity more than the other. When we are try to juggle, we reduce our efficiency, and often safety when approaching life, work and other tasks in this manner.
The lack of expectations for parents planning to teach is really astounding. Online searches recently revealed to me that resources available for making the parent more prepared are woefully lacking. For parents searching for ways to improve their ability to disseminate information to their children, the posts and articles aren’t terribly helpful. I have found some that say things like “Read books”, “don’t worry” or feel “guilty” for areas you lack in. That is all well and good, but if you are choosing to do this, you are unsatisfied with the current method of learning. Or maybe you feel you are better suited to the task of handling your child’s education. This doesn’t mean that you should allow yourself to be loose and carefree with your school.
Also, car-schooling is a thing. Seriously. This is a lazy way for parents to drag their kids all over creation while they get their errands run. Or it’s used to work around other commitments needing attending to. Unfortunately this very situation was our reality as kids.
Our mom had so many other commitments, that we would be dragged along. We were taken to: every doctor’s appointment (so many since our mom was ALWAYS pregnant), Teen Court meetings and coordinating events. During school hours we went with her to the grocery store, bank, post office, and the church. At our church, my mom did the books and was the janitor. This meant that at least two whole days a week of ours would be spent at the church. We had to help her clean and we were NOT doing school at all. We were no different than indentured servants. Even if my mom had cared about our educations or teaching us, this was not a conducive learning environment. It left no chance for us to settle in and focus on school while being dragged around.
Create a Suitable Learning Environment
I beg you to bring yourself to task-be accountable for creating an environment fit for learning, excelling and discovery for your child. Don’t just do the bare minimum to meet the legal requirements of your state. Look at this like you would any job: you show up on time, every day. With thoughtful planning, communicating and interacting in a professional way, you can earn respect. Assess and take frequent assessment of measurable progress to see how YOU are performing in addition to the kids.
I believe that every prospective homeschool parent should have to undergo a test of some sort before being registered as a homeschool. It would require a parent show a level of competency within a vast range of subjects they will be teaching. Additionally, a psychological evaluation to identify those who demonstrate clear characteristics of mental illness, severe anxiety or depression. This hopefully would reveal behaviors that would pose a risk for a child to be subjected to abuse, or negligence. I realize this is not the reality of the world we currently reside in.
I’m about to provide some helpful resources to go through during your self-education process.
Visit The Home Scholar for resources that will help you teach your high schooler and prepare for college. They have links on when and how to obtain scholarships, planning and record keeping tips.
I really appreciate the fact that Career Monkey treats homeschooling as a career path for parents. The site says that “The best courses that could be taken to prepare a parent better to teach their own children are teaching courses. There are plenty that would give a parent better skills to understand their children, as well as courses that equip a parent better to convey instructional material to their child”.
They also state that there are “Other courses that could be taken – if desired, would be those subjects that the parent may be weak in – meaning that they may not be able to help their child much – or at all – with certain topics. This may especially be the case with math and science courses. Online courses taken through a college can equip the parent to be able to provide the needed assistance”.
Over at Tools for the Home Educator they have classes you can sign up. Classes and topics that educate about curriculum, cost cutting, customizing, lesson planning, dealing with energetic kids, and private consultations. They give access to experts who can help you get your game plan together. They seem to have a really great support group and they provide needed help. Especially in areas such as “A Customized Education — How do you determine which subjects would best be taught by you at home and which ones could (or should) be outsourced? And how best to outsource — group class, tutor, co-op, online, or what? Also when, how, and why can a student teach himself? Homeschooling in Southern California today offers you the opportunity to truly “customize” an education.”
Although this group is located in California, I believe that groups like this exist in other places as well. I will do more digging to find more to list on an upcoming resources post.
The last resource I will list here for you all is the Homeschooling 101 course through Udemy. I have taken some courses on Udemy and find it an extremely effective and simple way to learn new skills. A tool to enhance further education in a wide range of topics with bite-sized lessons for those who are busy and short on time.