Regulate Home Education? Yes and No

30 01 2009

From the UK Times Online business section (??) comes pro and con arguments we’ll all recognize on this side of the pond too, no doubt a bit wearily.

Here’s the nut graph imo:

It appears that the Government is not getting the answer it wants, so keeps asking the question. There is a confusion between child welfare and education.

Meanwhile another article in the same section makes it painfully clear that “Government” isn’t just asking wrong questions but lacks the right answers for child education AND welfare, of anybody’s children anywhere, anyway:

” Why . . . use physical intervention, including inflicting pain, on children so frequently? Is it as simple as poor management, or that they do not have the skills to defuse conflict and get good behaviour from the children?”

And this blogpost is interesting. Note the argument that legalese meant to mandate home educating parents will act in the interest of their own child’s welfare, can be similarly construed to make schooling parents legally responsible to save their kids from bad schools. . .



13 responses

30 01 2009

One morning, a couple years ago, a neighbor (who I barely knew) showed up at my front door with her young daughter. A single mom, in the middle of a nasty divorce, she had just been evicted (by sheriffs) from the family home. We took her in (about 6 weeks) and helped her relocate to the mid-west to live w/family. I also helped her learn about homeschooling so that her daughter wouldn’t fall behind during the upset.

Well, I have since learned that she used the information to hide the girl from the father and law enforcement. It sounds like she was on her way to Canada, when the police picked her up. Her jury trial (for felony kidnapping) starts next week, I think.

Since she has been in jail, I have received letters from her and come to realize that she is, likely, mentally ill, in some way. (In the past, I attributed odd behaviors to high stress in her life.) During this time, I have also seen some of the letters (written to her daughter) that she has asked me to save. Holy crap.

As you know, I never have answers, just questions. In this case, I’ll just say that I think it’s important to remember children (like this girl) who are living virtually invisible lives – some with mentally unstable parents – without anyone in a position to intervene on their behalf.

Sorry this comment is so long ):

30 01 2009

Oh Lynn.
What a sad story all around.

30 01 2009

I have a couple of family members with mental problems of one kind or another, and I was just thinking that some of our most influential politicians (who therefore affect LOTS of families and children with the programs and laws they push) apparently do too. . .

31 01 2009
Nance Confer

So, Lynn, in the long run, the system worked? The little girl is reunited with her father? And mother is on the way to prison? With some mental health help? Or probably not but at least doing the child no more harm?

Would that translate to anything additional being needed as far as hsing regulation? The mother used hsing laws to hide but that obviously didn’t work. The mother was picked up for something unrelated to hsing.

Cases like this seem to say something but I don’t know if they ever do. There are bad parents out there, nutty parents, sane but neglectful parents, etc. Some homeschool, most don’t.

Laws to force parents to do the right thing — including keeping their kids out of schools — aren’t going to work when we are dealing with crazy people because the schooling is not the problem.

Although I do like the idea of making parents keep the kids home if the school sucks. . . totally impractical but it’s got a nice ring to it. 🙂


31 01 2009
Crimson Wife

Who gets to define a “suitable” education? Ask a hundred people what that is, and one is likely to get 100 different answers. Why should the local bureaucrat’s definition automatically take priority over that of the child’s own parents?

Obviously, if there is actual abuse or neglect occurring in the home, then the state has a legitimate reason to intervene in the situation. But there needs to be some sort of reasonable grounds for suspicion aside from the simple fact that the family homeschools.

31 01 2009

Nance: “So, Lynn, in the long run, the system worked?”

Yes, but the system worked *in spite* of the mother’s ability to keep the girl shielded from view using hsing laws. Really, the system worked because the mother made errors in judgment (divorcing a man who wanted visitation enough take it to law enforcement, taking her daughter in for a routine checkup with a doctor who called social services based on nothing more than the girl’s bizarre behavior, renting a u-haul and confiding plans to leave the country to her adult son, etc.).

Of course, I understand the common arguments against hsing regulation – and actually make many of them myself. As I said, I’m not advocating anything in particular other than recognition that, just like other systems, homeschooling has it’s own sacrificial lambs. Pretending that they don’t exist – or disowning these living, breathing, vulnerable children in pursuit of political points – is upsetting to me. As always, I have no answers.

31 01 2009
Nance Confer

Right, no need to pretend that there aren’t bad parents of every stripe among hsers. Just as there are in the larger population.

But the children being vulnerable to the idiocy or lunacy of their parents, or other caretakers, is just reality.

So in your case, the mother got away with her crimes longer — keeping the child from her father, etc. — not for reasons that have anything to do with hsing. They have to do with the reality of the child be dependent — the mom says get in the car, the kid gets in the car, what else is she going to do? Even if mom is mad as a hatter.

Aside from regulating hsing or any other type of schooling, what other regulations could there be that wouldn’t still leave the children vulnerable? That we would put up with.

None that we don’t already have that I have heard of. Which sucks when you are the vulnerable kid.

I’ve noticed more and more bad but accepted-as-normal treatment of children. Our attitudes and the ways we talk to and about children are just sorry excuses for human behavior sometimes. But that doesn’t seem to me to be a matter of regulation either.


31 01 2009
Nance Confer

It seems there is confusion over what constitutes a “suitable education”.

Our Education Act says “suitable to age, ability and aptitude and any special educational needs the child may have”, and case law has established it as that which equips a child to take part in modern society. I can’t see any better definition.


That’s how the pro-homeschool writer above answers, CW.


1 02 2009

“But there needs to be some sort of reasonable grounds for suspicion aside from the simple fact that the family homeschools.”

This is what MA homeschooling case law says, thankfully.

1 02 2009

Nance: “Right, no need to pretend that there aren’t bad parents of every stripe among hsers. Just as there are in the larger population.”

Yes. In fact, this girl was parented by a mentally unbalanced woman both as a school student and as a hs’er 🙂 The difference? As a school student, she spent 7 hrs/day away from her mother, in the company of other children and teachers who diluted the mother’s influence somewhat; as a hs’er she spent 24/7, for approx 2 yrs, alone in an apartment with her mom, with the doors locked and the curtains drawn. Isn’t it just logical that this child (likely) suffered more harm as a hs’er?

In my mind, the idea (popular w/hs’ers) that …there are kids w/crazy parents who school and there are kids w/crazy parents who homeschool… implies that these children are experiencing crazy parenting equally – when I don’t think that they are. (It’s also a way in which we “disown” certain hs’ers, as I see it.) We know that hs’ing allows parents disproportional influence over children. It’s why most of us do it, right? Though it’s a sobering responsibility, we do it to gain an advantage over what we consider detrimental competing influences? In most cases, it’s a positive thing; in some cases, it’s not. The same hs freedoms that benefit the majority of hs kids brought added harm to this one already vulnerable girl when her only lifelines to the outside world were cut and her only human contact became her mentally ill mother. That’s all I’m saying.

Yes, the most commonly proposed regulations may not have helped her. Others (like mandated hybrid programs?) may have helped her — while, at the same time, compromising the success of other hs kids… I also agree with JJ that many people in positions of authority (like those who might preside over hs’ers) aren’t exactly pictures of mental health themselves… Like I said: I only find problems, not solutions 🙂

1 02 2009
Nance Confer

And all I’m saying is that there is no solution.

Pointing out cases like this invites regulation and not pointing them out denies reality.


1 02 2009

“Pointing out cases like this invites regulation and not pointing them out denies reality.”

That’s a keeper of a quote — shirts, we need it on t-shirts!

3 02 2009

How many years did this girl spend in school? Seems to me that someone in authority had plenty of time to do something about this deranged parent before she yanked her kid out of school and isolated her. So, frankly, I don’t buy the “school as safety net” argument.

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