Friday, March 7, 2008

Is Homeschooling in for a Major shakeup?

An examination of recent events in California

March 10, 2008

No one argues that the phenomenal growth of homeschooled children now reaches millions of families although no one can say precisely how many children are affected. But, there is little doubt that well heeled and highly motivated conservative Christian groups are the driving force behind what can only be described as a movement. Until now, these partisans have met with success in their state by state battles, but drastic change is in the wind. More and more citizens are beginning to understand what is happening and see the danger homeschooling poses to our civic integrity.

The calculations for homeschooled children are unreliable because state laws vary widely with respect to regulation of home schools and no one seems to be keeping score, least of all the Department of Education under the incompetent administration of President Bush. Some estimates put the number at 1.5 to 2.0 million children nationwide. Most opinions seem to agree that 80% of homeschooled children are in conservative Christian homes. However the most often quoted estimates come from people with an agenda, for example the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) and the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). These are only two of the many Christian organizations and associations advocating for home schools.

Brian D. Ray, according to his resume, is one of the best-known scholars, internationally, on the topic of homeschooling. He is president of NHERI, a nonprofit research and educational organization that sells services to home, private, and public educators by conducting research on home-based education, developing a network of researchers, and educating the worldwide public about Homeschooling. He has homeschooled his eight children.

His book Worldwide Guide to Homeschooling, Facts and Stats is available on for 9 cents. There is only one reader review and that is by an individual that apparently only reviews books with a Christian theme or connection. One has to wonder that with such a slim fan base how impartial Mr. Ray’s facts and stats can be.

Even if you assume the lowest estimate of 1.5 million kids and 80% are in conservative Christian homes that means 1,200,000 children are trapped in a parent dominated cocoon where they have no choice of what music to listen to, what books or magazines to read, what television to watch, or where they can go on the internet. Their contact with people outside the home is limited to church families and their children and every attempt is made to shield them from outside influence 24 hours a day. Can you say stifled?

Everything these sequestered children see, or touch, or hear is pre-approved. What chance will they have to develop their own individual patterns of thought or habits of mind? This point of the constant monitoring is to shield children from “the dreaded homosexual agenda” and from learning about their sexuality and human reproduction. Parents hiding from the law can indoctrinate their children with their backward sexist stereotypes of what it means to be a man or a woman, which directly violates the letter and spirit of curriculum requirements of the state of California that are aimed at leveling the field for females in our California. What chance would a girl in such a home have of ever becoming an astronaut?

In 2007 California enacted SB777, The Student Civil Rights Act, authored by Shiela Kuehl, which applies to the curriculum home school parents must now abide by and is aimed at ending discrimination of gay or transgendered children (among others) in the public school system.[1] The new law merely extends the reach of these rights to home schools and just took effect in February 2008. The reason for such a law is patently clear because Christian conservatives choose to home school their children precisely because they will not agree that such discrimination is wrong.

The Safe Place to Learn Act requires the California Department of Education to regularly monitor what steps school districts have taken to ensure compliance with the California Student Safety and Violence Prevention Act of 2000, AB 537 (Kuehl). The legislation will help to ensure that current school safety standards regarding harassment and discrimination are fully and properly implemented.

Another important event transpired very recently when a California appellate court ruled February 28, 2008 that California home school children must be taught by a credentialed teacher. It is doubtful that the majority of home schools are meeting this requirement. Those that are in compliance have nothing to fear. The opinion of three judges in the Jonathan L. and Mary Grace L. v. Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles case states:

“The educational program of the State of California was designed to promote the general welfare of all the people and was not designed to accommodate the personal ideas of any individual in the field of education.”

The appeals ruling said California law requires “persons between the ages of six and 18” to be in school, “the public full-time day school,” with exemptions being allowed for those in a “private full-time day school” or those “instructed by a tutor who holds a valid state teaching credential for the grade being taught.”

The judges ruled in the case involving the Longs that the family failed to demonstrate, “that mother has a teaching credential such that the children can be said to be receiving an education from a credentialed tutor,” and that their involvement and supervision by Sunland Christian School’s independent study programs was of no value.”[2]

Nor did the family's religious beliefs matter to the court.

Their “sincerely held religious beliefs, are not the quality of evidence that permits us to say that application of California's compulsory public school education law to them violates their First Amendment rights.”

“Such sparse representations are too easily asserted by any parent who wishes to homeschool his or her child,” the court concluded.”

Randy Thomasson, of Campaign for Children and Families, said:

“Under California law parents have the legal right to create a private school in their home and enroll their own children. Children belong to the parents, not to the state”. But he acknowledged that there's a great deal of misinformation about the status of homeschooling in California.

Note the language – “children belong”. On the contrary, children are not property, they are not chattel. The patriarchal concept that children are chattel is abominable to our enlightened age. Yes, there is a lot of misinformation and it comes from the likes of Randy Thomasson and other right wing Christians who claim rights over children they do not have. The case is not about the right to homeschool children, it is about meeting legal requirements.

The California Appellate Court ruling is good news for all Californians who support the right of children to a quality education in tune with the mores and morals of the majority of California citizens. We simply must not allow thousands of California’s children to be shunted off into religious ghettos where they may never recover from the sexism, enforced ignorance of science, distorted American history, and mind rape they are subjected to 24 hours a day seven days a week. The greatest danger is that a secretive fifth column is being primed to create a theocracy (for example the Dominionists) and it is slowly growing right under our noses.

As could be expected, homeschool parents are now beseeching sectarian schools in hopes of enrolling their children. They no doubt will discover there is little room in these expensive schools for adding students and not much to recommend them anyway. Law Professor James G. Dwyer is an advocate for reforming the law with respect to children to give greater weight to their right to self determination and autonomy. The synopsis for his book, Religious Schools v. Children's Rights reads:

Despair over the reported inadequacies of public education leads many people to consider religious schools as an alternative. James G. Dwyer demonstrates, however, that religious schooling is almost completely unregulated and that common pedagogical practices in fundamentalist Christian and Catholic schools may be damaging to children. He presents evidence of excessive restriction of children's basic liberties, stifling of intellectual development, the instilling of dogmatic and intolerant attitudes, as well as the infliction of psychological and emotional harms, including excessive guilt and repression and, especially among girls, diminished self-esteem.

Courts, legal and political theorists, and the public typically argue that families and religious communities are entitled to raise their children as they see fit and that the state must remain neutral on religious matters. Dwyer proposes an alternative framework for state policy regarding religious schooling and other child-rearing practices, urging that the focus always be on what is best, from a secular perspective, for the affected children. He argues that the children who attend religious schools have a right to adequate state regulation and oversight of their education. States are obligated to ensure that such schools do not engage in harmful practices and that they provide their students with the training necessary for pursuit of a broad range of careers and for full citizenship in a pluralistic, democratic society.

In a distressing reaction to the court decision, Governor Schwarznegger has sided with lawbreaking parents.


“Every California child deserves a quality education and parents should have the right to decide what's best for their children. Parents should not be penalized for acting in the best interests of their children's education. This outrageous ruling must be overturned by the courts and if the courts don't protect parents' rights then, as elected officials, we will.”


Equality California Org Sponsors

Here Brian Ray tries to establish that there is a constitutional right to home school children. Since he is not an attorney, one wonders how accurate his information could possible be. What seems to be happening when you look at the businesses that are raking in millions of dollars, they simply are trying to maintain their income by bolstering the morale of their customers with flim flam.

[1] Refer to internet URL under resources.

[2] This school is pretty secretive about course offerings and curriculums. Judging from their web page one must contact an official of the school to really find out what they are all about. They do admit they are a Christian organization.

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