Article: States Loose on Homeschooling Regulations

Find the original post from the Middletown Journal here: http://www.middletownjournal.com/news/middletown-news/many-states-loose-on-homeschooling-regulations-1348366.html

Many states loose on homeschooling regulations

By Richard O. Jones and Denise Wilson, Staff Writers
Updated 12:15 PM Friday, March 23, 2012

With ever-tougher academic standards coming from both state and federal legislatures, schools are under unprecedented, increasing pressure to perform well on a variety of measures, including mandatory testing and more rigorous teacher evaluations.

But much of the pressure that trickles down to the students can be avoided when parents adopt a do-it-yourself approach to education.

To many, homeschooling is an effective way for families to educate their children, to others it is a loosely regulated world of education.

Since 1989, Ohio has given parents the option to home school their children without interference — or assistance — from the public school system. The Ohio Administrative Code outlines the rules of home education “to safeguard the primary right of parents to provide the education for their child(ren).”

Charles Russo, an education professor at the University of Dayton, called Ohio’s system “loosey-goosey” and said it is a potential end run around compulsory education for some families.

With no federal regulation of home schools, it’s left to the states to decide how much regulation is needed. Stanford University political science and education professor Rob Reich likened it to “the Wild West,” with nearly half the states having either no regulations or low regulations.

All a parent needs to do is register with the local public school district in which they live, providing them with a curriculum that meets a specified course of study, a list of textbooks and an “assurance” that they will provide a minimum of 900 hours of instruction a year.

Parents must also provide documentation that the home teacher, usually a parent, has a high school diploma, an equivalent certificate or a standard test score that demonstrates high school equivalence. Lacking that, the home teacher would have to work under the direction of someone with a bachelor’s degree “until the child’s or children’s test results demonstrate reasonable proficiency.”

Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute in Oregon, said research shows home schoolers on average perform better on standardized tests than public school students.

But Reich disputes such claims, saying they are often tiny samples of home schooling students: “There is simply no existing study that gets a genuinely representative sample of all homeschoolers and that is in part because we don’t even know who is being home-schooled because regulations are so minimal.”

An estimated 22,000 children in Ohio are home-schooled, though Ohio Department of Education spokesman Patrick Gallaway acknowledged the estimate is derived from individual district reports.

At the end of the year, parents must submit a standardized, nationally-normed achievement test administered by a certified teacher or other authorized person, or a written narrative review or “alternative academic assessment.”

Beyond that, school districts have no authority to advise or interfere with the child’s education.

Individual districts are responsible for keeping tabs on parents who teach children at home, but the state administrative code specifies no penalties for districts that don’t comply.

“They don’t have to give us a reason (for homeschooling), but a lot of them do,” said Tim Carr, the Hamilton City School District’s director of student services. “Religion is the biggest reason they give, but sometimes we get people who are just disgruntled at the school system or if the child is missing a lot of school because of illness.”

The Home School Legal Defense Association, a nonprofit advocacy organization in Virginia that provides legal services for its 80,000 member families, ranks each state according to their degree of regulations.

Ten states — including Michigan and Indiana — have no requirement for parents to register their home-schooled students.

“It’s as if they have gone off the grid entirely,” Reich said.

States that have attempted to tighten regulations have met with strong resistance from the well-organized home-school movement.

Russo said if a parent reports a problem, the Home School Legal Defense Association is likely to have a lawyer there the next day.

“Home-schooling advocates are very aggressive, and the Legal Defense Association is an in-your-face group that will be there in a heartbeat,” he said.

Michael Donnelly, one of the association’s 10 attorneys, said, “We just work wherever we can, whenever necessary, when opportunities present themselves to advocate in favor of reduced regulation because we don’t think it’s necessary. In fact in many respects we think it’s counterproductive. (Parents) are spending time jumping through hoops instead of spending time educating their kids.”

For Hamilton mother of five Peggy Bradshaw, it’s partly a matter of religion, but she said she homeschools her children because she enjoys it and it allows her to manage the family lifestyle better.

Page 2 of 2

“We’re not morning people, so we mostly work in the afternoon,” she said. “We have a little more freedom to do things without missing out on school work.

“Some days are more rigid than others, but we do school work every day.”

“The process basically in statue is really a right of families to homeschool,” said Lori Thesken, assistant superintendent for human resources at the Butler County Educational Service Center, which manages home school paperwork for the county’s local school districts. “If they choose to homeschool, they are required to notify us. They don’t request, they don’t submit an application, they notify us of their intent to homeschool.”

The only time a district has the authority to interfere is if the assessment at the end of the year fails to show any progress.

“Then we may be able to say this isn’t looking so good,” Thesken said. “I would say rarely has that occurred. We’ll hold this, until we get that assessment, and they can then be excused from compulsory education for the next year.”

“The school district has no responsibility for these families. Sometimes they’ll call and say, ‘I’m homeschooling can you send me the curriculum. No, we don’t have curriculum. Can I borrow textbooks? No, that is your responsibility. Most families take that responsibility very seriously. They either hire teachers, they share teachers amongst themselves and they will purchase a curriculum.”

Thesken said they know the students that are trying to fall between the cracks. “And there isn’t anything we can do about it.”

Because the students are excused from compulsory attendance, they are not counted in a district’s report to the state, and therefore the district does not get that child’s portion of state funding. But neither do the parents.

When homeschool students graduate, they do not get a high school diploma from the home district.

“They have to create their own diploma,” Carr said. “If they want a certificate, they can print one out from a computer program or whatever, but if they’re not in our curriculum, they can’t get a Hamilton City School District diploma.”

Maren Rausch, of West Chester Twp., has been homeschooling her two biological children, Kailey, a 14-year-old freshman, Justin, a 12-year-old sixth-grader and her two adopted children Elijah, a seven-year-old first-grader and Arilyan, a 5-year-old preschool student since 2002. Her kids have never been to school or attended Lakota.

She said she chose to homeschool her kids to teach them what she believes (Evangelical Christian) in without competition and to make sure they succeed.

“I have a better child teacher ratio than any classroom can afford. I’m 1 to 4, and there’s not a single public or private school with better ratios than that,” Rausch said.

Hamilton mother Peggy Bradshaw has been homeschooling her five children for 17 years. She graduated one and one decided not to finish. She now has a high school sophomore, an 11-year-old and a 10-year-old.

Bradshaw believes that a well-rounded education is “not just something you do at school.”

“If you want to instill a love of learning in your child, whatever they want to learn, they’ll learn,” she said. “We’ve always talked a lot with our kids about current issues and other subjects, so even if we’re not formally doing school, we have classroom-like discussions.”

Cherilu DuVal, who lives outside Trenton, along with her husband, Dave, started the Beth Yada Home School Group in 1988-89. The amilies are from Fairfield, Lebanon, Middletown, Monroe, Oxford, Springboro and Trenton. Beth Yada means house of learning.

She said 57 family member parent-run group, which today homeschools between 90 to 100 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 and features 46 Christian co-op families — started out in Franklin and then moved to Middletown where it currently meets at the Breiel Boulevard First Church of God on North.

“When I started homeschooling 23 years ago there wasn’t much information out there. It was hard to find curriculum. It was hard to find people who were homeschooling so people needed a lot of information about how to do it and they needed fellowship. As time has gone along with the internet there’s a lot of information and a lot of curriculum.”

Copyright © 2012 Middletown Journal, Middletown, Ohio, USA. All rights reserved.
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Archive: MCS Graduation Rate Too Good to Believe

Due to the practice of archiving (and effectively burying) articles published online, I archived various articles of importance, in the event that they can not be found at the original source. This is a “copy/paste” job and of course, all rights still belong to the author and the publisher. The original Post can be found at: http://www.thestarpress.com/

Are MCS graduation rates too good to be true?

11:09 PM, May. 21, 2011
Written by Michelle Kinsey

MUNCIE — Over the last four years, Muncie Community Schools has seen a significant increase in its graduation rates — from 68 percent in 2006 to 85 percent in 2009.

Too good to be true? Well, it’s complicated.

To get to the reasons behind the growth, you have to look at the ways the district is trying to keep kids in school, as well as the ways in which those who are leaving are being documented.

There’s no doubt the district has created legitimate and successful means of keeping students on track to graduate. But the recent improvement in graduation rates across the state is also misleading, thanks to a change in the law that allows parents to simply indicate their child is home-schooled to avoid the “drop-out” label.

So graduation rates are better than they’ve been in many years, but are the needs of at-risk students really being served? Well, that depends on the district and how far they’re willing to go to meet the needs of troubled students.
Credit where credit is due

The efforts to keep students in the classroom until they get that diploma are centered on the credit recovery program, which began four years ago.

“We have seen a significant improvement in graduation rates since it began,” according to MCS Director of Secondary Education Jo Ann McCowan.

This semester, 26 seniors are on track to graduate next month with their class after earning credits through the program.

DaTiana Jolly, 18, is one of them.

On Tuesday, Jolly was five questions into her chemistry final, the last credit needed for her diploma.

“I like it here,” she said of the lab, which is lined with 25 computers at the Muncie Area Career. “It gives you a chance to teach yourself; to find a way that’s easiest for you.”

After last semester at the lab, Jolly decided to return to finish out the remainder of her credits here.

“No, I don’t think I would be graduating without this program,” she said. “No way.”

One size does not fit all

The key part of this credit recovery program is its flexibility.

“We really work with the student to find the best fit,” McCowan said.

(Page 2 of 4)

While the first year of the program’s existence offered a limited amount of labs, students now have the option to recover their credits in one-hour increments during labs at their school; attend half- or full-day labs at the Muncie Area Career Center during the school day, or go into the MACC a few nights a week. They can even do the lab work during summer school.

Students get to move at their own pace thanks to an online program (PLATO) that allows students to test out of sections they already know and spend more time in sections requiring more effort.

Surrounding Jolly were more than a dozen other students working on a variety of subjects, from algebra to world history. Forty credits in all are offered through the recovery program.

For many students — not all, mind you — the program is just what they need to keep them on track until they get that cap and gown.

“Some kids do much better in the MACC labs because they are away from all the distractions at their home school,” McCowan said.

Students here will do the credit recovery work as well as their normal class work.

“It’s like a one-room schoolhouse,” McCowan said.

The one-room teacher is Angie Johnson.

She has seen students walk through the door with F’s and walk out on the honor roll. But she said success in the program requires constant “tracking” by her and school counselors.

“I have them all on speed dial,” she said.

Muncie’s success with the program, she said, has led to the creation of similar programs at Cowan, Daleville, Delta and Wapahani high schools.

She added that the local credit recovery program has made such an impact that she has seen enrollment numbers drop for basic adult education classes, which are taken by students who drop out and then return via the MACC.

“Would we have more drop outs without this program?” she said. “Yes. Without a doubt.”

Home schooling, really?

Credit recovery is certainly one reason why the drop out numbers are declining and grad rates are improving.

But there might be other factors involved.

(Page 3 of 4)

Take home schooling.

As drop-out numbers have decreased, the numbers of parents opting to home-school their children have increased — an increase that began when the minimum age for legally dropping out of school changed in 2006 from 16 to 18.

The MCS graduating class of 2006 had 11 home school transfers and a graduation rate of 68.1 percent; the class of 2009 had 146 home school transfers and a grad rate of 84.5 percent. Are all of the 146 newly students actually being home-schooled? Very doubtful, say state officials and true home school advocates.

Muncie is not alone. You’ll find the recent jumps in home school numbers at other districts as well, including Delaware, Richmond and Anderson.

It turns out you do not have to do much to transfer your kids to home school.

You are required to inform the school of your decision, then asked to fill out an online form for the state.

After that, the district — and the state — have no way of knowing how much home schooling is actually going on.

“Indiana does have a home school registration database,” said Stephanie Sample, communications director of the Indiana Department of Education. “However, since home schooling is not really regulated by Indiana law, it’s a bit difficult to say the numbers we compile are accurate.”

According to the IDOE, home-schooling parents are supposed to keep track of attendance, but this does not have to be submitted unless requested.

“As with any other transfer, the public school’s responsibility ends when the administration of the child’s new school (in this case, the parent) verifies enrollment, either verbally or in writing,” according to the IDOE website.
Knee-jerk reactions

Ben Bennett, who started the Indiana Home Educators Network in 2000, said the number of people contacting him about home schooling has definitely increased over the last few years.

Many of those parents, he said, are what he calls “knee-jerk home schoolers” who are pulling their kids out in desperation because they are fed up with one or a number of issues at the school.

(Page 4 of 4)

But does he believe that all of the students who are reportedly transferring to home school are actually be educated by their parents?

No.

He said that for some it’s a win-win for the school and the parent. The parent no longer has to deal with the child’s difficulties at school — an attendance problem or behavioral issues, perhaps — and the school “gets the kid out of the system and raises its graduation rate.”

McCowan denied that any student or parent would be persuaded by, say, a school counselor to choose a home school transfer as an alternative to dropping out.

“Our administrators do a good job of counseling students to stay in school,” she said.

But the decision, ultimately, is the parent’s.

McCowan did say that it’s the school’s responsibility to stress the importance of getting a high school diploma.

It’s now considered the “baseline” of education. You have to have at least a high school diploma today, she said.

According to a 2010 Gallup poll, 92 percent of students nationwide think they will graduate high school. But the nation’s overall graduation rate is just 70 percent.

Those who land in the credit recovery program in an effort to get them to graduation day, Johnson said, often wish they could go back and talk to freshmen.

“They want to warn them, tell them what not to do so they don’t make the same mistakes,” she said, looking out over the students clicking toward graduation.

One credit at a time.

Contact Michelle Kinsey at 213-5822.

The Definition of Ex-Schoolers: Enter Texas!

I coined a word about three years ago, to describe a condition that I believed would only worsen with the passing of time and lack of scrutiny: Ex-Schoolers.

Ex-Schoolers are public school students who are convinced by school officials and sometimes their own parents, that the best course of action is not to try harder to actually educate a difficult child, but to simply allow the student to leave the school with no strings attached, as a transfer student to a private school. Here’s the catch–or rather, the golden opportunity for public schools in trouble–in many states, homeschools are considered private schools. This is the perfect way to “excommunicate” the undesirable students so that the school can appear to be improving. And if anyone is called on it, then it’s the parents’ fault for using some loophole in the law. The schools will have a nice list of all those bad parents, I bet.

In Indiana, homeschools are considered non-accredited, non-public (gov-speak for private) schools. This means that once a student transfers out of public school to a private school, the public school is no longer responsible for making sure that child is attending a school, as per Indiana law. If they want to transfer to another public school, that student is tracked in the public school’s databases just like all other students. But in private school… they’re off the radar.

As they should be. You can read more about Indiana’s problem with excommunicating some of their students in my post about Public School Push-outs from earlier this year.

There’s nothing illegal-ish about transferring out of public school to homeschool, by the way. It’s been like this for ever, because we still respect our privacy in this country. Our children are only required to attend a State School if we are not choosing to educate them otherwise. So don’t get all bent about forcing all children to get some kind of tracking chip to make sure they’re attending school somewhere. K?

But not all parents are truly interested in homeschooling… especially if their child is receiving a poor education at their State Compulsory School. And not all public school administrators/teachers/superintendents are interested in working triple-time to educate a disinterested child… especially if that child is starting to go rogue.

Enter the easy way out!

If the student (and the parent) is convinced that the school has pretty much given up trying to give this rogue child a chance to graduate, and all their problems (and the school’s problems) will go away if they would just call themselves homeschoolers and leave, do you think they would take it?

In Texas, they believe a good portion of around 22,000 transfer students did exactly that–excommunicated themselves from public school in order to avoid flunking out or dropping out, and in the process… saved public schools from having to report an embarrassing dropout rate.

Read all about it right here: High number of home-schooled students prompts audit | Houston & Texas News – Houston Chronicle.

And keep tabs on this site for the latest news as Richmond Community Schools in Indiana is trying to explain how they went from a “dropout factory” to an award winning super-duper graduation school in just two years.

So What DO We Do With Homeschoolers?

“Legislators. Anybody home?” Are  you listening?

prepare to find out why government school employees, sheeple, and now, a pastor, want homeschoolers investigated and regulated.

Step One: Read Pastor Stein’s editorial: What do we do with homeschoolers? on the Richmond Palladium-Item web site (if it’s not archived and squirreled away… in which case, read it here in the SkippingSchool Archive.)

Step Two: Come back here so I can attempt to answer the questions: Why is it that people scream the loudest about investigating and regulating homeschoolers whenever the Government Schools are about to get spanked? And secondly, what should we REALLY do with homeschoolers?

Why do people call for the regulation and investigation of homeschoolers?

It’s quite simple, really. Government school employees and anyone else who believes that the State is responsible for taking care of children–more than parents–are deathly afraid that someday soon, people will wake up and realize Government Schools are failing… they’re REALLY failing, if not damaging generations of future adults. Someday, people will actually look at the results of the government controlled, mass instruction of a majority of America’s youth… and say, “This isn’t working!” And… they’ll walk.

The pro-State Schooling advocates are afraid that THEY are the ones that will be investigated. And like little children, the first thing they do is point to someone else.

For decades, this behavior has been working, but as more and more parents are simply leaving the state schools for other options like homeschooling, it’s becoming clear that it’s only a matter of time before someone with a brain cell will openly wonder why Government Schools can not seem to educate children in an efficient and relatively safe manner–especially with all the billions of dollars we send them.

It’s like they’re saying, “Hey we know WE suck at educating the MAJORITY of YOUR children, but what about those homeschoolers over there? They aren’t doing it like we do, so I bet they’re giving their kids a worse education than WE are.”

The heat can’t get too close—which is why I suspect the Government Education Complex is relieved Dr. Tony Bennett (no relation) recently released a “Parents Pledge” encouraging parents to essentially promise to homeschool their children for the public schools. Read my thoughts on the pledge here: I Pledge My Children, to the State.

Now that the spotlight is getting turned on to failing Indiana schools (Richmond Community Schools) that are suddenly creating bureaucratic magic with dropout rates, we are treated to editorials like this one by Pastor Stein.

Shall we dissect?

Some oversight seems reasonable compared to cost of lifetime dependency

The tag line already brings up (what some people consider) the obvious question: To what data are you referring to that suggests a lack of oversight into the methods of privately educated children, leads to a lifetime of dependency? You are starting out on poor footing Pastor Stein.

The subject of the week is home-schooling. More and more people in Richmond are doing this — or claiming to do this. One result? Our graduation rate is improving, for when a student leaves the district for home-schooling, the departure does not count against the rate. Does this explain the whole increase? Maybe not. But it sure helps.

Sure it helps! … the school. Let’s take the homeschooling “loophole” aside and just look at the table trick going on here: If we have 75 kids who want to drop out of school and have no hope of gaining credits to graduate, what would be better for the school? Keep the under-educated in school two more years, failing ISTEP tests, causing trouble, chronically truant, or suggesting to his parent that if they only would say they’re homeschooling, he could leave school now?

Let’s be real. Something is happening here, and one doubts it is a citywide divine revelation about the glories of home-schooling.

You are absolutely right there. It’s happening state-wide and has been written about in Illinois, Texas and other states for, oh.. about three years now. Again… that’s why THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH HOMESCHOOLING AND EVERYTHING TO DO WITH PUBLIC SCHOOLS EXCOMMUNICATING ITS OWN WORST STUDENTS.

Are our local administrators quietly encouraging parents of troubled and troublesome kids to sign the form that promises home-schooling?

Yes.

Are parents claiming to home-school, so they can dodge the law that now requires kids to be in school until they are 18?

And yes again. Wouldn’t you? If you discovered a way to get your trouble-making kid out of a mandatory sentence that didn’t promise reform or remediation of any kind, would you take advantage? Our own DOE Super, Tony Bennett, even used the word “escape” in a recent Q&A session for the Pal-Item.


Dr. Tony Bennett, Indiana Dept. of Education Superintendant of Schools

Bennett told Palladium-Item reporter Brian Zimmerman during a recent statehouse interview that, as a former principal, he fretted that some parents and guardians might use home schooling as cover to get their students out of school without consequence.

“It bothered me because I always wondered, was that student really going to get schooled as is in the title of home school,” Bennett says. “Or was that child escaping being schooled?”

I don’t know and I don’t know. But we do have a way of finding and using loopholes in laws, and this one is a mile wide.

Yet behind all that, is this: What do we do with home schools?

You do nothing. And any attempt to regulate, legislate, “crack down on” or close loopholes on private home education will end up backfiring on public state schools. What Pastor Stein fails to understand is the reason more and more parents are leaving public schools is because they are finally at the point where they are fed up. Kids make it all the way to their sophomore year in high school, suddenly realize they don’t have the GPA nor the credits to  graduate with a “real” diploma, then get smacked in the face with the realization that even though they are hopelessly unable to meet the demands of the State school, they will nevertheless have to stay imprisoned, like indentured servants, or face penalties.

I run in circles where home-schooling is often present, and sometimes popular. Home schools are like anything else: Some are good, and some are bad. Some parents are passionate, diligent and competent. Other parents are lukewarm, negligent and unqualified.

If I run into REALLY negligent parents, I would tend to report them, or offer to help them. When a pastor runs into a truly negligent parent, what does HE do?

Oh… are you talking about “educationally” negligent? Be careful. By definition, a public school that forces children with minimal credits and failing GPAs to stay in school until they are old enough to legally drop out, could be considered negligent.

By the way: Schools are legally responsible for attendance, not education. This is why when people start to cry for accountability for EDUCATING children, the schools aren’t held accountable. But attendance? Sure. They’re good at that.

I admire those who do it well. My kids surpassed my home-schooling skills somewhere around first grade.

If you are not confident or knowledgeable enough to teach your own kids first grade concepts, then I’m truly sorry. Perhaps your public school was negligent?

So I ask: is it in the interests of the state, to keep an eye on this? I say yes.

If it’s any of YOUR business, then I might agree with you that the State should be involved. But if on any particular issue you would say, “It’s none of my business,” then why would you believe that it’s the State’s business?

Let’s say the schools do happily say goodbye to frustrating and failing kids through this home-school loophole, and never see them again. Or let’s say exasperated parents do sign the form, then allow their children to enjoy a curriculum of potato chips and ESPN. What is the result? Uneducated, unskilled, unmotivated people who will barely survive in the work force and might eventually drop out altogether. Then, since we are so generous with our social programs, we will have another group of people who take far more than they give.

By all indications, it seems FOR GENERATIONS there are a significant number of high school graduates who have been doing the very thing you are suggesting above. And they supposedly didn’t have the benefit of the potato chip and ESPN curricula. To what do you ascribe the blame for the generations of welfare families who weren’t homeschooled?

Is this what we want? I hope not. Some oversight and regulation seems reasonable. This might include submission of a curriculum, occasional visits and participation in the standardized tests. Yes, this addition to our bureaucracy will cost money, but how does that compare to what we pay for a lifetime of dependency?

Did it occur to you that we are spending an easy $10,000+ a year for each Indiana high school student that doesn’t have a passing GPA and will never have enough credits to graduate (and go to college and a productive life by your standards) and will be required to stay in school for two to three years longer against their will, before they can “escape” legally by dropping out? Isn’t that wasted money for the exact same results?

So what’s the difference… other than a few million dollars a year for a few thousand under-educated kids that will end up on the ‘loser’ end of society whether they skip school early or late? Again… this has nothing to do with homeschooling.

Home-schooling is an excellent path for some. But it is not for everyone — especially those who merely sign a form to evade a law.

Are you willing to say the same thing about public schools? Mandatory State controlled schooling isn’t for everybody? And if so… what options would you suggest for the parents who don’t believe it’s the State’s job to educate their children?

Never mind. I think I’d rather not know.

Archive: What do we do with homeschoolers?

The original post was linked here: http://www.pal-item.com/article/20101001/NEWS03/10010314/What-do-we-do-with-home-schoolers- but may have been moved. The entire article is reprinted below so it’s easier to find. All rights are reserved by the original authors and publishers… of course.


WHAT DO WE DO WITH HOME-SCHOOLERS?

SOME OVERSIGHT SEEMS REASONABLE COMPARED TO COST OF LIFETIME DEPENDENCY
Tom Stein
October 1, 2010

Tom Stein

Time to offend everyone. How can you write about education, and do otherwise?

The subject of the week is home-schooling. More and more people in Richmond are doing this — or claiming to do this. One result? Our graduation rate is improving, for when a student leaves the district for home-schooling, the departure does not count against the rate. Does this explain the whole increase? Maybe not. But it sure helps.

Let’s be real. Something is happening here, and one doubts it is a citywide divine revelation about the glories of home-schooling.

Are our local administrators quietly encouraging parents of troubled and troublesome kids to sign the form that promises home-schooling?

Are parents claiming to home-school, so they can dodge the law that now requires kids to be in school until they are 18?

I don’t know and I don’t know. But we do have a way of finding and using loopholes in laws, and this one is a mile wide.

Yet behind all that, is this: What do we do with home schools?

Leave them alone? Regulate them? Ban them?

I run in circles where home-schooling is often present, and sometimes popular. Home schools are like anything else: Some are good, and some are bad. Some parents are passionate, diligent and competent. Other parents are lukewarm, negligent and unqualified.

I admire those who do it well. My kids surpassed my home-schooling skills somewhere around first grade.

So I ask: is it in the interests of the state, to keep an eye on this? I say yes.

Let’s say the schools do happily say goodbye to frustrating and failing kids through this home-school loophole, and never see them again. Or let’s say exasperated parents do sign the form, then allow their children to enjoy a curriculum of potato chips and ESPN. What is the result? Uneducated, unskilled, unmotivated people who will barely survive in the work force and might eventually drop out altogether. Then, since we are so generous with our social programs, we will have another group of people who take far more than they give.

Is this what we want? I hope not. Some oversight and regulation seems reasonable. This might include submission of a curriculum, occasional visits and participation in the standardized tests. Yes, this addition to our bureaucracy will cost money, but how does that compare to what we pay for a lifetime of dependency?

As with many issues these days, we tend to run to the extremes.

One side might say, “Do not touch my home-schooling!” The other side might say, “Just outlaw it!”

But can we do better than that? Home-schooling is an excellent path for some. But it is not for everyone — especially those who merely sign a form to evade a law.

If we believe we need to help people who need help, we need to help them when they are kids, so we do not need to help them when they are adults.

Let’s not stick our heads in the sand about what is happening or what could happen. We can value freedom and urge responsibility.

Hello, legislators. Anybody … home?

Tom Stein is senior pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Richmond.