The Horrors of Home Schooling

On December 26 my daughter, Emma, will turn four years old which has my wife and I focused on how we will provide her with an education. Our most likely avenue will be to place her in a private Montessori school — we’ve taken Emma on several visits to local Montessori schools and have always been impressed. The other option would be to home school, Although for a variety of reasons we will probably choose not to go that route, it is nice to have it as an option.

Unfortunately, there appears to be a renewed assault on home schooling brewing driven largely by the Democratic Party who apparently want to repay teacher’s unions for all of their contributions and help.

Bill Clinton started the attack with a broadside that nominally supported the notion of home schooling, but insisted that it must be “organized.” In reality, what Clinton wants is to federalize home schooling thereby giving the government the ability to pretty much regulate home schooling out of existence.

In fact the Democrats have conveniently laid out their plans for home schooling on the Democratic National Committee web site which lambasts George W. Bush because “Texas is lenient on home schoolers,” when clearly what is needed is a crackdown on those who dare teach their children without asking the government into their homes.

Among other horrors, according to the Democratic complaint

Texas has very few home school requirements…. Texas does not require teacher certification, attendance or notice to the public school the student attended, and the Texas Education Agency advises parents that the state has no role in monitoring, registration or approval of home schooled students. … [Both] … the Texas State Teachers Association and the Texas Federation of Teachers expressed worries that home-schooled students were being taught by parents who did not have college degrees or teacher training.

Lets take each of those accusations one by one.

First, Texas doesn’t require teacher certification. This is almost verbatim from the National Education Association’s criticism of home schooling. The NEA, believes that the only time parents should be able to teach children is if they are certified teachers themselves. Certification involves obtaining a college degree with a specialty in education.

For example, I have a bachelor’s degree and majored in philosophy and political science with a minor in English. My wife has a bachelor’s degree in history and by the end of the year will have her Master’s in medieval studies. In the view of the NEA and the DNC, neither of us are qualified to teach our daughter since we don’t have an education degree. Since neither of us sat through dull classes on Piaget, we’re incompetent to home school our daughter. Personally, I know a lot of good people who are teachers in both public and private school. I also know people who have no business teaching kids and whose classrooms would be much better off being taught by a parent with or without a college degree (I’ve tutored a lot of the kids in my neighborhood on various subjects, and in too many cases it’s clear the teachers don’t really understand the material they’re teaching).

Finally, the DNC objects that nobody is “monitoring” the performance of children in home schooling environments. On the one hand, various studies of home schooled children vs. non-home schooled children have suggested that, on average, home schooled children do better on standardized tests such as the SAT than their public or private schooled peers. This shouldn’t be surprising given the large amount of individualized attention such students get.

On the other hand the proposal that performance of home schooled kids be monitored more closely is the rankest of hypocrisy. Bill Clinton, for example, has said that home schooled children should be tested regularly and those that fail to meet minimum standards be put into public schools. Of course the Democrats and the teachers unions have fought tooth and nail any number of schemes that public school teachers and/or schools should be penalized when they repeatedly fail to education children. It is the NEA’s position that if my daughter, say, can’t read at grade level that I should be forced to send her to the local public school, but their only solution to the 40 percent of freshman at that local high school who fail basic reading tests is to socially promote them. Suggest that teacher pay be penalized or school funding be reassessed if the local high school can’t do something about the 45 percent of freshman who cannot pass basic math skills tests and the teachers union will scream bloody murder.

It is precisely because government-run schools in many parts of the country fail abysmally at their most basic task that the number of children being home schooled has risen rapidly over the last 20 years, with some estimates putting the figure as high as 3 million. Certainly some parents will be unprepared for home schooling and not every home school environment will be an idea, but parents would really have to bend over backward to come close to the reprehensible record that the public schools, especially in urban areas, have foisted on parents and students alike.