You have days like this from time to time. Sitting with several people eating lunch today, I over heard a conversation between a school administrator and a former school administrator now retired. The school administrator was talking about a kid who had just withdrawn to home school. This person made a derogatory remark about homeschooling in general because he suspected, perhaps rightly, that the parents would not do enough to home school their child correctly. The phrase he used was something like it’s a load of garbage. The retired administrator jumped into the conversation.
“I’d file on em”, he said. “Even if they were homeschooling, I’d file on em”. So this gentleman would file on home schooling parents who are operating within school law for taking their child out of school. A direct violation of home school law in the state of Texas. Of course, he doesn’t care because of his bias against home schooling. To him home schooling is as he said “Judge Judy School” meaning that all the kids will do is watch television. I was grossly offended by the general ignorance of this statement and the general disregard for the law. But it isn’t uncommon. Many, many school administrators feel this way.
On another front. A few months ago I accompanied a young man into court in an attempt to add support to his cause. This boy had started home schooling. His parent had fulfilled all the requirements of the state of Texas. During the hearing the judges administrative assistant told all of us who were with the young man that this particular judge did not allow home schooling in his court. So, this judge, who has a strong reputation of backing schools, simply through out state law. By his personal policy he overturned the entire Texas State legislature with one sweep of his all powerful hand.
You get the point. Here is my advice as a home school consultant. Never enter into a meeting with a school administrator without having the law in your hand so that you can physically point out the law to the administrator. Otherwise you are likely to be at the mercy of the whim of a person who does not know the law or just doesn’t care. If you are dealing with a court I cannot advise you strongly enough to visit the court with a lawyer who understands and is sympathetic to home school law. Remember that judges have all the cards. If you are in the hands of an ignorant judge or, worse, one who just doesn’t care about the law you have to have a lawyer. Otherwise, you roll the dice.
The bias in the organizational makeup of schools is natural and expected. Any entity has an imperative to protect itself. That is to be expected. So wisdom would dictate to go into any situation with that assumption firmly in your mind.
Home schooling and independent learning is becoming more and more accepted. In fact, in some states the number of home schooled kids are close to overtaking the number of kids still in the public system.
The principle at work here that must be defended is to maintain our rights as parents against the claims of the state on our children. Laws are being proposed all the time that would eat away at parental rights to raise your children as you see fit. Also important in this process is to firmly address the myth that home schooling can be a form of child abuse. I do have one caveat. Home schoolers must not defend parents who are conducting sham home schools. The attitude of the administrators and the judge does have some grounding in reality. There are parents who put out minimal effort to be sure their children receive a first class education. The universal fact is that the one case of abuse on the part of a home schooler is the one that will get the media coverage. We who believe in this movement must, absolutely must, see to it that somehow the best examples are publicized. For every example of a family who barricade themselves away while failing to educate their children we must present a dozen examples of families that do the job really well.
When I first heard the exchange I am reporting I immediately became angry. But, having acquired a fair set of battle scars in the past few years I kept my mouth shut realizing that they are also working from a perspective that really is looking out for the kids. They just don’t understand what the benefits are as well as how effective home schooling is. They have also seen the abuses that do occur.
If we are to maintain our right to educate our children in our own chosen way, we must bring to the front examples of success to counter act the obvious failures. We have all seen the abuses. These are the cases that get the media coverage as well as gaining mythical status.
But in the meantime go into situations involving school administrations and courts armed to the teeth with knowledge and a competent lawyer who understands home school law.
If you have not done so already join HSLDA. The Home School Legal Defense Association is the flagship of the home school line of defense. Here is the stated mission of the HSLDA from their website:
To preserve and advance the fundamental, God-given, constitutional right of parents and others legally responsible for their children to direct their education. In so doing, we rely on two fundamental freedoms—parental rights and religious freedom. We advocate for these freedoms in the courtrooms, before government officials, and in the public arena. Additionally, we assist other educational organizations in similar activities, where possible and appropriate.
Since 1983, Home School Legal Defense Association’s primary goal has remained the same—to bring together a large number of homeschooling families so that each can have a low-cost method of obtaining quality legal defense. HSLDA gives families the freedom to home school without facing legal threats alone. Through many families sticking together, we have been able to keep the cost of a year’s membership close to the rate that you would have to pay for an hour of an attorney’s time almost anywhere else.
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.
The vast majority of contacts member families face are successfully resolved through our early intervention without any court action. Many times, HSLDA attorneys call or write letters on behalf of members contacted by local officials. For those who wind up in court, HSLDA provides full representation at every stage of legal proceedings.
HSLDA’s board of directors also operates the Home School Foundation—a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization that supports HSLDA, other like-minded organizations, and special programs such as the Special Needs Children’s Fund.