homeschooling freedoms, rights, responsibilities

Good posts up today from the venerable Home Education Magazine.  Helen Hegener writes about disturbing trends abroad in A Matter of Conscience and the Kasemans have another great post entitled Save Your Money and Your Homeschooling Freedoms about how to do with less in order to preserve homeschooling.

In addition, HEM reprints an important post by the Kasemans about homeschooling freedoms, Foundations of the Rights and Responsibilities of Homeschooling Parents. This is an important article and I'll extract this portion though all of it is excellent (highlights are mine):

Compulsory attendance laws require attendance; they do not require education. This is an extremely important distinction for at least two reasons. First, the only laws that can be enforced are those that require behavior that can be described, observed, and evaluated. It is not very difficult to enforce compulsory school attendance laws. It is pretty clear whether or not children who are enrolled in conventional schools are attending them. Classroom teachers take attendance, and children who are absent without acceptable excuses are reported to the truant officer. Similarly, attendance can be checked for children who are enrolled in private schools, including homeschools. (Homeschooled children who are participating in their families' educational plan and program are obviously attending that homeschool, whether the instruction at any given time is being presented at home or at a museum, nature center, library, or any one of a large number of other places where children can and do learn.) Therefore, if a society feels it must pass and enforce laws about schools, laws that require compulsory attendance are not difficult to enforce.
By contrast, laws that require compulsory education would be very difficult if not impossible to enforce. First, the state would have to develop a clear set of definitions and criteria for what it means to be educated, what people need to know and be able to do in order to be considered educated. This first step would be very difficult because neither professional educators nor lay people can agree on what it means to be educated. Developing such criteria would require agreement about what people should think and do, and about what attitudes and beliefs they should have. Opinions about such topics vary widely.
Second, the state would have to find or devise a series of tests which would accurately determine which people have acquired the required facts and skills and which people have not. This, too, would be difficult because tests do not show what people actually know. Tests only tell how well a given person did on a given test on a given day. Some people are good at taking tests, even about subjects they know very little about. Many more people do not do well on tests, even about subjects that they know a great deal about. Therefore, finding ways in which people could demonstrate that they have in fact met the requirements that were agreed upon in step one above would also be very difficult. Again, laws requiring compulsory education would not work well. If schools laws are necessary, laws requiring compulsory attendance are much better.
The second reason that the distinction between compulsory attendance and compulsory education is so important is that compulsory education would cost us our freedom. If the state were to require compulsory education, we would lose our freedom of education and learning and even our freedom of thought. A society cannot require compulsory education and remain a free society. To even begin to set definitions and requirements for compulsory education would quickly violate our rights and freedoms. Under compulsory education, people would be required to learn, and think, and believe certain ideas, the ideas that had been chosen as proof that a person is educated. In addition, people would not be allowed to learn other ideas because they conflicted with the required ones. Without freedom of education and freedom of thought, we could not continue to have a free society in any meaningful sense of the word.
As will be discussed below, courts have ruled that schools cannot be held accountable if children attending them fail to become educated. These rulings support the prohibition of compulsory education. Education simply cannot be legislated, and it cannot be legally required. This fact has important ramifications, beginning with strong limitations on the state's ability to dictate curriculum or content of educational programs.
Unfortunately, in spite of the ideas that have just been presented, parts of the state and the educational establishment are trying to move our society toward requiring compulsory education, even though it will cost us our freedom.
Children vary widely in their strengths, abilities, interests, and needs. To ensure that children have access to educational programs that are well suited to them, a variety of programs must be available. Some children don't or can't learn well in a conventional school. Private schools, including homeschools, need flexibility so they can meet the needs of a wide variety of children. Regulation by the state makes it very difficult to be flexible. The state's commitment to increasing centralization and standardization demonstrates that it neither understands nor can fairly assess educational alternatives such as homeschools.
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