Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Homeschooling...Now what?

The LA Times Blog asked some fundamental questions now that homeschooling has been declared a "private school" in California.

But few people paid attention to the second part of the court's decision last Friday, which is that home schooling isn't an absolute right, simply an accepted form of "private school," as it's been interpreted by the state Department of Education. Keeping kids safe from abuse and neglect is more important than home schooling, the court said....

"but the question is, how do we best give home schoolers the freedom to teach their kids, while making sure that children actually do get an education -- and, give those children some access to outsiders so that we know they're OK? Should the Legislature officially legalize home schools, but also invoke some light regulations, like home visits, or requiring some evidence that the children have been learning? Or do we figure that these cases are so rare, we should just let it go?"
Because the California court did not recognize an "absolute right" to homeschool, these are questions that lawmakers and California homeschoolers will have to settle.

The anxiety over protecting "unwatched" children from parental abuse and neglect is fast becoming the new reason to bring additional regulations upon homeschoolers in other states as well. Michigan homeschoolers dealt with the same issue in our legislature earlier this year. (See Truancy and Parental Rights.) Michigan, unlike California recognizes the "natural and fundamental rights" of the parent to direct the education of their children." The difference between natural and fundamental is significant when discussing parental rights.

Kerry Morgan, a homeschooling father and Michigan attorney, has written an excellent article, A Constitutional Amendment to Support Parental Rights? that explains the difference between a "natural and a fundamental right."

"A “fundamental” parental right can be burdened, abridged, or hindered by the state whenever the state can establish a compelling governmental interest. Clearly, a “fundamental” parent right is not much protection against the state legislature....

Parents have the right to direct the education of their own child. This right is not “fundamental.” We have something better than fundamental rights. We have been given an unalienable right. It is unalienable because it is given to parents by God. It is not a privilege granted by the legislature or the people themselves through an amendment process. In the exercise of their natural and unalienable right, parents are free from Federal or State interference, regulation and control. While parents discharge their parental rights within these limits, they are, by the law of God, exempt from interference both from the individual and from society. If they exceed these limits, however, and go beyond education into physically harming their children, they are not exempt from civil punishment.

As a homeschooler I'm thankful for the groups that are available to help us legally; however, we should not completely rely on outside groups to represent your interests as a parent who home educates before your own state legislature. As homeschoolers, we'd better learn and be prepared to provide an articulate response to calls for legislative oversight, or we may be facing "light regulations, like home visits" in order to prove we're teaching and not neglecting our children.

It's times like these when I wish I went to law school.

(HT: Daryl)

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