At Alternet there is a great article by Kristin Rawls on homeschooling and educational neglect. I think it makes an excellent argument that homeschooling needs either tighter regulation and oversight, or needs to be outright outlawed:
In recent weeks, homeschooling has received nationwide attention because of Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s homeschooling family. Though Santorum paints a rosy picture of homeschooling in the United States, and calls attention to the “responsibility” all parents have to take their children’s education into their own hands, he fails to acknowledge the very real potential for educational neglect among some homeschooling families – neglect that has been taking place for decades, and continues to this day.
Take Vyckie Garrison, an ex-Quiverfull mother of seven who, in 2008, enrolled her six school-age children in public school after 18 years of teaching them at home. Garrison, who started the No Longer Quivering blog, says her near-constant pregnancies – which tended to result either in miscarriages or life-threatening deliveries – took a toll on her body and depleted her energy. She wasn’t able to devote enough time and energy to homeschooling to ensure a quality education for each child. And she says the lack of regulation in Nebraska, where the family lived, “allowed us to get away with some really shoddy homeschooling for a lot of years.”
“I’ll admit it,” she confesses. “Because I was so overwhelmed with my life… It was a real struggle to do the basics, so it didn’t take long for my kids to fall far behind. One of my daughters could not read at 11 years old.”
As concerning as the stories of overall educational incompetence of children being raised in the quiverfull movement are, the more serious aspect seems to be the routine discrimination between education of boys and girls:
Like Garrison, Diegel Martin recounts notable educational gaps in her own family, where there was little academic encouragement. One of her brothers decided to quit school at 16 and faced no parental opposition. The youngest, Diegel Martin says, ceased his formal education at the age of 12, when she left home and was no longer available to teach him herself. And though she was fortunate enough to receive sex education before leaving public school, her siblings were not so lucky. Their parents never taught the three other children about sex, and Diegel Martin remembers giving her 21-year-old sister “the talk” the week before she got married. She also had to intervene to ensure that her younger brothers learned about sex.
As for herself, when she completed her schooling, she says her parents did not allow her to obtain her GED as proof of high school graduation. Their reason? “The girls weren’t allowed to get a GED because we were told we wouldn’t need it. It would open up opportunities that were forbidden to us. We would work in the family business until we got married, and then become homemakers.
“When I talked about wanting to go to college, my parents said, ‘Well, you’re a girl. You don’t go to college.'”
I know I have homeschoolers (and unschoolers) that read this blog and have gotten angry with me being critical of the movement in the past, but there has to be some oversight of homeschooling. Universal primary and secondary education is part of why our country has been so successful, and necessary for the ultimate success of individuals in our society. Children have a right to a decent education that will teach them math, to read, to write, and provide them with basic skills for life. If there is evidence of failure to provide this to children, whether in a public school, private school, or home then for the sake of the children government should intervene. Worse, to educate male children one way and then purposefully provide the girls a poorer education because their destiny is basically to be chattel is horrifying. It strikes me as a violation of their civil rights. For parents to say it’s a matter of religious freedom to deny their children education, or a future outside their home, can not be justified. You don’t have a parental right to deny children a future, or to enslave them.
Unless a regulatory framework can be designed to incorporate some basic standards into homeschooling, this practice should be outlawed for the sake of these children’s basic civil rights. Surely the homeschoolers who actually believe in educating their children can accept that stories like this are unacceptable, and without data about the performance of homeschoolers, or oversight of homeschooling, this abuse of children’s rights can not be prevented or even detected.