May any parent legally homeschool children in California? Last week, a state appellate court said no. A unanimous three-judge panel ruled that California law lays down specific circumstances under which homeschooling is permitted, and not all parents meet the requirements.



  1. #1 loopa
    March 6, 2008

    The scary thing is if you go to the source and read the comments posted by the “faithful”, most totally miss the point that the parents were not qualified nor enrolled in an appropriate independent study program, and therefore shouldn’t be homeschooling (on top of the charges of abuse); instead they just go on and on about liberals, government control, moving to more conservative states…… it’s mind-numbing!

  2. #2 Michael X
    March 6, 2008

    To no ones surprise the family was homeschooling for “religious reasons” and then giving their children horridly inept instruction.

    It’s as if they’re actually attempting to only make their children ignorant for religious reasons. Teaching anything has little to do with it. At least the first commenter on the source site agrees with me. Apparently the point of homeschooling is to keep children ignorant of knowledge of sex and ignorant of homosexuals.

  3. #3 Lynn
    March 6, 2008

    Nothing has changed; homeschooling is still “illegal” in California.

  4. #4 Becca
    March 6, 2008

    From the article, “appropriate independent study program” is not a legal option in California… however, being a “private” school is. In many states (e.g. Illinois), and (from the HSLDA quote) I presume in Ca, the number of students you have does not determine whether you are a private school, and private schools are subject to very few requirements.
    If that is indeed the law, then you pretty much have to regulate a private school every bit as much as a homeschool to change the system.

    I think this is really coming up because the California laws (as I remember them) are really very difficult to understand whether you *have* to go the “appropriate independent study” program with teacher certifications that is called a homeschool.
    The take home points from this story as *I* see it?
    1) child abuse is wrong, and if that’s what’s going on these folks don’t deserve to homeschool (and may not deserve to keep their kids- period)
    2) The law in California should be clearer.
    3) There are plenty of states with much more liberal laws. Personally, I think that’s a good thing.

  5. #5 Cherish
    March 6, 2008

    California has some of the strictest laws on homeschooling. Most other states at least have provisions for independent study or having things like weekly check-ins with a local school teacher to discuss what the kids have learned. I think they’d be better off with some middle ground. There are tons of homeschoolers in the state (I went to a conference with over 500 families there), most of them doing it illegally. The state will never have enough people to enforce the law. Better to pass laws where they can do it legally and then they aren’t trying to hide out.

  6. #6 the real cmf
    March 6, 2008

    “homeschooling is still “illegal” in California”

    Maybe its because of all those drug addicted communes that tuned in and dropped out while their kids experimented with empty cereal boxes and breadcrumbs, and Sally Mann style art lessons?

  7. #7 Becca
    March 6, 2008

    @ Michael X
    *collapses into giggles*
    Wow, did homeschooling ever fail in my case!!!
    Apparently, the point of absurd generalizations is to make people feel good about being the exception…
    So, to return the favor,
    “Apparently, the point of public education is to indoctorinate the sheeple”

  8. #8 Crimson Wife
    March 6, 2008

    The Second Appellate Court judges read more into the CA Ed. Code then is actually there. Nowhere in the code does it state that a “full-time private day school” cannot be located within the parents’ home. The judges use a Clintonesque argument about the meaning of the word “in” to say that the code only applies to traditional private schools.

    The family in question does appear to be deeply troubled. It’s a classic “he said/she said” situation where you’ve got two teenage daughters alleging abuse and the rest of the family disputing those claims and characterizing the daughters as disgruntled with their strict upbringing.

    The thing of it is, if it legitimately *IS* an abusive situation (which is unclear), then simply forcing the children to attend a traditional school is no guarantee that it will stop. The child welfare authorities are *ALREADY* monitoring the family, and they can remove the children from the home should there be concerns about their safety. It’s not a school’s responsibility to do the social worker’s job.

  9. #9 Cherish
    March 6, 2008


    I really do have to ask. If you aren’t opposed to homeschooling, then why do you only post stuff that seems to cast it in a bad light?

    Why don’t you ever post stuff like the fact that homeschoolers won 5th place in the Siemen’s National Science Competition?

    Or why not things about how homeschoolers are being accepted to places like Harvard and Yale? Or how there are colleges that are creating scholarships for homeschoolers?

    It really does appear, from what I’ve seen thus far, that you really don’t like them (us in the past tense).

    I understand posting about things like the creationist science fair (seems like an oxymoron, doesn’t it)…but those aren’t the only types of things you seem to be going after.

    So what gives?

  10. #10 bluecollarscientist
    March 6, 2008

    Cherish: I have taught astronomy and physics to a home-school co-op of eight students in my state, who were getting good educations using well-regarded, accredited independent study curricula administered by well-educated parents and occasional outside experts. I think I did some good work there and that the students were bright and well-educated, on average better educated than same-grade students in the local public schools. However, all of my other experience with home schooling indicates that this group is the exception regionally; most home schoolers here are religious extremists. I’ve been contacted by many and asked to conduct lesson plans, and told up front that I should not mention the age of the universe, the age of the Earth, anything about evolution, anything about the possibility of life on exoplanets, and to avoid various other hot-button issues they have. Of course I refuse to participate in these situations.

    Could it be that Greg is not in principle opposed to home schooling, whilst understanding that in practice it is most frequently employed for anti-educational reasons?

  11. #11 loopa
    March 7, 2008

    Becca, good point and I may have made assumptions. I grew up in California, have lived here all my life, and having known several home-schooler parents and students I assumed they were legal (and I still think many are). What I took from the article, as well as a couple of homeschooling families I know, was that they had to go through an independent study program/school that had specific testing requirements (although many may not comply entirely of course) or some parents I know went and got teaching credentials which is not that difficult if you have a bachelor’s degree. As to the abuse, I agree with Crismon that sending them to school would not stop abuse…unless of course it’s part of the lesson plan.

  12. #12 Julie Stahlhut
    March 7, 2008

    It sounds like a clarification of the state laws is desperately needed. Yes, there are people who “homeschool” for simple control, or as a way to keep their kids away from ideas that threaten their worldview. But, there are people who homeschool because their children really thrive in that situation; I’ve met a 16-year-old homeschooled student who had already published two papers on arthropod behavior in local journals, and presented her work at a conference. My own niece and nephew were homeschooled for some years and are now both in public school. One thrives more in public school than at home, and for the other, things are exactly the opposite. One size clearly does not fit all.

    There has to be some kind of accountability, though, to make sure that homeschooling families are really educating their kids rather than neglecting them. The government doesn’t (and shouldn’t) snoop in people’s houses to monitor their attitudes towards child care. But, a parent who fails to provide adequate food, clothing, or medical care to a child is still guilty of neglect and abuse, and cases like this become a matter for law enforcement. Failing to educate your children may not be as externally obvious an atrocity as starving them, but when they get older, they’ll be thrown into a world for which they have little preparation and few prospects. That’s not only an offense against kids, but becomes a wider societal problem.

    Think of the polygamist communities in the Southwest who barely educate their kids, force their young girls to marry old men, and kick out their young boys to fend for themselves. Most of us don’t care if consenting adults establish unconventional household arrangements, but kidnapping, statutory rape, and child abandonment are crimes that have nothing to do with either freedom of association or parental rights.

  13. #13 the real cmf
    March 9, 2008

    Homeschoolers do such a great job of minimalising, and denying the fact that a great number of HS kids are being raised and indoctrinated by the loopy left or the religious right, that it is valuable to have a resource here on Gregs blog to chronicle the theoretical outliers.

    Read through his other posts about HS and you will see that Laden is not opposed to HS by rote, and is even friendly to the idea, provided that there are standards and accountability( though HS folks generally just hate …..accountability….)

    WE always hear about “a 16-year-old homeschooled student who had already published two papers on arthropod behavior in local journals, and presented her work at a conference”, the stereotype prevails that HS kids are all geniuses ( because mom said so…).

    If and when we hear the negatives, it is always phrased as if only the religious right is capable of gross incursions on childhood ( re:Julie Stahlhuts point above ) but we never hear aboutthe 16 year old boy who still sleeps with his mother in “the family bed” or the little girl whose feminist mommy wants to teach her all about her clitoris–from the age of 0-forever.

    It is fashionable, and very “CSI” to pick on Mormons and to a lesser degree the Mennonites (who at least build schools for their kids that don’t look like a kitchen table), but the lefties have some tendencies that make righties look like, um , saints.

    I am amazed actually, to see J. Stahlhuts acknowledgement that boys are treated as superfluous in the Mormon and other right wing HS communities, but oddly, you will find that is a cultural universal with the HS’ers–the focus is largely on the girls, with implications that are curious.

    So at least for me, it is nice to have one source that isn’t a cheerleader for HS, or the left wing version of it.

  14. #14 Larry
    March 10, 2008

    Home schooling is illegal in California. Most home schoolers are Christians and all they know to do is fearmonger. Just look at this as an example!

  15. #15 Ann G.
    March 10, 2008

    What no one ever seems to talk about is how ALL home-schooling is doomed to be narrow-minded. Even if you are a genius Liberal Arts major, you might be competant to teach Social Studies and maybe even Math, but are you going to teach ‘fascist’ P.E. and Marching Band? Or – heavens forbid – Auto Shop class? I think the flaws of the Extreme Right have already been pointed out, but it’s just the same problem from a different angle. Your children might not be exactly like you. Perhaps they were born to excel at work that you abhor. No two parents could possibly have a combined I.Q. higher than an entire school district, no matter how smart they think they are. Ever notice that the biggest advocates of homeschooling for their own kids aren’t exactly, well, terribly bright? Their children will have a very limited world view and will be utterly lacking in any sort of normal life experience. Of course, homeschooling parents want to AVOID any sort of normalcy (DODGEBALL! GETTING IN A FIGHT FOR TALKING SMACK! DIRTY JOKES!), but their children do eventually wind up living in our world. Let the homeschoolers raise their ‘easy meat’, and the public school kids will pick them off like wounded gazelles.

  16. #16 the real cmf
    March 10, 2008

    WOW….big big BIG points scored by Ann G…..fearless assessment indeed.

    “ALL home-schooling is doomed to be narrow-minded”…and keen observation…

    “Your children might not be exactly like you,” smooooOOth execution…
    and *wham*
    “Ever notice that the biggest advocates of homeschooling for their own kids aren’t exactly, well, terribly bright,” right through the hoop!

    I think you are onto something Ann, when you note the parents and intelligence and all. It is almost as if many HS’ers are so amazed, enthralled really, and worse *infatuated with* their kids and this idea of intelligence.

    But are you being entirely fair when you say that nromalcy entails playground fights and dirty jokes? that reminds me:

    “Real Homeschool Mothers sometimes ask “why me?” and get their answer when a little voice says, “because I love you best…” or dirtier yet:

    “Real Homeschool Mothers know that dried playdough doesn’t come out of shag carpet…”
    get it? Shag carpet….nyuknyuknyuk

  17. #17 Crimson Wife
    March 11, 2008

    Umm, homeschoolers have access to any number of outside resources for subjects they don’t feel comfortable teaching themselves. Co-ops, tutors, distance education classes such as Stanford’s EPGY or Johns Hopkins’ CTY, community college courses, museums, music schools, parks & rec classes, homeschool sports leagues, etc. There’s an unbelievable amount of enrichment opportunities out there for homeschoolers these days- the hard part is avoiding overscheduling.

    I would also be happy to compare my and my DH’s combined IQ against that of any two *randomly-selected* public schoolteachers.

  18. #18 Cherish
    March 11, 2008

    I would also be happy to compare my and my DH’s combined IQ against that of any two *randomly-selected* public schoolteachers.

    LOL! Thank you for that. (And I would love to volunteer for that myself.)

    Seriously, though, how many people would change their tune if the public schools started teaching creationism or ID. Would you leave your kids in school? Would you suddenly feel justified in taking them out? If you would, then how come you can think that you’re NOT narrow-minded but these other people are? They have their reasons for HSing, and you happen to be lucky that your views coincide with what the schools are teaching right now. If the tables were turned, I think some people would change their tunes awfully quick.

    (If you check out Pharyngula, even PZ made some comment about how Sally Kern was right about the schools teaching “indoctrination” rather than facts and figures…maybe just not the way she thought. But what if they were teaching indoctrination you didn’t agree with?)

    Why can’t people just count themselves lucky that their kids may thrive in schools and other kids don’t rather than castigating someone for doing something different?

  19. Seems that the thread is full of a lot of anger and finger pointing. I like the comments that offer compromise solutions and recommendations.