Tag archives: Homeschooling

Child Advocacy Starts at Home

by Molly Carman

June 24, 2020

In a lively debate on June 15, Elizabeth Bartholet and Kerry McDonald discussed homeschooling, parental rights, and the state’s responsibility in education. Bartholet serves as a professor at Harvard University, and McDonald is a homeschooling mother who also serves as an adjunct professor and has dedicated her life to protecting the rights of homeschooling families. Milton Gaither joined the discussion as a professor from Messiah College. Neal McCluskey, the director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the CATO Institute, moderated the debate, presenting the questions sent in and directing the overall conversation.

The primary question posed in the debate was whether the state should intervene in the homes of homeschooling families to ensure that the rights of children are protected. While parents are usually the primary care givers of their children, who is ultimately responsible for a child’s education, the parents or the state? This is a fundamental question with far-reaching implications. How one answers it is ultimately determined by one’s convictions on the role of the state and family.

As was revealed in the debate, Bartholet believes that parents should not be trusted with the final responsibility for educating their children. She is suspicious of parents, and believes children need to be exposed to ideas that compete with their parent’s worldview from an early age. However, in Ephesians 6:4, Paul says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Bartholet disagrees and says that the state should bring up children in the way they should go.

In her opening statement, Bartholet argued, “Children should have rights that are equivalent to adults because children are not able to protect themselves like adults are.” Because of the cases of child abuse involving homeschooling families, she concludes that the state should have higher regulations imposed upon homeschoolers in order to prevent abuse or neglect of children. She proposed state home visits and “a balance” between state intervention and parental control when it comes to rearing children.

Bartholet is concerned about three main issues: the academic, physical, and ideological wellbeing of all children. “My problem is not with homeschooling per se,” she said, “but with the lack of regulations on homeschooling.” Bartholet says that parents cannot be trusted to take good care of their children because they are not “certified,” and therefore, there needs to be state intervention in order to ensure that all children have a chance to make it in life.

Academically, Bartholet is concerned that homeschool students cannot meet the requirements set out by standardization in the school system. She claimed homeschoolers only do “pretty well” academically. McDonald responded by asking, “Whose standard? Where two out of three of public school students can’t read? The public schools’ standards?” Homeschooling families recognize that the standard for academic excellence in the public schools is not the standard they desire for their children. Homeschooling is “another form of private education,” says McDonald, “and parents ought to be allowed to escape the situation.”

In terms of the physical wellbeing of children, McDonald responded to Bartholet’s concerns by calling attention to the fact that government schools are highly regulated and yet, “One in 10 students who attend public government schools will be sexually mistreated by a staff member by the time they graduate high school.” Nationally, McDonald explained, “That’s five million kids!” Moreover, she noted that at least half of all students grades four to 12 are bullied at least once a month. In other words, children who attend school are not necessarily more physically safe than homeschooled children.

Unfortunately, there have been cases of allegedly abusive parents removing their children from the public school system and beginning to “homeschool” them in order to avoid further inquiry. The public schools are aware of these children, and yet child services do nothing. According to the National Home Education Research Institute, “Legally homeschooled students are 40% less likely to die of child abuse or neglect than the average student nationally.”

Finally, Bartholet is concerned that homeschool students are ideologically isolated from the world and are not getting exposed to other ideas. She argued, “Children have a right to exposure to some other people and ideas about how one might live their life. So that when they become adults, they have some meaningful opportunity to choose something other than the views, the values, the culture that their own parents have chosen.” McDonald responded by noting, “You cannot mandate exposure to other positions.” Ironically, it is also noted in the debate that while Bartholet wants to regulate the exposure of homeschool students to other ideas, the public school system is not mandated to require exposure to specific religious ideologies.

So, why do I care about this debate? Because I was homeschooled throughout grade school, and just last month, I graduated from university. Looking back on my education experience, I believe my parents advocated for me by personalizing my education, encouraging a love of learning, teaching critical thinking skills, and making me feel safe at home. Homeschooling gave me an opportunity to learn more than just the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic and how to take the SAT. It provided me with opportunities to see the world and learn firsthand about other cultures and history. In other words, homeschooling prepared me for life. My parents were well-suited to advocate for me because they know and love me. The state is simply not capable of advocating for me in this way; they do not love or know me as my parents do. Child advocacy starts at home, and what better way than through homeschooling?

Christian parents have a biblical responsibility to oversee their children’s education. While homeschooling may not be the right option for everyone, all parents have a role to play and must be actively involved. Moreover, Christian parents have a special responsibility to disciple their children in the faith. A child’s spiritual formation cannot be delegated to the church, a youth group, or a Christian school. Discipleship begins and ends in the home. While the church should complement the spiritual education that takes place in the home, it can never replace the role that parents play in cultivating their child’s walk with God. In fact, in the Old Testament, Jewish parents were charged specifically with the responsibility to teach God’s law to their children. In Deuteronomy 6:7, Moses said, “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Teaching our children to walk in the fear and admonition of the Lord is an ongoing way of life that never ends. Thus, while homeschooling may not be for everyone, Christian parents must steward the time God has given them with their children well and do everything in their ability to raise children who love, follow, and obey God. 

Bartholet is right to be concerned about a child academically, physically, and ideologically. She is correct in saying that we should protect children from harmful situations, but she is misguided in suggesting that parents and the home are harmful to a child’s well-being. Christian parents have the opportunity, through homeschooling, to advocate for their children by teaching them academically from a biblical worldview, by playing with them and physically being present in their daily lives, and by helping them to foster a relationship and love for the Lord. Child advocacy starts at home, not necessarily because the state is incapable, but because of the God-given responsibility of parents to raise the next generation to love and fear Him.

Molly Carman is a policy intern at Family Research Council.

Homeschooled Students Make Good, Knowledgeable Citizens, Despite What Elites Say

by Laura Grossberndt

April 24, 2020

Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Bartholet recently stirred up controversy when she suggested that homeschooling ought to be illegal. She is concerned that homeschooling poses significant risks to children, including depriving them of a “meaningful education,” and may even make them bad citizens.

Bartholet chose a curious time to try to convince the American public that homeschooling ought to be banned. For one thing, due to the COVID-19 epidemic, all schooling is currently taking place at home. And for another, there is the news that only 15 percent of eighth-graders scored at or above proficiency level in U.S. history on the recently released National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) 2018 Report Card.

What do U.S. history scores have to do with the validity of homeschooling as an educational model? A great deal. Bartholet fears that homeschooled children will not “grow up exposed to…democratic values, ideas about nondiscrimination and tolerance of other people’s viewpoints.” I believe this fear is misplaced. An education in history is crucial to forming high regard for democratic values, nondiscrimination, and respecting other viewpoints. After all, how is one supposed to value our democratic republic and the ideals it embraces if they don’t know what a democratic republic is or what sets it apart from other forms of government? How is one to recognize the tell-tale signs of discrimination, and how is one to learn to sympathize with the realities and struggles of those different than them, without hearing the stories of people from the past?

Homeschooled students have higher-than-average scores in U.S. history (or “civics” or “social studies” as it is often called in curricula), and adults who were homeschooled vote and participate in community service and public meetings more frequently than their peers. If education in history is crucial to instilling high regard for democratic values, nondiscrimination, and respect for other viewpoints, then most homeschooled students would appear to be in reasonably good shape, despite Bartholet’s concerns, and public schools likely have room for improvement.

I’m not just speaking theoretically, but from personal experience. I was homeschooled from first through tenth grade. This educational decision, while financially costly to my family (my mother, who holds a master’s degree, stayed home instead of earning our family a second paycheck), afforded my family with expansive learning opportunities. Because we weren’t bound by a school calendar, our family was free to take field trips wherever and whenever we wanted. Nearly every family vacation had an educational aspect to it. We visited Boston and Philadelphia. We trekked Revolutionary and Civil War battlefields. We visited presidential homesteads and slave huts. We visited museums and watched documentaries. All these experiences brought history to life for me in a way no textbook ever could. Because we lived in the eastern U.S., none of these trips even required stepping onto an airplane.

You don’t have to be a homeschool family to take these kinds of trips. But time constraints certainly make them harder. And who knows if I would have enjoyed these trips half as much if my mother and teacher (for they were one and the same) hadn’t been experiencing them with me and transforming her passion for history into a lifelong passion of my own.

My rich education in U.S. history, provided by my homeschool experience, has taught me to cherish our form of government. It has taught me to grieve injustices in America’s past (slavery, Jim Crow laws, etc.) and motivates me to fight against current injustices (abortion, sexual exploitation, etc.). It has taught me to respect the human dignity and opinions of others, including those who think very differently than I do. It even taught me to entertain the possibility that I may be wrong or underinformed on a topic of debate.

Homeschooling may not be the right educational choice for every student or family situation, but it provided me with an exceedingly “meaningful education,” despite Elizabeth Bartholet’s concerns. It has been said that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” My mother did her best to raise a child who wouldn’t be condemned to such a fate. Let us all—parents, teachers, policymakers, and community members—recommit ourselves to teaching history in every educational model—home, public, and private—so that future generations can learn to treasure the good things in our history and how to avoid the errors.

Bach’s Bible

by Robert Morrison

April 9, 2013

I don’t speak German. I wish I did. That amazing language wasn’t offered in my Long Island high school or even in any neighboring school when I was growing up. The memories, the wounds of the Holocaust were still very raw. I remember parents of some of my classmates saying they would never buy, or even ride in, one of those new Volkswagens that were becoming popular in the early 1960s here.

When I was selected in 1987 as the first Washington representative of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, I began to get clued in to the German heritage of the LCMS. As part of my responsibilities, I would visit many Midwestern congregations of this confessional church body. Older people in those congregations had grown up in the Missouri Synod at a time when German was used in all church services, in all LCMS parochial schools. They would speak Deutsche to me. I would politely answer them—in Russian.

The LCMS members had fought hard to protect their linguistic heritage. They even went to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1923 to fight back against a xenophobic Nebraska state law that had banned teaching in a foreign language, any modern foreign language.

America had just emerged victorious from World War I and the anti-German sentiment was high. But the Supreme Court in the case of Meyer v. Nebraska sided with LCMS in what became a first important ruling on parents’ rights before the High Court. Shortly thereafter, the Court went further, in the case of Pierce v. Society of Sisters. In that Oregon case, a Ku Klux Klan-inspired referendum had outlawed all private education.

The Court said no, declaring: “the child is not the mere creature of the state.” Pierce is a more far-reaching case than Meyer, to be sure, but what was at issue in Meyer was not just the right of parochial Lutheran schools to teach members’ children in German, it was the right of those kids’ parents to seek the education that comported with their deeply held values.

This is a right not recognized by the modern democratic German government. So admirable in so many ways, the German government nonetheless persecutes home schoolers.

The Romeike (roh-MIKE-uh) family of home schoolers had to flee their native land and has sought refuge here in America. The Obama administration wants to deport this wholly innocent family from their Tennessee home. You can push back against this shameful attempt by visiting the Home School Legal Defense Association’s website. You can help by signing their petition.

Issues of faith and nation were to be seen once again in this amazing story of the Bible of Johann Sebastian Bach. When I would be introduced around Washington as the LCMS’s representative, I would often be teased with: “Ah yes, the Missouri Synod Lutherans—Bach, bier, und Bibel.”

I understood enough German to say, that should be “Bibel, Bach, und bier.” This YouTube video tells the amazing story of the miraculous discovery of Bach’s Bible and its preservation from the clutches of Hitler’s Nazis, as well as the perils of Allied bombing and Russian pillaging.

This much German we can all share: Gottes wort bleibt in Ewigkeit. “God’s Word stands Forever!”

Homeschooling and the Attack on Religious Freedom

by Family Research Council

March 21, 2013

There is a case that has caught the attention of homeschool advocates on an international level. The Romeike family of Germany was granted asylum by a U.S. judge due to the persecution they had experienced for homeschooling their children in Germany. This persecution included police intervention well beyond simple fines or reprimands. The family believes that the school system in Germany does not teach what they as Christians believe should be taught to their children, so they wish to teach their children in an environment where their convictions are honored – their home.

This is not merely a question of the freedom to homeschool but a question of who determines what children are taught. In other words it is a question of religious freedom. Religious faith is often passed on through the teaching that parents give to their children. The Scripture clearly states in Deut. 6:6-7 “And these words which I command thee this day, [the Law of God to Israel] shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (KJV)

Many who homeschool wish to teach their children that God is engaged in everyday life. For them, the school is an extension of the home. Schools should serve parents in the education of children. However, when state-run schools begin to serve a wholly secular agenda and deny parents the ability to train their children, they begin to do what the First Amendment says the state must never do: Establish religion.

In the landmark case Pierce v. Society of Sisters, the Supreme Court asserted that children are not mere creatures of the state and that the state could not dictate where they went to school. German law is essentially asserting that the state knows more about children’s needs than parents. This is a dangerous threat to religious freedom and the Romeike family was right in seeking to teach their children the things that they believed to be true. The U.S. should be a place where those threatened because of their beliefs can come for refuge. It is sad when the ICE division of our Federal government ignores the importance of education as an expression of religious belief and works against granting families like the Romeikes asylum.

Cases like this have become more common in the current administration. The current administration sees a “freedom to worship” that is confined to the church and ends when you exit its doors. They do not recognize James’ teaching in the New Testament when he stated that a faith without works is dead. Freedom of religion has everything to do with practice. It is time our government recognized that.

I am glad my mother exercised her freedom of religion and chose to homeschool me all the way through high school. She and my father wanted me to be taught reading, writing and, arithmetic, all of which I could have received at a public school. But with those they also taught me the old fashioned, life changing, sin cleansing, grace receiving, others loving, Bible believing version of the wonderful gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And the freedom to teach those wonderful truths is priceless. If freedom of religion does not include a freedom to practice then freedom of religion is dead.

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