Sunday’s TH highlighted some families participating in the growing trend of home schooling. The featured families have created a nurturing and rigorous academic experience for their children, and it’s a good thing that state regulations allow parents that kind of freedom of choice.
However, there should exist some middle ground by which the state can account for children not enrolled in school without getting in the way of dedicated home-school parents. States should have in place some requirements for the protection of all children.
While home-schooling families are leery of government oversight, that lack of regulation creates a loophole that allows bad actors to get away with their behavior. We’ve seen such cases in Iowa — including teenagers who had been adopted by foster families, only to be pulled out of school and abused at home.
Assistant News Editor Allie Hinga had no trouble locating local families who are model home-schoolers. But finding data on Iowa and Illinois home schooling in general for her report was a different story. The data doesn’t exist.
Iowa law allows “independent private instruction,” which requires no reports to fill out or forms to file with local school districts. Parents can just keep their children — and even a few unrelated children — at home without informing anyone.
Illinois also does not have any reporting requirements.
That means a student can simply stop attending school, never to return. Children never have to be enrolled in school in the first place.
And are home-schooled children keeping up with grade-level reading and math standards? State education officials in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin have no way of knowing. Only those who voluntarily take standardized tests provide any insight, and those students could be the top of a broad spectrum.
Horror stories of abuse wrought by parents who keep their children home from school are the darkest part of this issue. These are adults who might have no interest at all in educating their children, but in covering up their own abuse. The State of Iowa requires no checks of criminal background or child abuse among parents who don’t enroll their kids in school. There are no home checks. There is no way to know if the children are victims of educational neglect — or worse.
Meanwhile, there are likely thousands of responsible home educators in the state who have succeeded without government involvement. But good governance means ensuring every child receives a proper education.
Requiring that home-school families report that they are doing so to their respective states and having those students take annual standardized tests are moderate steps that could help strengthen that promise.