Jay Mathews on Homeschool Regulations

Jay Mathews, Education Columnist for the Washington Post, recently wrote an article based loosely on the book Write These Laws On Your Children: Inside the World of Conservative Christian Homeschooling by Robert Kunzman. Mr. Kunzman is “an associate professor at the Indiana University School of Education and a former high school teacher, coach and administrator. Kunzman knows than many parents have chosen to homeschool for non-religious reasons, but focuses on serious Christians because they are the ones that public school professionals are most worried about.”

Uhm… why are public school professionals most worried about ‘serious’ Christian homeschoolers? That’s a rhetorical question, because there are about 40 answers that all mean the same thing- Christians are weird. But this is blatant discrimination,  proudly displayed and generally accepted from what I can see. It also begs the question- why isn’t he worried about Christians who aren’t serious? ;)

Anyway, his opinion is that:

Home-schooling regulations are only justified, Kunzman says, when (1) vital interests of children or society are at stake, (2) there is a general consensus on standards for meeting those interests, and (3) there is an effective way to measure whether those standards are met. Kunzman offers only one possible regulation that meets all three criteria: he thinks home-schoolers, like regular school children, should be tested for basic skills in reading, writing and math.


  • what are the vital interests of children and society as related to homeschoolers?
  • Who would decide, and on what criteria would a general consensus of standards be based?
  • And what ‘effective measure’ exists with which we could pigeon-hole the nation’s children?

All this stuff sounds intelligent and compassionate on the surface, but is anyone going to honestly tackle what this rhetoric really means when it hits the ground and takes off running? Not to mention the fact that these exact reasons for regulation are supposedly being applied to public schools, and yet what have they done for the children in the system? Why go after families who have opted out of the system and bear the burden, financial and otherwise, for their kids’ educations? How can someone seriously propose that homeschooled kids meet standards that are not only not enforced in the system, but if HS kids don’t meet the standards, they would then be forced into a system that doesn’t meet the standards?



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Susan R's picture


I remembered http://www.parade.com/news/intelligence-report/archive/the-end-of-grade-... this article in Parade Magazine back in April.

Starting this August, elementary and middle-school students in one school district in Westminster, Colo., won't be assigned to grade levels based on age. Instead, they'll fall into multi-age levels based on what they already know and will move up only as they master new material..."It's very hard to get people to believe in something new," says Deborah Meier of New York University's Steinhardt School of Education. "They worry that it's a guinea-pig experiment or a fad that will go away in a few years."

Let not your heart be troubled, Ms. Meier. Homeschoolers have been doing it for 3 decades- it's not a fad, it's sensible and effective.