Safe at Home?

Homeschooling is becoming more popular, but families need to be aware that teachers unions have a penchant for home invasions.

According to the latest data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the number of K-12 children educated at home increased from 1.09 million in 2003 to 1.77 million in 2012, which is 3.4 percent of the school population. (The National Home Education Research Institute has the total number of homeschooled at 2.2 million.)

The myth that homeschooling is the domain of the very rich, the very religious and the very weird is less true today than ever. Mike Donnelly, attorney and director of international affairs at the Home School Legal Defense Association, says the “National Household Education Survey” of parents in 2012 shows considerably more diversity in its attraction.

Ninety-one percent of parents cited concerns about the environment of public schools, 77% cited moral instruction, and 74% expressed concerns about the academic instruction. … 64% listed wanting to give their children religious instruction as a reason, followed by 44% saying they wanted their child to have a nontraditional form of education.”

When it came to parents listing the single most important reason for home schooling, the survey showed 25% of parents said they were concerned about the environment of other schools; 22% said “other reasons” (including family time, finances, travel and distance), and 19% said they were dissatisfied with the academic instruction at other schools.

City Journal associate editor and homeschooling parent Matthew Hennessey writes that city-dwellers are teaching their kids at home in greater numbers because they are frustrated with public schools. Citing NCES numbers, he reports that 28 percent of homeschoolers live in cities. “That’s almost as many as live in suburbs (34 percent) or rural areas (31 percent). Boston, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles are home to swelling communities of homeschoolers. And in the nation’s largest city—New York—the number of homeschooled students has risen 47 percent, to more than 3,700 children, over the last five years.

With some creative ideas, modern technology and a solid support system, parents are finding it easier than ever to shun traditional schools – both public and private. Homeschool co-ops, where a group of parents get together and combine their talents to take the burden off individual moms and dads, have proliferated. For subjects that a parent is not proficient in, the internet offers a world of assistance. The online Khan Academy alone has produced over 6,500 video lessons that teach a wide spectrum of subjects, mainly focusing on mathematics and science. As of April 1, 2015, the Khan Academy channel on YouTube had attracted 2,825,468 subscribers and his videos have been viewed more than 527 million times. And the aforementioned Home School Legal Defense Association maintains a comprehensive website where parents can go to learn about the homeschool law in their state, find supplemental resources, exchange curricula, etc.

And now, news from the Grinch….

At its yearly national convention, the National Education Association passed Resolution B-83 (exactly the same as 2011’s B-82, 2008’s B-75, etc.) which in part reads:

The National Education Association believes that home schooling programs based on parental choice cannot provide the student with a comprehensive education experience. When home schooling occurs, students enrolled must meet all state curricular requirements, including the taking and passing of assessments to ensure adequate academic progress. Home schooling should be limited to the children of the immediate family, with all expenses being borne by the parents/guardians. Instruction should be by persons who are licensed by the appropriate state education licensure agency, and a curriculum approved by the state department of education should be used. (Emphasis added.)

I can hear the conversation:

Teachers union activist: How dare you invade our turf! Just who do you parents think you are? I don’t care if they are your kids. You can’t teach them because you don’t have a state credential and worse, you aren’t in a union!

Parents: But homeschooled kids do better on achievement tests, have higher graduation rates than public school students and are actively recruited by top colleges. And yes, ahem, they are my kids.

Teachers union activist: No matter. Your kids shouldn’t be allowed to learn from you. (In fact, unless you have a chef’s license, you shouldn’t be involved in their food prep either, but we’ll get to that another day.) And if you insist on teaching your own kids, you should get a state credential and then expect a rather aggressive knock on the door from someone on our organizing committee who will convince you to join our union.

An exaggeration you say? Well no, not really. In 2008, a California state appellate court ruled that parents who lack teaching credentials could not educate their children at home. Needless to say, this decision sent waves of angst through California’s homeschooling families, but it delighted the teachers unions whose leaders weighed in on the ruling. The California Teachers Association, which filed a brief claiming that allowing parents to homeschool their children without having a teaching credential will result in “educational anarchy,” was satisfied. Lloyd Porter, CTA board member at the time, averred “We’re happy. We always think students should be taught by credentialed teachers, no matter what the setting.” United Teachers of Los Angeles president A.J. Duffy declared from his pulpit, “What’s best for a child is to be taught by a credentialed teacher.”

Independent of the California ruling, teacher union leaders across the country have left no doubt how they feel about the role of parent as teacher. Annette Cootes, a Texas teacher union organizer, declared that “homeschooling is a form of child abuse.” Perhaps the most telling and honest quote is from former Louisiana teacher union president Joyce Haynes who in 2013 said it all. Speaking about Louisiana’s voucher program – though it could apply to homeschoolers – she said it would result in “… taking our children from us.”

A union president is complaining about their children being taken from them?! Yes, she thinks that parents are nothing more than breeders and that your kids really belong to her and her union. If that kind of kidnapper mentality doesn’t scare you, nothing will.

Fortunately for families, six months later in August 2008, California’s Second District Court of Appeal reversed its original decision and ruled that non-credentialed parents have a right to educate their own kids.

But while homeschooling thrives, Big Union continues its mission to outlaw and marginalize parents who simply want to do what they have traditionally done throughout history – take responsibility for educating their own children.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

5 replies
  1. Jen Garrison Stuber says:

    Hi, Larry —
    The NEA’s resolution against homeschooling has been around since 1988, shortly after states began to adopt homeschooling laws making it explicitly legal to homeschool one’s children. While you’ll see a lot of it expressed in the laws of different states, its converse also appears in homeschool law around the country — for example, WA specifically guarantees the rights of homeschoolers to attend part time, access ancillary services, and participate in extracurriculars at the same level they would be entitled to them as full time students. District funding in WA is contingent on their compliance with this law.

    The demand for parents to be credentialed has been struck down as unconstitutional in every state where it’s been tried (and it surprised a lot of us that CA even tried so late in the game with so much precedent against it).

    Most states now have a 30 year track record of homeschoolers — we’re doing great, and we’re no going away. You’d think the NEA would cease and desist in this silly resolution.

    Warmly,
    ~ Jen Garrison Stuber, WHO Board Advocacy Chair

  2. Wayne Speir says:

    “but families need to be aware that teachers unions have a penchant for home invasions”

    Is this a literal or figurative home invasion?

  3. Larry Sand says:

    Jen – thanks for your clarifying comments. Much appreciated. I assume WHO is Washington Homeschool Organization, yes?

  4. Larry Sand says:

    It means that for the unions to maximize their clout, they must do what they can to reduce the influence of parents in the education process.

  5. Dave H says:

    Having moved from the UK to California, reading this gives me a real sense of deja vu. The arguments they put forward are pretty much the same as keep getting put forward in the UK.

    Teaching credentials prepare a person to handle a large number of children, it’s basically training in crowd control and how to organise a lesson to be bland enough to cover the whole range of abilities and interest found in the class. None of these skills are required when you’re engaging 1-to-1 with a child and can structure learning around the abilities and interests of the child.

    Even having to conform to state-mandated exams and tests and having work assessed by a teacher is an attempt to force a child into the ‘official’ mould, which may not be a good fit.

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