Q. I wonder should we homeschoolers be accountable??? I don’t know the right answer. I know for most, their children are probably exceeding ps standards, but what happens to the child whose parents don’t even keep them learning at a regular pace? I’m sure this will get a lot of people writing and I’m curious what everyone thinks. Is it that there are so few families that don’t do their job that it’s not worth worrying about?
My answer, written from a position of very ruffled feathers, long years of answering this question (we’ve been hsing since 1988, and were advocates of the practice for three years before that):
Accountable to whom? How is that accountability to be measured and enforced? Who is best qualified to look over the shoulders of homeschooling parents? We should think hard about the answers to these questions first. Accountable to God, yes, of course, but that’s not generally what people mean when they raise the A word.
The government? The government has long had a monopoly on the public school system. Are the public schools doing their job? Are they consistently educating every child who comes through the door so that each child is learning at a regular pace? Are all the teachers good, competent teachers? If not, then by what conceivable standard should hsers have to be held accountable by the government or by the government institution of public school?
Think of the two models of education this way: we have two companies here producing widgets, let’s say ( I have heard this illustration or something like it elsewhere). Company A sets up its business claiming to be something of a charity entitled to taxpayer funds. There are bad widget components out there, and company A promises that it must exist so that its special process will repair the bad components while producing great widgets across the board. But it only produces widgets with a 30 percent failure rate, and constantly complains that the problem is they don’t get enough money,
and they are working with bad components. So they get more money, and they still have a 30 percent failure rate, and they ask for money, get it, and still have a 30 percent failure rate (although the CEOs make good money, and the employees go on strike for more money from time to time, and the company mainly blames )….
Company B is a consortium of sorts- a loosely organized collection of home businesses in the field of widget making. Fewer than 10 percent of their widgets fail. They do not ask for more money. In fact, Company B refuses to accept money from taxpayer funds. They keep making a better product for less money and all they ask is to be left alone. There may be an occasional poor unit, but the overall success rate is well over 90 percent.
Company A takes a look at Company B and says that it’s not fair. Their cottage industry model uses unqualified labor and their widgets and widget components should be forced to go through Company A. Also, Company A demands the right to inspect and regular test Company B and all the home businesses involved with B.
Now, how much sense does it make to have company A, which has three times the failure rate yet spends ten times the money, be the one give the oversight of company B? Would it make sense for the government to force the widgets of company B to be sent to company A if they are defective?
How is a model that fails so many supposed to be capable of even recognizing a model for success? They don’t even know what works, so why are they supposed to be holding their superiors ‘accountable?’
If we are going to say that parents need to be held accountable to some local agency for how they teach their children, what agency will it be? What are the qualifications of that agency? And does this accountability go both ways? If it makes sense to force the children of a homeschooling family into a public school because they score in the 40th percentile on a test instead of the 50th percentile, then isn’t it at least equally reasonable to insist that children who score below the 50th percentile are failing public schools and must be homeschooled, or at least educated in some other school, public, private or home? If not, why not? I submit it just might be because an institutional bias is showing, an unspoken assumption about just who owns our children and who is in charge of whom in a democratic republic.
My children can tell you a lot about academic subjects that public schooled kids learn precious little about and aren’t on the state standards. I’m sure that there are things public schools cover that we don’t. Who’s to say which of us may impose our standards on the other?
If the government were to impose accountability standards upon homeschoolers, the case would be entirely different. The government can, and does, require homeschoolers to put their kids in public schools. In states where testing is required, do you realize the government determines what we teach in our homes by imposing the test it chooses on homeschoolers?. If our homeschooling depends on a test some have called for as an accountability measure, than what we teach will be determined by what is on the test.
State schools must be held accountable because they receive state funds- money that comes from our pockets and they use those funds to indoctrinate, er, teach, other people’s children. They must account for how they use those funds and how they serve the public.
Homeschoolers are _families_. It’s not the state’s business where or not I teach hibernation this year instead of two years from now or even never. I don’t get state funding. I’m not teaching other people’s children.
I’ve used the analogy before- it’s like kitchens in restaurants versus kitchens in homes. Because a restaurant serves the public at large and is licensed by the state, it’s subject to state laws and regulations and inspections. But those laws, regulations and inspections do _not_ apply to the kitchens in our homes used to feed our families. They should not. The state should not be in the business of deciding I’m probably not feeding my family right so they need to test my kitchen, and it should not be in the business of deciding that I’m probably not teaching my kids right so they need to test my kids.
The best way to handle those homeschooling families who turn out not to really be homeschooling (few and far between) is on an individual basis, after they have failed to educate their children, which is the appropriate time for the state to interfere with wrong-doers. To do otherwise is unconstitutional as it is an exercise of prior restraint- treating us all as potential criminals. It will harm more people than it protects.
I believe I am held accountable for what I teach- by my children who will suffer if I fail and by God who has given them to me as a steward (this, of course, will not be viewed the same way by all the various members on this list, which is a good and beautiful thing- it’s called FREEDOM- you can disagree with me if you want to, and that disagreement is possibly because neither of us can impose our will on the other’s homeschool). I am accountable to my husband and to myself for how I teach my children for obvious reasons. If I fail and they can’t read or write, I’ll be the one raising them forever, dealing with the ramifications of that.
So sure, we should be held accountable, but the people who have the moral right to hold us accountable. The folks who can’t keep their own area tidy, and PS have graduate too many illiterate kids to be trusted in this area, are not the folks who get to judge if _I’M_ doing a good job.