May-June 2009 Selected Content
Taking Charge - Larry and Susan Kaseman
The 100th Taking Charge Column
Here is our one hundredth column for Home Education Magazine, a sampling of excerpts spanning the years since 1992 and covering topics still timely today. Material we've added for this column is in brackets. Full columns are available at HEM's website.
Hanging On To What Makes Homeschooling Distinctive - November-December, 1997
As homeschoolers, we are part of a small minority that is, in a sense, in direct competition with conventional schooling, one of the largest, most powerful, and most pervasive institutions in our society. There are fundamental differences between homeschooling and conventional schooling. If we want to be able to take responsibility for our lives and homeschool in ways that will work well for our family, we need to be aware of these differences and act in ways that will maintain these differences and prevent homeschooling from being reduced to schooling by becoming a small, insignificant part of conventional schooling.
[But] even more important, we become stronger people as we homeschool. Some of our new-found strength comes from life skills we learn by working with our children. As they grow, we catch glimpses of children as they were meant to be: funny, adventurous, challenging, full of life, compassionate. As we interact with them, we begin peeling back the layers that we developed in school: layers we wrapped around ourselves because we discovered that we needed to repeat what someone else said was right, whether we agreed with it or not; layers to protect ourselves from the humiliation of being wrong or stupid or not knowing an answer; layers we developed to survive peer group interactions.
Underneath these layers, we parents find our selves and are surprised at our strengths and abilities. From our children we learn to use common sense, to observe the world around us, to learn what we need to know, make our own decisions that will work, to stop worrying about whether someone else thinks we have the right answer, to stop wondering if we have to know something for a test or what grade we will get. One of the most important secrets of homeschooling is that it's never too late to start, even for those of us who were thoroughly schooled in our youth. We become like the homeschooling father who decided to retire early rather than move to a different state, a decision that was good for his family but reduced his income. He observed that he would not have had the courage to make such a decision if homeschooling had not given him experience in taking responsibility for life decisions.
Why Children Are Not for Screening - Originally published November-December, 1993, updated March-April, 2006
Screenings are risky. They are sometimes inaccurate, undermine parents' and children's confidence, can get families into legal difficulties, and cause other problems. Generally speaking, children learn and develop better when they are supported by loving parents who take responsibility for them and spend time with them than when they are turned over to screenings that can cause problems and that very seldom identify real problems that parents haven't already recognized.
Increased Mental Health Screening? Are You Crazy!?! - January-February, 2005
Increased mental health screening for children and adults is being encouraged by the federal government in response to strong marketing and lobbying by the pharmaceutical industry. This concerns everyone, and homeschoolers have extra reasons for concern. This column discusses how and why screening programs have been developed, serious problems these programs cause, and what we can do.
Does Homeschooling Have To Be Political? - January-February, 2004
Homeschooling is also political because it stirs up the larger community, the body politic, even though relatively few families homeschool. If less than two percent of families in the U. S. with children aged 6 to 18 decided not to go to movie theaters and instead watched videos or DVDs at home, it is unlikely that the larger community would react very strongly, if at all. But when roughly 2% of children from ages 6 to 18 stop attending conventional schools, the larger community notices. Powerful people in our society view homeschooling as more than just a few parents educating their children at home. It is seen as a challenge to public schools and many peoples' basic ideas about learning and education.
Homeschooling is perceived as a threat by one of the most powerful interest groups in our society: the educational establishment. That's conventional schools, teachers unions, textbook publishers, educational software people. Now that's a giant you don't want to upset. Really, we didn't mean to waken it. We just wanted to quietly homeschool our kids, just follow our principles and beliefs and let other people follow theirs. Isn't America the land of the free? Shouldn't we be able to do this? But upset the giant we did, big time.
Let's Stop Aiding and Abetting Academicians' Folly - July-August 2002
Another piece has appeared in the growing pile of what passes for academic anti-homeschooling papers. Homeschoolers will recognize its obvious flaws. In fact, it would be laughable were it not for the fact that its conclusions may be used to support demands for increased state regulation of homeschooling.
The paper is "Testing the Boundaries of Parental Authority Over Education: The Case of Homeschooling" by Rob Reich, an assistant professor at Stanford University. It was presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association in 2001. Portions are scheduled to be included in the author's book, Bridging Liberalism and Multiculturalism in Education, University of Chicago Press, 2002.
It is not clear how (or even if) we could prevent inaccurate academic papers [such as this] from being written. However, we can be prepared to discredit and counter them when they are cited. In addition, this paper is another example of the ways that misleading studies and reports being produced or generated by some homeschoolers are being used against us. We can work to convince homeschoolers not to produce, participate in, or cite such works.
It is not surprising that the upper echelons of the educational establishment share the biases against and misunderstandings of homeschooling common in the lower levels. Their self-definition, prestige, and job security depend on their conviction that ordinary people can't learn without being taught by trained and knowledgeable professionals. Some see homeschoolers as a threat to the conventional academic system.
And yet those of us who grew up expecting universities to be repositories of Truth can't help being a little sad and disappointed by this commentary on the bankruptcy of supposedly highly respected institutions like Stanford University, the University of Chicago, and American Political Science Association. One more reason to appreciate homeschooling!
The Fraser Study: Puffing Up Homeschooling and Selling Our Freedoms - January-February 2008
The [Fraser Institute] study is based on unreliable sources. Some are research and studies that our previous columns have shown to be misleading, unreliable, and false. They include works by Brian Ray, Lawrence Rudner, (both funded by the Home School Legal Defense Association [HSLDA]), Patricia Lines, Mitchell Stevens, and Rob Reich. . . . We can help minimize the damage [done by such studies] by understanding the problems with such studies, educating others, and refusing to cite such studies.
User Friendly Homeschooling Records - September-October, 1998
Many homeschoolers find that keeping personal records gives us a concrete, constructive way of thinking about how we are homeschooling, of appreciating and celebrating what we are doing well, and of considering changes we might want to make. We have both the opportunity and the challenge of deciding how we want to keep personal records that will meet the needs and desires of our own unique family and provide us with raw material we can use to develop transcripts, diplomas, and other credentials and to complete applications for employment, volunteer service, and higher education.
Regardless of how we keep our personal homeschooling records, it is important that we work to maintain our own homeschooling freedoms and those of other families by giving public officials only the minimum records and reports required by state statute or necessary to deal with a legal challenge we are facing. If we voluntarily give officials more than the minimum, we will be increasing their power and authority over our families and other families, setting a precedent that we and other families will be expected to follow in the future, and encouraging them to question and investigate additional aspects of our homeschool.
Who Is Pat Lines and Why Is She Writing About Homeschooling? - November-December 2003
The homeschooling movement is large enough and successful enough to be used by non-homeschoolers working toward goals unrelated to homeschooling in ways that misrepresent homeschooling or undermine our homeschooling freedoms or both. Intentionally or not, recent writings by Patricia M. Lines work against homeschooling. She encourages the development of public school programs to "recapture" homeschoolers. Her writings present inaccurate information about homeschooling and blur the distinction between homeschoolers and students enrolled in public school programs. She misrepresents key points of education and homeschooling law. She is associated with big players who appear to be using homeschooling as part of larger agendas.
HSLDA's 'History' Erodes the Foundations of Our Freedom - September-October 2001
Fortunately, our homeschooling freedoms rest on very solid foundations. Unfortunately, these foundations have been and continue to be eroded by the writings and actions of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), a national homeschooling organization. This was recently crystallized in a so-called history of homeschooling written by a staff attorney for HSLDA. Its central point is that homeschooling was illegal in nearly every state until HSLDA secured the freedom to homeschool. However, this thesis was not supported or documented in the paper and is totally false.
Problems with the Statement That Homeschooling Was Illegal
[Author Scott] Somerville opens his paper with a shocking statement, "Twenty years ago, home education was a crime in almost every state." [After our column was published, Somerville changed the sentence to: ". . .home education was treated as a crime . . . " When a change like this is made in an academic or published paper, the revised version should be labeled as an edited version, but Somerville's has not been. See http://www.hslda.org/docs/nche/000010/PoliticsOfSurvival.asp ]
Among the problems this statement creates:
• The statement is false. Homeschooling twenty years ago rested on the foundations described [earlier in this column]. In addition, there were no statutes that said it was illegal for parents to teach their children at home.
Somerville appears to base his statement on the idea that homeschoolers were violating compulsory school attendance laws. This also was not true. In some states, statutes defining private schools were broad or vague enough that homeschoolers could simply decide that their homes were private schools. In other states, homeschools were schools that had not yet been recognized as one way of complying with the compulsory school attendance law.
• In one short sentence, Somerville denies and erases the foundations of homeschooling freedoms. To have an attorney who claims to be defending homeschoolers claim that homeschooling was a crime gives opponents of homeschooling permission and an invitation to claim that homeschooling is basically illegal unless states give parents special permission and set up requirements they must meet. This is a very serious blow to not only homeschooling freedoms but to basic parental rights. It is hard to believe that a homeschooling attorney could make such an appalling statement.
• Saying that homeschooling was illegal 20 years ago also undermines our homeschooling freedoms on a more subtle level. Saying that homeschooling used to be illegal but now is legal makes it sound like the legitimacy of homeschooling comes from the state and statutes and that we should be grateful to the government for allowing us to educate our own children. In point of fact, homeschooling was as legitimate 20 years ago as it is now. Its legitimacy comes from the foundations discussed [earlier in this column].
In conclusion, here is the conclusion from our first column, Parental Action Matters, - November-December, 1992
Let us take a hard look at current proposals for "educational reform" so we can see through the rhetoric to the damage that is being done to our children, our families, and our society. Let us consider the ways in which we can counter current trends in education while we are at the same time strengthening and enriching our own families and our communities. And let us work together, respecting the rights of everyone. Our children, our families, our communities, and our world are worth the struggle!
Finally, we thank Helen and Mark Hegener, the many homeschoolers know, and our family for your support, what we learn from you, and the opportunity to work with you.
© 2009, Larry and Susan Kaseman