September-October 2010 Selected Content
Publisher's Note - Helen Hegener
A Matter of Conscience
Every so often an important homeschooling book comes along, one which moves beyond typical discussions of how to teach your child to read or why to quit worrying about it, and into the realm of what is most critical to remember about homeschooling.
One of the keystones of homeschooling is parental autonomy, or the rights of parents to make the best decisions regarding their own children. That right has been under fire in many places recently, most notably in England and Sweden, as home educators in those countries have faced increasingly difficult situations.
Patrick Farenga reported on the situation in England in June, writing:
Great Britain narrowly missed a legislative bullet that would have crippled independent homeschooling in the UK. Homeschoolers fear the government will attempt similar legislation again soon...
On June 22, 2010 the Swedish Parliament effectively eliminated the ability of families to choose homeschooling except under "exceptional circumstances."
Kelly Green is a Canadian/American editor, writer, homeschooling mother and activist, and she believes "...what has happened in England and Sweden in the past year is going to have an impact on education law and civil liberties the world over."
Kelly has been following, assisting, and writing about these situations for some time on her blog, Kelly Green and Gold (http://kellygreenandgold.wordpress.com), and now she's compiled her writing into a book, titled A Matter of Conscience: Education as a Fundamental Freedom (August, 2010, Rubeus Books).
I had the privilege of reading a draft of Kelly's book, and while I've been pretty closely following the worrisome developments abroad, it was a page-turner and an eye-opener for me.
An excerpt from Kelly's blog:
August 3, 2010:
Observing how little success home educators in England were having in getting their fact-based and thorough research and reasoned arguments heard in the mainstream media, it drove me to do a little study into the topic of media bias, the point of this essay.
First, I wondered if we were having the same problem in North America, and discovered numerous examples that would support the assertion that our English friends are not alone. I found, for example, a great essay by Nathaniel Bluedorn, on a website called "The Fallacy Detective," about the misapplication of logic by the Akron Ohio Beacon in articles it published on homeschooling. Then, I read about the Detroit News attack on homeschooling from December of 2009 (I had to read about it as the original articles had been removed from the Internet).
In light of these and many other examples, it's fairly clear that a media bias against home-based education exists in both the U.K. and North America. The question is why? What creates such a bias? And what can we poor peasants in the Third Estate do about bias in the Fourth Estate?
Kelly backs up her comments with lengthy excerpts and links to original sources, and she connects the dots in an easily understandable manner:
If our ability, or right, to exercise this fundamental freedom of conscience to choose our children's education is ever challenged... We have a generation of young people, educated at home, in the full freedom of their parents' and their own consciences, who can speak eloquently for themselves and for us. In fact, if such a challenge ever comes, we will have a wonderful opportunity to show the world the infinite number of ways one can live a good life when education is recognized as a matter of conscience.
Kelly Green's A Matter of Conscience is reminiscent of HEM columnists Larry and Susan Kaseman's book, Taking Charge Through Homeschooling: Personal and Political Empowerment (1990, Koshkonong Press); the Kasemans wrote: Empowerment includes identifying options and realizing that we can make choices and act on them, that we can take charge.
Kelly also writes about taking charge and empowering oneself: Where is your line in the sand, collectively, and personally? Is it at having any contact whatsoever with any government body regarding the educational provision you have chosen for your child, including informing the government that you intend to carry out your duty to educate your child by taking complete responsibility for that education yourself, without the assistance of either public or private school? Perhaps it is. There are good and valid reasons for drawing that line, including the argument that taxpayers do not owe an administrative government body information about their personal family choices. Or do you draw your line at having the government, or anybody else, try to tell you that they have the power to decide whether your educational provision is acceptable, or that they know better than you how to meet your child's needs?
One of the most important pieces we've ever published in Home Education Magazine is the landmark column by the Kasemans, Foundations of the Rights and Responsibilities of Homeschooling Parents, originally published in their Taking Charge political action column in the May-June 1996 issue. In that column they lay out the practical, logical, historical, legal, moral and religious foundations of homeschooling rights and responsibilities. The column is reprinted in its entirety in this issue, see the HEM Classics section beginning on page 42. It is also available to read free at our website: homeedmag.com/INF/FREE/free_fndrf.html
In that column the Kasemans write: As homeschoolers it is our responsibility to recognize, understand, and use the foundations of our homeschooling rights and responsibilities.
In A Matter of Conscience, what Kelly Green calls her "small contribution to educational freedom," she encourages homeschoolers to not only recognize, understand, and use the foundations identified by the Kasemans, but to also reflect upon and answer a key question:
I keep coming back to freedom. What does it mean? What is it really? And how do freedom and government intersect?
An important question for every parent, whether homeschooling or not, to reflect upon and to answer for themselves, their children, and the future.
© 2010, Helen Hegener