A Seattle article presents an appealing looking title for many [Homeschoolers exempt from bill lowering mandatory school age]. Except, over my years of observation, I’m apprehensive of any law’s existence that you must be exempt from, especially when “homeschool” is brought in. As laws go, “exempt” in can mean “exempt” out. Since it’s usually homeschool volunteers watching those bills and language fly by, better safe than sorry works well.
I’m also one of those oddballs thinking Washington State’s current compulsory attendance age starting at eight years of age is wonderful. HB 1283 proposes lowering that age to six. There are 15 sponsors and it’s sitting in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education. From KOMO:
Rep. Marcie Maxwell, D-Renton, House Bill 1283’s sponsor, said her reason for introducing it is simple: Society has changed since the early 20th century, when the current rules were created, and our laws should reflect that.
“We know today how important early education is,” she said. “Kindergarten, first grade, second grade and beyond are a vital part of all students’ preparation.”
Our society has changed, but I would wager the previous societies (and parents) knew exactly how important education is for all. Off the top of my head – Hypatia, Nathaniel Bowditch, Abraham Lincoln, Leonardo da Vinci are some examples of autodidacts who loved to learn. All without the assumption involuntary seat time in a classroom is necessary for 13 years.
Washington homeschoolers must file papers declaring intent to homeschool. Because homeschooling families can be mighty lobbying bodies when government agencies could interfere with our lives, the writers of HB 1283 release homeschoolers from filing homeschooling intent until eight years of age. But there’s always something to worry about if there’s a search for more control. Here’s a KOMO article excerpt by Jonathan Kaminsky:
What, then, is to stop a parent who doesn’t want to enroll his or her 6- or 7-year old from claiming to be homeschooling? “I suppose you could do that,” Maxwell said. “I would hope that everybody is looking out for the best interest of the child. I’d like to give parents the benefit of the doubt.”
This is an unnecessary concern when the parent is looking out for the child’s best interests and feels they’re not ready for formal schooling. Besides a truant six or seven year old just seems wrong.
A long-time homeschooling advocate has legitimate concerns quoted in the article:
Despite the concession to homeschoolers, some remain unhappy with the measure.Emilie Fogle, chairwoman of the Washington Homeschool Organization, said that there is no evidence that kids starting school earlier helps them later in life. She fears that an exception made for homeschoolers could be ephemeral.”An exemption puts us as a second group, and it can be taken away,” she said.
From KOMO, regarding the substantial financial interest in public education’s expansion with this bill’s potential passage:
The measure has broad support, including from the state’s Board of Education, the Association of Washington School Principals and the Washington Education Association – the state’s largest teachers’ union.
“We are working toward all-day kindergarten, and yet we have this archaic law on the books that doesn’t require families to send their kids to school until age 8,” said Connie Fletcher, a member of the state’s Board of Education. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
An incredible kindergarten teacher I worked with was leery of moving to an all-day kindergarten class for 5 year olds. She thought it was too long and too much for the children. She was never asked her opinion as the school district moved to all-day kindergarten. The Washington homeschool group, WHO, is thinking ahead and following the edu-industry trends. This bill’s movement will be interesting in seeing who wins, the children and families or the well-funded lobby groups.