Illinois imposes no regulations, 19 September 2007, Pioneer Press Online, Glenview, Illinois
Start asking questions about home schoolers in Illinois and there’s one answer you won’t be able to find: How many there are.
Illinois is one of 10 states that leaves the increasingly popular option of home schooling unregulated.
But in Illinois there is no interaction with home schoolers. In many cases, the government doesn’t know they exist.
One of the most prominent is State Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-4th, of Maywood. Lightford is the chair of the Senate’s Education Committee.
“I would have assumed to some degree that we had accountability over how many home schoolers there were, where they were located, and that they would be tested,” Lightford said.
She was so surprised that she said she is planning to delve deeper into the issue.
“We don’t know what homeschoolers are doing, but we want to find out” is a complaint from bureaucrats that I’ve heard for over a decade. I think this is what the courtroom judges on television call a ‘fishing expedition.’
My own first-person encounter was in Germany in a military community in 1995. The main subject of an article of the front page of the Herald-Post, a newspaper for the Heidelberg, Mannheim and Worms military communities, was the decentralization of the overseas DoD schools that serve the children of servicemembers.
[Georgia] Williams-Scaife [of DoDEA's former Panama school district] said research shows involving parents in decision making results in a more efficient school that serves its students better.
The point was that ‘local control’ in school was better than a long chain-of-command. The article about local control being a good thing ended with a non sequitur about how someone needed to regulate homeschoolers. The conclusion seemed to be that if parents help make decisions at school, that’s good, but if they do it themselves, that’s bad.
[Bartley] Lagomarsino [deputy director of the DOD Education Activity] said DODDS doesn’t have data on whether there are [homeschooled] children overseas who aren’t getting an education. With the regulation, officials can gather this information.
They didn’t know, but they wanted to find out.
The proposed regulation to control military homeschoolers overseas never saw the light of day for ‘international reasons’ (the U.S. has no jurisdiction outside the country — yes, slightly ironic at the moment), so DoDEA still “doesn’t have data” on homeschooled kids.
But back to Illinois.
“So you don’t even know your child’s aptitude or ability or where they are? At what level?” [State Sen. Kimberly Lightford] asked, still sounding astonished. “That’s scary.”
This reminds me of concern that breastfeeding mothers do not know how much milk their baby drinks at each feeding — other than ‘enough to satisfy the baby’s hunger.’ One solution was to weigh the baby before nursing, and then weigh the baby afterwards.
Most parents who pay attention to their children probably have a good idea of their child’s “aptitude or ability” even if they do not have test scores to demonstrate their children’s skill at taking tests. Of course there will be families at either end of the curve who need to ask the help of people who specialize in figuring out how to work with unaverage situations, but for average conditions, the skills and practices of garden-variety parents should be adequate.
Just as attentive parents know if a baby is trying to sit up, stand up, walk or talk, those same parents working together with their children will notice whether the child is picking up the meanings of words, numbers and concepts that pop up in daily life.
“Levels” are generalizations that are useful for mass-management of Other Peoples’ Kids, or for gathering statistics, but they are not universal truisms. Try pegging Christopher Robin as a ‘preschooler,’ Bartholomew Cubbins as a fifth grader, or Aladdin as a freshman or sophomore. Was Cinderella a senior? Sleeping Beauty was about fifteen or sixteen — can you imagine the story describing her as a sophomore or junior? Was the Prince a college man? Who was in a higher ‘grade,’ Dorothy when the “cyclone” took her to Oz, or Alice when she fell down a rabbit hole?
We do not think twice about characterizing our own children as ___[insert number]__-graders instead of by their age, or by their interests. The psychological pigeonholes we put them in when we refer to the children by a school grade do not reveal their oddness until we apply those same pigeonholes to archetypal characters or well-known literary characters. The limitations of ‘grade’ pigeonholes jumped right out at me.
The reporter continues the article with the observation that Illinois statutes contain no definition or constraints on mothers and fathers raising their daughters and sons educationally.
There is no specific mention of home schooling in state statutes. The only governing reference to the issue is a 1950 state Supreme Court ruling that places home schooling under the definition of “private schools.”
There is also no specific mention of education in the United States Constitution. Since 1787, 220 years ago, there has been no Constitutional permission for the federal government to run the education of Americans. In making this point, who does the reporter expect is going to gain? Is this situation supposed to strike fear in the reader’s breast? To gain a national perspective, I’ll paraphrase the writer: “The United States is one of few nations that leaves national education unregulated.” The unwritten conclusion of either statement in the context of the article is that the government needs to control all learning and growing.
I have not seen any Illinois reports of homeschoolers creating a public safety problem, or articles about homeschooled kids spray painting highway underpasses with pi, or the need for metal detectors in the front doors of homes. Perhaps the government should get in order the schools already under its control, and check back with us once that job is finished.
- Corn and Oil: Illinois has no homeschool regulations
- Illinois Review: State senator contemplates oversight for IL home schoolers
posted by Valerie