The Law of Homeschooling Education Law Association publication was written by Brian Schwartz, counsel for the Illinois Principals Association. This monograph is particularly intriguing to this Illinois homeschooler. The state of Illinois has no homeschooling law, for instance. I reviewed a copy and have a few thoughts stemming from my immediate reservations after seeing a press release about this monograph last December.
I would guess that planting an ‘expert’ seed in a brand new homeschooling parent’s brain via this “guide” might keep folks from researching their homeschooling rights and responsibilities themselves. Homeschool advocates are frequently enlightening ill informed school administrators (including principals) about education statutes. Going against mainstream societal school norms, we have to know our rights and responsibilities, or we might have an official coming to our home threatening our family’s well being.
Why is the Associate Director/General Counsel to the Illinois Principals Association, who is also a frequent education conference/event speaker (I don’t believe those would be homeschool conferences), and past chair of the IL State Bar Association’s Education Law Section Council so wrapped up in The Law of Homeschooling? One would think all these duties, along with an active private practice specializing in the very lucrative field of education law, makes for a full schedule without dawdling about concerning a tiny minority of homeschoolers.
Besides pointing out the most disturbing Business of writing a school advisor’s ‘guide’ for public perusal, I’ll lay out a few concerns I have of Schwartz’s opinions concerning homeschooling legalities.
In his first sentence in the first chapter, Introduction to Homeschooling:
In 1925, the United States Supreme Court effectively cleared the way for parents to provide for the education of their children at home.
This statement was in reference to Pierce v. Society of Sisters. I thought the way cleared when our Constitution was approved in 1787. Constitutionally enumerated powers over US citizens, while natural rights were to reign. The states’ Constitutions could allow (or not) for education with the limited power of the federal government. But things have changed, even if the Constitution hasn’t.
This piece of Pierce’s decision was pointed out by Schwartz.
Under the doctrine of Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U. S. 390, 43 S. Ct. 625, 67 L. Ed. 1042, 29 A. L. R. 1146, we think it entirely plain that the Act of 1922 unreasonably interferes with the liberty of parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control. As often heretofore pointed out, rights guaranteed by the Constitution may not be abridged by legislation which has no reasonable relation to some purpose within the competency of the state. The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the state to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize an prepare him for additional obligations.
Standardization of children and their education was apparently unacceptable back in the olden days of 1925.
Mr. Schwartz’s opinion seems to be that a Supreme Court decision from Washington was the turning point allowing home education. But before and since then, natural curiosity and parents’ rational minds had found some quality means for their children to read, write and do their arithmetic.
The education of Abraham Lincoln, whose birthday is celebrated across Illinois today, is a prime example. He attended the “ABC schools by littles“ as a child. When he was a young adult, he felt the need to study English grammar and Euclid, but not because the government mandated such. He also mastered reading while walking or riding a horse. The Blackstone Commentaries and “Chitty’s Pleading, Greenleaf’s Evidence, & Story’s Equity” were checked off his reading list. Mostly self-educated Abraham Lincoln was admitted to the bar in 1837 at the age of 28.
Brian Schwartz noted reservations about homeschoolers’ bragging rights of past home education accomplishments in his Historical Overview of Homeschooling (Chapter 2):
Many homeschool advocates argue that seven early-American Presidents were homeschooled. While these assertions are true, it should be noted that these men were educated under far different circumstances than exist today. Mainly, a lack of any real opportunity for a public school education necessitated children of this era to receive their education at home. While no judgment is made as to the quality of these early homeschools, it is clear that today’s homeschool children are educated under entirely different circumstances and for entirely different reasons than existed prior to the Civil War.
It is interesting that he makes “no judgment…as to the quality of these early homeschools“. That would seem to be an important factor in the need for compulsory school attendance. I think a continuous hope of parents is that our children retain the same natural curiosity that inspired men, with poor and wearing childhoods such as Abraham Lincoln’s, to become a national leader. Some of us have turned our backs (but not our pocketbooks) on the “real opportunity for a public school education“.
This updated 67 page monograph was published and released last December to great press release fanfare. Market Watch was where it caught my attention. Did Mr. Schwartz check in with the acclaimed (in the homeschool community) law firms: Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, representing HomeSchool Association of California, and Baker & Mckenzin law firm, representing California Homeschool Network, and Munger Tolles & Olson LLP, representing Christian Home Educators Association of California? These attorneys provided services (some pro bono) to the California homeschool community regarding theRachel L dustup.
That case resulting in a California Appellate Court reversing their own decision was frequently in the national news last year. The reversal was to the advantage of families regarding educational freedoms.
Maybe Mr. Schwartz did chat with pro-homeschooling legal counsel, but I see no reference to such.
The National Home Education Legal Defense (NHELD) would be easy to find. Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) was referenced 4 times in this book; twice with this footnote reference: “Information in this section comes, in part, from the Homeschool Legal Defense Association website, located at www.hslda.org“. Interesting that it appears to be indirect shared information by the author with homeschool advocates. One might call it copy and paste.
The author’s preface states:
It is the author’s hope that the information herein will be used by homeschool advocates and public school officials to do what is in the interest of children, collectively and individually, and will help to ensure that each child receives and appropriate education within the context and scope of the law.
I cry foul to this supposed patronage for the homeschool family. The Illinois Principals Association is not known within most of the homeschooling association as a friend, but much too often as a foe. (There are individual principals who are supportive of homeschoolers.) However, the IL Principals Association is a lobbying group for public schools. The homeschooling community doesn’t need (and surely didn’t ask for) an official sounding “guide” from an often anti-home education/private school group, regarding the legal necessities of homeschooling. The Education Law Association’s liveilihood and funding comes from public schools. Who is this Law of Homeschooling guide supposed to serve?