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Friday, June 21, 2024

No, We Don’t Need Federal Homeschooling Standards

Why should we assume the government knows best when it comes to education?

Image Credit: Pixabay

Some of you may remember that four years ago this week I debated Harvard Law School Professor Elizabeth Bartholet who called for a “presumptive ban” on homeschooling. The online event was hosted by the Cato Institute and drew thousands of participants, including many homeschooling families who were incensed by Bartholet’s proposal.

Now, Scientific American is joining the crowd of busybodies eager to constrain a family’s right to raise and educate their children how they choose. “The federal government must develop basic standards for safety and quality of education in home­school­ing across the country,” read a recent editorial in the magazine.

Beyond the obvious point that there is no constitutional role for the federal government in education, the proposal for top-down, national mandates on homeschoolers assumes that the government knows best when it comes to education. Yet, the vast majority of school founders I interview are former public school teachers who grew so disillusioned with the rigidity, standardization, and coercion of government-run schooling that they left to create their own schools and spaces. 

Many families are also leaving government-run schools for similar reasons, seeking more joyful and enriching learning experiences for their children. “It’s a virtually untapped market,” said Amy Marotz of the growing demand for homeschooling, microschooling, and other innovative educational models. On Tuesday’s LiberatED podcast, she shared her entrepreneurial journey: from Minneapolis public charter school teacher, to homeschooling parent, to microschool founder who is now helping others to launch their own schools.

The Scientific American piece calls for “​​federal mandates for reporting and assessment to protect children,” such as background checks on all homeschooling parents and regular reporting requirements to prove that children are learning. Yet, many parents choose homeschooling because government-run schooling is not protecting their children, who may be bullied or abused by peers or school personnel. As for reporting requirements for homeschoolers to demonstrate learning? That’s a pretty brazen request given that in the federal government’s own backyard of Washington, DC, only about one-third of public school students are reading at or above grade level, and only 22 percent are performing at or above grade level in math. For DC high schoolers it’s even worse, with only 11 percent of them proficient in math.

Homeschooling families don’t need more regulations—and certainly not from the federal government, which should have no role in education policy. Perhaps those who think the government knows best on education should work on improving government-run schools rather than coming after the millions of homeschooling families choosing something different.

This article originally appeared in the LiberatED email newsletter.