Monday, March 31, 2008

She's a Bookworm, On Printed Pages She Rides...

Dana over at "Principled Discovery" wants to know what "crimes" homeschoolers would be "wanted" for.

My oldest has been a bookworm since she was a baby. The above picture was taken when she was around 1 1/2. She went from Bob books to The Chronicles of Narnia in less than 18 months' time, which is I've heard is not all that unusual for homeschoolers but I certainly was still surprised by it. I now have 4 different accounts at the library (my personal, my teacher's, hers, and her little brother's) because we kept hitting the maximum number of items allowed!

The Credentialing Mystique

It's a teensy bit unfair for an adult to pick apart a high school student's logic. However, Charles Kong of Montgomery Blair High School in Maryland seems to have declared himself an expert on homeschooling so I really don't feel too badly about it :-p

Kong wrote in favor of requiring home educators to hold state teacher's credentials:

"Automobile mechanics will repair cars, accountants will manage finances and surgeons will operate on the human body. Just as there is not a true jack-of-all-trades who can innately do everything, there is not a parent who innately knows everything his child should learn about math, science and the humanities. If a barber must be certified to cut hair and a doctor needs an M.D. to treat patients, then it is only fair that an adult also be credentialed to educate children."

While people who are paid to do these jobs often are required to hold state licensing, the government does not typically prohibit unlicensed people from doing them in their own home for their own family. I am perfectly free to fix my own car, do my own taxes, or cut my children's hair if I desire. I can also feed my children without being a Registered Dietitian, make home repairs without being a licensed plumber/carpenter/electrician/etc., make a will without going to law school & passing the bar exam, and so on, and so forth.

If states want to regulate professional educators who earn a living teaching students other than their own children, I don't really have a problem with that. Though I do have major concerns about the usefulness of traditional teacher preparation programs and certification and feel that the process should be completely revamped. But requirements for paid professionals should not be enforced upon those who choose to do those jobs themselves for their own families.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Folks vs. Upper Middle Class Overly Educated Atheists

Christopher Orlet of The American Spectator has a fabulous critique of Susan Jacoby's The Age of American Unreason. Some highlights:

"Jacoby, not surprisingly, is unable to see the contradictions in her own deeply held convictions. Here is an elitist who envisions an egalitarian society. She longs for a more democratic, Jacksonian nation, but she also expects it to be peopled not by the rednecks who voted for [Andrew] Jackson, but the enlightened litterateurs who voted for John Quincy Adams (and lost).

Like all liberal snobs, Jacoby dutifully admires the poor and the working man, but cannot abide their colossal ignorance, their petty superstitions, their techno-savvy, their bigotry, and worse, their anti-intellectualism. Ultimately, one leaves this book with the suspicion that the only "folks" -- to use a word the author rails against ad nauseum -- the author can stomach are folks like herself, e.g., Upper Middle Class Overly Educated Atheists.

Jacoby claims she started out to write part two of Hofstadter's 'Anti-Intellectualism in American Life'. Instead of a scholarly study of American culture she produced this bitter 356-page rant."

Love it!

Try a Little Civility if You Want People to Listen to Your Argument

Susan Jacoby, the author of The Age of American Unreason, laments that most Americans today are not interested in listening to points of view that differ from their own. She writes:

"The unwillingness to give a hearing to contradictory viewpoints, or to imagine that one might learn anything from an ideological or cultural opponent represents a departure from the best side of American popular and elite intellectual traditions....Americans in the 1800's, regardless of their level of formal education, wanted to make up their own minds...That kind of curiosity, which demands firsthand evidence of whether the devil really has horns, is essential to the intellectual and political health of any society. In today's America, intellectuals and nonintellectuals alike, whether on the left or the right, tend to tune out any voice that is not an echo. This obduracy is both a manifestation of mental laziness and the essence of anti-intellectualism."

Ms. Jacoby makes an excellent point here. Too often people act as the choir being preached to, rather than seeking out a diverse range of opinions on a topic. But how can one really even figure out what one believes after only hearing one side of an argument?

However, in the next chapter of The Age of American Unreason, it quickly becomes apparent why Ms. Jacoby in particular is encountering difficulty getting her message across to others. Her tone is what some like to call "snarky" but that usually comes across as mean-spirited hostility. Think Michael Moore on the left or Ann Coulter on the right. This type of arrogant insulting of those with whom the author disagrees often completely overshadow the legitimate merits of his or her argument. Incivility has the tendency to "turn off" anyone who does not already 100% agree with him or her.

Take, for example, Ms. Jacoby's commentary on a 2002 Time cover story on the Apocalypse. The point she's trying to make is a valid one, which is the article only included religious viewpoints of different types and no secular viewpoint dismissing the belief in Revelation entirely. Fair enough. But just listen to the kind of inflammatory language she uses to make her argument [emphasis added]:

"[The article] gave no space to those who dismiss the end-times scenario as a collective delusion based on pure superstition and who understand the civic danger inherent in the normalization of ideas that ought to be dismissed as the province of a lunatic fringe...On a deeper level, though, the aritcle exemplifies the journalistic conviction that anything 'controversial' is worth covering and that both sides of an issue must always be given equal space- even if one side belong in an abnormal psychology textbook. If enough money is involved, and enough people believe that two plus two equals five, the media will report the story with a straight face, always adding a qualifying paragraph noting that 'mathematicians, however, say that two plus two still equals four.'"

Ms. Jacoby goes on to describe religious believers as "willfully ignorant", the Bible as "supernatural fantasy", a belief in anything other than atheistic Darwinian evolution as a "cockamamie idea", and calls faith a "toxic" force that is one of the chief "enemies of intellect, learning, and reason". She approvingly quotes PBS journalist and noted liberal Bill Moyers, who calls Christians "ideologues [who] hold stoutly to a worldview despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality." And that's just in the first chapter of the book!

I really do think that Ms. Jacoby has some valid points to make, especially when it comes to the media, pop culture, and government-run schools. Unfortunately, her obnoxiously arrogant rants against religion make it very difficult to for me to get through her book. If I had wanted that kind of screed, I would've picked up something by Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens. But I had higher hopes for Ms. Jacoby's book...

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Who Appointed Rob Reich as Spokesman for Homeschoolers?

It's bad enough when actual homeschoolers presume to speak for the entire homeschooling community (think Mike Farris of HSLDA), but now Professor Rob Reich of Stanford feels entitled to do so as well. For those of you unfamiliar with Professor Reich, he is a professor of Political Science and a prominent critic of homeschooling.

On Monday, March 24th the Diane Rehm radio program discussed homeschooling and Prof. Reich was a guest. According to the transcript posted on the Home Education Magazine blog, he stated:

"The dissatisfaction with public schools has built up homeschooling has nothing to do with public schools because regardless of the quality of local schools, homeschoolers would not use them. The public school itself is the problem for homeschoolers."

On what evidence does Prof. Reich base this assertion? From his article calling for the regulation of homeschooling, it appears to be purely anecdotal: "from my experience with homeschoolers".

The first issue is the definition of a "high quality" school. What Prof. Reich might consider to be a "high quality" school may not meet the parent's definition of one. Is it simply a matter of high standardized test scores and successful placement into prestigious colleges? Is it one where the children enjoy learning and are free to follow their intellectual passions? One where children learn to love God with all their heart, and with all their soul, and with all their mind, and to love their neighbors as themselves? Some combination of the above? Or something else entirely? Ask 100 people this question, and one is likely to hear 100 different answers.

It's my belief that a certain percentage of homeschoolers would not send their children to a traditional school of any sort under any circumstances. But a sizable number would consider enrolling their children in one at least part-time if they had the resources and an appropriate one available to them. But it would take a radical overhauling of the educational system in order to convince them to do so.

Here's my "wish list" for a school for my child:

  • a safe environment that is conducive to learning. This is obvious but sadly a huge problem in many schools. Even schools in "nice" areas often have issues with bullying and cliquishness.
  • flexibility in scheduling. I'm not interested in having my children be enrolled M-F 8-3 for 9 mos/yr. That's too much time spent in a peer group setting and not enough family time. Classes should be offered on an a la carte basis.
  • grouping by achievement level rather than chronological age and advancement whenever the individual student is ready. If my child can read The Chronicles of Narnia, don't put her in with kids just learning to sound out Hop on Pop simply because she's 5. Also, let her move up to the next group whenever she's ready, rather than on some arbitrary timetable.
  • authentic assessment rather than standardized testing and traditional grading. I want to know what my children have actually learned, not how they compare with others.
  • a rigorous academic curriculum that avoids boring, politically correct, "dumbed down" textbooks and constructivist fads like "fuzzy math" and "whole language". 'Nuff said.
  • plenty of time devoted to subjects aside from English & math such as science, history, geography, foreign language, and the arts. Another obvious one but too often these are given short shrift in this era of No Child Left Behind.
  • a low teacher-pupil ratio. I don't want my child to be lost in a mass of 20-30+ other kids. Even the best teacher cannot provide much in the way of individual attention and tailoring of lessons in that kind of crowd.
  • teachers who are hired, compensated, and retained based on merit rather than other factors. Eliminate bogus credentialing, seniority-based pay and layoffs, lifetime tenure, and so on.
  • a recognition that parents are the primary educators; the school should assist rather than undermine parents. This should be obvious but unfortunately a quick glance at the headlines shows how big an issue this is nowadays.
  • require parental permission before providing access to medical services and controversial materials in the library. This goes along with the previous one but is important enough to specify. I'm not asking for censorship or elimination of school clinics- just that parents be the ones to decide for their own children.
I'm sure there are more but these are the biggies that come to mind at the moment.

Back to Basics in Math, Fed. Advisory Panel Says

Elementary school mathematics instruction is the U.S. "is broken and must be fixed" according to the report released this week of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel.

According to an article in Education Week:

"The 90-page document calls for the math curriculum to be streamlined in pre-K-8, a strategy it calls putting 'first things first.' Students need to be grounded in both the effortless, automatic recall of simple procedures and in the acquisition of broader problem-solving skills. Too often, those skills are wrongly presented as incompatible, the report says....

The authors also identify a clear path to prepare students for introductory algebra and advanced math—the central charge given to the panel. Students should become proficient with whole numbers, fractions, and aspects of geometry and measurement in order to steel themselves for algebra, typically taught in the 8th or 9th grade, the report says."

Proponents of so-called "fuzzy math" quickly criticized the report. The director of the most recent edition of the infamous Everyday Mathematics textbook series blasted the focus on arithmetic and procedural math:

"You could read it as really wanting to narrow the school curriculum down to core arithmetic."

Oh, what a shame- kids would actually learn how to calculate quickly and correctly rather than waste time answering idiotic questions such as:

"A. If math were a color, it would be –, because –.
B. If it were a food, it would be –, because –.
C. If it were weather, it would be –, because –."

Another educrat, Jere Confrey of North Caroline State-Raleigh criticized the report for only reviewing studies with good methodology. Apparently much of the support for "fuzzy math" comes from "fuzzy" research (what a shocker!):

"Case studies and other research that do not meet the 'scientific evidence' standards used by the panel could provide valuable information on the true impact of math programs and interventions in the classroom, Ms. Confrey argued."

If the results of this research touted by Ms. Confrey are legitimate, then there should be no problem with subjecting them to more rigorous evaluation in follow-up studies. This happens all the time- a small pilot study followed up by a larger, better designed one if the initial results are positive.

According to the report:

"As in all fields of education, the large quantity of studies …on important topics in mathematics education is reduced appreciably once contemporary criteria for rigor and generalizability are applied. Government agencies should increase their support for research on math education, the report states, and emphasize stringent methodological criteria such as randomized controlled designs and methodologically rigorous quasi-experimental studies."

If education researchers want to have the same kind of credibility as other academics, they're going to need to apply the same high methodological standards as their colleagues in other disciplines.

I haven't gotten the chance yet to read the full report but it sounds like there are a lot of sensible recommendations in it!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Teenage Wasteland in Britain

According to an alarming report in Time, the situation of Britain's teenagers is extremely bleak. Violent crime by minors in Britain has rose a whopping 37% between 2003 and 2006. 27% of British 15-year-olds are binge drinkers compared with only 6% in the Netherlands and 3% in France. British teens are the most sexually active in Europe and more girls lose their virginity by age 15. British teens are also more likely than their continental counterparts to use drugs, smoke cigarettes, and frequently be involved in physical fights.

The [London] Times recently described Britain's state-run schools as "war zones". According to a survey done by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers:

"nearly a third of teachers have been punched, kicked, bitten or pinched by children or attacked with weapons or missiles....Twelve per cent said that they had needed to visit a doctor and eight per cent had taken leave from teaching as a result of pupils’ aggression....

Most teachers said that pupil behaviour had worsened in the last two years and many said that low-level disruption – such as pupils talking, not paying attention and refusing requests to turn off mobile phones – was now the norm in classrooms."

The Time magazine article points to peer dependence and a lack of meaningful interaction with adults as the culprit for the youth woes in the U.K [emphasis added].:

"parents aren't always around to help socialize their children — or even just to show them affection. Compared to other cultures, British kids are less integrated into the adult world and spend more time with peers. Add to the mix a class structure that impedes social mobility and an education system that rewards the advantaged, and some children are bound to be left in the cold."

And people worry about the socialization of homeschooled kids?????

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Another Threat to Homeschooling Freedom in Europe

Most people are familiar with the persecution of homeschoolers in Germany by now, but did you know that there is also a threat to homeschooling freedom and parental rights in Belgium? I had no idea until I saw an article from the Brussels Journal entitled "Crackdown on Homeschoolers: It’s the UN Wot Done It [sic]".

Paul Belien and Alexandra Colen are homeschoolers living in the Flemish region of Belgium. Their oldest four children are now successfully attending university while their youngest is finishing up high school at home.

In 2003, the Flemish regional parliament decreed that all homeschoolers in the region must sign a document agreeing to raise their children in compliance with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. Furthermore, the document states that government inspectors decide whether families comply with the UN’s ideology and if there are two negative reports, the government will force the child to enroll in "an official government recognized school".

Mr. Belien and Dr. Colen refused to sign the document because they feel the UNCRC undermines their parental authority and transfers it to the state. They also objected to bureaucrats deciding on the basis of arbitrary criteria whether parents are in compliance with the imposed philosophy.

The Ministry of Education has asked the judiciary to press charges against Mr. Belien for child neglect, which is a criminal offense. Last week, he was hauled before the police as part of the inquiry process.

The UNCRC is full of very vague language that on the surface seem like things with which basically everyone would agree. However, the problem comes when the U.N. interprets innocuous sounding wording in such a way that clashes with parents' deeply held beliefs.

For example, consider Article 29:

"States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to:

(a) The development of the child's personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential;

(b) The development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations;

(c) The development of respect for the child's parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilizations different from his or her own;

(d) The preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin;

(e) The development of respect for the natural environment."

Sounds pretty reasonable, right? But how I would personally interpret "human rights", "fundamental freedoms", "tolerance", "equality of sexes", etc. may be extremely different from how the U.N. interprets those.

The U.N. Committee for Human Rights goes on and on about the "right to life" but then explicitly excludes unborn babies from that right and furthermore defines abortion as a "human right". I could provide many other examples but that's a post for another day.

It is absolutely outrageous for the Flemish authorities to require parents to accept the UNCRC as a precondition for homeschooling!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Next Let's Ask the Slaughterhouse Owner What He Thinks of Vegetarianism

The San Francisco Chronicle has a short article on the Second Appellate Court's decision to re-hear the Long case. What caught my eye and made my jaw drop was this excerpt (emphasis added):

"But the three-judge panel in the homeschooling case hinted at a re-evaluation of its entire Feb. 28 ruling by inviting written arguments from state and local education officials and teachers' unions."

The local school districts and the teachers' union have major financial conflicts of interest when it comes to evaluating homeschooling. Every child who is educated at home rather than in the local government-run school represents thousands of dollars in state and Federal funding not received. Approximately 2/3 of education spending goes to pay teachers' salaries and benefits. The local districts and teachers' union therefore have a vested interest in making homeschooling as difficult as possible in order to discourage families from leaving the government-run schools (or never enrolling their children in them to begin with).

The Second Appellate Court should instead be inviting arguments from legal scholars as well as academic ones who focus on homeschooling such as Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute.

2nd Appellate Court Agrees to Re-hear Long Case

The Pacific Justice Institute has announced that the Second Appellate Court has "vacated" its decision in the Long case. According to PJI, this means that the previous decision:

"will not go into effect as it is currently written. The Second District Court of Appeal has instead decided to re-hear the case, with a new round of briefings due in late April. It would likely take the court several additional months to schedule oral argument and issue another decision."

Hopefully with PJI's assistance the outcome of this second decision will be a more favorable one for homeschoolers in California.

Keep your fingers crossed and your prayers storming Heaven!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Experiencing Technical Difficulties

We've been having trouble with our internet service since Saturday and after numerous unsuccessful calls to tech support, DH finally got so fed up that he decided to switch from cable to DSL. So until we get that up & running, I'll be on hiatus...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

1 Week Left to Vote in CoH Graphics Contest!

If you haven't already cast your vote in the Carnival of Homeschooling graphics contest, please head on over to "Why Homeschool" by next Thursday, March 27th.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Happy 1st Blogiversary to Me!

Well, it's officially been one year since I began this blog. Over 14,000 visitors is a respectable total for a niche blog in its first year I think :-)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

115th Carnival of Homeschooling is Up!

Janice Campbell over at "Taking Time for Things that Matter" is hosting this week's 115th edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Beware the Wrath of the Homeschoolers!

Judges Croskey, Klein, and Kitching of the Second Appellate Court- you have been warned (emphasis in the original):

"Of all the people to take on, you had to choose homeschoolers. Around 200,000 children are currently homeschooled in California. That means there are many many homeschooling parents angry with you right now, Judge Croskey, and you are making the wrong people mad. These parents have powers you couldn't even fathom. Most average humans can't teach their kids to operate a zipper, and these people are preparing their kids for college. The average parent falls to pieces at the end of a long weekend with the kids, yet these homeschooling super-beings have the intestinal fortitude to spend all day, every day with their (often numerous) children. And they're organized. They have, like, associations, and leagues, and whatnot. Think they won't start a letter-writing campaign? That's their idea of recreation. You messed with the wrong people.

And don't get me started on those homeschooled kids. You think the parents are trouble? The kids, they're self-motivated. And they will get you. They will make the biggest marshmallow catapult you could imagine, and launch it right at your office. They will construct a Rube Goldberg device that can boil noodles, overturn your court decision, and give you an unflattering haircut before you even know what hit you. They will compose devastating Spenserian sonnets about your nonsensical ruling. Then they will construct a new court made entirely of popsicle sticks!"
Love it!

(HT: Tammy Takahashi)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Ignorance, and Bigotry, and Stereotyping- Oh, My!

I never gave much (if any) thought to either Cal State-Fullerton or Cal Poly-Pomona prior to reading a couple of idiotic op-ed pieces by persons affiliated with those institutions. Now they've got me wondering just what exactly it is that our family's tax dollars are subsidizing. Objectivity? Looking beyond tired stereotypes? Doing a little bit of research? If the two op-eds are any indication, those things appear to be sorely lacking at the lower-tier state colleges.

The first op-ed called "Ignorant Education" from the Cal State-Fullerton student newspaper was bad enough. Right from the get-go, it serves up a mountain of stale stereotypes about homeschoolers:

"Homeschooling advocates, headed mainly by Christian zealots, are calling for Gov. Schwarzenegger's protection of their fundamental right to teach their children to be bigots and idiots."

Incidentally, the commenters over at "Principled Discovery" are having a field day mocking this lead- definitely head on over there for a laugh!

The op-ed goes on and on in this manner:

"In general, those who homeschool their children are Christians with a narrow view of the world. They shun crazy theories like evolution and seek to protect their kids from the evils of the world - especially gays....let's face it: Not many moms who are homeschooling for religious reasons have a serious education."

For the record, there are plenty of homeschoolers who are:
  • not Christian
  • Christian but not ultraconservative Fundamentalists
  • believers in evolution (theistic or atheistic)
  • not holders of traditional Biblical views on sexual morality
  • more highly educated than some kid who has completed a year or two at Cal State-Fullerton (according to the Natl. Ctr. for Education Statistics survey nearly half of all homeschooling parents hold a bachelor's degree or higher)
Given that this is a student-written op-ed piece, I simply left a comment and was prepared to ignore it...Until I read today's L.A. Times and saw a slightly more sophisticated-sounding op-ed with the same basic message written by a couple of professors emeriti at Cal Poly-Pomona:
"It's evident that the vast majority who teach their offspring in front of the television do so because they don't want their children to be subjected to such dangerous doctrines as evolution, abortion, global warming, equal rights and other ideas abhorrent to the evangelical mantra."

I'm not quite sure exactly what Professors Coombs and Shaffer are referring to by "equal rights" abhorrent to Evangelicals. Since the traditional meaning of racial equality doesn't make sense, I'm guessing it's an Orwellian code phrase for being in favor of homosexual "marriage".

Based upon what evidence do the authors assert that "the vast majority" of homeschoolers are teaching their children at home in order to avoid these particular "hot button" issues? According to the NCES survey, only 30% of homeschoolers said that their primary motivation was "to provide religious or moral instruction". That statement itself is pretty broad and families of a wide variety of beliefs may still agree with it. Conservative Evangelicals don't have a monopoly on "morality" in this country (regardless of what some individuals may believe).

Whereas the author(s) of Titan editorial seemed to believe that homeschoolers were uneducated, Professors Coombs & Shaffer believe it's an elitist phenomenon:

“There has always been something decidedly elitist and anti-democratic in home schooling. It smacks of a belief that privileged children should not have to associate with the other kids in the neighborhood and that by staying home, they would not be subjected to the leavening effect of democracy.”

I'm going to save the question of democracy for a follow-up post because that's a long discussion in and of itself. So that leaves the second charge: is homeschooling the domain of the economic elite? Research suggest that it is not. According to the NCES survey, 78% of homeschooled students in 2003 lived in families with an annual household income below $75,000. This is compared to 75% of students attending government-run schools and only 50% for students attending traditional private schools.

Which is more elitist- spending a few hundred dollars on homeschooling curricula or tens of thousands on private school tuition? The government-run schools are not exactly bastions of class integration either. The elementary school my DD is zoned to attend has only 5% of its students come from low-income families. The school I attended growing up has a mere 0.1% of its students classified as low-income. My family is not any more economically privileged than our neighbors who send their kids to the government-run school and probably less so than the ones who send their kids to private schools (since we can't afford the pricey tuition).

It's time for homeschooling critics to look beyond their own stereotypes and prejudices and actually do a bit of research. Otherwise they just look like they're talking completely out of their you-know-where...

Homeschoolers Asked to Write Letters to the Editor

Debbie Schwarzer of the Homeschool Association of California's legal team is requesting homeschoolers write letters to the editor of their local papers telling them that no additional regulation of homeschooling is warranted:

"As many of you know, the newspapers are starting to publish, probably in response to Jack O'Connell's press release and the Governor's comments, editorials saying that homeschooling might be OK but more oversight is required. Yesterday, editorials in two of California's largest newspapers, the Los Angeles Times and the San Jose Mercury News, have called for increased oversight of the state's homeschoolers:

A Right to Home School?

State Must Set Standards for Home Schooling

Both editorials praise homeschooling in many ways, yet unaccountably conclude that more regulation of homeschooling is needed. That is where we beg to differ. Homeschooling is working now and does not need to be fixed, overseen, or regulated.

All of the groups have talked, and we all agree that what we need now is really a big PR push. The public needs to hear from homeschoolers and friends of homeschoolers. They need to know we're not fringe nut cases, that we're responsible, that WE have the best interests of our kids firmly at heart, even if some families that make it to the papers (and that's why they're in the juvenile court system and we're not) might be different.

We encourage as many of you as can to write letters to the editor of your local papers (look at their websites for rules on submitting letters, which can often be sent over the internet at their website) telling them that no such additional regulation is warranted.

It is best to be short and sweet. Be passionate but respectful, and don't denigrate anyone. State, for instance, who you are (e.g., "Our family homeschools in Anytown, California" or "My daughter teaches her three children at home") and then begin your points.

Short letters get printed. Long ones don't. So leave out most personal information (other than identifying your relationship to homeschooling). Don't bash teachers. They are not our enemies. And MOST IMPORTANT, don't say a word about regulation or legislation being acceptable. It isn't, and all of the groups are firmly committed to fighting it tooth and nail. If it comes, we'll deal with it, but as one of my colleagues who has fought legislative battles for 20 years says, "It's 10 to 20 times easier to stop a bad bill than to pass a good one."

This battle will be won by the contributions of hundreds. We all appreciate everything that you guys do. Please forward this to your local lists, too, or to friends anywhere.

Debbie Schwarzer
Co-chair Legal Team and Legislative Chair Homeschool Association of California"

Fire up those word processors!

R.I.P. Archbishop Paul Faraj Rahho of Iraq

The body of Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paul Faraj Rahlo was found yesterday near Mosul in northern Iraq. He had been kidnapped Feb. 29th in an ambush that killed his driver and two security guards.

May God have mercy on Archbishop Rahlo's soul and may He protect the Christians in the Middle East from further persecution by Islamofascists.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

CA Supt. Jack O'Connell: No Change in Dept. of Ed. Policy

According to the California Homeschool Network blog, CA State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell has released a statement regarding the Long case. It appears to provide reassurance that the Dept. of Ed. believes that parents still have a legal right to homeschool in California:

"I have reviewed this case, and I want to assure parents that chose to home school that California Department of Education policy will not change in any way as a result of this ruling. Parents still have the right to home school in our state.

Every child in our state has a legal right to get an education, and I want every child to get an education that will prepare them for success in college and the world of work in the challenging global economy.

As the head of California’s public school system, I hope that every parent would want to send their children to public school. However, traditional public schools may not be the best fit for every student. Within the public school system there are a range of options available. Students can take independent study classes, attend a charter school, or participate in non-classroom-based programs. But some parents choose to send their children to private schools or to home school, and I respect that right.

I admire the dedication of parents who commit to oversee their children’s education through home schooling. But, no matter what educational program a student participates in, it is critical that the program prepares them for future success in the global economy. I urge any parent who is considering or involved in home schooling their children to take advantage of resources and support available through their county or district offices of education.”

Personally, I don't care for the strings attached to government "support" of homeschooling, but I respect the right of other parents to choose to enroll in a charter or government-run ISP if that's what they deem best for their own families.

A Bit of Satire to Lighten the Mood is a satirical news site similar to the Onion. It has an absolutely hilarious spoof of the Long case entitled "California parents arrested -- Caught Home-schooling their children without a teaching credential".

Some highlights:

"Setting up a special task force virtually overnight, SWAT teams and truant officers armed with arrest warrants and automatic weapons began rounding up wayward parents, and against their will placing their child in protective custody and enrolling them in public schools throughout the state.

Originally thought to be a logistical nightmare, distinguishing home-schooled children from that of the public school system, officials quickly learned they could gather up a list of suspects from last year's contestants, finalists and winners of the National Spelling Bee Contest, unusually high SAT scores and any kid who passed a random drug screen and/or pregnancy test.

'Also, we followed home any polite, courteous or well adjusted child,"'said Dug Martinez, SWAT Commander. 'Oh, and any kid we caught actually doing their homework at the library.'

...Listed among the home-schooling educational material seized by police: copies of 'Plato's Republic; The Prince; The Magna Carta; The Federalist Papers; The Declaration of Independence; The Constitution and The Bill of Rights.'"

Love it!

(HT: Greg Laden)

Carnival of Homeschooling is Up!

"At Home with Kris" is hosting this week's edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Resolution in Support of Homeschooling Introduced

According to Karen Taylor of the California Homeschool Network, California Assemblyman Joel Anderson (R-El Cajon) has introduced a resolution ACR 115 supporting homeschooling and calling on the Supreme Court to reverse the Second Appellate Court ruling in the Long case. Although neither CHN nor any of the other homeschooling groups were involved in drafting this resolution, CHN is requesting that California residents supportive of homeschooling contact their legislators & ask them to vote for resolution ACR 115. If you do not know the contact info for your Assemblyman/woman, you can check here (click on the "find my district" button on the left-hand menu).
According to CHN, the resolution reads as follows:
"Assembly Concurrent Resolution

WHEREAS, Some thirty years of experience with the modern
homeschooling movement in California demonstrates that home school
graduates take up responsible positions as parents, as students in
and graduates of Colleges and Universities, in the workplace, and as
citizens in society at large; and

WHEREAS, Homeschooling by California families with diverse
backgrounds has historically given children a quality education
through proven, independent approaches that nurture valuable family
bonds and support successful student development; and

WHEREAS, private homeschooling has a long and rich history in the
State of California, currently estimated as involving 200,000
students in the State of California, and 2,000,000 students nationwide; and

WHEREAS the United States Supreme Court has ruled that parents have a
fundamental constitutional right to direct the education and
upbringing of their children (Wisconsin v. Yoder, Pierce v. Society
of Sisters, Meyer v. Nebraska); and

WHEREAS, On February 28, 2008, the Court of Appeals for the Second
Appellate District in Los Angeles issued an opinion in the case of In
Re: Rachel L. holding that homeschooling without a teaching
credential is not legal; and

WHEREAS, This misguided interpretation denies California parents'
primary responsibility and right to determine the best place and
manner of their own children's education; and

WHEREAS, The fair opportunity of California families to educate their
children should not be undermined; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, by the Assembly of the State of California, the Senate
thereof concurring, that the Legislature hereby calls upon the
California Supreme Court to reverse the opinion.

RESOLVED, That the Chief Clerk of the Assembly transmit copies of
this resolution to the author for appropriate distribution."
CHN is recommending phone calls given the time-sensitive nature of the matter.

UPDATE: Debbie Schwarzer from the Homeschool Association of California's legal team has also weighed in in favor of contacting legislators asking them to support ACR 115:

"This is one case where I do encourage members of HSC and all other homeschoolers in the state to contact their representatives (currently, just the Assemblymembers, as it is not pending before the Senate and will just confuse your Senator's office if you call now) and encourage them to vote in favor of ACR 115....Calls are fine, but letters faxed to the office are even better, as they then retain tangible evidence of their constituents' positions. Emails are often ignored, so please call or fax if possible. It is best to give your name, the city and/or Assembly District you live in and the name of the resolution (ACR 115), to state that you educate your children at home (or support those who do) and wish the right of California families to continue to have that option with minimal government intervention, and to state your desire that Assemblymember ______ vote in favor of ACR 115 by Joel Anderson."

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Big Name Legal Firms to Aid CA Homeschoolers

Good news for California homeschoolers: two prominent legal firms have agreed to assist the Homeschool Association of California and the California Homeschool Network pro bono. According to Debbie Schwarzer of HSC's legal team, the firm of Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati will represent HSC and the firm of Baker & McKenzie will represent CHN:

"I am thrilled to announce that we have been offered help by two of the best law firms in the state (and country). The firms will be helping us on a pro bono basis. That means they will donate (very expensive) attorney time to help us figure out the best strategies for dealing with the court issues, and they will help us prepare and file the letters and briefs that we need....

[HSC and CHN] both think that help from professionals in dealing with the Supreme Court will be invaluable. The firms will consult with each other to make sure they are not duplicating efforts, but that they also aren't leaving any important arguments out. They will also try to coordinate their efforts with the other groups with which HSC and CHN have been working, HSLDA, CHEA and Family Protection Ministries."

Let's hope the "big guns" at these two firms will be able to put together a winning argument for "depublication" of the Second Appellate Court ruling or some other legal solution to the dilemma posed by the Long case!

Friday, March 7, 2008

HSC Legal Team Advises Homeschoolers to Remain Calm

The Homeschool Association of California's legal team has issued a plea to homeschoolers concerned about the Long case to remain calm & not panic. You can read the full post here.

The key points (emphasis added):

"We DO NOT want every HSC member or HSLDA member or grandmother or irate citizen dashing off their letters to the Supreme Court. There are sober, measured, legal arguments to make about why depublication [of the Second Appellate Court ruling] is appropriate, and those arguments are made after researching the applicable standards, etc. The Supreme Court will not be swayed positively by public outcry. In fact, it could backfire, and backfire badly....

I would be personally, professionally, and, as a representative of HSC, globally grateful if everyone on this list would calm down and ask others to calm down. Specifically, I would ask people:

a. Not to write to the Supreme Court or any court.

b. Not to talk to their legislators or make any public statements about a need for legislation.

c. Tell their neighbors, friends, lists, groups both of the above and to educate them about the choices available and about how panic isn't necessary, marches on Sacramento aren't necessary, etc.

I wish this were the type of situation where we could put the fury, passion and energy of the members of this list to good use. Trust me, if we end up having to go the legislative route, we will have that situation at some points. But this isn't that type of situation, and too many folks stirring things up hurts instead of helps."

HSC is working hard in conjunction with many other groups such as CHN, HSLDA, CHEA of CA, the Family Protection Ministries, and the Pacific Justice Institute to get the appellate court ruling "depublished" and avoid opening up a can of worms with the state legislature.

What is "Depublication" of a Court Ruling?

In response to the Long case, the Homeschool Legal Defense Agency has started a petition requesting that the California Supreme Court "depublish" the Second Appellate Court's ruling number B192878. You can sign the HSLDA petition here.

You may be wondering what exactly does it mean for a ruling to be "depublished". I found an excellent article on the subject by attorney Kent Richland that was originally published in Los Angeles Lawyer magazine. Here are some highlights:

"Depublication [is] the California Supreme Court's discretionary power to order that a Court of Appeal opinion not be published in the Official Reports, therefore depriving the opinion of precedential value....Former Supreme Court Justice Joseph Grodin has explained that depublication is utilized when 'a majority of the justices consider the [appellate court's] decision to be wrong in some significant way, such that it would mislead the bench and bar if it remained as citable precedent,' but the issue is not of sufficient societal importance to justify full-scale review....

Depublication permits the supreme court to reserve the review process- which involves an enormous expenditure of its resources -to only the most important cases, while at the same time limiting the potential damage which might result from the fact that the trial courts are bound to follow published opinions, even if they are wrong....

Depublication thus seems to be a sensible tool for 'damage control'- particularly useful today, when the supreme court's resources are at a special premium because of the number of non-discretionary matters...which it has before it."

So in the case of the Longs, the CA Supreme Court could decide not to do a full review of whether this one particular family ought to be allowed to homeschool their children (about which there may be legitimate concerns) but rather simply say that the Second Appellate Court's decision should not be binding on all the other 166,000 or so homeschoolers in the state.

That seems to be the best option in my personal opinion. We will probably never know the truth about whether the allegations made against Mr. Long by two of his daughters are, in fact, legitimate since it's a classic "he said/she said" situation. But whatever the case may be, the judges ought to limit their ruling to the troubled family in question rather than declaring that all homeschooling in the state is illegal unless done by a credentialed tutor.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Every Cloud Has its Silver Lining

Henry Cate over at the "Why Homeschool" blog is finding the news headlines today a bit on the depressing side & I can't say that I blame him. As I've been talking about at great length this week, homeschooling is under attack here in California and also now in D.C. The economy may be in recession, oil is at a whopping $106/barrel, the Euro is at a record high against the dollar, and stocks are tumbling as a result of all these woes.

So anyways, Henry is looking to start a "good news" meme, where people talk about something good that's going on. It could be anything- personal, in their community, or of national, or global interest.

The good news I have to share is that my DH, who has hitherto been a bit skeptical about homeschooling, showed for the first time yesterday the willingness to make a serious commitment to it. Whereas before he had shown reluctance to spend money on curricular materials and enrichment classes, he has agreed to pay for our DD to enroll in Stanford EPGY's "Reading and Writing About Literature" and "Language Arts and Writing" courses this upcoming fall.

I suspect that the impetus for committing to homeschooling is that his libertarian tendencies have been aroused by the Long case. However much "on the fence" he may have previously been about homeschooling, the fact that the People's Republic of California is claiming that he has no right to choose it for his own child makes him defiant. By golly, he's going to show those "nanny state" liberals!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Why CA Homeschoolers Don't Want a Legislative Solution

There's been a lot of discussion over the past several days about what should be done to resolve the uncertain legal status of homeschooling in California in light of the Long case. Debbie Schwarzer of the Homeschool Association of California's legal team posted this morning to the HSC Yahoo group that legislation is not the route HSC and other organizations want to take:

"I know it's not being talked about now, but just wanted to make sure people know what the state groups, including HSC, are thinking. HSC and the other state homeschool groups, as well as HSLDA, do NOT want to address the current issues by introducing legislation. If someone else introduces some, whether to be 'helpful' or to corral those pesky homeschoolers, we will have to deal with it, but we will not be the ones seeking it."

The dangers of a legislative solution were highlighted by today's announcement by the Washington, D.C. Superintendent's Office of new proposed restrictions on homeschooling in the District. According to an article in The Examiner:

"For years, parents in the District have been largely free to educate their children as they wished. But that could drastically change with the new rules, which authorize public school officials to make home visits several times a year, mandate the subject areas families cover and require parents to submit evidence that their children have been immunized."

This is the type of government interference with homeschooling that we Californian homeschoolers decidedly do NOT want...

UPDATE: You can find the details of the proposed new restrictions on homeschooling in D.C. here. The D.C. Superintendent of Education Deborah Gist is taking public comments on the proposal until March 29th. Hopefully, there will be enough outcry over the intrusiveness of the proposed regulations that they will not be implemented!

Update from the California Homeschool Network

The California Homeschool Network has posted an update to its legal page regarding the Long case.

Some highlights:

"The law in California has not changed. This is the opinion of one court. CHN strongly believes this opinion is incorrect, and homeschooling by using one of the alternatives to public school currently available under California law remains legal. The implications of this ruling and possible actions are currently being discussed by CHN, along with HSC, CHEA, Family Protection Ministry and HSLDA....

What can [homeschoolers] do to help?

Keep up to date on the information being provided by reliable sources, and support your state homeschool network by renewing your membership and/or volunteering so they may continue to have the resources to monitor this type of activity.

Should we continue to stand behind the legal option we are currently using?

Absolutely. CHN maintains that California law allows several viable options to enrollment in a public school. One of these options is to enroll in a private school. Private schools are not required by California law to employ credentialled teachers, and there is no restriction in the law specifying that a private school must be of a certain size or that parents may not operate a private school in which their own children are enrolled."

I second the recommendation to join one of the 3 statewide homeschooling organizations: CHN, the Homeschool Association of California, or the Christian Home Educators Association of California. Please note that the first two are "inclusive" groups, but CHEA of CA has a "Statement of Faith" that individuals should read carefully and consider whether they are comfortable with prior to joining. And this Catholic Christian will just leave it at that, LOL!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Freedom of Religion Guaranteed by CA Constitution

I've seen a couple of different bloggers question whether the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is applicable to the Long case, given the issue of states' rights and whatnot. One of them is Joseph Knippenberg of the Ashbrook Center blog "No Left Turns" and the other being a blog I don't feel is appropriate for linkage given that it has a "restricted to adults" warning and content many of my readers would likely find objectionable. So for all you doubters out there, it is not just the U.S. Constitution that guarantees Californians the free exercise of religion but *ALSO* the state constitution:


Free exercise and enjoyment of religion without discrimination
or preference are guaranteed. This liberty of conscience
does not excuse acts that are licentious or inconsistent with
the peace or safety of the State. The Legislature shall make
no law respecting an establishment of religion.

A person is not incompetent to be a witness or juror because
of his or her opinions on religious beliefs."
Homeschooling is neither "licentious" nor "inconsistent with the peace or safety of the State." Therefore the Longs do indeed have a constitutional right to practice their religion without interference from the California state authorities.

Is There Anti-Christian Bias in the Long Case?

There's been a lot of speculation about whether the ruling of the Second Appellate Court in the case of the Longs was due in part to an anti-Christian bias on the part of Judges Croskey, Klein, and Kitching.

Debbie Schwarzer of the Homeschool Association of California's legal team does not believe that is the case. She posted to the HSC Yahoo group:
"I am convinced that the court did not have any anti-religious bias. I think you could have substituted 'hippie' or 'Jewish' in any mention of religion and, based on the facts presented, the court would have found the same way."

She points out that the Longs are far from the ideal family for a test case of the right to homeschool. Fair enough, but I'm still not convinced that the judges are totally fair and impartial when it comes to conservative Christianity.

I did a little Google search and found out that Joan Klein has been described as "a forthright feminist", "liberal and political", "an active Democrat", and a member of the National Organization of Women's Legal Defense Fund. Now somebody like that couldn't *POSSIBLY* be a teensy-weensy bit biased against conservative Christianity, could she?

It's entirely possible that Debbie Schwarzer is correct and that Judge Klein would've ruled the same against the Longs had they been members of a different faith or of a more liberal branch of Christianity. But radical feminists have been pretty outspoken over recent decades about their disdain for the patriarchy they see in conservative Christianity.

The irony is that Judge Klein was the one who back in 1991 moved the Rodney King trial out of LA out of concern for fairness. Yet she may very well have let her own biases color her ruling in the Long case.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Explanation of Religious Exemption Discussion in Long Case

Debbie Schwarzer from the Homeschool Association of California's legal team posted a useful explanation of the religious exemption discussion in the Second Appellate Court's ruling in the Long case to the HSC Yahoo group. I think that it deserves a wider audience since it has implications for homeschooling beyond just California. Here's what Debbie has to say:
"The court basically meant that unless you're Old Order Amish, it's going to reject your claim that you are constitutionally protected because of your religious beliefs in not complying with your state's compulsory education law (although you would be able to win a claim that you shouldn't be forced to go to public school if a private school that meets state requirements and meets your religious requirements were available). The Yoder case the court mentions was the one in which the Amish were permitted to withdraw their children from school after 8th grade. The Pierce case established that parents have the right to choose religious education, but did not hold that the parents could keep their children out of any kind of school. I am not sure any religious group other than the Old Order Amish would be able to satisfy any court now in the latter respect. We are looking at what the options are. I don't want to say a lot more until I've spoken with the other state homeschool group leaders and with HSLDA, but it is a very worrisome opinion. This is a classic case of bad facts making bad law."

Debbie Schwarzer

HSC Legal Team

The First Amendment right to freedom of worship has slowly been undermined over recent decades. Activist judges hostile to Christianity keep handing down bad ruling after bad ruling. Because of these type of rulings, faith-affiliated organizations are being denied religious exemptions to laws that conflict with the teachings of those faiths. Catholic hospitals are forced to provide the abortifacient "Plan B" pill, Catholic Charities are forced to permit homosexual couples to adopt, Christian pharmacists are forced to dispense abortifacient medicines, Christian colleges are forced to permit homosexual student organizations, and so on. Regardless of whether or not one personally agrees with those policies, the denial of religious exemptions is an infringement upon the rights of the parties concerned to practice their religion. There are plenty of other providers from which those services might be obtained. The inconvenience of the person having to seek a service elsewhere does not justify denying the First Amendment right to freedom of religion.

Again in the case of the Longs we're seeing activist judges undermining First Amendment rights. Parents with a sincere belief that the Bible calls for them to homeschool (e.g. Deuteronomy 6:7-9, Proverbs 22:6, and so on) should be free to do so regardless of whether they may be a traditional religious school available to them.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

CA Judges: "Parents Have No Constitutional Right to Homeschool"

I'd always heard that California was one of the easier states in which to homeschool. So I was shocked to read an article on WorldNetDaily entitled "Judge Orders Homeschoolers Into Government Education." It was a bit unclear from the WND article what exactly was going on in the case of Philip and Mary Long [UPDATE: from the 2/28/08 court ruling, it appeared that the parents' names were Jonathan & Mary Grace. I have since learned that those are the names of the 2 Long children the court has ordered to attend school]. So I dug a bit deeper, and found the full ruling here.

According to the court document, one of the Longs' minor children reported some sort of unspecified physical and emotional mistreatment by Mr. Long [UPDATE: out of concern for the privacy of the Long children, I've decided to take down the link to a different court document detailing the alleged abuse. It is a matter of public record though so here's the gist of it. There was conflict between Mr. Long and an adolescent daughter over her disobedience of his strict rules. The daughter ran away from the family home & claimed that her father's corporal punishment was abusive and that he did not protect her from a family friend whom she alleges was sexually abusing her and her sisters. An older daughter not living with the family made similar allegations. The parents and the other children deny these allegations and basically characterize the two girls as disgruntled with their strict upbringing. The child welfare authorities sent the teen to live with her sister, where she is enrolled in a traditional government-run school. They found no evidence that the youngest two children were subject to abuse so they left them in the home. A follow-up visit 6 months later confirmed they were doing okay.]

The L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services investigated and discovered that all 8 children in the family are or had been homeschooled. The children in question are currently enrolled in the accredited independent study program of the Sunland Christian School. The Longs have stated that they homeschool because of their “sincerely held religious beliefs...based on Biblical teachings and principles” and that they do not believe in the policies of the public school system.

A court attorney was appointed to "represent the interests" of the youngest 2 Long children [whom even the teen making the allegations of her own mistreatment has said were not abused and whom the social workers at the follow-up visit agreed were okay]. This attorney asked the juvenile court to order that the children be enrolled in a traditional public or private school. The reasons given were:

(1) [The children] could interact with people outside the family.
(2) There are people who could provide help if something is amiss in the children’s lives.
(3) [The children] could develop emotionally in a broader world than the parents’ “cloistered” setting.

[UPDATE: The child welfare authorities were *ALREADY* keeping tabs on the Long family. If, at any point, they become concerned about the safety of these children, they can choose to remove them from the home the way they did the teen. Additionally, enrolling the children in a traditional school is no guarantee of protection from a legitimately abusive situation, should that turn out to be the case.] The juvenile court declined to issue the order because the Longs have a constitutional right to homeschool. The court-appointed attorney for the children then appealed to the Second Appellate District of California.

Judges H. Walter Croskey, Joan Klein, and Patti Kitching of the Second Appellate Court then made an extraordinary ruling. They held that the California Educational Code Section 48222 that exempts private school students from compulsory attendance at government-run schools only applies to those enrolled in traditional private schools. This goes against two previous home school cases handled by HSLDA, that upheld the right of homeschools to operate as private schools: People v. Darrah, No. 853104 (Santa Maria Mun. Ct. Mar. 10, 1986); People v. Black, No. 853105 (Santa Maria Mun. Ct. Mar. 10, 1986).

Under the requirements of the CA Ed. Code, private school teachers are not required to hold a CA state teaching credential or have any specific qualifications aside from being "capable of teaching". The only time a state teaching credential is required is if the parent chooses to act as a "certified private tutor" under Section 48224. Yet the Second Appellate Court judges held Mrs. Long unfit to teach her children at home because she lacks a state credential:

"the fact remains that the children are taught at home by a non-credentialed person. Moreover, the very language of section 48222 is an implicit rejection of the parents’ position that having someone from Sunland Christian School monitor mother’s instruction of the children is sufficient. Section 48222 provides an exemption from compulsory public school education for '[c]hildren who are being instructed in a private full-time day school.' (emphasis added)."

The Long children ARE being educated IN a "private full-time day school". That school just happens to be located at the Long home!

What is the truly scary part of the Second Appellate Court ruling for religious homeschoolers is the rejection of the Longs' right to homeschool based on their religious beliefs. The judges rejected the Longs' claim that that requiring their children to attend government-run schools violates their First Amendment right to freedom of worship. The reason given was that those religious beliefs are "philosophical and personal" rather than specifically mandated by an organized church community based on traditions that are centuries old (such as the Old Order Amish). The judges wrote that:

"[The Longs'] statements are conclusional, not factually specific. Moreover, such sparse representations are too easily asserted by any parent who wishes to home school his or her child."

So the State gets to decide whether a family is homeschooling for religious reasons NOT the family itself. If the State decides the reasons are actually "philosophical" rather than "religious" (talk about vague!) then the parents have no right to educate their own children.

Please join me in praying that the State Supreme Court will overturn this horrendous ruling!