The Next Battle...

by Dana Wood

When I first started thinking about homeschooling my children it was in the early Eighties. Very few people were even thinking about homeschooling and those who were, people thought were anti-social, wacky people. For that reason my husband was less than enthusiastic about the idea. 

By the time I had kids old enough for preschool I knew I was never going to send them. I started doing preschool at home with them. We did crazy things like painting with chocolate pudding, using bubble mix on the floor and scooting from one side of the kitchen to the other. We made alphabet letters out of dough and ate them.  We did crafts of all kinds. It was so fun! I knew I wanted to do this for “real” school as well. It was a difficult decision because in some states it was illegal and in others it was a recipe for harassment from the local school authorities. My husband’s real fear was that our children would be taken away from us. 

We moved to Texas which was a huge blessing. The Leeper case was making its way through the Texas courts, challenging the legal status of homeschooling. That meant that homeschooling was temporally legal and the authorities couldn’t harass parents that chose to homeschool.  The battle was about academic excellence. How could a homeschool provide an equivalent education as the public school? 

So, once my oldest son reached compulsory school age, I went down to the local school superintendent to sign the papers to be allowed to homeschool. The woman was less than supportive, and was just short of rude about the whole thing. As I left the office she said rudely, “You know, teaching is harder than you think.  You will not be able to do this. We will accept your son at the elementary school after Christmas break when you realize this was a bad decision.” That stiffened my resolve. There was no way my son was attending school in this district!

Once the Leeper case was decided in favor of homeschooling, other states started the process to legalize homeschooling, some willingly, others fighting it tooth and nail. That was the first homeschool battle - Was homeschooling legal? Yes, it was and we won the battle.  Homeschooling could provide an excellent education.

The second battle homeschoolers have fought is the battle cry,  ”But what about socialization?” When my oldest got to be high school age the critics came out of the woodwork, telling us that we were ruining our children because they would lack the social skills to make it in the real world. Well, I knew the real world was not high school! Now that homeschoolers are out in the real world, working, being parents, and gasp! graduating from college and doing it with style, the critics had to find a new battle cry against homeschooling.

Michael Farris, Founder of Homeschool Legal Defense  Association, in an article entitled “The Third Wave of Homeschooling Persecution” states, a new wave of attack is heading our way. But whereas the last two attacks have been proven false, this one is true, especially for LDS homeschoolers. This is an attack we need to know about and actively work to fight against. The argument according to Farris is “Christian homeschoolers are effectively transmitting values to their children that elitists believe are dangerous to the well-being of both these very children and society as a whole.”

What are those values? Marriage is ordained of God and should be between a man and a woman; Jesus Christ is our Savior; there is a moral compass of right and wrong. All the values that make up a religious upbringing for our children and that allow us to pass on our religious beliefs to the next generation. 

Michael Farris quotes Kimberly A. Yuracko, a professor from Northwestern University School of Law, from an article in the California Law Review, that there are legal and constitutional limits on the ability of homeschooling parents to “teach their children idiosyncratic and illiberal beliefs and values”. She states that there must be new legal mandates of government control of educational choices for those children whose “parents want to teach against the enlightenment”. Enlightenment? That’s an interesting way of putting it.

In the May  2010 issue of the William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal, Catherine Ross, a law professor from George Washington Law School, published an article entitled “Fundamentalist Challenge to Core Democratic Values: Exit and Homeschooling” states; ”Many Liberal political theorists argue, however, that there are limits to tolerance. In order for the norm of tolerance to survive across generations, society need not and should not tolerate the inculcation of absolutist views that undermine toleration of difference. Respect for differences should not be confused with approval for approaches that would splinter us into countless warring groups. Hence an argument  that tolerance for diverse views and values is a foundational principle does not conflict with the notion that the state can and should limit the ability of intolerant homeschoolers to inculcate hostility to difference in their children—at least during the portion of the day they claim to devote to satisfying the compulsory schooling requirement.”

She continues, “ If a parent subscribes to an absolute belief system premised on the notion that it was handed down by a creator, that it (like the Ten Commandments ) is etched in stone and that all other systems are wrong, the essential lessons of a civil education (i.e., tolerance and mutual respect) often seem deeply challenging and suspect. If the core principle in a parent’s belief system is that there is only one immutable truth that cannot be questioned, many educational topics will be off limits. Such “private truths” have no place in the public arena, including public schools.“

Ms. Ross’s solution to the problem is mandatory curriculum requirements and state oversight. And if we really want to end this problem, private education should be banned. All of it, private, religious and homeschools. 

She closes with, “Parental expressive interest could supplement, but never supplant the public institutions where the basic and fundamental lesson would be taught and experienced by all American children: we must struggle together to define ourselves both as a collective and as individuals”. 

The word collective is a frightening word. The Constitution and collectives are mutually exclusive. We can see the evidence of this thinking in what is happening in the public schools, especially in California where parental rights are being eroded away in the name of tolerance and enlightenment. Children are being taught things that go against the values of their parents without their parent’s knowledge or permission!

There is much more to understand in the article, including information on the U. N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. This is a dangerous treaty that will seriously curtail parental rights and help make our children wards of the state. It is not something to ignore. 

So, how do we fight this growing trend? Is it possible for us to prevail against such growing evil? Michael Farris thinks we can. We have won before, against formidable odds. As he puts it, the only reason we won the last battles was because the Lord was on our side! He believes the Lord will help us win this one too. But we have to watch and be ready. Here are some ways he suggests:

  1. We still need homeschooling organizations! This is how we won the last battles. When information needs to get  to the people quickly, homeschool organizations can pass it along promptly.  

    (I remember a few years ago, in New Jersey, the state legislature wanted to put limits on homeschoolers. The word went out and hundreds of people were at the state capital, letting the law makers know that this was not what the people wanted. The legislation didn’t pass. There is power in the people!)
  2. Pass the Parental Rights Amendment.  We must defeat the CRC! If we lose our rights as parents we will also lose our rights to our children. A chilling thought. 
  3. Never give up! With God on our side we can prevail!

My fear is that new homeschoolers will not understand the battles we have fought to be able to educate our children as we see fit. Now is a time of acceptance and  complacency for homeschoolers. It would be easy to think that our rights are ever secure, but history and events of the day show us this is not true. 

Michael Farris concludes: “Persecution is on its way. It is in the law reviews today. It will be in the courtrooms tomorrow. They are going to try to win. They are going to throw everything at us they can….. Truth is on our side. Freedom is on our side. The American Constitution is on our side. And all of that matters, so long as we remain faithfully on God’s side. Stand up for Jesus and He will never leave us or forsake us.“

I pray that it is so!

To read the Michael Farris article in full click here.

To learn more about The Convention on the Rights of the Child, Click here.  

You can leave your thoughts, comments or suggestions here on my feedback page. Thanks!

- Dana