Once thought of largely as appealing to religious families, home schooling is finding increasing favor among parents who seek to escape from the Common Core and standardized testing. The change is seen in the growth of the movement, which reached close to 1.8 million students in 2011-12, compared with 1.5 million five years earlier (“Home Schooling: More Pupils, Less Regulation,” The New York Times, Jan. 5).
Despite its newfound popularity, home schooling is still broadly unregulated. Eleven states do not require registration with any school district or state agency. Fourteen states do not enumerate any required subjects, and only nine states demand that parents possess at least a high-school diploma or equivalent. Half of the states do not require administration of a standardized test or assessment by any formal outside body.
This is the antithesis of the situation in Germany, which is the only Western country that completely prohibits home schooling. Parents who opt for home schooling are subject to fines, jail time and even the loss of their children. Although the penalties are based on a law enacted during the Hitler era, Germany’s highest court has held that the ban on home schooling is justified because it ensures that religious home schoolers do not become a “parallel society.” This led Uwe and Hannelore Romeike and their five children from Germany to seek legal asylum in the U.S. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene, but in March 2014 the Department of Homeland Security stepped in to grant the entire family indefinite deferred action status (“Romeike Family Can Stay in U.S.” HSLDA, Mar. 11, 2014).
I cite the situation in Germany as a way of putting the home schooling issue into perspective. Although I believe that students ultimately benefit more from attending traditional public schools, I support the right of parents to choose what they believe is the best option for their children. As early as 1999, a Department of Education survey found that the No. 1 reason was a “better education at home,” with religious reasons coming in at No. 2. I grant that the survey’s findings are quite dated. However, if educational quality were uppermost in the minds of parents who chose home schooling before the Common Core and standardized testing were widespread, I submit that a new survey would find even more parents citing a “better education at home.”
The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.