Parents know better than anyone what is best for their children
It is no secret that the K-12 educational industry in our country has flaws. More than ever, we have seen evidence of this amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Some schools, both public and private, are still struggling to establish standards to deal with the pandemic in the face of a roller coaster of rapidly changing policies. It should not surprise us to find that the current data shows an increase of homeschooling. In little more than a year, the number of families choosing to homeschool their children jumped from 7 percent pre-pandemic to almost 12 percent today. A 2020 survey by the American Federation for Children found that 40 percent of responding parents are more likely to consider homeschooling now than ever before. In light of this rapid growth in popularity, it is important for people to understand both why parents choose to homeschool and why it is crucial to support their freedom to do so.
The roots of the modern homeschooling movement can be traced to 1977, when former school teacher John Holt published the first issue of his newsletter “Growing Without Schooling.” As a teacher, Holt noticed that many of his students were not “on-track” with the school system. Whether they were advanced or behind, he knew they needed special, individual attention that public schools could not provide. This is the very essence of school choice: every child is an inimitable individual, and no system that the state designs can possibly accommodate the unique needs and aspirations of each one.
It is also impossible for teachers to truly understand the individual needs and goals of every student they teach, because they cannot establish a personal relationship with each one. Parents, on the other hand, have been able to interact with their children since birth and build an intimate relationship. They have watched their children grow, and they understand more than anyone the atmospheres in which their children succeed and learn. Parents are able to relate to their children’s changing needs and goals throughout their childhood and into their young adulthood. The state cannot teach children to grow as individuals. It is the family that instills values and principles in their children and raises them into unique personalities that add diversity to the world, and it is the family that can be most trusted to identify the best educational options.
Young adults have many options for higher education. Some choose to attend large institutions with large class sizes, while others prefer smaller institutions with smaller classes. Some people choose not to pursue a degree at all and may decide to enter a trade. In all cases, these people are able to learn and succeed in an environment that matches their personality and behavior as only they know it. Should this same freedom to choose not also be afforded to children and their parents in the earliest and most impressionable years of their education?
The bane of homeschooling critics has always been an abundance of evidence in favor of homeschooling in terms of academic merit and life success. Their common allegations of social awkwardness, lack of physical activity, and poor academic success are quickly debunked by data from countless studies and testimonies from numerous successful graduates. For instance, a recent study by Harvard scholars Brandon Chase and Ying Chen found that homeschooled students have a 30 percent advantage over their peers in terms of social and financial success. American football player Tim Tebow has shared his testimony on several major news outlets as well as in his book “Know Who You Are.” Among other things, Tebow asserts that homeschooling taught him to have a strong work ethic, firm values, and a unique personality. He also insists that his non-traditional education enabled him to better adapt to his dyslexia.
Homeschooling, along with other forms of non-traditional education, even has potential to benefit children who stay with public and parochial schools by providing competition. The free-market concept of competition goes hand-in-hand with choice. As more parents choose to pursue these other methods of education, schools will quickly see the need to improve their programs, instructors, curricula, etc., to become the best version of themselves. This will ensure that students who choose traditional education will enjoy a quality experience as designed by more attentive administrators.
Currently, homeschooling is technically legal in all 50 states. This is to say that no state has come forward with an explicit ban on non-traditional education. However, growing numbers of politicians have taken stances against this educational choice. This has led to many states imposing restrictions of varying magnitudes on non-traditional means of education, some of which make it difficult to pursue these options. Pennsylvania, for example, may currently be the most restrictive state. This state requires that all children be taught from only approved curricula and that a certified tutor must be hired to supply the majority of the instruction. Homeschooling families are also subject to frequent visitations by social workers, who assess the students’ recent grades, ensure the atmosphere of the home is “up to standards,” and even review immunization records. It is easily seen that these restrictions encroach on personal privacy and disproportionally impact under-privileged families.
Nowhere in the United States Constitution is it even remotely suggested that the state is entitled to regulate education, especially to the exclusion of parents’ rights. As has been proven countless times, individual freedom and responsibility are always more productive and inclusive than state mandates. It cannot be denied that school choice must be protected if we wish for all the children in America to thrive in the educational environment that best meets their unique needs and pushes them to their full potential.