Iowa Homeschooling Law Changes Brings Out Liberal Ignorance



homeschooling familyThere were a number of hatchet jobs written last week and over the weekend about homeschooling and Iowa’s repeal of it’s current homeschooling law.  Let me drill down on “Libby Anne” who was highlighted, rather irresponsibly I might add, by Bleeding Heartland over the weekend.

“Libby Anne” writes:

Yesterday, the Iowa legislature betrayed its obligation to protect the well-being of that state’s homeschooled children. In one fell swoop, the legislature removed every safeguard designed to ensure that they were actually receiving an education. It’s gone now, all of it, every little protection, and there is now nothing left to ensure the needs and interests homeschooled children. Nothing. And that is, of course, how homeschooling advocates wanted it.

First we have an obvious conflict of worldviews at play.  Who is ultimately responsible for a child’s well being?  If you say the state then you are a statist – wear it loud and proud.  A biblical worldview would state that God gave parents responsibility over their child’s well-being.

Secondly – this assumes that parents who choose to homeschool care less about their child’s education than the state does.  Which is untrue, absolutely untrue. and it shows me that “Libby Anne” probably doesn’t know any homeschooling parents (Update: it was brought to my attention that Libby Anne is a homeschool graduate, I should have read her bio.  I apologize for my error.) Those who choose to homeschool make great sacrifices to homeschool, they do it because they want a great education for their children, and they take their responsibility to homeschool very, very seriously.

Do we want the state to leave us alone?  Guilty as charged.  One liberals like Libby Anne and Hemant Mehta don’t understand is that people who choose to homeschool are already under a ton of scrutiny often by friends and family.  There is accountability.  There is accountability from family members – what grandparent would want their grandchildren to be neglected educationally (by the way educational neglect is still part of Iowa’s Child Abuse laws)?  There is accountability from the church (at least those who are Christians, there are a lot of non-Christians who are choosing to homeschool as well).  Ultimately we are all accountable before God, and while Mr. Mehta, who is an atheist, doesn’t believe that – those who homeschool do.

We take our responsibilities very seriously, and we, unlike the state, love our kids and want to see them do well.

Third – They act as though no other state has done this.  Actually there are a number of states with relaxed homeschooling laws so while this is a change for Iowa, it’s not new phenomenon.

Fourth – liberals ranting and raving about the process frankly don’t know what went on in Iowa.  Home School Legal Defense Association, of which I’m a member, did not initiate this, but they did help with some of the language.  The Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators didn’t even initiate all of the changes – like getting rid CPI.  So this wasn’t some grand scheme because no one thought this would have landed in one bill and many of us didn’t think all (actually any) of these measures would be passed this year.  We are still trying to figure out what it all means and how it meshes with the Iowa Code.  Democrats were not caught unaware.  They had to make a choice.  Republicans gave them what they wanted.  They had to actually – gasp – compromise on some items that we believe will help raise student achievement – educational liberty.  This is a win-win.  It’s sad some liberals and Democrats can’t see that.

Are there bad homeschooling families?  Sure.  There are some who find out this isn’t their cup of tea and end up back in private or public school.  Homeschooling isn’t for everybody.  How many kids in public school are failing?  How many public schools are failing?  How many public school kids graduate high school not ready for college or a career?  How many public school teachers complain about parents not being engaged?  Yet liberals want to target parents who are engaged?

But some including the bloggers I’ve referenced are so blinded by their ideology that the neglect to mention studies that show homeschooled students are well-prepared for college, studies that show they are well socialized, and on average perform better than their public school counterparts on standardized tests.  Yes some liberals simply want to ignore the research that is available and instead be driven by their statist ideology and anti-religious bigotry.

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  • http://twitter.com/#!/dameocrat Dameocrat

    You are creating a strawman. People who oppose replealing this law are opponents of unregulated homeschooling, not homeschooling in an of itself. But just aside from that there is not Scientific study that shows them performing better than public school children. These are voluntary surveys from homeschoolers themselves,

    Anyone that supports an law against anything is a statist to a certain degree. Supporting the licensing of drivers assumes that people are not automatically skilled at driving, and need training for it. So what!

    • http://shanevanderhart.com/ Shane Vander Hart

      Sure they’re not…

      I at least pointed at research backing up my points – where is your research stating over-regulation helps student achievement?

      Frankly your post at Bleeding Heartland was the most outrageous and offensive. You seem to think that we have rampant abuse within the homeschooling community. Based on what??? An anonymous blog! The vast, vast majority of homeschooling parents who filed CPI forms last year did not abuse their kids and those same families who won’t file a CPI form this coming school year still won’t abuse their kids. Now I wonder how many abused children are in the public schools? Having 20 years of working with teenagers with ten of those years working with juvenile offenders and CINA kids I can tell you that did not run into a single homeschooling kid in the system. Does that mean they don’t exist? No, but they are rare.

      • http://twitter.com/#!/dameocrat Dameocrat

        Public schools are required to report suspected abuse from one of their staff, or the parents. It isn’t over-regulation to require them to report anymore than it is over-regulation to require some proofs from home schoolers. An abusive homeschooler is not going to report on themselves. I don’t know why anyone would trust the churches to do it, given their record! Many abusive homeschoolers belonged to churches & families that encourage it.

        .I made no assumption. I just posted an example of the phenomenon. Evidently I am supposed to not talk about the possibility. It does not have to be a majority for it to be a problem.

      • http://shanevanderhart.com/ Shane Vander Hart

        “Many abusive homeschoolers belonged to churches & families that encourage it.” What are you calling abuse? Spanking?

        “I don’t know why anyone would trust the churches to do it given their record!”

        You do realize there are more churches than just the Catholic Church right? I led changing abuse reporting policies in churches I worked in and took my volunteers through mandatory reporter training. We did the same in the parachurch organization where I was on staff. But hey keep making assumptions.

        FYI – I think most people within the Catholic Church would agree that changes needed to be made and are being made.

      • http://twitter.com/#!/dameocrat Dameocrat

        There are many child abuse scandals in churches besides the Catholic Church. Read the spiritual abuse blogs on Sovereign Grace Ministries & the Independent Fundamental Baptists. All three of these Churches are major backers of hslda and their deregulation agenda.

        If you believe in mandatory reporting,why in the world do you have a problem with a law that merely requires reporting of an intention to homeschool and reporting progress? Also if some churches have mandatory reporting policies, why should that make us trust churches as a whole?

      • Karen

        Because there’s absolutely no abuse in anything that has anything to do with government, right!?!? Abuse of children and the education of children are two very different topics that have no business being linked. Homeschooled kids are not raised in a bubble anymore than public or private schooled kids are. They go to church, have play dates, are involved in organized sports, take music lessons, volunteer, are involved in 4H, etc. Homeschooled kids are not hidden away in the home – away from everyone and anyone that might notice that something’s wrong. Yes, abuse happens – in all sorts of families. The fact that they learn their ABCs and how to use long division at home has nothing to do with it.
        As far as having to report to the state that my kids are learning at home – why? What does the state have to do with it? My kids are MY kids, not the state’s kids. They don’t belong to the principle of the school or the superintendent of the district. They belong with their family being raised and educated with the people who have the most interest in making sure they have what they need to do their best.
        Not everyone has a problem even with registering with the state. I didn’t mind and will probably still do so (because we utilize a homeschool assistance program and our supervising teacher is AWESOME). But there are some that are strongly opposed to government interference in how they raise their kids and not because they’re looking to make sure they can abuse without being caught as some have tried to claim. They (we) see no difference in raising their child and educating their child – they are one in the same.

      • http://twitter.com/#!/dameocrat Dameocrat

        You’re kids don’t belong to you or the state. They are humans, and citizens, and they have a right to be educated. It’s nice that you self report how great you are. That has nothing to do with whether abuse happens.. The schools can abuse too and have to follow rules, about reporting it.

      • Andrea Noveroske Bergenham

        My children DO BELONG TO ME!! You are a bigot.

      • http://twitter.com/#!/dameocrat Dameocrat

        Ok, so you claim your children are your property and not humans who have a right to be educated and not abused, then call ME a bigot?

      • Karen

        I didn’t say they belong TO me – reread what I wrote. I said they belong WITH their family. Yes, I said that they are MY kids, but that is not the same thing as saying that they belong to me any more than pointing to my Mom and saying “that’s my Mom”.
        Yes, they are absolutely entitled to an education and, as their parent who has the right to control said education, I will make sure that education is the best education that each of my individual children can get – including sending them to public school if that is what I deem most appropriate for any of my kids.
        As far as the school reporting abuse, the school is still made up of individuals – students, teachers, administrators, custodians, lunch room workers, etc. Can you guarantee that none of these people are abusing our kids and NOT reporting it because they didn’t get caught? Just because someone is a mandatory reporter doesn’t mean they’ll actually report something or aren’t the person doing the abusing. It just means that they didn’t do what they promised to do. No, I don’t believe that abuse is rampant in our schools, but you can’t make the argument that schools have to report because schools are still made up of INDIVIDUALS who don’t always allow the system to work the way it’s supposed to.
        Again – abuse and education are TWO SEPERATE SUBJECTS and have nothing to do with whether I HAVE to tell the state that I’m educating my child at home.

      • http://twitter.com/#!/dameocrat Dameocrat

        I have experienced abuse at the Catholic Church and by relatives. I have experienced bullying in various institutions.

        I don’t justify any of it. Those schools that tolerate bullying are subject to lawsuites and criminal prosecution in some cases. One abuse does not justify another.

      • Amonite

        I was kicked in public school, *in front* of the teacher, mind you, and he did nothing. In fact, he said it was my fault for not letting the boy who did it cut in front of me for kickball. I was quite frequently sexually harassed, bullied, and even physically injured in public highschool. Every report I filed to the school office must have gone into a shredder somewhere, because they not only didn’t follow up (and often laughed it off, even when they were holding proof in their hands), but they went and told the instigators I had filed a report (which is against federal law, mind you), which just led to more bullying.

        Just because there is a Federal Law that schools have to take abuse seriously does not mean they do. I have been to many different public schools – either verbally abused, physically abused, or otherwise harassed at every one of them. I was never abused or bullied while homeschooled or private schooled.

        I have also done volunteer work at schools – where I witnessed a lot of bullying and ‘team efforts’ to get other kids in trouble or ostracize them, and verbal and some physical altercations. I had limited power to effect change due to my position.

        Which is safer? I would trust parents any day over the public school system!

      • drquantum

        “BTW there are no double blind studies on anything because Conservatives won’t allow them or fund them.”

        What useless drivel. You can’t just sit there spouting assertions and expect to be taken seriously.

    • drquantum

      What “voluntary surveys” are you talking about? The performance advantage of home school students over those in public schools is documented in the test scores themselves. If you choose not to believe those scores, that is fine… And before you start spouting forth about biases in the home school results, you should be aware that Iowa public schools have been shown to disregard or not submit the scores of lower performing students in order to pump up their averages… So please if you demand apples to apples comparisons be ready for what comes of it.

      • http://twitter.com/#!/dameocrat Dameocrat

        And Iowa schools got in trouble for inaccurately reporting those results. By you standard we should remove the requirement that the test results be accurate and not scewed by selective testing of some students,or outright fabricated, or we are over-regulating the schools.

      • drquantum

        That doesn’t follow at all – your points lack any logic, and you cannot arrive at them by any reasonable desuction based on what I actually said. What I (and I believe Shane, though I don’t pretend to speak for him) would argue is that the public schools should be held to high standards, both of performance and honesty of reported results. I would further argue that thse standards should NOT be nationally administered, but that’s beside the point.

        What you seem to have missed is that what I am arguing for is the freedom of parents to educate their children as they see fit, and not be subject to a requirement of assessment using the state’s examinations. The public school can be held accountable to the state for its performance, but that can not, indeed MUST not be extended to parents who choose to educate their children at home. There is absolutely no reason why the state has to be concerned about that sort of accountability.

      • http://twitter.com/#!/dameocrat Dameocrat

        I understand you have a right wing anarchist dominionist view. I just don’t agree with it.

        I argue children have rights independent of the parents. I don’t think these laws were onerous. I suspect most homeschoolers didn’t support them. I think the potential for educational neglect justifies such rules.

      • Ann

        So I guess you would argue against abortion then, right Dameocrat? Because you believe children have rights as a human being independent from their parents? I actually agree with you that children have their own set of human rights (the most important one being the right to live and a right to having their basic needs met…and yes also the right to an education) but one of them is not “where” and how they get their education.We do have the parental right to PARENT the child until they are an adult and that includes how they are educated. Homeschoolers should not be accountable to the state education board or system. period. Everyone is accountable to child abuse laws so the state intervening in parents educating their children at home for that reason alone is mute and an invasion of privacy. Government is a good thing when it works like it is supposed to, as a service t the people…not a ruling entity that strips people of their parental rights. You talked about the church’s record but I think you have failed to do your research on that one. When it comes to education (among other things), the entity with the LARGEST track record for FAILURE is the federal government.

  • Lunch Meat

    Who is ultimately responsible for a child’s well being?

    Another way of asking this question is, of course, “Who is my neighbor?”

    (Which is to say that we are all responsible for the well-being of every vulnerable person in our society. You don’t get to shrug and say, “I can’t do anything about that educational neglect. I take care of my community and if other people don’t have resources or someone to hold them accountable and their children slip through the cracks, well, that’s sad, but it’s none of my business and parents should have freedom.”)

    (And it’s a fallacy to say that just because someone like Libby Anne cares about problems with homeschooling, she must not care about problems with public schooling. Some people are able to care about more than one thing at once.)

    • Andrea Noveroske Bergenham

      The parents are responsible for their child’s well being….Our country is founded on individual rights and freedoms, not collectivism. Home schoolers are individuals and public schools are the collective—which do better? A teacher, no matter how good and/or caring can not give individual attention to every student each time they need it, a home schooler can—individual teaching is better than collective teaching. Anytime you involve the government, things go down hill, good intentions versus good results. This is not about you caring for home schooled children, this is about you wanting to control people. Just be honest.

  • Kevin Subra

    Shane, interesting that you didn’t point out that public schools don’t do that swell of a job at their primary task – education. People want the public school system to hold home schoolers accountable, and yet they themselves have an extremely poor record of educational success. That seems to be the foundational reason for having an education system in the first place (and that’s all but forgotten).

    Thanks for the article.

    • http://shanevanderhart.com/ Shane Vander Hart

      Yes a major omission on my part.

  • Recynd

    There is a ridiculous underlying assumption that state-schooled children are “educated”. Oh really? Many cannot tell us who our neighbor to the north is without looking at a map. Many do not know who the first president of the US was. Most high school graduates have never taken a single argumentation/logic class. Sadly, the vast majority of college freshmen need some sort of basic remediation. The fact that we have the government that we do indicates that the “educational system” is not all it’s cracked up to be.

    The fact is, if a child can read, a child can learn. I suspect that if a child were left to his/her own devices, loved and nurtured by responsible parents who model learning behavior, that child would fare equally well–or better–than s/he would after 13 years-plus imprisoned in the public school system, learning (or not learning) God-knows-what, and socialized by his/her peers and (hopefully) benevolent strangers. It’s very interesting that the state always errs in favor of maximizing its own power and control.

    There is excellent information available at the library, bookstore, and online. Google “John Taylor Gatto”, “Charlotte Iserbyt”, “Samuel Blumenfeld”, and “John Holt” to start.

  • http://shanevanderhart.com/ Shane Vander Hart

    Disagreement with her position is an attack on her character? I didn’t read her bio, and that was a mistake on my part.

    “Educational neglect is quite common in homeschooling.” – please cite your evidence. Not anecdotal evidence, but data that actually be verified.

    As far as listening to homeschooling parents… I’ve never heard parents complain about not being sure they got all of their required days in. As far as having kids do some schoolwork during summer break – is that really a bad thing? We use the summer to work on subject areas that need more attention – we can do that because we can tailor the education for our kids needs.

    Re. abuse – from my experience public schools provides very little protection. That’s coming from 20 years of working with kids professionally. I didn’t say and won’t say it doesn’t happen, but it can happen in families of all sorts of backgrounds.

    • Breanne Hammett

      I would call implying that her views on homeschool regulation are unbiblical, and using words like statist, liberal, and ignorant are more than just expressing simple disagreement on your part. Attack on her character might have been strong wording, but you certainly weren’t shy about impugning her motives and putting her in the worst light possible. Quite ad hominem.

      I can’t give you any data because there isn’t any. There is pretty much no data on homeschooling of any kind. I can only give you my personal observation.

      You may disagree, but many of us who have grown up in homeschooling believe that it is not a good thing to leave parents completely unaccountable for what they do with their children. As they say, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

  • http://shanevanderhart.com/ Shane Vander Hart

    Libby, I did miss that. My apologies, I should have read further. I have a different perspective and experience having three teenagers (one to graduate next year) who have been homeschooled from the beginning. I disagree that Iowa had good regulations, they were restrictive. At times they seemed rather onerous, not the worst, but it could have been far better. Perhaps if I homeschooled in Iowa the entire time I would have felt differently, but the switch from Indiana to Iowa was a culture shock. The vast majority do a great job educating their kids. Also the Iowa Code still has statutes against educational neglect, and we’re not trying to change that.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      One last think, real quick. You say this:

      The vast majority do a great job educating their kids.

      The thing is, we don’t actually know that. Oh yes, I’ve known lots of homeschool parents who did a really good job, but I’ve known ones who haven’t too, and I’ve never known any of those who don’t engage in the homeschool community so I can’t say anything about them. Add to this that there are organizations that are prominent in certain Christian homeschooling circles—Vision Forum, No Greater Joy, Advanced Training Institute—that urge their followers not to send their children to college. Now sure, college isn’t necessary for success and in some cases not attending college can be better for a kid, but this avoidance of college is part of a greater devaluation of academic education promoted by these groups. It could be true, of course, that the vast majority do do a great job educating their kids, but we don’t know that, and regardless we do know that there are some homeschool parents who don’t.

      • Breanne Hammett

        And, *ahem* these organizations also urge parents to give their daughters a lesser education to ensure that they are not able to make it on their own in the world, that they will be a homemaker under the authority of a man for their entire lives. I know a few families whose sons have all gone to college while their daughters stay at home teaching piano or making cheese, hmmm.

  • http://www.wideopenground.com/ Lana Hope

    I was also homeschooled all the way through. Most homeschool parents did not correct parents who were not giving their kids any kind of education. They let them slip through the cracks. But even if every homeschool parent in the group was held accountable by another parent (I doubt it), what about all the homeschoolers who were not apart of groups or ever connected to the community? How were they to be held accountable? The government is not inherently evil like I was taught. It’s not perfect but neither is it evil.

    • Breanne Hammett

      There’s no serious accountability. My mom was one of the good homeschooling parents who was passionate about educating us, and she was the one people would go to for advice etc. I’ve never once seen a homeschool parent advise another homeschool parent that their children may need to be educated elsewhere. They may try to encourage other parents to do better, but even when it’s clear that homeschooling just isn’t working for a family the homeschooling cause always trumps the needs of the children. The homeschooling movement has convinced themselves that homeschooling at it’s worst is still better than a public education.

      • http://shanevanderhart.com/ Shane Vander Hart

        I haven’t seen that either, but mainly because many don’t see it as their place to do so. We also usually don’t have to. I have seen a number of parents who found this isn’t their cup of tea find other alternatives. The Independent Private Instruction aspect of Iowa’s law will give even greater flexibility.
        Regarding the belief that the worst homeschooling situation is better than public school. First off, I don’t know anyone who believes that as a “black and white” proposition. Secondly, the reason that is so is how do you define worse? What is their school district like? Is it failing? How old is their student? Are their other supports available? Is private school an option?
        It is not a black and white decision.

        Also homeschooling has advanced in recent years where there are lots of support available.

      • Breanne Hammett

        There are families who voluntarily move to other educational methods when homeschooling doesn’t work out for them. But we need to talk about worst-case scenarios here, the kind of people the laws are supposed to catch. Good homeschooling families go above and beyond what the law requires, laws like the ones Iowa had are designed to protect the interests of children who do not fall in that category. I’ve seen cases where homeschool co-ops will try to keep their members accountable by requiring minimum grades or minimum educational standards for their families. Families who don’t meet up just drop out and then there’s no one to look out for the interests of kids.

        Is most of your experience in homeschooling in Iowa, Shane? That could be part of the reason you haven’t witnessed a lot of educational neglect. Iowa heretofore had laws to help prevent that.

  • Breanne Hammett

    So, Shane, will you answer us this – how does the change in Iowa law benefit homeschooled students? I know you believe that parents and the state are at odds when it comes to the wellbeing of children, I don’t need a rehash of that. I want to know what concrete benefit to children you see in this law.

  • tootiredforpropergrammar

    i just feel like homeschooling is saying to your kid: there’s no education system that is good enough for you and you are better than all those other normal kids out there. i used to teach home school kids and then i worked with many ex-homeschoolers. i find the problems with social skills are less noticeable in home schoolers when they are children. i see them with their parents by their side, protecting them every step of the way, in semi-structured environments. i would try and enforce rules while they were under my tuition (for the sake of safety and consideration of everyone in the facility) and the parents would overrule me and let their kids get away with it. i really wanted the parents to leave and i thought their kids could have learnt so much more without them there and i wasted so much time on behaviour management when i could have been teaching. the kids were as a result, confident and outgoing, unlimited by boundaries. and all the kids were from similar backgrounds. the problems with overconfidence and no perceptions of boundaries come to fruition when the kid graduates and enters college/the workforce. where there are firm structures that they must conform to. there are boundaries, appropriate things to say and not say and appropriate times to say them. they can’t have individual attention all the time as others need it too, people in charge who don’t love them unconditionally, no mother to protect them when they don’t follow rules, and people who are different to them and may not like them.