homeschoolingThe Des Moines Register again attacked homeschooling families who opt to take part in Iowa’s independent private instruction (IPI) option passed as part of the education reform bill in 2013.  They first wrote an editorial in 2013 bemoaning the change in the law, and a year-and-a-half later they publish yet another editorial which follows a column written by Rekha Basu.  Basu balked at the idea of home education, homeschoolers benefiting from education savings accounts (or probably any tax credit or deduction I suppose) and even large families.

This is incredible.  Why are they fixated on us?  I have to wonder if there is some sort of mental disorder at play here?  Oh yeah, never mind, they’re liberal statists.

This is the second school year independent private instruction has been in effect.  One would think the Register’s editorial board would have some anecdotal evidence justifying their critique.  In that time, however, we’ve not seen any news stories about rampant abuse and neglect out of homeschooling families in Iowa.  (I can see a series coming as they troll the internet in search of stories nationwide.)  We’ve also not seen any stories about children in Iowa suddenly disappearing from their public schools without explanation later to find out the parents decided to homeschool.

However reading today’s editorial one would think the homeschooling community is rife with child abusers and people who don’t want to actually educate their children.  (As if the public school community is free from problems like these.  We apparently are supposed to ignore all of the stories we have seen about teachers abusing their positions as well.)

Evidently, I need to educate the Des Moines Register, once again, about the nature of homeschooling law in the state of Iowa.  They wrote:

The 2013 “reform” included a new type of home schooling. Parents should have a right to educate their children at home, but with some oversight. But under the new law, parents were given unprecedented permission to keep children home without being accountable to anyone about what, if anything, they teach. They are not required to follow any specific educational curriculum. Children do not need to take assessment tests. They cannot use local school districts for academics, special education, or extracurricular activities.

“Unprecedented permission” – that is a loaded phrase.  First of all it demonstrates the statist mentality of those on the editorial board of the Des Moines Register.  Parents, according to natural law, do not NEED permission to home educate their children.  Our kids do not belong to the state.  Then under previous Iowa law parents did not NEED to ask permission.  The competent private instruction form is just a document that tells a school district a family intends on homeschooling, period.  There is no approval process, and form does not have language that conveys permission is being sought.

Also, as far as this being “unprecedented” – not exactly, many states have similar laws.  My wife and I started homeschooling in Indiana.  Iowa’s restrictive homeschooling law shocked us when we moved back in 2002.  Iowa, in fact, was one of the last states to legalize homeschooling (even though many brave pioneers did it anyway).  Iowa until 2013 was lagging behind others states who passed “progressive” homeschooling laws as legislators, as well as, colleges started to understand the benefits of homeschooling.

Update: Bethany Gates did some research into other state homeschooling laws:

First of all, Iowa is not the first state to allow parents to teach their children at home without reporting their decision to do so to the school district.  Alaska,Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, and Oklahoma – which even has a constitutional provision regarding homeschooling – all allow for independent private instruction with no reporting requirement.  I wonder if the Des Moines Register staff thinks that ‘unprecedented permission’ means ‘along with 6 other states’?  This homeschooler knows that unprecedented means ‘never known before.’

Arizona, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Utah only require parents to notify the state superintendent or local school district of their intent to home school, and California law only requires parents to register as a private school.  Texas has no reporting requirement but does hold that parents must use a written curriculum.

Iowa joined the ranks of homeschooling friendly states in 2013.

It is important to note that under competent private instruction parents did not have to take yearly assessments.  Many homeschooling parents opted to put together a portfolio of their student’s work a supervisory teacher who has a valid Iowa teaching license (families select the teacher).  The code does not mandate any homeschooling family, unless they are duel-enrolled, to take an assessment.  The Iowa Code says that the school district “shall” make assessments available (even for families under IPI if requested), but the family was never required to take it.  Just to note, there is no place in law that requires public school students to take assessments either, the law (both federal and state) only requires schools to administer them.  That’s a whole different rabbit trail however.

Also, homeschooling families were NEVER required to follow any particular educational curriculum.  As far as dual-enrolling in concerned, that is something that families who homeschool under IPI generally don’t want.  If they did they would just turn in a competent private instruction form instead.

So what exactly sparked the Register’s diatribe?  A reporter met with a family… They must have beaten their children right?  Perhaps they were just sitting their kids in front of a TV and considering that “education.”  No, this family just wanted more freedom. They also desired to teach their children science without evolution – to the secular humanist that is akin to child abuse I know, but according to Iowa law it is not.

The editorial board wrote:

This flies in the face of state attendance and truancy laws intended to ensure children are educated. Iowa youth are required to attend school from about age 5 through the school year they turn 16, but some children are now exempt from that requirement. They can’t be truant because they are automatically assumed to be meeting the compulsory attendance law.

In reality the law states that if there is a written request from the school district or the Iowa Department of Education the parent or guardian will then give a report identifying the primary instructor, location, name of the authority responsible for the independent instruction, and the names of the students enrolled.  Doing this provides schools with basically the same information that a competent private instruction form gives. (Update: A reader reminded me the compulsory age starts at age 7, not 5.)

This is unfathomable from an educational perspective. An Iowa child may never learn to read. Her entire science education may consist of watching a cow give birth. Forget algebra if a parent thinks counting butterflies is all the math a teen needs to know.

All I can do at this point is roll my eyes.  I mean, really, this is too ridiculous to reply to… Not to mention it lacks creativity… Here is what the editorial board wrote in 2013 (I’d link to it, but it has already been taken down and archived):

An IPI instructor is supposed to teach math, reading, language arts, science and social studies. Yet there are no standards for the content of these courses. Having a 16-year-old count the freckles on his brother’s arm could meet the math requirement. Watching a cow give birth could meet the science requirement.

At the very least come up with some new material.  This presupposes that homeschooling families do not seek out resources that may be available to them.  Many homeschooling families enlist the help of online courses, community colleges, educational co-ops, etc. to bolster their curriculum.  My son, when he was in 8th grade, took an architecture course.  How many public school families can say the same?

This is also unfathomable from a child welfare perspective. A youth can disappear from school one day. The parents can say they’re using the new homeschooling option. No one may follow up. In fact, a school official wouldn’t even know to inquire about a 6-year-old when the parents have never notified anyone the child exists for education purposes.

Oh yes the 6-year-old… Does the child have extended family?  Does this child have a doctor?  Does this hypothetical child have neighbors?  Does the Des Moines Register think a scenario like this ever took place in a state with restrictive homeschool laws?  There are still child welfare laws.  A neighbor, family member or friend, concerned about the welfare of a child, can make a call to authorities.  Believe me they do, just ask the Home School Legal Defense Association how much that happens.  Do they really think a family who wants to hide their children away would comply with competent private instruction anyway?

That question really gets to the heart of the issue.  Their argument is not just with independent private instruction, it is with homeschooling in general.  The Register appears to want the state to revert to its past archaic education law and put homeschoolers back under the thumb of the state.  That or perhaps they just want to give more fodder for statist Democrats who want to repeal all that “homeschooling crap.”

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  1. Guess which writer at the Register LOVES to use the word “unfathomable”? Rekah Basu.

    Such an angry heart she has.

    And I don’t know about you…but every time I’ve encountered a homeschooled student, they can run circles around some adults with their true academic knowledge. 🙂

  2. It sounds like the same lady who was for the Next Generation Science Stsndards at the forum in Waukee wrote this. She was afraid that without these standards teachers who’ll just teach children about dinosaurs and seashells & call it science. These liberals are really a hysterical sky is falling bunch aren’t they?

  3. Never mind that home education has been proven to deliver a superior education. The Register still fears, “Some Iowa children may receive no education at all.” They seem willing enough to say about public education, “Time will tell if changes made in law actually improve the quality of education.” It’s just that they don’t trust the parents to do the best by their own kids. This is the same mentality that allows Iowan’s to deduct the cost of textbooks, unless you are a homeschool family.

  4. We live here in Iowa, and we all know The Des Moines Register is a communist rag. No one here takes them seriously.

  5. It’s official. Homeschooling has turned me into a libertarian. I can’t deal with people who think that private individuals should be “monitored” or “accountable” to the state simply by virtue of the fact that they feel like it. They hate state interference when it’s their pet issue – say, a woman’s right to take birth control or marry another woman – but when they think it’s regulating some other person’s behavior, especially some non-Democrat or non-science-minded person, they’re all for it.

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