Since it is the start of a new legislative session, The Des Moines Register takes yet another shot at homeschooling. In case you are not aware of the unhinged history of the Des Moines Register’s obsession with homeschooling here is a brief recap. After Independent Private Instruction passed they first wrote an editorial in 2013 bemoaning the change in the law, and a year-and-a-half later they published yet another article following a column that was written by Rekha Basu. In 2017, they published another editorial, and this was followed by a questionable poll.

Now the editorial board strikes again with an editorial entitled “Iowa should eliminate, not accommodate, dangerous new homeschooling option.” Here’s an excerpt of their screed, and yes that is exactly the tone they convey – a screed.

On the surface, the Iowa Department of Education’s recommendation to open the state’s online learning program to all home-schooled K-12 students seems like a reasonable idea.

Scratch beneath the surface, and it’s a horrible idea.

The agency’s proposal is largely targeted at families who have chosen “independent private instruction.” This option in home-schooling, recently added to Iowa law, allows children to entirely disappear from every educational grid in this state.

State school officials should be yelling from the rooftops for the Iowa Legislature to repeal independent private instruction, not modify law in ways that accommodate or encourage it.

Traditional home-schooling works well for some families. Many children receive a good education from parents and have access to courses, services and extracurricular activities at a local school. Independent private instruction is an entirely different creature.

It gives parents permission to keep at home their own children (and up to four unrelated children) without notifying anyone or filling out a single form. A child can suddenly vanish from school, and parents can simply say they’re independent. Or they can say nothing at all if anyone asks.

There are no educational assessment requirements

These students are prohibited from taking any classes or participating in any activities at a local school. Prohibited. They cannot attend math class at a high school. They cannot play on a sports team. Their parents want these kids completely off the radar, and the law now allows it.

First, their logic is twisted. If IPI families can access online courses, then they’re no longer off the educational radar. Is that not a good thing according to them?

Second, as I’ve stated before people who choose to homeschool are not “off the radar.” They have neighbors, family members, members of their church, and others who are in their lives. Virtually no family is an island.

Third, it is the Iowa Department of Education’s job to uphold and implement the law, not fight against it. Kudos to the Department for responding to the needs of homeschoolers.

Fourth, homeschooling is not dangerous. The vast, vast majority (like almost all) parents who pull their children out of school don’t do this to abuse or neglect their children. Quite the opposite. It’s far, far easier to send your children off to public school seven hours a day. It takes commitment to homeschool. It isn’t for everyone, the great thing about the IPI law allowing a non-family member to teach your child is if you are not equipped or are unable to homeschool because you need to work, you can find someone who can do it for you. There’s a word we use historically used for this. It’s called tutoring. A great many leaders received their education this way.

Fifth, they cite the drama queen of the Iowa Senate, State Senator Matt McCoy (D-Des Moines), who has been on a mission impose the state’s will on homeschooling families.

He recently tweeted:

McCoy wants to end homeschooling for all foster/adoptive families that receive adoption subsidies because of the neglect and abuse that led to the death of two girls whose families took them out of school. Look, Senator McCoy is entitled to his opinion, but not his own facts. One of the girls, Nicole Finn, started out in public school. Calls were placed to DHS while she was still in the West Des Moines School District. After she was taken out of school, a neighbor filed a complaint with DHS.

Is this falling through the cracks because of “homeschooling” or is this a case of DHS doing a horrible job? McCoy and The Des Moines Register are barking up the wrong tree.

DHS is broken and needs to be fixed. Also, how about reforming the adoption subsidy program? Eliminate the potential for people to adopt solely to make money? I can understand providing medical care and therapy for special needs adoption, but I don’t understand maintenance payments to parents.

Also, how well are DHS screening these families? They are the ones who placed Natalie Finn with her family.

Also, McCoy may have a stronger case for foster families since those children are still technically under the care of DHS, but when they are adopted, it is the parents, not the state who has a say.

Sixth, not every homeschooling family uses IPI (or uses IPI for every child), take my family as an example. We homeschooled two years under IPI (and had both kids graduate – one is senior at Hannibal LaGrange University, and the other is an ER Tech here in Des Moines. Incidentally, both took DMACC courses while we were under IPI). The last two years for my youngest daughter who will graduate this year, we filled out a CPI (competent private instruction) form, and dual enrolled to take advantage of some classes at Central Campus in Des Moines (she completed her advanced certified nurse’s aide certificate and is taking anatomy/physiology there. She’s also taking a couple of classes at DMACC along with courses at home in preparation for nursing school).

Yeah, homeschooling has been a dangerous option for us. How in the world would our kids have made it without filling out that CPI form and taking a standardized test?

The Des Moines Register needs to accept the reality that under this current administration and legislature, IPI is not going anywhere. I know it may be too much to ask, but it would be great if the Des Moines Register would take time to understand why more families are choosing to homeschool and how it can be done successfully instead of fear monger because two Iowa families who did not actually homeschool.

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