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December 18, 2009

The Detroit News Wants to Regulate Homeschooling

In a series of articles published December 17, 2009, by Detroit News writer Ron French, the case is made for curtailing a parent’s right to homeschool in Michigan.

Fortunately, these types of media attacks on homeschooling are increasingly rare because most people today recognize that parents have the right to educate their own children and that homeschooling is the most successful education movement in the country.

So when an article emerges from a major newspaper which advocates for significant changes in Michigan’s homeschool law, it warrants a response.

Mr. French’s main argument to justify the regulation of homeschoolers is that homeschoolers may be child abusers and government officials don’t have any way of monitoring homeschoolers. This is a particularly disturbing charge, and nowhere in the articles does Mr. French acknowledge the success of homeschoolers or the incredible sacrifices made by dedicated parents to educate their own children. He simply points to two cases, Calista Springer (age 16) and Ricky Holland (age 7), who were both removed from public school and allegedly homeschooled after becoming the subject of complaints to Child Protective Services to justify additional regulation of homeschoolers.

What is unfair is that Mr. French claims that the mere act of homeschooling prevented CPS from investigating the bruises and other complaints. This is not true. If there is sufficient evidence that a child is being mistreated, then CPS can, and often must, investigate. Yet, in the cases of Calista Springer and Ricky Holland, they did not. These children did not die because the homeschool law does not provide sufficient authority to investigate; rather, the state authorities did not use the power they already possessed. Perhaps there were staffing or budget problems with finding enough people to investigate each complaint (as Mr. French suggests), or some other obstacle prevented investigation, but to twist facts in order to blame homeschoolers is inappropriate.

Regrettably, tragedies do occur, and no amount of regulation can ensure that all children will be safe all the time. Unfortunately, even in the most heavily regulated area of education—the public school—children suffer serious injury and death. It is a sad fact that some parents mistreat their children, and society rightly devotes time and resources to protecting children from abusive parents. But Mr. French is suggesting that Michigan should spend millions of dollars registering and investigating all homeschooling families in an attempt to uncover child abuse. This would be unwise in light of the fact that there is no assurance that increasing the regulation of homeschoolers would prevent child abuse.

It is unjustified to try to paint homeschoolers as child abusers when in both cases Mr. French cites it is admitted that these families were not actually homeschooling.

It is well known that homeschoolers regularly outperform their peers on standardized achievement tests, and in fact, the latest study on homeschooling, Progress Report 2009, shows that homeschoolers score an average 37 percentile points above their public school counterparts. In addition, studies from both America and Canada show that homeschool graduates are more active in their communities than public school graduates. These results have been achieved because homeschool parents are not using the one-size-fits all approach of institutional schooling but tailor the education to each child. Homeschoolers thrive when they are able to educate their own children without jumping through bureaucratic hoops. This has been the case in Michigan where an estimated 4% of the school-aged population is homeschooled, which translates into tens of thousands of parents and children who are experiencing the blessings and benefits of a home education.

The articles by Mr. French are a reminder to all Michigan homeschooling parents, and homeschooling parents across the country, that homeschoolers must stick together and stand firm to defend our freedom from those who will use any means to increase regulation of homeschooling.

We encourage all Michigan families to be ready to defend their right to homeschool. The Michigan law has been very favorable to homeschoolers since the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in our favor in 1993, striking the teaching certificate requirement. It is only with tireless advocacy and your support that we can maintain our freedoms.

 Other Resources

Detroit News articles on homeschooling:

“Lax home-school laws put kids at risk”

“State goes from one of most restricted to least regulated”

“Calhoun district only one to actively monitor parents”

Mackinac Center for Public Policy: “Safer at Home?”