Yet in those six months (this academic year – so far) one or all of my kids have…
And it is but a fraction of what we’ve been doing over the last six months. Just a fraction of what my kids have learned and/or been exposed to. The beauty being it’s just some of the stuff we’ve remembered, captured, recorded and retained.
You might say it’s a list long enough for me to start…
…and questioning others…
What are the best methods of measuring the success/efficiency/effectiveness of an education, a course of study, a methodology of learning?
I think my way is pretty effective. Maybe teachers should spend more time documenting and less time directing. Maybe teachers could learn from their students. Maybe the students are truly the teachers…
I COULD keep arguing we have but I won’t because I’m thinking…there really isn’t just one answer.
And I’m guessing you know what’s best for your own family and for your own children and I want to support your right to question, experiment and ultimately choose what exactly that is…whether it’s traveling around the United States in a converted school bus, studying Bible verses at a Catholic school, participating in a homeschooling Co-op or doing multiplication drills at the kitchen table with siblings.
I have no desire to evaluate/quantify your methods and/or your results. They are yours. They are not mine. I choose not to tread on others.
Unschooling requires (for most people) a paradigm shift. Add to it traveling, living on a converted school bus, vegetarianism and taking in and extra kid and you’ll find something few people are able to grasp. And even less compelled to mirror it in the own lives. Our way of life is something that needs to be observed, thought about, experienced, practiced and most importantly lived before it can be even remotely understood or appreciated.
This is our sixth year of homeschooling. We are from New Hampshire and while we now live on the road full-time we consider New Hampshire to be our home state. The problem we (and others like us) face there is an adversarial climate toward homeschooling. The current homeschooling law RSA 193:A is unconstitutional.
The New Hampshire Constitution states, Rights of Conscience are unalienable [Article 4] as well as other Natural Rights [Article 2]. RSA 193:A violates both. And, I believe, those are not the only constitutional issues with the current law. They are merely the most glaring ones. Ironic, really, considering New Hampshire’s motto is Live Free or Die.
Over the last three year alone homeschoolers in New Hampshire have been made to schlep themselves and their children back and forth to the statehouse repeatedly in an effort to preserve the sliver of freedom left under the oppressive RSA 193:A. Parents have been met with yearly assaults to our fundamental freedoms despite having no clear reason for proposed legislation.
In January of 2010, HB368 (another bill proposing increased regulation of homeschoolers) was voted down 324-34 by the full New Hampshire House. Certain members of the House Education committee were less than thrilled about the vote. A mere two and a half weeks later Representative Emma Rous (the minority leader of the House Education Committed) sent a letter to the New Hampshire State Board of Education on HEC letterhead requesting near identical changes to the NH BoE “rules” regarding homeschooling that had failed to pass through legislation. Thankfully, last November the face of the New Hampshire legislature changed.
And this year three homeschooling bills were introduced in an effort to increase freedom. Unfortunately efforts to merge the competing bills failed and further efforts were derailed with the cancellation of two HEC sub-committee meetings for HB595 and HB301 the bills, likely tabling all the bills until the fall forcing New Hampshire homeschoolers to spend yet another season fighting for their freedoms at the state capital when they could be at home educating their children.
Both the superintendent and the police officer interviewed admit this wasn’t about a failure to educate (although the reporter RIGHTEOUSLY continues to present the story as if it was) but that it was a failure to file PAPERWORK. It begs the question…
These people were arrested. The family (the parents, the children and likely the extended family) was forced to endure mistreatment and unjustified stress, even trauma for choosing to raise their children…outside the public school system. Yes, they did not register…nor in my opinion should they have.
New York’s homeschooling laws are even more strict than New Hampshire’s (admittedly not by much) and completely unconstitutional.
The First Amendment of the United States Constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting and establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Definitions for religion…
6. something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience
4. : a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith
FROM: the Free Dictionary
4. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.
But I won’t, at least not in this entry.
I will, instead, focus on encroachments to homeschooling freedom. Encroachments like those requiring parents to register/notify, produce curriculum, demonstrate input methodology and/or output results. These are violations – violations of both our natural rights and our rights of conscience.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking this has nothing to do with religion or free speech. So, it really has nothing to do with the 1st Amendment and rights of conscience. Schooling is about producing a competent adult citizenry. It’s about raising kids to grow up, get jobs and not become a burden on society. It’s about teaching children to read, write and do math. It’s about academics. It’s about arming kids with the tools adults think they will need to navigate the real world when they reach adulthood. Right?
And why does any of this matter? Why exactly is it we want kids to grow up to be good citizens ~ to be good people? What exactly defines a good person? WHO exactly defines who is a good person or a good citizen for that matter.
Whatever the root of your set of values, your code of ethics, your principles of conscience, your belief system…are all matters of conscience (your conscience) and therefore protected by the First Amendment — make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof — neither the state nor the federal government can compel you to violate your rights of conscience…UNLESS YOU ALLOW THEM.
Schooling may be on the surface about grades, achievement, tools, subjects, [supposed] real-world preparation while at the core it’s about raising good people, good citizens, good neighbors all things probably best left in the hands of the parents. We should all be supporting – instead of questioning/challenging those who care enough to see home education imperative to the conscientious upbringing of their children.
What’s happening in states with oppressive (and unconstitutional) laws like New York and New Hampshire is some families are refusing to register/notify or otherwise comply with state law altogether. As a result they are either forced into hiding or risk arrest, investigations, fines, their children taken by the state or forced into public schools. Other families choose to acquiesce to state demands but find it necessary to invalidate testing, list false curriculum or misrepresent to the state results and/or methods of their homeschooling program not because their children aren’t learning or their programs inadequate but because the states’ views of alternative learning and methodology is grossly limited while the powers of intimidation dangerously limitless.
Nobody wants to risk losing their children to the state…for anything.
It’s a terrifying thought and the threat is real. VERY REAL.
Especially in states where CPS (Child Protective Services) has jurisdiction in cases of “educational neglect” — I’ll touch on the concept of that a bit later in the entry. In New York legislators (and lobbyists) are pushing a bill (S1669-2011). And what is the supposed purpose of said bill? It’s to protect the children.
You know it’s for the children. You might think with all the laws we have for the children we ought to have a country where children are completely free of danger and emotional harm.
Yet we don’t do we? Every day children die from illness sometimes natural sometimes not. Every day children, even infants die in car accidents sometimes under the watchful eyes of the law and buckled safely in a government approved car seat. Every day children are abused sexually, physically and emotionally. Our government (whether it be local, state or federal) is powerless to stop it. And well intended laws often promote and environment ripe for corruption.
Think about it…just for a minute…people who wish to do harm to and/or have power over others will integrate themselves into a system that allows them to do so.
What the New York bill proposes to do is force an immediate response from families involved in CPS cases. Forcing parents to allow CPS into their home within 24 hours of being contacted. We are NOT talking about when a child is in imminent danger here we are talking about an immediate response to any (even anonymous) complaint.
It could even go something like this…
Let’s say Joe Shmo and wife Anna live in Westchester, NY. and they homeschool their three sons. The neighbors Sue and Jim are retired school teachers and do not like the idea of homeschooling. Sue enjoys gardening and is often frustrated by the loud, rough play of her neighbors children which she is forced to endure day in and day out because the boys don’t attend school during the day like most children. One day Joe and Anna’s boys run carelessly through Sue’s garden. It’s the last straw. That night Jim picks up the phone and calls CPS and gives an anonymous tip.
“There is a family on our street who homeschool their three boys. I’m a retired schoolteacher and well – these boys seem to be doing an awful lot of playing. They are outside all day every day or playing video games inside. I have never seen any one of them reading.”
That is all it takes. They don’t even have to tell CPS who they are! A complaint is made, an investigation is opened and the homeschooling family is contacted and under the proposed bill S1669-2011 the family is forced to open their HOME and allow CPS workers in – within 24 hours or they face jail…or worse.
Allowing CPS jurisdiction over homeschooling families is frightening enough giving them power to invade someone’s home on the whim of a grumpy neighbor or extended family member with an ax to grind is well…I have no words… Remember this has NOTHING to do with kids being in any kind of physical danger (immanent or otherwise) it’s about someone maybe thinking a child isn’t learning the state capitals or the food pyramid on a timely schedule.
This is a violation of civil rights.
You see when state law extends to a level of inequitable treatment of home schools vs. public (& private) schools the violation is a civil one. This was the case in both the instance of the arrested parents as well as in my hypothetical snobby neighbor scenario. Have you ever heard of a public school teacher being arrested for failing to turn in a curriculum vitae? Or a teacher forced to provide access to their desk, all their personal effects, classroom and locker as a result of some anonymous tip that they are not teaching the alphabet song properly.
Also, in both cases (as well as in most circumstances) parents are not afforded due process yet another constitutional violation. [US Amendment 5]
While I’ve highlighted two of the stricter states (New Hampshire & New York) other states, including so-called green states (states with no regulation and/or requirements) are facing similar struggles. Earlier in the month hundreds of homeschoolers in Illinois were out to protest proposed anti-freedom legislation. And a few years ago a California a judge effectively outlawed homeschooling for many families (by requiring home educating parents to hold a teaching degree) as a result of an educational neglect [CPS/family law case]. The ruling was quickly reversed with the help of the Governor and the California Court of Appeals but only after an outpouring of disgust at the national level.
Along with these very specific to homeschooling attacks across the US there have also been numerous legislative efforts that more indirectly affect homeschooling. Focusing on stripping power/liberty/privacy from the parents and putting it in the hands of the government.
A few of these efforts include….
Kind of leaves you wondering why…doesn’t it? I mean if most things indicate homeschooled students are thriving why all the attacks? I’m thinking…lots of reasons… and they are all over the place … here are a few guesses…
Then there is HUBRIS.
It goes back to the beginning of this entry, you know, when I was talking about “education neglect” and what it takes to “produce” a competent adult citizenry. And bureaucrats thinking they know what exactly it takes to do that. Teachers convinced that children need to be taught a very specific set of tools if they are to ever be able to function in the “real world” and be successful.
I’m of the mindset it’s hubris to think we know what specific set of subjects and/or information any child today is going to need next year…much less when they reach adulthood. I believe what remains most important is to model kindness, compassion, truth, a thirst for information and connection with others, generosity, self-reliance and joy. All things that will take children farther in life and bring more success and fulfillment than any mandated reading program, art appreciation class or standardized test.
Many of these do-gooders (like New Hampshire’s own Emma Rous) were children back when black and white televisions and operator assisted calling was the norm. As a child do you think Emma Rous had any clue she would be able carry a little touch screen device in her pocket that would play games, calculate tips, track her every move, play movies, allow her to video chat with her grandchildren, store her entire music collection, get the energy to run it from the sun or have all of the information on the internet available instantaneously.
I’m guessing she didn’t. I’m only 37 years old and the most I held out for was a pocket TV that would play my favorite shows. And I was a pretty creative kid.
Today billionaires are made through businesses and technology which was not even invented just five years ago. Think about what that means.
How can anyone profess to have the answers of what kids are going to need to know in two years, five years, ten years or twenty. Isn’t it HUBRIS to think we could? Don’t get me wrong, like I said in the beginning of this piece. I support your right to question, experiment and ultimately choose what is right for your family. And I’m not backing away from that at all. What I’m saying is try not to get those things confused with believing you know what the future holds. Because short of a crystal ball not a single one of us can really know. And maybe that is the best and most important piece of knowledge we can impart to our children.
The reality of impermanence with both the necessity to be unshaken by it and the ability to be empowered through it.
It’s something I think legislators, school administrators and even teachers would benefit from understanding as well. Since they are year after year trying to plan for – and force others to follow – a future they don’t know anything concrete about.
Maybe there in lies the real “educational neglect” – not with homeschooling parents but with a misguided system.
From a technology perspective we have things like quantum computing and sixth sense (if you’ve not watch this you should). We have the technology to implant devices in people’s brains that can control their limbs. We can make body parts. Actually create body parts. We can track people as they travel around the world and pin point locations to inches using GPS.
From a foreign relations perspective we have the growing problems in the middle east, rising gas prices, environmental concerns and war. We’ve had not one but two world wars within the last 100 years. We are into our 10th year of war with Afghanistan. And that’s only one of the over 120 countries around the world the United States Military has a presence in. Did you catch that…over 120 countries we have a military presence in?
Where is that going to take us? I don’t profess to know.
What I do know is what I wish for my kids. And I do know they, more than anyone, know what’s best for them and my job is to support/guide them to their goals/dreams in a way that does not infringe on others.
I also know places we plan to go and people we hope to meet over the next year. I’m not sure when/if it will all come together but we are sure going to walk with intention in that direction. Along maybe we’ll get to finish off “academic year” list with this stuff…
My hope for the coming years? A wish for people to remember what freedoms our country was founded on. For people to stop voting in legislators who oppress us when they write and vote for unconstitutional laws. The only way these freedoms, these personal and important matters of conscience, can be taken from us is if we allow them to be taken. Which all too often we already have. My hope is to heed this sad trend before we end up like Germany (where homeschooling is illegal).
I am inspired by the words peaceful activists like Mahatma Gandhi, Henry David Thoreau and Rosa Parks…
I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free… so other people would also be free.
While I need not (or even want) to necessarily be remembered, I do wish to be known today as someone who wishes to be free in hopes that others will also be freed. For this reason I wish to no longer hide and instead choose to openly refuse to comply with the unconstitutional state demands of New Hampshire’s current homeschooling law RSA 193:A.
I truly hope others will do the same around the country.
In Peace and Liberty,