Home-schoolers in Indiana must be looking with some amusement at the situation in California, where home schooling has just been legalized again after a protracted battle with the state.
In a 3-0 decision, the California Court of Appeals for the Second Appellate Division reversed its own earlier ruling that would have required home-schoolers to be certified teachers. The court agreed to rehear the case after public outrage over its February ruling. “Tens of thousands of California parents teaching over 166,000 home-schooled children are now breathing easier,” said Michael Farris, one of the attorneys who argued the case for parents.
If California has been among the states that have tried the hardest to regulate home schooling, it's fair to say Indiana has been among the most lax.
There are very few rules here, and the ones we have aren't exactly monitored closely. Home-schooling parents are supposed to give their children the “equivalent” of a public education, but “equivalence” isn't defined. There are no program or curriculum requirements, and students aren't required to take any standardized tests. Attendance is supposed to be taken to ensure 180 days of education a year, but that's only for parents who bother to register with the state. Not all do.
Shouldn't there at least be some minimum supervision to guarantee that “home schooling” isn't just used as a convenient excuse by parents who don't want to bother with the children's education?
Perhaps, but any such rules would have to be carefully drafted so they don't discourage the work done by the great majority of home-schoolers. That means, among other things, avoiding the recommendation of the Indiana State Teachers Association, which wants a host of new rules, including meeting the state requirements for teacher licensing.
By any measure available, most of the thousands of home-schooled children in Indiana are being taught very well. And why not? They have the one thing most school systems can only dream of having: dedicated parents with a passionate interest in their children's education.
Most of the extra burdens public school systems have taken on of late are, in fact, aimed at making up for the lack of that interest.