…Isn’t He a Homeschooler?
The 2017 legislative session marked the beginning of a push for online public school options in West Virginia, making it possible to be a public school student from the comfort of one’s own home. While CHEWV supports the right of ALL parents to choose the best educational option for their children, we believe it is important for both parents and government officials to understand the difference between homeschooling and public school at home.
“Educational options” are essentially three-fold. Children can be enrolled in public government-controlled schools paid for by public funds. Or parents can pay to send their children to private schools. Or parents can take complete and personal control of the education of their children by homeschooling them.
CHEWV helps protect the latter choice.
But what about public school at home? Most assume that if a child is being schooled at home, that he is a homeschooler. But this is not necessarily the case. In his veto statement about the sports access bill last year, the governor implied that public school at home was homeschooling. Actually, the location of the schooling is not as important as the content and control of the education. Let’s explore that idea further.
When taxes are paid to the government, those taxes become “government funds” or “public funds.” We are a representative republic and our representatives decide how to use those funds. When public funds are used to pay for a child’s education, the government is required to prove that the education is effective. Parent-control becomes county control becomes state control becomes federal control. Indeed, CHEWV has been in countless meetings with state and county officials, as well as with state and federal legislators, and heard the deafening refrain, “We have a responsibility for those ‘other’ homeschoolers out there. Not you, but those others who are not doing a good enough job.”
Indeed, they feel they have a responsibility, not just if physical or educational abuse is suspected, but some sort of responsibility for every child. And so policing and judging parental choice becomes part of their concern. Most of them truly feel that they are doing it for the good of the children, blind to the failures in their own system. Unfortunately, this is true even when the parent fully funds the education. How much more difficult other states have discovered when homeschoolers start accepting tax funds or tax-funded resources for their children. Suddenly the parents’ choices are quite limited and God is absent from the curriculum – “separated” from the “state” education. Choice disappears. Government education is all that remains – regardless of where it is done.
Since 1986, WV parents have been free to educate in the way that they feel is best for their child as long as they privately fund that education. Recently, WV government schools can offer them public school at home – the same schooling they offer in their brick and mortar buildings, paid for with government funds. How is that different from homeschooling? Is it different from homeschooling?
The right to homeschool was hard-won so that parents could direct the upbringing of their children. “Home-based” education is part of that, but not the most important part. The worldview of the education and the individualized approach are even more essential to most Christian homeschool parents.
When parents turn in a notice of intent to homeschool, they are exercising their right to “homeschool.” If parents enroll their child in online public school classes, they are not. For online public school classes, the child is a public school student. For parent-directed homeschooling, the child is a homeschooler.
Public school students are educated according to the curriculum and rules of the public school. The school might allow much flexibility, but they can also take that flexibility away. They are in charge.
Control is probably the factor to track. As a parent, how much of your child’s education do you want to control? Do you want the right to say, “No, I don’t want my child to learn about homosexual parents in 2nd grade.” “No, I don’t want my child to be bullied on the bus; I want to keep him safe.” “No, I don’t want my child to be taught that God had nothing to do with the origins of life.” Homeschooling allows you to control the worldview. Homeschooling allows you to be in control.
However, it does not allow you not to educate. West Virginia homeschoolers are required, by law, to teach at least the five subjects of reading, language, mathematics, science and social studies and to assess their learning each year. A parent who is not teaching his or her children those five subjects is not a legal homeschooler in the state of WV. They could be accused of educational neglect.
Granted, for a kindergarten student, appropriate social studies might be visiting the local fire station and learning about community helpers. Depending on the grade, this may or may not mean studying a textbook daily in all five subjects. The homeschooling law allows for a variety of appropriate educational approaches, but it does not allow “not schooling” as so many officials assert. A child who is neither sent to school nor educated appropriately at home is not a homeschooler, but a truant.
While CHEWV believes that all parents should be able to choose any legal educational option for their children, we exist to defend and support their right to homeschool. And that right is not the same as doing public school at home. And while we will do our best to inform about how homeschooling and virtual public school options mesh (e.g. homeschoolers can take up to x virtual classes and still remain legal homeschoolers), we exist to protect your right to take no public school classes at all if you choose. And that is why it is imperative that we all understand the difference between a public school student, a homeschooled student, and a truant. One must first understand his options before making an informed choice.