Should families have the freedom to homeschool? Settling the debate on calls for oversight

Chijon Thompson, 7, attends the DagiNia Homeschool Co-Op in Dallas. The school consists of a group of parents who homeschool their children together, focusing on incorporating African history in the curriculum. Photo by Laura Skelding for The Texas Tribune

Since the modern era of homeschooling, debate has raged between two opposing groups — those who believe that families should have the freedom to homeschool their children without interference, and those who call for more oversight and regulation.

In Texas, where we value freedom and individual responsibility, is is a crucial right of parents to direct the care and upbringing — including education — of their children. This contributes to successful and responsible future generations.

Those promoting increased oversight of homeschooling families say that academic standards are uncertain and that homeschool students are susceptible to abuse. There is no evidence to support such fears. In fact, studies indicate that homeschoolers do better academically and are at less risk of abuse.

Following the Austin bombings, some have argued that the bomber’s homeschool education should be to blame, even though the bomber was years out of high school and was living in his own house. It makes no sense to blame the education of the student for crimes that are committed by people of all educational backgrounds. When was the last time you heard someone accuse public education of being the cause of mass shootings just because most mass shooters were educated in public school?

The empirical data overwhelmingly shows that homeschooling is a resounding academic success. Homeschoolers score 15 to 30 percent above the national average as a group, regardless of regulation levels. As a result, most states have given families the freedom to homeschool with minimal government regulation.

Despite the well-documented success of homeschooling nationwide, some still argue that homeschooling families should be subject to increased regulation. Pro-regulation groups sensationalize recent news stories, using them to suggest that homeschool families are at greater risk of abuse and must be regulated.

It has been alleged that some states require parents to be certified teachers before they can homeschool and that Texas is an exception. But no state in the nation requires a parent to be certified before homeschooling. Meanwhile, states with stricter homeschooling laws have not seen any differences in student performance compared to low-regulation states

A recent study on homeschooling and child abuse noted that: “A statistical analysis of 18 years of data from all the U.S. states found no relationship between the degree of state control or regulation of homeschooling and the frequency of abuse of homeschool students… The lack of a correlation undermines the claim that there is some causal relationship between state control of homeschooling and abuse of students.”

Furthermore, other studies indicate that homeschooled students are actually less likely than public school students to suffer abuse. In fact, many families who choose to homeschool do so because of safety concerns with their alternative educational environments. A poll commissioned by the Texas Home School Coalition (THSC) last year showed that safety concerns were the fourth most common reason for why families choose to homeschool in Texas.

After recent school shootings, the coalition saw a surge of calls from parents who were deciding to homeschool.

Just as Texas businesses and private schools enjoy great success because of our freedoms, Texas families (and therefore Texas children) thrive when they are free to make their own decisions. But on a hunch and devoid of any evidence, some still recommend that homeschool regulation be radically increased.

For the good of children, we celebrate, support and empower Texas families with the freedom to direct the education of their own children. The premise that homeschooled children live unsafe lives is not supported by the facts. Limiting homeschool freedoms would be a harmful knee-jerk reaction.

We believe that fit families have the right to raise and educate their children as they believe best. Texas families, the Texas Home School Coalition and the homeschool community of Texas will vigorously oppose any radical legislation that would restrict this right.

Tim Lambert

President, Texas Home School Coalition

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