Homeschooling Rights and Responsibilities: Are We Losing Them? - Becky Olson

Many of us, in our complacency, have come to believe we have the right to homeschool our children. That is true. We do have that right. Along with that privilege is the responsibility involved in home education. And many of us have dealt with that, too. We know we have taken upon ourselves the privilege and obligation to educate our children in the best possible way. Amen. So simple, right?

Wrong. It isn’t that simple. Among homeschoolers, who I have always believed were the new freedom fighters, a great schism has occurred. Many people have failed to understand the connection between privilege and responsibility. They are freedom fighters in name only. Instead of letting the school superintendent tell them how to educate their children, they are letting the homeschool leadership of a neighborhood, city, state, or national assembly tell them how to educate their children.

I see many people falling into the trap of believing they are educating their children when, in fact, they have turned over their liberty to some other authority figurehead. People who have shown great spirit and have worked through much difficulty to regain custody of their children from the school system are being convinced to again allow some other bureaucracy make the decisions concerning the who, when, and why of their family life and education.

Many of these organizations are encouraging people to turn over their own personal power. They are encouraging their constituency to let the alliance make decisions, let the group design the system of education best suited for their children. Membership is encouraged to "trust" the leadership to "know" what is best for the collective associates. Member input and options are kept to a minimum. The leadership makes all decisions and passes these decisions down to the membership.

I see two different bands: those that wish to maintain control over the decisions that affect their families, and those opting to give that control to their local, state, or national homeschooling association. The people, the individual, has the power, the right, the responsibility to make decisions for themselves. No matter how hard an association tries to convince the individual s/he doesn’t have that freedom, or the information to make a choice, the individual does have the power. In our complacency, we have allowed the government, in its many forms, to convince us we are not capable of making certain decisions.

We have been happy to give up the opportunity to make some choices because we don’t want the responsibility that goes along with it. "If I send my child to school, and the child doesn’t learn, I am not responsible for his/her illiteracy. It is the school’s fault s/he hasn’t learned." The parent gives up the power, the particulars of the child’s education and also the responsibility for the education. It’s a nice safe package. "They" can be blamed — and given the credit — for the child’s education. The parent is absolved of the responsibility. Or so the bureaucracy would have us believe. That’s not the truth. Deep down inside, each of us knows this. The parent is always ultimately responsible for the child. And the parent knows what is best for his or her own child.

We have worked hard in many states to keep from answering to a state bureaucracy about the curriculum we use, or don’t use. Many have worked to have testing abolished or at least minimized. All of these efforts were done to expand the parameters of the homeschooling family’s personal options. Again, so many individuals are giving up those hard fought for freedoms by turning over those same personal choices to an organized group. They are allowing an association to decide which curriculums, which books, which tests, which support networks have their approval, and can be used. Without questioning this, families are accepting these arbitrary decisions. Without meeting any of the members of this or that support network, the state or national group’s endorsement tells me if I do or don’t want to meet these individuals.

Homeschoolers are leaders, not followers. Homeschoolers have chosen to take the responsibility for their own lives. They do not defy authority, they question it. We must recognize that these privileges we have worked so hard to establish concerning education are individual and personal. These liberties are part of the freedoms included in the framework of our founding fathers (and mothers) declaration of independence. Freedoms so important that thousands have, and continue to, risk their lives to establish and preserve them. When any sect sets itself up to define these rights, sets itself up to choose these rights, sets itself up to take the responsibility of the outcome of the enactment of those rights for us, we have lost everything we have struggled so long and hard for.

Homeschoolers! Recognize the "organization" of homeschooling for what it is — an attempt to control and manipulate our choices for the greater glory of the organization’s leadership. The power of these groups is not drawn from the combined freedom of the membership. It is created by diminishing the individual members’ autonomy. All that is accomplished by these highly organized contingents is not done to provide independence for the membership, it is done to bring tighter control over the membership, to diminish even further the freedoms of the members, and to ultimately escalate the power of the leadership.

Accept the responsibility for your freedom. Examine what is given to you. Question decisions made for you. Take the leap of faith — trust your own instincts. Only you can make the best decisions for yourself and your family. Stand up and be counted as an individual supporting your own and others’ privileges and responsibilities. History has shown us repeatedly that when we allow the autonomy of any society to be diminished, more and more is taken from that group. When we contribute to the schism of the national homeschooling community, we contribute to the erosion of the independence of the homeschooling community at large. If the highly structured organizations allow the freedoms of the unstructured coalitions to be taken away, soon the freedoms of the structured alliance will be attacked.

The time has come for homeschoolers to stop arguing among themselves and join together to protect the freedom of all people. We must protect the opportunity to choose public education, private education, structured homeschooling, unstructured homeschooling, religiously based homeschooling and secular based homeschooling. If we allow anyone’s choices to be diminished, we allow our own choices to be compromised.

"In Germany they first came for the Communists and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me-and by that time no one was left to speak up."Pastor Martin Niemoller

© 1991, Home Education Magazine

This piece is part of the series Homeschooling Freedoms at Risk Originally published
in the May-June 1991 issue of Home Education Magazine (Top)

Freedoms At Risk - Twenty Years Later
Homeschooling Freedoms At Risk
Freedoms Responsibilities And The “Four Pillars”
Homeschooling Rights and Responsibilities
Bitter Pill-ars to Swallow
From Across the Nation

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