Attacking Homeschooling Is Attacking Choice

Homeschooling seems to be an easy target for critics of school choice.  It always has been.  With homeschoolers being by definition outside the education establishment, some people attach a stigma to their choice, suggesting that homeschooled children and their families must be somewhat weird.  Recent claims about Adam Lanza, perpetrator of the Newtown massacre, are just the latest and perhaps most egregious example.

Calls for more regulation and additional controls over homeschooling curricula and methods resurface time and again.  Thus, the recent attacks on homeschoolers are no surprise.  But familiarity doesn’t make those attacks any less elitist and misguided.

Opponents of choice criticize homeschooling as failing to socialize children properly.  In October in Connecticut, the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission recommended stricter regulation of homeschooled children with emotional and behavioral problems.  Their reason: Adam Lanza had been homeschooled.  The committee provided no evidence to support its alleged connection between homeschooling and mass murder.

The accusation is obviously ludicrous.  One homeschooled individual does not a generalization make; the number of such mass killers educated in public schools refutes this inane assertion.

If Lanza’s education is to blame and therefore the key to ending such tragedies, public schools are the more likely culprit.  Lanza graduated with a public-school diploma.  Although he was taught at home during high school, he attended public schools for most of his education, and he was involved in public-school activities while studying at home, according to Dewitt Black, senior counsel of the Home School Legal Defense Association.  Lanza was homeschooled as a last resort upon recommendation of his psychologist.  The boy’s emotional and behavioral problems led to the decision that he be removed from traditional public and then later Catholic school.

“We think it’s totally unfounded” to blame homeschooling for Lanza’s problems, Black said, noting that Lanza could hardly be considered the norm for homeschooled students.  “There’s simply no basis that there is a connection between homeschooling and violence in public schools.  It’s a misplaced effort to target homeschoolers when there is just no basis to do that.”

Black says it is disgraceful to demonize homeschooling families who make sacrifices in order to stay at home and direct their children’s education.  He classifies the call for more oversight as unfair and a threat to freedom.

“I think frankly there is some animosity towards homeschooled students,” said Black.  “It’s not a friendly environment to start with.”

The hysterical criticism in Connecticut is more than “some animosity.”  It is an attempt to capitalize on a tragedy in hopes of disguising a shameful power-grab.

Homeschooling is the only form of educational choice many American families have, and it has been a serious game-changer in education.  Families from countries that do not allow homeschooling have been granted political asylum in the United States for that very reason.  Little wonder, then, that the U.S. education establishment hates it.

Whenever these slanderers go on the prowl to destroy support for homeschooling, we should keep their self-interest in mind.  It is clearly absurd to suggest that more regulations and stricter oversight of homeschooling families would have prevented the Newtown massacre.  If that were true, granting the state all the power it wants would rid the world of evil.  The metastatic growth of government in recent decades has given us no reason to believe that that would work.

Heather Kays (hkays@heartland.org) is a research fellow of The Heartland Institute and managing editor of School Reform News.

Homeschooling seems to be an easy target for critics of school choice.  It always has been.  With homeschoolers being by definition outside the education establishment, some people attach a stigma to their choice, suggesting that homeschooled children and their families must be somewhat weird.  Recent claims about Adam Lanza, perpetrator of the Newtown massacre, are just the latest and perhaps most egregious example.

Calls for more regulation and additional controls over homeschooling curricula and methods resurface time and again.  Thus, the recent attacks on homeschoolers are no surprise.  But familiarity doesn’t make those attacks any less elitist and misguided.

Opponents of choice criticize homeschooling as failing to socialize children properly.  In October in Connecticut, the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission recommended stricter regulation of homeschooled children with emotional and behavioral problems.  Their reason: Adam Lanza had been homeschooled.  The committee provided no evidence to support its alleged connection between homeschooling and mass murder.

The accusation is obviously ludicrous.  One homeschooled individual does not a generalization make; the number of such mass killers educated in public schools refutes this inane assertion.

If Lanza’s education is to blame and therefore the key to ending such tragedies, public schools are the more likely culprit.  Lanza graduated with a public-school diploma.  Although he was taught at home during high school, he attended public schools for most of his education, and he was involved in public-school activities while studying at home, according to Dewitt Black, senior counsel of the Home School Legal Defense Association.  Lanza was homeschooled as a last resort upon recommendation of his psychologist.  The boy’s emotional and behavioral problems led to the decision that he be removed from traditional public and then later Catholic school.

“We think it’s totally unfounded” to blame homeschooling for Lanza’s problems, Black said, noting that Lanza could hardly be considered the norm for homeschooled students.  “There’s simply no basis that there is a connection between homeschooling and violence in public schools.  It’s a misplaced effort to target homeschoolers when there is just no basis to do that.”

Black says it is disgraceful to demonize homeschooling families who make sacrifices in order to stay at home and direct their children’s education.  He classifies the call for more oversight as unfair and a threat to freedom.

“I think frankly there is some animosity towards homeschooled students,” said Black.  “It’s not a friendly environment to start with.”

The hysterical criticism in Connecticut is more than “some animosity.”  It is an attempt to capitalize on a tragedy in hopes of disguising a shameful power-grab.

Homeschooling is the only form of educational choice many American families have, and it has been a serious game-changer in education.  Families from countries that do not allow homeschooling have been granted political asylum in the United States for that very reason.  Little wonder, then, that the U.S. education establishment hates it.

Whenever these slanderers go on the prowl to destroy support for homeschooling, we should keep their self-interest in mind.  It is clearly absurd to suggest that more regulations and stricter oversight of homeschooling families would have prevented the Newtown massacre.  If that were true, granting the state all the power it wants would rid the world of evil.  The metastatic growth of government in recent decades has given us no reason to believe that that would work.

Heather Kays (hkays@heartland.org) is a research fellow of The Heartland Institute and managing editor of School Reform News.