Don’t Write These Laws on Our Children

I read and reviewed Indian University Associate Education Professor, Robert Kunzman‘s book: Write These Laws On Your Children: Inside the World of Conservative Christian Homeschooling. This book was published by Beacon Press and released August 20, 2009.  I’m including some excerpts from my review here, along with some pertinent Illinois homeschooling concerns.

In one of Robert Kunzman’s interviews with six “strongly conservative” Christian homeschooling families, a California homeschooling mom related her kids “get a lot of life, real life that goes on, that they don’t understand when they are separated for several hours a day.”  She went on to explain that their family of nine children was able to spend valuable time lovingly caring for their grandparents as they reached the end of their lives. Whatever different views, philosophies and lifestyles any homeschooling family has, the incredibly diverse homeschool community can appreciate that, as Mr. Kunzman points out, “homeschooling is…woven into the fabric of everyday family life.”

Often, Mr. Kunzman’s feedback was requested regarding an imagined homeschool growth trend.  The National Center for Education Statistics data is reported on his site with their supposed 74% homeschooling increase since 1999.  He has developed an impressive Indiana University website called: Homeschooling Research and Scholarship. It gave a start to see that on a university link. (The University of Illinois has a homeschooling applicant section in order to study at the University, but not to be studied.)

On this blog, I’d like to refute some specific concerns that Professor Kunzman (and others) have with Illinois homeschooling freedoms.

The concern about “serious Christians” is  a theme throughout this book. Kunzman requested each of the six families fill out a General Social Survey to confirm their social, political and religious conservatism.  There must be a survey or study sought out for almost every curiosity, while most homeschoolers seem to be holding out as the last bastion.  Robert Kunzman reported that nearly a fourth of our homeschooled population don’t need to notify or verify educating their children.

Illinois homeschoolers are part of the American homeschooling community that don’t notify or report our children’s private educational choice to school authorities. (Unless we’re transferring from the public school to homeschool.)   Mr. Kunzman asked HSLDA founder Michael Smith, about homeschooling’s future potential:

“So would the ultimate goal of HSLDA, regulation-wise, be a place like Illinois,” I ask, “where parents don’t have to report, register, anything?”

Smith nods. “ultimately, yes. But we also tend to be realistic. I mean, there are organizations that stand for the proposition of no compulsory attendance. Do I think that would be good?  Probably, but it’s not gonna happen.  I mean, that’s unrealistic. So we operate within what’s realistic, incrementally making changes, but ultimately to get to the point where we have as few regulations as possible.”

Professor Kunzman appeared to understand homeschool advocates’ fierce protections of our freedoms.  He was also disturbed at some homeschool self-congratulations regarding HSLDA commissioned studies.

I’ve spent hundreds of hours reading HSLDA materials, considering their arguments, and observing their strategies to promote homeschooling and reduce regulations.  I understand why they keep careful track of legislative development, and I recognize that their role as an advocacy organization is to put homeschooling’s best foot forward.  While I find their tone overly combative, I realize that some of this is in response to uninformed criticism and even antagonism on the part of some public education officials and other outsiders.

But there’s no good excuse for their ongoing distortion of research.

Many in the  community acknowledge that our children are just like public schooled children.  They are part of the diverse U.S. multitude of youth; with various gifts and weaknesses.

Some would suggest that Department of Education studies (used by Kunzman and others to express their dismay that they can’t count us) is pointless.  Why is the inability to use our children as a data point a “big problem?” From the IU press release:

The fact that many families don’t report that their children are schooled at home is also a big problem in making definitive statements about this group of students. “Representations about the average home schooler performing at this or that level are simply incorrect, because we don’t even know who all the home schoolers are,” Kunzman said.

His proposed supposition throughout the book was to apply universal reading and math tests mandates on all homeschoolers.  Kunzman describes it as a “very low level of regulation that is not highly intrusive that could be agreed upon by the vast majority of homeschool parents.”  Unless he has  insider knowledge that I can’t envision, it’s hard to imagine he’ll have a good sell of that with the vast majority of homeschool parents.  When we want to assess knowledge levels- we don’t need an imperfect skills test- and we certainly don’t need to show it to an official. Homeschoolers have learned that giving in to any governmental level of regulation or intrusiveness does not serve us well.  We like our privacy, and feel we have nothing to prove to a bureaucrat just because we chose to educate our children at home.

His universal testing would take care of that “big problem” of finding and analyzing our children.  He suggested that free homeschooling states (such as Illinois) “runs the greatest risk of neglecting the interests of children and the state.” His unease seems to be baseless and cynical, as he didn’t provide proof of such neglect. An unconvincing crisis,  that school bureaucrats need to oversee already established parental accountability, will kill what we live – and what we love about homeschooling.  The former Social Studies and English high school teacher, coach and administrator describes a “triad of interests” (children, parents, society) as a concern of “advocates of regulation.”  (‘Anti-homeschoolers’ is the term I use for homeschooling regulation advocates.)  Even after hundreds of hours observing homeschoolers, Robert Kunzman either doesn’t understand the homeschooling way of life, or worse yet, he does.

~Susan Ryan

Related posts:

The full review is located at Home Education Magazine.

Three Smart Rules for Home School Regulation written by Washington Post Education Columnist: Jay Mathews.  Please read the comments, as several homeschoolers explain our good cause for learning freedoms.


2 Responses

  1. […] On this blog, I’d like to refute some specific concerns that Professor Kunzman (and others) have with Illinois homeschooling freedoms.  (This is cross-posted to the Illinois Homeschool Freedom Watch blog.) […]

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