This post originally appeared on the Indiana Association of Home Educators blog in October 2015.
Homeschooling has been a tradition in Indiana for over a century. Due to the longstanding legal environment regarding home education in Indiana, we have seen how less regulation facilitates the parent-directed learning experience. Below are some reasons the Indiana homeschool law works successfully.
1.) We have the right to operate as a private school.
The Indiana Appellate Court held that the Indiana compulsory attendance law must treat home school programs the same as a private school. In State v. Peterman, 70 N.E. 550 (Ind. App. 1904, the Court said a school at home is a private school.
The Court defined a school as “a place where instruction is imparted to the young… We do not think that the number of persons, whether one or many, make a place where instruction is imparted any less or any more a school.” Peterman, 70 N.E. at 551. The court explained further: “Under a law very similar to ours, the Supreme Court of Massachusetts has held that the object and purpose of a compulsory educational law are that all the children shall be educated, not that they shall be educated in any particular way.” Peterman, 70 N.E. at 551.
The Court concluded: “The result to be obtained, and not the means or manner of attaining it, was the goal which the lawmakers were attempting to reach. The [compulsory attendance] law was made for the parent, who does not educate his child, and not for the parent who…so places within the reach of the child the opportunity and means of acquiring an education equal to that obtainable in the public schools….” Peterman, 70 N.E. at 552.
2.) Since 1983, the Indiana Association of Home Educators (IAHE) has provided support and assistance to Indiana families interested in home education. Parents who choose to homeschool have a readily available network of resources to help them start and continue their homeschooling journey. For parents who do not understand any particular aspect of their responsibilities, there is an established network of experienced and successful homeschoolers who are available to assist and answer their questions. We recommend all home educators connect with IAHE and utilize the resources available to them. We also recommend families seek out and connect with other home educators in their community.
3.) Parent-directed, privately-funded home education is successful.
Multiple studies show that homeschoolers score at/or above their public school peers on standardized tests. No matter what type of K-12 education is chosen for a child it requires the active involvement of parents to be successful. Homeschooling parents are already highly motivated to be involved in their children’s education. Very few parents take on such a huge responsibility without a commitment to education and a belief (if not a conviction) that they can do as well as the public school. Parents who are willing to take on this responsibility rarely do it without counting the cost, both in dollars and time.
4.) We provide a comparable education to the public schools.
Indiana law requires parents to provide instruction that is comparable to what is provided in the public school. Parents choose to homeschool for many reasons, but most also recognize the unique ways in which their children learn. Many parents who homeschool begin to investigate their options when their children are preschoolers, while others, finding their child struggling in the traditional public school setting, desire to enhance and not hinder their children’s educational experience. Homeschooling resources have exploded in the marketplace. One look at a homeschool convention will tell you there is no lack of educational materials available for homeschoolers to use. All have one thing in common, however: a comparable, if not superior, education to the public schools.
5.) The state has the authority and ability to investigate and prosecute if there are problems.
The state already has the ability to investigate and prosecute if there are problems. State laws already prohibit parents from neglecting or abusing their children. The fact that there may be the occasional parent who does not adequately educate his or her child doesn’t negate all of the excellent parents who homeschool any more than a few poorly-rated public schools do not negate the excellent public schools out there. A few isolated situations of parents who have been prosecuted for failing to properly educate their children have resulted in their children being placed back into the public school system.
While the state should be concerned with the abuse or neglect of all children, regardless of where they are educated, there are plenty of ways to locate and identify abusive parents without having to further regulate homeschooling in our state. While most homeschool support groups are there to provide assistance when a parent needs help in educating his or her child, there have been reports to the authorities within these groups when a parent has demonstrated a failure to ensure their child is educated. Even if more homeschool regulations were passed, it would not catch all abusive parents any more than public schools catch all of the abusive parents with children in their schools.
6.) Homeschoolers have a higher percentage of college graduates than public schools.
While many factors may influence why some students graduate from college and others do not, it should come as no surprise that homeschoolers find the transition to college much easier than their public school counterpart. First of all, homeschool parents tend to give more independence to their children to take charge of their education by the time they are juniors and seniors in high school. One of the goals of homeschooling is to teach children how to teach themselves. Another is to give a student a love for learning.
College is no different, and many colleges seek out homeschool students because they have seen how homeschoolers are not focused on learning only to pass a test or to get a good grade, but they learn because they love to learn.
Phi Kappa Phi is the nation’s oldest and most selective collegiate honor society. One of their goals is to recognize students who “love to learn.” If this collegiate honor society understands that the most successful people must have a love for learning, then perhaps this also explains why so many homeschoolers successfully obtain a college diploma.
7.) Homeschooling parents are responsible parents.
Clearly, this doesn’t mean parents who do not homeschool are not responsible, but rarely do you find parents who are as committed to the education of their children than homeschooling parents. They take their parenting responsibilities seriously and strive to help their children, whether they are gifted or struggling learners, to become productive members of our society. Homeschoolers come from many different backgrounds and philosophies, so one cannot generalize; however, homeschooling results in as much character training for the parent as it does for the student. Parents who homeschool over many years realize the road isn’t easy, but they homeschool because they believe it is best for their family and their children. Those who try it and return their children to public or private schools do it for many reasons as well. The state or public school system will never replace a parent’s love and care for a child. We should always expect and believe that parents above anyone else are responsible, accountable, and motivated as home educators because they love their children.
For additional information on how homeschooling compares with public schooling: Click here.
Camille Cantwell graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Journalism and Political Science. She worked for the Wisconsin State Assembly and Governor Tommy Thompson until 1989. She received her law degree from Regent University and was admitted to practice law in Indiana in 1993. Her license is currently on inactive status. She and her husband, David, have graduated their oldest son from their home school and are currently homeschooling their high school-age son.