Lowering Compulsory School Age and Mandatory Kindergarten; Oh, my!

In the past week, the Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. Jennifer McCormick, has called for legislation during the 2018 session of the Indiana General Assembly to lower the compulsory school age to six and to make kindergarten mandatory. The Democrats attempted to push similar legislation in 2015 that would have lowered the compulsory school age.

Are Your Children Missing?

She states that the government via public education is “missing a big chunk of kids.” We must never forget the original purpose for Common Schools (government-run schools). According to E.G. West, the author of Education and the State, public education’s purpose is to serve those who chose not to take responsibility for educating their own children.

As our sister organization, Indiana Association of Home Educators (IAHE), has noted on their blog, many are frustrated by the public schools and have decided to educate their own children.  Could these be some of the “missing chunk” of children?  IAHE has noticed what appears to be a large influx into the homeschool community as noted by calls and inquiries they receive about home education. They took a survey to see why parents had decided to remove their child from a traditional school setting to home school.

At-risk Families Put All Families At Risk

The Tribune Star article about the call for mandatory kindergarten states, [Indiana] “has 7,000 children who don’t take advantage of kindergarten, and of those, 5,000 are considered at-risk, she said. When they start formal schooling, those children face many disadvantages.” In case you are wondering the type of children who are “at-risk”, they may be children who are served by the Department of Child Services, Family and Social Services, the Department of Corrections, or the juvenile justice system.  

Unfortunately, if the compulsory school age is lowered and kindergarten becomes mandatory to force these families to put their child in school at an earlier age, it will affect homeschoolers, too. Government typically paints with a broad brush. Homeschoolers will be forced to begin formal education at an earlier age.

Homeschoolers take the view that education begins at birth, although they may not begin “formal” education until years later. Currently, in Indiana, that is age seven. A number of legislators have bemoaned the fact that there is a “gap” between pre-school and age seven and have hoped to close it.

Could Delayed “Formal” Education Actually Be Beneficial?

In a review of recent ISTEP scores, it appears a number of scores dropped between grades 3-8 and grade 10. Is it true in your area? Check out the results here. Could it be many students are burnt out with formal education and have lost their love of learning?

Homeschoolers are often more relaxed in their approach to education since they have a flexibility that is not available in the public school. If a homeschool student is not ready for a concept, a parent can wait a bit and circle back to it at a later date. Many parents have noticed that when the child is ready, they are able to learn the concept much more quickly. Waiting did not hurt but helped.  Our children are not “cookie cutter” kids. Some may be ready for a “formal” education earlier than others. We believe it is best to allow a fit parent to decide.

We see a more relaxed approach is used in schools of Finland.  It appears to be helpful to those students as well.  Compulsory school age is seven, and playtime is important. The love of learning for learning’s sake is fostered. There is not an emphasis on assessments. Learning is (or should be) fun for children!

In closing, IAHE keeps abreast of Indiana homeschool trends. They currently have a survey posted for those who chose to delay formal education until age seven. Check it out if this pertains to you.

 

Maintaining the Integrity of Home Education

Indiana Association of Home Educators (IAHE) and IAHE Action protect Hoosier parents’ autonomy to direct the education and upbringing of their children.  We know one of the biggest threats to our liberty is entanglement with government funding. When we hear of the government trying to “help” homeschoolers, we are very cautious as not to jeopardize our liberty. We remember the wise words of our second president, John Adams, “Liberty once lost is lost forever.”


Common Schools

Although Common Schools are mentioned in the Indiana Constitution, we wonder if the State remembers the history of Common Schools? According to E.G. West author of, Education and the State, the Common Schools were only for those families who did not desire to take responsibility to educate their children privately.

Before these government schools began in America, most families were privately educating their children in brick and mortar schools or at home. The Common Schools were first formed in the rural areas for those who did not have access to private brick and mortar schools. Common Schools were not universal, compulsory, or free. Parents had to pay to send their child to a Common School.

Those who benefitted economically from the Common Schools were the ones who advocated that schools become universal, compulsory, and free. Of course, human nature being what it is, people soon flocked to the “free/taxpayer funded” schools and the private options eventually withered. Today, most do not even realize that at one point in our nation’s history most everyone was privately educated, and public schools were basically non-existent. The United States had a very high literacy rate prior to the advent of Common Schools.

We have come full circle. Today, some advocate for the government to have control or “accountability” for all forms of private education through “school choice.” The state of Indiana has accountability requirements for private voucher-accepting schools that require the students to take ISTEP and to collect intrusive student data. Vouchers were originally “sold” to the public as having little to no regulation. Now some private school families whose school accepts voucher students feel like it was a “bait and switch.”  Their private school feels compelled to follow the state standards that resemble Common Core in order to do well on the state test to protect their school rating.

This is a valuable lesson for us to remember.  Home educators must fight hard to maintain our liberty for our families and our posterity.

 

Universal ESAs and Liberty

Should universal ESAs concern homeschoolers? Yes, according to attorney Jane Robbins of the American Principles Project.  In her July 19, 2016, article, “New GOP Platform: The Good, the Bad, and the Very Concerning” she writes, “Now for the troubling parts. The platform focuses a great deal on choice in education and endorses the concept of “portability” of education funding to be used for many different types of schooling (private or parochial schools, homeschooling, etc.) and with many different funding mechanisms (tax credits, vouchers, etc.). While efforts to shatter the government monopoly on education are laudable, extreme caution must be exercised to ensure—if this is even possible—that when government money follows the child, government regulations don’t follow as well. For example, a state that grants vouchers (such as Indiana) may require the private schools that accept voucher students to give the state Common Core-aligned test, which means the private schools will pretty much have to teach Common Core.  

“Choice” that results in all schools’, whether public or private, having to teach the same thing is no choice at all. The platform would have done well to acknowledge this danger.”

Ms. Robbins reminds us that “school choice” has the potential to trample on individual liberty. Universal government programs do not take into account the liberties of the individual even when they assure us that they will.

Nevada Homeschool Network learned this first-hand with Nevada’s ESA bill. There was an attempt to use their homeschool statute as the vehicle for the ESA bill. They were told they didn’t have to accept the ESA money if they didn’t want it. They fought too hard to gain their homeschool freedom after many years of bad homeschool regulations to take a chance on it. As we have recently seen in Indiana, confusion between virtual charter school students and home educated students has resulted in a threat of increased regulations for the homeschoolers. ESAs would cause increased confusion.

Homeschoolers always need to be concerned about guarding liberty and parental rights when dealing with elected officials and bureaucrats who think they are responsible for the education of all children and for determining how that education should present itself. IAHE has spent 33+ years protecting our rights.  Whenever a government “freebie” is accepted, there is ALWAYS a risk to liberty.


Indiana is a Leader in Home Education Freedom

We have excellent laws in Indiana that protect a parent’s right to educate their children.  The Indiana Constitution provides for schools that are open to all, but it does not say that all must be educated in a Common School under government control.

Homeschoolers do not accept state funding and do not have to register with the State; although, we may report enrollment.  We have the freedom to direct our children’s education and are not forced to submit test results to the State. As homeschool parents understand, we do not need to have a standardized test to inform us of our child’s progress. Teaching our children on a daily basis enables us to know how they are progressing. The Superintendent has the ability to check on students by requesting attendance records. Indiana also has educational neglect and truancy laws to deal with any issues that may arise.

When we are not entangled with the State, we have the ability to do what is the best for our children. We have the freedom to teach in the manner that best suits their needs.  As Dr. Karen Effrem of Education Liberty Watch shares, Indiana is rated an “F” on the Private School Choice Freedom Grading Scale due to the regulations associated with vouchers in the Hoosier state.  The schools that take vouchers must administer ISTEP; therefore, many schools feel obligated to teach Indiana’s version of Common Core in order to do well on the test.  

In order to be reimbursed for ESA expenses, families must submit receipts for expenses. Would homeschool families eventually be at risk for using faith-based or non-Common Core curriculum? Would the State decide we are not providing an equivalent education since they would have the ability to evaluate our curriculum?  The State ultimately decides which “choices” are acceptable. The State in charge of deciding which curriculum or providers are acceptable is a very troubling proposition. Homeschoolers currently have a real choice that is not limited by the State.

Home education works! Hoosier homeschoolers have proven that families of all income levels can successfully homeschool apart from government involvement. Leave us alone! The fact that families take this responsibility without State involvement should be encouraged. It increases self-respect and self-sufficiency.  The IAHE Testimonial page is a source of encouraging stories of Hoosier families who have educated their children without government assistance.

Over the course of the past three decades, Hoosier home educators have proven it does not take a lot of money to educate a child. Many have had the experience of eventually having children who end up being better educated than their parents. It takes a dedicated parent and not an exorbitant amount of money to educate a child.

Note: There are a variety of types of ESAs.  IAHE Action will assess each one and alert homeschoolers about required strings.

Who’s in Charge?

Who’s in charge of your child’s education? It depends on the type of school in which your child is enrolled. The type of school determines the amount of parental involvement and oversight. It is important to remember the Common Schools (public schools) were formed by the States to provide an education for those families who chose not to educate their child privately. Originally, they were not compulsory, universal, or free.*  “In Abington v. Schempp, the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed that education historically was privately-controlled and public schooling, in the modern sense, was non-existent.”**

Funding and control are key issues in the chart. On the left is the public school in which the parent gives full control to the State. The State funds the education and has maximum control. On the right is the home-based, non-accredited, nonpublic school which is how home schools are defined in Indiana Code. Home educators have full control of their child’s education. They also fund it.  Some who are enrolled in a home-based on-line public school such as Connections Academy or Hoosier Academy mistakenly believe their school is classified the same way as a home school. As you can see, those schools are classified in the third category under government-funded varieties and not in the eighth category with home education under privately-funded varieties.  We hope this helps clarify the differences in the various types of schools and their funding.

Click on the chart to enlarge it.

*The history of Common Schools in the US is from “Education and the State: A Study in Political Economy” by E. G. West, Liberty Fund, 1994, Third Edition, Revised and Expanded, Chapter 17.

**”The Right to Home School: A Guide to the Law on Parents’ Rights in Education” by Christopher J. Klicka, Carolina Academic Press, 1998, Second Edition, page 29.