2019 Bill Watch – Kindergarten and Compulsory School Age

IAHE and IAHE Action continue to work with legislators to promote a parent’s right to educate their child at home and to act in the best interest of the child. We believe that all efforts to lower the Compulsory School Age should be stopped and with your help will make sure our elected officials in Indianapolis hear our voices.

Every year the IAHE and IAHE Action watch as legislators are asked once again to lower the compulsory school age. The 2019 session is no different.

Currently, in Indiana, the compulsory school age is seven. However, House Bill 1408 and Senate Bill 318 recommend lowering it to five. House Bill 1089 proposes allowing four-year-olds to attend school; however, it is not asking for mandatory enrollment at this age.

The IAHE and IAHE Action believe that parents are the best people to decide if a child is ready for formal education.

Many teachers and school administrators complain about the increase in student behavioral issues (ADD, ADHD etc.) and we can’t help but wonder if they should consider whether this is a result of formal education simply starting too early.

While this might appear to be a public school issue, experience tells us the government paves with a very broad brush, and these changes will eventually force home educators to start educating their children at an earlier age.

Just a few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a member of the House Education Committee. He told me there was data suggesting some kids would benefit from an earlier start. But, the fact is that there is research on both sides of the issue.

A recent Harvard study highlighted many of the problems associated with early school enrollment: “researchers discovered that children who start school as among the youngest in their grade have a much greater likelihood of getting an ADHD diagnosis than older children in their grade. In fact, for the U.S. states studied with a September 1st enrollment cut-off date, children born in August were 30 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than their older peers.”

The first obvious problem is that kindergarten is already available for students voluntarily. That leaves a small number, maybe 7,000 children, across the state who aren’t enrolling in kindergarten already.

Fans of lowering the compulsory school age claim that 5,000 of these children are “at risk.” Now you’re probably wondering, what does “at risk” mean? As best we can tell it means they are being serviced by the Department of Child Services, Correction Services, Family and Social Services, or the juvenile justice system.

Proponents of lowering the Compulsory School Age claim that children starting school earlier leads to improved educational outcomes. However, an analysis by Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute of a study cited by many advocates of lowering the age shows it relies on data from an “unpublished draft.”

This “data” cited by proponents seems to be a mirage.

Homeschoolers are often more relaxed in their approach to early education since they have a flexibility that is not available in the public school system. 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. Parents know that by waiting to address an issue when the child is ready, they can learn the concept much more quickly. Waiting did not hurt but helped.

Our children are not “cookie cutter” kids. Some will be ready for a “formal” education earlier than others. We also see a more relaxed approach resulting in high levels of success in Finland’s school system. (((citation))) Compulsory school age is seven, playtime is beneficial, and the love of learning for learning’s sake is emphasized over assessments. Learning is (or should be) fun for young children!

IAHE and IAHE Action continue to work with legislators to promote a parent’s right to educate their child at home and to act in the best interest of the child. We believe that all efforts to lower the Compulsory School Age should be stopped and with your help will make sure our elected officials in Indianapolis hear our voices.

How can you help?

Let your legislators know that you don’t want to see the compulsory school age lowered.

Senate: Education and Career Development Committee

House: Education Committee

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Whose Children? Rethinking Schools and Education

Frank Schnorbus, President of Nevada Homeschool Network, has written an excellent piece about the history of government-run education.  Compulsory attendance laws are discussed, as well as, whether or not citizens are well-served by government involvement in education. He leads us to consider what is required to be truly educated and to question if it can even occur with government involvement.

While our American school system may have the appearance of a static and unchanging institution, it is not. “Fix our failing schools!” has been the steady mantra from school reformers of all stripes for more than one hundred years. Convinced that the Civil War would not have happened if there had been a public education system to help us understand one another, public school advocates of the late 19th and early 20th centuries lobbied state legislatures for a statute to fully fund schools and a statute to compel attendance at those schools. Inspired by the success of school reformers of 17th century totalitarian Prussia, these visionaries successfully reproduced the government-controlled German system that appeared to render obedient citizens with morals and academics. Government, however, was the latecomer in education. Driven by different objectives, the Church, parents, and finally the government have historically sought to control the educational system in European countries and later here in America. A balance today in education between historical expectations, differing objectives, and individual rights is a futile effort because we have adopted a system intended for a totalitarian state, not our pluralistic and democratic society.

By tracing the origins of the modern state school system driven by the incongruent objectives of parents, the Church, and the state, this article is intended to show that a satisfactory balance can never be attained, and that the system must be replaced, not repaired, for true education to occur. The difference between schooling and education is defined, and then the origins and world reaction to Prussia’s school system are discussed. The economic and social justifications used to justify government involvement in schools are then revisited, and contemporary English, Prussian, and French arguments regarding public school laws are examined. The objectives of parents, then of the Church, and then of the state in a child’s education are considered. Compulsion in a free society and criticisms of existing government school systems are then noted before the final conclusion.

At Work For You

When Mark Twain quipped, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education” (Twain, n.d.), what did he mean? Is there a difference between “school” and “education”? Brian Ray, president of National Home Education Research Institute, defines academic schooling as a small part of the overall life education of a child, which also includes the child’s philosophy, morals, manners, and usefulness in his or her community (personal communication, March 9, 2010). Public school advocate Christopher Lubienski, Associate Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign, noted “an emerging recognition of the difference between ‘public education’ and ‘public schools'” (Lubienski, 2003, p. 478). Yet we often say “education system” when we really mean “school system,” or “compulsory education” when we actually mean “compulsory school attendance.” All 50 states compel school attendance, but not one has a law requiring an education for a child. The debate we have today over schools and education has not occurred spontaneously.

Read more here.