Letters to the Editor

Readers write about home schooling and public schooling.

Should states regulate home schooling?

In response to the March 10 article, "Home-schoolers reel from a court blow": A more constructive report might have focused on the overwhelmingly positive track record of home schooling success stories as an alternative to a public school system in crisis. Instead, the article chose to highlight the extremely rare incidences of abuse in home schooling by referring to the negative New York Times coverage, and then chose to give readers the impression that charter schools that serve home-schoolers are simply profiteering efforts.

I am a former California public school teacher who decided to leave the California school system and home-school my children because I saw firsthand how the public schools here fail to meet the academic, emotional, and social needs of children, and also how the funding for public schools is mismanaged on all levels of the institution.

I also serve as a vendor for several charter schools and I can verify from this experience that charter schools are conservative about allocating funds properly and, if anything, are underfunded in comparison with the full-time public schools. Above all, I commend the commitment of the many home school families I know who are so dedicated and conscientious about giving their children the best education and upbringing they can offer.

Enicia Fisher
Wildomar, Calif.

Regarding the recent article on home schooling: I strongly disagree with support for home schooling. This is an arena in which reactionary and obscurantist forces find an opportunity to operate behind a shield of libertarianism. It affords an opening to inflame generational tension over school taxes. Restriction of home schooling must be principled and fair, but the goal of public schools, locally supported and directed, must be maintained.

Thomas Parker
Oklahoma City

In response to the recent article on home schooling: As a parent of a 13-year-old eighth-grader who has been home-schooling for two years, I can say that we did not make the decision lightly. My son's state and national testing results in his last two years at public school declined from advanced in most subjects to proficient and even below. After the first year of his online charter school (which also requires state and national testing) he was almost back to previous levels, not to mention his manners and self-esteem have greatly increased.

Until the public schools are prepared to teach all types of children and keep them safe, we as parents have the duty to ensure that they get a quality education. I am not a credentialed teacher, but I am a self-employed single mother of two children (my 9-year-old daughter is in public school) who will do whatever it takes to see that they are intelligent, articulate, and prepared for their future. I feel that as a parent I have more interest in their education than anyone else. Universities are accepting home-schoolers with open arms due to their independent work ethic and quality of education.

Joleen Fahmy
Morro Bay, Calif.

Regarding your March 12 editorial,  "Protection for home schooling": I can think of instances where "children (as well as adults) are mere creatures of the state." But public schools exemplify democracy and civil society. They are community institutions overseen by elected school boards or committees. Home schooling is a retreat from the kind of engagement in public life that is necessary if our society is to flourish.

Some home-schoolers are already wondering why, if their children do not participate in it, they should pay taxes to support a public school system. The results of diminished funding are obvious. Home schooling is elitist, for who else but the well-to-do with lots of free time and a sophisticated educational background can afford to educate their children at home? This method isolates children, depriving them of the social life, the happy as well as contentious mix of social classes and experiences, that public school offers. How can you expect to sustain a society that encourages respect and equal opportunity for all if you disparage public schools and applaud "home schooling?"

Philip Chassler
Cambridge, Mass.

Regarding your recent editorial on home schooling: As a former teacher, and current professor, I have been called on by children's shelters to assess and to work with children who have been "home-schooled" and placed in state custody for other reasons. The shelters need to determine the students' level of academic achievement in order to continue their education.

I use the quotes around the term because "home schooling" is used as a cover by some abusive or neglectful parents to pull their children out of school.

That parents abuse their own children in such a way and are able to hide behind the banner of home schooling, is appalling.

Publicly, home-schooling networks argue against any regulation of home schooling. These children, and their abuse and neglect, are more important than a political stance against home schooling regulation.

While it is honorable to laud home schooled spelling bee winners, they are as uncommon as those who are abused. However, the abused are mentioned nowhere in your editorial. Home schooling with no oversight from state agencies does not protect our most vulnerable. States must regulate home schooling to some degree to prevent the neglect and abuse of children by their sometimes not-so-well-meaning parents.

Gwynne Ellen Ash
Austin, Texas

In response to your recent editorial on home schooling: Isn't it a bit presumptuous for those of us who are not school-teachers to assume that we as parents can do a better job of educating our children than professionally trained educators can?

Parents can make sure that our home environment is conducive to learning. We can make sure our children leave the house every morning with a good night's sleep and a healthy breakfast under their belts. We can turn off the television sets and video games so that our children are encouraged to read. When youngsters come home from school, we can ask how their days were and offer to assist with tough homework assignments. And we can be involved enough in our neighborhood schools to play a nonintrusive role in helping to improve them.

If parents did all of these things and let professional teachers do the classroom teaching, education as we know it today would take a quantum leap forward.

David Cranfill

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail we receive, we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. Any letter accepted may appear in print or on our website, www.csmonitor.com. Mail letters to Readers Write and Opinion pieces to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115. E-mail letters to Letters and Opinion pieces to OpEd.

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