Thursday, October 21, 2004


Nebraska put in place a set of homeschooling laws that were fairly good . . . but that was 20 years ago, a national homeschooling advocate says. ‘’In dog years, they’re 140 years old,’’ quipped Scott Somerville, staff attorney with the Home School Legal Defense Association (www.hslda.org).

Twenty years of experience has shown that the tight regulation and oversight of homeschooling that state government thought it should have a generation ago is basically pointless. Nebraska doesn’t require detailed record-keeping or testing, the way some states do, but it does require information to be reported about the curriculum scope and sequence, number of hours of instruction, parental background, and other matters. Furthermore, the State Board of Ed has the option, although it has not exercised it, of requiring testing and home visits by state government officials. Having that option in place is always a worry.

But the legislative trend has been more favorable toward homeschoolers in recent years. There’ve been good moves, like the one by State Sen. Pam Redfield last session to ensure that the extension of the age of compulsory education from 16 to 18 didn’t hurt homeschoolers. Now their parents can decide whether the child had met graduation requirements, instead of going by chronological age. This was a nod to the fact that homeschoolers are commonly a grade level or two ahead of their public-schooled peers.

Homeschooled students are consistently on Nebraska’s lists of top scholars on the SAT and ACT, have won numerous academic contests over their public-school peers, and have gradually gained acceptance into the mainstream of Nebraska education. See the Nebraska Christian Home Educators Association (www.nchea.org) for more.

The track record shows that any government requirements that homeschooling moms and dads have to be certified teachers are groundless, and any thought that homeschooled students should take the same curriculum-based assessments that public-school students have to take is ridiculous, since homeschooling curriculum is different and, most observers would say, based on results, better.

Meanwhile, concerns about the public-school environment, and the desire to instill more religious and moral instruction for their children, have contributed to the growth of homeschooling in Nebraska, with little or no muss or fuss. Two main reasons to be exempted from public schooling are used, which pretty much cover the bases: religious reasons, and nonreligious reasons.

Fears about whether the kids will be able to blend in to the greater society have been assuaged, not only by the good college and career track record of the past generation of homeschooled kids, but also by all kinds of group activities and opportunities that have arisen for them, such as sports leagues and choirs, to provide purposeful socialization with peers.

Homeschooling has grown to the point where now, if all Nebraska homeschooled kids were gathered into one group, they’d form one of the largest districts in the state. Note that 4,200 people attended a Christian homeschooling convention in Denver in mid-June. That’s mainstream, by the numbers.

‘’Homeschooling is growing about 7 to 15 percent per year,’’ Somerville said. ‘’It’s growing more visible and more accepted every year.’’

Somerville said the regulations are not great, not good, but ‘’fair’’ in Nebraska, and could stand an update. For example, he pointed to a Lincoln family who last year couldn’t, in good conscience, turn in all the personal information the State Department of Education requires. This information, Form B of the State Board of Education’s Rule 13, calls for various personal data beyond name, rank and serial number. The form is an example of what today’s homeschooling leaders call an ‘’outdated’’ regulatory approach, since homeschooling’s track record has shown that homeschoolers generally do as well or better than highly-regulated public-schooled children.

The Lincoln family contacted the HSLDA to help them navigate the choppy, uncharted waters of what the educrats might call ‘’noncompliance.’’ They faced possible truancy or child neglect charges. After exchanging letters, the State Department of Education turned the matter over to the Lincoln Public Schools, recommending that they prosecute this family.

But LPS wisely declined. What’s the point? So it looks like all is well.

Good job, LPS.

Good job, homeschoolers.

Micromanaging regulations: you’re an old dog, and a dead dog. You’re a dog that won’t hunt. Look at the facts: homeschooling’s doing fine without a lot of state interference. HOWL-eluia!


NEW HOMESCHOOLER ORIENTATION MEETING is scheduled from 3 – 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 26, by the Omaha chapter of the Home Educators Network. Persons residing in the greater Omaha area and western Iowa are encouraged to attend. Support will be offered for those who want to homeschool for both religious and nonreligious reasons. Contact Phyllis Titus, 895-0817, or Board@OmahaHEN.org for location and details.

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