Homeschooling is legal in Pennsylvania, but the regulations imposed on homeschooling families are among the strictest in the nation. Recently, one family decided to sue the state on grounds that the rules impose an unreasonable restriction on their freedom of religion. Reading that article, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's editorial in response, reminds me that we must never, never become complacent about our rights, nor take our freedoms for granted. The Post-Gazette wonders,

To us, the requirements seem rather minimal. Parents must submit an annual affidavit to the local school superintendent outlining their educational goals. They must turn in a log at the end of the year showing what subjects were taught and when. A neutral, certified teacher reviews the work and interviews the child. Standardized tests are required at several grade levels.

What is the problem with that?

One problem is that such an attitude betrays appalling ignorance of what homeschooling is all about. It is not about taking the philosophies, methods, systems, procedures, and materials of school and trying to squeeze them into one's living room. Rather, homeschooling liberates children and families to pursue learning in creative ways that are not possible when subjected to classroom-mentality restrictions.

Putting unnecessary shackles on independent learners actually inhibits learning. Requiring logs of “what subjects were taught on what days, what work was done and the time spent on it,” and similar attempts to force a “school at home” mentality on Pennsylvania’s home educators would have stifled our family’s liberal—and liberating—approach to education.

I'm glad we lived in Florida when our children were of school age. Florida's homeschooling regulations are still unnecessarily invasive, but require less than a quarter of what Pennsylvania demands. Pennsylvania would definitely not have approved of our home education program. However, even the most ardent critic of homeschooling would have difficulty saying that our approach did not provide a proper education. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, the University of Rochester, the Eastman School of Music, and Pittsburgh’s own Carnegie Mellon University are among the schools that considered our children’s educations to be very fine indeed. Our success was due in great measure to freedom from the “school mentality” that Pennsylvania’s rules impose.

I wish this couple, and others who are pursuing the freedom of religion angle, success in their efforts to reduce the Commonwealth's intrusion into that most personal, and critical, area of ours lives: the education of our children. However, I would hope that all of Pennsylvania's homeschoolers would see this as their issue as well. The right to educate our children in the way that we deem best should not be limited to those with strong religious convictions.

Pennsylvania’s educational, historical, and cultural resources would appear to make it an ideal location for a homeschooling family. Florida offers less culture, but more of the freedom that breeds enthusiastic, lifelong learners. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Pennsylvanians could have both?

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, November 6, 2004 at 4:57 pm | Edit
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Two thoughts, though I shouldn't be writing this late at night... First, the editorial appeals to common sense as the first argument. Warning bells go off imediately. Second, it suggests that other states are "foolishly negligent" for not being as restrictive on homeschoolers as PA. If that's true, shouldn't there be some strong evidence that the "homeschoolers" of those states have cases where the system let "a few kids grow up knowing nothing."? But I guess that's what editorials are - oppinions without much research. P.S. Don't judge my education on my spelling...

Posted by Janet on Saturday, November 06, 2004 at 11:46 pm
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