More Regulation for Homeschooling?

A guest post by Shane Vander Hart,
homeschooling dad and editor of Caffeinated Thoughts

Provided the state of Massachusetts lifts its social distancing measures, Harvard Law School's Child Advocacy Program will host a homeschooling summit this June.

Like you may guess,
the private, invite-only summit's purpose
is not about the benefits and efficacy of homeschooling.
Instead, the discussion is centered on
further regulation of homeschooling
to "protect children."

The event's description reads: "We will convene leaders in education and child welfare policy, legislators and legislative staff, academics and policy advocates, to discuss child rights in connection with homeschooling in the United States. The focus will be on problems of educational deprivation and child maltreatment that too often occur under the guise of homeschooling, in a legal environment of minimal or no oversight."

An Iowa Connection

No doubt, Iowa's independent private instruction law will be a topic of discussion.

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), which is slated to provide three speakers for the summit, blamed the horrific death of Natalie Finn on Iowa's lack of oversight for homeschoolers.

However, the Iowa state ombudsman, who released a 116-page report on its four-year-long investigation of Finn's death, pointed to the failure of the Iowa Department of Human Services to protect Finn, not Iowa's homeschooling laws.

I'm sure that fact is lost on the Harvard summit speakers and attendees, as well as The Des Moines Register.

Let me state the obvious.

Parents who withdraw their children from public school
and do not educate their children at home
are not homeschooling.
That is truancy, not homeschooling.
That is illegal.

Parents who decide to take on the responsibility of homeschooling don't do so because it is the easiest path. It's not. It's incredibly hard, as many public school parents who are now attempting to provide educational pursuits for their children at home due to COVID-19 likely realize.


No one loves children more than their parents. No one knows children better than their parents. Parents have a vested interest in seeing their children succeed.

Yes, there are bad parents. In my 20 years of youth ministry experience with 13 years of experience serving high-risk kids, I interacted plenty of times with bad parents. I worked with kids in the foster care system who experienced abuse and neglect at the hands of parents. It was heartbreaking.

The public school system wasn't a magical deterrent to bad parenting or poor educational outcomes.


The Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities (CECANF) released a report in 2016 that identified those children who were at highest risk of becoming a fatality. Significantly, homeschooling was not a risk factor. However, a prior report to the state's social services or child welfare agency was a risk factor, similar to what we saw in Natalie Finn's case.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list risk factors for child abuse and neglect, and – surprise, surprise – homeschooling is not listed.

Social isolation is, but it is the truant, not the homeschooler, who seeks that state.  Those of us who home educate know we are not in it alone.

Accountability and support come on many fronts (family, friends, neighbors, church, homeschool support groups, co-ops, and more).

Homeschooling families are rarely socially isolated. Those who seek to homeschool well never are. Homeschooling is hard. Homeschooling takes commitment, and it takes a great support system.



Calls for increased regulation of homeschooling are often 
(as in the case of this summit gathering) 
presented as attempts to reduce child abuse.

For example,
some Iowa legislators have proposed 
that Iowa homeschooling families' 
constitutional right to privacy 
be disregarded via mandated home visits 
without documented due cause 
in an attempt to seek out abusive truants.




Since the freedom to homeschool is not one we have enjoyed for a long time in Iowa, we understand that we must be diligent in protecting it.

Keep track of what bills the Iowa Legislature is considering. Sign up for Homeschool Iowa's VoterVoice to stay in the know. Use the VoterVoice tool to find your legislators and contact them about bills that impact homeschooling and parental rights.


Get to know the candidates running for the Iowa House, Iowa Senate, and federal offices. Find out where they stand on parental rights and homeschooling. Then vote for those who support our freedom.

Currently, the Iowa House and Iowa Senate majorities are friendly to homeschooling. It wouldn't take much for that to change. So vote in the June 2 primary and in November.


Be sure to pray for our elected officials.

Pray that God will give them the wisdom to act. Pray for God to strengthen those who champion our freedom.



Shane Vander Hart is the editor of Caffeinated Thoughts where he writes daily about Iowa politics. Shane and his wife homeschooled all three of their adult children from kindergarten to high school graduation.
You can follow Shane on Facebook or Twitter.

More on the Summit

Harvard Symposium to Challenge Parental Rights
 From the article:
"One of this summit’s co-organizers is James Dwyer, a law professor at the College of William & Mary. He is the professor famous for claiming that “the reason parent-child relationships exist is because the State confers legal parenthood . . .'"

Harvard Summit to Discuss Regulating Homeschooling
From the article:
"The summit is being organized by Dwyer and Professor Elizabeth Bartholet. In Bartholet’s recent article in the Arizona Law Review, 'Homeschooling: Parent Rights Absolutism vs. Child Rights to Education & Protection,' she 'recommends a presumptive ban on homeschooling, with the burden on parents to demonstrate justification for permission to homeschool.'"

Harvard Magazine Calls for a “Presumptive Ban” on Homeschooling: Here Are 5 Things It Got Wrong
From the article:
"As a Harvard alum, longtime donor, education researcher, and homeschooling mother of four children in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I was shocked to read the article, 'The Risks of Homeschooling,' by Erin O’Donnell in Harvard Magazine’s new May-June 2020 issue. Aside from its biting, one-sided portrayal of homeschooling families that mischaracterizes the vast majority of today’s homeschoolers, it is filled with misinformation and incorrect data."

Homeschooling in the Crosshairs—Harvard Magazine Says Homeschooling Families Are a Threat to Democracy
From the article:
"At first glance, the [Harvard Magazine article] would be expected to address 'risks' involved in homeschooling. As it turns out, that is not really the aim of the story at all—instead, it launches a full broad side against homeschooling, basically calling for its abolition.

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