By now, every homeschooler has heard about the arrest of homeschooling parents in New York State. In a county that is rife with drug crime, the Sheriff chose to arrest parents who failed to file paper work. Now,we can choose to be outraged at the Montgomery County Sheriff who apparently had more time on his hands to arrest homeschoolers than he did to chase down real criminals, but I think we ought to stop for a moment and think about what the law is in New York. It requires families who homeschool to register with the school district. Like it or not, the parents didn’t follow the law, and therefore they faced the consequences. In fact, they avoided registering with the school district for 7 years. I feel badly for their situation, and I am thankful we do not have such laws here in Connecticut, but if I were a New York homeschooler, I would work to get that law repealed. Registration is a waste of time and only benefits the state (and that’s a whole ‘nother post).
I think the lesson to be learned here is not to be angry when the law is enforced, but rather to understand the laws under which you live. If you don’t like the laws in your state or county (or even your federal government), then you must work to get them changed or repealed. Not knowing the law is not an excuse not to follow it, and ignoring the law does not work either, as you run the risk of getting arrested as these parents did.
We all know that homeschool laws vary from state to state. There are states with very little to no regulation and others that have laws which are cumbersome and downright stupid. You might think that registering your child with the state is fine, however, true freedom to educate means that you answer to no one.
While legislators and bureaucrats may tell you that they only want to know how many kids are truly being homeschooled, and give you some other lame reasons why registration is a good thing, you must understand that it is the camel’s nose in the tent. Once you have to register, then homeschoolers are open to more regulations. There are states like Connecticut, where no registration is necessary, and those homeschoolers there do just fine.
More and more, homeschoolers across the country face threats to homeschool freedoms as their legislatures come into session. The assault is a constant occurrence, which is why we must continue to remain vigilant. We are always facing proposed legislation having to do with home visits, state mandated testing, medical exams, and other requirements. Also, as abuse and neglect issues get media attention, it may cause an even bigger legislative knee-jerk reaction to regulate homeschoolers. We must continue to explain that abuse and neglect are not homeschool issues – they are social problems that already have legal remedies in place. Furthermore, we really have to understand that homeschoolers should not accept state money for anything. It only makes us susceptible to accountability through regulation. If homeschoolers are going to take the money then they will have to jump through the hoops that the state will require. We should also be wary of legislation that promises to “help homeschoolers;” invariably they don’t.
Yes, we must know and understand and follow the laws which we live under, but we must also not allow ourselves to live under tyranny, and if the laws do not suit us, then it is up to us to change them.
The best advice we can give ourselves is to retain autonomy and be vigilant, and in the words of Deborah Stevenson, a well known homeschool advocate and attorney:
“It is time for all parents to wake up and look at what has been happening and to take back their right to control the education and upbringing of their own children. We encourage you to go look at the statutes and regulations in your state. Know your existing rights. If you believe they are far too intrusive, contact your state legislator and tell him there is a better way. Tell him that free parents dedicated to the education of their children will result in more success than ever has been attained in a public school. Tell him that an individualized educational program delivered in a one on one tutorial manner with flexibility of time and course content is vastly superior to the cookie cutter, one size fits all curriculum of any public school system. Tell them that as we are trusted to be law abiding citizens and that we should also be trusted to care for and educate our children without government interference. If there is articulable proof that we are not doing our job then we can be held accountable to the laws which already address neglect. Tell him to repeal any and all repressive legislation that takes away your right as a parent to instruct your child in freedom and with autonomy. Tell him enough is enough. Tell him that you want your freedom back.”