Dear Ms. Bartholet: An Educator’s Open Letter – Homeschooling Is Not the Problem

Dear Ms. Bartholet,

As an educator, I would like to take this article to address some of the claims made in your article.

You make the following points of conjecture concerning homeschooling in your paper:

  1. States do not provide effective regulation to ensure adequate education (p.3)
  2. Homeschooled children are at serious risk of abuse and neglect (p.4)
  3. Homeschool supporters make the “factual claim” that homeschooled students actually perform better than publicly schooled students, but that science is “flawed” due to a lack of information on actual homeschooling numbers (5)
  4. Homeschooling parents are religious ideologues who live in near total isolation (9)
  5. Parents who homeschool are uneducated (9-10)
  6. Homeschoolers are less likely to be civically engaged (17)
  7. Those who support homeschooling are politically motivated and therefore any studies they conduct are “advocacy science” not real science (19-20)

I am addressing these concerns in regards to Washington state where I reside and teach at the college level. I hope this information will add to your research in meaningful ways and help you to understand the backlash you have been experiencing.

  1. Washington has numerous requirements for those who wish to homeschool based on the following website: They include, but are not limited to the following requirements: teach “occupational education, reading, writing, spelling, language, math, social studies, history, science, health and art and music appreciation.” They are also required to teach “a minimum of 180 days per year (or average of 1,000 hours)” and to provide for homeschooled children to “participate in one of the following types of annual assessments – Standardized test approved by the state board administered by a qualified person” or have a “Washington state certified teacher evaluation of child’s academic progress.”
  2. Any child not being treated well by an adult is “at serious risk for ongoing abuse and neglect” but to assume that this is more so in “isolated families that constitute a significant part of the homeschooling world” is irresponsible. Where is the part of your studies comparing the living situations of abused children? It seems you are making this claim with an aim to support your thesis without providing full citation of relevant and significant studies.
  3. Because Washington requires homeschooling parents to follow guidelines such as providing an intent to homeschool and keep accurate records of testing by approved proctors, there is science available on this for those who wish to have accurate data.
  4. According to scientific statistical measures, to gain accurate data that contains a 1.4% or less margin of error, one must include 5000 or more people in a survey. Please provide the 5000+ people in a scientific survey that admitted to being both homeschoolers and religious ideologues that also keep their children in near isolation. (I surely hope you conducted this before the quarantine.)
  5. Repeat of point 4 with a focus on college educated homeschoolers. Also, does your data include all of the homeschooling coops that have retired or current state certified teachers teaching the subjects in which they are endorsed? No such evidence was listed in your article therefore your data is incomplete.
  6. As a college professor, I have written dozens of reference letters for previously homeschooled students for admissions to various programs and even universities (including Yale) where I highlighted their community service. Where is your scientific survey on this matter?
  7. Every study is by nature a political one if those studying, compiling and publishing the information are trying to address a problem that may have a political solution. Your own study is politically motivated as shown by the goal you state on page 50 where you propose that a “new legal regime should impose a presumptive ban on homeschooling.”

I admire your desire to prevent child abuse and neglect. You rightfully mention case studies of homeschooled students where abuse happened. The case of Tara Westover and the book entitled Educated (4) presents a valid case against child abuse. You cannot wrongfully assume that such a case represents all homeschooling parents. You also mention the Hart family (12-13) who committed murder-suicide when they drove their homeschooled children off a cliff. Why did you not mention that the Harts were a lesbian couple with six children they had adopted out of foster care and that CPS and the court system continually failed to protect them? This was a clear case of abuse, regardless of whether or not the children were homeschooled or not. Even a sheriff’s Lt. Shannon Barney mentioned that both women “succumbed to a lot pressure” and said nothing of their homeschooling.

Children need to be protected and we agree on that. Yet overreaching government is not the answer. At what point does a homeschooling parent have to teach something they believe is morally wrong because the state says they have to. This is why you are getting pushback. Religious freedom is a good thing. When people use that freedom to abuse children then we have laws to hold them accountable. You would be much wiser to address the broken system of Child Protective Services then going after tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of homeschoolers who only want the best for their children and who would wholeheartedly agree with you on the issue of abuse.



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