Sunday, January 28, 2018

Homeschooling in not abuse

There is a terrible story in the news.  Two parents in California abused, shackled, tormented, and neglected their 13 children, who seem to have been forgotten by society.  This is one of the most disturbing cases of child abuse I have ever heard of, it is sickening, it is evil. 

The news media has classified this family as a "homeschooling" family.  Lets be very clear - this is not a homeschooling family.  The father in this family registered his home as a private school - he lied, these kids were not in a private school. They received no education, there was no private school. Just because they were kept home, does not mean they were homeschooling - they were truant.  This abuser found a loophole in a law so that he could continue to abuse.  Just to be very clear, I completely condemn the actions of this man and woman and hope they receive the full penalty for their heinous crimes against their own children.

This post isn't actually about abuse, because abuse is always wrong and that is the end of the story. This post is about a media narrative and a growing suspicion of loving and kind homeschooling families.

In 2016 California passed a law that all students in public schools had to be 100% compliant with vaccines, and this would be checked in Kindergarten and 7th grade.  Medical exemptions tripled. So they added that any doctor giving a medical exemption could have their practice investigated and if a third party found that exemption in error, they would no longer be eligible for insurance payments (basically their practice would be ruined)  Medical waivers became so very rare that even children that maybe should have them were denied because doctors didn't want to bet their livelihood on the third party decision. As a result, 15,000 students withdrew from the public schools in order to home educate.

Multiply that 15,000 by the average $10,600 that schools receive per student (some based on property taxes, some state delegated funds, some federal aid) And that is a whopping 159 Million dollars out of the system. While public schools still get some of those funds, 10% is federal aid - that is gone.  The mix of local and state aid varies so much it can literally change district to district, between 40% and 80% of those funds (depending on district) are also gone - the state won't fund a child who isn't there. This puts local districts in more of a pinch, because they were counting on those students, now the students aren't there, so the funds aren't there, so they literally have to look at laying off staff. 

This is a long rabbit trail away from abuse, but it might help you understand why this story has been in the news every day for two weeks, especially in California, and why so many politicians are proposing additional rules for homeschooling families.

In the past two weeks I have received multiple messages from homeschooling families who have been contacted by relatives or friends and pressured to place their children back in public school because they believe homeschooling is "educational neglect" or "abusive" or "creates an environment for abuse and isolation" and frankly, this is offensive.

Legally homeschooled students are 40% less likely to die by child abuse or neglect than the average student nationally.

1 in 10 public school students are abused AT public school, often by the very people charged to protect and educate them.

But don't take my word for it - check out the National Home Education Research Institute's article here 

I think this quote from the article easily sums up my personal feelings about these types of suggestions -
"Wexler, the executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform and a self-identified liberal, in his article “Protect homeschooled children from child savers,” put it this way: “Why are homeschoolers a special target of 21st century child savers?  Because we liberals tend to stereotype them …” 
“Further, Wexler explained many of the unintended damages that mandatory homeschool home visits and interviews of children would inflict on children. For example, children react, even to temporary infringement of parental autonomy, with changes such as “… anxiety, diminishing trust, loosening of emotional ties, or an increasing tendency to be out of control.”
But this doesn't stop the well-meaning friend or family member from expressing their disapproval of your educational choice.  A simple google search could  yield everything they would ever desire to know about homeschooling, abuse rates among homeschooling families, and much more.

On an article posted in the Newark Advocate regarding the California abuse case (posted 1/25/18) several comments disparaged homeschooling families as abusive, secluded weirdos.  One woman stated that she planned to call CPS on her homeschooling neighbors because she didn't like that the children were playing outside during the day and that the family used a wood burner and electric heaters to heat their home, and had their gas turned off at the meter. 

No one wants to be Chicken Little here, but there are some rumblings of possible change and a time of possible backlash towards families who choose alternative means to educate their children.  Just this week the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) hosted a Facebook Live video discussing the closure of an online school and the actions of the Ohio Dept. of Ed. (here)  For those familiar with HSLDA, you understand that they do not consider online public schools to be homeschooling. I have never seen them engage in a conversation about the closure of an online public school, but I understand why they would in this case seeing as the Dept. of Ed. essentially made up rules and applied them retroactively to all online schools.  Another key similarity is the school funding issue, where the state of Ohio is seeking 60 million in reimbursement based on their retroactive attendance tracking rules.  Untangling the media "facts" on this closure is difficult, but everyone can agree this is a case of public schools trying to reclaim funding.

So what can I, the average homeschooling mom, do to protect my children, to educate my friends and neighbors, and to ensure that homeschooling is still an accepted method of education?

1 - Join the HSLDA - They are there if trouble ever comes knocking.  I can call and get immediate representation, I can also know that my membership pays for lobbyist at the state and federal level who continuously promote and represent my desire to homeschool my children.

2 - Get to know my neighbors and be open with my friends and family.  The fact is as a homeschooling mom I have NOTHING to hide.  No, it isn't their business, but raising a wall and cutting off friends and family only raises suspicions.

3 - Know what to do if a social worker shows up at the door.  The fact is that no matter how open and loving I am with my friends and neighbors, that won't stop a nosy old lady at the grocery from writing down my licences plate and calling the police because my kids aren't in school on a Tuesday morning.

4. Find local, in real life, support.  Yes, the internet is a wonderful invention but having a number of families who know you and your children through the library or your church or even a local homeschool group will benefit you greatly if there ever are false accusations made about your home.

5.Trust God. This is last because it is the most important thing, and I want you to remember it.  Many homeschooling families fully believe that the Lord called them to home educate.  God doesn't call us to impossible tasks, but rather He equips those He calls. Trust that His call to homeschooling isn't swayed by popular opinion or your less than supportive mother in law.

Wishing you many blessing on your homeschooling journey!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Happy New...

 "New Year New You"  all the slogans in advertisements to join a gym, or read more books, save more money.... all slogans that say "Improve yourself" and imply that you maybe aren't quite good enough the way that you are... 

I asked a friend what she thought of "New Years Resolutions" and she said she thought that it implied that she knew there was something that needed fixing but that she had just been waiting around not working on it, and I agreed and we talked about our mothers and how their new years resolutions turned out.  It got me thinking about how my own children would one day look at me, and how we are slowly becoming our mothers, and how that really isn't a bad thing at all, but it scares us.  

I thought I would be better at this by now.  That there was some wonderful age where I would have more answers than questions, when the everyday trials would cease and everything would just "work out" and that isn't something a new years resolution, or even 30 years worth of new years resolutions can fix.  It's like we're waiting for that imaginary finish line where someone says "You made it!" 

" know what? some nights we want someone to kick the shins of the dark for us, Lord, to punch fear in the face for us, someone to throw down a finish line and say "Look! You Win!"And yeah, You nod, because You get it, because You've got us, and You punch fear in the face with one line, with all Your love: 'Perfect love casts out all fear.'And You kick back the dark with one brilliant turn: 'The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.' And You throw down a finish line for us -- your own bleeding heart -- and say those three words: 'It is Finished' " Ann Voskamp
There isn't a resolution out there that can top all that has already been done for me!
Your perfect love casts out all fear, and you have not given me a spirit of fear, but one of power and love and sound judgement.
You have overcome the darkness and I get to be more than a conqueror through Him who loved me ,
It is Finished - making Jesus the first born among many brethren - and I get to be His little sister.

Though the world may say I need a better resolution - but I have been given better promises and every spiritual blessing. So that when is seems like things should be better by now, I can trust that ALL things are working, just now, together for good and things that seem to be falling apart are really just falling together for His Glory.

And the best resolution isn't made when the 'new year' rolls around and we all wake up feeling a little bit older and like we need to work a little bit harder (because that way lies the yoke of slavery again to the old) but the best resolution is the promise that is made...
Isaiah 43:19-21 Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert. "The beasts of the field will glorify Me, The jackals and the ostriches, Because I have given waters in the wilderness And rivers in the desert, To give drink to My chosen people. "The people whom I formed for Myself Will declare My praise."
Yes! These words I heard echoing in my spirit last fall as we celebrated His feasts.
 "I am doing something new...." 

May my only resolution be, that His Praise is on my lips, and His Glory is revealed.  Because I am convinced that even now, He is doing something new in me, and may it be so in all of us.