Code Word: Pedagogue | Teeny Manolo

Code Word: Pedagogue

By Glinda

Is your neighbor a criminal?

Recently a California judge stunned the estimated 200,000 or so homeschoolers in California by ruling that it is illegal to homeschool in that state.  The only way that a parent can educate their child outside of a school, whether private or public, is to have a valid teaching credential.


So medical marijuana is cool, but don’t you dare think that you can teach your child outside of the school system!   You lawbreaker you!  Criminal prosecution was also implied as a possibility for those who are so brazen as to think they could do a better job than underpaid, overworked teachers in a spotty school system that allows as many as 34 students per class.

Because we all know that children get a fabulous education when the teacher has to deal with 30+ students in one small space all day.  Talk about trying to herd a bunch of cats, especially a set of cats who would rather be anywhere than the classroom.

I know that homeschooling has a rep for being a refuge for those who have their own deeply held religious beliefs and the like.  However, there are many other reasons that parents homeschool and I’m not sure I agree with the ruling.   Parents who cannot afford private school and yet reside in sub-par public school districts should be able to have some other option.  Also, parents of children with certain disabilities might find it easier to school at home. 

On the other hand, I do think it might be a good idea for homeschooling parents to undergo some sort of training, because teaching is not an easy job.  I’m not sure a full-blown credential is necessary, however.   Perhaps some sort of test? Just to make sure the parent themselves know what they are doing?  Devising a curriculum is not for the weak of heart.

There are many school districts that have programs available to parents where they assist with the curriculum, but the actual teaching is done by a parent at home. I think that is a nice compromise that allows some oversight into the education, but gives flexibility to the parent.

And to think, the particular case which brought about the brouhaha wasn’t even really about homeschooling, but about possible child abuse.

I can see it now, moms developing secret codes and handshakes to communicate with one another.  Neighborhood watches set up to get a whiff of a possible police raid, with the ability to transform mini classrooms to innocent dining rooms in an instant, a la the speakeasies of the 1920’s.  Payrolls, hush money, and “enforcers” would ensure the proliferation of homeschooling.

Yup, apprehending those scofflaw moms would be right up there with robbery suspects as a top priority for law enforcement. 

I call that tax money well spent!

26 Responses to “Code Word: Pedagogue”

  1. BigRed Says:

    Your linked statement (“illegal to homeschool”) is inflammatory, although you did clarify later in the sentence that it is legal if parents have some sort of credentialling. Turn the statement around, and apply it to the public schools (i.e. students deserve to be taught by teachers with credentials) and you have a statement that we pretty much all understand and agree with.

    I have a special-needs kid, and know a number of my colleagues in this area do home-school because the public schools don’t offer the kind of instruction they need. However, I know a LOT of parents who homeschool because they don’t want their kids exposed to minorities, actual science (as opposed to “Intelligent Design”), religious differences, and any other views that differ from their own. Here, the push for home-schooling is a lot LESS about the kids’ needs, and a lot MORE about the parents’ need to forward an agenda of their own. It’s a little like the madrassas, in a way, although the philosophy is different…

    I would think, particularly as the curriculum moves from the elementary school lessons to more challenging and specialized topics (AP biology, chemistry, American government, etc.) it would be next to impossible for a parent to educate a child at parity with the schools. I have a PhD in chemistry, and years of work in infectious diseases (learning by osmosis), so I could probably handle those. But, my physics and calculus skills are really lousy, my French is rusty, my grasp of the nuances of the classics is probably not as strong as it should be. I think at some point, you have to admit your own skill gaps.

    Finally, is this actually what kids WANT or NEED? They have to live in the world, which is made up of people who learn at different rates, believe different things, and all want attention. One thing homeschooling is, is tailored. It could be very difficult to move from an environment where your success is the very reason for being for the parent-teacher, to a work or college setting where you really are NOT the only priority for the person in charge.

    What’s the problem with augmenting your kid’s education through discussions, museum and library trips, vacations and travel, serving as a tutor, and the myriad other ways to stay involved? And, if the issue is your particular “ism”, then enroll the child in an accredited private school that caters to your cultural and/or religious leanings?

    Wow, that was long-winded!

  2. Glinda Says:

    @Big Red- I would rather a long-winded, well-thought out comment than a short one that makes no point. I’m guessing that the vast majority of homeschooling parents do NOT have a valid teaching credential, which makes the vast majority of them illegal, so I don’t think my first statement was really all that inflammatory. Apparently the law has been on the books since the 50’s, it’s just that it was never enforced. They expect an appeal on this case, so we’ll see what happens in a higher court.

  3. cheeky Says:

    I live in California, and I have known a number of kids who were homeschooled. Most of them were taught at home to preserve the family’s religious beliefs. In one of the several articles I read about this decision, a man who homsechools stated that his goal was to shield his kids from the harmful effects of homosexuality and learning about evolution. It seems to me that if you are so determined to teach at home, it shouldn’t be such a terrible hurdle to get credentialed.

    Also, there are mandatory class size limits in the lower grades in this state.

  4. Ana Says:

    Wow I hadn’t heard of this ruling! But I agree that parents should not have their homeschooling rights taken away from them. The NCLB act certainly isn’t working, so parents have to think outside the box these days. Not everyone can afford private school. I have often thought of homeschooling my son on a regular basic. I did so over the summer and he has greatly benefited from it in this school year. Most studies done on homeschooled kids show that they are at state academic expectations or higher. It was my understanding that homeschooling mandates were already in place in most states if not all to ensure certain criterias were met so homeschooled kids would not lack educationally. How this discussion has definately given me food for thoughts. Glinda I so agree with your thoughts.

  5. Brian's Babymomma Says:

    I think it’s important to remember, that homeschooling is still legal, as long as the child is checking in with an accredited teacher. Seeing an actual teacher once every two weeks wont kill a kid. I know Glinda mentioned that in her post, but sometimes it gets a little lost.
    What really freaks me out is that the government is regulating how I raise my kids. It’s my business if I want to raise an ignoramus. I personally am not a religious zealot, but I respect their right to raise their children as they see fit. It’s their job as a parent to bring their children up “right” whatever their version of “right” may be. The State mandating what my children must learn just crosses a boundary for me. And I’m planning on sending my kids to public school!
    Just look at wackos home schooling their kids as less competition when your child is trying to get into medical school….

  6. Glinda Says:

    @cheeky- Due to the current budget crisis in CA, those mandatory class limits might be a thing of the past. In fact, many teachers have been given pink slips this year, in anticipation of the class size reduction going bye-bye. And really, it only reaches up to either 2nd or 3rd grade (seeing as how schools can start the program in either K or 1st), so the sizes balloon after that.

  7. Glinda Says:

    @Brian’s Babymomma- From what I understand, the person giving the instruction must have the credential. The homeschooling programs that go through the schools do not qualify either.

  8. raincoaster Says:

    I never thought about it this way before, but distance learning is homeschooling, too. In that case, however, they are supervised by a credentialed teacher.

    There are a lot of people in Canada who homeschool because otherwise their children would spend up to four hours a day on the schoolbus, which we can all agree is not ideal.

    I see nothing wrong with insisting on a credentialed supervision of the process, but the one thing that I do know is that SOMEBODY’s going to lose the next election.

  9. Bex Says:

    I have to say, I’ve known a lot of homeschool families and kids (conservative Catholic college, lol) and although some of them come out socially awkward, in terms of education I’ve been pretty jealous. There are always fringe people, but I think homeschoolers overall catch a lot of flak that isn’t necessarily deserved. Also, pretty much all of the homeschoolers I know studied through programs designed by accredited teachers, and were part of groups of other families. I like the idea of homeschooling my kids (when I have them, hah) if it’s feasible. Also in response to BigRed’s comment about tailoring – definitely a valid point, but if what I’ve seen is at all representative they usually manage to adjust just fine, especially since (like I said before) many families arrange some sort of group setup so their kids have socialization and learn how to build relationships. Oh, and as a product of a Catholic highschool that wasn’t very Catholic: sometimes the schools that cater to any given “ism” in an area are only nominally connected, so parents wouldn’t even necessarily have to be all that “out there” to not be happy with their options.

  10. BigRed Says:

    This is a really interesting thread–lots of viewpoints that I hadn’t considered or heard before. Thanks for the rational, reasoned discussion!

  11. dgm Says:

    Brian’s Babymama hits on the real problem with the ruling, which is that the government is stepping in to tell you how to educate your kids.

    With all due respect to the credentialed teachers out there, credentialing is no guarantee of effective or competent teachers. (It’s a signal of additional coursework.) If it were, parents would not be so quick to opt out of the system.

  12. Jennie Says:

    One of my sisters started home schooling her teenage son for his last 2 years because he was being bullied and nothing was being done to stop it. Most of his course work is done on the computer and check by accredited teachers. My other sister started home schooling her 3 children when her son was suspended for “sexually molesting” another 7 year old child (they kissed each other on the cheek because they were boyfriend and girlfriend) She decided if they were teaching that innocent displays of affection were going on his school record as criminal offenses, she didn’t want him learning that love was wrong. She joined a co-op where parents teach to their strengths (she’s an RN so does science and biology). This group goes on field trips to museums, operas, zoos, etc. the children are taught in a safe and encouraging enviroment and checked frequently by the state. All three of her kids are testing out at least 2 grades higher than they actually are. I personally would not want to home school. I think that school teaches socialization and competition but if the local school system fails the way these two did, then I whole heartedly support parents looking for the best solution to education that they can afford. That being said, those that segregate their children out of fear or hatred of certain people, races, or doctrines are raising another group of ignorant bigots like themselves and their children deserve protection from the parents so they have some hope of learning to think…

  13. raincoaster Says:

    Fortunately, the age-old tradition of children rebelling against their parents virtually guarantees that the children of overprotective bigots will join the Peace Corps and turn Hippie once they get their first intoxicating taste of freedom.

  14. Bellamama Says:

    What a strange and invasive law! I suppose I’m a law-breaker if I teach my toddler A B C in preparation for preschool? And when I teach my son to use the words please and thank you, the government has the right to step in and put a stop to it? Where do they draw the line? How could they ever enforce such a law? Who writes these laws anyway?!?
    Funny, isn’t it, that I actually think homeschooling is a mistake? But I stand by the parent’s right to raise a family the way he or she chooses (within the bounds of health and safety, of course).

  15. pjs Says:

    In Oregon, children who are homeschooled are required to do the same testing as children in the public schools which seems quite reasonable. Overall, it is a pretty homeschool-friendly state, with parents homeschooling for a variety of reasons. There is a part of the state ed system that oversees homeschoolers and you register with them.

    Both of my kids are in public school, but I did homeschool one son with special needs for part of a year while he underwent some intensive therapies–which was exactly the right choice for him. It dramatically changed how he performed in school from that point on, when we re-enrolled him in a different public school which was more supportive. There are a wide variety of situations that come up with children which are much easier to judge if one is not having to personally deal with them.

    I realize that some posters are unfamiliar with the variety of reasons for homeschooling, but the use of words like “wackos,” “madrassas” and the repeated use of the word “bigot” to refer to parents who homeschool is not helpful, nor does it seem to practice the inclusiveness that it is feared that the homeschool parents are not practicing. It seems to me that reasonable oversight rather than criminalizing an educational alternative would be the best route.

  16. KES Says:

    Hi, would any of you like to hear an actual first-hand account of homeschooling? I was homeschooled by my religiously conservative parents from kindergarten through high school graduation. I achieved a 32 on my ACT, a 1460 on my (old style) SAT, and I am at a cumulative 3.9something GPA my junior year of college. I met another homeschool graduate, and we’re getting married after we graduate from college. He is planning on pursuing his PhD in metaphysics and epistemology, while I hope to go into archival work and homeschool my own kids some day. We watch movies, we go to concerts, we have friends, we crack dirty jokes, we play Dungeons and Dragons, we still go to church every Sunday. He’s a professional chef and veteran of the US Coast Guard; I worked a full-time job this summer in a financial advising firm without making a fool of myself. I play four musical instruments and sing in my college choir — my fiance plays a mean blues guitar and is a solo-quality bass-baritone.
    We have lives. We interact with people. We’re normal. Neither we nor our parents are “wackos” or bigots. Thanks for listening.

  17. Glinda Says:

    @pjs- I agree that the words used were perhaps not the most positive, but the statements did not characterize ALL homeschooling parents as such. In fact, most of these comments are in favor of the right to homeschool, regardless of the reason.

    @KES- I know that as Ana stated above, homeschooled children tend to score higher on standardized tests and perform well in higher education, which is great. However, I don’t think anyone characterized them as losers, or anything even close to that. All kinds of people homeschool for all kinds of reasons.

    That all being said, it cannot be ignored by anyone that there are indeed people who homeschool their children in order to teach them a specific, often religious, doctrine. What percentage of homeschoolers do they represent? I would be interested to find out.

  18. Eilish Says:

    Hmm, sorry it took so long to join this thread. There are lots of interesting comments here and I guess I have to say I am really surprised by a lot of the misconceptions and misunderstandings about homeschooling. I am also gratified that so many people believe in a parents right to choose the right school environment for their children.

    I was pretty shocked by some of the comments, though. As a CA parent who intends to homeschool her son, I have to say that I guess I thought a lot of the perceptions about homeschooling families being racist, bigoted, socially stunted luddites were a thing of the past!

    I think Glinda’s post was right on a lot of points. Yes, there should be accountability, and there is in most areas, whether that is imposed by the school district, individual school or the homeschool associations. I would like to see a school district that can match homeschooling’s statistics. 92% of homeschooled children test at or above their grade level and the drop out rate is statistically insignificant. Despite what the court said, performance should absolutely be a factor in the debate!

    Yes, many people homeschool their children to teach them a specific, religious philosophy as well as basic education. To answer Glinda’s question, that probably represents a pretty big percentage in my experience. It certainly would describe me. My question is: Isn’t that what most religious schools teach as well? Are we actually going to put limits on what religious views parents teach their children? If you think that the educational establishment doesn’t have an ideological agenda, especially in California, you have never taught in a public school (which I have). Your children are going to be taught ideology; it is your responsibility as parent to decide which ones your children are exposed to.

    I won’t bore you with the specifics of my own plans for homeschooling or the many variety of homeschooling families I have met and their many stories. The issue is bigger than any one family or one story. This is a fundamental issue of parents’ rights to raise and educate their children to the best of their ability and the creeping arm of government intrusion into the home. It is complex, and yet, it is not. I hope I have contributed to the thread. Thanks for the patience with this very long post.

  19. KES Says:

    Yes, I would also like to ask why we’re asking why or how many homeschooling families do so for religious reasons? Part of being a parent is to pass on your values to your children, but there are two ways that the parent can mess this up: 1, by passing on purely dogmatic values with no critical thinking skills or reason; or, 2, by refusing to pass on any values in the name of allowing their children to believe what they want, also neglecting critical thinking skills. I really don’t think there’s anything wrong with parents homeschooling their children to teach them their religion.. it’s what mine did.

  20. Glinda Says:

    @Eilish and KES- Let me clarify my question. You seem to take offense that people are characterizing homeschoolers as people who wish to teach their children religion, even though the vast majority of the comments support their right to do so, and I myself did so in the post.

    I am simply wondering what amount of homeschoolers do it for expressly that reason. I’m not passing judgement, I am simply wondering what the statistics are.

  21. KES Says:

    Thanks for the clarification… I really don’t know the statistics. The Home School Legal Defense Association ( might know.

  22. Eilish Says:

    I agree HSLDA would probably be the best source for those statistics, but so many people homeschool for multiple reasons that it might be difficult to pinpoint the primary one.

    Glinda, please let me also clarify. I was gratified that so many on this thread were open minded about school choice and parental rights. I was really reacting to comments like

    “a LOT of parents who homeschool because they don’t want their kids exposed to minorities, actual science (as opposed to “Intelligent Design”), religious differences, and any other views that differ from their own.”


    “Just look at wackos home schooling their kids as less competition when your child is trying to get into medical school….”

    which I simply found very surprising and, I think, detracted from your original post which very amusingly stated the rather obvious absurdities of criminalizing a segment of parents who are obviously very invested in the best education for their children.

    I think the reason that a lot of CA homeschoolers found this ruling so shocking is because, generally speaking, the attitudes about homeschooling families have been improving! More people see it as a valid educational choice and my reaction was mostly surprise that so many people still have such a negative view.

    I do think that my last point was important, though. Like Bellamama said, whether or not you agree with the specific issue of homeschooling, protecting the parents’ rights to raise their children in accordance with their beliefs and without unnecessary state interference is the real issue and is something that you touched on in your original post.

  23. raincoaster Says:

    Here we are:
    The reason for homeschooling that was most frequently cited as being applicable was concern about the environment of other schools including safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure. Eighty-five percent of homeschooled students were being homeschooled, in part, because of their parents’ concern about the environment of other schools. The next two reasons for homeschooling most frequently cited as applicable were to provide religious or moral instruction (72 percent) and dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools (68 percent).
    You can read the whole study over at the National Center for Education Statistics.

  24. Glinda Says:

    Ahhh, thanks for digging that up, raincoaster.

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