State Senator Ed Maloney (D-Chicago) is attempting to more strongly regulate homeschooling in Illinois. As it currently stands, Illinois is a rather homeschooling-friendly state. We are free to choose the learning styles and materials that we think are best for our children.
If Maloney has his way, we will lose some of that freedom.
There are those who argue that homeschoolers should be regulated in order to prevent parents who are unqualified to homeschool their kids from doing so. We have homeschooled for 5 years and I have yet to meet a parent that I thought was unqualified to homeschool their children. I have met parents whose homeschool styles differ from my own. I have met parents whose parenting styles I do not plan to emulate. I have met parents I don't particularly enjoy. But I have yet to meet a parent who I thought was unqualified to homeschool their children.
The truth is that homeschooling is a big ole bucket of honey love for the media. They take the one or two anecdotes of homeschooling disasters and hold them up as the norm, despite the estimated 2 million stories that are less than newsworthy (unless, of course, you consider a typically insouciant learning environment newsworthy -- most media outlets do not). The result is that homeschoolers as a group have developed an undeserved reputation. According to the media, we are either dumping our children down an abandoned mineshaft with a shoestring and a can of Spam so that they learn how to survive in this world or surgically affixing Bible-encoded blinders onto their temples and forcing them to sew specially designed modesty underwear by hand. Either way, our children are poorly socialized and may never learn how to properly stand in line.
Then there is the hysteria about child abuse by homeschoolers. I appreciate The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers discussion of this matter: "Child abuse is a societal issue. Examples of abuse exist in all educational settings. There is no method of education that guarantees child abuse won't happen, or that it will be detected if it does happen." Basically, if the state wants to force homeschooling parents to "check-in" in order to prevent child abuse, they will need to force all parents to "check-in."
And this is perhaps what concerns me most. What precedent might this set for parenting in general in Illinois? What's next? Shall we monitor what parents send along for lunch with their publicly schooled children? Should we determine a criterion to assess how well parents are parenting in general? If the state targets one type of family now, who will they target next? Adoptive families? Multi-cultural families. Muti-generational families? Families who wear matching outfits for their Christmas cards?
If you are a homeschooling resident of Illinois and wish to maintain the freedom we all enjoy, please write or call Senator Maloney at 217-782-5145 and register your displeasure with SB136.
Update received via email this morning, February 10, 2011:
We've heard from the lobbyist from ICNS, who met with Mr. Maloney a second time today. Mr. Maloney is aware now that he needs to learn more about the issue before he pushes this bill forward, so he has agreed not to do so at this time. He will be holding an informational hearing on the subject next Tuesday, which I believe will be open, though I do not yet have any details on it. We will be talking to Ad Hoc to see if that group wants to make a unified position on the bill and send a representative to the hearing. HOUSE might also want to select a representative or two to go speak for our cause. This will be an important meeting, because he has until the end of next week to present this bill to the legislature and get it assigned to a committee. If we make a good case on Tuesday, we may be able to stop the process and will not have to fight it on a larger scale later.
Thank you all for your diligence. I will keep you informed as I learn anything else.
Ad Hoc Representative for HOUSE