Saturday, January 12, 2008

Homeschooling Makes Headlines.....Sometimes

Today's New York Times has a hit piece on homeschooling that's sure to have repercussions, and not good ones.

A Washington, D.C. woman is charged with murdering her four daughters, and the writer of this article claims the fact that the woman was homeschooling the children allowed her to stay under the social services radar for many months while she held the children hostage and eventually killed them. (Do note the prominence of homeschooling in the headline.)

There are so many flaws in this article. First off, just because someone claims to be homeschooling their children means nothing. This mother also claimed the children died in their sleep because they were possessed by demons, so how can the reporter believe anything she says? The reporter is just using one sad and ugly situation to tar all homeschoolers. Her ultimate goal is to perpetuate the liberal belief that all families need to be under the scrutiny of social services. This is what happens in a society where we look to government for everything.

Ultimately, lazy reporters like Jane Gross of the NYT make themselves look bad even as they unfairly blame homeschooling for cases of child abuse. Had Ms. Gross stepped away from her agenda and done some actual research, she would have learned, as this reporter did, that the family's problems began last February, when the father died of cancer and the mother freaked out. Social services was involved at that time but gave up when the mother chased off a police officer by claiming to be homeschooling the children, including the eldest who attended school until March. Family members also tried to help the mother with her problems but she refused them. This whole situation is a tragedy, but to suggest homeschooling had anything to do with it is disingenous.

The downside of the rise of homeschooling is that, as the concept has become well-known, a few deceitful parents have found it convenient to say they're homeschooling when they're not. The reporter should know by now that some people are using the freedom homeschoolers have to cover up something. But you don't take away everyone's freedom just because there are a few people abusing that freedom. Homeschooling parents who fought for that freedom in the '70s and '80s must find stories like this especially frustrating.

Those same parents might be interested in another story about homeschooling, one that hasn't gotten nearly as much publicity as the Washington, D. C. situation. Schools in several states have become prohomeschooling, but for self-serving reasons. Some parents are actually being told to homeschool their children by their children's schools, which are pushing the children out in an effort to raise their schools' aggregate test scores; see Susan's fine post on "pushouts" at Corn and Oil. (Knowing first-hand the kind of dedication that goes into homeschooling your children, I find it hard to believe these parents can muster the motivation, since homeschooling wasn't their idea in the first place.) How interesting that we're not seeing this story in the headlines.


susan said...

I find it hard to believe these parents can muster the motivation, since homeschooling wasn't their idea in the first place

It's funny, but the parents want to give it a try even though they're led along to homeschooling by school authorities who haven't a clue except to point them towards accredited (and expensive) curriculum (American School, for one). I remember one family being so discouraged because it didn't suit their son. He was an angry teen getting into trouble here and there and they hadn't deschooled because they had no idea they could or should.

I saw this NY Times quote attributed to Chris Klicka, but I don't remember this one in IL, do you?

Mr. Klicka said he had also intervened to overturn requirements for home visits in a number of other states, including South Dakota, Rhode Island, Illinois and Massachusetts.

Gotta love that title...Lack of supervision noted in deaths...

Would that be lack of supervision concerning the social services employees or law enforcement employees who let these children fall through their cracks? Can't even leave a smiley face with's just too sad.

Janet said...

That really annoys me. DO YOUR RESEARCH, if you "claim" to be a journalist!


christinemm said...

Hi Barbara,
I found that New York Times article though a Google News alert and read it on Sunday and boy was I fired up over journalist Jane Gross's horrid misrepresentation and her attempt to use this story to make a soapbox to call for increased government regulation of homeschoolers.

I blogged my rant here if you want to read more of my thoughts.