Friday, March 07, 2008

Impressions on the court ruling "outlawing" homeschooling in California

I've read the recent California appellate court ruling which seems to try and "outlaw" homeschooling in California. I've only read it once, so I may miss some of the nuances.


In California parents use four different legal approaches to homeschool their children:

1) Fill out the paperwork to be a private school
2) Use a private tutor
3) Enroll in a private school satellite program
4) Go with an independent study program via a public school

For more information here are a couple resources: HSLDA, HSC and A to Z Home's Cool.

Janine and I have declared ourselves a private school and have been using the first option for nine years. (Wow, how time flies.)

The Ruling:

The California Constitution says "... the Legislature shall encourage by all suitable means the promotion of intellectual, scientific, moral, and agricultural improvement." From this we now have compulsory school attendance. (I thought about the camel's nose creeping into the tent while reading this bit of history.) State law does provide for the four options listed above for parents who do not want to send their children to public schools.

The decision is based on 16 pages of logic about the intent of various laws and the situation as it applies to this family. The judge claims that none of the four approaches apply to this family. The family had been working under a private school's umbrella. The judge says because the children are not going to the private school the private school can not be verifying that the children are learning. There is also a couple pages about why a religious exception doesn't apply.

Fundamentally one of the problems I have is the assumption that parents are subject to the state. In the judge's eyes it seems like parents exist to implement the wishes of the state. The state wants children to be educated, so parents have to jump.

This court ruling raises the bar much higher than it has been in the past. The fundamental change is the judge says that parents should be certified to teach their children. Private schools have the option of not using certified teachers, but the judge claims private schools will be OK because parents demand a reasonable level of teaching.

If you are curious, you can read the whole ruling.


The focus on certification seems misplaced to me. In real life giving a person a piece of paper doesn't give them an education. We've meet a few teachers who were nice people, but didn't know their subject material. The government is happy the teachers are certified; however, there are many parents who want teachers who know the subject material. A couple years back Janine and I were talking with a second grade teacher who said she liked the lower grades, but she couldn't handle the forth or fifth grade math.

If I hire someone to work on my house I might chose to go with a certified contractor, but if I want to modify the plumbing myself I don't need to be certified.

If I go to a restaurant, I can see some argument that the chefs should be licensed, but it would be ludicrous to demand all parents to be licensed before they could feed their children.

At this point in time I'm not too worried. I think this will be resolved and parents will continue to be able to homeschool their children.

I'll write a couple letters to my legislators this weekend.

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education


Anonymous said...

I read the story in the MN (via Rush Limbaugh's web site) and just wanted to let you know that I'm behind you 100%. Liberty is the freedom from coercion by other individuals (including governments). This outlaw judge is trying to do it to take away your LIBERTY. Hopefully he gets disbarred.

Helen said...

This situation has got some folks in my homeschool group in an uproar. Many of them have preschool children and are just beginning their homeschooling journey...if any were on the fence as to their commitment, I feel that this may just provoke a few to choose the brick & mortar option.

We saw your interview in our local paper..the Contra Costa Times. Good for you!

Anonymous said...

Get protest signs and t-shirts at:

David Summer said...


When it comes to bureaucratic certifications and degrees, I have always been of the frame of mind that they can be a grossly misplaced indicator of qualifications. What do we call the fellow that graduated at the bottom of his med school class? "Doctor". One can insert almost any profession, degree, or title into that quip; the point is that it is the actual skills an individual possesses that are important, not the supposed certification.

Every parent in America should closely follow this ruling, the implications are earthshaking. America is founded on the rights and powers of the individual. “We, the people” … individuals; not states, not cities, not the governmental bureaucracy.

Anonymous said...

Home schooling is illegal in California. Most home schoolers are Christians and all they know to do is fearmonger. Just look at this as an example!

Sisterlisa said...

Dear Annonymous,
Homeschooling is NOT illegal in California and for you to be posting this message on numerous homeschool blogs like this isn't going to change the law. There are a few different ways a family can home educate their children and they are all legal. Families in California know perfectly well what the law is before they make their decision to homeschool. The law has not changed.

Sisterlisa said...

Yes homeschooling is too legal in California. In a few different forms at that!

Henry Cate said...

David - I agree that a certificate does not grant wisdom and skill. The Wizard of Oz approach of giving a piece of paper does not make people smart.
I am not as concerned about this ruling as I first was. I think we'll need to watch it, and make sure our legislators not mess it up, but I think the ruling will be overturned.

Anonymous - There are a few people who may be Christian fanactics, but most homeschoolers are concerned parents who have studied the public school system and felt they could do a better job. When my friends study the public school system they start to become very concerned. Homeschooling is growing very fast. It is hard to get specific numbers, but it appears to be between 5% to 10% a year.

Learning Mom said...

I happen to have a CA teaching credential, so I am not worried for myself at all. I am somewhat worried for friends ultimately the liberty of all parents is at stake.

It does seem that this particular opinion is out on a limb and is not likely to stand. I just wonder how long until another attack comes. I'm mentally preparing to take a stand.

Anonymous said...

you know what mr cate? i am with you on one thing; the government shouldnt be able to tell you how to run your kids life. next thing you know, were a communist country. but why would you homeschool your children? that leaves them socially retarded. ive got homeschooled cousins, friends and ive had my share of homeschooling, so i know what im talking about. sure youll say,"but i dont want my children exposed to the bad things in the world." but ill say,"that just means you dont want your kids to go off the deep end and you dont want to deal with it." its called life, mr cate and theres no way of avoiding it.

Henry Cate said...

Mr. Sandman, thank you for your support on the government staying out of homescholing issue.

While I do know a few homeschoolers who are socially backwards, I know hundreds of people who went through the public schools who are just as bad.

I am afraid that some people, no matter what environment they are raised in, will be socially clueless.