In the United States, homeschooling is an uncontrollable sphere

“The homeschooling lobby may be more powerful today than the gun lobby, because at least the gun lobby is meeting strong resistance”, said bitterly lawyer Elizabeth Bartholet at the Harvard Gazette in 2020. Comparing the raising of American children by their families to the devastation wrought by the National Rifle Association (NRA) may seem odd. However, more and more former students are warning about the excesses of homeschooling.

These last come, for the most part, from the lack of supervision of home education in many States. Only twenty-four of the fifty across the country require parents to complete assessments to ensure that children are making satisfactory progress. Among them, two allow parents to override this obligation by constituting themselves as a private school, and six do not oblige them to communicate the results, nor do they set a minimum mark to be achieved.

In eleven states, such as Texas or Alaska, parents are not even required to report their decision and can simply withdraw their child from school without notifying anyone. To the extent that some high schools report truant students as having chosen homeschooling, in order to improve the success rate of the institution in the diploma in question. In France, by way of comparison, a family wishing to homeschool must obtain prior authorization, and progress is monitored annually by the rectorate.

Sometimes dramatic deviations

In the absence of control, it is impossible to intervene when a child does not receive an appropriate education. Activists for reforming the system point out that this gives rise to many cases of educational neglect. “Some parents decide their child doesn’t need an education. This happens often, especially with children assigned girls. If their parents decide that they will be primarily wives and mothers who do not need to know how to do math, they will not teach them this subject.Explain Chelsea McCracken, Doctor of Human Sciences and Director of Research at the Coalition for Responsible Homeschooling (CRHE).

This association collects testimonials from former students who have followed homeschooling, and campaigns for better regulation of this practice. The case of the educational neglect of girls is particularly marked among the many evangelical Christians who turn to home schooling to shield their children from the supposedly harmful influences of the public school.

“Sometimes it takes less deliberate forms. When parents have many children they educate as a family and do not have time to take care of each individually, sometimes they give the child a manual and just say, “Learn this.” It may work for some, but not for all., says Chelsea McCracken. Another case, that of parents who force the eldest to take on the role of teacher for his younger brothers, “which harms both their education and his”. “And if there is a disability that the parent does not see or does not want to see, it is even more difficult.”

In the long term, educational neglect can become a real problem in adulthood.

The researcher also points out that it is impossible to have a clear idea of ​​​​the extent of the problem, because parents are not obliged to report in many States, there are no statistics on the issue. . She estimates, however, that homeschooling affects between 4% and 6% of children in the United States.

Sometimes, the isolation of these children and the fact that they pass under the radar of the administration can camouflage very serious situations of abuse. “We see cases of extreme abuse occurring in homeschooling, and they seem to have different characteristics than those in children who go to school. We don’t know precisely how common this condition is, but we suspect it is more common than in the general population.”regrets Chelsea McCracken.

In the long term, educational neglect can become a real problem in adulthood. As the researcher explains, this can seriously complicate access to employment. “Parents who neglect their child are less likely to give them report cards and diplomas [ce qui serait le processus normal dans l’instruction en famille, mais que certaines familles ne font pas, ndlr], making it difficult to find a job. You can’t go to college, so you live in your car and it’s very hard to get by. You have to start your elementary education all over again as an adult, but what do you do to survive during that time?” As for those who have a diploma and manage to enroll in university, they often fail, for lack of solid foundations.

Effective lobbying

If the situation does not change despite the scandals, it is because of the opposition of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) to all attempts at reform. The CRHSE has seen this several times: “They are using their usual, very effective method of activating a large network of parents to ask them to drown lawmakers in furious appeals. They often come to their offices in large numbers, screaming in anger. Most politicians don’t expect that when they propose a law that seems reasonable to them, which asks that you fill out a form once a year to report that your child is homeschooling.

“Children are not property that parents can do with what they want.”

Chelsea McCracken, Doctor of Humanities

Current legislation, founded in the 1980s and 1990s, partly under the influence of evangelical currents, constitutionally guarantees the rights of parents to bring up their children as they wish. But as noted Elizabeth Bartholetshe “does not guarantee, in return, children the right to an appropriate parental and school education”. The lawyer goes so far as to speak “absolutism of parental rights”.

Despite everything, the CRHE continues to fight to make the voice of ex-“homeschoolers” heard. According to them, home education can be a chance for children when it is practiced responsibly, but it must be supervised to avoid abuse.

“We are campaigning for legal supervision that would prevent children in distress from falling through the cracks, but that would not go beyond what responsible parents are already doing”a mandatory reporting and assessment by the state of the child’s academic progress and well-being every year, explains Chelsea McCracken. “It’s the minimum, even if we could go further. Children are not property that parents can do what they want, children are people.”

In the United States, homeschooling is an uncontrollable sphere