An Education in Home Schooling

AuthorMajor Michael D. Carsten




  1. Introduction

    As of 2002, research estimated that between 1.725 million and 2.185 million school-aged children are being home schooled in the United States.2 Although this number represents a small portion of the school-aged population, it is a one hundred-percent increase from the number of children taught at home a mere fifteen years earlier.3 Many with no personal involvement with home schooling think it is a fringe educational movement practiced mostly by religious fundamentalists. Although a large number of parents who home school their children are guided in part by religious convictions, others are driven by secular educational philosophies rather than religion.4

    To the uninitiated, what defines home schooling can be uncertain or even unknown. Although it can take on many different variations, home schooling in its most basic form describes a situation in which parents who

    lack state teaching licenses or certifications choose to instruct their children themselves.5 This instruction is not conducted in addition to public or private schooling, but rather, as an alternative to these mainstream forms of education. The home schooling parent usually purchases a number of curricula or correspondence courses that are readily available from educational suppliers and retailers. These materials are available for all grades and for any and all subjects that would be taught at the typical public or private school.6

    Although many believe that home schooling is a relatively new concept in the United States, it is in actuality, the original form of education practiced in this country.7 From the arrival of the initial settlers during the 1600's and for the next 250 years, home education was the primary form of schooling for the majority of the population.8 State-sponsored public education, similar to the system that exists today, originated in Massachusetts in the 1840's. It took another sixty years before state-sponsored public education became widespread.9 "When public schools were formed and compulsory attendance laws were passed throughout the country in the early 1900's, home schooling almost died out. Not until the 1970's was the modern home school movement born."10

    As the number of home schooled children continues to increase in the United States, "more and more military and Department of Defense (DOD) civilian families are turning to this educational alternative."11

    Numerous reassignments make home schooling "a logical choice in the

    military, providing a stable environment for children in the midst of frequent change."12 These military dependents are receiving home school instruction both within the United States and overseas. As the issues and reporting requirements home schoolers face are unique, the chain of command must be aware of its responsibilities and limitations regarding these military dependents.

    First, this article discusses the home school requirements of four states with significant military populations, California, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia. It also summarizes common themes in state requirements. Next, it outlines the development of home schooling overseas. This includes the obligations and requirements that exist between the command and service members who choose to home school their children. The article then analyzes what constitutes educational neglect in a home school environment. Finally, the article summarizes key points regarding home schooled children.

  2. Home Schooling Within the United States

    In one form or another, all fifty states authorize parents to educate their children at home. When a child is a military dependent, the command to which the parent belongs has an interest in ensuring that the military member abides by the rules within the jurisdiction where the child resides.13 Regardless of whether the child resides on a military installation or in the civilian community, parents must adhere to the applicable state rules regarding home schooling.14 Because the DOD defers to the state in which the child resides in order to ascertain home school requirements, it is a simple matter to determine the home school guidelines in any particular case. Although researching the statutes for any particular state is a simple matter, encapsulating the requirements across all jurisdictions is another matter. The reason for this difficulty is that there are as many variations to home school requirements as there are states.

    Although home schooling is allowed in all jurisdictions, some states place such extreme limitations, controls, or reporting requirements upon it

    that home schooling becomes exceedingly cumbersome, and only the most dedicated parents can comply with the state requirements. In contrast, other jurisdictions, under certain circumstances, impose no constraints or reporting requirements on the practice of home schooling. The home school requirements of four states that contain large military populations, California, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia, provide good examples to demonstrate the variance in controls and limitations on home schooling families. The discussion begins with the most restrictive of the four regulatory regimens in California. It then discusses the moderately restrictive systems in Georgia and North Carolina, and ends with a discussion of the least restrictive system, in Virginia, which in some instances places almost no state control over home schooled children.

    1. California

      Under the California Education Code, "[e]ach person between the ages of [six] and [eighteen] years not exempted under the provisions of this chapter . . . is subject to compulsory full-time education."15 Three alternatives exist for parents who wish to place their children in an alternative other than a public school environment: private tutors; enrollment in a private full-time day school; or an arrangement for an independent study program through the local public school district.16

      If parents elect to hire a private tutor, the tutor must possess California teaching credentials for the grades taught.17 A parent with state teaching credentials can act as the tutor under this option. The tutor's instruction must be for at least three hours per day, for 175 days each calendar year, and must occur between the hours of eight o'clock a.m. and four o'clock p.m.18 The instruction must be in English and must consist of the subjects required in the public schools.19

      Private full-time day schools are another alternative to enrollment in the public education system. This instruction must also be in English and must consist of the subjects the public schools teach.20 Although the instructors at a private full-time day school need not possess California

      teaching credentials, they must be "persons capable of teaching."21 To

      qualify as a private school, the school administration must file an annual Private School Affidavit22 with the California Department of Education.23

      The final alternative for parents who wish to educate their children in a setting other than the traditional public education classroom is an independent study program.24 Unlike the other educational options, which qualify as exemptions to mandatory public school enrollment, independent study does not. Instead, independent study is merely an alternative form of public education that is conducted and administered by the local school district outside the normal classroom environment.25

    2. Georgia

      Georgia's rules for home education are typical of the majority of states. Unlike California, the majority of jurisdictions permit parents with high school diplomas or general equivalency diplomas (GED) to give home school instruction.26 Jurisdictions like Georgia, while expanding upon whom may home school, require parents to do three things: (1) provide instruction in specified subjects; (2) report the child's educational progress to appropriate state officials; and (3) have the child take standardized achievement tests.27

      Under Georgia law, children "between their sixth and sixteenth birthdays shall [be] enroll[ed and sent] . . . to a public school, private school, or a home study program."28 Regardless of whether a child is enrolled in

      public school, private school, or a home study program, an academic year consists of at least 180 days of instruction.29 The public or private school or home study program must provide, at the very minimum, instruction in reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies, and science.30

      To be eligible to provide a home study program, the "teaching parent" must have obtained at least a high school diploma or a GED equivalent.31

      "Parents or guardians may teach only their own children in the home study program . . . but the parents or guardians may employ a tutor who holds at least a baccalaureate college degree to teach such children."32 Parents electing to provide a home study program must submit a declaration of intent to give home school instruction to the local public school superintendent thirty days after the establishment of a home study program, and by 1 September every year thereafter.33 A home study program day must consist of at least four and one-half hours.34 Parents must maintain attendance records and submit them to the local public school superintendent each month.35 Parents must prepare an annual progress report for each child enrolled in a home study program,36 and retain the annual progress report for three years.37 Children enrolled in a home study program must take a national standardized achievement test every three years, commencing with the end of third grade.38 Although standardized achievement tests are required, there is no requirement that the parents submit the test scores to the public school superintendent.39

    3. North Carolina

      North Carolina imposes fewer restrictions on home education than California and Georgia. Under North Carolina law, children between the ages...

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