Editors of Scientific American call for regulation of homeschooling despite its track record against public ed

Homeschooled children are at risk of not receiving “a safe and robust education,” of learning about “creationism instead of evolution,” and of “neglect” and “abuse,” claim the…

Homeschooled children are at risk of not receiving “a safe and robust education,” of learning about “creationism instead of evolution,” and of “neglect” and “abuse,” claim the editors of Scientific American (SciAm) in the publication’s June newsletter.

In a piece titled “Children Deserve Uniform Standards in Homeschooling,” the editors warn of what they view as the dangers of an education mode that is “barely tracked or regulated in the U.S,” fretting that as homeschooling has become more popular, “[n]o one knows by how much, and that is part of the problem.”

Despite their admission that homeschoolers have been largely successful – both in academics and life, the SciAm editors contend “too many” homeschooled students “have suffered horrific abuse,” and warn against parents who opt to homeschool their children “because they want to have more say in what their child learns and what they do not.”

Citing examples of why, they think, “many parents are attracted to homeschooling,” the editors especially highlight “Christian” homeschoolers, some of whom, they claim, are endorsing “slavery” and “Nazism”:

“Nearly 60 percent of homeschool parents who responded to the 2019 NCES [National Center for Education Statistics] survey said that religious instruction was a motivation in their decision to educate at home. Some Christian homeschooling curricula teach Young Earth Creationism instead of evolution. Other curricula describe slavery as ‘Black immigration’ or extol the virtues of Nazism.” 

“The federal government must develop basic standards for safety and quality of education in homeschooling across the country,” the editors maintain. 

SciAm’s editorial, however, caught the eye of Kerry McDonald, senior education fellow at the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) and creator of FEE’s LiberatED newsletter and podcast, who wrote Thursday the publication’s editors have joined “the crowd of busybodies eager to constrain a family’s right to raise and educate their children how they choose.” 

McDonald, an avid champion of parental rights in education and author of Unschooled: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Children Outside the Conventional Classroom, has also traveled the country interviewing parents and former government school teachers who have started their own microschools, small, private schools that are largely founded on the principles of homeschooling.

“Beyond the obvious point that there is no constitutional role for the federal government in education,” McDonald says, “the proposal for top-down, national mandates on homeschoolers assumes that the government knows best when it comes to education. 

“Yet, the vast majority of school founders I interview are former public school teachers who grew so disillusioned with the rigidity, standardization, and coercion of government-run schooling that they left to create their own schools and spaces.” 

The editors, by contrast, called for greater government regulation of homeschooling in order “to protect children,” such as through background checks on homeschooling parents and mandated reporting of academics taught, to prove children are receiving a “robust education.”  

Yet the problem of abuse is actually worse in public education. 

A Sage Journals study published in May 2022 found 11.7% of the 6,632 recent high school graduates from four states who participated in the survey “reported having experienced at least one form of educator sexual misconduct during Grades K-12.” 

“Those who reported misconduct showed significantly more difficulties in current psychosocial functioning than those who did not report educator misconduct,” wrote researchers Elizabeth L. Jeglic, et al.  

“[M]any parents choose homeschooling because government-run schooling is not protecting their children, who may be bullied or abused by peers or school personnel,” McDonald writes, and, as for reporting requirements to prove homeschoolers are learning, she shared: 

“That’s a pretty brazen request given that in the federal government’s own backyard of Washington, DC, only about one-third of public school students are reading at or above grade level, and only 22% are performing at or above grade level in math. For DC high schoolers it’s even worse, with only 11% of them proficient in math. 

“Homeschooling families don’t need more regulations – and certainly not from the federal government, which should have no role in education policy,” McDonald asserts. “Perhaps those who think the government knows best on education should work on improving government-run schools rather than coming after the millions of homeschooling families choosing something different.”