Government Oversight of Homeschooling is Over-rated


This week, Erin O’Donnell wrote a caustic article published in Harvard Magazine on why Harvard Law School’s Child Advocacy Program director believes that governments should not allow homeschooling.  Elizabeth Bartholet, the CAP program director is organizing a conference in June to discuss “the problems of educational deprivation and child maltreatment that too often occur under the guise of homeschooling, in a legal environment of minimal or no oversight.” The article is available here:

Ms. Bartholet believes that homeschooling provides a non-diverse view of the world, isolates children so the parents can continue maltreatment in secret, and gives children a sub-class education.  She cited Tara Westover’s book, Educated, as an example of what can happen when parents isolate children at home. See the blog post on why “Educated” is a book about Adverse Childhood Experiences and mental illness, not homeschooling.

People who don’t understand homeschooling think that we lock up our children in our house for days on end. They can’t know that we actually community school and our children are running out and about among all people in society – all family shapes, faiths, cultures, race, genders, and most importantly, ages. That is diversity in action.  Being locked up in an institutional school for 8 hours a day with same privileged status and age grouping is not what I would call diversity.

It’s always interesting to me that society, school administrators and the government feel the need to provide educational oversight in home education. They insist that parents must provide an education “equal to the education children would get in school.” Many home education parents provide an education that is not the same, but is far superior to what children might get in school. Providing children with a lot of time to pursue interests and passions leads to incredible learning and insight into direction of future careers.

Where we live, the kids learn 1 hour of coding per year in the government curriculum in classrooms. In unschooling, my children not only self-taught coding, but also website design, blog writing, public speaking, cyber-security, and network installations. Their  self-education was superior to school.

Unschooling (self-directed education) provided freedom, passion, choice, control, personal responsibility, creativity, determination, motivation and unequaled absorption of learning for the sake of learning, rather than learning to get marks. Children can’t get much of that in a classroom dictated by school rules, policies, and restrictions and government oversight and underfunding.

Even the maltreatment argument is flawed. The most important years for brain development is from ages 0-6 years. Children need 3 dimensional experiential learning (not 2 dimensional online screen teaching) to develop brain cell connections for healthy growth. Does the government intervene in parenting in order to provide children with the optimal conditions for development in those years?  No.  Society trusts parents to do a good job raising children in the early years. Why then the distrust for the school-aged years? If there is no government oversight in parenting, then there should not be for education either. Parenting is the act of raising children with the values, beliefs and worldview that one holds.  When children grow up, they decide whether to keep or reject those values.

The other reason society wants to regulate home education is the theory that a teeny tiny number of children may be maltreated, and will occur under the daily oversight of teachers, coaches, bus drivers and school nurses.  Yes, that may occur.  But it also occurs to children in school.  Abusive parents are good at hiding their child’s bruises in school. Many school staff people are too busy to notice the hidden signs of abuse.  I should know.  I was one of the abused children in school whose staff never seemed to notice or care what happened when I went home at the end of the day. The percentage of children abused at home and attending school is far higher than the percentage of children that are home schooled and may be abused. We don’t make laws based of the .000000001 percent that might be affected by them.

Parents should worry more about the daily, relentless abuse their school children are experiencing at the hands of school bullies. The toxic stress caused by bullying is real concern for the impact on brain development, self-esteem and ultimate social and emotional development of children.

Besides, the vast number of abused children are toddlers and preschoolers, not school-aged children. Young children have very little executive function (self-control) abilities and parents who don’t understand that their children’s “not listening” is a development issue and not a discipline issue, tend to use punishment to correct what they perceive as a defect. It’s wrong, it is misguided, and we have no government oversight for those children. They are essentially abused (yes, spanking is abuse) on a daily basis and nothing is being done for them. By the time children are school-age, they listen better and the rate of abuse goes way down.

Harvard’s Centre on The Developing Child has excellent research on childhood brain development, the effect of caring parental relationships that mitigate the brain impairment caused by toxic stress, the importance of adult-child serve and return interactions, and the development of executive function in a nurturing environment.  All of these practices are enhanced by the one-to-one relationships made possible by homeschooling.  Many of these ideals are impossible to accomplish in a classroom with 1 adult and 30 kids.  It is incredible how one branch of Harvard (the Centre on the Developing Child) can be so isolated from the research of another branch of Harvard (the Child Advocacy Program).

Just as for parenting, government oversight is not required for homeschooling, anywhere, or anytime.

The excellent essays below make good points on why Homeschooling is beneficial to society and eloquently dissect the philosophical holes in Ms. Bartholet’s arguments:

This article from the Washington Examiner is one of the best essays refuting Ms. Bartholet’s lack of evidence for the bold assumptions she makes:

Another great article from two child abuse lawyers:

Fred Bauer wrote an excellent rebuttal to Ms. Bartholet views here:

National Review’s awesome post:

Business Insider also published an excellent article on why homeschoolers were increasingly being recruited by Harvard and top prestigious schools in America:


About Judy Arnall, BA, DTM, CCFE

BA, DTM, CCFE, Certified child development specialist and master of non-punitive parenting and education practices. Keynote speaker and best-selling author of "Discipline Without Distress", "Parenting With Patience", "Attachment Parenting Tips Raising Toddlers to Teens", and "Unschooling To University."
This entry was posted in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers Ages 0-5, Democratic Parenting, Elementary-Primary Children Ages 5-12, Homeschooling, How to Unschool, Junior High School Children Ages 12-15, What is Unschooling?, Why Unschool? and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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