Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Frequently Asked Questions

What's the difference between "instruct" and "educate"?

There is a procedural difference between providing instruction to a child and requiring that the child demonstrate that he is educated. And this doesn't even address the violation of privacy involved in such demonstrations.

When parents are required to provide instruction to their children, this is similar to the requirements placed upon public and private school teachers. This is an input-based requirement.

On the other hand, when parents are required to demonstrate the outcome of that instruction, that the child has been educated to a particular level of academic achievement, this is inequitable. This would be an outcome-based requirement. Public and private school teachers are not required by law to guarantee any particular level of education, or outcome, from their students.

A parent or teacher can only do so much. They can provide instruction and guidance, but the outcome is not predictable. There are no guarantees. Many times the outcome exceeds expectation, but that's no reason to demand any particular outcome from another child. Often a child's mind lays dormant, processing the information. After a period of time needed to integrate his instruction, the child may demonstrate results that meet or even exceed expectation.

Forcing demonstrations of academic accomplishment before a child is ready can be very damaging to the child. Regardless of success or failure to meet arbitrary expectations, parents need to believe in their children and trust in the outcome, that eventually they will succeed. Similarly the state needs to believe in parents and assume they are good citizens acting in good faith and eventually they, too, will succeed.

If parents make it clear that they do not trust the efforts their children are making, the outcome is usually disastrous. Resentment and distrust will erode this parent-child relationship.

Similarly, presumptive distrust of the people undermines the legitimacy of the state, especially when the laws enacted are inequitable and discriminatory. Our legal system is based upon the presumption of innocence.

Why is notification such a big deal?

Notification may sound like a minor issue, especially compared to regulations, which require the maintenance of portfolios for two years and submission to annual evaluations. So, why then is notification such a big deal? Because, it’s a matter of equal treatment before the law.

Parents, who send their children to private schools, are not required to notify anyone in the public school about their decision. They can send their child to an out-of-state boarding school. No one needs to know. Their decision is private and no one doubts their good intentions upon making this decision.

If these parents are not required to notify to the public school about their decision and another group of parents is required, then the law is discriminatory.

If equal treatment before the law is no big deal, then perhaps notification is no big deal either. Fortunately, there are many parents for whom this is a very big deal!

Parents have absolutely no problem disclosing where their child is being instructed so long as the notification requirements are voluntary and equitable.

Parents should not be registered like sex offenders, parolees, or others member of society that cannot trusted to behave properly.

Parents are accountable to their families, their communities, their friends. They do not need to be accountable to the state.

Besides, every person in the state is a now mandatory reporter for abuse and neglect, so when there is a problem it will be reported.

How can legislators be certain that children will receive instruction from parents without oversight?

How can legislators be certain that children will be fed, clothed and cared for without oversight? Clearly, their education concerns are just one of many concerns for these children’s welfare.

Should parents be regulated because they might – hypothetically -- commit an offense? Extrapolate from these parents to all citizens: should citizens be regulated because on occasion some citizens – might -- neglect their duty?

“Innocent until proven guilty” is the presumption upon which our legal system is founded. Lawyers wouldn’t tolerate anything less; from the state law regulating “attorneys and counselors”:

"For the purposes of this section, a citizen shall be presumed to be of good character unless demonstrated otherwise." RSA 311:1

Aren’t parents citizens too? Legislators shouldn't judge parents based on stereotypes, assuming that children in bad neighborhoods won't have good parents. Instead they should make sure the school districts offer services to assist parents without the constant threat of punishment, which deters participation.

There’s a growing number of parents, who are instructing their children outside of schools. No one recruits parents for this task. It’s a grassroots movement. It’s quite similar to the Tea Party movement. Many parents become fed up with public schools, because they don’t address their child’s needs and won’t listen to their concerns. Parents reach their breaking point and leave the public schools. They roll up their sleeves to do the job themselves.

Unfortunately, in 1990 the NH legislature enacted an inequitable law, trampling the rights of parents. Some parents can tolerate more than others; many parents have gone underground to instruct their children. Inequitable laws cause citizens to go underground to protect their rights.

If legislators are truly concerned about children, then they should respect the rights of parents and encourage districts to assist these parents in an open and non-adversarial manner.

Why do NH parents prefer “parent-directed” programs instead of “home education” programs?

When the legislature enacts laws on the right to keep and bear arms, they don't elaborate upon what "gun owners" are allowed to do. They address what every individual citizen is allowed to do.

Similarly, there is no reason for parents to be marginalized into a sub-category of "home educators." It is better that the legislature considers the rights of all parents, not just an artificially created minority. Any parent at any time can exercise these rights.

It's also our hope to separate ourselves from our current inequitable "home education" law that was written by out-of-state lobbyists.

Besides, learning doesn't always happen in one particular location - in the home, or in the car, or at a museum. However, it does generally occur under the direction of a parent. Thus, the name, “parent-directed” learning. It's uniquely New Hampshire. No one else uses it.