Homeschooling Update

Published January 1, 2003

Homeschoolers Harassed in California and Illinois

Despite state laws creating exceptions to compulsory school attendance requirements when parents educate their children at home, public education officials in California and Illinois have begun to treat homeschooled children as truants and in one case threatened to have the children taken away from their parents. When Roger Channell’s two boys heard Illinois truant officer Merle Horwedel issue that warning, they took off to hide, according to Channell.

“Now, when anyone rings the doorbell, they’re gone,” Channell told WorldNetDaily. “They won’t even go to the door. They’re afraid to look out the windows. Its ridiculous to traumatize kids that way.”

During their five years of homeschooling, the Channells responded to queries from public education officials like most Illinois homeschoolers: By stating they complied with state law by teaching the same branches of education as the public schools, and that they did this in English.

But soon after school started last year, a truant officer contacted the Channells and at least 23 other families in the northeastern Illinois counties of Bureau, Henry, and Stark, demanding to speak to the children and review their educational materials.

When the Channells refused to comply, the regional superintendent of the three-county area, Bruce Dennison, referred them to a state’s attorney for prosecution for not being “in compliance with the requirements of the Illinois compulsory attendance law.”

A regional superintendent does not have the power to regulate homeschooling nor to investigate compliance, according to Chris Klicka, senior counsel for the Home School Legal Defense Association.

Until last summer, homeschool parents in California could comply with state law simply by filing an affidavit with their county department of education, certifying they were teaching their children in a private school. The law didn’t change last summer, but Superintendent of Instruction Delaine Eastin’s interpretation of the law did: Henceforth, parents who homeschool must be credentialed teachers.

“The classic ‘home school’–where children are taught by their parent who does not have a teaching credential–is not a legal means of complying with compulsory education law, which means that home-schooled children are truant,” she wrote.

California homeschoolers have resisted the idea of legislation to clear up the definition of homeschooling because they fear additional restrictions may result. But as Orange County Register senior editorial writer Steven Greenhut points out, without such clarification “the rights of home-schoolers are subject to this ongoing petty harassment by state officials.”
Orange County Register — September 15, 2002 — November 22, 2002

Milton Friedman on Homeschooling

“There is no other complex field in our society in which do-it-yourself beats out factory production or market production. Nobody makes his or her own car. But it still is the case that parents can perform the job of educating their children, in many cases better than our present education system.”
Education Next, Winter 2003

More Blacks Turn to Homeschooling

While the number of homeschooling families almost doubled from 1999 to 2002, the number of black homeschooling families jumped almost 10-fold during that same period, according to estimates by Brian Ray, president of the National Home Educators Research Institute.

Of the 850,000 homeschooling families in 1999, blacks made up only 1 percent, or 8,500. Of the estimated 1.6 million homeschooling families in 2002, blacks made up 5 percent, or 80,000.

While some observers argue black parents should work to improve public schools rather than leaving to homeschool, Sonya Wright of Henrico County told the Richmond Times-Dispatch she wasn’t willing to sacrifice her children. She started homeschooling when she found her children were two years behind private school children.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “They were bringing home honor-roll report cards, but they weren’t really top students.”

When Baltimore City Community College professor Arnita Hicks McArthur surveyed the 1,200 homeschooled children in Baltimore in 2002, she found 500 were black, more than 40 percent. She also found black parents homeschooled their children for pretty much the same reasons other homeschool parents do:

  • increased student violence in the public schools, which disrupts the classroom environment and prevents teachers from teaching;
  • lack of religious or biblical values in public school instruction;
  • homeschooling parents can focus one-on-one on their child’s weak points.

Gilbert and Gloria Wilkerson, who have been homeschooling in Henrico County, Virginia for 13 years, created the Network of Black Homeschoolers in 1997 to provide support for other black families. The organization now has about 300 members, publishes a monthly newsletter, and has its own Web site at
Richmond Times-Dispatch — November 15, 2002
Baltimore Sun — November 24, 2002