Iowa's governor recently signed into law an education bill that alters how homeschooling is monitored in the state.
Under the former system, called Competent Private Instruction, parents who wish to homeschool their children had to choose one of several ways the child will be evaluated:
The child meets periodically (and is periodically evaluated by) a public-school teacher.
The child enrolls in an accredited correspondence school.
The child takes a standardized test at the end of each school year.
The child prepares a portfolio of work that is evaluated at the end of each year.
The goal here was to make sure that every child in Iowa receives an education, including those being homeschooled. The new law replaces CPI with Independent Private Instruction, which eliminates the year-end evaluations. According to the Homeschool Legal Defense Association, a homeschooling advocacy group, under IPI homeschooling families need to provide information on the instructor and enrolled student if the local superintendent requested it but "would not need to comply with CPI requirements for those children, such as annually submitting a CPI form and evaluation results." Is this a good idea?
State representative Matt Windschitl thinks so. "As I'm home-schooling my children," he said, "it is my duty and my job to raise them to the best of my ability. It's not the government's job to do that."
Many Christians would agree with him. Children are "a heritage from the Lord” and parents are commanded to bring them up well. Training a child is truly the parent's responsibility, and while this can often mean using the resources society makes available, like the expert teachers provided through the school system, ultimately it is up to the parents.
However, Christians are also responsible for more than just our families. When Jesus was asked who our neighbor is - who we are commended to love as ourselves - He responded with the parable of the Good Samaritan. When we see someone in distress, we have a God-given duty to help if we can. With homeschooling in particular, children can be especially vulnerable because they often don't interact with adults outside their families. On rare occasions this can lead to horrific abuse; more often, the parent will simply get overwhelmed or will lose focus and energy as time goes on, and the child's education might suffer. Homeschooling parents are, for the most part, very dedicated and invest significant time in designing curricula and teaching their children. (I know several such people.) But in any large group you will have some bad apples. Programs like the CPI can play an important role in making sure no child falls through the cracks - even homeschoolers.
Where is the balance for you? How do we respect homeschooling parents' rights to raise their children as they see fit with the need to look out for the vulnerable? At what point should education – all education – be a community affair?