Memorandum submitted by Kelly Green
Executive Summary: The main points of the following submission to the Commissioned Review of Elective Home Education are as follows:
· The North American experience is that education is legislated by state and province, so home educators in North America face a wide variety of legislation/regulation regarding the practice of home-based education.
· Research does not indicate that home-educated students in more heavily regulated jurisdictions fare any better than students in more free jurisdictions. Research does show that home-educated students as a group are academically ahead of their schooled peers, and do exceptionally well with regard to social and career development.
· Forced registration and monitoring of home-educating families is a waste of taxpayer monies, and can, in many instances, produce counterproductive results.
1. Biography of submitter: My name is Kelly L. Green. I am a Canadian editor and writer. I am also a home-educating parent with four children. All my children have been/are being educated at home, and the older two, ages 19 and 21, are currently full-time university students at the University of Victoria in Victoria, British Columbia. Both are honors students with A averages, and both were College Board Advanced Placement (AP) Scholars. My second son was a Canadian National AP Scholar. Fewer than 200 Canadian secondary students achieve this status each year. I was formerly the secretary, conference chair, and newsletter editor for the Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents, and am a founding member of the British Columbia-based group Freedom and Choice in Education (FACE). Over the years I have interviewed hundreds of home-educating families, and have written extensively on the practice of home-based education and the laws applying to this form of education in Ontario and British Columbia.
2. I have prepared this submission at the request of several home-educating groups in the U.K. to speak to the Canadian and North American experience regarding home-based education, known as Elective Home Education in the U.K.
3. As in the U.K., North American families choose home-based education for a variety of reasons. What is different in North America is that home-based education is legislated by state and province, thus creating an enormous variation in the types of requirements home-educating families face. Some jurisdictions have extensive regulation, while others allow the home-educating family complete freedom.
4. I can refer personally to the legislative and regulatory models of Ontario and British Columbia. Both provinces offer the home-educating family relative freedom. Ontario's legislation states that a child must be given "satisfactory instruction at home or elsewhere." British Columbia's law simply states that the parent must provide the child with an educational program. B.C. also requires that children be registered with a school operating in the province.
5. The interpretation of these laws has created different experiences for home-educating families.
6. For many years, home-educators in Ontario were harassed by Ministry of Education and school board employees, to the point that home-education organizations organized a complaint to the provincial ombudsman. Some families were the subject of official "inquiries" into their educational methods; some were threatened with the removal of their children by social services simply because they removed their children from school. These investigations were not based on any evidence that the parents were failing in their duty to educate their children, but were rather a part of a campaign by education officials who were attempting to stop the spread of home-based education.
7. Not only did this practice cause enormous stress and pain for home-educating families, but the inquiries and investigations cost many thousands of taxpayer dollars. After the complaint to the ombudsman, the provincial government ended this very expensive, officially-sanctioned harassment, and now home-educating families are asked, but not legally required, to register their intent to educate their children at home with their local school board. Because of the bad experiences many families have had in the past with their local school boards and school attendance counselors, some refuse to comply with this request. Nevertheless, for the past eight years, home education in Ontario has co-existed peacefully with traditional school options.
8. In British Columbia, home educators have several options. Many families choose a distance learning alternative through the public or independent schools. These families are not legally considered "homeschoolers," because a public or independent school teacher is assigned to the student in such a program. Ironically, those parents who take on the full responsibility for their children's education at home are legally defined as "registered homeschoolers," even though the practice of "school-at-home" which this term implies is least likely to be practiced by this group. Many, but not all, registered "homeschoolers" practice a form of child-led learning that you in the U.K. know as "autonomous education."
9. British Columbia requires registration but
10. If no official records are required, some
wonder how students are able to negotiate "life after home education." Again,
experience and academic research indicate that home-educating families are
creative and resourceful in presenting the students' accomplishments. Families
may keep portfolios of work, or may choose from a wide variety of independent academic
examinations if post-secondary education is the goal. Students often put
together extensive resumes of their work and explorations. As I indicated
above, my own sons are students at the
11. Of the hundreds of home-educating students in B.C. I have met in the past twelve years, I have yet to meet one who was prevented from pursuing his/her personal and career goals because of B.C.'s regulatory requirements regarding home-based education. The freedom of this regulatory model, in fact, allows many students to make great headway toward their goals during the teen years, whether by working and apprenticing, or by taking classes at colleges and universities as "special students."
12. Home education in
13. As far as I have been able to ascertain, the research on home-based education has shown absolutely no difference in outcomes for home-educated students based on the education regulations of their geographical jurisdiction. In other words, greater levels of regulation do not produce better results. More regulation may, in fact, be counterproductive. I will examine the reasons for this below.
14. Research on home-educated students has shown
that they achieve consistently higher academic standards than their
traditionally schooled peers. They are now sought after by many prestigious
post-secondary institutions. Home-education also produces a high level of
social and career function. In this area I refer to the independent academic
research of, for example, Dr. Larry Shyers (
15. I noted that none of the researchers cited
above were referenced in the woefully inadequate "overview of evidence"
prepared for the Badman review; nor was the work of renowned British researcher
Roland Meighan. This overview was, supposedly, meant to "summarize evidence
relating to elective home education in the
16. Opponents of home education in B.C. have also
raised the specter of "home education as a cover for child abuse," as the
Badman report is doing today in the
17. First, there is the implication that parents
who choose home-based education for their children may have something to hide.
This concept is, in itself, ridiculous, since home-educated children are
frequently much more visible in the community than schooled children, as they
are out with their parents during school hours. Like it or not, home educators
are the objects of great curiosity, and constantly receive attention and
questions precisely because their children are not in school. In short, it is
difficult for home educators to "hide." In any case, social services
legislation in the
18. Secondly, the reality, as has been shown again
and again, is that statistical records indicate that children in home-educating
families are at much less risk for abuse than their traditionally schooled
peers. This should hardly be surprising, considering that parents who take on
the responsibility of their children's education demonstrate an above-average
commitment to their children's well-being. A Canadian example can put this in
19. Finally, there is a malevolent subtext to the "home education may be a cover for child abuse" allegation. This is the belief, held by many professional educators and others who have no experience with this educational alternative, that home education is, in itself, a form of child abuse. This belief may derive from the ever-increasing move toward standardization in Western educational practice, which has created the impression that there is only one correct way to prepare children for adult life and experience. Children who do not go to school are deemed to be "losing out" on all the things school has to offer, from team sports to field trips to religious education to parties. Home educators can produce extraordinary amounts of evidence to show the many ways in which their children experience all these activities and more, but in spite of this evidence many people simply refuse to accept that a home-based education is easily as rich and variegated as school-based learning.
20. This prejudice, often propagated by the
professional education establishment, frequently leads to situations like the
21. As many
22. The overwhelming success of home-based education from an academic point of view, regardless of the regulatory hoops, or lack of them, that families are forced to leap through, is evidence that parents who teach their own children do not need any monitoring at all. Their children not only "cover the basics," but have ample time to pursue their passions as well. If they need any support in any particular area, they inevitably go out and find it for themselves.
23. In light of the above facts and the North American experience, forced registration and monitoring of home-educating families are a complete waste of taxpayers' money.
24. Forced registration may even be
counterproductive in terms of the "visibility" of home-educated children. The
25. This is exactly the situation that the
proposals of the Badman report would create. In all likelihood, home educators
will refuse to cooperate or comply with invasive regulations. Some will move,
and many may even leave
26. In conclusion, I would ask the Select Committee
to examine the evidence. There is no evidence that home-educated children are
at greater risk than their traditionally schooled peers for any type of harm or
abuse. There is extensive evidence in North America and
27. As an independent international observer, I
note that the shoddily written and researched Badman report includes both
egregious misuse of statistical data and gross misrepresentation of submissions
(please refer to the complete submission made by the Church of England as one
particularly heinous example of selective quotation). In addition to the fact
that the report was extremely poorly done, there is the obvious issue of Mr.
Badman's conflict of interest and his complete inadequacy as an evaluator of
home-based education. The
28. Considering that there were hundreds of better
qualified individuals in
29. In light of the evidence, there is only one logical course of action. The Badman review, and any legislation stemming from it, must be rejected. The right of parents, as protected by the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to choose the education that shall be given to their children must be respected. The principle of innocent until proven guilty must be respected. The civil rights of families, and the privacy of the family home, must be respected. The ample child protection legislation that is already in place should be trusted. Government should take action to ensure that the existing child protection systems are working properly. Home-educating families must be allowed to exercise their right to take complete responsibility for the education of their children in peace. A hostile educational establishment, which has little comprehension of this proven educational alternative, must not be permitted to interfere in the everyday lives of law-abiding citizens. Do not create a persecuted minority group in British society. The original European law against home education was established in Nazi Germany. Free societies allow dissent and creative thought. As a long-time admirer of British cultural and legal legacies, I urge you to be true to the high standards of British justice.