Homeschooling Freedom in Oklahoma: Defending My Rights

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Wednesday afternoon I was asked to do a TV interview with a national news program about homeschooling freedom in Oklahoma, where we live and where I was homeschooled as a child. Currently, families are free to homeschool without any regulation from the government: In fact, Oklahoma is the only state with a constitutional provision guaranteeing the right to homeschool. So after some discussion with my husband, in which he reassured me I could do a good job, I accepted. I prayed about it, and I did a little preparation for what I thought the questions might be.

Homeschooling Freedom In Oklahoma

The next morning, they arrived. I discovered I was not prepared for the type of questions they threw at me. I also rediscovered that I am not very good at articulating my thoughts while under fire. The reporter definitely had a bias, and it wasn’t pro homeschooling or pro parental freedom.

We also realized later that she used the dialectic process on me (something I’m very familiar with due to my father’s work for Institute for Authority Research), and while I somewhat saw it coming, I wasn’t able to redirect. A question was posed in such a way that either I relented my stance that homeschooling should continue to be totally unregulated and under the parent’s responsibility in Oklahoma, or I had to admit that I didn’t “care” about all those kids who weren’t getting a proper education because their parents used the excuse of homeschooling to be irresponsible, which can’t be monitored because of the current laws.

I stuck to my stance that the government shouldn’t be involved: Parents are accountable to God for their children’s upbringing, not to the government. So with intentional editing, I’m afraid I may come off looking like a woman who doesn’t care about the needs of children in families who aren’t homeschooling diligently.

One question that was asked quite aggressively was how it would “hurt me” in particular if there was some regulation put in place: The old “if you are legit why do you care if we search” kind of question. Once again, I stuck to my stance that the government had no right to hold me accountable, and it should be the other way around. It’s ridiculous to ask parents to be held accountable to a government school system that is failing — even in Oklahoma. (See related news article, “Significant amount of Oklahoma schools receive D’s and F’s on state report cards,” for a report on current public school ratings in the state.)

Later I thought about a way I could have turned that question around and put it in their home court. Here’s what I wish I had said: In the same way that I fight for my rights as a parent to raise my children free of government intervention, members of the media fight for their right to free speech. In fact, in many instances, we are standing on the same first amendment, with freedom of religion, freedom of speech and a free press. When people try to put regulations on the media, they fight tooth and nail against even the smallest infringements.

Are there abuses within the media? For sure. I, for one, think it is grotesque to display Miley Cyrus twerking with Robin Thicke in national media coverage, so I don’t choose to watch. But I still defend the media’s right to free speech. They have the right to say and print what they want (if it isn’t libel or slander) — and I have the right to choose not to listen, read or watch what the media produces if I don’t like it.

In the same way, I, as a parent, have the right to train up my children in the way I believe is right, including homeschooling. If someone else doesn’t like it, they have the choice not to homeschool — and they don’t even have to watch me homeschool.

Are there abuses with this freedom? Yes. Anytime you give people freedom, there will be abuses — but taking freedom away isn’t the answer. Here, I will insert this quote from The Citizen’s Rule Book, as Charles Olsen says it so much better than I can:

“Politicians, bureaucrats and especially judges would have you believe that too much freedom will result in chaos. Therefore, we should gladly give up some of our rights for the good of the community. In other words, people acting in the name of government, say we need more laws even if we have to give up some rights in the process. They believe the more laws we have, the more control, thus a better society… The hard fact is that whenever you give up a right, you lose a free choice.

We could chain everybody to a tree, for lack of trust. This may prevent a crime, but it would destroy privacy, which is the heartbeat of freedom! It would also destroy trust which is the foundation for dignity.”

Sure wish I had this quote Thursday morning when I needed it.

So whether they edit the program to show me as an uncaring woman or not, I learned a lot from this experience. At first, I thought maybe it was wrong of me to put myself out there when I wasn’t fully prepared to defend the homeschool community as well as I had hoped.

However, thanks to some friendly support, I realize that this was an important step for me to take: To publicize and vocalize what I believe. As a second-generation homeschooler, it is time I took a more public stand and fought for the rights of parents. It has also helped me realize I need to be better prepared to defend and articulate my faith without backing down or worrying about how people perceive me.

POST UPDATE:  The reporter who set up the interview with me has read my post and shared his response with me via email. With his permission, here is his email response:

“Thanks for sharing your blog. I’m sorry you felt “under fire” but disagree that you were not prepared. You spoke from the heart about strong convictions and — again — I thought you did an outstanding job. As for your perception that we were biased, our job is to play devil’s advocate with everyone we interview. It may not be fun to be on the receiving end of this questioning, but I honestly think it’s the best way to find out where people stand on whatever issue we’re exploring. And I really appreciate you stepping up and talking to us. We’re still hoping the HSLDA will share your courage so we can talk to them as well — but we have yet to hear from them (despite repeated phone calls)! Cheers, David.”

We appreciate David’s response and do hope to see a fair representation of this issue when the final news package airs!

POST UPDATE: The final TV news story on homeschool regulations appeared on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 and is summarized online. At this time, no video link is available.

What would you have done if a reporter called you for an interview about homeschooling? Have you ever been in a situation where you had to defend your homeschooling rights? What state regulations do you face, and have you dealt with challenges as a result? Would you consider the homeschooling rights of a state if you were considering a move?

38 thoughts on “Homeschooling Freedom in Oklahoma: Defending My Rights

  1. While I don’t live in Oklahoma, I do appreciate you standing up for all parents, in being able to choose how to educate their children. We choose to homeschool and I would like to be able to keep it that way!

  2. It is not freedom versus government; it is the freedom of children (to not be abused, neglected, deprived of an education) which must be balanced against the freedoms of the parent. Free speech is a great example: a publishers right to a free press does not trump a child’s right not to be sexually exploited for the purpose of making pornography. As always, the trouble with these discussions is the church environment is the tradition, rooted in the Old Testament of the Bible, of treating children as parent’s property, the equivalent of cattle, without rights whatsoever.

    1. I find it laughable that the answer to “to not be abused, neglected, deprived of an education” is to send them to public school, where there is more abuse, neglect and lack of education happening than ever.

      The point to this article is that parents have the freedom to raise their children as they see fit. We don’t own our children. Far from it. They belong to God, on loan to us to teach, train and disciple. Many of us choose homeschooling as a means to that end.

      You have the freedom not to. Yay for us both.

    2. I would argue most Christian parents see their children as gifts that God has entrusted us with and definately not cattle or even property. I want my children to be free to make their own choices but to also learn to be responsible with that freedom and be able to make wise choices. As to parental rights vs child protection, unfortunately you can not legislate a perfect world. Even in socialist countries they have child abuse. I would also expect abuse at home is more prevalent in public schooled children so it’s sort of a false argument to start with. I hate the idea of child abuse as much as anyone but taking parental rights from responsible people is not an acceptable solution.

    3. In regards to your belief that homeschooling rights infringe upon the freedom of children, let me remind you that we already DO have a government organization charged with the responsibility of protecting the “safety” of children and families: It’s called social services. A homeschooling parent is just as subject to its investigation and intervention as a parent with children in a public school. If abuse is taking place, social services would be the ones to handle it — not a school district homeschooling monitoring program (if one existed).

      This article is about constitutional liberty. Homeschooling parents have the same rights that all parents have: To make decisions about their child’s welfare and care that they believe are best. If a parent decides to homeschool as one of those choices, why would the government have anymore right to dictate to the parent what the “best” education looks like. And in case it’s not obvious, you can’t stop a parent from sharing their faith or their atheism with their children by regulating their schooling — unless they’re yanked out of their homes entirely. Is that the solution?

    4. It isn’t that children are thought of as a parent’s property. Not at all. It is that they are thought of as a valuable treasure entrusted to us by their creator to love, teach,.value, guide, and respect. The government should have no hand in that.

  3. Rosanna, all I have to say is GOOD FOR YOU! You took a big step in getting the voice of local and national homeschooling advocates heard. And I think it is wonderful that you were able to reflect on it and continually prepare yourself for the doors God is opening for you in this arena! Great article, thank you for sharing!

  4. Most of the arguments I hear against parental rights revolve around rare cases of abuse and or neglect of children. To imply that most homeschooling parents have some nefarious goal to control and brainwash their children is absurd. Most Christian parents know their children are a gift from God and we are responsible for raising them. Homeschooling is not always fun and is definately not easy so why do it unless you have a compelling reason. Of course you can can find examples of bad parents but I would suggest it is much easier to find examples of abuse, neglect, brainwashing and just poor teaching in the public system. It is a common tactic of liberals to use an exception to prove the rule. But while they are throwing dirt on a few bad examples they ask us to pay no mind to their horrible public schools run by socialist unions.

    1. That is right, Kenny! The possibility of child abuse does not trump my rights as a parent either, Mr. Hickmon. With that logic, let’s just shut done all public schools as well since plenty of child and sexual abuse occurs there! Your logic makes no sense, with all due respect. Sounds like your problem is with the church since it can’t be a problem with parents making decisions for their children ( I assume you had parents who made the decision to educate you in the public schools). Some would consider that abuse, I guess. Our children are gifts from The Lord. We take our responsibility very seriously and desire to provide the very best education to them possible. It is with that mission in mind that we choose to home school.

  5. Home schooling is fine – as long as it is good schooling. I think the government does have a right to ensure it is good schooling and not the sort of nonsense that goes on in some schools that are run by religious sects, and probably by some parents as well. The children can wind up thinking that that everyone outside their little circle is wicked and dangerous, and only their own family know the ‘right way.’ It can be used to teach children not to think for themselves.

    1. Marj this doesn’t happen in public school? What about bullies? Peer pressure? Cliques? What happens to most Christian kids in public schools today? What about racism? Rape? What about brainwashing? Does that not happen in public schools?

      1. I didn’t say that public schools should be exempt from scrutiny. It may be difficult to stop bullying, peer pressure and the formation of cliques – luckily nastier things like rape are rare. Take religion right out of schools, that is, ALL religions out of All schools, and there will be less brain-washing going on. Teach your children well, don’t tell them that atheists, Muslims and even other denominations of Christians are all evil and doomed to hell, and you’ll probably do fine.

        1. Actually the Bible teaches we are all evil and doomed to hell and only through Jesus are we saved. As well as things like that we should love others as ourselves because God loves the whole world. Your point is that I should not teach this to my children? Even if they went to public school I would teach them these thing so your only real recourse is to take my children away because I am a religious nut and an unfit parent. Oh wait that describes most homeschool parents. See where your logic goes and why home educators are so adamant about keeping people with your beliefs away from our parental rights.

        2. Everything about your statement sounds anti Christian. I understand that you’re saying “no religion in school,” but you went right for the Christians! You obviously have a problem with anyone teaching their children about God or the Bible, and I’m sure you have a problem with creation vs evolution. You’re attacking my personal faith. Are you saying my faith is not worthy of being studied? Is religion not educational? Seems to me that you’ve been brainwashed to hate religion, you seem very one-sided. I know my faith, my beliefs in the Bible, and the science out there that backs it up…but do you? No, apparently not! Because you would rather spew off a lot of crap about the fact that Christians teach children that other people are doomed to hell. I do not teach my children that anyone is doomed to hell! Your ignorance of my faith in Jesus Christ is probably due to your lack of knowledge of the Bible and, by your statement about Muslims, your lack of knowledge on any religion for that matter. My position is that I am for freedom, and your speaking fear of… what? CHRISTIANS? KNOWLEDGE OF A HIGHER POWER? GOD? I think your problem is you do not study “God” enough. I will pray for your knowledge of him to increase.

          1. If you believe in Creationism, then yes, you should not be teaching your children as if it was fact. There are many religions, all of which think they are the only ones who will get to heaven. That includes the idiots who blow themselves up to promote Islam. I would like all children to have a good honest secular education, though I would not stop parents teaching their own beliefs as long as it is not to hurt other people.
            To teach your children, you should also have good English. ‘you’re’ in that context, not ‘your,’ and ‘cliques’ not clicks.

            1. Sorry, disregard those last two sentence. They are common errors and I’ve heard worse from public teachers. It was a little spiteful to point them out.

            2. Hi Marj

              I also believe in creationism, which is a strong reason for me NOT to send my kids to school. How would you feel if all public schools taught creationism? Your point of view is contrary to mine, yet I don’t ask for possesion of your children. Elizabeth is my sister. You can read my reply above to know what I know about people like yourself. We were both homeschooled by our dad: Yes, our dad. Actually I had to take remedial English when I went to college, but then proceeded to impress my teacher with insightful and well-written projects. He had no idea why I was in his class. I graduated with a 3.5. My point is to say that homescooled children may not know everything, however we tend to be better able to process information and make good decisions based on it. My sister may not have perfect grammar. But I believe she made some very important decisons in her life, only because she was schooled by Christians. To me, that spiritual education is much more important than reading, writing and math.

    2. This article is about homeschool regulation and constitutional liberty. Even in states where homeschooling is regulated tightly, the religious views of their parents are not subject to control — just as they aren’t controlled when children are in public school. Adding homeschool regulations in Oklahoma would not change the fact that the faiths of parents may be shared with their children.

      I have yet to understand why people who don’t believe in God or any gods fear someone believing that they are wrong or that they may be “doomed to hell” as you say. If someone doesn’t believe in God, evil, sin or hell, what’s to worry about?

      Though I may disagree with your position on religion, I don’t believe that your rights to share your belief system with your children should be regulated.

      The definition of “good” schooling is subjective. As a parent, we should have the rights to make that call. As noted in this post, currently 23% — almost a quarter! — of public schools in the state of Oklahoma received D & F ratings in 2013, whereas current statistics show that homeschooling in the US is producing superior results. (See this collection of statistics gathered by Calvert Education.) Clearly, not all public schools are doing a “good” job, and parents have the right to respond by choosing alternative education options — no matter what their religious foundations are.

    3. Many seem to think these children are the government’s and we are given a chance to raise them if the government approves it. That is the furthest thing from the truth, and we need to reclaim the family. If we choose to allow the government to help educate our children and the government wants to offer that program (i.e. public schools), then that option is fine. But it should never be expected, and they should never have educational authority over our kids in such a way.

      And before they should even attempt to be the judge of a good education, they should fully provide one to all students, in all schools, in all situations. They fail greatly at that.

  6. My DH and I applaud your bravery and tenacity in standing by your values, and speaking up for those who share your values. Although we are a Catholic/Episcopalian household, we are secular homeschoolers. Our reasons for homeschooing center around our children’s special needs – all profoundly gifted. We lve in a very liberal homeschooling state. All that is required is that you report the child’s name and age to the school district each year. There are no testing requirements.

    I DO worry about the “poor” children who receive an education so lacking as to hinder their ability to function as fully contributing members of society, not to mention squelching any love of learning they may have ever possessed. I suspect you worry about these children as well. Per capita, far more children are failed by the public system than by the ranks of homeschoolers. Homeschooled students consistently perform better on standardized tests than their public school educated cohorts; they also enjoy a higher rate of college completion rates.

    As parents, I believe we are primarily responsible to our children, and secondarily to society, for the education they are afforded. As educators (public, independent, parochial, home) we are accountable to our students and society as well. I do not believe we are accountable to the government, unless of course we are employed by them! If they want accountability let’s start with compensation and tax breaks for homeschoolers!

    I have to say I am fortunate in that, by and large, our decision to homeschool our sons has been well accepted by most of our friends, family, and extended community.

  7. Ok first off, let me add that having your kids at home all day is not easy… even a lazy drug-dealing, low-income thug parent would get up and make sure that child (especially grade school age) got to school for all-day free daycare and meals. Very few use “homeschooling” as an out for the purpose of abusing and neglecting their children. I agree that it may happen, but abuse can happen anywhere: It’s ugly and it’s wrong, but I do not need a state babysitter telling me what to teach my children anymore than a public school teacher would want to read a government script and worry over additional regulations everyday in her classroom instead of being allowed to just teach. This is part of why I homeschool!

  8. I have decided to no longer do media reports on home education because the few I have done have ALWAYS been twisted and the approach to ask for the interview was one thing but the reality was another. Now I tell them straight you pitch it to me straight and I’ll play ball but don’t waste my time I’m a busy homeschool Mom. Since I’ve done that I’ve had no more approaches for homeschool interviews

    1. As a former member of the media myself, I can understand why, Chareen! I know Rosanna prayerfully considered this request, so it’s my prayer that some good will come out of it.

  9. Are there any actual homeschool students doing these comments? A lot of the sentiments seem to be coming from homeschooling parents, who may not have the full perspective from their children’s point of view.
    I’m just starting by saying that I’m not from a religious background or a Christian homeschooling environment. I read the Bible, I took the good lessons from that, but for the most part my religious beliefs were allowed to grow on their own.
    Homeschooling wasn’t a choice, it was a necessity as I was living on a boat. But my dad always extolled the same virtues I see here- no peer pressure, no risk of getting into drugs or alcohol, no contamination from a corrupt popular culture. And I believed those things for a long time, and was proud that I never got into a rebellious, teenager phase.
    But, sooner or later, us kids have to leave the homeschooling bubble, and go out into the real world. I had an amazing academic education, I am still blowing through my classes at OU, but I am still having extraordinary difficulties with the social aspects of trying to make friends, since my social sphere was so tiny while I was homeschooled. I still find having to make extreme stretches to relate to common, everyday conversations, because it was simply not in my realm of experience. I could expound the controversies and dangers surrounding the reign of Elizabeth I or the behavioral intricacies of bees at great length, but I have trouble relating to basic daily conversation.
    So, the point of all of this is to illustrate that the outcome of even the best homeschooling you can teach your children can be very different, once you put it into practice. I was not abused, indoctrinated, punished, or anything like that. But I was definitely limited, restricted, and I’m still trying to work my way out of the social coccoon my parents and I so lovingly wove around me, to protect me.

    1. Thank you for sharing your homeschooling experience, and I can see how living on a boat and not interacting as much with others would influence your views that too much “cocooning” via homeschooling can lead to social awkwardness.

      To answer your first question, YES – the opinions of homeschooled students are represented here. In fact, our blog’s tagline “Homeschooled Moms Homeschooling Our Next Generation” describes the perspective of all of the content here. The authors of this blog, myself included, were homeschooled as children and now homeschool our own children.

      And yes, this article IS about parental rights: The news story that Rosanna was interviewed for was about the fact that in the state of Oklahoma, the right to homeschool without government supervision is afforded to parents by the state constitution. That’s why this post is written from the parent’s point of view.

      It’s great to hear that you received a quality education from your parents. As for the socialization question, you can refer to other blogs posts we’ve written on this topic to see that our children get out socially just as much — if not more — than children in school, and the best part is that they’re not limited to interacting with 20-30 children their age only all day. Research supports the fact that homeschoolers develop advanced social skills on average. Of course, there’s always the exception, but I don’t believe the government should use the exception to create the rule.

      I wish you the best at OU and applaud you parents for doing their best for you in the way they raised you. Aren’t you glad they had the freedom to do so?

  10. To all those that have responded positively here: Thank you for your support. This has definitely been a large step out of my “introvert” comfort zone. I believe God has been dealing with me on this for awhile, and it is time for me to quit worrying about how I am perceived and trust God. Whether it turns out to be a good news program or not, I feel good about standing up for what I believe. I may or may not do it again someday.

    1. I applaud you Rosanna! You have the courage of your convictions. And you’re right: Regardless of the outcome, what matters is standing up for what you believe. I appreciate your honesty and candid expression of your experience. We can all learn from it! 🙂

  11. Thanks Rosanna. I live inside such a comfort zone that I sometimes forget how to defend my positions. Good to stretch the mind once in a while

  12. Written words and even public presentations can be vastly different from edited pieces of spoken conversations. I was interviewed one time on television. It was work related and not at all controversial, but I was completely out of my element and never want to be on television again. Kudos to you for both speaking out and for standing up for what you believe in.

  13. What an amazing testimony to the power of a mom who homeschools! You are brave and did something so many would have said no to out of fear! Thank you for standing up and sharing from the heart!

  14. If none of us are willing to be vulnerable and stand up for what we believe in and know to be right, our freedoms will be taken away very fast. I greatly appreciate your willingness to stand. Aren’t you glad God shows Himself strong most often in our own weaknesses? 🙂

    Regarding your questions, we all need to be able to “give an answer” of what we believe. It’s critical! We need to be grounded in the foundation of why we do what we do, so that when the winds of criticism– or regulations– come, we will not falter. In our family, we home educate because it is a phenomenal tool for discipleship. It allows us to guide our children every step of the way as they are growing and developing their own convictions and beliefs. In most cases, it also produces excellence in academics which has been noted in countless studies of home educated children versus “traditionally educated” children. Naturally, naysayers would like to throw out the people who seem to not care enough about their children to parent and educate them. If we are playing “tit for tat,” though, what about the children in public schools who cannot even read? What about the scandals of abuses and bullying and so forth that happens there? No. We don’t want to get into a battle of incidentals. We stand on the foundation of our freedom to do what God has called us to do. That is to Teach Our Children DILIGENTLY and to shepherd their young hearts to love HIm with all their heart, soul and might.

  15. Wow! Good for you stepping up to the bat for all of us homeschoolers. AND for your honesty in sharing here! I am not sure what I would do in your shoes, but would step into them if asked, I think. I do think homeschooling is a right and I am always happy to share about it. Whether or not I am articulate when I do is another story. 😉

  16. You said: “A question was posed in such a way that either I relented my stance that homeschooling should continue to be totally unregulated and under the parent’s responsibility in Oklahoma, or I had to admit that I didn’t “care” about all those kids who weren’t getting a proper education because their parents used the excuse of homeschooling to be irresponsible, which can’t be monitored because of the current laws.”

    I am very curious as to what your actual response is to that question. I believe it is a valid question. As a current Oklahoma resident, homeschooled K-12, looking at education options for my own future children, I believe that right now I would be more than happy to allow regulation of my own life in order to make sure that other children were not being neglected and abused. That question would not be an issue for me because I believe homeschooling should be about the children’s rights, not about the parents’ agenda.

    I am in air traffic control school right now while working full time as an accountant, one of homeschooling’s success stories, to be sure. However, my parents refused to report anything to the state, out of sheer stubbornness, not any other reason. My mother has always kept copious records, so she would have absolutely nothing to be afraid of were she and her schooling methods investigated. As I’ve grown, I have become increasingly frustrated with my own parents’ lack of willingness to consider anything outside of their small box of agendas and standards. Life doesn’t work like that: the world nowadays requires cooperation and unity, not divisiveness.

    The fact of the matter is that there IS educational and physical neglect out there, and it needs to be addressed somehow. It’s not acceptable for parents to have no accountability when it comes to children, and for children to have no recourse in the case of maltreatment by the parents. If you disagree with me on that, then you truly don’t care, as you are afraid that the interview will portray you. I believe that this accountability can take place privately, of course, and probably would be better enacted that way. But so far that isn’t happening. Homeschoolers take up arms over any change in homeschooling law, when I wish that they would actually read and contemplate a little longer about the ramifications of the individual laws first.

    Thank you for doing the interview and sharing your perspective. I look forward to watching it when it comes out.

  17. The thing is you don’t care about the kids who are hurt by their parents, whose parents give their kids no education under the guise of homeschooling. You can say all you like that God will judge them, but what good is that for the child’s life? These children have no prospects whatsoever – government oversight gives those children some hope.
    This isn’t about taking ‘freedom’ away (we’ll leave the debates about what freedom is to the side here), this is about protecting the most vulnerable. There IS no freedom if the most vulnerable are ‘free’ to be neglected – and that’s exactly what your stance allows.

    1. Homeschooling regulation can’t guarantee a specific outcome anymore than our current education system’s regulations do. In the state of Oklahoma, approximately a quarter of all public schools received D/F ratings this past year (see this report), and across the country, 19% of high school graduates are illiterate (see this report). Clearly, giving the government oversight over ALL forms of education, not just public education, is not a guarantee that they will be literate and receive a good education — or are guaranteed “hope” as you say. The government can’t guarantee children anything via new homeschool regulations. Lastly, you’re accusing this writer of not caring “about children who are being hurt by their parents” when in fact she was never asked about that and specifically said did not want to be portrayed by the reporter as someone who didn’t care. She was asked whether she believed homeschooling regulations would provide more protection to children with bad parents, and her answer was “no” — parents who fail to be good parents will fail whether homeschooling is a regulated or not. Statistics show that the majority of the homeschooling population is excelling beyond their public school peers with the state of regulations as they are (see this report), and there’s no evidence that the current state of homeschooling regulations is creating an usually large population of uneducated or neglected children.

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