Across the States
Unschoolers Defended in Court
One reason the Kenwick family (name changed to protect privacy) moved to southwestern Kentucky in 2011 was to enjoy a more rural lifestyle. Shortly after their move, their simpler lifestyle was positively portrayed in a local paper. The article described how the Kenwicks were growing much of their food, making most of their clothing, and relying on solar power for energy.
The article also mentioned that the children were “unschooled,” meaning that they learned “more from natural experiences than from academic curriculum.” Unfortunately, local school officials and the county prosecutor assumed this meant the Kenwicks were not educating their children at all.
At the time, the family was still traveling back and forth between Kentucky and their previous state, so they had not begun reporting to their new county school system. When local school officials attempted to contact them regarding their homeschool program, it happened to be during a time when the Kenwicks were away from Kentucky.
After the officials didn’t hear back from the family, they charged Mrs. Kenwick with several counts of truancy—all because they believed unschooling to mean no schooling. The prosecutor even stated that, in the article, the Kenwicks were “flaunting” their lack of an educational program.
When the Kenwicks contacted Home School Legal Defense Association for assistance, we immediately stepped in. HSLDA Staff Attorney Thomas Schmidt helped the family prepare their scholarship and attendance records for submission to the county, and HSLDA’s local counsel A. C. Donahue made several court appearances on their behalf. The case was dismissed in late May 2012 after the family was able to demonstrate that the children’s schooling, though unconventional, was providing them with an excellent education.
—by Thomas J. Schmidt