An upcoming summit being sponsored by Harvard Law School Professor Elizabeth Bartholet features a lineup of homeschool critics who apparently plan to discuss how to reverse the freedom homeschoolers have gained over the last 40 years.
Many of the speakers and panelists have stated that they believe parents have too much autonomy and that “children’s rights” are not being adequately protected by the state.
The three basic areas of discussion cited on the summit agenda include alleged abuse and neglect of children by homeschooling parents, concern that homeschool students lack exposure to the “diverse culture” available in public schools, and skepticism that homeschoolers are adequately educating their children.
Attendance is by invitation only.
Note: Our image at the top of this article is a direct response to Harvard Magazine’s caricature of homeschool children being imprisoned at home, depicted here. It is not intended to be a criticism of public education. We recognize that many good teachers, staff, and security officers (some of whom are homeschool grads and parents) daily invest their lives in helping children learn and stay safe and we thank and honor them for their service.
These criticisms aren’t really new: we have been facing these kinds of claims since the modern renaissance of homeschooling.
What is new is that all these concerns have been brought together in a single 80-page article written by Professor Bartholet and published by the Arizona Law Review—and that some of homeschooling’s most outspoken critics plan to gather in a single place to plot a strategy of attack.
While we haven’t been invited to provide a balancing perspective at Harvard’s summit on homeschooling, HSLDA’s legal team has been reviewing Professor Bartholet’s far-ranging article and over the next few weeks, we will be releasing responses addressing her key arguments, correcting factual errors, and clearing away her straw men to examine the paper’s ideological underpinnings.
If you’d like to read Professor Bartholet’s Arizona Law Review article, here’s the link.
Short-Term Strategy to Preserve Homeschooling Freedom
Here are some things you can do right away to help defend homeschooling.
- If you are a Harvard alumnus or a current student, write a letter to the university administration expressing your disappointment in this summit. You can say something like: the agenda misrepresents home education with the objective of restricting homeschool freedom. Ask them to let you know if they endorse the ideology and goals of the event. If you’re a homeschool grad or parent, you could share how your own or your kids’ homeschool experience provided unique learning opportunities and what kind of effect it has had on life as an adult. (If you’re not a Harvard graduate but know one, ask them if they are willing to write such a letter.)
- Write your local newspaper expressing your personal concerns about the conference scheduled at Harvard that speaks so negatively about homeschooling. Point out that summit organizers support the idea of putting parents under the authority of the public school in order to homeschool. Again, sharing your own homeschool story and a few benefits of homeschooling could powerfully illustrate the value of homeschool freedom. If there are homeschoolers or friends of homeschooling that you think may not be aware of the summit, let them know, and share what they can do.
- If you listen to a talk show where the host might support homeschool freedom, contact them to express your opinion of the threat to freedom being advanced by these critics.
- Watch for HSLDA’s upcoming series (mentioned above) analyzing the various criticisms of homeschooling specifically raised by Professor Bartholet in her Arizona Law Review article. You can also share these with your pro-homeschooling family and friends.
- Look for other ways you can engage, and if you pray, please pray for wisdom, discernment, and protection.
Longer-Term Strategy to Preserve Homeschool Freedom
There will also be opportunities to defend homeschooling in the future.
- As HSLDA has been doing strategic planning over the last few years, we’ve realized that the biggest emerging threat to homeschool freedom is a small but influential group of academic intellectuals who are writing articles from a worldview that is hostile to parental rights and homeschool freedom. In response, we decided a couple years ago to devote more resources to advocating for homeschooling freedom in the court of public opinion—in addition to our ongoing work in the legislatures and courts of law. This Arizona Law Review article (along with Harvard Magazine’s summary) and Harvard Law School’s planned summit verified for us the urgency of this need once again. We will be working with researchers and collaborating with other homeschool-friendly organizations.
- HSLDA will continue to advocate for homeschool freedom in court.
- We will continue to monitor closely, in conjunction with the state homeschool organizations, legislation relating to homeschooling freedom and parental rights. We will rally the powerful homeschool grassroots network to defeat any effort to roll back freedom. Over the last 10 years, vigilant homeschool families have thwarted every effort to reverse the freedoms we have gained. And we are so encouraged by homeschooling families from every walk of life and every part of the country rising up and linking arms now to speak up for homeschool freedom. Since the most immediate and direct attack against homeschool freedom will come through the state legislatures, we encourage homeschooling families to identify and contact their state representatives and senators personally while they are in their home office. Once the pandemic is over, schedule a personal visit. Many legislators don’t know any homeschooling families, so your visit will give them a friendly face to connect to homeschooling. Plus, it’s a great practical lesson in civics: take your well-behaved homeschool children with you to meet the legislators and their aides. The most effective lobbyist for homeschool freedom is a homeschooling family.
- Stay informed on the issue of homeschool freedom in your state by joining your state homeschool organization and subscribing to our free email alerts, and should you be asked to call or visit your representative when a bill has been introduced, please do so. If you’re asked to attend a hearing at the legislature, please do so as well. If you are asked to testify at a hearing, please do so.
- Membership in HSLDA strengthens our resources and numbers, and both are vitally important for preserving freedom. If you are not an HSLDA member, please consider joining. (And ask a friend to join, too!)
- Another way you can support our efforts to advocate for homeschool freedom in legislatures, the legal system, and the courts of public opinion is by donating to HSLDA here.
Finally, as a Christian organization that serves all homeschooling families regardless of any religious belief, we invite you to pray with us for God’s protection of homeschool freedom and homeschooling families. As King Solomon, renowned for his great wisdom, reminds us in one of his Psalms: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those that labor to build it, labor in vain.”