Several years ago my principal and I spent a lunch hour on a home visit to see one of my students. He had been absent for a week, after telling us that he was going to be homeschooled.
This boy had come to me after a previous bout of homeschooling, essentially two years behind his peers, but was just beginning to make steady progress.
We were not happy to hear that he would be homeschooled, and feared for the worse. He lived with a single mom who lacked basic parenting skills and we were legitimately concerned that with her as his teacher he could essentially become a third grade drop-out. So we set out to change her mind.
My boss was the bad cop, explaining that her son would be racking up unexcused absences until the homeschooling paperwork cleared, which could lead to all sorts of trouble for her. I got to be good cop, telling her how much progress her son had made and how much the students and I missed him. We talked with mom at the doorway to their apartment, and before long her son came to into view and began chanting, "I wanna go back to school, I wanna go back to school."
We asked about her reasons. She explained that one of the other staff members had made an insulting remark to her son. My principal explained that it was unfortunate, but was something that could be resolved without resorting to such drastic measures. She appreciated the fact that we came out and in the end, common sense prevailed and she brought her son back to school.
Discussing the visit on the drive back to school, we both had the strong feeling that the mom was just plain lonely. She wasn't working at the time, seemed depressed and wanted her son around to keep her company. The incident at school may or may not have happened in the manner that her son described it, but we suspected that she was using it as a way to justify having her son home with her for essentially selfish reasons. We could have been wrong, of course. Middle-aged married guys have been know to draw the wrong conclusion from time to time, even when they work together, and especially when it comes to understanding women.
But if it was true, it wasn't the first time that we had a student pulled out of our school to keep a parent company. Either way, this much is clear: no good would have come from this boy being homeschooled.
So where does state law stand in regards to homeschooling? Well off to the side, actually. All a parent has to do is file an Intent to Homeschool and show that they've either taken 45 credits of college-level courses (in anything) or that they've taken an approved class on homeschooling. That's it. Homeschooled kids have to take periodic tests, but they don't necessarily have to pass them. With all the recent focus on school accountability, it seems odd that the state is so loose with homeschool oversight.
According to state law, the mother whose home we visited had the capacity and the right to homeschool her child.
Now I'm sure there are plenty of parents out there who are effectively homeschooling their children for all the right reasons. But this mother was not one of them. And what would have happened ten years down the road, when he was eighteen years old with a third grade education?
I can't imagine, but I'd sure like to see someone in Olympia take a long, critical look at our state's homeschool law.