CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

The Ongoing War on Homeschoolers

Feb 23, 2017

Modern mass public education is a relatively new phenomenon. It has been a mixed bag, depending on what people expect from it. If the idea is to simply provide everyone with a general education, that might be a good thing. But if it is simply a means to get access to children, undo parental values and concerns, and push the values and principles of the state, then it can be a very bad thing indeed.

Certainly all dictators and statists have known how powerful and effective mass state education can be for purposes of propaganda and indoctrination. Letting the state, and not parents, fill a child’s mind with values and beliefs is always a good way to consolidate power and control, and remove any threats of resistance.

homeschoolingEven in the free West, we increasingly find mass education being used as much to further radical social agendas as anything else. Indeed, plenty of kids in the West come out of our school system dumbed down – they are often even illiterate and innumerate. But they have had plenty of propaganda foisted upon them over the years.

It is especially for these two reasons that so many parents have resorted to homeschooling. They not only want to ensure their children are actually learning properly and being taught the basics, but they also do not want them being exposed to all the radical agendas of the militant minority groups.

And they have always had an uneasy relationship with the state. Indeed, in some Western nations homeschooling is illegal, as in Germany. Other places have plenty of restrictions and controls in place, making it ever more difficult for a parent to freely homeschool.

We see this once again in the state of Victoria. I have written plenty of articles already about Premier Dan Andrews’ relentless anti-Christian agenda. It just keeps getting worse. Consider the recent moves to further clamp down on homeschooling. As one recent news item states:

Home-schooling is about to be subjected to regulation in Victoria, as thousands of families turn their backs on traditional education. An estimated 4500 children are home-schooled in Victoria, up from just 2279 in 2009. The State Government is now proposing to give the Victorian Regulation and Qualifications Authority new powers to investigate whether a home-school family is providing an adequate education.

This, and the rest of the article, seem innocuous enough. But there is more to it than what this piece is letting on. As one Victorian homeschool mum, Sarah Nicholson wrote in a recent article:

In Victoria, Daniel Andrews’ Labor government is trying to erode this parental right to choose our children’s education by introducing new regulations governing homeschooling. Minister for Education, James Merlino, sells the draft regulations with constant inaccuracies, and his benign rhetoric is being regurgitated by all government ministers.
Victorian home-schoolers are overseen by the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority and, while the official government view sounds like reasonable accountability for homeschooling, away from the public eye the VRQA works quietly to limit homeschooling. Parents attempting to register are initially told, “Homeschooling is a legal choice,” but are encouraged to think about the “ramifications” of such a choice – according to the VRQA children will end up “unemployable and unqualified”. They are then heavily pushed towards school or distance education.
If parents persist in registering, they are told that state curriculum materials are unavailable for sale and that available curriculums are not approved. Parents report feeling bullied after such an experience, and say registration requires assertiveness. It is unknown how many potential homeschoolers the VRQA has managed to bully back into the school system.

She continues:

Under the proposed regulations, children must remain in school unless they have a reason confirmed by an acceptable authority such as the school or a psychologist. In the meantime, parents must submit a detailed plan for VRQA assessment and wait 28 days for a response. Given the VRQA attitude, homeschoolers are doubtful many registrations will be approved. In addition, existing homeschoolers will be randomly reviewed by the VRQA who will also set the review criteria, which are not detailed in the regulations and could be changed at any time.
On an extreme level, there is concern that if plans do not include certain curriculum content such as Safe Schools or Respectful Relationships, parents will be forced to include them to get registration. The regulations give no criteria for parents to form plans upon, setting parents up for failure to even register, let alone failure to home-school. Meanwhile, children are at unacceptable risk in school.
Homeschooling parents of every political bent in Victoria see these regulations as an attack by the government on parental and indeed human rights.

I recently asked several Victorians who are heavily into homeschooling what their thoughts are on these new regulations. John Angelico is a father of seven children who were home educated from 1989. He and his wife have just concluded with their youngest child. He writes:

As a former home educating family, and operator of a curriculum supplier to home educators around Australia, I view the new draft regulations for Victorian home educators with serious misgivings. Let me begin with a bit of background and history to this:
Before the Cain-Kirner Labor government tried to rewrite the rules in 1991, the Education Act required parents to be responsible for the education of their children by either enrolling them in school, or by providing “regular and efficient instruction in some other way” and observing the same hours as were required of school attendance (essentially 180 days per year). Failure to do so could be prosecuted as truancy, but parents could successfully defend themselves by demonstrating to a Magistrate evidence of attendance, the content of their curriculum plans, and evidence of their children’s achievements and test results.
The 1991 Bill was withdrawn in the face of strong opposition from the home educating community, backed by evidence that there was no problem to be solved by draconian legislation. The government was soon to be defeated at the election which saw the Kennett Coalition government installed.
The re-elected Bracks’ Labor government tried again in 2006, and again faced considerable opposition from the homeschool community. The new Bill admitted that real educational outcomes were not the issue by changing the focus from truancy (to be argued in a Court with educational evidence) to compliance with a regulation to register – it would be much simpler for the Education Department to prosecute parents for failing to have a piece of paper expressing government permission. This also changed the focus of education from a parental responsibility to a government responsibility, and parents were to be granted “permission” to do something different.
However, because the government had a solid majority, the Education & Training Reform Act was passed unchanged in 2007, and is the current legislation in force.

His concerns are these:

The Minister operates from the assumption that school education is superior to home education (well, as a Labor Party Minister he would say that wouldn’t he?). However, during the entire time we operated our business, we saw that graduating home educated students achieved their first preferences consistently, 100% of the time. We saw home educated students walk into some of the toughest University courses available in Australia (law, specialist medicine, international finance, electronics and robotics), and some were offered places at prestigious international establishments such as MIT. Others chose alternate pathways into trades because they were more inclined that way, and many have established themselves in their own businesses now. One of my sons is a highly regarded computer programmer, a principal contributor to modern computer languages, and a well-paid online tutor in networking, web design and databases.
As the 2006 Act established, this is about control, not about education.

And one mother of four who has been home educating for seven years, but wishes to remain anonymous, told me this:

The reason many parents choose to home educate is because their children are not receiving a quality education in schools, whether it be due to bullying, or to special needs, giftedness or learning difficulties that the school system is not equipped to handle.
My husband and I believe that we have a God-given right to educate our children, a right which the Education Act upholds. We believe this extends not only to educating our children at home but also to choosing what, when and where they will be taught. The new regulations remove this right and requires parents to get permission from the government and to comply with whatever the VRQA decides makes an acceptable learning plan and learning outcomes.
We home educate primarily because we want to raise our children with a Biblical worldview and we want their education to reflect that. It also allows us to have a closer family life, and it allows us to go at the speed our children need. We can spend as much or as little time on a concept that each individual child needs. We want to focus on right thinking, logical fallacies, and seeing God’s hand in the world and in history. We want to be the ones teaching our children about sexuality, for example.
The new regulations are a concern, moving from a language of informing VRQA that we will home educate to asking permission to home educate. The regulations are vague and give full power over home educators to the VRQA. They have the power to change what is required in a learning plan or as proof that we are home educating our children at any time during the next ten years.
The government has no evidence that home education is not working. They cite lack of information as the reason for increasing regulations rather than data, which they have had 10 years to collect and could have asked the home education community for but didn’t.
They say we will be free to teach what we want but in at least one case I know of they are asking parents under review for learning plans aligned to the Australian Curriculum before giving them permission to continue home educating. Other home educators have been asked how they can be on the phone to VRQA during school hours since they should be schooling.
So on one hand they are saying it’s a light touch approach which would “allow flexibility for a registered family to continue using any method they see fit to deliver instruction, as long as that method meets the registration requirements” while on the other they are showing that they consider education to be Australian Curriculum aligned, outcome based, during school hours, and during school terms, all of which they have the power to make registration requirements.
Reviewers are not required to have any knowledge or experience of home education. The VRQA has not consulted with the home education community about these changes. Ten years ago a Home School Advisory Committee was set up to work with VRQA. This was disbanded in 2009 and no consultation has taken place since. The education minister has not met with us despite being invited to.
There is a one-off learning plan that needs to be submitted with the registration application. Later in the documentation we find that random reviews will be done against the learning plan. That means every home educator, every year is expected to have a learning plan in case they are reviewed against it. Also changes to the first learning plan must be reported to VRQA within 14 days. All of this is a genuine worry.
In sum, we homeschool so that our children have a different education than that offered in schools and we want to keep it that way.

Those who are concerned about where all this is headed can go to this Victorian home education site. These three pages are worth looking at:
home-ed.vic.edu.au/
home-ed.vic.edu.au/hands-off-home-ed/
home-ed.vic.edu.au/home-ed-regs-forum/

And there are several petitions you can sign on this as well: This is one, and it lists two others on the bottom of the form:
www.change.org/p/petition-for-fair-and-consultative-regulations-on-home-education?recruiter=12216726&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink

www.heraldsun.com.au/news/special-features/news-in-education/victorian-regulation-and-qualification-authority-to-probe-home-schooling/news-story/7a76f9e52ca4660562707f005e8da120?nk=7f3e8c0e78d7555e19d1b6b215a6ba1f-1487818297
spectator.com.au/2017/02/daniel-andrews-bullying-homeschoolers/

[2001 words]

16 Responses to The Ongoing War on Homeschoolers

  • Home-schooled kids “unemployable and unqualified?” I congratulate John Angelico and his wife with the outcomes they have seen from home-schooling their children. Today I was able to know some of the pride they must feel for their computer programmer son, when one of my three children sent me a message to say he got his PhD results today – he passed with no amendments and a Dean’s commendation. My three children were also home-schooled for a significant part of their school years and all three are graduates who have never had trouble getting a job.
    Parents teach their children the foundation of an entire language by the age of 5, so I am puzzled as to why they are suddenly deemed to be incompetent educators when their children hit that mystical age.

  • I heard just last weekend of a home-school group being denied entry to Werribee Zoo as a school group because of a new directive from the Education Department.

  • It does sound tough. In New Zealand you need to apply for an exemption that includes your plan to educate your children. As long as you demonstrate via your application form your plan to educate them to the same level as they would at school, then the exemption is given.

    Previously, home schooling parents in New Zealand could be audited by our version of the VRQA – ERO. However over the years the outcomes were so outstanding that auditing became superfluous and the current government stopped it as a cost measure.

    I would persist and continue to apply. I know the Andrews’ government is quite unpleasant from reading your articles, but, parents considering homeschooling, please don’t give up. You can do it, because you are committed to your children!

  • With twenty eight years of homeschooling behind me I have seen an evolution from total freedom to ultimate control and it’s not a pretty sight! Way back in 1991 I saw the changes that the “NSW Education (alleged) Reform Act” brought to homeschooling. As far as I could see at the time, this change in legislation was completely initiated and powered by a small but vocal group of do-gooder homeschoolers who wanted recognition and validation from the state. It’s been a slippery slope since then with other states following suit to varying degrees and now this. Conscientious objection is the only course I can see and of course that is a rocky path for some of us. We must grow our convictions and stand firm on them, for our children’s sake, with wisdom. You can do it, and the results will make you oh so thankful that you persevered and stayed on the narrow path!

  • Many thanks for that Lynn.

  • In Sparta, the ancient purpose of schools was to create functionaries of the State to serve in the military. More modern manifestations of schools had purposes such as: creating religious homogeneity, creating conditioned factory workers, and mindless receptors of political correctness. The best thing that schools are able to achieve is a “schooling” of children. Think about the term ‘school’. What do you imagine when you hear the phrase, “a school of fish”? Thousands of individuals that respond as one entity when prodded.

    We should not even be using the term school when talking about education that is based out of a home. Education can take place without ever darkening the door of a school. Attending school does not mean that an education will take place at all. A schooled person is narrow-minded, conditioned to think that there is only one answer, and that is the answer that the teacher requires to pass the next test. An educated mind is expansive and can range the full gamut of potentialities and possibilities.

    Some of the most aggressive promoters of modern statist schooling were the evangelicals of the mid nineteenth century who campaigned for secular, free and compulsory schooling. They despised God’s Law, and sided with the godless statists against God’s mandate for the family to be the principle educator of children, with assistance from the Church and free-market tutors.

    The twenty-first century Church must stop siding with the State, and side with God’s Law. Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God. Children are not children of the State. The State has no Biblical mandate to be involved in education in any capacity. It was the nineteenth century Church that created the modern notion that State-funded schools were required to educate children. It is the mandate of God for the twenty-first century Church to teach all that Jesus has commanded, which includes: “fathers, train up your children in the fear and admonition of the Lord”.

    God doesn’t want you to send your children to school, He wants them to receive an education. Modern government opposition to home-based education is not grounded in educational concerns, it is motivated by concerns that without children attending school they might become independent thinkers and actually see that the emperor has no clothes on.

  • “… it is motivated by concerns that without children attending school they might become independent thinkers and actually see that the emperor has no clothes on.”

    Exactly, and we can’t have that now, can we?

    Well said Lance!

  • On Friday 17th February of this year we held a forum about this issue in Berwick. We had about 240 people turn up, including a couple of members of parliament (no one from the Labour Party could make it). One of the points made was that by requiring parents to ask the government for permission to home educate they actually contravene the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, which states (in article 26 section 3) that “parents have the prior right to choose the type of education they wish their children to have”. It is difficult to have any faith in a government which either doesn’t know this or chooses to ignore it.

  • I was told many years ago that our children technically do not belong to us, they belong to the State. I can’t recall what the reason they gave for saying that was, some UN or similar document. It is alarming. We should be fighting for every single right we DO have.
    Thank you for referencing my article, it is wonderful to see the groundswell of support we have.

  • Thank you for writing it Sarah!

  • All I can say is here we go again! It had to happen and we knew it would happen again.
    As a father of a family of 5 who spent some 23 years home educating our children, after the last fiasco some ten years ago where the state insisted the children were really their property we made a conscious decision that God had entrusted our children to us and it was solely our responsibility to nurture protect and educate them and not to a belligerent controlling state who has no love for them whatsoever. Part of that responsibility was to protect them from an out of control state, and believe you me they are out of control.
    Since then and compulsory registration came in we just ignored it and got on with the job we were entrusted to do as I am sure many others did, and praise God they did!

    Personally I saw nor good reason to even be dialoguing with the state, we tried that to no avail, we were open and reasonable and all that came out of that was lying and deception by the state and forced Legislation and regulation that followed. In other words their respect for our God given parental authority and for any facts was completely trampled in the mud.
    When asked for reasons, it was obvious they had none except “we have a responsibility to protect the children” of course what they really meant but would not admit was they wanted to protect the children from the values and morals of their own parents.
    We have finished home schooling and our children all found good jobs, the eldest got one of the hardest jobs to get in Australia, a Navy pilot in the defense force obtaining the highest marks ever for aeronautical Physics at a QLD uni . He has since left the defense force because of it’s rapidly increasing political correctness and currently works as a software engineer but hopes to return to aviation, he is also completing a bachelors degree in computer science.
    All of our children have surprised us with their maturity beyond their years and their ability to make adult decisions compared with many around their age. BY 15 years our youngest was considered mature enough to be left in charge of a reasonably large dairy farm and all it’s animals while the farmers went away for a months holiday. Even today he finds the same thing as an apprentice carpenter and is trusted by another local farmer to be in charge of the farm and to use machinery worth over $300,000 by himself whenever he has the time.
    I urge all home schooling parents to seek God in the decisions they make and not be intimidated by a bully of a Marxist state, you cannot serve two masters, one day we will all have to give an account and there will be no state anywhere to be seen. I for one think you are better off outside the “system” but that is for individuals to decide.
    If only everyone who home schooled had refused to register last time ten years ago what could they have done? And we would not be back where we were ten years ago. I am sure their motto is divide and conquer and they can always find that one or two that will agree with them to justify increased regulation. Last time they claimed ‘this is what home schoolers want, pig might fly to!
    Keep fighting!

  • It was the secular free and compulsory education acts of the mid 19th and early 20th century that legally transferred ownership of children from parents to the state. It was the evangelical community and its pietism that agitated for the introduction of the secular free and compulsory acts. When we despise God’s Law and embrace so-called Natural Law as the foundation for society then there are real consequences.

    The way forward includes repentance of our Lawlessness, and the embracing of God’s Law as the foundation of godly society.

    Deuteronomy 6

  • Hi Bill, I am a constitutional law academic at Deakin and I have written a detailed submission on the legal and human rights aspects of the draft Education Regulations. I’m happy to send you a copy if you’re interested. Cheers, Ben Saunders

  • My book is now available through Amazon Kindle and Apple iBooks. $3.95

    Title: ‘God doesn’t want you to send your children to school: He wants them to have an education’

    There will soon be a print-on-demand version available through Amazon. ~$6

    God bless.

Leave a Reply