Giselle Palmer: “Good home schools will show progress”
“In a country where education is compulsory and all schools and teachers face extreme levels of accountability for their teaching, home schools (while having some degree of curricular freedom) should also demonstrate that they are, in fact, educating children. If parents are providing sufficient education for their kids, this should not be a frightening prospect.”
My name is Giselle Palmer, and I am an advocate for homeschool accountability.
I was homeschooled in Alabama from 1985 to 1989 (2nd to 5th grades), in Florida from 1989 to 1991 (part of 6th and all of 7th grades), and in Tennessee from 1992 to 1996 (9th to 12th grades). During those years, we were registered under “umbrella schools” that helped to supervise homeschool families. I also attended private schools off and on during my school years.
My homeschooling experiences were almost always positive. We started homeschooling primarily because we moved frequently as a result of my father’s job as an engineer. The laws regulating homeschooling in our states of residence varied, and my parents were careful to abide by them. They were conscientious parents and made sure that we were educated in a way that would prepare us for success in life as well as college entrance if we desired to attend. We were registered under “umbrella schools” and completed periodic reporting requirements, based on the state. The reports were reasonable measures of accountability and not invasive. We also took standardized achievement tests regularly and did very well.
Although our parents were conservative, they were neither abusive nor overly controlling. When I was growing up, I did not have any definite knowledge of families who abused their children, but there were a few families we thought seemed a little “off,” and now I wonder . . . . We also knew families whose children seemed to be a little “behind” academically, and this concerned us somewhat. Looking back now from the perspective of a public school teacher, I realize that most of these children were probably still in the average range for their grade levels. Some of them even attended college as they got older. Some likely had undiagnosed learning disabilities.
My main reason for supporting accountability for homeschoolers is to help prevent the abuse and neglect of children. I have met children who were “homeschooled” and then entered the public schools woefully unprepared. I’ve encountered others who were habitually abused and, because they were homeschooled, no one knew or suspected what was going on in their families.
I believe that the majority of homeschooling families raise and educate their children in good faith, to the best of their abilities, and in a generally appropriate fashion. I do not believe intensive oversight of families is necessary, unless there are serious suspicions of abuse or educational neglect, demonstrated by a lack of academic progress. However, as an educator and a child advocate, I believe that all children have the right to learn and live free from fear and abuse. For these reasons, I support homeschool accountability at the state/county level.
In a country where education is compulsory and all schools and teachers face extreme levels of accountability for their teaching, home schools (while having some degree of curricular freedom) should also demonstrate that they are, in fact, educating children. If parents are providing sufficient education for their kids, this should not be a frightening prospect. I am not suggesting that home schools must follow the same scope and sequence of public schools, just that academic progress should be observable. Children’s abilities vary widely in all educational environments, but good schools show progress from year to year.
Good home schools will show progress, as well.
Giselle Palmer was homeschooled from 1985 to 1996 in Alabama, Florida, and Tennessee. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Testimonials page.