I have been homeschooling in North Carolina for 10 years, and many parents have approached me wondering what their homeschool should look like. My answer to their question is that it should reflect your own children’s interests and abilities. I know mine does. However, when a North Carolina state senator suggested we need more regulations that could compromise those freedoms, it caused many in the homeschool community to contact their lawmakers asking to leave the homeschool laws alone.
North Carolina’s flexible homeschool laws allow parents to shape their children’s education towards each child. One of my daughters is skilled in writing and passionate about policy debate, earning interesting credits like research writing and international policy. The other daughter enjoys scientific research and is given time to read and explore those interests outside of a set curriculum during the school day. We have changed curriculums that weren’t working and heavily relied on field trips to enhance our science and history throughout the years. We have done pond and soil studies, visited the North Carolina Symphony, had geology lessons at a quarry, and attended historical reenactments. The beauty of homeschooling is that we can piece together exciting classes using various resources without government intervention.
In North Carolina, homeschoolers are expected to take yearly standardized tests to help the parent measure student performance, take attendance, maintain a regular schedule for nine months, and keep vaccination records. None of these regulations stiffens our academic flexibility. The educational freedoms for homeschoolers are dear to many, which is why a red flag went up when a state senator suggested it was time to consider changing homeschool statutes during a committee meeting.
State Senator Ernestine Bazemore, a Democrat from Bertie County, was cited in news articles saying homeschool laws should be updated to track additional data, especially given the 105 percent spike in homeschool applications. Many homeschoolers got a twinge of concern about the tone regarding the scope of homeschool freedoms, and when both Bazemore and the state Division of Non-Public Education suggested revisiting the statutes — that’s code to us that regulations are coming.
Failing North Carolina public schools are not short on regulations, which often translate into barriers stifling student achievement. The educational freedoms enjoyed by homeschoolers are one reason our students typically outperform public school students on standardized testing. According to the National Home Education Research Institute, homeschooled students “typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests” and score higher on SAT and ACTs. North Carolina’s Department of Education notes that only 45.4% of our K-12 students passed state exams last school year. If regulation was the key to educational success, North Carolina public schools would be the gold standard.
I understand some may suggest new rules to deter parents from home education, since as an alternative, it’s seen as competition. But if the General Assembly is going to consider changing our state’s homeschool laws, I urge them to have a discussion with homeschool parents, including those appointed to NC’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt’s new advisory committee, which will include homeschoolers. Lawmakers only familiar with traditional education need information, perspective, and insight before imposing more regulations on a thriving educational demographic. Instead of homing in on homeschoolers, North Carolina needs to focus on what’s going so wrong with our public schools and how to address dire situations such as learning loss. In the 2020-2021 school year, only 37.8% of fourth-graders were proficient in math and 45% in reading.
Imposing more homeschool rules would be a distraction to the actual education crisis facing our state. The homeschool model, which is working so well, should be upheld as a model for success, not cause for more regulation.
Laura Macklem is press secretary for the North Carolina Values Coalition.