While there is debate over reports suggesting a sudden increase in homeschooling since the Newtown shooting, the number of homeschooling families is undeniably growing consistently every year.
In an interview with Jeremiah Lorrig, spokesman for the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), Lorrig claimed that since the Newtown tragedy, individuals have been anecdotally calling homeschool groups to discuss their concerns about the safety of public schools and to talk more about the option of homeschooling.
According to Lorrig, about 38% of parents who homeschool their children cite concerns about the public school environment as the main reason for their decision to educate their children at home. “The environment includes safety, drugs, bullying, and the culture of public schools,” Lorrig said. “As long as safety in public schools is an issue, homeschooling will continue to grow.”
Lorrig states that the United States has seen about a 10-12% growth in homeschooling per year. Currently, he says, there are about 2 million homeschoolers in the United States.
“Homeschoolers have one benefit everyone acknowledges is a benefit,” Lorrig says. “It’s that parents who are involved in their kids’ lives enable and empower them to be all they can be. Having parents involved in their kids’ lives helps them to succeed both academically and socially, so that they can become people who will ultimately help to shape our culture and our future.”
As an illustration of how homeschoolers are already impacting the nation, Lorrig points to current Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), considered to be one of the “rising stars” of the Republican Party, elected in 2010. Beutler is also the first homeschooled member of Congress in recent history.
Lorrig challenges the myth that homeschooled children are not “socialized.”
“The numbers indicate the opposite,” he states. “Homeschoolers are more likely to be involved in communities, churches, scouts, and politics. They tend to outperform public school children, even after school is officially over, when they are out living their lives.”
In a study published in 2009, 12,000 homeschooled students from across the 50 states were tested on national measures of reading, language, math, science, and social studies. In the core studies of reading, language, and math, the average homeschooler scored at the 88th percentile, while the average public school student taking the same standardized tests scored at the 50th percentile.
Lorrig says that homeschoolers also tend to be exposed to a wider age range of children, rather than just the kids who were born the same year they were. “Homeschooling allows for an individualized education, rather than a ‘cookie-cutter’ approach,” he states.
Asked if he has concerns about what effects, if any, there may be on homeschooling if the pattern of growing government and restricting freedom continues in the United States, Lorrig says, “The good news is that we have won the battle over whether homeschooling should be ‘allowed.’ No one in the United States today is expressing a desire to end homeschooling.”
However, Lorrig sees two concerns on the horizon. “First, there is a desire to regulate it, and that is a concern,” he says. “Some believe that homeschoolers need to be accountable, and that government needs to do the accounting.”
“The second concern is an international problem,” he explains. “Even though some governments say they believe in upholding human rights, they have come to oppose homeschooling.”
Lorrig points to Germany as a prime example, a country in which parents’ rights are undermined and homeschooling is now illegal. Homeschooling families in Germany who have defied the law have had their homes invaded by police and children removed from their parents’ custody.
According to Lorrig, those who value educational freedom in the United States need to be concerned about the U.N. Treaties, such as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
HSLDA’s position is that, if ratified, the CRC would be binding law and supersede state constitutions and judicial systems. Since parental rights are not in the text of the U.S. Constitution, the CRC would overpower them, leaving the government to control every aspect of parent-child relations.
Lorrig explains that currently in the United States parents have a fundamental right to care for their children. However, during a situation like a divorce, when there is a question of whether one or another parent can care properly for the children, the court uses the “best interest of the child” standard.
Lorrig states that the U.N. Treaties make the “best interest of the child” standard across all situations and undermine the fundamental rights of parents.
Lorrig observes that former Sen. John Kerrey (D-MA) was the main force behind the U.N. disabilities treaty, which failed ratification in the U.S. Senate in December. Now that Kerrey is Secretary of State, he could use his new office to promote the treaty from a different perspective.
Despite the threats to freedom that loom, Lorrig says homeschoolers are a politically active community that enjoy continued and growing support in Washington D.C. He believes that the more people get to know homeschoolers, the less likely they are to be hostile toward them.
According to Lorrig, people like Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and former Sen. Jim DeMint, now president-elect of the Heritage Foundation, are “real heroes leading the charge to defend homeschoolers’ rights.”
“In the House, there are too many to count,” Lorrig says of the lawmakers who are friends to the homeschooling community. He indicates that Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH) has been especially helpful.
Lorrig agrees with former Congressman Ron Paul, who said in his farewell address to Congress:
Expect the rapidly expanding homeschooling movement to play a significant role in the revolutionary reforms needed to build a free society with Constitutional protections. We cannot expect a Federal government controlled school system to provide the intellectual ammunition to combat the dangerous growth of government that threatens our liberties.