I shouldn't be surprised at the attitude of this report from The New York Times, that "lack of supervision" of homeschooling families was a contributing factor in the deaths of four girls. I really am not surprised, because most Americans value regulation and control over individual liberty. Still, I am disheartened. No, make that incensed.
The lack of supervision of the home-schooling process, some experts say, may have made it easier last year for Ms. Jacks to withdraw her children from school and the prying eyes of teachers, social workers and other professionals who otherwise might have detected signs of abuse and neglect of the girls. (emphasis added)
What happened to these children is tragic and inexcusable. The fact that they died at the hand of their own mother is horrible. I can't even imagine how terrible their short lives must have been.
But homeschooling, and the supposed lack of governmental oversight, is not responsible. No way.
Some would have us think that it is the proper role of "society" (that is, the government) to oversee all children just in case the child is in danger at home.
Mitchell L. Stevens, an associate professor of education and sociology at New York University, said school officials, who are required by law to report suspicion of child abuse, were society’s best watchdogs of how parents treat children.
By this reasoning, parents should be REQUIRED by law to put their newborns in daycare after leaving the hospital. Why? All children are unable to fend for themselves in terms of their own safety and wellbeing and some kids are victims of horrible crimes. Therefore, all parents need "watchdogs" because some parents harm their kids. To prevent such crimes, a qualified and certified and licensed third party must be absolutely necessary to the wellbeing of all children. Parents should never be trusted to be alone with their offspring EVER, because the children might come to physical, emotional, or mental harm.
This is not the way to protect children in a country where freedom is valued. Or was once valued, but that's another post.
Protecting the rights of children can of course be difficult when their own parents--the people responsible for supporting and caring for them until such time as they are able to care for themselves--are the criminals harming them. Certain professionals, such as doctors and teachers, have a legal obligation to report suspected abuse. (I would argue that any adult who suspects child abuse has a moral obligation to do the same.)
However, the proper solution to this tragic reality is NOT to criminalize all parents. I am not a potential criminal because I have chosen to have children and because they are alone with me in the house sometimes. I do not need a watchdog. I am their parent, not a Sanctioned Guardian for a Ward of the State.
Never mind the fact that lots and lots of children who go to school are harmed or killed at the hands of their parents. Sheesh--kids are being harmed and abused by their school teachers, too! It's not even hard to find examples of kids hurt or killed by adults who were supposed to be looking out for them--crimes of this nature are sadly all too common. And I of course must point out that in the case of the Jacks's children, they were being monitored by "society's watchdogs" and they still died. The watchdogs didn't do what they were supposed to.
Homeschooling (or, more accurately, the mother's claim to be homeschooling) is simply not a mitigating factor in these deaths. Parents are not potential criminals. Further regulation of homeschooling families, or indeed ALL parents (because that's where this is heading), will not completely prevent these kinds of crimes.
As an aside to the main point of my post, I'd like to mention that The New York Times has its facts wrong. Homeschooling has NEVER been illegal in any state. The HSLDA did not legalize homeschooling. This is a very common misconception about homeschooling and it's high time that some reporter for a major newspaper figured this out.