21 November 2010

My letter to the Michigan State Board of Education

First, My public thanks to Representative Opsommer's office for alerting us so quickly and making the detail available promptly.

My letter is going out to the Board of Education on Monday. I'm working on a (less personal) version to be sent to out state legislators when they're seated in January.

Dear Governor Snyder,

The Michigan State Board of Education has before it a proposal that would require home-schooled children to be registered with their school districts. My question to you is: Why?

Why is the State Board of Education considering adding to workload of the already burdened state system by asking them to take responsibility for registering our state’s home-educators and their students?

Elizabeth Bauer noted that the 2000 Census listed 250,000 school-aged children who are not enrolled in any school. She thinks that local districts have an interest in knowing how many home schooled students are in their communities “because in many cases those children re-enter public schools at the high school level. " she said. "They often come unprepared."

Ms. Bauer, first I ask you first to define your terms. Unprepared for what? Are these incoming students academically unprepared? Are they socially unprepared? Do they lack awareness of the needs of the bureaucracy? Then, Ms. Bauer, I would like to see that data you have to support your contention that homeschoolers enter the public schools “unprepared”. Please provide data demonstrating that these incoming students are substantially less prepared than students entering from out of state, or for that matter, substantially less prepared than students who have previously been failed by the state education system.

The “apparent unanimous consent on the board” that the current system is “potentially leaving some children behind” is a red herring.

The State Board of Education is charged with the education of those students whose education is entrusted to the public schools. The education of the children whose parents choose to claim that right and privilege for themselves is the responsibility of those parents.

Those few families who neglect their children's education would not be more readily identified simply by registering them with their school districts, but the education of those children whose welfare has already been entrusted to the public school system of the state of Michigan will be threatened by the addition of one more burden on the local school districts, already understaffed and struggling with inadequate funding.

Ms. Curtin has noted that state law requires that home schooled students be in an educational setting for the minimum hours required of traditional schools, “but there is no way to know if they are complying”.

I agree that the State Board of education currently has no method for verifying that homeschool students comply with minimum hours required. How exactly will putting the names of homeschooled children on a list change that? Or does Ms. Curtin see registration as a first step toward greater supervision of homeschoolers?

Ms. Curtin also disparages homeschoolers concern with registering “because it because it takes away from their freedom”. She is quite correct when she says that registering homeschoolers doesn't, in itself, deprive us of our right to educate out children in the way we see fit. However, the impulse that would have it mandated that we register is so often supported by claims that registering homeschoolers will have effects that it cannot possibly have. How then, are we not to believe that this is a “first step” toward mandates that very much would curtail our rights to educate out children by the methods that suit them best?

As to the question of the number of hours spent in “learning”, in a well-functioning homeschooling family, learning takes place, on average, for 5, 840 hours per year rather than for the approximately 1260 mandated by law. In a well functioning homeschool family, learning is not limited to several hours per day sitting at a desk receiving presented information; rather, learning takes place everywhere and all the time in the ordinary course of living.

Members of the Board of Education express concern that the state's current system of tracking homeschooled students provides no information on whether home-based education is meeting state standards. Ms. Danhof is quoted as saying "We have young people that, rightly or wrongly, and parents who believe, rightly or wrongly, their students get as good an education as anyone in the state, but we don't have any data to know."

Again I ask: How exactly will putting the names of homeschooled children on a list change that? For every tale of woe that comes to light about an irresponsible family who neglects their children by failing to educate them, there are a thousand such tales of publicly educated children in our state who enter high-school without basic literacy skills. Perhaps the Board of Education should focus on problems that are under their jurisdiction and resolve those before they decide to go looking for “problems” outside their jurisdiction.

Ms. Danhof was also concerned that, because many home schooled children are not registered and do not take the state tests, there is no paper trail to ensure they have access to higher education. "By the very fact that they're home schooled, are they given the same access to post-secondary schooling than those who go through public school by the very fact that they have no record other than 'trust me, they're ready?'" she said. "I want to make certain to the best of our ability that we afford those people access."

Ms. Danhof, the Universities in this country have had decades of experience to prepare them for incoming homeschool graduates. Home based students have access to the same college preparatory exams (ACT and SAT) that publicly educated students have. Universities can review those scores to determine whether an applicant is well prepared for University education. A very brief Internet search reveals that, based on decades of experience with homeschoolers, Universities publicly welcome students who have received the advantage personal educational attention in home-based educational environments.

Ms. Ulbrich is “concerned about those children who locked away ...under the guise of home schooling, but the reality is they're just not getting attention." Ms. Ulbrich, for every story about an family who keeps their children home to hide their abuse and neglect, there are hundreds of stories of children whose abuse is ‘discovered’ only when the child is killed, though public school teachers had repeatedly reported the evidence of abuse to child protective services. And truly, parents unconcerned enough to truly neglect their children generally find it more convenient to impose their 'burdens' on “state-paid babysitters” for several hours per day.

To the Michigan State Board of Education, I say there is no evidence to suggest that home-education in Michigan is broken. Registration of home-educators achieves no end useful enough to justify this intrusion into the privacy of home-educating families, nor the further assault on the limited resources available to educate the children entrusted to the public schools.

As a home-educator, I can assure you that government registration can represent a significant barrier to home-educating families who may consider moving to Michigan. Home-educators tend to be"can do" people, people who see a problem and work toward a solution rather than waiting for the government to fix it. This is the very sort of people Michigan needs to make its way back from the brink of economic disaster.

The United States was built on the principle of individual freedom, and the State of Michigan has fought, from its very inception, to maintain the independence of its citizens from government interference. We, the citizens of the state of Michigan don’t like government intervention unless we can see good reason for it. Have we forgotten already young Governor Mason, deposed briefly by federal intervention for purposes of political expedience, who was re-elected in a landslide in a protest by the people of Michigan who, on the same day, voted for the constitution which serves our state so well?

It alarms me that the State Board of Education would consider requiring home-schooled children to be registered with the government, a principle that flies in the face of the freedom of the citizens of this state. Surely there can be no fruitful end to an endeavor that would burden an already under-funded system with extra work to collect useless information, and present one more barrier for the kind of autonomous, enterprising families we need so badly in our state in these difficult times.

Misti Anslin Delaney
Parent Educator

(Sent to:

The Honorable Rick Snyder, President
Michigan Department of Education
State Board of Education
608 W. Allegan Street
P.O. Box 30008
Lansing, MI 48909

State Board of Education
Post Office Box 30008
Lansing, MI 48909

Attention: John C. Austin, Vice President
Nancy Danhof
Marianne Yared McGuire
Kathleen N. Straus
Casandra E. Ulbrich
Daniel Varner
Michael P. Flanagan
Eileen F. Hamilton


  1. This is a fantastic letter, Misti. Thanks so much for posting it on the HOW board.

    Brianne McCarthy

  2. Terrific! Thanks for posting and inspiring me to write as well.

  3. Great letter. There are some errors that a good proofreading could fix. I support your efforts. I have a child who is 6 and homeschooled. He has two stepbrothers (3 and 7) who attend public school. The differences in their self-esteem, core knowledge, and ability to think for themselves is astronomical. My son is amazingly brilliant compared to the other two yet in a survey of similar aged public school children my stepchildren range as average to slightly above average. Every time I see public school children and hear them speak it reinforces why I homeschool and makes me proud to know that my son will have a chance in life at a well-rounded education that all those poor children in public schools are denied.


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