Politics & Policy

Homeschoolers, Be Ready for That Knock on the Door

(Dreamstime)

Every homeschooler lives in fear of an unexpected knock on the front door.

We’ve all heard stories of families that have had their kids taken from them because of the shoddy judgment of social workers who didn’t like how they were spoken to by free people or who were simply ignorant of the law. The fear manifests itself in a kind of embarrassment in the exercise of one’s rights — sneaking around during the day lest some busybody or another sees you at the playground with your kids “when they ought to be in school.”

If that busybody picks up the phone, as busybodies often do, it might send you and your family into a costly and exhausting battle to establish that, no, you aren’t a crazy maniac and, no, you aren’t abusing your children. Savvy homeschoolers learn to be discreet. Shopping trips and other necessary errands are timed so as not to draw attention.

You don’t have to be too clever to realize that waiting until 2:30 to go to the post office will help you avoid questions such as, “Kids home sick today — all six of them?”

RELATED: Homeschooling Is Not for Everyone, and Neither Is Public School

It’s one thing, however, for a grocery-store clerk to look sideways at a homeschool mom for dragging a couple of boisterous and healthy-looking kids through the checkout line at mid-morning. It’s quite another for an anonymous tipster to report a family to a child-protection agency because they homeschool.

That appears to be just what happened recently in West Virginia, where a mom answered the dreaded knock on the door to find a social worker investigating a report of “unsocialized homeschoolers.” This mom had the presence of mind to immediately contact the Home School Legal Defense Association — a bulldog when it comes to reminding local authorities that Americans still have the right to opt out of traditional compulsory education if they want to.

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In a post on the organization’s website, HSLDA attorney Mike Donnelly notes that the West Virginia social worker quickly backed off, telling the mom that “she had a ‘nice-looking family,’ that everything seemed fine, and that she intended to close the case.” Things could have been worse for this family, but a happy ending shouldn’t obscure the central question: What is a state worker doing investigating a report of “unsocialized homeschoolers” in the first place?

That’s hardly the sort of charge that should trigger a mandatory investigation, unless you imagine that homeschooling itself is a form of abuse — and many do. The lefty Internet is teeming with calls to regulate homeschooling and force homeschoolers to open their homes to inspection and prove that what they are teaching aligns with the secular progressive ideals of the liberal education establishment.

“Why is that even allowed?” is the usual subtext. “It’s still a free country” is my preferred answer, though at some point, I suppose, that claim will no longer pass the giggle test.

#share#When you live all your life in public-union-dominated, high-tax, high-regulation blue states — as I have — you can be seduced by the fantasy that somewhere a place exists where no one bats an eye at homeschooling, or at talk of limited government as both a means to an end and an end in itself. For me and for many, this American Camelot — this Neverland of Liberty — has always been Texas. It’s the place where we imagine that the best traditions of American freedom live in perpetuity, out of reach of the D.C. chiselers and insulated against the allegedly corrosive effect of “New York values.”

Imagine my surprise, then, to read the story of the Counts family of Plano, Texas, who let their four homeschooled children play in their backyard during “school hours.” This evidently displeased a busybody couple living next door, who, in protest, took to blasting “music with profane lyrics and laced with the sound of gunshots.”

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“For a while, I’d bring the kids inside and it would stop, and when we went out it, would start again,” Kelly Counts told the Dallas Morning News. Intending to make peace, she knocked on the neighbors’ door and said, “My kids are trying to play in the side yard and there’s some music playing with very vulgar language.” Her appeal to decency had no effect; the music-blasting continued.

The Counts called the cops, and they came, but that provided only a temporary solution. “Finally, we decided to sue because of the nuisance, and they did stop once they were served,” Kelly Counts said.

#related#A happy ending this was not. What could be happy about a family having to take legal action to protect their kids? And, as it happens, the Counts’ lawsuit wasn’t the end. The neighbors filed a countersuit “alleging loud and obnoxious noise from the side yard play area that caused damage to [the neighbors] and their property.” The loud and obnoxious noises in question? Yep, you guessed it: the sound of children playing when they should have been in school.

You could say that there are awful and litigious people everywhere. You’d be right. You could call it an isolated incident, and you’d be less right. As the ranks of homeschoolers increase, their loud and obnoxious noises will increasingly cause friction with a society bent on enforcing conformity.

Homeschoolers know we are viewed as radicals. We know we are just a phone call away from having our parenting decisions and personal values put on trial. If you homeschool, a life-changing knock on the front door could come at any time. My advice is this: Know your rights. Be prepared to defend them. No matter what state you live in.

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