Home schooling no excuse for neglecting kids

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Home schooling can be a wonderful thing, as shown by the outstanding success of a number of children who were taught by parents in home settings. "Some of the top brains in this country have been home schooled," said Randall Datus, who formerly served as Red Willow County Superintendent.

But, regrettably, that's not always the case. There are also tragic cases, in which ill-prepared parents use home schooling to avoid the hassle of daily public school or parochial school education. An example of this appears in this morning's Omaha World-Herald. A 10-year-old girl, who was supposedly being home-schooled, was found locked inside a bedroom with the door locked from the outside.

The girl weighed 59 pounds, which is about 29 pounds below average for a girl her age.

As terrible as that case is, local authorities said rural areas, including McCook, are not immune from isolated cases of neglect by a small percentage of parents who home school. There have been at least two similar cases in McCook. In one instance, the odor was so bad inside the home that it caused authorities to retch. Worse, officials found no books inside with which to teach.

In another case, after neighbors reported children at home throughout the school day, authorities found an itinerant family that had fled from Alliance after being reported to school authorities there. The same thing happened here, with the family packing up and leaving after being checked on by authorities.

Although neglect of home schoolers is an isolated problem, it is serious and needs to be addressed. Attention should be focused on the problem by the Nebraska Legislature, which needs to consider testing standards to make certain that home school students are progressing adequately in core academic subjects, such as reading, writing and arithmetic.

Many home school parents and their parents are doing an outstanding job. An example locally are the six children of Chris and Leeann McCarty, who have been home-schooled for the past eight years. Two of the children have since gone on to college, with Andrew in his junior year at Grace University in Omaha and Amanda in her freshman year as a part-time student at Hastings College.

The other children are still being home schooled by their mother, Leeann. They are Nathan, a 10th grader; Mathew, an 8th grader; Laura, a 7th grader; and Joseph, a 4th grader. Home schooling is a full-time job for Leeann, who organizes her lesson plans on the computer and devotes scheduled time each day to teaching.

There have been many other home school success stories in McCook, and the right to teach at home needs to be preserved. But, at the same time, there must be rules to prevent the rare, but tragic, cases of home school neglect.

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