A child's education is hanging in the balance as her divorced parents battle over whether she should continue homeschooling or be in public school. For now, she is in a New Hampshire public school at a judge's order and the father wants it to stay that way.
The 11-year-old girl was homeschooled through 4th grade and then ordered into public school because of a lawsuit by the father who objected to the mother educating their daughter at home. Ironically, the parents divorced when the daughter was two months old. According to the First Amendment Center blog:
Religious-freedom groups have trumpeted the cause of Brenda Voydatch of Meredith, who home schooled her 11-year-old daughter, Amanda, from first through fourth grade.The "socialization" excuse was used as part of this case, something heard numerous times during my 16 years of educating my two children at home. My response to people who asked about socialization was that I was surprised their first questions wasn't about the child's education.
Voydatch claims her rights were violated when a court ordered that Amanda attend public school after the girl’s father, Martin Kurowski, said his ex-wife’s strict Christian teachings were socially isolating their child and they could not settle on an alternative to home schooling.
Voydatch sent her daughter to public school in Meredith for certain classes, such as gym and art, but home-schooled her using education materials from Bob Jones University, a fundamental Christian college in South Carolina.
Family Division Judge Lucinda Sadler ordered in 2009 that Amanda begin attending public school that fall after the parents failed to agree on a private or parochial school. The judge said the ruling did not infringe on the parents’ religious freedom because “both are free to provide religious guidance” to their child.
My next question would be: what kind of socialization did they think homeschool students were missing? While I realize there are numerous positives with public school, many students are also exposed to smoking, underage drinking, drugs, and premarital sex. There is also the violence that has broken out at public schools throughout the years?
While serving as president of the local homeschool group in the central Shenandoah Valley, the most phone calls ever fielded came in the wake of the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado that took place on April 20, 1999. On that day, two high school students killed 13 people -- 12 students and one teacher, sending ripples of terror across the nation. My phone rang off the hook for weeks as distraught parents turned to homeschooling.
So what would possess a judge to pluck a child from her familiar learning environment and plunk her into the middle of a public school classroom?
This case has shaped up to be a question of religious and educational freedom, and may set a dangerous precedent to private religious schools in America. A great many of the home school students encountered throughout the years used at least part of the Bob Jones curriculum that was used by Mrs. Voydatch.
A ruling in this case is due in a few weeks. If this judge's order is upheld to keep Amanda in public school, that will be a red flag to homeschoolers, private, and parochial schools that education freedom is under fire.
In the center of this case is the question of whether homeschool students are socialized and the answer is yes. My oldest child was educated at home from grades 2 through 12 and went on to graduate from James Madison University in 2007 with a major in computer science and a minor in creative writing. My youngest child was homeschooled in grades K-12 and currently attends Mary Baldwin College in Staunton working toward a business major.
The New Hampshire case is an example that it is time for the stereotypes about homeschool students to end.