This week I spent some time in a courtroom testifying as an expert witness on home schooling. Unfortunately, such an occurrence is becoming more common as parents divorce and consequently disagree on what the future education of their child should be. While home schooling is clearly legal in Texas, when parents disagree and they are divorced, separated, or in the process of divorcing, a judge will make the decision based on what he believes is “in the best interest of the child.”
THSC gives information on these difficult situations on our website to help parents navigate this minefield. It is critical that home schoolers in such circumstances educate themselves and their legal counsel prior to getting into the courtroom in order to have the best chance to continue to home school.
In the case this week, the mother had contacted us, asking if the father could really get an “injunction” to keep her from withdrawing her third-grade son and teaching him at home. We explained that if the court had given her the authority to make education decisions for her child in the divorce orders, the father would have to go back to court to get a judge to change that.
The father did indeed go to court asking the judge to prohibit the mother from withdrawing their son from public school to home school him—on the grounds that home schooling would be unsafe for his son, that his child would not be socialized, and that the mother was not “capable” of effectively home schooling the child.
The mother’s attorney wisely spent time with me prior to the hearing discussing home schooling and allowing me to make suggestions about what my testimony should be, based on our experience in these cases in the past. It seemed to be providential that the Peabody Journal of Education had just released Volume 88, Issue 3, in June of this year and that the whole issue was focused on research regarding home schooling.
I was able to share the research, from that issue, of Dr. Richard G. Medlin, professor of psychology at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida, who said, “’What about socialization?’ is a very important but also a very ambiguous question. To be answered properly, it must be recast into a more specific question that is consistent with an accurate definition of socialization, such as this: Are homeschooled children acquiring the ‘skills, behavior patterns, values, and motivations’ they need to function competently as members of society? And the answer to that question, based on three decades of research, is clearly yes.”
Dr. Medlin went on to say, “Recent research, like that reviewed earlier (Medlin, 2000), gives every indication that the socialization experiences homeschooled children receive are more than adequate. In fact, some indicators—quality of friendships during childhood, infrequency of behavior problems during adolescence, openness to new experiences in college, civic involvement in adulthood—suggest that the kind of socialization experiences homeschooled children receive may be more advantageous than those of children who attend conventional schools.”
That is a pretty resounding response to the socialization question.
I was also able to respond to the issue of safety by pointing out that the U.S. Department of Education just released its most recent survey on home schooling in the United States, in which it said that the most often given response as to why people choose to teach their children at home was their concern about the environment of other schools. I think most people would acknowledge that high on that list of concerns would be safety issues.
Finally, the father’s attorney challenged the fact that this mother, who has a bachelor’s degree as well as a master’s degree, was “capable” of home schooling. I told the court that I believed, based on her educational background, the mother was well qualified to teach her third-grade son at home. The attorney asked me since the father disagreed with this school choice, if it were likely the son would not be successful. I said no. I explained that my experience in these cases was that in spite of fathers who disagree with this choice, mothers are often very successful in home schooling their children.
Apparently the judge agreed. He ruled that this mother would be allowed to teach her son at home. God is good!