As the home school community in Texas begins a new school year and families are focused on new curricula, field trips, and other activities related to teaching their children at home, some families are concentrating on more dire issues.
Yesterday, for the second time in the last two months, I spent the day in a courthouse waiting to give testimony in a court proceeding in which an ex-husband was taking issue with the fact that his former spouse homeschooled their child. A Ft. Worth judge heard the request of this man to take the child from her mother and place her with him strictly on the basis that she was homeschooling the child and he did not believe the mother was capable to do so, in spite of her college degree or that it was in the best interest of the child.
While to home schoolers this seems ridiculous, it is unfortunately becoming more and more common as the right to homeschool is being challenged in family law court cases. I sat with other witnesses most of the day in the halls of the courthouse, waiting to be called to give testimony in the case. Late in the afternoon, I was called as an expert witness to clarify for the court what home schooling is and what the laws of the state of Texas require of home schooling parents. “How does one get curriculum? When does home schooling begin? How does a parent know how a child is doing academically? How does a home school student ‘graduate’?” I spent about thirty minutes answering questions from the judge and both attorneys.
Thankfully, the judge ruled against the father’s request to take the child from her mother and granted the mother’s right to continue to homeschool, although he acknowledged that the father could challenge this again in the future.
I suggested to this mother that she should communicate with the father regarding curriculum choices and extracurricular activities on a regular basis and that it would be wise to have her daughter assessed annually with a nationally normed standardized achievement test like the California Achievement Test, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills or the Stanford Achievement Test administered by a third party to enable her to demonstrate to a court, if she is required to do so, that her daughter is making academic progress.
My article, Home Schooling and Child Custody, goes into much more detail on this subject, but suffice it to say that parents who are divorced and home schooling should be prepared for this horrible challenge should it come. There is nothing more terrifying to a mother than to be faced with the possibility of losing her child simply because she is doing what she believes is best for that child…in this case home schooling.
In the Moody case Heather Moody lost her children in a temporary hearing to her ex-husband. The focus of the hearing seemed to be only on her home schooling. She and her ex-husband went through a mediation process last week, and while Heather was willing to give way on property and almost everything else, she wanted to have the children when he travels, which is two to three weeks of every month. He flatly refused, clearly stating that he wanted his parents to have them. This, of course, is consistent with the request of the paternal grandparents to be joint managing conservators and the former husband’s threats to take the children since his parents “own the courthouse.”
Similar to the Loose case last year, the only option for this wonderful, godly parent to regain her children appears to be a jury trial that is currently scheduled for September 12 in Cameron, Texas. Since so much of the testimony given during the temporary hearing by the father’s witnesses seemed to be focused on home schooling, it is safe to assume that it will also be the center of attention in the trial in September.
Please join us in praising God for the good decision in Ft. Worth yesterday in keeping the home school mom and her child together and in praying for Heather Moody and her children as we continue to raise financial support for her trial and work with her to battle against those who would use home schooling as a reason to remove children from fit parents.
Of course, all of this also highlights why it is so important that the home school community become more involved in the education of judges and judicial candidates regarding home schooling and parental rights. THSC PAC is the only statewide political action committee that endorses judicial candidates on the local level, and these cases shows why that is so important. In another case in which I gave testimony earlier this summer, the judge ruled that the mother must put her six-year-old child into the public school.
Many judges are totally unaware of home schooling and parental rights and not as open-minded as the Fort Worth judge yesterday. THSC PAC plans to be very involved in the general election this fall to elect as many judges as possible who have a clear understanding of home schooling and parental rights. You can help us.