TARGET 8: Home school student says Missouri needs more regulations
COLUMBIA – Some former home-schooled students and educators are raising questions about the practice in Missouri.
Parents do not have to notify the state about their decision to home school their child. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education “does not regulate or monitor home schooling.”
Susanna Selman was home schooled kindergarten through senior year along with ten other siblings.
"When you have eleven kids, it’s really easy to let some not get the same attention, same care and same support as the other," Selman said.
She said she wishes Missouri had more regulations to ensure students receive a well-rounded education.
"I just sorta feel like I fell through the cracks," Selman said.
Missouri home school students do not take any assessment to track their educational progress.
“They don’t have a baseline, a standard. You can teach your kids anything and call it science,” Selman said.
She said it's not fair to students.
"They can be so isolated from everybody else’s perspective. They won't have a clue that they have been taught all wrong."
A University of Missouri professor who specializes in human development and family science said home school students should have a more standardized education.
Jean Ispa said “We want an educated citizenry, right? I think there should be standard recommended activities, readings. This is what a child by the end of fourth grade should know.”
Missouri does not provide home school parents any curriculum. It’s a home school parent's responsibility to put together coursework and lessons for their child.
The state does ask parents to teach state-mandated subjects such as reading, math, social studies, language arts and science. But Missouri does not make sure parents are actually teaching the subjects.
Home school parents must keep a daily log and are asked to have 1000 hours of instruction per year. Although the state tells parents to keep a log, Missouri only requires the log to be submitted in very rare circumstances, such as when a family is accused of educational neglect.
Selman said she wishes there was a requirement for parents to turn in the learning log.
“The biggest way that Missouri is failing their home school kids is they don't have any state-kept records,” Selman said.
She said she requested her home school logs from her mother but her mother refused to give them to her.
“When I graduated, I was having some friction with my mom,” Selman said. “Because I was home schooled, my mom was able to deny me access to any of my educational records.”
Without a record of her home school hours, Selman had no proof of her education. When she decided to pursue a college degree, she said, she was forced to get her GED.
Jennifer Markway, who is home schooling three children, said she believes home schooling was the best decision for her family.
“The purpose of educating your kids at home is to give them the best education for them,” she said.
Markway said home schooling requires dedication. She said she often devotes her weekends to creating lesson plans.
She said she stays organized with lists, planners, schedules and calendars. She said YouTube is a great resource for education.
"It doesn't matter what your reason for home schooling is. To be able to see the kids get excited in learning is worth every moment of preparation,” she said.
With no curriculum provided by the state, Markway said she can tailor her children's lesson plans to topics her children enjoy.
“The idea to spark the interest in learning is what we get passionate about," she said.
In Missouri, there is no minimum education a parent must have before teaching their child at home. Missouri home school regulations greatly differ from the Midwestern state of North Dakota. According to ProPublica, North Dakota monitors parents who do not have a minimum education of a high school diploma or GED.
Home school parents must notify North Dakota annually about their decision to educate their child at home. The state also requires parents to submit proof of immunization for their child according to the Coalition for Responsible Home Education. Missouri does not have a vaccination requirement.
North Dakota tests home school children using periodic assessments, while in Missouri there is no educational assessment.
In this map, here are some of the regulations for other states near Missouri.
Missouri's home school regulation statute was passed after a federal court decision in 1985. It said the previous statute left too many decisions about home schooling in the hands of officials rather than parents.