Homeschooling families could be forced to send children to kindergarten or teach kindergarten at home if a movement that is spreading across the country succeeds.
As of now only 15 states require kindergarten, but a growing number of officials in various states are pushing for it to be mandatory for all children, the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) says.
“The march towards mandatory kindergarten around the country is becoming a stickier issue for homeschoolers,” HSLDA staff attorney Mike Donnelly wrote in an update on the organization’s website. “At its core, this is a dispute about our government’s role in the lives of families and children, and about who should be making decisions for those children. Parents — not government bureaucrats — are the ones who should decide when a child is ready for school and, frankly, what level of instruction the child ought to receive.”
Officials in some states have demanded that parents present proof that children had been taught kindergarten before authorizing homeschooling.
“The curriculum for California’s 5-year-olds is now aligned with the Common Core academic standards,” The Los Angeles Times editorial board noted in an Aug. 31 piece.
In California, the teachers union is trying to get the state legislature to pass a mandatory kindergarten law.
“We see it as a first step toward lowering compulsory school attendance ages, which directly imposes state intrusions on homeschooling families,” Donnelly wrote.
Donnelly’s concerns are not hypothetical. For example:
- A school superintendent in Ohio demanded that a homeschooling family prevent proof of kindergarten even though it is not required by state law. The superintendent said he could not approve the family for homeschooling a six-year-old – who was old enough for first grade – without evidence the child previously was in kindergarten.
- A county school official in West Virginia refused to accept letters of intent to homeschool from several families because they presented no proof their children had been taught kindergarten. The State Department of Education backed the official’s position even though it was not supported by state law. This was a serious matter because the parents could have been arrested and prosecuted truancy, Donnelly noted. Fortunately, the county and the state backed down after HSLDA pointed out that the official’s actions were not supported by state law.
- School districts in New York State have demanded that homeschooling families register their children for kindergarten or provide proof the kids had receive kindergarten instruction.
Contrary to popular belief, kindergarten is not required in most states. Only 15 states and the District of Columbia have mandatory kindergarten laws, according to the Education Commission of the States. Kindergarten is required in these states:
- New Mexico
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Although it is not mandatory in California, most children do attend kindergarten, The Los Angeles Times reported. A full 93 percent of five-years-olds in California go to kindergarten.
“As the Times points out, lowering and increasing the ages of compulsory attendance, mandatory kindergarten and the new battle over Common Core are part of a trend towards nationalizing and standardizing our public education,” Donnelly wrote. “These policies seem to be having increasing direct effects on our own communities. This means we should continue to resist these policies — not just because they have a negative impact on homeschoolers, but because they are bad for our whole country.”
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