December 18, 2013
Canton, Massachusetts — Homeschool graduates are launching the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), the first-ever non-profit public policy organization to advocate on behalf of the interests of homeschooled children. With an estimated 1.8 million children home educated in the United States, this is the first time since the home education movement began in the 1980’s that a lobbying force will seek to defend and advocate specifically on behalf of homeschooled children.
CRHE’s Executive Director, Heather Doney, was inspired to create the organization after being homeschooled in what she describes as “an educationally neglectful setting until the age of 12.” She was then tutored intensively by her grandfather, later being placed in a public school from which she graduated. She went on to earn an MPP from Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management, writing a capstone paper entitled “The Wild West of Homeschooling: Bringing Adequate Oversight to Parent-Educated Children and Youth.”
“I was inspired to create CRHE,” Doney says, “through a combination of my academic research and personal experience.” She came up with the idea in 2011. Through “a supportive environment made up of young public policy professionals and the former homeschool student community,” her desire has now turned into a tangible goal.
CRHE’s Director of Research, Rachel Coleman, who has worked closely with Doney in founding the organization, was homeschooled from kindergarten through high school. She attended Ball State University for her undergraduate and master’s degrees and is now at Indiana University working on a Ph.D. in history. Coleman is not new to homeschool research. She wrote her 2010 master’s thesis, “Ideologues, Pedagogues, Pragmatics: A Case Study of the Homeschool Community in Delaware County, Indiana,” on homeschooling. Coleman says that while she had “a very good homeschool educational experience,” she also knew peers who did not. This balance of experiences has made her “very passionate about working to help as many homeschooled students as possible have a similarly positive educational experience.”
Doney and Coleman are not the only board member of CRHE to be homeschooled. Each member of the founding board has significant homeschooling experience.
CRHE’s mission is to raise awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, provide public policy guidance, and advocate for responsible home education practices. As Coleman points out, “There is currently no homeschool organization that focuses solely on safeguarding the interests of homeschooled children. We plan to fill that gap.”
Current U.S. public policy on homeschooling is sparse and inconsistent. Most states have some combination of (1) notification, (2) parent qualification, (3) days of instruction, (4) subject, (5) bookkeeping, and (6) assessment requirements. Yet few have all six. In 11 states parents need have no contact at all with state or local education officials. 39 states have no parent qualification requirements at all. Only a limited number of states require parents to maintain attendance records, immunization records, test results, or portfolios of children’s work.
Those leading CRHE believe that better public policy is necessary to safeguard homeschooled children. Coleman says, “Legal oversight of homeschooling should provide accountability to ensure that homeschooled children receive a basic education. There should also be background checks ensuring that adults who have been convicted of past sexual crimes or child abuse cannot homeschool without a judge’s approval.”
While advocating for legal oversight of homeschooling is often seen in homeschooling circles as anti-homeschooling, the former homeschool students that lead CRHE do not see it that way. “We are not anti-homeschooling,” Doney emphasizes, “but rather want more protections for homeschooled children in order to make homeschooling better for everyone.”
Through a combination of both personal homeschooling experiences and a passion for better public policy, Doney, Coleman, and their team are accomplishing something unique. Doney says, “CRHE is the first and only policy advocacy organization founded by homeschool students to help ensure the wellbeing and safety of homeschool students, and our efforts are based on a desire for quality research, best practices, and a holistic child-centered approach to homeschooling policy.”
The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is a nonpartisan organization committed to ensuring that the interests of the homeschooled child are respected alongside the interests of the homeschooling parent. Founded in December of 2013, CRHE advocates for policy changes and oversight in order to raise awareness of the needs of homeschooling families, promote adequate protections for homeschooled children, assist current and former homeschoolers in accessing the resources they need, collect data, and report on potentially underserved homeschool populations. For media inquiries, contact CRHE’s News and Social Media Director, R.L. Stollar, at firstname.lastname@example.org.