Homeschooling In Oklahoma: Lawmaker Aims To Protect Kids, Parents Value Current Freedoms

Homeschooling is on the rise nationwide, but no one knows for certain if it is in Oklahoma, because the state does not track how many kids are homeschooled. A Tulsa lawmaker wants to change that.

Thursday, February 1st 2024, 10:42 pm

Homeschooling is on the rise nationwide, but no one knows for certain if it is in Oklahoma, because the state does not track how many kids are homeschooled.

A Tulsa lawmaker wants to change that.

Oklahoma has no regulations around homeschooling, only recommendations from the state Department of Education. Many parents say that gives them the freedom to teach their kids what they want.

Some people worry that it could put vulnerable kids in danger if they are isolated by their families.

A cozy coffee shop in Beggs, Oklahoma, sometimes serves as a classroom for Andrea and Robert Scott’s five kids.

“We school at home. We have a classroom and use it often but not always,” Andrea said.

Taking classes out into the world is part of why Andrea said she loves the flexibility and freedom of homeschooling. She said each of her kids can get individualized help and learn on their own timeline.

“You inhibit innovation when you regulate because you put a one-size-fits-all program together,” Robert said.

Each day is different, but the Scotts say most days include reading, math and core subjects, Bible study, and lots of activities: anything from crocheting, to chess, to sports, music and more.

“I also run my own homeschooling group, called Okla-homeschooling. And it offers a biweekly chess club, and we have a Valentine's event and science fair coming up,” Andrea said.

The Scotts are part of the growing number of families turning to homeschooling or similar learning pods or co-ops.

Research from The Washington Post shows a 50 percent increase in homeschooling nationwide since the pandemic. But the numbers for Oklahoma don’t exist.

Oklahoma is what some consider a “safe haven” for homeschooling since the state does not require families to notify if they homeschool.

There is no mandated curriculum or testing, and no qualification is needed for parents to teach.

"If you wanted from the very beginning to not utilize something like a public Pre-K system, you could homeschool your children their entire childhood and state agencies would have no idea that that was happening,” State Representative Amanda Swope said.

Swope said she was alarmed to learn about the lack of accountability. She points to cases like the 2015 Bever murders in Broken Arrow, which involved homeschooling.

She believes oversight would help prevent violence in the home.

"The right to homeschool is not the right to abuse or neglect your child. And I think people need to be willing to have that discussion,” Swope said.

She recently filed House Bill 4130. The bill would require families to send a letter of intent to DHS if they choose to homeschool and a reason why.

It would also require an initial background check for the adults homeschooling. If passed, DHS would create a database of homeschooled families with checks for criminal activity every six months.

The bill would also ban convicted violent offenders and people with pending cases of abuse or neglect from homeschooling.

"If there were an open investigation into you as a parent, and you wanted to go into the school the next day and decide that you didn't want your kid attending anymore because, maybe it was the teacher that reported, you could do that, and there would be nothing that would be able to stop you, legally, from doing that,” Swope said.

"A parent can withdraw their child from school without giving us much information at all,” Todd Nelson said.

Nelson is the Senior Executive Director of Research, Design and Assessment at Union Public Schools. Enrollment is another area he works with, and part of that involves tracking the number of kids joining and leaving the district.

Union has a form that families can fill out if their child is leaving the district for any reason, but it is not required. If families wish, they can indicate on the form that they plan to homeschool their children.

In the last five years, Union reports losing roughly 30 to 40 students to homeschooling per year.

"We are neither for nor against homeschooling, we would just want it to be a quality experience when it happens for students,” Nelson said.

Swope said her bill does not include any sort of educational requirement and homeschool families doing the right thing should not see an issue with basic protection for kids.

"I think that if you are doing a good job at homeschooling your children, then you have nothing to worry about,” Swope said. “It's one simple form that you're having to fill out really on an annual basis if anything."

But the Scotts disagree.

They think that any state interference, including the recently approved tax credit for homeschool funding, opens the door to further oversight.

“This year it's lets have you sign a form. Eventually, it’ll be you’re gonna fit this program,” Robert said.

“It's a slippery slope into more,” Andrea said.

Andrea said homeschooling in Oklahoma works because it is adaptable for everyone; she said it is helping their kids thrive.

“The one-on-one approach we’ve had has been great,” she said.

But Representative Swope worries about kids who may not be thriving and says her bill aims to protect them.

You can read HB4130 in it's entirety below:


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