Home Schooling Laws in Oregon: Past, Present and Future
by Dennis R. Tuuri
The Heidelberg Catechism was one of the great documents of the
Protestant Reformation. It attempted to articulate an overview of the
Christian faith in a series of questions and answers. It has served for
over three centuries as an educational tool by which Christian parents
have instructed their children in the faith. The first question is "What
is thy only comfort in life and death?" The answer , of course, points
the child to the Lord Jesus Christ, and His work of redemption. The
second question of the Catechism is "What three things must thou know
to live and die happily in this comfort?" The answer is "Three things.
The first, how great my sin and misery is. The second, How I am redeemed
by God from all my sins and misery. The third, how I am to be thankful
to God for such redemption." One of the ways God demonstrates our
redemption is loosing us from the miserable results of our sin in time
and space, in history. A sense of history is one of the means whereby
we become increasingly grateful to God. We are cast into misery as the
result of our sin, and God graciously draws us out of that misery,
producing thankfulness in our hearts.
For many years, Oregon home schoolers had to endure the misery of going,
hat in hand, to their local schools to request permission to home school.
The local school superintendent would insist that your child be tested
in the local school classroom, using that school's tests. Even if your
child scored in the 99th percentile, the local school superintendent
could still say no to home school. Because of the Savior's love for His
people, and Christians re-energized attempts to apply His Word in the
political arena, He graciously redeemed us out of this aspect of misery
created by our sinful lack of diligence, educationally and politically.
We can and should be extremely thankful to God that we now are only
required to simply notify the state of our intent to home school, and
then have our children meet a very acceptable threshold on annually
administered achievement tests.
Still, God would have us seek and obtain more. Biblically, we believe
the state should have no oversight or control of education. Period. And
to that end we work and pray. Not because it suits us, but because it
is what God's Word says. But God's Word also calls us to be gradualists
(see Mark 4:28), not revolutionaries. He delivers us out of the misery
created by our sin gradually, and accompanies our growth in sanctification
with a growth of external manifestations of blessings and liberty.
Certainly our redemption from sin and misery has been once and for all
accomplished by the Savior's work. But the application of this is what
sanctification is all about.
So what's the next step as we move obediently to pray and work for the
elimination of all civil oversight of Christian home schoolers? We at
the Parents Education Association have established some tentative short
term goals for changes to the Oregon statutes governing home schooling.
1. Alternative Evaluation Criteria
In addition to the parent's option to use standardized achievement test
scores to demonstrate satisfactory educational progress to the civil state,
we believe that other means of evaluation should be made available.
These could include written samples and representations of the child's
work, shown to, perhaps, a government certified teacher of the parent's
choosing. Alternatively, the child could enter into a dialogue with the
parent's choice of a state certified teacher, and demonstrate their
educational acumen verbally. None of these would, of course, be required
for parents who still wish to use the achievement test. This would
simply give more options for those home schoolers who, for whatever
reason, are opposed to standard testing instruments.
2. Open Access to Government School Classes
Since our tax dollars provide for the local government school, it does
not seem unreasonable for the parent to have the ability, guaranteed by
state law, to enroll their home schooled child in just one class in
their local public school, should they so wish.
3. Transferability of Home School Credits
Some parents wish to enroll their child in government schools for their
final year or two of high school. It seems reasonable to ask the state
to guarantee via law that parent's desire to have their home school
classes be given credit for graduation requirements.
4. Satellite and Private School Oversight = Private Schooled
Under current Oregon law, parents of private schooled children need not
notify the state of their children's enrollment in private school. Nor
is any test required of such students. It seems reasonable to insist
via law that those children who are home schooled under the auspices
and oversight of a private school be treated as private schooled
children for the purposes of the state's compulsory attendance law. No
notification or testing requirement should be laid upon home schooled
children who do this under the oversight of a private school.
It is our intention to seek changes to Oregon's home school laws to
accomplish the four goals listed above. We have developed these goals
after consultation with various people, across the country and across
Oregon. But we seek consensus from the home school community before
proceeding. To this end, Dennis Tuuri, PEAPAC's Executive Director,
would like to visit various home school support groups across Oregon.
If you would like Dennis to come and speak to your group, give him a
call at (503) 263-8337.