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. These include:

  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.