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Homeschoolers clash with Obama's school attendance proposal

January 26, 2012

By Home School Legal Defense Association

In the State of the Union address President Obama called on all states to raise their school compulsory attendance age to 18, unnecessarily adding to bureaucratic requirements for homeschoolers.

Homeschool advocates at the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) are dedicated to protecting the educational relationship between parents and their children. Parents — not the federal government and certainly not the president — are the ones who should decide how children are educated and when they’re ready to graduate from high school.

But President Obama presumptively spoke on behalf of parents and the states: “So tonight, I am proposing that every state — every state — requires that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18.”

Michael Farris, founder and chairman of HSLDA, expressed the shock felt by homeschoolers: “There appears to be no limit to the president’s desire for power. Car companies, banks, doctors, and now schools and the family. He’s gone way too far this time.”

State-mandated attendance has not been the historical norm. In 1642, the Massachusetts Bay Colony stipulated that parents provide religious instruction for their children. For the next 200 years, most education laws were minimal and focused on family-centered education, giving children the tools to read, write, and do arithmetic, helping them understand what it meant to be virtuous citizens, and allowing them to learn a trade.

Ultimately, a formulaic and compulsory approach to education fails to instill in children a love of learning or a quality education. HSLDA President J. Michael Smith confirmed, “HSLDA has consistently protected homeschool families from the harmful effects of compulsory attendance education in their states, reinforcing the parental right to choose the method and duration of education most fitting to the individual needs and gifts of their children.”

Home School Legal Defense Association is a nonprofit advocacy organization established to defend and advance the constitutional right of parents to direct the education of their children and to protect family freedoms. Visit us online at

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Discuss this article

Bob Clark January 26, 2012

Obama and his wife are pure and simple over lorders. They want to prescribe by government force what you can eat, what kind car you can drive, and now when and how you can leave high school. It’s time to dump the Obamas this November 2012 even if in favor of crusty Gingrich or “milk toast” Romney. Time to let more free minded GOP party to take over the Senate to block anymore power grabs by the White House.

Sarah January 26, 2012

Perhaps there may be some exceptions that we need to carve out for families that are really doing the right things, but I think Obama is absolutely correct here in principle. The United States is falling *far* behind other nations in terms of key academic achievement measures. We cannot possibly maintain our world-economic-leader status if we lose our status as the world leader in innovation and productivity.

It’s become perfectly clear that the secure jobs of the 21st century are all about an educated workforce who is expert in quickly processing information and synthesizing new information based on what they read and a broad intellectual framework. A high school education coupled with a broad-based college education program are necessary for America’s success.

Parents still have a wide latitude in how they raise their children, but we also can’t let parents sabotage their children and our nation.

PS: The idea that Obama is doing this out of a hunger for power is silly. He gains no personal power or influence by asking the states to require students to stay in school until they are 18. (If you heard the speech, he did not propose a federal requirement, but an action by the states.) You might feel that Obama is overreaching, misguided or wrong on this issue, but power hungry is not really a legitimate accusation in this case.

David January 27, 2012

In typical government fashion, when the government fails in its mission, its response is to double down on the same thing it was doing.
– Government drowning the economy in debt? No problem, we’ll borrow more money and pass it out.
– Government schools failing to educate children? No problem, we’ll do the same thing longer, build more classrooms and hire more teachers.
Even if you believe the purpose of government schools is to educate children, Obama’s proposal would be laughable.

But we all need to stop pretending that the purpose of government schools is to educate children. It has always been a tool for social control and indoctrination. The fact that the majority of youth are supporting Ron Paul, a candidate who would give them a country with a much smaller footprint of government on their throat, must make Obama and the statists fear they need to keep the children in the oven for a bit longer. Youth unemployment is in the 40% range, government has put every obstacle in their way to keep them from getting a driver’s license, yet the youth are not happy to be slaves. Go figure.

(@Sarah: Obama IS hungry for power and he gets it and keeps it by pandering to the government school bureaucracy and unions – whether state or federal.)

Karen January 27, 2012


I find it troubling that your perspective is that “we” must educate children so that “we” can “maintain our world-economic-leader status”. Who is the “we”? Society? Do children belong to society or do they belong to parents? Are children educated for the benefit of “society” or are they educated for the benefit of the children?

You apparently think that government education is for “America’s success” and the goal is a “workforce”. LOL. You’re a classic socialist who thinks we are all slaves of the state. It is, of course, the state that will decide what is in society’s best interest.

But actually the interests of your beloved state and the interest of our beloved children are not mutually exclusive. When children are given an education that is not a centrally planned, dumbed down, factory assembly line, designed to create a workforce, but rather personalized instruction by those who know and love them the best, they get the tools of education that allow them to pursue excellence.

This is not communist China and we don’t need for you and your fellow educrats to permit us to perhaps receive “exceptions that we need to carve out for families that are really doing the right things”. I won’t be asking you what you and Obama think are right for my children’s education. Freedom of education is as fundamental as freedom of speech and freedom of religion. And neither of those can exist without freedom of education.

Marisa M January 28, 2012

@Sarah I would put most home schooled kids up against public schooled kids any day. If you think the public school system is preparing our youth for college and the real world, you are sadly mistaken. The home schooled kids that I know are more knowledgeable, more mature and definitely more ready to “innovate” and “be productive” in this world.

Keep drinking the kool-aid, or actually try to investigate for yourself the state of the public school system, that has received billions, probably trillions of tax payer dollars, compared to home schooled children.

anne January 31, 2012

That was one of the dumbest things Obama said…primarily because he failed to acknowledge the fast growing trend that a lot of kids are now fulfilling their graduation requirements by their junior year, which puts them at about 16…I know what he was getting at-the dropouts. But this is the kind of beaurocratic language-bullcrap that makes one wonder, “did you really think through what you were saying before you said it”…uh, I think not.

Kristin January 31, 2012

I guess my question would be what about the kids that are disrupting the classroom because they are 16 and don’t want to be in school. They would have normally dropped out and done their thing but b/c of a law like this, they will continue to burden teachers with their disrespect and also be a distraction, and possibly a danger, to other students. Maybe Obama has good intentions, he’s just so ignorant he doesn’t understand the ramifications of such actions…

Obviously the problem is the parents in these situations and I don’t know if this is something the government can fix. Can the government fix dead beat dads who walk out on their kids? Can they fix parents who don’t want to spend time with their kids and invest in them? No. That is the real problem. Moral decay and less of a recognized importance of families is the problem. I pray for our nation as this continues to be the norm.

anon January 31, 2012

Wow Sarah, pro big government much?..the whole reason our country is pathetic educationally compared to other countries is because of the governments role In our education. Ever since the government took control in the 50’s cost have gone up and scores have say it is ok for the government to make any law intruding on the personal liberty of parents to raise their kids is insane and extremely alarming

Debra January 31, 2012

Didnt he say graduate OR turn 18. I dont understand how this affects homeschooling. If they meet the graduation requirements at 16 they have still meet this new proposal. (And no im not an Obama supporter. Just not get this argument)

God Tweets- February 13, 2012

[…] Homeschoolers clash with Obama’s school attendance proposal via Oregon Faith Report In the State of the Union address President Obama called on all states to raise their school compulsory attendance age to 18, unnecessarily adding to bureaucratic requirements for homeschoolers. […]

Stephanie February 23, 2012

I graduated high school (public school) at 17! This would have put me an extra year of school for NO reason!

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