Homeschooling in Oklahoma: Views from the inside

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

EDMOND, Okla. -- For Dana Wilson's family,  the classroom is the family room.

"The process of sending them away from me for so many hours a day was just not something that appealed to me."

With five kids, this Edmond mom is beyond busy.  She homeschools her children; some have special needs and some have special talents, such as music.

Wilson says this is what works for her family, and she believes it would be better for others as well.

"We have a lot of doers. People who are content to get up and go about their lives without thinking very deeply about what it is they're doing. For our family, it's important to raise thinkers."

But over in Del City,  you'll find an entirely different take.

Katherine Marshall was homeschooled in Oklahoma and is now a wife and mom. She says it started out as a good experience...

"My early childhood was a lot of fun. I had a lot of fun."

... Then took a turn.

"They ended up joining a Christian homeschool group and it was one of those super extremist groups.  It comes with religious extremisms, science denial - keep the government out of our business to an extent that I've heard people say well it doesn't matter if your kids get abused, they're yours to do what you want with."

She said the cracks became visible even to a teen who remembers her best friend's family version of homeschooling.

"I never saw them do anything. They couldn't read, they couldn't do basic mathematics.  That happened a lot more than the homeschooling community liked to talk about."

Katherine and her husband, Jonathan,  who was also homeschooled and now teaches at St. John's in Oklahoma City,  say things need to change.

"As a rule, private school teachers cannot stand homeschooling.  Because we get all the kids who didn't do well in homeschool. I've encountered junior high students who are struggling to understand multiplication. They can't even function in a classroom with their peers."

Oklahoma is the only state with the constitutional provision guaranteeing the right to homeschool.

Dana Wilson said that gives great freedom.

"Because of that, we are not compelled to register with our local school or submit any forms to our state or local authorities."

Oklahoma also has no regulations regarding homeschooling. Oklahoma also  doesn't require a high school diploma or GED for parents to homeschool.

Wilson said that isn't an issue.

"Research shows that the achievement of the students is not tied to the education of the teacher."

Katherine disagrees.

"High school diplomas for the parents. I'm not sure you should be homeschooling without a high school diploma."

There are no required tests or a validation system.  Jonathan said that's just dangerous.

"With no oversight, there's absolutely nothing to prevent those cases. There are no efforts to prevent parents who have no intention of providing a good education by hiding under the guise of homeschooling."

But Wilson said it's an issue of only hearing about the bad cases.

"You will always have people who don't do what they ought to.  When something happens and something goes wrong, we hear about it because it's news."

The national group, Coalition for Responsible Home Education, is pushing for more homeschool regulation.

But for Oklahoma, with the right to homeschool actually written into its constitution, the battle is tough.

Wilson said it's a parent's right.

"Parents really are the best ones to decide how and what to teach their children and when.  Children belong to the parents they do not belong to the government."

But Katherine said there needs to be some control.

"Pennsylvania has a program where you create a portfolio and show it to the school superintendent."

Homeschooling to her takes a special kind of person.

"The fact that you're fertile does not make you that type of person."

Click here for more information on homeschooling.

See a mistake? Report a typo

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.