In Defense of Elizabeth Bartholet: A Homeschool Graduate Speaks Out

Lindsey Powell:

By many standards, I would be considered a homeschooling success story. I graduated summa cum laude from an Ivy League institution, am gainfully employed by Harvard University, and will be applying to law school in the fall. In third grade, I begged my parents to homeschool me, a plea that I still regret.

Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Bartholet recently made waves with her article suggesting a presumptive ban (not a complete ban, as her remarks have been mischaracterized) on homeschooling in America, requiring parents to “prove they are capable of providing an adequate education in a safe environment.” Bartholet emphasizes the lack of regulation and accountability governing the practice. Among other objections, she discusses cases of undetected abuse, and uneducated parents’ failed attempts to teach their children. While these are valid concerns worthy of debate, many families make the decision to homeschool with the belief that doing so serves their child’s best interest. For that reason, I’d like to discuss the less sinister, but still very real consequences of homeschooling.

As Professor Bartholet notes, a sizable majority of homeschooling families are motivated by religious or ideological reasons. Despite participating in numerous homeschool groups and extracurricular activities, I never met a student with religious or political views differing from my own until I arrived at college. Of course, I knew these individuals existed, but they were always the hypothetical, easily vilified other. It took collegiate friendships to break down internalized stereotypes and see the good in people of different faiths and political persuasions.