In reality, the most popular umbrella school in the state imposes only the most basic requirements. You must enroll, declare your subjects and books, and at the end of the semester, report attendance and grades. You can declare the library as all of your books without specifying a single particular. Nobody checks on you. Nobody asks questions. Your entire interaction with the umbrella school can be limited to completing online forms. It is all based on the honor system which assumes you do what you said you would do.
This bothers me, but I have found, speaking to homeschoolers I know, I am almost alone in my concerns. Every time I have spoken about this concern, the general response is two-fold. First, nobody would bother homeschooling if they were not interested in trying to do the best they can for their children. Second, the only people they hurt if they lie about it is their children. My response to the first answer is that is probably generally true, but is not absolute. My response to the second answer is, um, yes, exactly.
I believe that parents have the right to educate their own children, but I also believe that children have the right to be educated. I think that if a parent with atrocious grammar wants to attempt to teach grammar, the right exists. I think that if a parent with the barest understanding of arithmetic wants to pretend to be teaching algebra, the right exists. Cringe, but you should legally be allowed to do it. But I think the child has the right for someone to be looking after his education. Most of the time when homeschooling that person will be the parent, but what about when it is not.
Evil exists in the world and begetting a child does not exempt you from being capable of evil. If we could count on parents to work for and protect their children one hundred percent of the time without exception, child abuse would not be a thing and laws punishing it would not exist. But it does exist. This is the hard reality.
Again, legally, I think the design of the law works fairly well in balancing the interests of both the state and the parents. I am only questioning the judgment of an umbrella school where anything goes. I do not think massive oversight is needed. I only feel like there should be a little more concern for those who might fall through the cracks.
I think it would be wise for the umbrella school to touch base, either yearly or each semester, with each registered family to see how things are going. A simple fifteen minute phone call is all it would likely take. Experienced homeschoolers know what kind of answers to expect from the open ended "How's it going?" It would not be unusual for a first or second year family to answer with uncertainty and with lots of 'I don't know's as the family figured out what works for them. You would expect to find fewer and fewer of those kinds of answers the longer a family homeschools.
These phone calls should not have the tone of authority and suspicion but of collaboration and cooperation. A real human interaction which would give the parent an opportunity to ask for help, if necessary, and the school the opportunity to offer help, if necessary. If everything is going well, that's great. But the umbrella school might have the opportunity to help a child out of a bad situation if the phone call yields that gut feeling that something just isn't right here. And, of course, the parent could lie through the phone call with no one the wiser, but it would at least be one more layer of protection.
This idea seems reasonable to me, but when I have mentioned it to a homeschooler I know, her response was that she would find another umbrella school rather than have someone call her house to ask a few questions. She was offended that anyone would suggest that parents need recourse to any oversight at all. She firmly believes that the parents are completely responsible for their children, any educational failings just have to be endured by the child, and any questioning or interference is an unjust usurpation of parental rights.
Yes. But no.
So help me understand why my concerns are irrational and seem to only be had by me. Why doesn't the umbrella school have the moral obligation to verify that some semblance of what they certify to the state as happening is actually happening? Why should the only interaction between the umbrella school and the parents be the equivalent of ordering a book from Amazon?
NB: Because I am a paternalistic hypocrite, I am using this same umbrella school for exactly the reasons that make me uneasy. I can do what I want, when I want, and nobody is going to make it harder than it needs to be. But you can trust me, right?