October 13, 2003
Mr. Doug Oplinger c/o
Akron Beacon Journal
44 E. Exchange St.
Akron, Ohio 44308
Dear Mr. Oplinger,
The purpose of this letter is to express our appreciation for your invitation to participate in a formal discussion of home education and simultaneously express our reasons for declining the invitation and declining to support the invitation within our local groups. Collectively we serve thousands of individual families throughout 26 counties. We believe this communication is necessary because you have devoted your time to try to understand the demographics, methodology, and the devotion of parents toward their children in exercising their constitutional freedom to home educate.
Please understand that most home educating families welcome opportunities to informally share experiences and often do so with neighbors, friends, etc. We are committed to devoting an extraordinary amount of time and energy toward preparing and providing learning opportunities for our children. And, research that consistently reflects positive results is certainly available to any journalist.
While we understand the curiosity surrounding home education, we are genuinely uncomfortable with using a marketing research technique of conducting focus groups to reach any level of consensus of perceived strengths or weaknesses in home education. While some may question the intent behind using this approach to collecting data on home education, we are choosing to express our concerns with the methodology, not the motivation behind it. Some of us have participated in multiple focus groups on a variety of issues over the years. For example, various state and local agencies have used this method to collect community feedback on a variety of educational/social issues. It is a research method that provides a small group with structured discussion guidelines and predetermined questions that are expected to be addressed by the participants. Most often the questions are framed to facilitate discussions toward a predetermined goal/outcome. Some groups, which use this dialectic process, ask participants to agree to some level of confidentiality, while the research consultants and/or contractors retain the ability to share any portion of the individual responses to others within the research community. We believe that our concerns are applicable to the current offer for home educators to participate in focus groups since the question guides will only be revealed to people on the research team and an indication has already been made that individual responses may be made available to additional entities within the research industry.
While we recognize that there are various ways to conduct focus groups, each with specialized applications of psychological techniques approved by the industry, we simply don’t believe that this is an appropriate approach to understanding the full range of benefits to home education. Furthermore, many home educators have religious and/or philosophical convictions that preclude their involvement in any type of focus group type activities that would involve using psychological techniques.
We also feel compelled to address the timing of covering home education issues earlier this year. It was unfortunate that the Beacon Journal chose to publicly raise general questions pertaining to home education within the context of a tragic case of abuse. We believe there is absolutely no connection between the abusive practices of the couple on trial and the decision of families in general to home educate. It was clear in the follow-up coverage to their story that these children had suffered needlessly due to inaction over many, many months by Children’s Services – end of story. It is our continued hope that the Beacon will not choose to nurture an illegitimate link between the criminal behavior of these women and the legitimate effort of hard-working, caring parents to provide opportunities for their children to learn.
It is also our continued hope that future articles in the Beacon Journal will reflect an accurate understanding of the distinct difference between home education and public school/community eSchool (schooling at home) options. Families who home educate under chapter 3301-34 of the Ohio Administrative Code choose to receive no monetary benefits from state or local revenues. Blurring the distinction between these two concepts creates unnecessary confusion and only serves to misinform the public. The essential root concern is the recognition of parental authority. We believe that parents have the natural, fundamental and Constitutional right to direct the education of their children. This is also a distinction between home education and eSchools.
Thank you for your service to the public and for your consideration of our concerns.
Home education support group leaders from the following counties:
Ashland, Ashtabula, Butler, Carroll, Columbiana, Cuyahoga, Fairfield, Franklin, Geauga, Lake, Licking, Lorain, Mahoning, Medina, Miami, Portage, Preble, Ross, Shelby, Stark, Summit, Trumbull, Tuscarawas, Union, Warren, and Wayne Counties