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How much freedom do parents have when homeschooling children? Texas case to decide

SHARE How much freedom do parents have when homeschooling children? Texas case to decide

Mother Laura McIntyre’s nine children began receiving their education by way of homeschooling more than a decade ago inside a vacant El Paso, Texas, office, according to the Associated Press.

But now the McIntyres face a legal battle against the El Paso School District that the Texas Supreme Court is slated to hear next week, which holds ramifications on homeschooling in the U.S.

Will Weissert wrote for AP the family is accused of "failing to teach their children educational basics because they were waiting to be transported to heaven with the second coming of Jesus Christ."

Bobby Ross Jr. noted for Get Religion that McIntyre has since denied "scrimping" her kids' education, saying it was a lie told by her brother-in-law, Tracy McIntyre.

The case underscores a question of where religious liberty and parental rights end and where the obligation to make sure home-schooled students learn begins, AP reported.

"Parents should be allowed to decide how to educate their children, not whether to educate their children," said Rachel Coleman, executive director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, according to AP.

Sarah Kaplan wrote for The Washington Post the dispute's eventual ruling proves most crucial in Texas: There, 300,000 children receive an education through homeschooling.

In addition, Texas parents like Laura McIntyre and her husband, Michael, aren't required to "register with state officials, enroll in an accredited program, administer standardized tests or teach a pre-approved curriculum," The Washington Post's article indicated. The Texas Homeschool Coalition cites the state as one of the best for home educators.

"Here, people are still free," The Post quoted the Coalition's website as saying.

According to The Post, the only homeschooling requirement is that parents make sure their children receive a "bona fide" education.

What "bona fide" means is debatable, though, and the McIntyres' alleged refusal to follow Texas Education Agency standards has made the court case one of neglect, Jay Michaelson wrote for The Daily Beast; Laura and Michael McIntyre didn't certify to the El Paso School District they taught "reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics and a study of good citizenship."

"All the kids were doing was singing songs. They never had homework," according to The Daily Beast, based on details provided by the family's estranged uncle, Tracy McIntyre. "And the kicker, which has led media coverage of the case: They said they didn't have to learn because they were about to be raptured anyway."

Ryan Poppe wrote for Texas Public Radio the court's nine justices could rule on the case by February 2016, affecting the state's homeschooled children.

A state appeals court ruled in the district's favor before, finding parents "do not have an absolute constitutional right to home school" and that school attendance officers can investigate whether kids in homeschooling are learning, according to The Post.

But Texas could become even freer in regards to educational choices if the Texas Supreme Court rules differently this time.

"If the court rules in the McIntyres’ favor, Texas’s rules could become even more favorable to home educators, effectively preventing local school districts from taking any kind of measures to investigate whether their schools are 'bona fide,'" according to The Post.

Texas Public Radio reported 24 states require homeschooled children to undergo testing or some sort of assessment.

There are 1.7 million kids getting their educations in their homes today, up 30 percent from a decade ago, The Daily Beast indicated.

View the slide show below to see Home School Legal Defense Association's 11 states where parents aren't required to give notice they're homeschooling their kids.

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Payton Davis is the Deseret News National intern. Send him an email at pdavis@deseretdigital.com and follow him on Twitter, @Davis_DNN.