Homeschool Families Share Meal, Hope for More Understanding of Homeschool Community

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  On Tuesday, hundreds of homeschool families shared a meal and pushed back at critics who say the state needs to monitor them more closely.

Some Democrats think a highly-publicized case of child abuse in a residence that homeschooled proves more oversight is needed. Political director Dave Price talked to members of these families to get their opinions on the matter.

As families gathered to share a meal at the Capitol, their real nourishment for the day did not come from the food; instead, they found support in each other.

Chris Sparks says homeschooling is a big commitment, especially for his wife Sara, who gave up a good sales job with too much travel to instead homeschool their two young children.

The Sparks feel Iowans don't know enough about the homeschool community.

"I know there's a socialization misconception. I say the children are gone four nights a week doing sports or some sort of 4H or church activity," said Sara, showing that her kids can socialize and learn at their own pace and through their faith.

"We get to spend a lot more quality time with our kids when they're young, and as they grow up, having a relationship with them that is a lot more warmth and comfort than just sending them off to school for eight hours a day," said Chris.

Democratic state senator Matt McCoy said, "We've identified some areas in homeschool that we want to provide some additional oversight on."

He does not plan to lay out oversight ideas in legislation until next year, but it all came about because of Malayia Knapp, a homeschooled teen who claims years of abuse by her adoptive mother.

However, the Sparks says all homeschool families should not be judged by one case.

"This is one person, one situation, that obviously we do not approve of that situation, for whatever reason it happened, it's not good. But we don't think that it's representative of the homeschool community by any stretch," said Chris.

That one person will not take the Sparks' focus off their two most important people.

"It's a thankless job and it's really hard, but at the end of the day I'm really proud of my children and I'm learning along with them," said Sara.

The Sparks hope that homeschool skeptics will also learn about what families like theirs are trying to accomplish.

Tuesday was Homeschool Iowa Day at the Capitol, which gave families a chance to talk to lawmakers about education.