The Fourteenth District Court of Appeals released a memorandum opinion this morning in In re M.C.K., No. 14-17-00289-CV, concerning homeschooling and educational decisions.
Mother filed a modification regarding custody of the child. Though Father did not file any pleadings regarding educational decisions, the MSA explicitly stated that the parties were reserving educational decisions as an issue for trial. Mother objected at trial to educational decisions being an issue at trial and the trial court allowed Father’s oral trial amendment.
When the child was a baby, Mother was awarded the right to make educational decisions for the child. But once the child became school-aged, Father sought to share that right because he was concerned about Mother’s homeschooling of the child. The trial court modified the parent-child relationship to give both parents the right to make educational decisions and ordered that, if they cannot agree, the child will attend public school. Mother appealed, arguing the evidence was insufficient to support the judgment.
At trial to the bench, Mother testified that she opposes public schools because: they do not promote critical thinking; they primarily teach children to memorize and regurgitate facts for standardized tests; and they do not teach Hebrew in school which was important to her because she is Jewish. She does not have any teaching degrees or certifications, though she did teach for one year at a Montessori school and she homeschooled her two older children (ages 16 and 11) for their whole lives. She testified that she does not follow a specific curriculum but she shops for textbooks on eBay, at teacher supply stores, and at HalfPrice Books. While the children are working on assignments she gives them, she works as a subcontractor for an online company that offers work-from-home employment.
Father testified that he is worried that the child is isolated in her homeschooling environment and that the child had never attended a birthday party or had play dates with other children. Mother testified that the child played with other children in the community, but she could not name any friend of the child’s and admitted the child had never been to a birthday party for a five-year-old. Father also expressed concern about the child’s curriculum and testified that when he asks the child what she is learning, the child does not say anything.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court, finding the evidence was sufficient to support the trial court’s judgment and that the trial court’s judgment was not an abuse of discretion.