A Texas couple filed for divorce shortly after their child was born. As part of the divorce order and visitation decree, the mother was given the right to make decisions relating to the child’s education when the child was approximately 9 months old. 

When the child turned 5, the mother decided the child should be home-schooled. The father requested a modification of the parent-child relationship because he disagreed with this decision and wanted the child to attend public school. The trial court ordered that the child be required to attend public school, and the case was appealed.

On appeal, the court noted that a modification of the parent-child relationship could only be granted if the circumstances of the child, parent or other party affected by the order had materially and substantially changed, and if the modification would be in the best interest of the child.

It therefore conducted an examination as to whether home-school would be in the best interests of the child. In doing so, it noted that the mother testified that she opposed public schools because she believed that public schools do not promote critical thinking and primarily teach children to “memorize and regurgitate” facts for standardized tests. She also opposed public schools because her family is Jewish and Hebrew is not taught in public schools. She did not hold any teaching degree or certification but taught for one year at a Montessori school and home-schooled her two older children, ages 16 and 11, for nearly their entire lives (these children have no biological relationship to the father of the child in the lawsuit). She testified that she did not follow a specific curriculum for home-school, but shopped for textbooks on eBay, at a teacher supply store and at secondhand stores.

The father testified that the child was being isolated in her home-schooling environment. He stated that she had never attended a birthday party or had play dates with other children. The mother responded by claiming that the child played with other children in the community on a daily basis, but she was unable to name any friends that the child had. She also admitted that the child had never been to a birthday party for another child her age. The father testified that when he asked the child about what she was learning, she would “clam up” and not say anything. 

The court of appeals held that there had been a material and substantial change in circumstances that would justify modifying the parent-child relationship, because the right to make educational decisions was assigned to the mother before any plans had been made for the child’s educational needs. The court also found that public school would be in the child’s best interest, where more structured programs and curriculum were available and the child could socialize with children her own age. The court of appeals agreed with the trial court that the child should attend public school.