Not all of the media attention focused on home-educated families has been positive. Warner Brothers television recently unveiled its parody of home schoolers in the sitcom The O'Keefes.
The television program, which debuted May 22, is loosely based on the life of series creator and executive producer Mark O'Keefe. It stars Judge Reinhold and Kirsten Nelson as overprotective parents faced with the prospect of sending two of their three socially inept children to public school.
While the program is meant as a comedy, not everyone is laughing.
Last March, Home School Legal Defense Association president J. Michael Smith wrote to Warner Bros. chief executive officer Barry Meyers objecting to the show's depiction of home schoolers. Smith expressed his concerns, on behalf of the 75,000 families represented by the organization, that the sitcom reinforces inaccurate opinions about home schooling and requested that home schoolers be consulted about the show's content.
Paul McGuire, a spokesman for Warner Bros., said it was too early to make any promises regarding Smith's offer to provide input on future scripts. The first eight episodes have already been taped. Whether the series will continue depends upon the program's ratings.
“The show rewards the values of this family,” McGuire said. “I think people should take a look at it first before they judge it.”
The Legal Defense Association, in its review of the pilot, described the producers as having “almost no knowledge of the home-school community or deliberately ignoring the facts about home schooling.”
The O'Keefes goes out of its way to reinforce almost every negative myth about home schooling, it said.
“No one should be surprised that Hollywood does not accurately present the facts about a community it seems to know nothing about,” the Home School Legal Defense Association wrote in its review.
“The overwhelming message is that children cannot grow into full adults or be socially well adjusted while being home schooled,” the Home School Legal Defense Association review said. “This myth is one of the most hurtful accusations thrown at home-school families.”
In contrast to that portrayal, the association cited numerous studies that show the maturity and development of the average home-schooled student far exceeds the level of the average public-school student.
— Tim Drake