Homeschooling parents sometimes react badly to stories like mine. It’s generally the ones who see themselves as fighting an uphill battle with society, surrounded by enemies, feeling personally threatened when any problem within a homeschooling environment is openly discussed. I guess it should not be surprising, but I am often a bit shocked by how nasty and devoid of empathy things can get when people feel defensive. How did I become some “opponent” getting yelled at for being honest about how it really was for me and what I think the problems really are??
The people who do this often fall into a predictable pattern of trying to silence, drown out, invalidate, or scare away all potentially negative reviews, positioning themselves as a long-suffering yet expert victim trying to set the story straight, then beginning to (often viciously) attack and attempt to eviscerate the whistleblower’s credibility.
I find that kind of behavior pretty messed up to say the least, so I figured I’d just write down my responses to the 12 most common reasons why my story and my homeschool experience apparently don’t matter. The next time someone says one of these, instead of re-explaining myself, I’ll just send them a link.
1.) “You were not really homeschooled. Don’t generalize about your dysfunctional family experience.”
I may have been the only one to learn to read in that place, but we were registered as a private school with the state. We belonged to a CHEF homeschoolers group, signed a statement of faith, paid dues to HSLDA. Also, there are over 30 “survivor blogs” right here talking about pretty much the same thing. I don’t need to generalize. This is a bona fide pattern.
2.) “Plenty public school children get abused and get terrible educations.”
Because bad things happening in one place obviously makes it ok for them to happen in another…
3.) “There are crazies out there, but real homeschooling is always a good thing”
Homeschooling is very diverse, so there are many real kinds and more than a few fake ones. If by “real” you mean “most prevalent,” then no, I think it’s often a bad thing. Homeschooling was started with good intentions to liberate kids from rote learning but now the “culture war” crazies pretty much run the place. You people who are not trying to indoctrinate your kids are outnumbered.
4.) “Hey, I’m not hurting anyone over here and that other stuff is not my problem”
Here’s where I quote Edmund Burke and say “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
5.) “I know plenty conservative Christian homeschooling families who are happy/well-adjusted/successful”
I too know some who I imagine genuinely are and plenty who I thought were and later learned were just playing the part like my family was. It’s hard to tell the difference. When kids get punished every time they disobey or display a “bad attitude” they learn to give “correct” answers, think “correct” answers, and even instinctively smile when sad or disappointed. Sometimes you can only tell something is wrong by their overenthusiasm and the weird hungry look in their eyes.
6.) “You just have an axe to grind”
I used an axe once in a rather unsuccessful attempt to chop wood. I have never sharpened one. I am a fan of peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness, burying the hatchet, solving the problems. I do not want anyone’s head on a platter.
7.) “You are not a parent so don’t tell me how to be a parent”
By age 12 I’d bandaged up more skinned knees, cleaned more snotty noses, rocked and patted more hiccuping infants, and cleaned more poopy toddler butts than plenty of grown folk. I may not have popped out any offspring of my own just yet but I can give you tried and true pottytraining tips, recipes for picky eaters, and bedtime reading suggestions too.
8.) “As a parent I alone will decide what is best for my children”
My Grandad once said “children don’t come into this world to you, they come into it through you.” I will always be grateful that he stepped in where it was “not his place” simply because my siblings and I mattered to him.
In societies where we are “our brother’s keeper” (i.e kindly say something or help the vulnerable when we see someone headed in a dangerous direction), we have stronger communities and happier people. When there are no safeguards for when people (parents included) make bad decisions or struggle (and everyone does), that’s when things can get real bad. Please don’t push things in that direction because you are scared people might misunderstand and judge. Telling everyone to butt out might not hurt your family but it contributes to a standard that hurts others.
9.) “You’ve never been a homeschooling parent yourself, so what do you know?”
I almost want to say “well, you went to public or private school, so what do you know?,” but that would be acting like experiencing homeschooling from the parental side means nothing, which is untrue and would be just like saying that experiencing it from the kid side doesn’t count. Fact is the first generation of homeschooled kids are now in their late 20′s and early 30′s. You now have “consumer reviews.” Ignoring those and just going with the recommendations of other first-time homeschooling parents means you are missing out on valuable info and your kids may one day be giving less than stellar reviews themselves.
10.) “You are obviously not a Christian or you’d understand”
Why do you have to be a “bible-believing Christian” to have a problem with the legalistic sickness and power-drunk behavior that stems from the so-called Christian homeschooling leadership and infects vulnerable families like it did my own? It looks nothing like love and everything like fear and controlling behavior. If God is love than devout Christians should have a bigger problem with this stuff than I do.
11.) “Shh! The government will persecute us and take our kids”
There were a few truancy prosecutions in the late 70′s. Acting like that’s still reality is HSLDA fearmongering and hype to keep themselves in business. Unless you get caught actually running a homeschool meth lab project or something, nobody’s taking your kids.
12.) “All the stats/facts/studies say homeschooling is the best option”
By this I assume you are referring to studies on homeschooling done by NHERI, a “research institute” run by Brian Ray. A study where an author self-quotes without caveats using data funneled in by an advocacy group (HSLDA) and with an only 23% survey response rate may convince most journalists for now, but once an alternative story comes out (and it is) that stuff just won’t hold water. Even if they were solid stats (and they aren’t), generalizing a self-selected sample (the “prep school” equivalent of the homeschooling crop) to the general public school environment (where low-performing students can’t opt out) is comparing apples to oranges.
Because of all the work the HSLDA has done convincing lawmakers to deregulate homeschooling, we just don’t have much real data on the lower-end homeschoolers aside from case studies and personal accounts. Not collecting information on these kids has only made them invisible, not nonexistent.
My life is pretty good today. I don’t need to harp on the past. The reason I speak out is to use my experience to shed light on a problem. It is for friends who grew up like I did and didn’t get the opportunities I did. It is knowing little children are living today the way I did then. We need to listen to one another, brainstorm, form coalitions to make homeschooling better, to make education and society in general better, to raise our children in the best and most informed way possible, because that’s ultimately the goal, isn’t it? So please don’t yell at me or get defensive when I tell you about my homeschooling experience. Hear what I’ve got to say, ask me questions, and share your (hopefully much better) homeschooling stories. I’d love to hear them.