So my power is out from hurricane Sandy, but thankfully although there was strong wind and lots of small branches blown down, no damage at my home. So this post will be short, as it is being done by iPhone.

I read this article about a “homeschooling” couple who are having their parental rights terminated. They have 9 children, age 3 to 17, and they were living in filthy, abusive, lice-infested conditions out in rural Oklahoma and the kids couldn’t do their alphabet, much less read.

The father had been sexually abusing his daughters and one is pregnant by him and apparently previously had a stillborn daughter that her father buried on the property.

Not too much information seems to be available except that the trial for the father is being postponed so he can be tried somewhere that people aren’t already predisposed to hate him, and that all names are being withheld to protect the kids.

Ok, so I get that this news is all too terrible for words and as human beings I’m sure we all shudder at the thought of this stuff.

The thing is, this man was already convicted of incest against another daughter by an ex-wife when that daughter was 8. So he got remarried and had all these other kids with a woman who either did not prevent or perhaps actively facilitated his sexual abuse of their children. AND they “homeschooled” way out in a rural area where people couldn’t pick up on the sick things that were happening in their family.

I would like to believe that this extreme case is just a freak thing but I know it isn’t. I know girls who were sexually abused while homeschooled, have heard stories through friends about others, and now thinking back on my childhood from the perspective of a grown woman, some I suspect were.

There was no sexual abuse of us kids in my family, but we lived crammed in a squalid one bedroom apartment infested with termites and cockroaches for my first 10 yrs of life. We didn’t have properly fitting shoes or enough underwear. We knew our alphabet, and I knew how to read, but not who was president, what order the months were in, or how to tell time on a real clock. All of our clothes were donated and we wore them for days on end because nobody told us to change. There were even a couple lice epidemics among us girls, as we shared only a few hairbrushes, but thankfully by that time we were enrolled in public school and so my Mom felt compelled to buy us the “poison shampoo” and we got rid of it. Those conditions still make me shudder to think of though and it left its mark. As a grown woman I still feel the need to tuck my sheet tightly into the bottom of my bed or I get afraid cockroaches will crawl on my toes like they used to.

If a family is sick and dysfunctional, somehow insane, or involved in cultish thinking, living off the grid does not help one bit. A series of interventions later and my parents started getting more normal, cleaning the house, even giving me money to buy essentials sometimes. Us kids definitely took advantage of these changes, absorbing all the improvements like a sponge. You would never look at my beautiful family today, my educated and well-dressed sisters with pretty smiles and glossy hair, and ever think this had been our life. But it was and we are very very lucky.

Homeschooling or pretend homeschooling has been used by plenty of abusers, including sex offenders, to isolate, indoctrinate, and control their victims. It’s an appealing option to someone with such a sick mind.

So I think we need laws in all states that say convicted sex offenders and anyone convicted of any type of domestic violence, child abuse, or elder abuse should not be allowed to homeschool. Period. It should be illegal. We would never let them teach other people’s kids and so their own kids should be entitled to the same protections.

I’m not saying such laws would have helped these specific kids in this horrific situation. I have no idea, and I know it would not have helped with the abuse and neglect I experienced growing up either, but it would be a step in the right direction. It might help some families, and it would send a message that unfortunately needs to be sent to some incredibly twisted people who really don’t deserve to be parents, much less parent-teachers.