The best thing for people struggling with the effects of a terrible homeschooling situation would be for Americans to recognize that homeschooling can be and far too often is used for abuse and indoctrination purposes rather than actual education. Then we can regulate it more sensibly and stop being able to read so many horrible stories like this that make me sick to my stomach. When people know how bad it can be, they will want regulations in place to help give all homeschooled kids a fair shot. Thing is, right now they believe all those NHERI reports saying homeschooling is better than public school. They don’t know about people like us.
So we have a problem, and its a story people don’t know, an issue they don’t have any idea what to do about once they do know, and it contains a big taboo – the concept of devout Christian parents, people often seen as paragons of virtue and standard-bearers of old-fashioned family values, not having their children’s best interest in mind just turns people’s worlds upside down. Because if you can’t trust people like that to do right by their own kids, then who can you trust?
There are powerful groups of people, particularly the HSLDA, successfully advocating for parents to have total control over their offspring and kids can’t vote or publicly speak out so we don’t get to hear the other side. So we are at a place where those of us who’ve lived it or known people in it recognize that it’s pretty bad, but the issue has almost no good data, no services directed at it, and it happens to people who live far and wide from one another and who are generally isolated within their own communities. The press generally only covers it when someone dies, is half-starved to death, gets pregnant by their own Dad, or uploads a video that goes viral. They generally do not connect the dots and often don’t even report that an abused kid was homeschooled, so it’s hard for researchers to track the connection.
Soon I imagine things will change and politicians will listen to the varied perspectives of people who were homeschooled rather than just the parents trying to do it, and that time is fast coming. Thing is, most American people who have experienced neglect and abuse in a homeschooling situation are still under the age of 30 because homeschooling just wasn’t an available option before the late 70’s. So we are the first generation to come out of this and those of us who had bad experiences often have trouble talking about them, or sometimes even realizing that they were really that bad. Others are struggling so much just to make ends meet that they don’t have time for introspection, connecting with people like them, or even figuring out others exist. As we find each other and get the word out though, it will be easier to advocate for what we need, set up resources to help people, train service providers and lawmakers on what needs to change, and get people connected to other people like them.
Meantime, I don’t like the idea of people struggling and feeling like they’re carrying this burden all alone and there isn’t much there to help. Former Ultra-Orthodox Jews have created organizations like Footsteps to help people because they are all mostly living in New York. Former Quiverfull do not have something comparable partially because we are geographically all over the place.
While I really want to advocate for homeschooled children’s rights and help coordinate services for people who need them (and am kicking around ideas and would love to be part of a team to work on this), all I’ve got right now is my blog. I realize that if someone comes to me for help, and a few have, my answers seem small and full of holes in the face of this problem, so if anybody else has suggestions or resources, feel free to list them in the comments section.
So here’s a list of what helped me get out and what I’d recommend. It is mostly advice for people in their late teens or early adulthood. Young kids stuck in terrible homeschooling situations have a much rougher situation with generally less palatable options available.
I told my grandparents how bad stuff was, and I told the boyfriend who later became my husband. I also told the police. Thankfully my grandparents and my boyfriend listened. I don’t know how or if I’d have gotten out of there if I hadn’t opened my mouth. If the person you tell doesn’t believe you, is unable to help, or doesn’t seem to care, tell someone else. Keep trying. I know it’s dangerous to tell, but so is things staying the way they are. Just try to exercise good judgment and don’t expect that telling someone who believes or lives like your family does will help, no matter how nice they seem.
I initially had lots of trouble with this one and am now proud to say I have friends all over the world and one of my favorite things in life is to find new friends and keep up with old ones. I guess after being so isolated I’m making up for lost time. It’s best to find friends who share similar interests, so if you take a community college class or volunteer at a home for the elderly or help out the beautification committee for your local park you will start to meet people doing the same thing. The first few times you try to make friends it may fall flat. In fact, it may fall flat a lot. Don’t be discouraged. Keep trying to make friends and eventually you will have at least one or two good dependable friends and a number of acquaintances, which is all you really need and then you can just on keep making more if friendship makes you as happy as it makes me.
I moved in with a cousin and then my boyfriend. I was 17 but my parents didn’t stop me because by then they were regularly threatening to kick me out. You might have an extended relative who doesn’t buy into the lifestyle your parents do, or a neighbor or a friend. Moving in with someone else Quiverfull/patriarchal is not something I recommend. If you don’t have anybody, maybe you’ll need to take a deep breath, look at Craislist, and find a few roommates in a place with cheap rent. Rooming with other young people can often be a way to also find friends.
Get a Job
Leaving when you don’t have a job and maybe have never had a job can be scary.
Understand that helping out with a family business counts as experience. Tutoring children counts as experience. Cooking and cleaning in a house counts as experience. It’s all about how you spin it. Employers just want to know you’ll do a good job and have the ability and dedication to fulfill your role. Dress nicely when you go into a businesses to ask if they’re hiring. Give a firm handshake. Also go to your local employment office and register with them so employers can find you. Don’t expect a lot of help there in figuring out what jobs you should be looking for, but don’t overlook this resource either.
If you need a job quick, try to get one at a grocery store or a chain restaurant. You don’t have to keep this job once you’ve found a better one. You just have to pay the bills. Often your first real job kinda sucks. Mine was as a cashier, but when I left home I had to get a part-time job at a little pizza place where I worked until 11:00 at night and had to be ready to take the bus to school at 6am the next morning. The sleep deprivation killed me but I no longer had to live with someone whose last act of violence had been to knock me over in a chair and chip my front tooth.
Use Available Resources
Also, if you don’t have a job yet but need to get out, get out. Battered women’s shelters and homeless shelters can point you towards resources, and although you were probably raised to think that debt and the government were both totally bad, now’s the time to forget it. Please don’t go out there and max out credit cards, but understand that “investment” is good and credit is a good thing when used responsibly. For example, if you use a credit card to pick out an appropriate job interview outfit and use it to get a job that then pays you money and you then pay your balance on the card, that outfit was a responsible investment. You may also be eligible for food stamps, winter heating credits, cell phone minutes, certain types of health care, and maybe a few other things to help you make this transition. You will still be poor but not out on the street. So don’t feel bad going down to the food stamps office and applying. My Mom has done this and it’s helped my family. It’s there for situations like this, to help people on hard times, just prepare for a bureaucratic experience. Later on when you have a stable job and are paying your taxes you won’t need this stuff anymore and you’ll return what you used.
Get Financially Stable
Maybe you have some savings. If not, try to get some. The idea of “tithing yourself” by putting away 10% of your income to save for emergencies is a good idea if you can manage it. Maybe you’ve got nothing and have never been allowed to handle money or make purchasing decisions before. I suggest familiarizing yourself with household budgeting and once you have a job, getting a bank account and using a free application like mint.com to keep track of your budget. I got through college spending $200 a month on rent for my room and $40 a week on groceries. I still don’t know quite how I did it on such a small amount, but I know it can be done for far less than what many people pay.
Get an Education
There are grant programs for you to go to college. I used them, Pell, SEOG, Louisiana’s TOPS program, and graduated debt-free. Admittedly this is rare and I managed it because I budgeted like a crazy person. I was still ridiculously afraid of debt because of how I’d been raised. if I could do it over again I’d honestly take out a loan or two and live a little less austerely. So if you want to further your education, do it. Also, if you want to go to hairdressing or mechanic school, do that, or if you want to join the military, read info on the connection between adverse childhood experiences and the higher risk of developing PTSD in the military. Then, if you still want to go the military route, do it.
If you are unsure about how educated or uneducated you are, get the collection of books starting with “What Your First Grader Needs to Know” and going all the way through the sixth grader one. Sad as it may seem to say this, getting through the sixth grade book should make you feel pretty confident you can make it in college. You’ll need a bit more math and essay skills, but that’s about it. Also, it took me less than one year and my grandfather’s military-style dedication to my education (we started early in the morning and sometimes he even shouted drill-sergeant style and broke pencils) to get through them all. I caught up to high school level in everything but math, and that is the one subject I still struggle with, even though I have found I love stats and budgets. Still, even after a decade of educational neglect I made it through a mediocre public high school, went to a decent and affordable public college, and then got a master’s degree at one of the top 10 schools in my field. It mainly took patience and dedication to the goal.
Also, if you feel you need a teacher, or have a learning disability such as dyslexia or ADHD that has never been handled properly, there are adult education opportunities offered through your local public school district. They might be lame, but still, better than nothing. Give them a call.
Also, there’s so much amazing free stuff available on sites like iTunes U and TED talks that if you aren’t ready or interested in taking the formal educational plunge, you can still dip your feet in whenever you like.
Personally, I loved college, absolutely loved it. Although I struggled with math and foreign language and had to fight with my parents to sign the FAFSA form for me, hands down it was my ticket out.
Get Mental Health Care
I didn’t think I needed any. I was so happy to be out and living free that I never wanted to think about how things used to be, ever again. I just wanted a “normal” life. I had one for quite a while, but then just when things were calming down in my life I started getting nightmares, insomnia, and lots of intrusive upsetting memories. It caught me unaware big time and it took me several months of PTSD symptoms to get over my own pride and make a counseling appointment.
So if you don’t feel the need to deal with it now, understand there may come a point when you do.
When you are struggling with living this new life on the outside some people may tell you it’s punishment for leaving or that you are somehow broken. Understand that it actually is pain and heartache due to being mistreated and not being properly prepared for normal life. Maybe like my parents, they tried to keep you under their control by never teaching you how to drive or letting you walk your own neighborhood alone. You can learn to do those things now and you can have GPS to help you with both of them. It will sometimes hurt and be scary to make the changes you need to make and decide who you will trust and who you won’t, realize who is there for you and who isn’t. At times you will feel like a disappointment, a bad son or daughter, a terrible big sister, etc. This is a normal part of your mind dealing with the disconnect between reality and how you were taught it was. Family, or church elders, or former homeschool buddies will also likely try to cajole you or threaten you into coming back and doing stuff like how you were told. I had this happen and these feelings were strong for me. I even moved back home for a bit. I felt like a total sellout and then I left again because I followed my own intuition.
So recognize that you are coming from an environment where you are one crab in a bucket of live crabs. A bucket of crabs doesn’t need a lid because as soon as one crab tries to climb out, the other crabs pull him back in again. Be determined to be the crab that got away and you will be.
This is great and all, but none of it, and I repeat, NONE of it has helped me. I cannot drive, I have a severe learning disability and even places that try to help gave up on me, I can’t pass the GED (have tried five times) and thus cannot get a job. And of course, in the state where I live in order to qualify for Medicaid I have to be single and pregnant. Not even just pregnant-which is impossible for me- but single as well. I do have food stamps but we run out halfway through the month because I’m allergic to so many cheap foods. I’m drowning, I have no friends, no help. I turn 30 in two days and haven’t been able to get anywhere in my life. When I was homeless the battered women’s shelter wouldn’t take me because it was only for women with physical abuse from a partner, and the only other homeless shelter available was just for those with mental illness or drug issues.
See, my grandparents were in on this too, and I was kept so secluded that I could not tell anyone what was going on. While most of my church was not like this, there were only 40 members and they practically ate out of my grandfather’s hand- he was an elder. The only other people I interacted with were homeschoolers in similar or worse states. Worse yet, I was adopted into this family.
I’m glad you had a supportive grandfather, but I really had, and still have, nobody. I try making friends, I try getting help, and when they hear about this nobody ever believes me. NOBODY.
You’re right that I don’t know your specific situation and I cannot be sure anything on my list would work for you. I only know that it worked for me and so in hindsight it looks like a good plan, although at the time I felt like I was way out in uncharted territory and going in blind. Come to think of it, sometimes I still feel that way.
What happened to either of us never should have happened. It was wrong. My parents treated me like I was clumsy and dumb and an almost constant disappointment. In many ways I believed them. Certainly I am grateful to my grandparents who did their best to counteract that message.
You have given me a list of obstacles in your way and I admit they look daunting and I’d probably feel down and overwhelmed looking at them too. Yet I can tell you want something more. What is it? Is it just to not be hurting for money? Is it to feel some sense of independence or community? What would you do if you knew you could not fail? Do you first and foremost just want your story to be believed? If so, maybe that could be a start. I know nothing about you but what you’ve said, but I notice that you are good at writing. Maybe start a blog and tell your story. Then you are an advocate and can also use it as a writing sample to try and get a job copyediting websites or doing online data entry. You wouldn’t have to have transportation for that and nobody would care about your education as long as your work looked good. Hang in there and don’t give up. There is always a way.
Your state’s Vocational Rehabilitation may be able to help you with job training due to the learning disability.
I am glad you came out of that situation. I have known kids who went to school, who lived in similar misery, but being in school didn’t prevent it. You probably haven’t had contact with the growing secular homeschooling movement, and may not be aware of the reasons why secular parents choose to homeschool their kids, but I’d love for you to come check out http://www.secularhomeschool.com/content/ and perhaps that would help with the feeling of homeschooling being a threat, and help you understand why progressive, rational, loving parents (some of them teachers who quit their jobs to homeschool!) would want to homeschool. For us, it’s a choice to provide a safer, more loving, more open childhood, with greater contact with the world at large, and better real-life experiences as well as better and more diverse learning opportunities. Cracking down on homeschoolers in the mistaken belief that they, as a class, are more likely to be child-abusers, is misguided.
Perhaps you misunderstood me Meg. I am not an advocate of “cracking down” on homeschooling. I believe it is a legitimate educational option deserving of respect. I also do not believe homeschooling parents are generally child abusers either, and I have never said that.
What I do know is that if you wanted to be a horrible homeschooling parent, it is currently way too easy to do so, and if you start with good intentions but accidentally fall into a bad situation or a neglectful routine, it’s far too easy to stay there in a state of shame or denial because in most states no one will ever check to make sure you’re doing your duty.
You’re right that I have known more homeschoolers of the fundamentalist Christian variety but I have known secular ones and moderate Christian ones too, just met most later in life. Some had good experiences, some didn’t. I don’t think this is simply a religious v. secular issue, but rather a cultural one. Children have rights too but the homeschooling lobby only considers parents’ rights as legitimate. Also the fundamentalists (HSLDA, etc.) are in charge of that lobby, as I am sure you are well aware.
The fact that some public school children (especially in poor and minority neighborhoods) experience maltreatment is not a valid reason to ignore the need for homeschooling reform. Educational neglect and child abuse are unacceptable under any circumstances and in any setting.
I do not see homeschooling itself as a threat to anything. It is merely an alternative education method. I don’t think it’s some cure-all either. I think anytime we ignore children’s rights we threaten our future, so that is why I support reform. If we want homeschooling to be the “best” option we certainly cannot hold it to no standards, or the low standards of failing schools.
I have seen the chasms homeschooled kids can easily fall through and it is scary and heartbreaking and that is why this particular educational and social issue is a focus for me. It doesn’t mean there aren’t other equally valid or even more urgent ones.
I don’t believe it’s ever a good idea to create situations where it’s easy to cheat, do the wrong thing, or hurt people as some will inevitably take advantage and do just that, in the process casting a shadow on the honest ones who are in it for the right reasons. I think responsible forward-thinking homeschoolers should be the first ones recognizing this “wild west” type situation as bad policy and lobby to close these gaps, if only for the sake of homeschooling’s reputation.
All children should be entitled to a fair chance at a decent education and under the current homeschooling systems in many states, nothing is done about it when that isn’t happening because there is nobody checking.
As a survivor of “secular” homeschooling situation far worse than what is detailed here, I have to put in my two cents. Homeschool can and is abused by “secular” abusive and controlling parents as well. There needs to be much more oversight of homeschooling parents. I don’t believe being a non religious homeschooling parent necessarily makes for a better parent or teacher.
I’ve been going back and reading over your entire blog. It’s very helpful stuff, but I’m with Revenwyn on this one–I’m just blown over by the optimism.
Get a job is only helpful advice in a time and place that has jobs. When I graduated from high school, I remember looking through classified adds and seeing that minimum wage food service jobs–the crappy ones you’re saying people ought to settle for until they can get something nicer–were demanding 15 years experience. Why? Probably self defense on the part of the management. Why go through 500 applications for a burger flipper when the economy sucks so badly that you can hire someone who you know can handle the work and stick to it. If getting a job was pie in the sky in the early/mid 90s recession, I can only imagine it’s worse now, as people keep saying the economy is in even worse shape.
The notion that it’s good to buy on credit if it’s investing in future opportunity is nice. It’s something I still work on. And while I could’ve bought a suit with a credit card right out of high school, I could never have gotten a student loan. You say if you could’ve done it over again you would’ve applied for a loan. You would know better if you’d tried applying for a loan at the time. You couldn’t have had a loan–trust me, I tried. The overwhelming majority of loans require parents to cosign. Just filing for financial aide requires parents to give you information off their taxes and sign the FAFSA. Students held captive by abusive families need not apply.
My path to safety involved moving to a small college town–there weren’t jobs in cities but a college town has lots of people whose parents like them who have loan money to pump into the economy but they don’t need jobs yet. That’s how I found a grocery store job to pay the rent. Wait on the education; if you can get out and find stability, once you turn 24 you become a fully liberated adult and can apply for financial aide on your lonesome, based on your low income, with no denial because your parents who won’t sign forms make too much money.
Well, you’re right – I feel optimistic. I think you can find work and independence and you can find a way to go to school if that is what you want. You can also find people who care and will be there for you and want to help. You just have to keep trying, be stubborn, keep looking, keep talking to people, keep learning, and you will find a way even if it doesn’t look like the way I wrote about at all. If someone gives up and finds all the reasons why not that is the most toxic thing ever.
Revynwyn was talking about her personal situation, which I agree is a difficult and complex one to be in, more so than most due to the issues of disability and transportation, but it seems to me that you are generalizing to a much bigger audience, saying why none of these things will work for people at all. First off, perhaps they have not worked for you, like they did not work for Revynwyn, but that does not mean they do not work at all. They did work for me, which is why I shared them, not because I assume they’d work for everyone. I guess I find your tone rather pessimistic, like you have resigned yourself to things being below your standards and are telling others they should accept it to. I disagree with that. Things do not have to suck and you do not have to put up with it when they do.
If someone is asking for 15 years of experience for a burger flipping job (something I have never ever seen, btw) and it is somehow still the job you want or the only one offered in town, apply anyway and when you walk in that door tell them you have less experience than what they are looking for but you make some damn good burgers. The economy is undeniably bad right now but it’s not like we live in Greece or Egypt where the unemployment rate for young people is through the roof and finding any job at all is practically a miracle. Here you may not be able to find the work you want or the pay you want but if you keep at it you definitely can find work.
Also, there is certainly nothing wrong with working at a grocery store in a college town, but I don’t think anyone should think they have to wait until they are 24 to feel like a fully liberated adult. If you want to go to college, do it sooner rather than later. I agree that getting your parents to fill out the FAFSA (which was an issue for me too although I ultimately got mine to) can be a big problem and the solutions to this are not easy. I had two friends whose parents refused to fill it out and they went to college anyway. One works as a clinical researcher now and her work is paying for her masters degree, so it certainly can be done. Also, she was not married but if you are your parents’ financial information is no longer required. One thing I am quite sure of is that if you are getting a Stafford student loan nobody has to cosign. It says so right on the Stafford website. http://www.staffordloan.com/easy/
Anyway, I am glad you are enjoying my blog and I hope the tone in my response doesn’t sound harsh. I just want to be very clear on some things and I truly feel that it is important to do whatever you can to keep yourself from feeling bowled over by life. Sometimes tenacity and dreams are about all you’ve got to work with, so definitely don’t lose them or rationalize away and put off the efforts that could lead towards what you want.
The problem I have with the optimism is that it makes me feel invisible. I’m really frustrated with policy people pretending that everything is going to work out as an excuse not to help all the people who fall through the cracks.
I didn’t mean to sound like I’m poo-pooing your way out. Partly, you framed it as a general way out and not just a story of what worked for you. And framing it that way is damaging. I probably would have let it slide if you weren’t going into public policy. And when I open my mouth about stuff like this it’s because I, too, am optimistic. I’m optimistic that if I can just get policy people to look at the gaping holes in the safety net someone might actually do something about it. And you seem to be more in a position to notice the holes in the safety net than a lot of policy people. So maybe it’s just me wasting my time being optimistic, but I really wish you’d consider the holes as well as promoting the way out that worked for you.
If I sound pessimistic or angry it’s because I am so sick of hearing people talk about loans and financial aide as though they fix everything and jobs as though everyone who wants one can have one. There’s a child abuse analog to rape culture. It’s like women who blame the victim because they so desperately need to believe that they can control whether or not it happens to them. People are so desperate to believe that all parents are wonderful that they can’t bring themselves to acknowledge the existence of children and young adults in abusive situations and put in place a comprehensive framework to help them.
Stafford loans require parents not to make too much money. That’s great for everyone who qualifies. But there’s no safety net for young adults whose parents make too much money or refuse to fill out a FAFSA. I did get out, but not before I was nearly killed by my parents and not without doing a long stint homeless. Because no, when the economy sucks it doesn’t matter that we aren’t Greece. Even at the best of times we have some degree of unemployment and the people who are the most desperate aren’t the ones getting the jobs. And suggesting that someone could get a job flipping burgers if only they’d asked more effectively smacks of victim blaming.
Loans are hardly a panacea. You can be homeless and shoveling food into your mouth out of a trash can because you haven’t eaten in 3 days and you found the jackpot of spoilage and be denied a loan because your parents are still claiming you as a dependent. Our society is just so desperate to believe that loans solve the problem because admitting that they don’t requires admitting that if we don’t let young adults to apply for financial aide until they are 24, that’s an extra 6 years of an adulthood that we’re trapping people in horrific situations–people who might have otherwise escaped at 18 if the economy were better or education more affordable without loans.
There are serious implications to cutting off access to childhood safety nets at the age of 18 and not giving people access to adult safety nets until they are 24. We talk about child abuse and elder abuse, but we never talk about this gap.
I am sorry if what I said came across that way. I have honestly never seen anything in my life that I would consider a panacea. I did write in my post that it felt like my advice was small and full of holes in the face of the problem and I do still feel that way. Still, I am starting where I can. I know all of those things you just said about hardship are very real and true and yet I am optimistic because I feel that there is no other way to be. It is not unmitigated optimism, but it is optimism nonetheless. I truly think things can be made better and that this has to happen at multiple levels and that I want to help be a part of that. There is a reason that I mentioned people needing to become aware of and look at the politics of this issue in the beginning of this post, before giving individual level advice. Telling people the answer is just to escape and go privately “fix” what’s been done to them while this broken system is still going strong, churning out so many hurt kids is madness.
As far as policy, I feel there is an overwhelming amount to be done regarding unmet human need in general and that’s why I studied poverty alleviation policy. The issue I was most passionate about before I got into studying homeschooling was intergenerational poverty and “throwaway” youth, that exact gap you speak of, because I saw it too and that’s why I got into the work I am doing today.
It is hard to address these issues and it often feels rather like putting a bandaid on a gaping wound, but I think the first policy thing we need to do is get people to recognize that this problem even exists, that it is not some freak outlier issue in the homeschooling world but smack dab in the middle of it, so thank you for sharing your story in your response. I’d also recommend you share it over at Homeschoolers Anonymous because people need to know the truth and the more of us that speak up, the better.
I definitely don’t intend to blame anyone who is just trying to survive this kind of upbringing or imply there is some level of “success” we each need to attain. That would be one heck of an assumption.
I know there are few things worse than having people forget about or ignore the adversity part and just openly wonder why you’re “not doing as well” as they imagine you should. That is not what I was trying to do at all. I shared what helped me and I imagine might help others as one piece of trying to help improve the situation.
I’m finishing a master’s degree in college administration, and I’ve been a student in a higher ed setting for about 8 years now… If you can prove to the financial aid department that your family is abusive and you had to run away from them (usually with a letter from a pastor, social worker, therapist, or something similar), many schools will help you circumnavigate the dependency issue. Not all, and it’s totally at their discretion, but if you are super polite and friendly, it can happen. Once you turn 24, you no longer have to have your parents sign things.
It’s also possible to find jobs on craigslist as a housekeeper or nanny, which will often provide room and board. Most ladies coming from Quiverfull families will be beyond qualified for both of these jobs, and you may even be able to put 8, 10 or more years’ experience on there! And I’ve never seen a position requiring a GED. You may be able to find a really sweet family who not only pays you and gives you shelter in exchange for your hard work, but also helps you get your driver’s license and GED and whatnot (since it also benefits them to do so). Any kind of off-the-books childcare work will likely be easier than working a cash register if you have more experience with babies than money, and coming from a very conservative background will actually make you a more attractive candidate to the majority of parents. 🙂
Well, someone has to be optimistic. What’s the alternative? To stay in an abusive situation and be miserable.
I found this article illuminating and also heartbreaking. I’m one of the lucky ones. My parents ostensibly homeschooled for religious reasons, but they were and are moderates and they eventually sent me to public school. I think they felt pressured by other members of our old church who were also homeschooling to do the same. Finances became an issue so I entered public school in 7th grade (my older sister entered at 10th). I thought this was pretty rough at the time because I was not emotionally or intellectually prepared to go from only hanging out with a group of half a dozen also-homeschoolers at church to dealing with the public school environment.
In retrospect, I was clearly quite fortunate as homeschoolers go. I lived in a loving (somewhat insular) home with parents who wanted my sister and I to succeed in the real world. I really appreciate you writing on this subject because people like me are on the fringes of the conversation. We don’t really know because it wasn’t our experience.
I came across your blog in a round-about way and want to commend you on your work and optimism. I am not a homeschooler but I will be thinking about the issues you’ve raised because of it. And really I just want to offer encouragement. I think you are doing something important.
I’m sorry that you had such a terrible experience with your parents, but the target of your pain isn’t homeschooling, it is bad parenting and perhaps the deficient branch of Christianity you were raised under. Before you start giving testimony on Capital Hill and advocate for legislation that will undermine the natural family in favor of State power, you need to spend some time researching what happens to children who are taken from their families by social services because some anonymous caller accused the family of some violation of the “norm.” The machine of the State as a parent is not a rosy walk with rainbows and unicorns. Further, the public school system is a disaster and very clearly is exclusively focused on ideological indoctrination not on educating the children. Watch the “War on Kids” – a documentary that isn’t exactly made with a Christian Fundamentalist bias, it has a left wing bias, but tells the story none the less. Remember that homeschooling is a response to the toxic school environment, an environment created by the State. When you talk about advocating for “homeschooled children’s rights,” what exactly do you mean? The right to choose your own education or leave your home at the age of 7? The right to have an agent of a State bureaucracy invade your home and subject your family to microscopic scrutiny? Rights have corresponding duties. What duties do homeschooled children have that accord with those supposed rights? Parents have rights because they have the primary duty to provide for and raise the children they have. What are the duties of homeschooled children that affords them rights in relation to the State? If you have seen MSNBC’s recent commercial advocating that we have to move beyond the idea that children belong to their parents and recognize that children belong to the community, then you will perhaps be aware of the effort to cleave children from their parents and have them raised by the State. This idea has a terrible pedigree. Be care full of the alternative that you are seeking when you speak out against the terrible family that gave your life.
I am currently in Boston, devastated by the news of this marathon bombing and the death of an uncle last night (in another state and completely unrelated to the bombing), so my response to you will be short.
The level of responsibility you have does not equate with the level of rights you have. Disabled people have rights. The elderly have rights. People under anesthesia in hospitals have rights. It is up to the rest of us to respect and support those rights, not to snatch them away for our own sense of power simply because we can.
This is not about children being chattel of the parents or chattel of the state, but people in their own right, supported in this by parents, friends, extended family, neighbors, social structures, and *gasp* government. While I am not denying that mainstream American society has issues and horrible things happening in it (see aforesaid bombing), your solution (hiding from society, vilifying and deconstructing its major institutions, holding up the “natural family” as an object of worship, and freaking out in some post-apocalyptic sort of way) is no solution at all.
It is very fear-based stuff you are conjuring up, some imaginary dystopian world you seem to be worried about, when we already have real dystopian stuff going on in the homeschooling world due to a severe lack of checks and balances. Seriously, I cannot read Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” or “Reading Lolita in Tehran” without it hitting too close to home, reminding me of the actual reality I saw with my own eyes. I noticed you didn’t have one thing to say on how to fix that kind of issue, now did you? No, you are obviously arguing for a continuation of the status quo. Well, the status quo in homeschooling isn’t good enough. Viewed at the system level it is awful, actually. I am not anti-homeschooling, have no beef with the concept of homeschooling, but the manner in which it is far too often used right now (as some culture wars tool) is not okay.
As much as you want to say my experience was an outlier, a family issue, the fact is is that me getting enough of an education to realize what the heck is going on beyond my own family and recognizing what helped feed my parents such destructive “solutions” is what made me the outlier, not the disastrous homeschooling experience itself. I can say for a fact that the main support and advocacy orgs for homeschooling allowed this to happen by making power grabs that they should not have and advocating for themselves and their movement rather than the actual children.
I have no intention of shutting up, this sacred cow is not mine, and if people like you are so worried that I will go speak to politicians about this and that they will see an immediate and pressing need for change, then maybe it’s an excellent idea and I should go do it.
Also, a bit of advice – stop consuming the HSLDA e-elert garbage. Your comment reeks of it.
I was not home schooled, but I was abused, emotionally & physically. I am appalled that you say children don’t have rights. I would rather have been aborted than have had to live thru that, and some children are treated much worse. Children have rights because they are living beings.
“Thing is, most American people who have experienced neglect and abuse in a homeschooling situation are still under the age of 30 because homeschooling just wasn’t an available option before the late 70′s.”
Without going into everything else you propose, this is a completely false statement. Why make up such nonsense? Families have been homeschooling for, literally, millennia. It isn’t some new idea brought on by Americans. And, it certainly wasn’t an idea sprung forth in the 70’s.
Homeschooling is a great opportunity to teach your own children instead of letting others raise them for you. Some of us (homeschooling parents) not only have all the education and credentials to, arguably, do a better job than your average public school teacher, we can give our children 1 on 1 lessons that no public school environment is ever going to lend.
I have little doubt that your situation was less than ideal, perhaps even abusive, but to just list ways to “escape bad homeschooling” without even so much as a measure to what that is is no more than espousing child run-a-ways at worst, disobedience to parents at best. Sad.
It seems to me that what you are fighting for has nothing to do with homeschooling and everything to do with abuse – without first defining what abuse is. By using a catch word such as “homeschooling,” you’re just paralyzing your argument and, what I assume is contradictory to your goal, confusing people.
Ok, my first suggestion is to take a deep breath, calm down, and stop consuming HSLDA garbage. I have, to my knowledge, made up 0% nonsense on this blog. It is all real and from the heart. What’s more, it is also from the head – I research this topic and I know what I am talking about. I am not speaking out in order to confuse or paralyze anybody (except those people who are using homeschooling for aims besides the wellbeing of their children – I’d be quite ok if this made them freeze up for a bit) and I am not conflating factors, wrongly blaming homeschooling for what was just my family’s problems. I have already written blog posts addressing these topics and you are free to look back over them if you like.
Bottom line, I am telling it like it is. The modern homeschooling movement did begin in the late 70’s. I don’t include historical homeschooling and I don’t think it makes practical sense to do so. We live in a different world today where people need different skill sets and we have a different culture. Also, the whole thing where modern homeschoolers claim people like Thomas Edison and Ben Franklin as “one of them” is a pet peeve of mine. You simply cannot go back in time, pick and choose your favorite historical figures (I very seriously doubt you’d be going back in time and picking some illiterate guy history forgot about) and claim they are proof of *anything* except that in Colonial days/historical times homeschooling was generally the most commonly available educational option, if you were white, male, and your parents decided to, that is. If not, you generally got the short end of the stick.
I think homeschooling has a place in modern society as an educational option and I am not anti-homeschooling. I am anti-neglectful and abusive homeschooling. Homeschooling *can* be all those good things you mentioned, except when it isn’t, and currently in America when it isn’t, in most states there are simply not sensible means to protect children from such bad situations. (Now that you mention it, it is not too far removed from what we had in the 1700’s actually.) What’s worse is the current fundamentalist homeschooling lobby (HSLDA, et al) itself helped gut any sensible regulation they could, starting in the 1980’s, when I was born. They should be held responsible for strongly advocating for all those poorly made laws that allow children to be so easily mistreated, as should the parents who use such loopholes to do things that hurt their children.
I also don’t need to define exactly what abuse is to be against abuse. If you are not sure (and after reading my blog think what happened in my family home only *might* be abuse) then perhaps you should look it up. Abuse can look like different things given the situation but I obviously think beating a child, trying to break their will, touching them in a sexual manner, or teaching them lies about the world that make them easier for you to control is all abuse. Not teaching them, not getting them adequate medical care when they are ill or hurt, and not providing them with adequate food, clothing, and shelter is neglect. If any parent is doing that stuff to their child, you’re right – I definitely advocate “disobedience” by going to someone outside the immediate family for help. What’s sad isn’t that I’m advocating it, it’s that I even need to in the first place.
Anyway, I think you made some assumptions about my goal. My goal is to raise awareness and help with this problem (and it is certainly a legitimate problem). What is your goal? It certainly seems like it is to defend the status quo, shut people like me up, and continue on, playing ignorant and sweeping the truth under the rug. If that is the case, our goals are in conflict and no wonder you seem angry – the latest data and reports coming out definitely back up what I have to say.
Very good information thank you for writing
Heather, you are so brave.
hopefully, this comment finds you still full of spunk, despite all the negativity I see towards your work.
humans fear what they don’t understand.
I too, was raised in a very repressing, controlled, and what felt to be a very dangerous environment. seven children, abuse, little money, and lots of jesus.
I’d love to get in touch, so write me!
your brand new ally,