When Home-Schooling Goes Horribly Wrong…

Susan Svrluga of the Washington Post has an incredible story of a Christian home-schooling family where the parents don’t want to send their children to the local public school, and the children, knowing they’re not getting a good education, are fighting back:

Trust me; home-schooling doesn’t always work this well…

[Son] Josh Powell wanted to go to school so badly that he pleaded with local officials to let him enroll. He didn’t know exactly what students were learning at Buckingham County High School, in rural central Virginia, but he had the sense that he was missing something fundamental.

By the time he was 16, he had never written an essay. He didn’t know South Africa was a country. He couldn’t solve basic algebra problems.

The article raises the question of what requirements must be in place when it comes to home-schooling. In Virginia, where this story takes place, there is no oversight whatsoever. If parents claim a religious exemption from public education, the state government doesn’t do anything to check in on them and make sure they’re doing a decent job.

It’s scary to think that 7,000 children in the state are being home-schooled and we have no idea how many of them are getting a decent education. We don’t know how many can read or write. We don’t know how much math they can do. We don’t know what books they’re reading (besides the Bible, anyway).

One argument in favor of home-schooling offered up by chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association Michael Farris is that public schools let plenty of students through the cracks, too. He’s not wrong, but at least we can identify those students and try to rectify the situation. When home-schooled kids in the state fail to get an adequate education, we have no idea that’s even happening before it’s too late.

That’s what Josh realized after he enrolled in community college:

Josh Powell, now 21, wonders how much more he could have accomplished if he hadn’t spent so much time and effort catching up.

“I think people should definitely have the freedom to home-school as long as it’s being done well and observed,” he said. “I don’t see any reason for there not to be accountability.”

Most of all, he worries about his siblings: There are 11. One, old enough to be well into middle school, can’t read, Josh Powell said.

The saddest thing about the story is that it’s clear Josh’s parents are trying to do their best… yet failing at it. And if this family’s story is now public, how many are more are going untold?

There have to be regulations of some sort; these parents need to be held accountable for their kids meeting the same standards that public school children are held to. More power to the parents if they can do a better job than the public schools, but we need to spot the bad seeds early before their children are so far behind the other kids that they’ll always be playing catch up.

(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Robert for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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