The Problem With Homeschooling

This has been a hard post to write, because it is a touchy subject. But I’ve written it anyway because I feel passionate about this issue, so please hang in there and hear me out!

Without homeschooling, Christian Patriarchy as we know it could not exist. Why? First, because Christian Patriarchy cannot exist without parents having the ability to isolate their children, especially their daughters, from the outside world, and second, because Christian patriarchy cannot exist without parents having the ability to completely control their children’s educations.  

If a daughter of Christian Patriarchy went to a public school, she would learn that she can can be whatever she wants to be. She would have female role models, and adults telling her to reach for the sky and dream big dreams. She would see other ways of life and learn that in American society, women are the full equals of men. She would be told she can be a lawyer, a doctor, a scientist, or an engineer.

Homeschooling, in contrast, enables parents to monitor everything their children learn and experience. One of the most common reasons Christian families homeschool is to isolate their children from the world. They use words like “protect” and “shelter” and then speak of the public schools as if they are a wasteland of gang warfare, teenage sex, and drugs and of ordinary American culture as if it is filled only with selfishness, drinking parties, orgies, and despair. They believe that by removing their children from all those evil influences they are protecting them.

Now of course, there are different degrees to which this monitoring takes place, and I am definitely not saying that every homeschooling family seeks to do this. There are plenty of homeschool families out there that readily expose their children to all sorts of different experiences and people. This does not change the fact, though, that homeschooling gives parents the ability to control their children’s lives and experiences in a way they could not if their children went to public school, and that is the point I’m trying to make here.

If a daughter of Christian Patriarchy went to a public school, she would have access to an education that is not controlled by her parents. She could study hard and get good grades. She could take geometry, calculus, and trigonometry. She would finish with a regular high school diploma and a transcript, thus taking her ability to attend college out of her parents’ hands. She would also have a high school guidance counselor.

Homeschooling allows parents to completely control their children education. Some daughters of Christian Patriarchy are expected to spend time that could have been spent on schoolwork helping out around the house, and their educations are affected by their parents’ belief that women are only ever to be homemakers. Even if a girl is educated well, she still depends on her parents to provide her with a high school diploma and transcript. This is a situation ripe for abuse.

Please don’t think I’m saying every homeschool family does this – far from it! – or even that every homeschool family that lives out Christian Patriarchy does this – that’s not true! Plenty of homeschool parents give their children an excellent education, and even give their children the ability to guide their own educations. This does not change the fact, though, that homeschooling allows parents to completely control their children’s education in a way that they could not if their children went to public schools, and that is the point I’m trying to make here.

Homeschooling gives parents the ability to completely control everything about their children’s lives. In contrast, when children go to public school they have interaction with things outside of their parents’ world and have more control over their own educations. Now, I’m not saying that patriarchal abuse can never take place when children goes to public school. It can. But it cannot take place at all to the extent that it can when children are homeschooled. In this way, homeschooling enables Christian Patriarchy as we know it to exist.

Am I saying that homeschooling is, then, wrong, or that no one should homeschool? No, not at all! I’ve seen many families where homeschooling is an absolutely wonderful thing, with happy, healthy, well-adjusted children. What I am saying is that homeschooling facilitates abuse by giving parents the ability to isolate their children and control their education in highly problematic ways. Homeschoolers need to be willing to admit this problem and address it rather than simply seeing any critique of homeschooling as a monumental threat.

I do sometimes wonder if allowing homeschooling is worth the abuse that takes place in its name. I don’t have an answer, but I think it is a question we need to ask.

NOTE: For a response to some of the comments here, see my latter post, Homeschooling Rehashed. I do not want to give the impression that I am in favor of making homeschooling illegal. First, that is not practical in today’s political climate, and second, I have seen many families who homeschool and do it well. But we do need to be aware that homeschooling directly contributes to abuse by giving parents the ability to isolate children and mis-educate their children. Yes, the problem is bad parents, but the problem is also the lack of regulation of homeschooling which allows this abuse to take place. Therefore, I think homeschooling needs to be better regulated in order to prevent the abuses while allowing families who are homeschooling well to continue homeschooling. I believe that every child has the right to an education. In addition, I also think that we should focus on improving the public schools themselves rather than abandoning them.

#makehomeschoolsafe and Michigan's HB 4498
When Marriage Looks Like the Only Escape
What the Ruff, the Spotted Hyena, and the Cuttlefish Taught Me about Gender and Sexuality
A Letter from Jesus and Living in Fear
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Incongruous Circumspection

    As homeschooling parents, we were failures. Our children would have ended up having a pathetic education. When we finally admitted it, we put them in public school and have never regretted it. They actually have friends and we're friends of their parents. The town clicks around the schools.Homeschooling is isolation. You made a good point there.

  • Katy-Anne

    This was a great post. In all honesty, I do not understand why anybody who has been brought up in spiritual abuse chooses to home school their children. I believe that doing so is abuse to their children as it does pass on some of the dysfunction no matter how hard you try. I refuse to home school, and people think that makes me a bad mom. I think any of us that were home schooled, if it was so that we could be spiritually abused, ought to refuse to home school, if only to show the world that we refuse to do to our kids what was done to us, to show the world we have nothing to hide.

  • Anonymous

    I think one of the other things that comes with the isolation is a lack of some social skills. If parents get to choose so much of what their children are exposed to, their social circle is limited. Even if they have large groups of friends, if the parents are controlling so much of their children's lives, what are the odds that the group of friends has differing life experiences? So many of my friends that have left the homeschooling environment struggle meeting people, making new friends, and dealing with the people that are completely different from them. They missed out on that period of time where they are thrown with 20 + strangers and have to figure out if they will be friends or how to deal with the ones who are so different or mean. A good friend of mine who was homeschooled in a light patriarchy, with more freedoms than most from that movement, recently complained to me about so many of the things he missed that have made it hard for him to meet people and make friends because he's lacking common experiences. It all links back to the nearly inevitable isolation that comes with patriarchy homeschooling.

  • Anonymous

    I am pro-homeschooling, and your post didn't offend me. Some christian patriarchal families do abuse the freedom of homeschooling to restrict and control their children's lives, and that's wrong."I do sometimes wonder if allowing homeschooling is worth the abuse that takes place in its name." It's hard to watch, isn't it? But that's the burden of freedom in this country. If you think about it, it's really the freedom of religion that allows these cultic patriarchal practices that is at fault, rather than the freedom to homeschool.If we value our freedom, we don't want to start taking them away. What we usually do in this country is set up systems to monitor it. I agree that parents should have the freedom to educate their child in whatever manner they deem best, but the bad actions of a few in this regard have probably now made it necessary to enact some restrictions and controls on that freedom. Preserve the freedom to homeschool (and it is a WONDERFUL educational option for many, many students) while protecting our children. JMO ; ).

  • Rae

    I agree with you. And I think there is something more. Homeschooling is particularly attractive to those parents who are already overly controlling and inclined to isolate their children and dominate their lives. The homeschooling families that I know that did it well were those who homeschooled because there was something about their situation that necessitated it (moving a lot, poor quality of local schools etc.). It is those parents who view homeschooling as the absolute best that concern me. Homeschooling can never be the absolute best, only the relative best in a flawed situation (hey, this is reality!) where there are not better options. So the very parents who should NOT homeschool are the ones who want to homeschool, as opposed to those parents who end up needing to homeschool due to lack of better options. At least that is what I have come up with to help me sort these things. I'd be most interested to know if you agreed or see things differently.

  • Liberty

    Anonymous of 5:31 – I think you are right that the solution is to regulate homeschooling somehow rather than ban it. I think part of the problem, though, is that when a state legislature tries to add ANY regulations HSLDA jumps up and down yelling "you can't do that!" and then activates its hundreds of thousands of homeschool member families. It's become a bit of a truism the country over that you don't mess with homeschoolers, because they have huge political clout. With that reality, regulations are practically off the table. I don't understand this, because good homeschoolers shouldn't be afraid of regulation – only ones who aren't doing their job need to be afraid. Rae – I hadn't thought about it like that before, but I think you may be onto something there. The vast majority of homeschoolers cite some need to "protect" or "shelter" their children, which is just another way of saying "isolate," though the degree of isolation of course varies. I really think the real solution is fixing the schools, not just pulling out and abandoning them. I had planned on homeschooling my kids until high school, but more and more I'm thinking I'll just put them in the public school and then work to try to help improve it. Homeschooling takes the most involved parents out of the public schools, and ultimately that's not a good thing.

  • Katy-Anne

    Anonymous actually posted something that REALLY pushes my buttons. It's not "just a few" homeschool families that abuse, it's many of them. I wish homeschoolers would quit minimizing the abuse that a lot of these kids suffer just because they want to keep abusing, uh, sheltering, their kids.

  • Liberty

    Katy-Anne – You’re right, homeschoolers always seem to minimize the abuse, and I think that's part of the problem – they won't admit that there really is a problem, and a BIG one. They also don't see "sheltering" as abuse, and that helps them to minimize the abuse even further. Part of the reason I wrote my post is that homeschoolers need to admit that there is a fundamental problem with homeschooling itself – that it allows parents to control everything about their children's existence. You can't just say "well okay, there are a few bad people," you have to admit the fundamental problem with homeschooling – that by giving parents that level of control, it allows and facilitates abuse that could not otherwise take place.Here is why I think homeschoolers have problems admitting that: They honestly believe, as Anonymous said, that “parents should have the freedom to educate their child in whatever manner they deem best.” BULLSHIT. That is total bullshit. Parents have rights, yes, but so do children, and so does society. It’s in the society’s best interest and the children’s best interest that they become well educated and productive members of society. It is therefore not up to the parents to educate their children in whatever manner they deem best. As long as homeschoolers actually believe that, they are condoning the abuse, because it is that mentality that allows the abuse to take place.

  • Katy-Anne

    I agree with you on this comment, Liberty. I agreed with the post too but anyway. Just recently we left the Independent Fundamental Baptist church movement, and now claim to be non-denominational. I'm so glad that we are getting out while our children are still too young to remember. When we started talking about us leaving and why we had left, someone actually said to us "abuse is not a good enough reason to leave." I am going to protect my children at all costs so yes, abuse IS a good enough reason to leave. EVERY time I mention some of the atrocious abuse in home schooling circles the home schoolers try to minimize it like it's very rare. No, it's not. It's actually very common. I'm going to go out on limb here and say that I actually see home schooling as spiritual abuse at best. To purposely ensure your child knows nothing about the world around them is wrong. Not to mention that most of the home schoolers I know are doing it illegally because they claim that "it's none of the state's business what my kids are or are not learning".

  • Katy-Anne

    I will also say that my son has been in public school this past year, and it's been AMAZING. Stuff that I don't have the time to do with him, or the knowledge to teach him, he is learning. He has developmental delays and has made such an improvement because his teacher is qualified to work with special needs children. His teacher is actually a Christian and so it's easy to approach her and ask her to excuse our son from activities we may not want him doing. But normally, we compromise with the school and everyone is happy, including our son.My mother in law says that our next son, who will be going to school this year and actually has some mental retardation, would "be healed if you would simply obey God and home school". If that kind of ignorance comes from being home schooled or home schooling, I don't want any of it. She is full of ignorance.

  • Anonymous

    Katy-Anne, I've seen many people coming out of the fundamentalist religious and homeschooling movement who go on a rampage against all the institutions in their lives, assuming they were the problem. They jump from "Homeschooling is the only right way; all other forms are damaging!" to "Public schooling is the only right way; all other forms are damaging!"When in reality the problem was not necessarily in the institution of homeschooling, or religion; it was in taking that hard-nosed, unmovable, judgmental stance, based on third-hand accounts and their own very sheltered and limited experiences and perceptions.I say "some" homeschooling families abuse because that is a provable fact. I personally agree with it because when I homeschooled my son, we were involved in activities with a variety of secular and religious homeschooling groups, as well as private and public schools (educational providers in our area have a very cooperative attitude). I saw no abuse; nada. We were not involved in a fundamentalist group, they were really not a huge presence compared to the others, and I would not presume to know what went on in their ranks, but they were a small minority of homeschoolers here. NOT "most."Liberty, I agree that HSLDA is a large part of the problem with regulation. They are masters at slick public relations and had brochures and information at every "new to homeschooling" meeting I attended, secular or christian. Like other slick advertisers, they portray a worst-case scenario as common or probable, and appeal to our pride in country and freedom to get members. All — yes ALL — the homeschooling families I associated with had their children assessed, used standardized testing, and were in favor of government intervention in abuse cases. So I believe in the absence of HSLDA fear-mongering, they would support regulation also (in fact, most believe it already exists). I'm beginning to think the best strategy toward that end is a counterattack against HSLDA by noted conservative Christians… if any of them have the balls. ; )

  • Liberty

    Anonymous – I would truly like to think are a significant number of rational homeschoolers out there okay with regulation. And I have indeed met some who are. But I've also met a lot who aren't. There are homeschoolers who see the government as only ever a problem, and don't think it ever does any good. Like you, I'd like to hope that is a minority. But while the homeschoolers you knew all had their kids assessed, I grew up in a state with literally zero regulation, and no one I knew growing up had any contact with the state or assessment of any sort. In fact, many of them didn't even have social security numbers. And yes, HSLDA is a huge part of the problem. Someone needs to start a voice of reason counterpart that dispenses with the scare tactics, advocates for regulation, and moves toward cooperation with the state and local school districts. I do think, though, that you, Anonymous, and you, Katy-Anne, may each be defining "abuse" differently. I probably fall in between, because I did receive an excellent education without overt abuse, yet at the same time now see the degree to which my parents controlled my interactions with others and controlled the content of what I learned (I was taught creationism, that the founding fathers intended this to be a Christian nation, and that women are only ever to be homemakers) as HIGHLY problematic. I also ended up having no idea how to interact with people different from me, since even though I had had tons of friends and lots of activities, they all had my same conservative Christian homeschool background. "Isolation" does not mean not knowing anyone at all; it means not knowing anyone different from you. I think, Anonymous, that some of the problems of homeschooling are a bit more pervasive than you think. For example, I think homeschooling for religious reasons is (almost?) always bad for the kids, and this is widespread. But I also think, Katy-Anne, that there are more homeschoolers who are not doing so for religious reasons and do expose their kids to a wide variety of experiences than you might think. I still would argue that the best of all possibilities is to simply improve the public school system and use it. In an ideal world, homeschooling would not be necessary.

  • Katy-Anne

    So, Anonymous, because YOU don't actually SEE the abuse, it doesn't exist? You really think that? Abusers usually try very hard to make sure that nobody on the outside sees their abuse. I know a lot of home schoolers in two different countries, and MOST of them have been abused, and MOST I would not have guessed, ever, had gone through that. Thankfully, most are also choosing not to home school their children.Then again, several of them have been abused (being beaten…the parents called it spanking…) but don't realize that it's abuse. And I'm not talking about giving your kid a few swats on the butt with a hand or even a paddle, which I still don't agree with, but full blown abuse and these kids think it's normal to be "spanked" like that. I was one of them. I didn't realize until much later that being beaten with an electrical cord with a parent shouting "I'm going to make your black and blue" is actually abuse. They told me it wasn't. And they home schooled me, in part, so that I could not tell anybody. And I was one that was "allowed" to go to groups and stuff but I knew things would get worse if I dared tell anyone, as all of those sanctimonious home schoolers had been told by my parents to watch out for me because I was such a liar etc. I tried many times to reach out. Nobody ever believed me. I was told to stop slandering my parents and be thankful that I had parents that cared about me.Home schooling parents can still silence the ones that seem like they have a great social life. And of the activities allowed, they are still very, very regulated. Liberty, I believe home schooling is damaging and even wrong in most circumstances, whether done for religious reasons or not. It stunts children still and that is not fair to the child. Want your child to have what you consider is a superior education? That's what private schools are for. Public school, however, are not the devil no matter how many home schooling parents have lied to their kids and told them this. My husband used to believe they were dens of wickedness till he started working at one and now he has contempt for his parents lies and cover ups and he feels like they stole and education and friends from him. He's right.

  • Katy-Anne

    Oh and my comment isn't a plug for private school. But if a parent is such a snob as to think that their little angel shouldn't be with all the other children out there because their child is a special snowflake and so much better than everyone else, private schools do exist for that syndrome. All the normal kids might prefer that the special snowflake kids go to private schools anyway haha.I feel that a lot of parents don't remember that they themselves went to public school and turned out to be intelligent and well educated.

  • Liberty

    Katy-Anne – I have honestly come to agree with you more and more on that, and to see homeschooling as unnecessary and distracting from what the real emphasis should be, improving the public schools. I also agree 100% on what you say about abuse being able to be hidden – I actually have a post ready to go that specifically refutes the people who say "well, some families may be like that, but I've seen plenty who educated their daughters, taught them to be critical thinkers, and had no problem at all." Just because you don't see it doesn't mean it's not happening. At the same time, though, I have seen some families homeschooling for secular reasons who, from what I saw, were doing a wonderful job educating their children and socializing them. Not all homeschoolers are abusers. But then, I've seen families homeschooling for secular reasons who turn out kids who are social misfits. Homeschooling is no magical panacea, and actually creates a wealth of its own problems. This is why I say I think the real answer is improving the public schools, not simply checking out and homeschooling. And I'm with your husband – public schools are not the awful places people act like they are, and I wish that I had been sent to public school because I feel like I'm missing a whole set of experiences I ought to have.

  • Katy-Anne

    Yeah, I know a couple of secular home schoolers that seem to be doing well, too, but after everything, I just still have my doubts, and I still know several of them that didn't fit in socially, either. Although a lot of parents seem to think that's a good thing.

  • Anonymous

    Liberty, I agree your state dropped the ball. It sounds likely that people who would want to fly under the radar would locate there, which may also be why you were surrounded by them.My state's homeschooling requirements are minimal, rarely enforced, and did not include assessment requirements, which is why I find it so positive that we all did these things anyway, and why I think few would object to them if the HSLDA hasn't scared them to death.I completely agree with this statement: "In an IDEAL world, homeschooling would not be necessary." Yes! Of course, we don't live in an ideal world. And the problems in scome schools or with some children won't be solved during the generation the child attends, even with two parents camped out on campus five days a week for thirteen years. That is why homeschooling (and charter schools, and magnet schools, and even some private schools) began… as educational alternatives after attempts at reform in the public schools failed.Homeschooling was originally a secular movement and was similar to what we call unschooling today; parents were trying to avoid what they considered indoctrination and lack of choice at the public school level. Ironic, isn't it? I'm sure the pioneers are as horrified as we are at the way it is being abused by some fundamentalist groups.In full disclosure, I was public schooled from kindergarten through college, and received an outstanding education (full scholarship to three colleges, etc.). While I think I would have benefitted socially from a different environment, I have no huge complaints. I taught in rural and suburban public schools until my second child was born. All our children are considered "gifted;" almost all also have a mild to moderate disability of some sort. We have always sought the optimum educational environment for them, seeking out the best public school system and even once changing states when possible. We have had them in public, private, and homeschool, though only two have stayed in the same system K-12 (public school). The vast majority of all of their education has been in public school, and for the vast majority of it we have been pleased.One child who was homeschooled for a time is now in public high school. With honors classes, he carries a 4.4 GPA. He has a mild physical disability, so his first hour teacher thought it necessary to begin with this tidbit at our conference: "It sure doesn't hinder him socially, does it? Everybody loves him!" In fact out of all our kids, he is the most at-ease in social situations and always has been; I don't believe homeschooling or public schooling affected it one way or the other.Anyway — ; )

  • Liberty

    Anonymous – I actually wrote my master's thesis on homeschooling, so yes, I learned that it was originally started by unschooling types who were in favor of major school reform. And then in the 1980s it was taken over by the religious homeschoolers fleeing the public schools. Very ironic. If you haven't read it, Milton Gaither's Homeschool: An American History is very good. As a clarification, though, they didn't fear "indoctrination," they feared that schools taught kids to see learning as a task to get over with rather than as a part of life, and stunted their academic development by having them fill out worksheets and such rather than learn through doing. At least, that's how I understand it.

  • Final Anonymous

    "Indoctrination" is probably a poor word choice on my part. I read a few books by liberal hippie homeschooling families waaaaaay back when I was in college, and of course there was distrust of the government in that sphere too, in that the (government-run, although they didn't use the terminology at the time I dont believe) schools had an agenda to churn out mindless robots to blindly follow the evil capitalistic agenda of working in a specific capacity to make money for the country and dominate the world, yadda yadda yadda. I'm paraphrasing and exaggerating a little, but you get the drift.Did you come across any of those personal accounts while doing your research, by the way? Do you have any titles you can recommend? It was so long ago and it was such an odd topic for the day that I imagine they are out of print, but I would love to read them again and find out what they are doing now!Liberty, I've really enjoyed this discussion and your blog in general. I'm a liberal Christian, never been in a fundamentalist family, and I appreciate reading about your experiences and insights. ; )

  • shadowspring

    Okay, I must admit that I stopped reading the comments about halfway down, so if I am going over something already discussed, I apologize.Home schooling is not the problem. Bad parenting is the problem.BUT, since home schooling is parent-run, bad parenting in a home school becomes an educational issue. Every child has the right to access to an adequate education in this country. In fact, we as a society demand they take advantage of that opportunity 180 days a year from the ages of six to sixteen. So society does have a vested interest in the education of even home-schooled students.My opinion: annual portfolio reviews, annual health exams, annual testing- I have no problem with any of these options. I have nothing to hide, and as long as evaluators don't approach their job with an anti-home school bias, no one doing a good job has anything to fear.I have home schooled in two states- the one with the higher standards made me a better home schooling parent AND also offers more opportunities for home schooled students in intramural sports, dual-enrollment and state scholarships to higher education.The one that prides itself on being "free"- having less oversight- has also made the transition from home schooling to public school harder, there is no dual-enrollment possible, instead of trying to get a place in intramural sports they go to great expense to make up pathetic home-schooled only state "leagues". On the other hand, there is also a thriving non-religious home school community, and as it grows and gains more clout, hopefully that will all change.Everyone should be free to pursue the lifestyle for their family that they choose- but they can't deny their children's civil rights in the process. It shouldn't be an all-or-nothing scenario. I would like to see a future with far more cooperation and movement between home schooled and public schooled populations. Incidentally, my son's home school support group includes vegetarians, environmentalists, Jewish, atheist, Christian, gay rights activists, those in favor of legalizing marijuana and those against it, all in a big mish mash of American political/religious opinions. And they way they pair up would often surprise you, as they all seem to defy stereotyping. All of their parents chose home schooling as the most nurturing, freestyle option of education, and all of these teens are well-educated and involved in their communities. I know for a fact that there are plenty of other home school types out there, but don't lump as all into the mix with them.

  • Libby

    Shadowspring: You said this "Every child has the right to access to an adequate education in this country" and this "Everyone should be free to pursue the lifestyle for their family that they choose- but they can't deny their children's civil rights in the process." I totally agree. Like you, I've known some pretty great homeschoolers. I have done masters level research on homeschooling and know that there are lots of homeschoolers out there who are not homeschooling for religious reasons. I've met atheists, quakers, pagans, you name it. I've met lots of homeschool parents who are great. The problem is that there is no or very little regulation in many states, which makes abuse in the name of homeschooling easy. Rather than saying "well I'm homeschooling and my kids are fine!" homeschoolers like you need to realize that homeschooling can be a wonderful loophole for abuse and therefore support better regulation. Which it sounds like you do! I'm not asking to make homeschooling illegal, I'm asking to enact regulations that guarantee every child a good education. And in many (most?) states today the regulations fall far short of this.

  • Anonymous

    I've seen this touched on barely in a few comments, but sometimes a child's disability or other absolutely insurmountable obstacle makes home schooling necessary. One of my best friends had leukemia and was home schooled for several years, because his body couldn't handle being around that many people. There was no feasible way to make school possible for him.Also, for some kids, a school environment may do more social harm than good. I attended public school for most of my education, and because of a seizure disorder, I was bullied so badly that I developed suicidal depression and social anxiety so severe that were it not for my parents, I would have become a shut in. Ironically, I had the academics to go to college early, and my parents were very clear that I was there to learn how to interact with people.On the other side, my best friend was home schooled until high school by extremely emotionally abusive parents. It's a system ripe for abuse, and in my area, at least, there were no resources available for liberal home schooling parents. There need to be a lot more resources available, and I would like to see strict regulation, testing bodies, and oversight (yeah, I know, up hill battle). Basically, it can be a necessary evil

  • shadowspring

    The other non-religious home school moms I know personally (a very small sample, I admit) have no beef with home visits. We are not afraid, because we take good care of our children and it's obvious.

  • Anonymous

    LOL, you guys are deranged and dangerous. Abuse…it's definitely the thing keeping this country from moving forward. Oh, I'd sure hate to see one of those terrible abusive Christian home schoolers coming toward me in a dark alley. What is the world coming to??You guys are hysterical!

  • Libby Anne

    Anonymous of 12:43 – Did you actually read my post? It doesn't sound like it. Perhaps you should actually read posts before commenting on them. When I spoke of abuse, I provided links. There is nothing "hysterical" about a homeschool parent depriving his daughter of a high school diploma to prevent her from being able to go to college.

  • Claire in Tasmania

    Before I start, note that I'm an Australian (so the system in various states of America is not well-known to me), an egalitarian Christian, and I fully intend to home educate my three children (all under 5 atm), for all sorts of reasons, and they will get a jolly good education and they will be well-socialised.I'm coming into this late, and I haven't read the other post yet, but there's a side of this that no one has noted: schooling, as a system for education, is not *normal*. You could say, historically speaking, that without family/community-centred education, the human race as we know it would not exist.You could also say that without private home ownership, patriarchy as we know it couldn't exist. But you're not about to suggest that the government set up commune-style living, with a requirement to include people of several different backgrounds in each commune, in order to get rid of patriarchy. And the reason you're not, is your assumptions about what's normal. But think about the number of housing setups around the world – for example, I read about a village in PNG (IIRC) where there were two houses to sleep in- one for the men and one for the women. If a couple wanted to have sex, they went and found a bush during the day. No, that's not normal either – my point is that sending children to an institution for 30+ hours per week to learn things that every adult already knows has not been standard practice in any societies through history. It's a weird thing to do. This article, and all the comments (particularly about 'in an ideal world h/s would be unnecessary') are assuming that it's normal.cont…

  • Claire in Tasmania

    cont from previous post…I was public schooled, and I need to respond to some specific issues raised here: 1. You don't necessarily learn how to make friends by attending school – I didn't, and I'm not the only one. 2. I can understand the concerns of those who feel they've missed out on common memories/experiences but a) talk to most h/s parents (and really a lot of people in general if you ask the right questions) and they'll tell you about all the experiences you are glad you missed and b) that will always happen if you are raised in a family with some different beliefs/values (as a Christain family *should* have) – if anything, being at school just makes you feel these things sooner (for example, there were TV shows that I wasn't allowed to watch that I would listen to the other students chatting about). 3.regulation – did any of you follow the recent crazy 'review' of HSing in the UK? And the bizarre recommendations that came out of it? If I were a UK HSing parent, I would be very glad right now of the political clout of the HSers who were able to stop it going through (and the recommendations weren't in response to any real evidence, btw – it was the bias of the man in charge). Unschooling, which they call 'autonomous learning' is very common over there and it was them, moreso than the conservative Christians, who were getting up in arms. As an intending unschooler, who doesn't *believe* that a child's education should be stunted by other people's standards, the idea of regular testing really does seem like an appalling threat to me – not because I think my children wouldn't do well enough, but because I really don't believe they should have to – and I have nothing to do with HSLDA (obviously, I'm Australian). Also, someone mentioned an interesting comparison b/w two states in the US – I can tell you that here in Aus the opposite is true, the state with the least regulation is the one where HSing is most accepted and therefore there is a lot more openness to things like part-time enrollment.I don't want to minimise the abuse that you and others have suffered. I don't believe that HSers should have the right to under-educate their children (but I don't think the schools should be allowed to, either – and they do!). I don't think daughters should be given less opportunity than sons (but I don't think the schools should be able to 'stream' kids pretty much from kindergarten onwards, limiting the opportunities of those children classed, essentially, as 'dumb' – and they do!). I think an education should be liberal (as in 'broad') – another reason I don't want my kids in the academically-biased schools. I don't think your parents should have been allowed to do to you what they did, but I don't think either schooling or increased regulation is the answer. I think the UK HSers have a point when they say that it's just as easy to hide abuse in a schooled child, and just as easy to hide abuse when there are home visits or whatnot, and that to set up such a system would be a huge waste of resources that could be better spent on strengthening the welfare system and getting more and better trained social workers available so that when legitimate problems are identified (through neighbours etc) they can be resolved – whether in a schooled family or a homeschooled one.

  • Leanna

    Even though I homeschool my kids, I totally agree with the heart of what you are saying. I make sure that my kids are around lots of their peers. For me, the decision to homeschool was about the fact that our public schools in KY are just plain awful, and the private schools near us are all religious. As you know from my blog, the vast majority of homeschoolers in my area are evangelical Christians and not willing to let my kids join any of their group activities without me first signing a statement of faith, which I won't do. It's hard work for those fundies to keep their kids from coming in contact with any dissenting opinions!

  • Anonymous

    Claire from tasmania, you are an intelligent voice of reason amongst all this quibbling. Yours was the only post which I read and nodded almost constantly to. I was brought up fundamentalist baptist by an extreme mother. Lots of abuse, emotional and mental, which had nothing to do with my education. Schooling is not the only forum in which abuse exists. It is everywhere, and we must treat it as a real, whole, world problem, not try and section it off into categories, and then have 'witch hunts'… I went to a number of public schools, and nobody knew of the abuse. Heck, I didn't even know it was abuse till later on when I was all grown up and had figured out, quite painstakingly, how to think for myself. I am now homeschooling my children, doing so from a 'how can I give them the best, widest, most interesting education, filled with tolerance and understanding' point of view. I think people get up in arms about articles like this because they are so used to homeschooling being attacked, just because it's outside the collective comfort zone. What you're talking about – abuse with overly 'protective' religious homeschooling, is very real. But maybe it's not the homeschooling that's the main issue here. How come no-one's suggesting we regulate religion?

  • Libby Anne

    Just to be clear, I understand that you can hide abuse and send your kid to public school as well. I am not suggesting banning homeschooling, only regulating it. In the state where I was homeschooled, there were ZERO homeschool regulations, and yes, there were kids whose parents "homeschooled" them but didn't teach them anything at all (yes I'm serious). Sure, these kids could still have been abused by their parents even if they went to the public school, but at least then they would have a CHANCE to learn and exposure to those outside of their narrow circle, whereas at home they did not. I'm not suggesting banning homeschooling, I'm suggesting requiring that homeschooling parents actually educate their kids.Also, my two points still stand: homeschooling allows parents to have complete control over their children's education (unlike if their kids are in public school) and complete control over their kids' social life (unlike if their kids are in public school). Sure, not every homeschooler abuses this, and sure, abuse can and does occur to public schooled kids. However, parents of public school kids (a) do not completely control their kids' education and (b) do not completely control their kids' social lives. This situation is unique to homeschooling and means that parents who homeschool CAN abuse, isolate, and indoctrinate their kids in a way that parents sending their kids to public school can't. And it DOES happen.I am not saying that EVERY homeschool parent is abusive (FAR FROM IT!), only that abuse DOES occur under the guise of homeschooling, and that good homeschoolers need to be willing to address this problem by welcoming actual regulation. If you're actually homeschooling well, you should not fear regulations! This is why I don't understand homeschoolers who are against ANY regulations in the name of their "freedom" to homeschool. Dude. I'm not advocating taking away your right to homeschool, just closing some stupid loopholes that DO exist. Such as in my state that has absolutely zero requirements that homeschool parents actually educate their kids. Think of the kids who can and do fall through the cracks of homeschooling in addition to your own "freedom."

  • Jenny

    I'd like to point out that, even in cases when a girl is allowed to go to school or college, a lot of the control doesn't disappear.

  • May

    I agree with this post and I agree that religious isolation and abuse are no longer a small fringe minority of homeschoolers, but the idea (I think it was Rae's comment) that people choose to homeschool either because they are controlling and overbearing parents, or because they move frequently or live in a poor neighborhood, is pretty offensive (unintentionally of course).I decided when I was still in high school, before I even heard of the idea of unschooling or read anything about it, that if I had kids they wouldn't be sent to public school–because I hated it. That's the motivating factor for most secular homeschooling parents: they hated school.And this is not because the school was underfunded or overrun with gangs; it's because school is a boring waste of time for many kids, and a damaging attempt to linearly rank them against their peers over arbitrary criteria for many other kids. As mentioned earlier in the comments, public school education destroys kids' natural love of learning.(For the record, I have no kids and no plans for kids, so don't worry about judging my homeschooling skills.)

  • Karen

    I agree that many parents see not fitting in as a good thing. As I have read your replies, I feel that we experienced many of the same things. When my family started homeschooling it was the early 80's and my mom was one of the early Christian S. CA leaders and things were very different… but over time it changed. We joined a small Independent Fundamental Church that was also 90% homeschool families, as well as joining a very conservative school program. From the time I was 10 til I graduated, I believe my education was not the best I could have received. When I made some choices that the church didn't agree with swift, harsh repercussions followed . My first real experience with public school was starting college. I loved College and did very well…But at the same time it was incredibly scary and I struggled to blend in or work with groups because I lacked the common background, experience, or even vocabulary. I still become very stressed and unsure when I am in an elementary- high school. It has been been 15 years since I graduated high school. I married a Elementary school teacher and now have kids of my own who will be starting public school next year.Katy-Anne…. I would love to talk to you. Please contact me on my page if you are interested.

  • Larry Clapp

    FYI, your link to Homeschooling Rehashed doesn’t work; it still points to

  • Seda

    This is a great post, very thought provoking and on point. It is something I struggle with on one level, even as I often homeschool my own kids. While I’m very happy with the balance we’ve achieved, I also see that there are plenty who are unable or disinclined to provide or allow the freedom and education that most empowers our children – rather, they use homeschooling to disempower. I think the reason it works for us is because it’s largely about empowerment. My eldest is in sixth grade now, and back in public school. He homeschooled 1st, 2nd, and 5th, was in a public charter school for 3rd and 4th. Last year his homeschooling involved a lot of volunteer work, helping preserve wildlife and sea turtles in Florida. His homeschooling has enabled a diversity of experiences and relationships that he could not have had without it – for instance, working with wildlife rehabilitation, and learning to perform magic from street magicians. One balancing factor we’ve used to counter the limits imposed on socialization by homeschooling is to get the kids involved in sports. Their soccer team includes kids from different races and cultures, and this year, there’s even a girl on the team! :-) (She’s good, too.)

    I guess I relate this because I think it shows an example of how homeschooling offers greater educational opportunities and empowerment than public schooling, to balance your potent example of how it can do the opposite. I wish I could say I have an answer to the questions raised by the contradictions and limitations of the homeschooling ethos. I don’t. I do appreciate the dialogue, because I think it’s an important one, and I agree, the questions must be asked. Maybe there is no answer, except the one that lies in our own hearts.

  • Mike

    An interesting post, I was unaware of the concepts of the “Christian Patriarchy” movement (I am assuming that is what is referred to in this weblog post). We are Christian and began homeschooling our children 2 years ago. Not home schooling in the strictest sense, I suppose, as it is a state-sanctioned online school that follows state and federal guidelines for education.

    After mentoring our kids through their first two years of this form of home schooling, seeing what works well with it, what does not work well for our children, we are ready to take the next step and disconnect from the online school and move to a more independent solution. Admittedly I am a little nervous, it’s a great responsibility. My wife seems less concerned which is good, since she will be the driving force behind it.

    As an aside, we are not home schooling because we are Christian… leading a Christian lifestyle should be 24/7. Whatever habits or leanings our children pick up, whatever opinions of faith or God, whether good or bad, are likely from us at their age, so attending public school was never a worry in that regard. It started with our son who had learning issues; we understood how to work around them and had the patience to do so when teachers could not afford the extra time or effort.

    Once we pulled our son out, we decided to take our daughter out as well. Anyway, it has been an interesting 2 years and we’ve met some other wonderful people in various groups in town and are looking forward to the next few years as well.

    As far as controlling… well, being parents we HAVE to exert some level of control and guidance over our children. It’s part of parenting and grooming children for the responsibilities of life, both socially and in the workplace. I assume that like me, many parents also learn more about themselves from their children. Parenting is part of a family dynamic that grows and changes over time.

    • Mike

      re: my last post… I just want to clarify “once we pulled our son out” … he attended public school in a typical campus. The online school is still considered public school, yet we have MUCH more flexibility in how we arrange their classes and time. We are also able to give one on one time and direction as needed. It has been a blessing and we are looking forward to carrying the concepts to a new level.

  • Rilian

    I wonder if allowing government school (or any other typical school) is worth the abuses that take place within them.

    • Christine

      I think that ensuring that every child gets at least some education is worth a heck of a lot.

      • Rilian

        In my personal experience, learning doesn’t happen in school.
        Regardless, I didn’t want to be in school. But I was forced to be. How is that right?

      • Christine

        Rilian, I think it’s a real shame that you were forced to go to post-secondary education when you didn’t want to be. I hope you have managed to get out of that situation, and that people don’t think it’s appropriate to treat you like a child anymore.

      • Rilian

        I’m talking about K-12 school. And that I was a child at the time did not make it ok.

      • Christine

        Then why pick schooling? I’m sure you had to do things like take car rides, go to the doctor’s, sit down for family meals, etc that you also didn’t want to do. Why is schooling the worst part of this? If your parents had decided to homeschool would you have been happier about the regimentation?

  • Larry Videri

    It would appear your premise is that MATRIARCHY is preferable to PATRIARCHY? Do you have children? Would it be bad in your feminist eyes if a coven of Gaian amazons schooled their adopted (or artificially inseminated) children in the Wiccan way exclusively? I believe you would prefer that, for your view of reality is skewed by your bitter experience with men. I am truly sorry for you.

    • Libby Anne

      HAHAHAHAHA! Thanks for the laugh, Larry.

  • Public Schooler

    I live in a VERY Christian-based home & I go to public school….I would rather be home schooled. Your right, if I was homeschooled I wouldn’t learn all the WONDERFUL things school has to teach, for example: sex, where and where not you will get caught when having sex, the multiple ways to have sex, the best porn sites on the internet, how young girls can get pregnant (6th grade so far), oh and how boys use you for sex. I wish my parents had NEVER put me in public school and I encourage every other family to homeschool their children, whether they are Christians or not.

    • Knowledgeispower

      but don’t you feel glad that you now know how to deal with kids who come from different backgrounds to you and have different values. no one is asking you to agree with their values. but a lot of home schooled kids go out into the world after graduation to college or the workforce and have no idea how to deal with people with different values- and they struggle big time. you learn a lot from being lumped with 30 different kids and an adult who doesn’t love you unconditionally every day. (for the record, if i have them, i would want my daughters to know that boys use girls for sex. to stop them being taken advantage of or selling themselves short. and i want them to know how babies work so that they think before they go and just have sex and end up with babies when they are still babies themselves)