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.

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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.