HSLDA, the CPS, and fear: Quick, kids – hide!

I grew up afraid of the CPS (Child Protective Services). My parents carefully instructed us children on what to do if the CPS ever came to the door. We were never to let a social worker into the house, never to talk to one, and especially never to let one talk to any of us children alone. I used to have nightmares about this, where the CPS took us children away from our parents, interrogated us, and never let us return.

The weird thing is, we had nothing to fear from the CPS. My parents did everything above the book. They were careful never to leave bruises when spanking us, they followed our state’s practically nonexistent homeschool regulations to the T, and we were always well fed, well groomed, and well clothed. If the CPS had come and spoken with us, nothing would have happened.

So why all the fear? The answer is simple: The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), perhaps the most prominent organization in the homeschool world, engaged in a sort of fear mongering to keep us and other homeschoolers afraid of the authorities and in order to make sure that we would continue to buy their legal insurance. Sound wacky? Let me explain.

HSLDA was founded in 1983 to protect homeschoolers from legal suit and to change the laws regulating or in some cases banning homeschooling. By the early 1990s, homeschooling was legal in every state. Since that date HSLDA has focused its attention on opposing any new attempt at additional homeschool regulation (and let me tell you, it’s very effective) and at providing legal assistance to homeschool families who find themselves in legal trouble.

HSLDA essentially operates as legal insurance. Homeschool families can become members of HSLDA for a annual fee (I think it’s between $100 and $150 at the moment), and then HLSDA will provide legal support completely free of charge if the family ever gets into legal trouble as a result of homeschooling.

The trouble is, HSLDA has essentially worked itself out of a job. So long as homeschoolers follow whatever regulations exist in their states (these vary from nothing at all to requiring annual portfolios), they’re fine. They don’t need legal insurance. It’s not the 1980s anymore. The most that is ever needed is to explain the state’s regulations to a local official who may not know just what is required of homeschoolers. But of course, if homeschoolers realize this and stop buying HSLDA’s legal insurance, HSLDA will go out of business.

Therefore, HSLDA has developed a brilliant strategy: fear mongering. Every member family receives HSLDA’s magazine, The Home School Court Report. This magazine has a section called “Active Cases” that outlines specific instances where families have recently gotten into legal trouble over homeschooling and needed HSLDA’s help, suggesting that these troubles could visit your family at any moment. I used to read this section religiously. While most of the cases were mundane and boring (HSLDA stepped in and told the local officials what the law says) a few were inevitably sensational and horrifying. The magazine also has an “Across the States” section dedicated to any new proposed regulations on homeschoolers, suggesting that homeschoolers’ legal freedom was precarious.

From time to time HSLDA whips its members into a frenzy over some new piece of regulation it declares would “end homeschool freedom as we know it,” but these charges are generally trumped up and overstated. If you listen to HSLDA and read its Court Report, it seems like every other year or so portends “the end of legal homeschooling” even though this is absolutely not the case. But HSLDA has to keep its members and followers in a state of concern and anxiety if it is to continue to exist.

Curriculum providers, conference speakers, and support group leaders also add to HSLDA’s membership by telling new homeschoolers that this legal protection is necessary. Impressionable new homeschoolers are very susceptible to this, and once they’re in the door, HSLDA does its best to use its magazine to keep them in.

Despite the dwindling legal threats to homeschooling, HSLDA’s membership rolls have continued to expland along with the movement as a whole. Though HSLDA loses 18 to 20 percent of its members every year, to date there have always been enough new recruits to more than make up for the losses: around 25 percent of members in a given year are first-timers. Christians new to homeschooling are often understandably worried about doing something so scary, and when they hear over and over from curriculum providers, conference speakers, and support group leaders (many of whom get kickbacks from HSLDA for members they bring in) that they need to join HSLDA, they do. Enough members remain to keep the organization solvent, but many new recruits quickly get their bearings and decide to pocket the membership fee after a year or two. (Gaither, Homeschool, 2008, p. 209)

I wish I could stop here but I can’t. In addition to founding HSLDA, Michael Farris has also written two fear-mongering novels that are worth a mention. The first is called Anonymous Tip. Here is an excerpt from a short review of the book:

When the child abuse industry goes amok, innocent parents and children are violated and their privacy invaded by self-serving bureaucrats with big egos and expedient ethics.

This is a gripper! From the first page on you’re getting deeper and faster into the undertow an anonymous tip can generate. You watch as a youthful and award-winning Children Protective Service investigator assails a citizen in her own home and, when Constitutional concerns are raised, returns with a vengeance.

The story is of a young Christian woman whose small daughter is removed from her by the CPS on completely falsified charges. The CPS is the enemy, ready to stop at nothing to keep the small girl from her loving mother. I’ve read it, and it’s heartrending. Only the talents and constitutional arguments of a young Christian lawyer are enough to return the girl to her mother after a months-long battle.

The second novel is called Forbid Them Not. In this book, the United States has signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and moves in to enforce it, removing the children from several Christian parents because they homeschool and use corporal discipline. In fact, one family has their children removed for merely opting their daughter out of the local public school’s sex education program. The message is simple: if the United States signs the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, parents’ right to homeschool, use “godly” discipline, and opt their children out of public school sex ed will end.

Here is an excerpt from a short review of the book from a conservative Christian site that expounds on this theme:

While the book is fiction, all the law in the book is factual and it could actually happen.  It is written under the premise that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is ratified and the UN board of directors begins trying to bring lawsuits against parents in the US that they feel are in violation of the treaty.  They sue parents for spanking, teaching their children that Jesus is the only way to heaven and homeschooling. The book follows their lawsuits all the way to the Supreme Court.

At the end of the book is the text to the actual UN Convention on the Rights of the Child so you can see for yourself some of the aspects that are mentioned in the book.  I did not want to put the book down and could not wait to see how it ended but I am fearful that someday I may be reading about this sort of thing in the news, rather than in a fictional novel.  Michael Farris is also the founder of ParentalRights.org and there you can find information about how to protect parental rights and keep things like this from actually happening.  You can also follow the happening of the Parental Rights Amendment by visiting Support Parental Rights.

One thing HSLDA’s Court Report spends a lot of time talking about is the dangers and horrors of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and as you can see, HSLDA and its founder Michael Farris are in the front lines fighting this treaty, a treaty that has been signed by every country in the world except the U.S. and Somalia. Farris’ message to his followers is that if the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is signed, children will cease to be wards of their parents and become wards of the state.

I don’t have time to get into the ins and outs of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child at the moment, but suffice it to say that HSLDA’s concerns about it are either based on misinformation (i.e., every country in Europe has signed the convention but none of them have made teaching your children your religious beliefs illegal) or are backwards (i.e., HSLDA holds that anything that asserts that children are not simply the property of their parents is bad). But HSLDA uses its political clout and its huge membership base to stir up fear mongering and conspiracy theories about the convention and continue to keep the US from signing it.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is, of course, only one aspect of HSLDA’s fear mongering. Between its concerns about this treaty, its portrayal of social workers as inept or devious, and its constant message that homeschooling is on the edge of being banned, HSLDA uses fear mongering to keep its members buying its legal insurance. My parents kept HSLDA’s contact information close, taught us children not to let a social worker in or even speak to one, and told us that at the first sign of trouble we were to grab the phone and dial HSLDA.

The idea that we children might be removed from our parents and placed to live with strangers, and the idea that social workers might resort to lying and faking charges to do this, terrified me. I believed that if a social worker got one of us alone, he or she would use rhetorical tricks to trap us into saying things against our parents looking for any possible way to remove us. And let me tell you, that scared me to no end. I’ve heard that some homeschool families even have drills, training their children to run and hide if a social worker comes to the door. We never personally had any run-ins with the CPS, but I grew up with a huge fear of social workers.

For more on the background, history,and practices of HSLDA, see Mitchell Stevens’ Kingdom of Children (2001) or Milton Gaither’s Homeschool: An American History (2008).

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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.

  • Contrarian

    Know what’s funny? CPS actually puts such a huge priority on keeping children with their parents that, in several cases, children have died because CPS did not seize them.

    • Contrarian

      (The funny part is that CPS almost has the attitude HSLDA says it wants, short of not existing. Children dying is not the funny part.)

    • Uly

      That’s not to say that there aren’t cases of wrongful actions by child services that go the OTHER way, of course – any organization has a few bad apples, a few lazy people or those with an ax to grind. And CPS is chronically underfunded and overworked, in every state.

      But really, they’re trapped between a rock and a hard place. If they take somebody’s kid, for a good reason or not, they’re terrible people who love breaking up families. If they don’t and the kid gets hurt, they’re sleeping on the job.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    Sounds like this HSLDA thing is just one more bunch of con-artists inciting paranoia, blind tribalism, and fear of “others” (especially those commie liberal bureaucrats) to secure their own power and profit.

    • lordshipmayhem

      Sounds to me like HSLDA is the anti-vaxxers of the home-schooling movement.

      • Nathaniel

        I think home schoolers are the anti vaxxers of the homeschooling movement.

        Yes yes, I’m sure who’s ever reading this is different and not like that, but such people make up the vast majority.

  • http://aceofsevens.wordpress.com Ace of Sevens

    Wow. Your parents may be worse than mine. I also grew up hearing about how CPS would trump up charges so they could take kids away. For instance, my dad harped on a story about a girl who was thought to be molested for circumstantial reasons. CPS locked in an interrogation room and said she could go home if she would only admit her dad touched her.

    It wasn’t just urban legends, though. Real cases, interpreted through a certain lens, fuel this. Several of my parents friends got CPS visits and investigations and my grandpa had to get ongoing visits. These people beat the hell out of their kids, though. They spanked them, but they still misbehaved, so they figured the problem was that they weren’t spanking them enough and it slowly escalated over a few years until they we beating their kids black and blue and couldn’t understand why they still didn’t obey. CPS in this case was trying to interfere with biblical parenting and enforce suspicious liberal methods on them that amounted to just letting their kids be delinquents. There seemed to be some mental process going on where since they supported spanking in theory, they didn’t want to undermine that by questioning its practice, so could rationalize some pretty harsh stuff.

    In another case, a youth pastor from another church in the division went to prison for molesting a teenage boy. The way my parents understood it, the charges were trumped up by a boy who hadn’t liked it when the pastor tried to confront him about his sins and made up the charges to get back at him and the prosecutor was a liberal with a bias against conservative clergy and thought getting a pastor convicted wold be a big catch, so went along with it. The idea that maybe the boy really got molested was inconceivable.

    The McMartin preschool case is especially interesting as it went straight from being an example of how organized Satanists are molesting kids to how the legal system trumps up child abuse charges against innocent parties to justify its existence.

    I think my parents were afraid my younger sister would call the cops on them and a couple times told us about how we could be taken away, but we didn’t get a set of instructions on how to handle social workers or anything.

    • MadGastronomer

      Why exactly were they worried your sister was going to call the police, if they weren’t doing anything wrong?

      • shadowspring

        Because they belonged to HSLDA?

      • http://aceofsevens.wordpress.com Ace of Sevens

        For being mad about spanking or whatever.

  • http://www.alstefanelli.com Al Stefanelli

    We homeschooled our kids for eight years while I was a Pastor. Was a horrible choice. Yeah, this is spot on, Libby. I still get their emails and they still use the same tactics.

  • Anonymous Atheist

    This reminds me of the NRA’s perpetual fearmongering that the evil liberals are going to try to take your guns away.

  • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Katherine Lorraine, Chaton de la Mort

    The US should never be in the same category as Somalia…

    • Uly

      And pretty much the only reason Somalia hasn’t signed the thing is because they have no government to sign it in the first place.

  • http://www.humanistsofmn.org Scott

    I always get the feeling that some of these hardcore types keep confusing parenting with ownership. It’s almost like they are treating the kids as property rather than human beings who need to learn about the world and themselves. Parenting is not about producing a clone of yourself, but guideing/helping/teaching another person to adulthood.

  • http://www.misterwoodles.com Neal

    I met Michael Farris when I was 16. Sometimes I wish I could “quantum leap” into my previous body and respond to the points he made at the presentation I attended…

  • Ambrose

    When my folks started homeschooling back in the late 1980s, HSLDA actually fought some cases to legitimize homeschooling. As Libby Anne points out, they’ve worked themselves out of a job; today everybody knows somebody who homeschools, often in an umbrella organization and for non-religious reasons. With a big enough umbrella organization, it’s like a design-your-own private school.

    Understandably, my folks were still a bit paranoid, and I grew up telling people curious about why we weren’t in school, “Oh, we go to a year-round school.” Which was sort of true, but the point is we practiced deflecting inquiry out of fear. And we used to call the CPS “the Gestapo.” No lie.

    When I was writing my law school application essays, I put in some crap that reflected this childhood paranoia. God bless my undergrad advisor, he didn’t let that pass. He argued with me until I conceded the “government tried to get me as a kid” line impugned good folks trying to help kids. That was a few years ago.

    Oh, and Scott, my folks used to have a book called “Who Owns the Children?”, which dealt with the horrid government types who thought they owned the kids. Point of the book was that the family owns the kids.

  • http://www.brooksandsparrow.com Angelia Sparrow

    I had a school nurse who was a foster parent and wanted my daughter for herself. Every 3 weeks, like clockwork, a new report was filed on us. The casework got tired of seeing me.

    She’d come to the door, we’d both sigh, she’d do a walk through, show me what was said (at least once the child in question hadn’t even been to school on the day he was reported as being filthy) and close the case. Three weeks later, she’d be back again.

    My experience is that people WILL lie and use CPS, that CPS agents are overworked, underpaid and do not want to make my life more difficult.

    • Uly

      There’s a local school near us which, among other things, has a huge bullying problem. I *personally* know three families who have pulled their children out – two of them managing a transfer to another public school, one enrolling her grandkids in Catholic school – because of the violence.

      Apparently it’s not uncommon for the principal to respond to reports of the constant chronic bullying and avoiding IEP conferences and all by siccing child services on the parents. At this point, I’m amazed social services even gives that school the time of day.

      It’s getting shut down (sort of), but not due to the bullying.

  • Dalillama

    The message is simple: if the United States signs the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, parents’ right to homeschool, use “godly” discipline, and opt their children out of public school sex ed will end.

    Bluntly, these all sound like very good things to have happen. I understand that not all homeschoolers are doing it because they’re creationists/fundies, but the simple truth is that most parents (indeed most people) are really not capable of giving their children a decent modern education by themselves. Up through elementary school, yes, but after that you start getting into specialized subjects. For the other two, there’s no valid excuse for either as far as I’m concerned, and the government should be intervening in those cases.

    • seditiosus

      Good to know I’m not the only person who thinks this.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com WMDKitty

        Ditto. There are some things parents just shouldn’t have a say in when it comes to education, and making sure that kids have medically accurate, age-appropriate sex-ed is one of those things.

      • Liberated Liberal

        I occasionally tune into my local Catholic radio station when I’m driving out of boredom and utter fascination (I was raised Catholic, but I cared so little about it I learned nothing :) ).

        I had a 40 minute drive home, so I listened to small bit this morning. A woman had called in about her 13-year-old son, who had just brought home a paper informing the parents that students would be receiving sexual education courses soon. The boys and girls were separated, and what had this woman infuriated was that a representative from Planned Parenthood was going to be giving a talk to the girls (she didn’t even have a girl in this class). She was calling to see what kind of legal action she could take to make sure this representative wasn’t allowed in the school and that they would never again be able to choose their sexual education course. She wanted to legally fight to make sure the girls would be force-fed abstinence-only programs. No mention of the boys’ programs, though, even though it was her son taking the class!

        I barely listened to the speaker’s responses, but towards the end, this woman was praising Obama’s HHS mandate as an evil force that was waking up all Catholics to their duty as leaders of sexual reformation in this country.

        I’ve been obsessively following this mandate for months now, so this is not new to me. There was something about this call, though, that really upset me. It was a very calm, matter of fact conversation that boiled down to the belief that the Catholics have the right (the DUTY!) to control the sexuality of all of this country’s citizens – child and adult. These people need to stay out of our lives.

    • StaceyN

      Well, actually, I know quite a few parents who are doing a heck of a job educating their kids, giving them a broad life experience and helping them to achieve academic excellence. That doesn’t mean all homeschoolers are doing it well, but there are quite a number who do. Besides that, our public school system doesn’t have a great track record (especially in the part of the country that I live in).

      We homeschool our kids, and they are thriving in so many ways (and, yes, the ones ages 10 and older have been given good, medically accurate information about sexuality). My 12 year old tests at an upper high school level in all subjects, and my 10 year old seems to be following that same path. They have plenty of friends of various ages (NOT all homeschoolers, either) and have time for opportunities of individual interest, like beginning their own small businesses, raising animals, learning to play musical instruments, basic mechanics, and other opportunities that most public schooled kids do not have. We are not in a very high income bracket, but we are still able to provide our kids with so much more than either my husband or I received while in public school, just because we are able to invest the time into them and our community is supportive and helpful.

      I am grateful for the freedom to educate our kids in the way we believe to be most beneficial to them. I am not afraid of CPS, since I believe CPS would see our family as truly serving the best interests of our children… because we are. In my part of the country, our CPS workers are certainly overworked, and there is enough true child abuse to keep them desperately busy. I know many families (many who homeschool) who have fostered or adopted children who were originally removed from abusive/neglectful homes by local CPS workers, and the general consensus is that we mostly have exceptional workers in our area who are trying to protect children from real abuse, not harass law-abiding homeschool families. I’m sure that is not the case everywhere, but I am grateful that children are being at least somewhat protected in my area and CPS workers seem to know what their job is and what is isn’t.

      • jayn_newell

        I don’t have ideological issues with homeschooling (though I do worry about these kids learning social skills–my own are pretty weak and I went to public school), but the ‘public schools are evil’ crowd bugs me largely because, as noted above, not everyone is cut out to teach. I figured out in high school that I could probably never be a teacher–I don’t have the patience for it and I get frustrated easily. Unless my husband opts to become a SAHP when we have kids (which I don’t see happening) homeschooling will be a horrible idea for our family.

        I don’t doubt that homeschooling can be done well–and in some circumstances it isn’t hard to do better than public schools. But I do doubt that most people are capable of it. The educational system has its problems, but I don’t see homeschooling as a viable solution at wider levels.

  • anotherone

    A friend of mine posted this link to her facebook wall a few days ago: http://www.hslda.org/docs/news/2012/20120305FB.asp

    I hadn’t thought about HSLDA in a while–I remember the name Michael Farris well though. My parents were to poor to join the organization, so we were spared the lovely magazines. Nonetheless, plenty of the fearmongering filtered into our lives, and my parents used to make us stay indoors before 3:30 in the afternoon so that people wouldn’t see us outside and call the evils at CPS to come and take us away).

    I posted the link above b/c it’s an excellent example of HSLDA’s fearmongering. To say nothing of their highly dubious reasoning skills. Seriously, how much tunnel vision do you suffer from that you jump straight from Good Christian Bitches to “They’re coming to take the kids”! And I don’t have time to go into how they’re misrepresenting–to the point of utter falsification–the New Hampshire homeschooling case, which had everything to do with custody law and nothing to do with homeschooling.

  • Gordon

    I find it bizarre and uncivilised that the US is not signed up to the UN convention on the rights of the child. Sometimes it seems US children are treated as somewhere in status between a pet and the family car.

    • Anat

      My understanding is that at least part of the reason has to do with wanting to allow courts to be able to try some juvenile offenders as adults.

      • Gordon

        There also seems to be a strong cultural need to treat children as property.

  • ArachneS

    I remember the CPS fear too. We didn’t have drills or anything extreme like that, but I do remember my parents telling us to lie to anyone who asked us where we went to school.
    We heard the whole ‘CPS will take your kids away for not being in public school’ thing too. I vividly remember being afraid of being outside when the mail car would come down the road, we would hide behind our evergreen trees until it went out of sight. We were afraid that the mail carrier would wonder why we weren’t in school and call CPS to come take us away.

  • seditiosus

    I can’t help thinking that at least some of the CPS paranoia is related to guilt. Mom instilled a healthy fear of social workers into me when I was young, but she wasn’t afiliated with the HSLDA at all. She probably didn’t know they existed. Fact was, there were a few things going on in our house that CPS would have liked to know about.

    Fundies may swear on the bible that they’re doing nothing wrong when they beat their kids or deny them access to education (sex ed and otherwise – I’ve seen some of those Vision Forum type curricula), but I think they do know that the law frowns on those activities.

  • Mattir

    I homeschool and have never been particularly worried about CPS on that account. On the other hand, I am also a psychologist and very aware of how CPS claims can be used in harrassment campaigns, and I do know people to whom this has happened. In one case, the family ended up sueing the local agency and winning a fairly well-publicized class action suit.

    I loathe HSLDA. Among other things, they are often on the side of “more regulations that favor Christian work-book-drill-and-kill homeschoolers like us” and against regulations that would address the needs of those of us with more eclectic homeschooling styles that don’t involve A-Beka workbooks.

  • Tracey

    I began homeschooling my high-schooler when private school tuition went higher than the cost of a new car every year. I use an accredited, online, college-prep private high school curriculum. I am very much in the minority of homeschoolers in my area.

    The current panic in the homeschooling community is being whipped up by HSLDA, a group I refused to join when I started homeschooling because they’re quite frankly terrifying, and very hostile to non-Christians. It’s been amusing watching the email lists light up with “OMGWTFBBQ!!!111!!!” hysteria. HSLDA’s whole schtick is very much based on “They’re going to take away your kids!!! RUN!!!” They also enjoy bringing up laws in different countries as a way to incite fear in their mindless followers. Sample of an actual comment from another homeschooling mother: “In Germany, parents aren’t allowed to homeschool their kids. I’m AFRAID!!!!” Uhm, why? You don’t live in Germany and their laws don’t apply here…

    • Mattir

      IIRC, there ARE ways to homeschool legally in Germany, but it’s more likely to be called something else. You can’t do the hide-the-kids-and-only-speak-to-Christians homeschooling, but you can work with community-based-learning programs which function more or less like coops and allow education to happen all over the place instead of in one special building with “school” in big letters over the door. I’d be happier if parents couldn’t do quite as much of the “hide the kids and only speak to Christians” homeschooling here either, but that’s a culture fight as much or more than a legal fight, since the “only speak to Christians” part of the formula is quite effective even in public schools.

      And for those of you who are worried about how I can teach my kids subjects above 7th grade level, you do know about the internet, seeking out other parents with different skills, the public library, and all that, right? Homeschooling requires parents who are somewhat outgoing and willing (and even eager) to continue learning new things. Not so much if you want to sit around and watch daytime tv while the kid does workbooks bought from a fundamentalist homeschooling curriculum supplier.

  • Rebecca M

    Ha ha, I agree with the first commenter. I work as a mental health professional placed in the school system, and around here you almost can’t GET child protective services to remove a child, even when there is clear danger in the house! I would more than likely read that novel and laugh my rear end off.

  • http://janeyqdoe.com/ Janey Q Doe

    I would really like to know why they think CPS wants to take children away. The way they talk of them, it seems CPS is entirely composed of cartoon villains who have an orgasm and a shot every time they successfully remove a child.

    (Okay, I do actually know they think they’re being persecuted for their Christianity, but seriously, read those descriptions)

  • Anonymouse

    @JaneyQ: I think it’s the conservative, petrified-of-everything mindset. We started homeschooling secularly because the public school is one big Jesus Camp, all the time. The secular homeschoolers we’ve met along the way are not terrified their children will be snatched by CPS.

    • Lisa

      I am friends with a homeschooling family. I remember that after Obama won in 2008, one of their children (14 yrs. old at the time) was posting hysterical messages on Facebook that now she won’t be able to be homeschooled. I was wondering where that came from since Obama never said anything about homeschooling, but after reading your article I understand. On Michael Farris’s Facebook, they have a new scare every day. Mind control at its finest.

      • Gordon

        To me home-schooling seems like home-doctoring or home-policing. It isn’t a notion that makes any sense. There are professionals who do this for a living. Why have an amateur (you) try to teach your kids?

  • Mary

    Homeschooling isn’t at all like home doctoringor home policing, or at least it doesn’t have to be. I’ve seen two extremes of homeschooling- the first, which happened with my four siblings and I , was awesome. We always tested off the charts, and were involved in sports, orchestra, speech/debate, choir, etc- we had a pretty active social life, and did well academically. Out of the 5 of us, ages 17-27 (I’m oldest) one is in law school, one is a music teacher, one in grad school for physical therapy, one is a stockbroker, and my youngest sister, being 17, does a lot of babysitting, shopping, and some amateur photography. For us, homeschooling worked- our parents are both educated, and would seek out tutors for us in areas in which they were weak, like foreign languages, music, physics, calculus, etc. We ended up being taught by some amazing professionals and experts in their fields- from engineers to doctors to college professors- it was a blast! Also- public school can be incredibly frustrating if you learn faster than your peers/are “gifted”, etc and there are no relevant accelerated programs available. With homeschooling, the child can progress as fast as they want, without sitting through the endless explanations and repetitions gearded for children in their class who are not gifted in the same way. This is the reason I’ve chosen to homeschool my kids for the first few years- I have a four-year-old who is anywhere from 1st grade to 4th grade in his coursework, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable holding him back to the level of his age group. At his age, I want learning to be fun for him and for him to be able to pursue his academic interests as far and as fast as he wants. The other extreme I’ve seen is “homeschooling” families where the kids aren’t really getting an education at all, have no social skills, and would never survive on their own. I do think homeschooling, in our area, offered a superior education to what was available in the public school system. I think homeschooling should absolutely be legal, but not without accountability. There should be state tests required every year to make sure that the children are progressing at least as well academically as their public school counterparts. I think that a lot of the abuses I’ve seen of homeschooling would not have happened had such accountability been required. Far from being terrified of CPS, I have threatened to call them- seeing kids who are part of a dirty, undisciplined, uneducated little horde who are not getting basics that they need really pisses me off. And it’s worse when there is a special needs child- unless you can afford tutors and therapists who can show you how to train your child in the best way possible to fit their needs, I think school is always best for those kids.

    • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

      “And it’s worse when there is a special needs child- unless you can afford tutors and therapists who can show you how to train your child in the best way possible to fit their needs, I think school is always best for those kids.”

      The thing is, a lot of parents of special needs kids opt to homeschool because their child isn’t being well-served by the public system. (Autistic children, for example, sometimes have sensory needs that aren’t met in a classroom setting, and that their teachers don’t understand or don’t care about. Best case scenario is often to learn to ignore their pain–worst case is being removed from the classroom or physically restrained. I remember one story of a child found in a gym bag, another spent most of her day basically locked in a closet.) Special placement may not be an option. So no, school is not always the best choice, as much as I wish it was.

      Also, “train”? They’re humans, not dogs.

  • Jessica

    With the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, it can’t eliminate the right to homeschool altogether since it is legal in so many other countries. I don’t really see where the huge concern is, I mean even with the “biblical discipline”, when that crosses the line into child abuse it’s still illegal now.

  • Becca

    I know this is an old post, but it popped into my mind when a Quiverfull mom facebook friend of mine posted this fear-mongering link on facebook citing the HSLDA among others. Her post and the comments ran the gammet from “This is a total intrusion of our families!” to “Legislators will continue to pass bill after bill in attempt to cure that’s wrong. what is wrong is the lack of putting God first”.

    Ironically I read the article and did a little research myself. I remember deep-rooted fear of CPS and other nameless legal organizations that ran rampant in the families in my parent’s homeschooling circle. My parents never seemed afraid of it, but the general antagonism did trickle through. It seems to me though that this bill simply addresses the issue of mental health that is basically never looked at in homeschool circles. Ironically and sadly, it is two of the six children of this Quiverfull mom that first put lack of mental healthcare for homeschooled children on my mind years ago when they clearly displayed signs of delay and behavioral issues. Yes, as a commentor on the link said, you don’t hear about homeschool shootings. But really, do we give children mental health assessments to prevent shootings, or to provide them with much needed tools to progress socially and academically?

  • http://www.facebook.com/4Paws4Kender Elayne

    When I personally know someone who lost her kids for most of a year because of vindictive social workers and homeschooling was a factor, when I know another family whose daughter was forcibly removed from their home and taken to the hospital for dangerous drugs to be injected into her body against her parents’ will, when a friend had social services called on her after her daughter’s hospital birth because she didn’t name her fast enough, when blind people have their children taken away for the crime of being blind parents…sorry, but this isn’t fearmongering. It’s unfortunate, but it’s reality right now, and it’s not pretty. I’ve seen enough, and I know that my family is different enough (alternative religion, unconventional schooling, disabled parents, multiply disabled children) that if we ever caught the attention of the wrong person, I could lose my children. $10 a month to HSLDA is worth the peace of mind.

  • Sally

    When the hospital I used to work at got part of the county welfare birth contract, I had to start reading CPS reports on charts. Many of the things CPS did to innocent mothers just because they could were extremely unethical and should be illegal. They can’t have thought they were doing wrong because they bragged about it in their official reports that they knew would be part of the medical chart. There is also a CPS employee at my church who likes to talk about her clients and her boss.
    I’m sure there are good CPS workers too, but in my experience, they are definitely the minority.

  • Kyra

    If I thought that the international “right of the child” would outlaw spanking, I would want very much to have it passed. I have not understood hslda’s position on this, at all. Why do parental rights extend so far, but children’s rights, not far enough?