The Key to the Liquor Store

One response to the stories of pain and abuse being aired at Homeschoolers Anonymous is that the problem isn’t homeschooling, it’s fundamentalism. Or, the problem isn’t homeschooling, it’s abusive parents. Homeschooling has nothing to do with it, they insist. Leave homeschooling out of it, they say. But I won’t do that, and there’s a reason for that.

The sort of unregulated homeschooling that we have today, without any form of checks and balances, allows parents with abusive tenancies to abuse their children without any restraint on their authority. Similarly, homeschooling as it currently exists allows fundamentalist parents to indoctrinate their children without fear of outside influence, controlling their children’s every action and interaction. The idea that homeschooling is this totally unrelated thing and not a key factor that is complicit in creating abusive and oppressive situations is laughably ridiculous.

Allowing a fundamentalist or abusive parent to homeschool is like giving an alcoholic a key to the liquor store. 

Would someone honestly tell children who are abused by their father, an alcoholic who has been given a key to the local liquor store, that the key plays no role at all in their abuse, or in their father’s alcoholism? I’m thinking not. Sure, the underlying problem is their father’s alcoholism, but his possession of a key to the liquor store must be taken into account when looking for ways to curb his abuse and deal with his alcoholism. In fact, it probably isn’t possible to solve his abuse or alcoholism without taking the key away—or at the very least restricting his access to it. It’s also possible that it was this key that caused his alcohol problem in the first place by giving him unfettered access to all the alcohol he could drink.

If he has proven himself unable to handle the responsibility it puts in his hands, perhaps the alcoholic father should lose his key to the liquor store. Perhaps we shouldn’t give alcoholics keys to the liquor store in the first place, because of the risk of abuse. Perhaps those in possession of liquor store keys should have some oversight or accountability to ensure that they do not become alcoholics and abuse the access these keys grant them. Perhaps we should have provisions in place to confiscate the liquor store keys of those who become abusive alcoholics, or are at risk of doing so.

By now I think you get my point. Just like you can’t address this hypothetical alcoholic father’s problems without addressing the fact that his habit is aided and abetted by his possession of a key to the local liquor store, even so you can’t solve the problems described on Homeschoolers Anonymous without grappling with the reality that homeschooling enables this abuse to take place and, indeed, creates the very situations within which it occurs. Homeschooling as it currently exists places an enormous amount of power in the hands of homeschooling parents, allowing them complete control over their children’s social and academic lives without any sort of outside check or balance. When these parents are healthy, kind, and loving, this usually works out. But when they’re not, the implications for their children are profound and even disastrous.

So no, sorry, I’m not going to leave homeschooling out of this.

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.

  • http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com Retha

    Good article, you made your point well. Offer to cross-post it on Homeschoolers Anonymous.

  • kisarita

    Perhaps a good regulation for homeschooling is that in order to continue homeschooling, homeschoolers are REQUIRED to undergo periodic social work visits, including interviews with the children and so forth.
    As discussed in a previous post, people have a right to refuse entry without a warrant. But, then they’ve got to stop homeschooling.

    • kisekileia

      I agree with this, and I say that as someone who may end up homeschooling my future kids. (There’s a really strong family history of giftedness, and the local school boards don’t have gifted classes at all grade levels.)

  • http://www.texannewyorker.com jwall915

    Thank you for this post. I really believe that going to public school saved my life, quite possibly in a literal sense. My father was very physically and emotionally abusive, but not stupid. He knew better than to get caught, and he knew that teachers and school counselors could report suspicious bruises. And I think that knowledge restrained him. Had I been homeschooled, it might have been a free-for-all because there would have been no checks and balances whatsoever, and he might have very well taken it too far and landed me in the hospital or the morgue. I also think I might have been suicidal if I’d been homeschooled, due to the isolation factor. I’m very extroverted and thrive by being around people. I don’t know how it would have shaken out exactly to be isolated, but I know it would not have been good. Even though I wasn’t homeschooled, I’ve been following this series with fascination. My mother always lamented that they couldn’t homeschool us. My parents moved to an affluent neighborhood with the best school district when we were very little, thus they couldn’t afford to survive on one income. And moving somewhere cheaper would have meant moving to a neighborhood with more crime or moving somewhere rural where my father would have had a very bad commute or had trouble finding a job. So public school it was. And I’m so incredibly grateful for that.

    • Rosa

      You are not alone. I know a lot of people with similar stories, and we all know that a number of students only eat at school, just as a start.

  • Christine

    This is exactly how I’ve been seeing the issue. I would like the second the suggestion that you cross-post this in HA, because I think that there is some confusion. Having seen the context from which your stories are coming, I can understand that you (and presumably all the HA contributors) are saying that homeschooling enabled a larger amount of abuse than would have been possible in public school, and that homeschooling was one of the means by which your parents abused you. However I’m not sure that’s clear from the information which is posted on the HA site – I’m not sure that all the “it wasn’t homeschooling, it was fundamentalism” replies are knee-jerk defenses of homeschooling.

    Humans have a tendency to think in black and white thinking, so a more complex idea – “homeschooling is a factor and is an easy to isolate contributing issue” – needs to be explictly spelled out, or people will skip past it to the simpler “fundamentalism was the entire problem”.

  • Shani

    Wow. I don’t know you, nor have I read anything other than a few of your articles this morning after stumbling upon your blog, but I have to say that you sound like one very angry young woman. I’m almost twenty years ahead of you in life’s journey, and the voice that you give to hate, faith, homeschooling, and many more things in this forum breeds ugliness and more hate. I won’t be back, so no scathing, pithy remark is necessary, but just know that right now, someone is thinking of you with kindness, pity, and said a prayer that you don’t go too far down this road and can’t come back from it when you mature more. My heart aches for you, and I wish you much healing and God’s abundant blessings upon your life.

    • Daphne B

      I know Shani won’t read this (assuming she sticks the flounce), but it’s too bad she can’t tell the difference between anger and hate. Also, this is a weird post for her to comment on, since it’s not particularly angry even, just logical.

      • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ Jarred H

        She also doesn’t seem to understand that in some situations — including the ones Libby Anne often talks about — anger is an entirely justified and appropriate response.

      • Nea

        “Hate” has become an all-encompassing insult/dismissal, I’ve noticed. People are rapidly erasing the line between actual hateful actions (like, say, dropping into a blog to insult the author and then flouncing) and finding out that there are people in the world who disagree with your positions and refuse to shut up about it.

    • Stony

      Wow, it’s been awhile, but we have a bingo!

      Accusation of hate (I would have preferred bitterness, as it’s more fundagelical, but the judge says he’ll allow it), check.
      Accusation of immaturity, check.
      Hit and run comment, check.
      I’ll pray for you, check.
      With the free square in the middle (I haven’t read your blog and know nothing about you), I’d say we have a winner!

      • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

        I’d say so too. It’s the most patronising drive-by I’ve seen in a while.

      • JBH

        Don’t forget the pity! Nothing seems more condescending to me then trying to pass off telling someone you pity them as a form of compassion.

      • Nea

        I’m getting up a bingo card with Kat over the HSLDA thread, too. If we hit a double bingo, do we get cake?

    • Danielle

      I’ve been reading Libby Anne’s blog since its started and I have never once gotten the “hate” vibe.

      • http://autistscorner.blogspot.com Lindsay

        I know! She strikes me as a very loving person, actually, from the posts about her own husband and children.

    • Ismenia

      Shani also diplays another attitude that helps perpetuate problems and sometimes abuse, namely that people should not express any negative emotions or describe bad experiences. This means that nothing is done about the situation and that nothing can even be done in retrospect, by considering how to change things for others or just to provide warnings and advice. People in bad situations are often helped a great deal by hearing from people who have had the same experience. We have no trouble understanding this when the context is something like facing a terrible disease.

      There is nothing wrong with being angry when you have cause to be or in hating the utterly repulsive. I think a person who does not experience such emotions when hearing about child abuse is more likely to have a problem.

      • Kat

        And let’s not forget, “I’m almost twenty years ahead of you in life’s journey.” Because you always, ALWAYS know more about everything if you’re older. Ok, to be fair, Shani didn’t actually come right out and express that, but she sounded eerily similar to people I’ve encountered who did. I still remember one fundamentalist woman I met who would do volunteer work and get mad when anyone younger than her told her how to do things. Never mind the fact that the younger people had been working there for years, knew the system, and were politely showing the older woman (on her first day!) how it worked. She was older, dammit, therefore everyone should listen to her!
        Combine that with the attitude of “my experiences and preferences are universal,” and of course you get someone who thinks you shouldn’t complain about anything. When you get to be their age, then you’ll understand. Any complaint or criticism you have, no matter how logical or well-founded, is just you not knowing anything because you haven’t been around long enough. Period.

      • ako

        It’s ironic, isn’t it, that people who take that attitude talk a lot about healing, but don’t recognize that a certain amount of anger and unhappiness can be part of healing. A person doesn’t want to be dwelling on it constantly or let it take over their life (which Libby Anne clearly isn’t), but being able to go “I was wronged and it was unfair” is part of healing from mistreatment.

    • http://amethystmarie.com/ Amethyst

      I hope child abuse, especially in the name of a God who claimed to be the embodiment of love, still makes me angry in twenty years. I hope self-righteousness and condescension do, too.

    • AmyC

      How does Shani know she is 20 years older than Libby Anne? As far as I know, Libby has never posted her age.

      • http://wideopenground.com Lana

        I think Shani is a troll. She probably didn’t even read the post.

      • Christine

        Libby’s approximate age is fairly easy to guess, though, given what she’s told us about herself – her kids’ ages, where she is in school, etc. She’s about the same age as me & me husband (that gives me a 4-year age range so I’m hedging my bets.)

    • Staceyjw

      Shani-
      I didn’t bother to read your comment all the way through, and I won’t be back to see if you will reply, but from the first two words, you seem like an angry, hateful person!
      I will pray to Zeus immediately, in hopes that he will bless you with understanding.

      -that sure sounds silly, now doesn’t it? READ the blog before you call someone hateful. Of all things, Libby is NOT ine itty bit hateful.

      Unless you think hate = disagreeing with your every opinion….

  • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

    I’ve been interested in how many stories from homeschoolers talked about starting for secular reasons, but getting sucked into the evangelical HS culture. Between there being a large segment of homeschoolers that are Christian, and a large portion of Americans identifying as such even if they’re more liberal, it seems like often the fundementalist mindset isn’t just a compounding factor, but something that gets introduced to the family because they homeschool their kids.

    • Rosa

      Yes. I wonder if it’s natural for the two subcultures to converge so much, or if we’ll learn in the future that homeschooling communities were “steeplejacked”.

  • Roj Miller

    Wow Shani. I don’t know you, nor have I read anything other than your comment above after stumbling upon it, but I have to say that you sound like one very angry middle-aged woman. I’m almost twenty years ahead of you in life’s journey, and the voice that you give to hate in your comments in this forum just breeds ugliness and more hate. I will be back to Libby Anne’s forum because it is so enlightening and well written. However you should know know that right now, someone is NOT thinking of you with kindness, but with pity. Don’t go too far down this road you are heading down, or you won’t be able to come back from it when you mature more (if you ever do – it may be too late for you, with your age and attitude). My heart doesn’t ache for you, because you appear to have chosen a judgmental and condescending attitude to others who disagree with your opinions.
    End snark, from a long-time lurker reader and admirer of Libby Anne who is really in his 60s and was so thoroughly annoyed by this comment that he finally had to post a comment.

    • Nea

      *clicks “Like”*

  • http://tinygrainofrice.wordpress.com Kristycat

    *nods* Even though I have very little respect for the public school system, the fact that a child is absolutely going to interact daily with people the parents haven’t pre-approved is a feature, not a bug. Yes, it means your child is going to be exposed to ideas you may not like. But it also means if there’s something not kosher going on at home, it’s much harder to hide it.

    • Stony

      So I, also, had little respect for the public school system since I was a product thereof, but lack of secular options here….well, affordable secular options, placed my son in a public school. I’m surprisingly pleased with the level of exposure and socialization, as well as basic schooling, that he’s getting. Plus nothing says I can’t augment at home, right? I’m beginning to realize that there might be a sinister narrative behind the meme that “public schools are bad” that will allow the state to get out of the schooling business and turn things over to for-profit charter schools and their ilk.

      • ako

        Yeah. Some public schools are bad, but there’s a tendency to treat them as homogenous and all equally poor quality. Horror stories about one public school tend to be presented as “All public schools are like this!”, until a lot of people shun perfectly good schools in the mistaken fear that they’re going to be like the horror stories they’ve been presented with. I definitely encourage more people to look into the specific public school situation in their area before assuming things are bad.

      • http://www.carpescriptura.com/ MrPopularSentiment

        Just as there are some issues inherent in homeschooling, there are some issues inherent in public schools. I went to seven schools in three different countries, two private and the rest public, some in low income areas, some in country villages, some in high income suburbs, and I found the same weaknesses in nearly all of them (though they were, in other ways, very different and had different strengths).

        But here’s the thing – whether you’re going to run up against those weaknesses depends a whole lot on your personality and your luck. Plenty of people, I am sure, have come out of schools where I had a terrible time thinking very positively of their experiences and their school. Because it makes a huge difference whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, whether you are at the bottom of the social pile or the top, whether you are a native or an immigrant, whether your learning speed matches the school’s or not, etc.

        I have no problem saying that “all public schools are like this!” because they all follow roughly the same educational philosophy and the same model (20-30 kids per adult by middle school, for example). There is plenty of variation and different schools will be especially bad or will have strengths that can make these failings worthwhile, but if all schools are not the same in these key points then at least a sufficient number of them are that we might as well talk about “the issue with public schools.” And if my educational philosophy is something that is different from the public school philosophy, I don’t really need to look at every individual school in my area to know that there won’t be a fit.

        I would NEVER say that no one should go to public school, or that we should ditch the system, or anything like that. Quite the opposite, I get annoyingly argumentative when anyone suggests that the public school model is so broken that we should just ditch it and try something new. The majority of kids do very well in public school for the exact same reason that many kids don’t – it caters to the average, to the majority. If you don’t fit that, you are going to have a bad time. If you do, you’ll probably have a good time.

        But I do think that a) there are things that public schools can do that would make them better for all kids and MUCH better for the minority who don’t fit the average, and b) kids who don’t fit need other options.

        And honestly, saying that there may be a “sinister narrative” makes me very uncomfortable. While I get the point that you are making, and I do think that there is a real and fairly strong element in North American politics to get rid of public schools (and public anything, really), saying things like that without some hefty qualifications sounds an awful lot like dismissing people’s experiences.

  • Kellen

    When these parents are healthy, kind, and loving, this usually works out.

    And, hell, even that has exceptions. My parents were all those things, but they were also ill-informed about mental disorders (such as depression) and as a result made completely bone-stupid decisions. So, yeah, a little oversight would be a good thing.

  • Joe

    Physical and emotional abuse occurs in homes of children and teens attending public and private schools as well and often no one ever knows about it. Indoctrination goes on in the home no matter if they are homeschooled or not. I know because I was public schooled my entire life and was just as indoctrinated with fundamentalism as Libby Anne . The key illustration does not work because the illustration does not illustrate her point. The problem is not the key but the alcohol addiction. If you take away the key he will still find a way to satisfy his addiction. If you take away homeschooling to the abusive parent he will find another way to carry out the abuse. The same problems you find among homeschoolers you find among public school kids and vise versa. For the record, I am a public school educated secular homeschooling stay at home dad.

    • Sonya

      Yes, the alcoholic will find another way to drink, but he will not drink himself to death over a weekend.

      Similarly, abusive parents know they cannot go to crazy, and if they do, their kids will be taken away. They’ll stay abusive parents if you take unregulated homeschooling away, but the abuse is blunted and deaths are less likely.

      And yes, I do mean *deaths* which have absolutely gone up with unregulated homeschooling.

    • gimpi

      I think her analogy works fine. She never claims removing the “key” of homeschooling won’t totally prevent indoctrination or abuse, just that not giving a potentially abusive parent that key will make it easier to spot abuse if it happens. Having a child in contact with the outside world through school, activities, medical care, and friends is no guarantee their upbringing will be great, it just make it more likely someone will notice if something is wrong. I still don’t understand the problem home-schoolers have allowing some monitoring of the homeschooling process, testing, mandatory curriculum and such. That’s what Libby Anne is advocating for, I believe.
      I’m sorry your upbringing featured the mental abuse of indoctrination. That is harder both to spot and to address than physical abuse. A couple of questions for you, if you wander back this way. Was physical abuse a part as well? Would you have welcomed some form of intervention? What sort? How was your world opened up?

  • http://becomingworldly.wordpress.com heatherjanes

    Hi Joe,

    I think you don’t understand. It isn’t just that the person is an alcoholic. They also have an enabler – someone who ignored the facts around them and gave that drunk the key and then let him keep it, saying it was all about personal choice to quit drinking. Enabling is a key issue in real life when it comes to alcoholism and abuse (I used to work at a substance abuse treatment clinic and saw this every day), as I think it also is when it comes to homeschooling.

    Also, sure parents who send their kids to public school can still indoctrinate them but the risk is not as high as they are not the only people these kids see in a position of mentorship and they are not in charge of all the ideas that their kids are exposed to. When you are able to get outside of that bubble, or even still in it but in a position to see how others live outside of it, you have to consider the world around you and why people do what they do on some level. It might not stop the indoctrination, but it just might.

    Personally, I went from fundamentalist homeschooling to public school and it was such an improvement in my life. It helped me get out. I think it is no coincidence that it was my freshman year of public high school (my grandparents had forced the issue), soon after my Quiverfull parents had stopped their homeschooling charade, that I called the police on my Dad for beating my brother. Sadly the cops didn’t do their job and I still endured violence until I moved out at 17 but my Dad toned it down, mainly switched to emotional abuse, because he wasn’t stupid about what might happen if us kids went to school too often with visible bruises. I don’t know if I or all my siblings would be alive today if it hadn’t been for that change and that is the honest truth. Please try to consider what that might be like. Sometimes a matter of degree is everything in a situation like that.

  • Joe

    Kellen,
    If oversight is the answer then why are public schools filled with kids who are depressed , bullied and have various mental and moral issues who have not received any help?

    • Stony

      You’re being willfully obtuse. No one is saying that all kids in all situations are safe. What they are saying is that if you have a parent with a predeliction towards abuse, and then allow that parent to homeschool with no oversight, perhaps with the added protection of “these are my religious convictions and you cannot interfere”, then you have effectively sealed the child off from any outsider who may see and act.

    • http://beccasteablog.wordpress.com Becca

      Joe, you’re using the fallacy of comparing worst-case public schooling to best-case homeschooling. The worst case of public schooling may be “kids who are depressed , bullied and have various mental and moral issues who have not received any help,” but the worst-case of homeschooling is a kid being chained to her bed, forced to dig through the trash for her only source of nourishment, and the neighbors not knowing she exists, or a kid dying by being heavily beaten by her parents and left outside in the cold.

      While I *am* arguing here that the worst home schools are worse than the worst public schools, both can be improved, and are worth improving.

      • Conuly

        Becca, while I see your point, I think that by the time we hit your “worst point of homeschooling” we’ve hit the people who are so beyond the pale that they wouldn’t comply with any restrictions. If homeschooling were made illegal or simply more regulated, the people who want to starve their child and chain her to the bed would just drop off the radar entirely and never bother at all with the veneer of adequate parenting that homeschooling would give. If you move to a new location where nobody knows you, there isnt anybody keeping tabs on your kids. Hell, some parents do that already.

      • http://www.carpescriptura.com/ MrPopularSentiment

        There’s a blogger I follow named Angie Jackson. The cult she was born into was so anti-government and regulation that, when she was born, she was simply never registered. As far as the government was concerned, she never existed (until she left the cult as an adult and had to go through a long and arduous process of proving that she’s a real person worthy of legal status).

        Conuly’s point is a good one – the people who are dead set against the government, the people who are the worst abusers, are going to do what they are going to do no matter what. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

        I’ll fully agree that homeschooling can enable abusers, in the same way that family members can enable alcoholism. But at the same time, we have to look at the impact any proposed regulation would have on families who are NOT abusing, and weigh whether the potential effectiveness of the regulation is worth that impact.

        We hate the idea of people being addicted to drugs, and I’m sure that the idea of the War on Drugs looked great on paper. But how well has it worked, really? And how many lives have been harmed by such policies? Or, if we want to talk about public schools, how effective has “No Child Left Behind” been? Both of these were reactionary “fixes” that caused far more problems than they solved.

  • Joe

    Heather, No, I believe I understand. I deal with public school and homeschooling environments everyday. When an enabler is taken away another one will be sought and found. Public school environments enable bullies but if he is homeschooled he will just find another enabling environment. Everyone’s situation should be considered separately because everyone’s situation is different. For your situation public school was good for you while homeschooling may fit someone else fine. A governing body usually does not consider situations rather they treat situations in a general way and thus it is not the answer many think it is. You have to be labeled and put into a category. Whatever problem you find in homeschooling I bet I can find the same problem in a public school situation.

    • Christine

      Ah, do share how the problem of children never being exposed to anyone who isn’t exactly like them can be replicated in a public school setting. It’s a heck of a lot harder to convince children that it’s normal for them to be thrown outside in the middle of winter, not given anything to eat and blamed for all their family’s problems if they see that no one else ever has these things happen to them.

    • http://www.texannewyorker.com jwall915

      Joe I have to reply to you. You can read my earlier comment, I think it’s Comment #3 as of now. Okay – yes, kids in public school get abused and don’t get help. Of this you are absolutely correct. I was one of those kids. My parents were very abusive and since they were smart enough to hide it and look completely normal and healthy from the outside, it went unreported and likely unnoticed. And I went to one of the top districts in the state, at the time. Whether or not someone suspected, I can’t say. I can say that there were never reports to authorities from teachers or school counselors. Also, this was in the ’80′s, when teachers weren’t bound to mandatory reporting laws like they are today. And yes, it sucked.
      However, you are partially incorrect in saying that people will find a way to abuse no matter what; yes, maybe they will abuse no matter what, but the DEGREE to which they can/will/feel comfortable abusing will be very affected by whether a kid is homeschooled or not. My dad knew he couldn’t send me to school with broken bones or a black eye without raising major suspicions, so the abuse didn’t escalate that far. While the abuse was horrible and completely inexcusable, my life was never in literal danger, BECAUSE of the checks and balances provided by sending me to public school. Had I been homeschooled, there would have been no checks and balances, and it might have been a free-for-all. My dad would have been completely free to beat the living hell out of me. Also, public school provided an outlet from the abuse. I knew that five days a week I would be away from my parents for 8+ hours a day, and it was the hugest relief. When I went to school, I was safe. That did wonders for my mental and emotional health. Had I been homeschooled, there would have been no outlet, no escape, no time away, no chance to ever relax. I can’t say for sure, but that might have driven me to become suicidal. Libby Anne’s point wasn’t that public schooled kids don’t get abused – they absolutely do. But her point is dead-on correct; homeschooling isolates and erases all manner of checks and balances, and enables abusers to take their abuse of children farther than they otherwise would. I firmly believe that public school saved my life.

      • Rosa

        The other thing is, as a nation and also at the local level, there are groups working on public school reform and improvement all the time. Continuously. We work on fundraising, direct volunteerism, local policy changes, national legal changes. Things are better now in most places, especially around issues of abuse, mental health, and bullying, than they were than when I was a public school kid 20-30 years ago. This is not a discussion taking place in a world where only homeschooling is open to either criticism or legal reform. It’s just a small effort aimed specifically at homeschooling within that much larger context.

      • Christy

        I also firmly believe that public school saved my life in a myriad of ways. I was also raised by abusive fundamentalists – in my case, I lived through many years of sexual abuse. I never reported it and it leaves no visible marks, so never got any help, but I am still convinced that public school is the reason that I am a functional adult (well, that and lots of therapy.) First, I echo the statement that being safe for 6 to 8 hours a day five days a week is HUGE. And for me, it wasn’t just being physically safe – it was being able to express an opinion or have an emotion and have that be okay. I was always good at school, and having people think I was smart and assuming that I would have some sort of career was a vital counterpoint to the “women should submit and not work outside the home” message that I was receiving at home and church. Plus, it was a huge relief to be somewhere that made sense for 30 hours a week: do homework, take the test, get a grade with no interference from a capricious and wrathful Deity (or parent) and no need to try to suss out the teacher’s emotional temperature to figure out what might be okay to think or feel.

        And being exposed to people from different backgrounds and having friends from outside the fundy world gave me a foundation from which to question what I was taught – that’s much harder to do if your world is completely self-contained. And while the sex education at school wasn’t great, at least it was something, which mattered in a pre-internet world where I had to be very careful what books I brought into the house. My education was flawed in a number of ways, but it was sure a hell of a lot better than anything my parents would have come up with.

    • Sonya

      I respect the evenhanded replies people are giving you, Joe. Myself, I don’t think you deserve it. We’re talking about children being beaten to death here, after years of systematic psychological and physical torture, and you have an ax to grind about how public schools aren’t perfect.

      • Stony

        It is human nature to react when our pet ox is gored. It is almost impossible not to get defensive, and instead inspect why we feel defensive and if, maybe, there are valid criticisms. I have hope for Joe, as well as myself, to learn to inspect why I react. So….yay, maturity? (Heh.)

  • Lori

    OK, so asking honestly. What kind of oversight are we talking about? As it stands right now, social workers can’t go to just everyone’s (all parents’) door and talk to their kids. There has to be at least an anonymous tip (and we now know you don’t have to let them in even then). There’s a reason no one comes to everyone’s door. It’s too invasive, it’s too much like “fishing.” There’s even strict rules on police even if you let them in your front door (regarding any crime; I don’t just mean child abuse). So I’m sincerely asking- are we saying no homeschooling? Are we saying someone comes to your house once a year? Who? What do they do? I don’t want one child, not one child, to be able to be hidden away and abused. But how do we do this in a way that doesn’t turn into a witch hunt?

    In public school, the social worker can’t go around and interview each child and probe for possible abuse. So I don’t think you can have social workers come around and do that kind of probe in all homeschoolers’ homes. So what kind of oversight would accomplish the goal of exposing the kids to a chance to speak out or a chance to be noticed.

    Again, I’m not trying to say homeschoolers should be totally unaccountable (as so many are now), but what would oversight look like practically?

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      Good question! I offered some thoughts in a previous comment, and I’ll offer a few more thoughts here. I’m still formulating exactly what I think makes sense, so this list isn’t my final word on the subject, just my thoughts at the moment.

      —We shouldn’t allow those who have been convicted of sexual abuse or child abuse, or who are currently under investigation for child abuse, to homeschool.
      —In order to homeschool, a parent must have at least a GED or high school diploma.
      —We should have annual home visits, just once before each school year starts. I’m not sure what all should be included in this home visit—though I would suggest that individual interviews with each homeschooled child (perhaps taped, for those worried about foul play) be included. You might think of it as similar to the way adoptive parents have to have home visits before being allowed to adopt. The person conducting these home visits should be a state mandated reporter, meaning that they would report any suspicions of child abuse.
      —We should require that parents teach certain subjects, such as math, English, science, etc., and make sure this is laid out clearly.
      —Each family should turn in a curriculum plan at the beginning of the school year (there can be allowances for unschooling families). This curricular plan would need approval, but would also be a moment for feedback between a teacher or administrator and the homeschooling parent.
      —At the end of each school year, each family should turn in a portfolio of each child’s work as done in completion of that student’s curricular plan. This portfolio will need to be reviewed and signed off on by a teacher or administrator.
      —At least every third year, homeschooled students should take a test like the Iowa Basic Skills test, which tests for competency and isn’t a teach-to-the-test kind of test (it also doesn’t take as long as the testing done in public schools). This test should be administered independently, and the scores should be turned in with that year’s portfolio.
      —At the end of each school year, each student should have a written evaluation of their progress composed by a certified teacher or similarly qualified professional. This written evaluation will be submitted with that year’s portfolio.
      —If students fall behind a given level on their standardized test (say, 25%), or if their portfolios are inadequate (not sure how that would be determined, but there could be a standard), that family would be flagged as needing assistance. One idea would be to have a teacher assigned to oversee that family, to give advice and help the mother plan the children’s studies. Further, it might be good for these children to take the standardized test (the Iowa test, or an equivalent) at the end of each year rather than every other or every third year.
      —If it is determined that a failing homeschool family is not making progress (again, there would be a standard here, and plenty of opportunities for the family to improve), that family can be required to send their children to public school. (Note: This is NOT the same as requiring that the children all score at least 50th percentile—a student who scores 25th percentile one year and then 25th percentile again the next year is making progress.)

      Anyway, again, these are just some of my thoughts at the moment, and I’m not an expert. I should point out that some states currently have a mixture of these requirements—Pennsylvania requires curriculum plans at the beginning of the year and portfolios at the end, as well as a teacher’s written evaluation for each child at the end of each school year, for instance, and Oregon requires standardized testing every third year, and when children are too far behind or aren’t making progress a teacher is assigned to the family. And unless I am very much mistaken, homeschooling does still take place in both Pennsylvania and Ohio—in other words, I don’t think these sorts of requirements are really all that unreasonable. In fact, I know a homeschool mom who homeschooled in Pennsylvania who said she found their regulations helpful, as it helped her ensure that she was doing an adequate job educating her children. But believe it or not, there are states, and not a few of them, that literally have NONE of these requirements at present—absolutely no oversight at all.

      • Lori

        Libby Anne, thank you for your reply. While I think educational neglect can be lumped under abuse, I think it’s useful to separate it from abuse. I think they’re really two separate issues because I think it’s easier to deal with educational neglect than abuse. Most of your list addresses educational neglect. So for now, let me respond to the parts that address abuse.

        “—We shouldn’t allow those who have been convicted of sexual abuse or child abuse, or who are currently under investigation for child abuse, to homeschool.”

        I think this is mostly an excellent idea. Do we know if this is actually already covered by another law such as such a person, after being convicted, cannot live in a house with a child? The one part that concerns me is someone being investigated. If there is a false accusation and the kids are put in school during that time, what a mess! Maybe the accused person has to move out during the investigation. Do we know if they have to do that anyway (or the kids are put in foster care during such investigations)? If these issues are already covered by other laws/procedures, then maybe this one is the “easiest” one. If not, it still seems pretty doable to me.

        “—We should have annual home visits, just once before each school year starts. I’m not sure what all should be included in this home visit—though I would suggest that individual interviews with each homeschooled child (perhaps taped, for those worried about foul play) be included. You might think of it as similar to the way adoptive parents have to have home visits before being allowed to adopt. The person conducting these home visits should be a state mandated reporter, meaning that they would report any suspicions of child abuse.”

        This is the one that just seems unreasonable to me. Annual home visits with taped (or untaped) interviews of each child? The thing is, the social workers would have to ask very probing questions to get anything in most cases. I can see this doing damage to innocent families (misunderstandings/ invasion of privacy / witch hunt) and even more damage to children who are abused because the abusive parents know exactly when and where the interview will take place and can poison the minds of their children. The fact that we don’t do this now with all children tells us something about how such a thing could in itself be abused, even if the law were set up with the best of intentions.

        I see the problem of th epossible isolation of hsed kids and the potential for hidden abuse. The problem is I don’t see a solution that’s realistic. It seems like a giant catch-22. The freedom to hs brings a terrible risk for some. Limiting that risk seems to introduce other unacceptable practices. I say unacceptable in the sense that we don’t already do those things with all families. If those practices would work, why aren’t we doing them now?

        OK, what if we did do those practices with all families? All American children have an interview once a year by a social worker. No American children can live with someone convicted of or being investigated for sexual or child abuse.

        I know, too expensive. Not realistic. But if our real goal is to prevent abuse, that would be just as realistic as doing it with only hsing families, wouldn’t it?

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        While I think educational neglect can be lumped under abuse, I think it’s useful to separate it from abuse. I think they’re really two separate issues because I think it’s easier to deal with educational neglect than abuse.

        I actually don’t think they’re as separate as you think. In most cases of gross child abuse in homeschooling families, there is no education taking place to speak of. Oversight to ensure that education is taking place would have caught Heather’s family, for instance, or Calista Springer’s family. As I see it, there are two ways homeschooling can hide abuse: First, it enables abusers to homeschool as an excuse to keep their kids from being seen, and second, it enables families that made a conscious choice to homeschool for educational or religious reasons to also hide inappropriate discipline or other abuse. Holding homeschooling families to some educational standard would catch that first group, as they don’t tend to educate—see Calista Springer, mentioned above.

        “—We shouldn’t allow those who have been convicted of sexual abuse or child abuse, or who are currently under investigation for child abuse, to homeschool.”

        I think this is mostly an excellent idea. Do we know if this is actually already covered by another law such as such a person, after being convicted, cannot live in a house with a child?

        It is not.

        The one part that concerns me is someone being investigated. If there is a false accusation and the kids are put in school during that time, what a mess! Maybe the accused person has to move out during the investigation. Do we know if they have to do that anyway (or the kids are put in foster care during such investigations)? If these issues are already covered by other laws/procedures, then maybe this one is the “easiest” one. If not, it still seems pretty doable to me.

        I was actually referring to families who have their kids in public school, then have child abuse accusations made against them and some investigation started, and then start homeschooling to avoid the watchful eyes of teachers. This was what happened in Calista Springer’s case. What I was saying is that families under investigation for child abuse shouldn’t be allowed ti start homeschooling.

        This is the one that just seems unreasonable to me. Annual home visits with taped (or untaped) interviews of each child?

        Then why do we require home visits for adoptive families? Why do we screen them at all? Why require home visits for families who want to take in foster kids? I don’t see why this would be any different at all.

        As for the interviews, one thing that concerns me is that while public school students come in contact with teachers and other adults on a daily basis, homeschooled kids do not. They have no contact with state mandated reporters, and if they are abused they have no one to give a cry for help to. Allowing each homeschooled student to come in contact with a state mandated reporter each year would not remove the problem entirely, but it would at least be something.

        The thing is, the social workers would have to ask very probing questions to get anything in most cases. I can see this doing damage to innocent families (misunderstandings/ invasion of privacy / witch hunt) and even more damage to children who are abused because the abusive parents know exactly when and where the interview will take place and can poison the minds of their children.

        But see, I wasn’t even suggesting probing questions—and I have my suspicions regarding the assertion that even asking probing questions would do the damage that you suggest. I was thinking more along the lines of a simple conversation. “How have you been doing?” “Tell me about what you’ve been studying.” The goal isn’t to interrogate the kids, it’s to give them contact with a state mandated reporter, the same sort of contact other kids have every single day.

        The fact that we don’t do this now with all children tells us something about how such a thing could in itself be abused, even if the law were set up with the best of intentions.

        But we do do that! Children in public schools have daily contact with teachers and other adults who are state mandated reporters, and who can be there for them if they need help. Why would offering such contact to homeschooled students yearly be singling them out, or such a bad thing?

      • http://suburbintwasteland.blogspot.com RenadaJoy

        I was a homeschooled child in California in the ’80s, when virtually all of the checks you list here were required by the state. My mother was the head of a large “umbrella school” in the LA area and co-author of one of the more popular intro to homeschooling books of the time, so while not exactly homeschool royalty like the Prides, our family was known and under the microscope of both the state education board and our local homeschooling community. We spent at least two days a week at various “school” functions, and meetings for support group leaders and other “school” business were held within our home two or three times a month. This level of scrutiny did nothing to eliminate, let alone reduce, the psychological, emotional, spiritual, and sexual abuse that existed in our house. Perhaps if home visits had been required, or yearly psychological testing as well as academic testing, someone would have figured out what was going on.

        I don’t know what the answer is, nor do I think that there is a one-size-fits-all answer. However, I do think that the homeschooling community at large has a lot to answer for in regards to the tendency to look the other way when they see something that doesn’t sit right or raises red flags. If even one of the women who were in our home on a regular basis and later told my mom that they had “always thought something was wrong” had taken five minutes to ask me what was really going on, if even one of the fathers who saw and heard the way our father treated us in public had called him out on it, my childhood might have been drastically different.

      • http://www.carpescriptura.com/ MrPopularSentiment

        I’ve been giving this list some thought, and here’s what I’ve come up with:

        “We shouldn’t allow those who have been convicted of sexual abuse or child abuse, or who are currently under investigation for child abuse, to homeschool.”
        I kinda feel like if we are trusting these people to parent their child, it seems rather unreasonable to say that they are unfit to parent at some hours of the day rather than others. Taking the children away or requiring frequent social worker visits seems more appropriate, since I’m having trouble drawing a clear distinction between “parenting” and “homeschooling,” particularly as it pertains to abuse.

        Even with the additional detail you later provided about making it so that people can’t suddenly withdraw their child from school once abuse has been brought up, I still feel that it’s more reasonable to simply make social worker visits mandatory rather than interfering with parental rights to determine the education of their child. You can even do something like make it mandatory for them to spend two afternoons a week with a social worker, for example (something that’s routinely done for teens on probation), which would give them that break home life, AND allow them to build a trust relationship with their case worker.

        In other words, I think that abuse is better dealt with as abuse without dragging in the schooling aspect, which makes the whole thing more problematic.

        “In order to homeschool, a parent must have at least a GED or high school diploma.”
        Or equivalent? I’m thinking specifically about immigrant families where they may well have PhDs that simply aren’t being recognized locally. As long as we make provisions for cases like that, I feel like I’m okay with this requirement.

        “We should have annual home visits…”
        This requirement makes me VERY uncomfortable. In the North American judicial system, our philosophy is that it’s the state’s job to prove guilt, not the individual’s job to prove innocence. Requiring a home visit violates that by treating the very act of choosing to homeschool as being suspicious. (And it’s different from cases of adoption/fostering because, in these cases, the state is entrusting the parents with a child who is currently the responsibility of the state, whereas in a homeschooling situation, it’s the child’s own parents).

        I understand the reasoning behind this, but the attitude that “if you’re innocent, you have nothing to hide” is completely antithetical to a free society.

        Some of my discomfort has to do with my personal history – I grew up in Europe where we were still reeling from Nazism, and my husband was raised in the USSR. So acts like this, that assume guilt until innocence is demonstrated, make me very very uncomfortable.

        Someone else mentioned the possibility of having a mandatory class, something that all children must attend regardless of whether they are homeschooled, private schooled, or public schools. I could see this working as one afternoon a month through the school year or something, transportation arranged by the state, and all the kids are given a workshop about spotting abuse and what to do if you see it. While it would be a drag, and while I’m sure that many homeschoolers would very loudly object, it does strike me as a more reasonable compromise because it doesn’t target any particular group and I think that all kids, even public schooled ones, could benefit from such an assembly from a neutral third party.

        “We should require that parents teach certain subjects, such as math, English, science, etc., and make sure this is laid out clearly.”
        I don’t really get your point on this one. Are you saying that there should be specific goals in each subject? That each subject be treated as a separate entity? I kinda feel like if you are actually interested in teaching your child, it’s pretty hard not to touch at least a little on each of these areas, so I don’t think I understand what the point you are making here is. I could guess, but I’d rather not put words in your mouth. Could you clarify, please?

        “Each family should turn in a curriculum plan at the beginning of the school year (there can be allowances for unschooling families). This curricular plan would need approval, but would also be a moment for feedback between a teacher or administrator and the homeschooling parent.”
        I mentioned this to my husband and his reaction was: “It’ll take less than a week for them to put up curricula that families can just print off and hand in.” And I have to agree with him. I think that having a “teacher advisor” attached to the local public school available to help parents who are homeschooling in this way would be AWESOME (and definitely something that I would make use of!), but I’m not sure I really see the use as a mandatory requirement. People who care will be doing this anyway, and people who don’t will very quickly find a way to cheat the system. And making allowances for unschooling families would knock any remaining teeth out anyway. It seems to me that the only effect this would have is to create more work for an already taxed school system.

        “At the end of each school year, each family should turn in a portfolio of each child’s work as done in completion of that student’s curricular plan. This portfolio will need to be reviewed and signed off on by a teacher or administrator.”
        This I can totally get behind – either as a parent summary/assessment, some samples of the child’s work, or a combination of both.

        “At least every third year, homeschooled students should take a test like the Iowa Basic Skills test, which tests for competency and isn’t a teach-to-the-test kind of test (it also doesn’t take as long as the testing done in public schools). This test should be administered independently, and the scores should be turned in with that year’s portfolio.”
        I don’t know about the Iowa Basic Skills test, but I have a pretty strong knee-jerk reaction to the idea of mandatory testing. Some of that is my own previous history (I moved to England from Switzerland just in time to take a standardized test which I obviously failed due to language issues and, as a result, ended up being sent to a really awful school. Many of my friends there were very intelligent, loved learning, etc but had failed the test because of nerves. The appeal process was so long, and involved so many requirements that it took up to two years for many of my friends to finally be allowed into the good school – and many more of them simply gave up a “tuned out” of school). Also, many parents are deliberately choosing to homeschool because they want to get away from test-based assessment.

        It seems to me that if students are already submitting portfolios, adding a test as well is redundant and unnecessarily burdensome.

        “At the end of each school year, each student should have a written evaluation of their progress composed by a certified teacher or similarly qualified professional. This written evaluation will be submitted with that year’s portfolio.”
        How would this evaluation been done? Would the teacher meet with the child? Or would it be based on their portfolio? Either way, though, it seems rather redundant given your other proposals.

        “If students fall behind a given level on their standardized test (say, 25%), or if their portfolios are inadequate (not sure how that would be determined, but there could be a standard), that family would be flagged as needing assistance. One idea would be to have a teacher assigned to oversee that family, to give advice and help the mother plan the children’s studies.”
        This I agree with. In fact, having a dedicated “homeschool liaison” person in each school district (dedicated or just a part of the job, or maybe more than one, depending on the needs of that district) who can answer questions and provide assistance would be very helpful, and definitely something I would make use of. In fact, as I’ve been thinking about the possibility of homeschooling, one of my best resources has been my local school board and provincial education ministry, both of which have a lot of their curricula information online. Having someone I could call up and talk to if we’re struggling in an area, especially someone who knows the local “lay of the land” and can recommend tutors, etc, would be absolutely fantastic.

        This also works as a good mirror to what we do with families who are struggling in other ways. When parents are found to be using inappropriate discipline, for example, we very rarely take those kids away these days. Rather, we assign them a case worker and try to help them learn more effective parenting techniques (at least, that’s how it’s supposed to work). So the idea that we would do the same for parents who are struggling to help their children educationally, rather than just jumping straight to forcing those kids into public school, seems like a very good way of dealing with the problem.

        “If it is determined that a failing homeschool family is not making progress (again, there would be a standard here, and plenty of opportunities for the family to improve), that family can be required to send their children to public school.”
        I would amend this to “that family can be required to make alternative arrangements for their child’s education” – the exact nature of which would be determined by whoever is assigned to their case and/or the courts, same as in child custody cases. Because simply saying that they should have to go to public school without knowing WHY they are homeschooling in the first place is a bit hamfisted (for example, the child may have been failing badly – either academically or socially – in public school, which is what prompted the move to homeschool in the first place. Many districts will, if a child is failing too badly in public school, pay for the child’s tuition to a more suitable private school, for example – this is actually what ended up happening with me for my senior and latter half of my junior years).

        So yeah, I know you’re still collecting your thoughts on this, so I hope I’ve been able to give you some constructive feedback!

      • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

        The idea that home visits are okay for foster/adoptive homes, and not for homeschooling families doesn’t sit right with me. I can see the point that in the first case the children are already wards of the state, so the state is responsible for them and where they end up, but it strikes me as cutting certain families a break based on how they were formed and privileging certain types of parents. We’re giving them the assumption that they’re good parents who know what’s right for their children based on something that isn’t related to their actual ability to parent, and since HS kids are removed from some of the community oversight they would otherwise receive I feel like they need the additional measures so that the government has the ability to step in if there’s a problem. It may be up to the government to prove guilt, but if they have no way of knowing there’s a problem the solution is short-circuited before anything can happen to remedy the situation.

      • kisekileia

        I really like those ideas, except that there need to be provisions for kids with intellectual delays or learning disabilities. I think if a kid truly can’t make the 25th or at least the 15th percentile, it would be appropriate to mandate a psychoeducational assessment to see whether there’s an underlying disability affecting the kid’s achievement or whether the problem is the teaching.

  • Joe

    Becca,
    I am not an advocate of homeschooling or public schooling. I am for the best educating method for the kid in his/her particular situation. What I am disagreeing with is that homeschooling is the problem. The only thing that has been shown is that homeschooling can be abused but anything, even a key, can be abused. I did not give worst case situation for public schools. A public school kid can go home to no food, rape, locked in a room, threatened with death, not allowed to play with secular friends as well. They also can be shot, raped, get punched, have a bomb scare etc… Now that is a worst case scenario.

    • jemand

      Homeschooling makes the worst case scenario *easier.* Just because it is *possible* to also do terrible things an alternate way, doesn’t mean we just throw up our hands and say it’s alright to make everything as easy as possible to get away with.

  • http://beccasteablog.wordpress.com Becca

    I like the whole liquor shop analogy, but I think it is better expressed like this:

    Allowing a fundamentalist or abusive parent to homeschool is like giving an alcoholic a key to the liquor store.
    An alcoholic with a key to a liquor store is likely to drink a lot of liquor. Because he can. An abusive parent who is homeschooling is likely to abuse her child quite a bit. Because she can.

    Homeschooling enables abusers, like that key enables the alcoholic.

    Joe, if that doesn’t clear things up for you, you just don’t want to understand.

  • Alyssum

    @Lori
    I am from Canada and many of the discussions like this about homeschooling are very strange and scary. Yo just do not hear about as many homeschooling horror stories here. (At least in Alberta where I live.) This is not because people do not homeschool. This is because there is at least some oversight to the process and there also seems to be more secular resources available. This link gives basic homeschooling information: http://education.alberta.ca/parents/choice/homeeducation.aspx . The Home Education Handbook (2010) seems really useful. Parents are encouraged to think through there choice, they must register with a school, they have the choice of following the provincial curriculum exactly, developing their own program based on 20 fairly broad, reasonable outcomes or a mixture of the two. The part that the homeschoolers discussed on this site would hate the most is that they must create a written plan that includes some sort of evaluation process and a teacher must evaluate/review the progress (compared to the plan) of the child at least twice a year. They must make helpful recommendions to improve the child’s success. In extreme cases, the home education program can be terminated by the school. There is an appeal process available if this happens. This kind of oversight helps to ensure that some education is occurring. In addition, the public school board where I live has programs designed specifically to help home schoolers. http://argyll.epsb.ca/ Having more outside support and interaction hopefully improves the quality of education, lowers family stress, makes it easier to find and use secular resources. Back to the real topic — if there is abuse occurring in the household there is more chance of it being discovered if there is more contact with people outside a small, like-minded social group.
    As a side note, the city I am in has a Public school board and a seperate Catholic school board that is still considered to be public education. The Public school board does provide “Faith Based” Christian programming because there is enough demand for it. I would personally rather see the money spent on something else but because the programs are part of the official public school board they are forced to follow the real provincial curriculum. They cannot outright teach Creationism as part of science etc.

    • Lori

      Alyssum, thank you for your reply, as well. As I mentioned in my other reply, I think this all addresses educational neglect, and while I may or may not agree with the various practices in Canada, this doesn’t address the issue of a child being hidden away socially and abused. I don’t think one or two contacts a year with a virtual stranger coming into the home is going to create a situation where very many abused children will speak out. I think if we’re going to do something, it has to be adequate, and this really wouldn’t begin to be (in spite of my suggestion above that we do the same with all American children … which really would be inadequate too).

      • jemand

        Honestly, a large proportion of the terrible situations discussed *also* have educational neglect going on. Also, a lot of them come partly from parents being overwhelmed at first, and turning to handbooks on how to abuse, in order to maintain abuse.

        If we address the educational abuse, especially if there are provisions that continued failure to follow through here triggers truancy laws and placement of the kids in conventional school, where there *is* daily access to mandated reporters, would help a lot of the other kinds of abuse, too.

        They are not *nearly* as unlinked as it seems to be commonly believed.

  • Lori

    Hi Libby Anne. It looks like I can’t reply directly to your reply (software-wise), so I’ll try to do it here.

    I really am with you in spirit (as in spirit of the idea), but it’s just the details where it seems to fall apart for me. If we put educational neglect in the mix, then we have to examine each of those issues. But if we make allowances for unschoolers (as suggested), then what’s to stop everyone from being an “unschooler”? I think HSDLA would be advising just that. Unschooling makes me very uncomfortable (in spite of knowing some pretty decent ones), but I just can’t go so far as to say we can’t allow unschooling in order to protect children from child abuse/neglect. Ugg. It just seems like freedom V safety. Our whole country is struggling with that in general. But it’s worth the struggle, of course.

    I don’t like the educational oversight ideas, but I don’t think they would cause harm, per se (except to the unschooling lifestyle with some of them). I have a relative who homeschools in a state where they have to have testing or portfolio review. She chooses portfolio review and has a conservative Christain family friend who is a certified teacher evaluate them. Not sure that accomplishes much. This definitely doesn’t bring them into contact with anyone they wouldn’t have been in contact with before. I can just see HSDLA recruiting an army of conservative Christian teachers to go into this type of reviewing full time. (Sorry to be so negative; I’m just thinking how people get around rules.)

    OK, adoptive families and foster families. You’re right, there is oversight there (but not for life with adoptions, I don’t believe). Well, why is there? I think it comes down to taking in someone else’s child. If you insist on this for hsing families, then the argument will be that the state is interfering in families and their own natural-born children. Too much nanny state. Put another way. When someone wants to adopt and an agency has a child available, the agency (private or state) has the power, so they can impose the rules. How can the state impose those rules when they don’t have custody of the child? If we as a society decide we want to impose those rules on hsers, then I think we have to impose them on all parents.

    We already do that (at school). No we really don’t. We really and truly do not sit children down and ask them how things are going at home and open the door for them to tell on their parents. There is no conversation that takes place privately with every child at school that looks like the conversation you’re suggesting.

    OK, I just had a thought. (I really am trying to think of ideas too). What if all children were required to take a certain class and the class had to be taught by say, a social worker (it would have to be one provided by the school district so we don’t end up with friends-of-family social workers). I’m thinking of something like those McGruff lessons taught in the 90s in public schools. The concepts about good touch and bad touch and so on were taught, and there was general discussion to confirm understanding of concepts, but the teacher did not privately talk to the children. The children were just told, “Tell an adult you trust.” If the class included some quiet down time (maybe where kids were coloring a picture or something), that would allow a little time for a child to possibly initiate a private conversation. I know that’s not what you had in mind, but remember public schools do not question all individual children privately. This seems like it might at least give the child a chance without doing anything to hs children not done to ps children. Now I know HSDLA would be outraged that any children would be required to go somewhere and get these lessons. But it seems the least “witch-hunt” like and even-handed to me.

    I guess the other problem I see with the once a year visit is trust. PS kids have a ton of time with their teachers during which to build up trust and maybe speak up. But there would be little to no trust between a stranger visiting and a hs child. I think hoping that would save a child is seeing it through adult eyes. I see the hope that the child would take the chance, but when their life is all they know and they’re poisoned against the short little annual sw visit, I think it’s way to inadequate.

    • ERB

      [quote]No we really don’t. We really and truly do not sit children down and ask them how things are going at home and open the door for them to tell on their parents. There is no conversation that takes place privately with every child at school that looks like the conversation you’re suggesting.[/quote]
      It’s been awhile since I was in elementary school, but yes, these conversations did happen at my public school (and I’m sure many schools this does not happen). Guidance Counselors (I can still name all mine!) came regularly and gave a variety of talks to our class as a whole and did individual “how are you doing?” interviews. I can also name my guidance counselors in middle school and high school. It wasn’t until HS that I’d say direct contact became more rare (but they ALWAYS came and introduced themselves on a regular basis, made a point of knowing our names, etc.).

      This is not an area I have given much thought, but what Libby Anne has to say about it sounds like good steps in the right direction: educational oversight gives a mandatory reporter at least some access to children that otherwise would be “invisible.” Public schools weren’t designed to provide a safety net, it’s a byproduct that has grown out of having children regularly interacting with other children and adults. Like curb cuts being loved by stroller-pushing parents. Regular interaction over educational standards seems like a great first step toward creating a similar safety net for home schoolers.

      • Alix

        I graduated high school ten years ago, so with that caveat: never, in my schooling experience, did I ever have one-on-one conversations with guidance counselors or similar officials of the kind you mention. We had about five one-on-one conversations over the course of middle and high school about college careers, but none of the “individual ‘how are you doing?’ interviews” or talks to the class about anything other than schooling – course selection, college application process.

        Now, additional caveat: I attended a private elementary school through fifth grade, but after that it was all public schools. I suspect, like most things concerning education in the United States, these counselor conversations vary by locality (not even just state-by-state, but school district-by-school district).

      • Alix

        Aargh, I can’t edit, so apologies for replying twice.

        The other factor to consider is that my middle/high schools had several thousand students, and only a handful of guidance counselors, broken up by grade level. It is simply not feasible in many public schools in the U.S. to have these sit-down sessions, not without hiring more counselors. Which would be a good thing, but given how badly squeezed many school systems are financially already, I don’t see it really happening.

      • ERB

        @Alix 60, 61: You’ll note I said “I’m sure [at] many schools this does not happen.” My point was that to say it doesn’t happen (as @Lori 58 said and I quoted) is inaccurate, because at least at one school at one time, they did. And they did not take place at my middle school, either, so you not having such an interview could simply be a function of public vs private, my state’s regulations vs yours, or a single, anomalous elementary school experience.

        And I did not make any argument or insinuation that this is something that SHOULD happen. Perhaps guidance counselors are wholly ineffective and the role should be eliminated. I have no idea.

  • smrnda

    I know a few families who home-school just because their kids weren’t doing well in public schools. Any of them would probably agree to some level of monitoring. The difference is none of these people are home-schooling for religious reasons, so their focus is on ‘what type of educational program works best for my kids?’ not ‘how do I keep my kids from being influenced by the evil secular state?’

    People in the latter category are going to keep their kids isolated. The adults are going to be isolated. I’m not sure how questioning a kid from that environment is going to work out even without their parents present. If I had a few minutes to interview a North Korean citizen, are they going to decide to tell me, a total stranger, that they *don’t think* their Dear Leader is really all that great? Isolated kids don’t have other, different families to use as a check to see if their family is normal.

    I do think regulations can help prevent the worst abuses, and I think some kind of check-up (preferably more than yearly) would help, but I still think that the worst home-schooling abuses would be hard to catch just since parents will have already indoctrinated their kids in how to fool inspectors.

    • Rosa

      There are an awful lot of stories coming out now about parents who were pretty moderate at the beginning, and got sucked deeper and deeper in. It seems like a lot of them would have either given up homeschooling sooner or checked the spiral, with just a little bit of regulation or contact with a secular agency – a lot of times, when homeschool parents hit a difficult time, the hand that reaches out to “help” drags them into a less educational, more ideological place.

      • http://www.carpescriptura.com/ MrPopularSentiment

        I think that part of it was that there was a time when most of the resources coming out to help homeschooling families were religious in nature. Now, there are TONS of secular options. A parent who just wants to educate – not isolate – their child will have no trouble avoiding the “rotten elements” of homeschooling.

        So yes, the “getting sucked in” thing certainly was a real problem 15+ years ago. Nowadays? I just don’t see it. You have to be already starting down that path (homeschooling for religious reasons, for example) to get sucked in.

      • Rosa

        I don’t know, we looked for homeschool history textbooks, because I feel like our school’s curricula is weak on history, and it was very, very, very difficult to find lower-grade history books that weren’t seriously religiously revisionist. We read Susan Wise Bauer, which is very good in most ways (and she’s been drummed out of Christian Homeschooling, as far as I can tell from reading online reviews of her work) but even she does this thing where she talks about nonchristian religious stories as myths but Biblical stories as historical documents.

      • http://www.carpescriptura.com/ MrPopularSentiment

        Really? Because I’ve found history to be among the easiest subjects as I’ve brainstormed the possibility of homeschooling. Though, to be honest, I didn’t bother looking at complete textbooks that require no outside study since I have access to a really good library system and can easily provide supplemental readings.

        Instead, I just looked at good “overview” world history books, like the Kingfisher Atlas of World History. That would work really well as a checklist for what you want to look at, and it also helps give kids a nice graphical representation of how the names and dates relate to each other. Then just head to the library (or book store, or amazon) and pick up individual books for each sub-subject.

        For older kids, you can still use the same book, again as a checklist, and just pick more in-depth readings.

        For U.S. history specifically, I’m not sure. We live in Canada, I’m Swiss, and my husband is Russian, so I’ve focused on the history from those three countries (plus Britain, since Canada is a Commonwealth country). I’ve had no trouble finding children’s “overview” texts for these countries (Switzerland might have been hard but I still had my own textbook from primary school!).

        If all you are doing is supplementing a public school education, finding books on specific topics would probably work a lot better for you anyway, since it means being able to spend more time where your child’s interests lie.

        For U.S. history, you might try the Magic Tree House books. I haven’t read them myself, so you may want to pre-screen, but a lot of my friends with primary school aged kids (both home and public schooled) quite enjoy them. Added fun is that the information is presented as part of a story, so it’s more fun to absorb.

        If you really want something more pre-planned and lesson-y, google Intellego Unit Studies. I’ve had a fair number of atheist homeschooling parents recommend their unit packs.

    • Rosa

      we do a lot of outside reading – he’s actually read all the magic treehouse books and a bunch of spot “All About Topic” type books, plus we did read the Bauer books with him when he was younger.

      What I wanted was a framework text, so he was getting the big picture instead of a bunch of isolated islands of information. Bauer does a good job of that for the parts of the world she’s covering – the ancient world, the classical world, and then “The West”. She gives short shrift to Asia and Africa after ancient times, unfortunately, but that’s pretty common.

      A worldwide framework is what i was looking for, though. Using American history as an example – it should be learned/taught in terms of larger colonial patterns, so that the relationship or our Revolution to the French revolution and to England’s war with France (and relatedly, the way that worked out differently in Canada and how it shaped the US and state government’s relationship to various indigenous tribes). I haven’t found a kids text that does that. I can do it myself – when he reads a book we put it on a timeline and a map, so he understands the physical and time distance (and they use the Clock of Eras in his Montessori school, so he understands how small human history is, in terms of geologic time). But the basically ahistorical way we teach history, which I’ve been repairing for myself my entire adult life, seems pretty universal and is just as bad to worse in homeschool-marketed texts as in public school ones.

      I was surprised at that because it’s a big part of the problem with public school history curricula is how politicized it has been, and I though there would be at least a subset of homeschool curricula that was not.

  • Elizabeth

    I’m a little frustrated with the objections that complain that safeguards would be good but not perfect so we shouldn’t bother. I’m grateful to everyone who has jumped in to say that aiming to improve is better than accepting a dangerous status quo. Rather than rehashing, here are some thoughts from my experience (trigger warning).

    First, I was mostly sent to fundamentalist schools. My last few years were in public schools. I was briefly home schooled in a country with better child protection laws than the US. There was a huge correlation between abuse and what my parents thought they could get away with. It was horrifyingly frequent at the small fundamentalist school associated with the burch where my dad was a deacon. It was substantially better at the larger school associated with a different church. It cut back even further at public school. And it was nearly non existent in a country where I’d learned the language and they hadn’t and they weren’t going to risk involvement with that country’s child safety authorities. This isn’t to say the abuse while I was at a public school wasn’t damaging. It’s left me permanently disabled. But it was way less traumatic than the stuff where my parents had complete control of the situation–I’m a little surprised that didn’t kill me.

    Second, I’m on a phone so I can’t exactly cite whoever above was poopooing classes on abuse. If anyone had ever explained to me what a legal spanking was, I probably would have known to report my abuse. I grew up thinking a spanking was being beaten soundly for several minutes and then raped. I was an adult before I even heard the phrase “wrong touching.” Heck, i knew what a statute of limitations was before I heard of “wrong touching.” So if we’re going to legalize beating kids, it’s not crazy to hold annual classes for all homeschooled kids that teach them where the legal boundaries are. Public school students get these interventions regularly and abusing parents will leave out crucial information. Because otherwise kids just compare notes with their friends–”you get spanked? Me too!” And assume based on the definition their parents gave them that all their friends get brutall raped several times a week for every real or imagined infraction.

    Will having a few required classes save everyone? Probably not. But it will certainly give some kids the tools to understand that they are being abused so they’ll know they have something to report would be a good start.

    Third, teachers see abuse and report it. They don’t see all of it, but daily exposure to mandated reporters buys kids some safety. Evading a doctor is easy–you just stop beating your kids for a couple of weeks before the physical. Evading a teacher is harder. If there were quasi-regular unscheduled interviews for homeschooling families so they couldn’t plan not beating their kids ahead of time, that would be a good thing. You could have some flexibility o you could miss a couple if that was field trip day or something, but miss too many and you’d get flagged for extra scrutiny. Then parents who couldn’t hide the abuse would get caught. And parents who were clever with the concealment, as mine were, would just have to abuse less. I know people say you arent supposed to compare abuse. and emotional abuse sucks royally. but its not like getting beaten and raped several times a week is magically free from emotional abuse. When we switched to public school and it was just emotional a use and the odd bit of less overt violence, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. From where I’m sitting, a policy that makes people abuse less is way better than nothing.

    • ako

      I know. Measures that help some abused children aren’t trival or worth dismissing because they don’t completely stop abuse. “It isn’t perfect” isn’t a good argument against an abuse prevention measure. “It does more harm than doing nothing at all” would be a good argument, but that’s much harder to support than merely pointing out a measure won’t be one hundred percent effective.

      Also, a lot of people seem to be saying “abusers can just hide what they’re doing” as if all abusers would do a perfect job hiding what they’re doing, which simply isn’t true. Cases happen all the time where abusers are arrested and children are removed from dangerously abusive homes because public school employees notice suspicious injuries, extreme weight loss, sudden and disturbing behavioral changes, or other signs. Not all abusers do a perfect job of covering up their crime, and common sense should make that clear.

    • Nea

      The whole “if it can’t be perfect, it shouldn’t be done” is just an ugly misdirection, with the person making that argument hoping to twist their opponent’s interest in seeing justice done into agreeing to do nothing at all about an issue. We’ve seen it here in homeschooling and abuse, we’re seeing it in gun regulation, we saw it in the arguments against the vaccinations against cancer-causing genital warts.

      No regulation is ever going to be 100% effective, nor will any education be 100% effective. But to the fraction of people who are going to be protected, that fraction is literally the difference between life and death.

    • http://www.carpescriptura.com/ MrPopularSentiment

      No, but the issue is whether or not the good it can do is worth the invasion of privacy. It’s like the TSA in airports – is the minority of potential terrorists that may be stopped worth the “heavy petting” searches? The full body scans? Is it worth the trauma these things can put people through (such as people who have been raped)?

      No measure is going to be perfect, and there will always be abusers who will get away with abuse. If we are setting out with the aim of stopping child abuse, there will be no end to it and we will just keep chipping away at families’ rights to privacy and to determine how they want their children educated.

      Libby Anne proposed home visits by a social worker. Right there, having someone come into your home without any suspicion of possible abuse, is crossing the line. Having them conduct one-on-one interviews with children is even worse. It’s treating everyone as “potential criminals.”

      (And it’s different from adoption/fostering where the children are the wards of the state and the government is determining whether the family would be a good fit. In the case of homeschooling, we’re looking at people who are already parents and, without any prior issues, asking if they are fit to be so.)

      It’s horrific what people have been through, and I want to save all the babies as much as anyone, but it’s not something that we have to think very deeply about. We HAVE to accept that some kids are going to continue to be abused no matter what we do, and we have to find a way to save as many of them while also respecting the privacy and rights of families.

      In other words, it comes down to the age old question of the justice system: Is it better that 1 innocent person is punished or that 100 guilty people go free?

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        Libby Anne proposed home visits by a social worker. Right there, having someone come into your home without any suspicion of possible abuse, is crossing the line. Having them conduct one-on-one interviews with children is even worse. It’s treating everyone as “potential criminals.”

        (And it’s different from adoption/fostering where the children are the wards of the state and the government is determining whether the family would be a good fit. In the case of homeschooling, we’re looking at people who are already parents and, without any prior issues, asking if they are fit to be so.)

        No we’re not, we’re asking if they are fit to educate their children. That is not the same as asking if they are fit to parent their children. Children are not property of their parents, children have a right to an education, and the government must protect that right.

        In other words, it comes down to the age old question of the justice system: Is it better that 1 innocent person is punished or that 100 guilty people go free?

        How in the world is requiring home visits before being allowed to homechool “punishing” people???

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        It’s horrific what people have been through, and I want to save all the babies as much as anyone, but it’s not something that we have to think very deeply about. We HAVE to accept that some kids are going to continue to be abused no matter what we do, and we have to find a way to save as many of them while also respecting the privacy and rights of families.

        I’m sorry, but I refuse to accept your pessimism. I will not go down the road to that kind of cynicism. Further, what in the world is “the rights of families”? Families don’t have the right to abuse, and parents don’t own kids. As far as privacy goes, you may have your own privacy, but you don’t own your kid. Your right to privacy does not extend to your right to hide your child away. Your right to privacy from government intrusion ends where your child begins—because you do not own your child.

      • http://carpescriptura.wordpress.com/ MrPopularSentiment

        The problem with setting out with the goal of eradicating all abuse, as opposed to minimizing abuse, is that it makes it very difficult to evaluate programs in light of other issues – such as privacy or the constitution. We saw this with the War on Terror and the War on Drugs. If you want to eradicate terror, reading people’s e-mails makes sense. If you want to promote a free society in which terror is minimized, reading e-mails is a terrible idea.

        And that’s how I feel here. I’ve been giving this a lot of thought and bugging all my friends by bringing it up constantly, and I just can’t get over how messy the idea of having a mandatory social worker visit to people’s homes is.

        The first issue is with privacy. Families (or, if you prefer, parents) have a right to a certain amount of privacy, and this is a constitutional issue. By having mandatory home visits, you are shifting the burden from the state to show reasonable cause to the family to show innocence. And while the spirit may be the same as just having kids be in contact with mandatory reporters, the effect is of treating homeschooling as a suspect activity.

        Once again, we’re coming at this from different traumas – in your case, you’ve seen the awful things that homeschooling can do. In my case, I’ve seen the awful things that “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about” public policies can do.

        But I’d be willing to negotiate or rethink the privacy issue if it could be shown that this would really be effective. Until shown otherwise, I’m going to assume that only a minority of homeschooling families are abusive and isolating. So this kind of policy would make things much harder and scarier for the majority of families (because the implications of an investigative home visit are completely different from the implications of your child just seeing teachers on a daily basis – it’s singling families out for special treatment *even if the spirit is the same*), but would it actually stop abuse?

        Someone in another comment said that doctor’s visits wouldn’t solve this issue because abusive parents can just tone down the abuse in the weeks prior to a visit, therefore a doctor wouldn’t catch anything. Wouldn’t it be the same deal with a social worker visit? Or are you proposing that social worker visits be unscheduled? Because that strikes me as even more of an invasion of privacy.

        But either way, it seems to me that it would just push these fringe families further “off the grid” which would, ultimately, be even worse for the kids.

        And that’s what’s bugging me about this – it *feels* punitive. It *feels* like it’s singling out homeschooling families, and like it’s treating the act of homeschooling as a suspect activity. In that sense, it encourages antagonism between homeschooling families and the authorities, increasing the chances that these families will withdraw. I think that policies that provide healthy/secular opportunities would be far more effective for the vast majority of families.

        For example, let’s say that school boards made “yearly learning goals” and some sample lesson units available; or if teachers publish the materials/textbooks they are using for each subject and grade level; or opened up their classes so that homeschooled kids could join in just in those areas that they choose to (for example, if a parent isn’t confident in their math skills they might put their kid just in math class, or I could think of many parents who would love for their kids to be able to participate in PhysEd); or allow homeschooled kids within their districts to participate in school clubs, afterschool activities, or contests; or invite homeschooling parents to participate in teacher training events.

        In other words, provide as many opportunities as possible to bring homeschooling families “into the fold” to prevent some of the natural isolationing and the influence of the “down the rabbit hole” effect we’ve been talking about elsewhere in the comments. I think that, overall, we’d achieve far more by working on improving relationships between school boards and homeschooling families than we would by implicitly treating all homeschooling parents in the same way that we treat parents we suspect of abuse.

  • Lori

    I thought we were having a discussion. I don’t see anyone saying it’s not 100 % perfect so don’t try. When people make suggestions, if others point out the problems with those suggestions, it helps flesh out the ideas better or helps the group to come up with better ideas.

    If posters paint those who challenge suggestions with a negative brush, then you’ll just have people posting who agree with each other. That doesn’t help our society solve problems.

    • http://alisoncummins.com Alison Cummins

      Lori, I think that would be Joe.

    • ako

      Yeah, it wasn’t aimed at comments like yours (which were engaging constructively), but how Joe seemed ready to shrug off all potential for preventing abuse because it didn’t always work, and comments of a similar tone I’d seen on previous posts (I can’t remember the specific commenter).

      • Lori

        Perhaps you’re right. I’m still trying to figure out how to follow the conversation since all new comments are not necessarily at the bottom of the thread. The date and times help somewhat, but boy can this get confusing!

  • http://www.carpescriptura.com/ MrPopularSentiment

    I know I’ve argued on this subject a lot, but I do actually agree with what’s posted here. Homeschooling is a tool, it’s neutral, but it is a powerful enabler of abuse if that’s where the parents are going. Plenty of abuse happens outside of the homeschooling context (both by parents and by other caregivers such as teachers, sports coaches, fellow students, etc), but homeschooling can make it easier.

    So I do agree that some regulation makes sense. That being said, however, we can’t be reactionary. We can’t write laws based on the “worst case scenario.” We have the exact same problem in the public school system now where we were concerned that some kids weren’t learning the material they were supposed to be learning, so we went overboard with regulations, standardized tests, and harsh punishments for schools with too many failing kids. The results have been disastrous, totally choking up the school systems, leading to mass fraud (teachers faking test results for their students), and moving towards a “teach the test” style of classroom that actually impedes the very learning the measures were supposed to encourage.

    So when we look at regulating homeschools, we have to first look at why non-abusive families choose that option, and the answer is generally divided between a) the child’s social needs were not being met at school (generally as a result of unaddressed bullying), b) the child’s academic needs were not being met at school (because the child has a learning speed in one or more subject that doesn’t match what the school is able to offer), or c) there’s a difference in learning philosophy between the family and the school (such as the difference between “free learning” or unschooling and the more rigid classroom format – though there are many more options than just those two). So when we come up with requirements, we don’t want them to interfere with these reasons – you mentioned PA as a state that requires that homeschooled students take a standardized test every three years. That’s obviously problematic since it potentially interferes with both B and C from my list.

    Another concern is making laws that acknowledge a difference between preventing/stopping crime and laws that treat everyone in a particular category as a potential criminal. Social worker home visits (as someone above mentioned) seems to be crossing that line.

    I do support, as was mentioned earlier, that homeschooling parents be required to submit a description of their curricula (or a list of the pre-made curricula they will be using) at the start of each year, and then follow up with a written statement of how their child has done in meeting stated goals. That makes sense to me, as long as the two components are taken together. So even the hardcoriest of unschoolers could simply focus their attentions on the end of year assessment of what has been learned. As long as the goal is to demonstrate that learning is happening (rather than using a checklist to ensure that, say, 2nd graders can list the planets of the solar system or some similar micromanaging set of goals), I think that would be a really good compromise between authorities who want to protect kids and families who want to do things differently than the public school model.

    I realize that it doesn’t do too much to address the parents who keep their kids locked up in the house so they can abuse them without anyone seeing, but I really don’t think that *can* be addressed without crossing a fairly serious privacy line. It’s one thing to do a home visit if abuse is suspected, it’s quite another to make it routine.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com M

      You have to do more than trust a parental written assessment. You have to actually test the kids somehow. Parents who aren’t actually educating their kids can *gasp* lie on an assessment!

      While testing has gone completely overboard in public schools, the original reason for tests is as assessment tools, not a requirement for graduation. In other words, give a test in order to figure out what the kids knew and didn’t know, and fix the gaps. Although that has been perverted into our current testing mania, the original idea is sound. People stopped trusting purely teacher assessment because bad teachers lied. Bad parents will lie too. There does have to be some outside assessment- whether it’s a social worker visit or a test or something else, you simply can’t trust abusive or incompetent parents to be honest about their abuse or incompetence.

      • http://www.carpescriptura.com/ MrPopularSentiment

        People who really want to abuse the system will always find a way to do so.

        The problem with testing is that it’s somewhat controversial how well it actually works as an assessment tool. Kids who receive test-taking training do better than kids who don’t, so most of what’s actually being tested is merely how much money parents have for tutoring, rather than the child’s actual understanding of the subject matter.

        There are also issues with how the information is taught. The driest, most soul-crushing courses are generally the ones where I tested the best, because I was learning facts that fit neatly into multiple choice tests. Whereas the classes where I was really engaging the material, doing outside research, etc were, perversely, generally the ones where I tested the worst (though did the best on essays and other types of assignments).

        So yeah, as I’ve said, you have to find a way of minimizing abuse that doesn’t also impose too many restrictions on non-abusive parents. Considering how controversial testing is – particularly standardized testing – making it a requirement when so many parents are opting out of the school system specifically to get away from it seems rather counter productive.

        By all means, ask that parents write an assessment and provide samples of their children’s work to back up their statements. Could they fake it? Sure. They could also send their kids into the testing room with a cellphone or a cheat sheet. It happens. But you’re punishing fewer of the “good guys” by just staying away from the standardized testing model.

    • http://alisoncummins.com Alison Cummins

      “I do support, as was mentioned earlier, that homeschooling parents be required to submit a description of their curricula (or a list of the pre-made curricula they will be using) at the start of each year, and then follow up with a written statement of how their child has done in meeting stated goals. That makes sense to me, as long as the two components are taken together. So even the hardcoriest of unschoolers could simply focus their attentions on the end of year assessment of what has been learned. As long as the goal is to demonstrate that learning is happening (rather than using a checklist to ensure that, say, 2nd graders can list the planets of the solar system or some similar micromanaging set of goals), I think that would be a really good compromise between authorities who want to protect kids and families who want to do things differently than the public school model.”

      Ok, so my curriculum is that my child learn to chop wood, change diapers and wash floors. I don’t feel that literacy or numeracy are important. I will submit this curriculum and tell the school board that my child is doing well at learning these things and all will be well.

  • Lori

    “Your right to privacy from government intrusion ends where your child begins—because you do not own your child.”

    We don’t own our children, but neither does the government. I don’t think if we want privacy that means we own our children. Just like the government checking on our children (as suggested) doesn’t mean they own them either.

    Maybe we have to do away with homeschooling. If it’s a way for too many people to hide abuse, then maybe those who are good people who want to educate differently need to start new private schools. There’s one kind of private school called a Sudburry School that is basically the unschooling of private schools. There are various ones of these around the country. There’s also “progressive education” type schools that are project-based (not textbook based). So it’s not like the only option out there is No Child Left Behind public schools or more traditional private schools.

    I do not see the social worker visit doing any good because it’s too limited in contact with the child and too invasive to the family (I know, others disagree). So maybe we just ask people to get more creative with starting private schools and disallow homeschooling all together. (I’m still brainstorming here, not being sarcastic.)

  • http://alisoncummins.com Alison Cummins

    Lori, it wouldn’t even have to be that radical. Homeschooling would not have to be disallowed, simply accepted as one way among many to educate a child and conditional on the child being allowed contact with mandated reporters and the use of some objective method for determining that the child is making acceptable progress — as happens with every other way of educating children. Parents who did not wish their children to speak with social workers or to allow a social worker or teacher into their home could choose not to homeschool and develop some sort of private school network as you suggest.

    • Lori

      OK, so do we accept all mandated reporters – including Sunday school teachers and soccer coaches? Do we say your child has to have contact with some organization that works with children at least X hours a year or you have to have a social worker visit (again, I don’t think the social worker visit is adequate)? If we allow all mandated reporters to count, then it’s not really the government intruding (directly). And I think a child has a better chance of speaking out to a soccer coach than he does to a stranger social worker. And without that good touch/bad touch class I suggested earlier, I’m still not sure this is enough. But maybe it’s a start. If all homeschoolers who have even 1 hour a week contact with a Sunday school teacher were exempt from the social worker visit, then we’d be getting down to very few homeschoolers. These would be the ones who would be the most freaked out by a social worker visit, mind you. And I’m not sure it’s OK to invade their privacy just because they’re a smaller group of people. But, maybe there are some people who would be tempted to be totally isolated who would decide to put their kids in soccer if it meant they could avoid the social worker visit. Yeah, if we count all mandated reporters then nothing changes (because a lot of homeschoolers already do have outside contact) except for the fringe ones who would rather give their kids contact with a soccer coach than a social worker. But maybe that would be enough to make a difference. The rest of the fringe folks who take the social worker visit, I’m afraid, though, would have the best chance of hiding abuse.

  • Rilian

    Your proposed solution is systematically terrible day-prisons for children.
    If you were just talking about a place they have to check in once a day, I wouldn’t care so much. Or even if the schools were more like daycares. I might even be in favor of it then, as long as there were flexibility in hours of attendance in case you wanted to do something, like go on a vacation or go to a show or something.

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