When Abusive Parents Homeschool

Earlier today I talked a bit about some of the things abusive and neglectful parents might find attractive about homeschooling. Now I want to look at what happens when abusive parents homeschool their children. Sometimes these parents homeschool for the same reasons as anyone else—for religious or educational reasons, for instance—and sometimes they homeschool for other reasons—because they want to have complete control over their children, or to hide their abuse. Whatever their reasons, when abusive parents homeschool the results can be truly disastrous.

Roger Canaff, a legal expert and anti-violence advocate, puts it this way: “When the wrong parent or parents homeschool, the results can be far worse than ‘just’ a badly educated child. An abusive parent who homeschools has more than a captive audience; he or she also has essentially a caged one.”

Take for example a story that hit the news earlier this week:

Girl, 14, forced to become pregnant with donor sperm bought by mother

Judge describes ‘wicked and selfish’ motive of using daughter to provide parent with a fourth child

A mother forced her 14-year-old adopted daughter to inseminate herself with donor sperm to provide a baby for her after she was prevented from adopting any more children, it can be revealed.

The daughter, a virgin, is believed to have miscarried at 14, but went on to have a baby at 16 after regularly inseminating herself with sperm bought over the internet by her “domineering” mother because she was too scared to refuse.

The mother had already adopted three children as babies from abroad, twice when she was married and once as a single parent after her divorce. She had chosen not to give birth herself because of a health condition and had undergone an elective sterilisation.

But she was distraught when an attempt to adopt a fourth baby was thwarted when she was denied approval.

The mother, described as “highly articulate”, and who “loves the children and they undoubtedly love her”, had isolated the family. The children were schooled at home, and the adoptive father of the eldest two was deliberately excluded, did not know where they lived and had not seen them for 10 years. Neighbours and social services were kept at bay.

The daughter, who had no friends of her own age, later told investigators she was “shocked, pretty shocked” when her mother first asked her but also thought, “if I do this … maybe she will love me more”.

The judge also noted that no checks were made on the children regarding home schooling after the mother refused to allow an education welfare officer to visit. The only contact was by email, so “the approval [for] home education was given without anyone ever setting eyes on the children”.

I’m sure this mother would have been abusive whether she homeschooled or not, but the sad reality is that homeschooling made it easier for her to abuse her children. After all, the daughter in this tragic story had no one to go to, no one to talk to about her abuse, no one to trust. Isolating her children via homeschooling allowed this mother to give full reign to her abusive tendencies, and the results were horrific.

Next, excerpts from Jenny’s story, which she titled “Homeschool Abuse Survivor.”

My Mother began “home schooling” me when I was 8, and you could pretty much say that was not only the end of my education, but my childhood really, because as soon as she started home schooling me, she shut the both of us up in our house for good. My brother and father both had jobs, so they came and went, but not me and my Mother…she kind of went crazy I guess. She was supposed to be a housewife, but she stopped cooking or cleaning, going to the grocery store or anything like that…I mean we did not go outside at all…I literally went for months at a time without going outside,…I was not allowed to go out without her, EVER. I never got to see or speak to anyone my age.

And of course, she WAS NOT TEACHING ME, she had me enrolled in a catholic home school program, and for whatever reason, she herself completed all of the assignments and turned them in, she would not let me do anything except the math, which she did not know how to do, but she said that I was too stupid to do the rest of the subjects. And I guess I believed her. Also, she got tired of even doing the schoolwork herself by 8th grade, and discontinued the program. She told me I did not need a diploma, after all, she never got one.

She was controlling to an unbelievable degree, this is going to sound strange, but I was not even allowed to wash myself, she said that it was too dangerous, that I might slip and fall in the shower, and she had to be the one to wash me. Our house was in awful condition because of her made up illnesses, and she got to a point where she was sleeping on the couch so that she could just lay there all the time and watch TV and she did not even want to have to get up to use the bathroom, so she made my father get her a bucket to put in front of the couch so she could use that as a toilet. She kept it covered with a pillow and I still remember the stench of urine coming from it…my father had to empty it every few days, (yes, she did EVERYTHING in that bucket) and every now and then he would complain but she always made him submit to what she wanted.

Things got worse and worse, she started hating sunlight, and covered up the windows with trash bags, (don`t ask me why she didn`t just get my dad to bring her some curtains I`ll never figure that one out) And even though she was no longer washing her own clothes or mine, (dad and brother washed their own) I was not allowed to use the washer, (too stupid, too dangerous) so I had like two sets of clothes which I would wear for months at a time and rotate, and one set of sheets on my bed for so long that they wore through until they had huge holes that my legs would get caught in.

Don`t get me wrong, I know that my Mother is the type of person who likely would have done all that to me somehow even if it were not for “home school” but home schooling GAVE an INSANE woman the TOOLS to do this to me. And I lose sleep at night sometimes thinking that there are other kids out there going through something like this. I truly think home schooling should be illegal, or at the very least, MUCH more closely monitored….

And then, of course, comes Hana Williams’ story (read the full affidavit here).

She was regularly spanked and locked in a closet, and was forced to sleep in a barn and take garden-hose showers outside, according to an affidavit from the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office. The affidavit was based on information from the couple’s six natural children, another adopted child, medical experts and other family and friends. The interviews were conducted by detectives and investigators from the state’s Child Protective Services.

In 2009, Hana weighed 108 pounds, but over the past two years of her life, she lost 30 pounds, largely because her parents denied her food as punishment, the affidavit says. She was so thin she couldn’t retain enough heat May 12, the night she died. She had been outside with no clothes and died of hypothermia, an autopsy found.

After this comes Mary’s story, in which she describes how being homeschooled by her mentally unstable mother went downhill quickly, leading to an entire childhood of almost unbelievable abuse. Her story is written in first person.

I cannot sleep and I am trying not to freeze.

It’s sometime in January and Abby and I have been kicked outside for two days. We were wearing just our shirts, jeans and socks when we got kicked out and it is so cold outside that we can see our breath is the air. We didn’t try to ask for our shoes and coats because they never let us have them. We are walking and walking around the house over and over trying so hard to keep warm. This might not be so hard if my stomach would stop screaming. It’s been 4 days since we have eaten a meal. We tried sneaking out a snack earlier and got caught. That is why we are outside.

Before Mom sent us out, though, she gave us both a spoon full of ipecac to make us throw up. We threw up but nothing came up but stomach juices because we hadn’t actually gotten anything yet when she caught us.

I’m so hungry that I feel dizzy and faint. Abby can hardly walk. We finally get too tired to walk anymore and go huddle together in the corner of the porch and cover ourselves in the cushions from the porch furniture. We usually go huddle in the van to get out of the wind but Dad caught us there the last time and they made sure that it was locked tonight. We finally manage to fall asleep but I wake up so often because of my stomach and being so cold.

Sometime after devotions the next morning, Mom comes to the door to give us our chores for the day that will be outside chores since we have been sent out. We are actually glad to have something to do because it will help us stay warmer. The next night passes just like the first and finally we are allowed back in the next morning in time for devotions.

Next, here’s a story currently in the courts:

Three children adopted from foster care by John and Carolyn Jackson were allegedly assaulted with various objects by the adopters. The children allegedly sustained fractured bones, which no medical attention was sought for. Furthermore, the children were allegedly withheld food and water and were forced to to consume food that caused them pain and suffering, such as red pepper flakes, hot sauce, and/or raw onion.

One of the three children adopted by John and Carolyn Jackson died May 8, 2008.

John and Carolyn Jackson home schooled their children and claim the Department of Youth and Family Services persecute them for their religious beliefs. John E. Jackson is a Major in the U.S. Army.

Here’s a story from 2010:

Six children adopted by Anya James were physically abused by their adoptive mother.The children were confined in small rooms with alarms on doors and windows to alert James if they tried to escape. They had to use kitty litter buckets as toilets. James homeschooled the children and allowed only minimal contact with the outside world.The children were malnourished because James severely restricted their diets, police say. Their growth was stunted to the extent they didn’t go through puberty as teenagers, and some children had downy hair cover (Lanugo) due to starvation.

This story comes from the family of a homeschooling Christian pastor:

9-year-old Brian Edgar, died of asphyxiation after his mouth had been taped shut and something like a sock had been stuffed in it. According to the coroner, there were signs that Brian had vomited and that he had been bound around the chest with a belt. In addition, the autopsy showed Brian had been dead for several hours before being brought to the hospital. There were bruises on his cheeks and old marks on his wrists and ankles, suggesting he probably had been bound with a rope in the past.

He was punished by his adoptive mother for stealing cookies.

Neil and Christy Edgar, pastors of God’s Creation Outreach Ministry were also charged with abusing 3 other adopted children. Christy Edgar was referred to as a prophet, and reportedly claimed God told her to tie up children as a discipline method.

I could keep going—there are so many more stories—but I’ll stop here.

Yes, most homeschool parents are dedicated, responsible and loving. But when abusive parents homeschool, the consequences for their children can be absolutely disastrous. The public school can often offer children from abusive homes a reprieve they would not have if they were homeschooled. Further, the public school brings abused children into contact with mandatory reporters and gives them the opportunity to confide in teachers or other adults who may come into their lives, something children who are homeschooled by abusive parents are often without. Finally, public schools offer abused children access to food and, in some cases, basic medical care—things that are completely controlled by the parents in abusive homeschooling situations. In effect, when children are homeschooled by abusive parents, they’re caged.

Michael Farris Doesn't Read the Bible (Apparently)
Those No Good Very Bad Homeschool Graduates
Can You Be More Deceptive? Homeschool Edition
Josh Duggar and the Pressure of Perfection
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.


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