Why Homeschooling Is Attractive to Abusive Parents

Last week a homeschool father named Steve left a comment on a post about HSLDA’s efforts to deregulate homeschooling, and I found what he had to say very familiar.

“Homeschooling” parents have manifestly demonstrated that they are willing (and able) to take a far more responsible and active role in child-rearing. Clearly they must be far less likely, on average, to neglect their children. Look at it this way: will a neglectful parent homeschool? He will not. Doing so would require an expenditure of a great deal of time and energy on his child; it will involve hard work. It is likely also to involve sacrificing an income.

This is one of the arguments against regulating homeschooling that I heard growing up—that if parents are going to go to the time and effort to educate their children at home, they are clearly responsible and loving parents who won’t be at risk of abusing or neglecting their children. So why regulate them? You’ve got a self-selecting group of good parents! Let them do their thing!

It’s absolutely true that plenty of homeschooling parents are awesome parents. They homeschool because of concerns about the quality of the education in their local public schools, or because their children were bullied in school, or simply out of a desire to carefully tailor each child’s educational experience, suiting it to their needs. These parents listen to their children, jump at any opportunity to become better educators, and center their homeschool years around what is best for each of their children.

But it’s also the case that some homeschooling parents are abusive and neglectful. I’ve actually collected together some stories of abuse and neglect in homeschooling families into onto a blog page, which you can read here.

Of course, the fact that some homeschooling parents are abusive does not mean that homeschooling parents could not actually be less likely, in terms of percentages, to be abusive. After all, plenty of parents whose kids attend public school are abusive. That I think is the point that Steve was trying to make—not that homeschoolers are never abusive, but rather that homeschooling is attractive to good parents, and not attractive to abusive parents, which would mean that on average, homeschooling parents are less likely to be abusive than the average parent. And here’s where I think Steve’s argument has a fatal flaw.

You see, it’s simply false to suggest that there is nothing about homeschooling that might be attractive to neglectful or abusive parents. Let me offer a few examples.

  • Homeschooling is attractive to parents who are narcissistic and controlling, as it allows them to have complete control over their children’s lives free from outside interference or influence.
  • Homeschooling is attractive to physically abusive parents who want to avoid the potential that their children’s teachers might see their bruises and call Child Protective Services.
  • Homeschooling is attractive to parents who are tired of trying to force their children to go to school, tired of their children getting in trouble for being late or absent, and tired of being visited by truancy officers.

In the next couple of posts on this topic, I will offer examples of parents in each of these categories. My point is that this isn’t just hypothetical—it actually happens. Homeschooling is attractive to kind and dedicated parents, but it is also attractive to abusive and neglectful parents.

I remember when, like Steve, I thought that by its very nature homeschooling would only attract dedicated, loving, and healthy parents who would do their best to give their children the most positive and uplifting education possible. I wish I could still think that, but I can’t. Over the past several months I’ve been coming upon story after story, and it is with growing dismay that I’ve realized that this educational method viewed by its pedagogical founders as so liberating and empowering for children can actually serve as a haven for abuse.

Once again, I am not generalizing about all homeschoolers here. All I am saying is that there are parents who take advantage of lax homeschooling laws to abuse or neglect their children. How many? I don’t know. We really know very little about the demographics of homeschoolers, to be honest. Many states don’t ask homeschoolers to register, so we don’t even know how many homeschoolers there are, much less things like how well they do academically or socially—and when it comes to anecdotal evidence, we have a mixture of both good stories and bad stories. I’m not saying homeschooling can’t be an awesome thing for children. It absolutely can. But it can also be a horrible thing for children, and a great deal of that depends on what sort of parents are doing the homeschooling.

I’ve already written about HSLDA and child abuse, and I want to spend a couple of posts focusing solely on abuse and neglect in homeschooling families. I will look at what happens when abusive parents homeschool as well as at parents who homeschool in a deliberate effort to hide child abuse and parents who homeschool to avoid prosecution for truancy.

  • Jolie

    I might have made the same point before, on a different post, but I think it got swallowed by the internet :P so if I’m repeating myself- sorry :(

    There’s this very compelling argument by philosopher Karl Popper that we need to compare and evaluate systems and legislations not by how well they can perform at their best, but how horrifying they can be at their worst. For example: at its best, an enlightened despotic regime can be more efficient, less corrupt and less dependent on populist measures catering to a manipulable public’ prejudices than a liberal democracy; however, at its worst, the abuses a despotic/totalitarian regime with no checks and balances whatsoever can commit are far greater than anything that may happen in a democracy: therefore democracy is better. I think the same can be very true of unregulated homeschooling: at its best, it can empower a good parent to educate their child in the best-fitting way possible designed especially for them- perhaps better than a system with stricter regulations; but at its worst it can allow parents to physically/emotionally abuse, brainwash and traumatise children, all the while keeping them from actually educating themselves.

    Also, I think it’s important to make a distinction between “a neglectful parent” and “an abusive parent”. Parents who, as you say, want to have full control of their children’s lives and to micro-manage every single minute of it are not neglectful; but they very likely are abusive.

    • Jayn

      I was thinking of posting this in another sub-thread about capitalism, but I think it’s more relevant here.

      I have a problem with any system that relies on the goodness of people to keep it running well. Because even if you assume that most people are inherently good it’s undeniable that some aren’t, and the system will I evitably fail somewhere. This isn’t quite the danger in homeschooling as in the marketplace, where unethical behavior is granted an edge, but if you rely on people behaving well you have no way of dealing with those who don’t. That’s something that’s bugged me about the recent HSDLA posts, even assuming their members are all good, caring, non-abusive parents, (which itself is a faulty premise) they don’t consider at all the implications in non-member families.

      • Jolie

        Interestingly, apart from maybe a very particular branch of anarcho-communists, usually those who argue against checks and balances/the regulation and control of forms of organisations such as homeschooling or corporations or the discretionary rule of a charismatic leader are not really of the “all/most humans are inherently good” mindset; more like “all humans are selfish and this is the only way we can live: big fish will eat the small fish” or “most people are bad, only we are saintly”- which, in a way, are very related mentalities (in a “we deserve to make all the rules and no-one else does” sort of way)

      • Sally

        Interesting. I’m not clear which side you’re coming from on this issue (or maybe you haven’t picked a side?). Are you commenting on the idea of regulating homeschoolers, and if so, what are you saying?

      • deh

        What is the value of regulation etc? I mean, LA school district is regulated and has a 44% graduation rate. So, it is hard to say that regulation is doing much good. I am not against regulation in principle, I just wonder what good it does. It is not like there is something being done to fix the problems in the LA schools that have been identified by regulation. 50 years ago LA schools were good. Were they more regulated and funded then? Honest question. I don’t know the answer.

      • Alix_A

        Well, regulation isn’t a monolith, either. There are all kinds of regulations that could be instituted – and there are bad regulations, which schools do get their share of.

        Personally, I think the bare minimum regulation for homeschool would be oversight – having to declare your intent, so the schools don’t think you’re just dropping out, having to submit a lesson plan that meets basic educational guidelines, having to pass standardized exams. And no, none of those are perfect, but they’ll all help create a baseline to work from.

      • guest

        You might want to have a look at Adam Smith’s first book (far less well known than his second), in which he suggests that individual people may not be inherently good, but find themselves compelled to at least act good in order to gain the approbation of other humans (a benefit in itself) as well as their goodwill (something that has genuine economic and survival value). This is the background against which we should understand the ‘invisible hand’ of the Wealth of Nations.

      • David S.

        I don’t think that’s as black and white as you say. All human systems in use rely on the goodness of people to keep running, and all of them deal with the ungoodness of people. I’ve worked a return desk at a big box store, and all those policies are set up to not burden the honest customer too much and stop scammers. High failure rate both ways, but you tweak the scammer/honest person ratio one way or the other, and we would have responded by adjusting our policies to compensate. If there was no goodness, we would have taken no returns and maybe gone back to the old days where you stood at the counter and we fetched things. If there was pure goodness, we wouldn’t have had to worry about cashiers and security people and the whole bit.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      An excellent point. The only thing is, I really can’t see how some reasonable regulations would negatively affect homeschooling parents’ ability to give their kids a good education all that much. It would just be a little extra pain in the ass. That’s what all these voracious objectors to Libby’s very moderate, not at all strident posts are howling about. I don’t understand…

  • AnotherOne

    In my experience living in a low income rural area in a state with lax laws (and having friends and family members in similar areas in other states), I think the third kind of parent you mention above is getting more and more common. Lots of people who simply don’t want to be bothered trying to force recalcitrant teenagers to go to school now “homeschool” them to keep from having to deal with truant officers or failing grades or school administrators who are taking issue with problematic behaviors. It’s becoming more and more widely known that all it takes to “homeschool” your kids is a tiny bit of paperwork, and then you’re home free. I can think of five teenagers off hand that I personally know in situations like this, none of whom are receiving the slightest amount of education (unless learning from their parents how to get and sell hillbilly heroin counts). As homeschooling has become more popular and widespread, this is happening more and more.

    • Guest

      This is my experience – though with fewer kids – as well. “Homeschooling” because you live in a rural area & can’t keep a car running, or because you have a new baby & can’t be together enough to get the big kids off to school in the morning. It would not take very much regulation – just make the paperwork slightly more daunting, require some sort of documentation – to push these parents back into schooling. Because of the glorification of home school in some circles, I’ve also seen acquaintances pull their kids out of school because of parents having conflict with teacher or administrators – a sort of “take my ball & go home” reflex. Though thankfully all the parents like that I know right now are conscientious enough to reconsider school when they see how much effort homeschool is going to be, instead of just redefining “doing some workbooks” or “learning to change diapers” as homeschool.

      It’s especially tragic with teenagers because often there would be a way for them to graduate early or get into an alternative school, instead, but those options require more initiative on the part of students or parents.

  • Elise

    To me, it’s the same argument I have about gun control: “If you have nothing to hide, then why are you against legislation to control its abuse?” The answers invariably start with a “but, hey, but…” and turn into something about convenience and individualist rights, and finally end with some ingrained soundbite of only slim value and hardly any connection to the question.

  • Composer 99

    One other issue is that even enthusiastic parents who are homeschooling for all the right reasons might have blind spots in their educations (maths springs to mind here) which might make it difficult for them to teach those subjects effectively. We can’t assume that such parents will automatically get help in those subjects when they need it.

    • Sally

      I think you’re right that there are people who shouldn’t be teaching certain subjects beyond a certain level. That said, there are so many resources out there these days, you’d almost have to be intentional about not getting help. I know… there are surely people who don’t.

      • Composer 99

        That’s fair enough. I should like to clarify that that, most likely (IMO), where this stuation will occur with well-meaning parents is when they don’t realize they have gaps in their ability to homeschool, or that their children have gaps in their educations, due to shifting or (cognitively) biased baselines (which accounts for why, for example, many parents don’t notice their children are experiencing developmental delays until much later than trained professionals can pick up on it).
        Just like well-baby visits can bring early warning of developmental issues, which often allows them to be more easily addressed, so can periodic assessments by outside parties determine if such gaps have come up, allowing them to be more easily addressed.

      • Alice

        There are a lot of resources, but the parents have to be able to use the resources. When I was home-schooled, I was really far behind in math. My mother couldn’t use the resources because she couldn’t understand what the math books were saying, and my dad did not have the patience or the ability to explain his knowledge to me. We didn’t have money for tutoring and both of my parents worked too much to have time to take me to something like co-op. If they had realized just how serious the problem was, perhaps they could have figured something out, but I’m just saying that there are a lot of obstacles even with all of the resources out there.

      • The_L1985

        Oh, you can make math have to do with religion. A Beka’s geometry textbook, in defining a ray, doesn’t use the obvious example (the rays of the sun), but instead say something like, “A ray is like a Christian soul, which starts at the beginning of your life, and continues on forever in Heaven.”

      • Conuly

        And I thought it couldn’t possibly be worse than I thought.

      • Sally

        I do think you’re right that there can be an attitude of not needing help or not wanting to admit you need help. -And even that getting help means you’re not really fully homeschooling. Thankfully that is not necessarily the norm.

    • Mariana

      Y”Homeschooling” doesn’t necessarily mean that the parent is doing all the teaching. For a lot of people (including my boyfriend, who lived in a part of LA with _terrible_ public schools), once the kids get to middle school they end up taking real (though sometimes self-paced) classes that were developed by and are run by real teachers – they just do the work and mail or email in the assignments.

      I’m not disagreeing with Libby Anne’s main points, or that some parents might try to control all the teaching without proper knowledge of the material. BUT just because your parents are terrible at math, doesn’t mean you can’t be homeschooled just fine in math.

    • aim2misbehave

      This is true. My parents, who were both big math and science people, did a fantastic job of teaching me math and science. (Well, they taught me creationism, but that was something I had no trouble making up for. And they taught me extremely revisionist history, and were completely lax about writing (I didn’t even know what a thesis statement was when I started my college’s mandatory freshman writing course) but they still genuinely thought they were giving me a thorough, high-quality education.

  • Ibis3

    Well, you can be sure that there is one type of abuse that’s rampant among homeschoolers: educational abuse. Anyone teaching Creationism instead of science, anyone teaching Christianist revisionism instead of history, anyone teaching the Bible as fact instead of legend and myth, is being abusive.

    • Rilian Sharp

      Do the majority of homeschooling parents do that stuff? My homeschooling friends were not. I’ve seen, like, 3 families that did that.

      • http://geekinthebreeze.wordpress.com mythbri

        My aunt does this to her four children. They are a strict, conservative Lutheran household.

      • AnotherOne

        I’ve seen, like, practically all of the many homeschooling families I’ve known do that.

      • Alice

        Well, there are no statistics, but the large majority of home-school science textbooks are anti-evolution.

      • Sally

        Thankfully there are people who don’t rely on these creationist textbooks for science, and instead use “real” books (such as from the library) to teach science along with hands-on activities and experiments. I would love to know real stats on this, too.

    • jemand2

      you know I was taught this both in homeschool AND in church school. It’s not really a thing you can pin on homeschooling, and I don’t think we can call it abuse, either. It is like “regular” spanking in the US. *I* believe it is completely unjustifiable but it is so very common there’s no way you can stop it.

      • Kat

        Hell, I went to public school, and I still got taught that sort of thing at home. In particular, my parents taught me a bizarre strawman version of the theory of evolution and why creationism makes so much more sense, presumably hoping this would somehow inoculate me against actual science. The difference there, though, is that at least I did get a chance to be exposed to reality. Had I been homeschooled, there’s a good chance I’d still believe the earth is 6,000 years old and people in the bible lived alongside dinosaurs. *shudder*
        So, no, I don’t think it can be stopped, but least some sort of curriculum requirement that wouldn’t allow parents to teach ONLY creationism and assorted bullshit might help. Then again, considering what my parents taught me about the “other side,” maybe not. I think we may just have to face the fact that isolation allows kids to be raised in a fact-free bubble if that’s what the parents really want (not implying that’s what all homeschooling parents want, just to be clear).

      • deh

        I got swats in public school. Corporal punishment is still legal in public schools.

      • Sally

        Depends on your state.

      • The_L1985

        Not in most states; and in many of the states where it is legal, parents have to opt-in.

      • The_L1985

        It can be terrible, when you think about it. Most of what I heard about history and science was at private church-school that was strongly YEC–implying that you couldn’t be anything else and still be a Christian.

        My church didn’t mention the origins of life or the age of the universe.

        All my friends were classmates, and they all believed what our teachers taught us.

        My father, meanwhile, didn’t understand why I didn’t have an open mind about this, and somehow didn’t realize that the vast majority of what I heard and who I knew reinforced this wrong idea. He’d also forgotten that most 8-year-olds are going to trust authorities–including teachers–completely. Moreso if you know that your parents are paying for you to go to school. They wouldn’t pay lots of money to send you there if the teachers were lying to you, right? Right?

    • kisarita

      it’s poor education to be sure, but calling it abuse trivializes real and actual abuse and the fear and humiliation real abuse sufferers live under.

      • AnotherOne

        My thought exactly, kisarita.

      • doctor-lawyer mom

        I volunteer at a center where low income kids go after school. Fifth graders are still counting on their fingers because that is the way they are TAUGHT in public school. They cannot add, subtract, multiply or divide without a calculator. Most cannot read anywhere near grade level despite vast amounts of money thrown at their at-risk schools. And you think teaching creationism is educational abuse? You might want to look at the pitiful state of public education and start reforming there. Why not focus on the “educational” abuse these kids–in public school–have at home including parents–and school administrators– so unengaged with them that they don’t CARE what kid of education they get.

      • The_L1985

        That is a case of severe socioeconomic inequality causing educational inequality. Rich neighborhoods always have better schools, because they’re funded by district instead of by state. I’ve long thought it was sickening how different school is for low-income children, and how brutal the teachers can be.

        I once substituted at a middle school in a low-income area. The building had been freshly painted and beautifully decorated–but even when you walked through the door, there was this tangible aura of “We don’t care about our students.” The class in question was taught in a storage room, because there weren’t enough classrooms for everybody. When I introduced myself as the substitute, students said things like “Man, [teacher's name]‘s been gone for a month!” Classroom management was worse than at any other middle school I’ve been to, simply because the teachers didn’t care about their students, and the students picked up on that.

        And this is in Broward County, Florida, which is relatively well-off, has one school district for the entire county, and provides enough funding that everyone in the county could have a good education with caring teachers. I don’t know what the solution is, but something needs to be changed soon, for the sake of the children.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        “You might want to look at the pitiful state of public education and start reforming there. Why not focus on the “educational” abuse these kids–in public school–have at home including parents–and school administrators– so unengaged with them that they don’t CARE what kid of education they get.”

        Because that’s not what she’s talking about right now. Sometimes people talk about things without talking about other things. Really!

      • Alix

        I still count on my fingers or draw dots in the margins of my notebooks, because I need a quick visual/kinesthetic aid to do arithmetic quickly. Sometimes, y’know, it’s not a case of poor education, but different ways people’s brains work.

        Just like not everybody can sit and absorb a lecture, or follow visual diagrams. Humans aren’t all wired the same way.

  • Lauralee Moss

    Right. Many wonderful parents homeschool. And bc they are great parents and want what’s best for their children, they should not mind a bit of regulation.

    • KM

      Yes, this so much. Parents who are homeschooling because they are truly concerned about high quality education and doing what’s best for their children (my parents would fall into this category) should not, and generally do not in my experience, have any problems with a bit of regulation, oversight, and reporting. My parents welcomed registering with the state and meeting with our supervising teacher and fellow homeschoolers through the district’s homeschool assistance program. Though I know it was a bit of a hassle each year to do the paperwork, it was worth it in their minds because they were dedicated to doing everything they could to help their kids succeed. And if there was more paperwork and supervision required, I can pretty much guarantee they still would have done it because they were dedicated to our education and development and had nothing to hide.
      Other families on the other hand… a very different story. More oversight would have been so good in several cases I witnessed growing up. Homeschooling, though positive for me, can certainly be a coverup for some really horrible situations. I say regulate, oversee, document, and supervise.

    • Rilian Sharp

      If I agree that I would not mind a bit of regulation, then maybe the regulations will turn out to be requiring abuse of the children. Probably educational abuse, maybe also emotional abuse and physical imprisonment.

      • Sally

        I don’t understand this post. It sounds like you’re saying regulation by the state/school district could require you to abuse your children. Can you please explain?

      • Rilian Sharp

        They may require me to try ti force certain subjects upon my children which would be educational abuse as it diminishes their desire and ability to learn. It would be emotional abuse because it would make them miserable to be forced to do things fish are not personally motivated to do. They would be imprisoned at least during required tests.

      • http://www.facebook.com/james.yakura James Yakura

        …things fish are not personally motivated to do? Where did fish enter into it?

      • Sally

        OK, so from my perspective you’re using hyperbole using terms like educational abuse, emotional abuse, and imprisonment when you’re referring to requiring things that most of society accepts, (not saying you should accept them). I might very well agree with you that I don’t want the very same things you don’t want, but to use such hyperbole in the context where we’re talking about real abuse think is unfortunate. It feels to me like an attempt to coopt the discussion for a personal agenda about freedom and styles of education. Nothing wrong with talking about freedom and styles of education, but it’s a shame to use a thread about children who are so terribly abused to do it, imo.

      • Rilian Sharp

        I replied to something in the post, and this is where it has led. *shrug*

      • http://twitter.com/TrollfaceMcFart Trollface McGee

        Right..because learning algebra is just like being starved and imprisoned in some gulag. No, those prisoners have it easy – they aren’t required to learn Shakespeare or do long division.
        So, instead we should all..um..motivate kids the same way we do fish, by giving them..um..clean aquariums?

      • Rilian Sharp

        Someone stealing my pencil is not “just like” someone stealing my car. But they’re both theft and they’re both wrong.

      • http://twitter.com/TrollfaceMcFart Trollface McGee

        You seem to have trouble with the idea that there are shades of grey between black and white. Yes, both are theft, no both are not legally and morally equal wrongs. But your example of schools = prison isn’t even comparing theft vs. theft, it’s like comparing being on trial with jury duty. One is a serious life matter and one is a sometimes annoying part of living in the society we live in. Our society has evolved to the point where learning by living isn’t enough to get by day to day. I’m sorry your educational experiences sucked but you know what? You can type, and use proper grammar and somewhere along the line, I’m sure a teacher is to thank for all that.

      • fiona64

        Randian nonsense. That’s all it is.

      • The_L1985

        I had to take standardized tests every year from K-8. I never thought of it as “imprisonment,” rather as “I’m going to show the state how much I’ve learned!”

        If you encourage children to think of the tests they’re taking as an opportunity to show off, rather than as “These tests affect your FUTURE and you need to do SUPER-WELL or the school loses funding/Mom can’t homeschool you anymore!!!” then they tend not to consider it “imprisonment” to take a mere ONE standardized test per year.

        And…I don’t consider it abusive to make sure that every child takes history, science, reading, mathematics, civics, and grammar. I consider it necessary so that they can understand the world in which they live.

      • Alix

        I hated standardized tests because they seemed to be stupid and a waste of time, and they bored me to tears, but I’d never have called it imprisonment. It was just part of the give-and-take of education, to me: sometimes we did really crazy interesting things, like throwing eggs off the school roof to watch how they arced, and other times we spent three hours sitting in a boring classroom doing boring tests.

        Good preparation for a job, really, or any human relationship. Sometimes, you have to do things you don’t like, because that’s how things are. *shrug* It’s not that big a deal.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        There are plenty of things I was “forced” to learn in school against my will that turned out to be things I needed to know. There are also plenty of things I was forced to learn against my will that I really didn’t need to know and that time and energy could have been much better spent on other subjects that were more inspiring and useful to me. I personally think that conventional education overvalues some skills, undervalues others and fails to respect the diversity of talents and interests among kids. This is a worthy conversation to have.

        But, sorry, being forced to learn trig in high school (totally useless to me) is not “educational abuse.” And being forced to learn double-digit subtraction in second grade (obviously rather useful in the long run) was definitely not “educational abuse.” I’m sorry, but Christine’s assessment of your views seems pretty correct–you’re saying that requiring children to learn things they do not personally enjoy is abuse. That’s just beyond absurd. As hard as those of us who care about educational reform try, we’re never going to make the educational experience pleasant for learners 100% of the time. “Unpleasant”=/=”abusive.”

      • Christine

        Sally – Rilian is a libertarian, who is of the opinion that requiring a child to do anything that they object to is abuse.

      • Rilian Sharp

        I wish you would stop trying to speak for me, because you keep getting it wrong.

      • Christine

        Rilian, you have said that before, in as many words. If it’s wrong when I say it, I fail to see how it’s correct when you say it. Can you please tell us what you do believe then?

      • AlisonCummins

        Why would you think that?

      • Speedwell

        Educational abuse, like not being allowed to teach the Bible as scientific fact. Emotional abuse, like not being allowed to teach girls that they are naturally inferior to boys, or to teach both girls and boys that their bodies are inherently sinful. Physical imprisonment, like being required to show a certain amount of time actually doing “school”.

      • Rilian Sharp

        I’m an atheist.

      • Speedwell

        Gold star for you.

        I was showing how your excuses could be used for religious abuse and by people who were copping out of schooling altogether.

      • Rilian Sharp

        “copping out of schooling altogether” is a good thing. And you spoke of all the abuse as being directed at the parents, while I was speaking of it being directed at the children.

      • Saraquill

        “Copping out of school” altogether leads to adults who do not have the means to take care of themselves.

      • deh

        How about just have the home schooled students take standardized test every year or every other year? If they score below the 15th %ile, offer them special ed. services. That is what we do in public schools.

      • Sally

        I’m not sure if you’re being facetious, but no public school child is offered special. ed. services based on one test. That’s actually not legal (or wise).

      • Christine

        Around where I live you do only need one test to get offered an IEP and at least the chance to get streamed into the appropriate special education programme.

      • The_L1985

        An IEP isn’t a guarantee you’ll end up receiving special ed services, though. The parents, and at least one medical professional, have to agree that the child has special needs.

      • Sally

        In the U.S. a medical professional is not required for all services (except the school nurse does do a medical history). For example, a learning disability is not a medical diagnosis, so a doctor doesn’t need to sign off on services. But a multi-disciplinary team from the district does, and not based on only one test. They have to do what is called a full case study. This involves multiple tests and other componants.
        I do believe it’s up to each school district as to whether or not they offer special ed. services to homeschooled kids, but if they do, they have to do a full case study first. There’s no “based on one test” special ed. placements in the U.S.

      • Christine

        Around here you need a psychologist to diagnose a learning disability, but it might be possible to get spec. ed. without a formal diagnosis.

      • Sally

        A psychologist is required in the U.S. as part of the team that determines the characteristic and recommended services. I realize a psychologist has their doctorate, but when I said “doctor” I was responding to the post suggesting all special ed. services require a medical professional signing off. A psychologist isn’t a medical professional (the way a psychiatrist is, for example). Pupil Service teams have psychologists on them, but not doctors (including psychiatrists). They can and do consider medical professional input when it’s called for, of course. Again, not all based on one test, though.

      • Christine

        Sorry for the terminology confusion. It arose partially because I couldn’t actually see anywhere that those who I more conventionally consider medical professionals would be giving input. Where does that arise?

      • Christine

        I didn’t realise you could get an IEP without the same conditions. But you’re right that the parents can screw the kid over – I know that one of my husband’s cousins never really got a good education because her parents insisted she was fine.

      • Sally

        I take it you’re not in the U.S.

      • Christine

        No, I’m not in the US. Technically you need more than one test, but how you do on the standardized tests is enough to stream you into the other testing. However, back when I was in school we only had tests twice in primary/intermediate. I think they’re up to three now (and two in high school).

      • Rilian Sharp

        The existence of successful unschoolers proves that claim wrong.

      • http://www.facebook.com/leoba.mordenvale Leoba Mordenvale

        The existence of people who don’t regard conventional education as slavery suggests you are ridiculously biased.

      • Anat

        It proves some people can do well with unschooling. By some definition of well. It does not prove unschooling would work for everyone, let alone that it works best for everyone. In fact, the mere existence of some successful unschoolers doesn’t even prove unschooling was the best thing for the successful unschoolers.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        I think what Rilian means when he says that “copping out of schooling is a good thing” is that opting out of conventional education is a good thing, not eschewing education altogether. It’s just that he seems determined to make this conversation as unproductive as possible by stating his views in vague, inflammatory terms.

      • The_L1985

        “Copping out of school altogether” is NOT a good thing. I want to know that the other adults around me are LITERATE, thankyouverymuch.

        Homeschooling is not, and should not be, “copping out of school altogether.” It should be parents and other trusted adults educating children at home. If you don’t do this the way the public schools do it, fine. But you still have to teach your children!

        Personally, I prefer use of manipulatives and illustrations over the current standard of “memorize-the-algorithm” that’s used to teach elementary-school math. So I’m totally on-board with people teaching their kids in unconventional ways. But there are things that all adults in our society are expected to know, and education–whether in public schools, private schools, or at home–is meant to ensure that everybody knows these things.

      • Rilian Sharp

        I and many other people learned to read NOT in school. School is not necessary for literacy. And anyway isn’t it like 40% of high school graduates aren’t literate?
        The reason I say just cutting school out of your life is good is because schooling is not education. Also, I don’t intend to keep my child(ren) cooped up at home, so I wouldn’t be educating them “at home”. I wouldn’t really be educating them at all, I’d just try to provide them opportunities to do and learn whatever they are interested in.

      • Conuly

        But what if they don’t want that?

      • Nancy Shrew

        What if your hypothetical child(ren) wanted to go to school?

      • Rilian Sharp

        I said, if I agreed to the idea of regulations, there might end up being regulations which are abusive to children. The examples you gave are NOT ones that are abusive to children, so therefore not what I was talking about.

      • Bez

        Rilian, here is a debating lesson for you: arguing from the slippery slope is never a good idea. Here, let me turn that around on you:

        If there are no regulations, then we may end up with a functionally illiterate generation which would cause us to regress back to the turn of the century. A time which was not nearly the “golden age” that popular media likes to paint it as.

  • mary

    yes it is tragic to see parents use homeschooling for their own selfish means. i have homeschooled for many years, and i still believe there needs to be more accountability. i have seen cases where the mom keeps having babies every year, and after some time just can’t school anymore. yet they would not ever consider regular or private school. very sad. years ago, we saw a few kids at a homeschool co-op who were in 2nd grade, yet could not even write their own names, much less read or understand math. when we met mom, she was pregnant yet again, tired, and cranky. the kids did not have learning disabilities, just a worn-out mom. sorry to ramble, but this just makes me so angry. it makes genuine homeschool families suspect. thank you.

    • jmb

      Do you teach your children punctuation & grammar?

      • Sally

        Oh come on. Posting online can have a very informal style. That doesn’t mean a person doesn’t know how to use punctuation and grammar (and be able to teach it).

        I live in an area with excellent schools. I can’t begin to tell you how many spelling, puntuation, and grammar mistakes I see in printed school material! I try to be understanding about emails (because of the informality), but those can be pretty bad, too.
        And of course I make my own number of mistakes. Don’t we all?

      • The Other Weirdo

        Informality is no excuse for willful incompetence.

  • Rilian Sharp

    “Homeschooling is attractive to parents who are tired of trying to force their children to go to school, tired of their children getting in trouble for being late or absent, and tired of being visited by truancy officers.”

    Erm, I agree that the others are bad, but I don’t see the problem with this one. It’s only bad if you assume that school is good.

    • Sally

      I also think we have to clarify whether we’re talking about kids who are of an age where they’re allowed to drop out or not. In my state, they can drop out legally at 16. Of course that’s a darn shame if they do drop out, but that’s a separate issue from claiming to be homeschooling someone who is below drop-out age. If you pull a kid out of a bad school it’s not OK to do nothing educational with them at home just because now the bar is so low (it’s no worse than the school). If you pull them out of a bad school, you’re under an obligation, as a parent, to do better.

      • Rilian Sharp

        Nah, it’s better to replace school with life.

      • Composer 99

        I disagree, quite strongly.
        A good education provides a basic body of facts and habits of research and critical thinking that you simply won’t get if you don’t devote the time and effort to learning these facts and habits and putting them into practice – time and effort that you won’t get if you just go straight into ‘life’.

        Now, in a homeschooling situation by motivated, committed parents I would expect no issues in creating the space for children to accomplish this.

        But if one is reporting one’s children as ‘homeschooled’ for no reason other than to no longer have to deal with truancy officers or hasslings from administrations over chronic absence/tardiness, without making the effort to make up for taking them out of school, then one is doing one’s children a grave disfavour.

      • Rilian Sharp

        It’s made up for just by living. It isn’t that you prepare to live and then you live. You are living from the beginning, from before birth technically. And you are always learning whatever is necessary for your own life, largely determined by your own motivations. If you try to separate learning from living, you’re just making it worse.
        It made it worse for me. It made it worse for lots of other people.

      • Sally

        I think I’m understanding where you’re coming from now, Rilian. You’re an unschooler, right? I’m not clear if you’re still under 18 and consider yourself unschooling right now, or if you’re in an adult phase of life.

        So you’re coming from a very staunch educational point of view. That’s fine, of course, but not every thread about homeschooling is about that. This one isn’t. I don’t think you intend it, but rather than sharing what can be a wonderful, inspiring lifestyle, your posts are polemic. Why not find ways to encourage people to be lifelong learners, maybe try to inspire someone to unschool their own children some day? Because while you may not intend it, you’re approach is very off-putting to unschooling, imo.

      • Sarah-Sophia

        When I was going to school I did not much care for having to learn stuff I was not interested in (which is why I dropped out of community college), but I would have never called it educational or emotional abuse, especially since I had the ability to learn about stuff I was interested in outside of school, which unfortunately a lot of people, especially those in third world countries, do not.

      • Alix_A

        It’s made up for just by living.

        No, it really, really isn’t. Reading, writing, and math do not come naturally, especially anything beyond simple arithmetic. Scientific understanding does not come naturally, or science as a dynamic field would not exist quite like it does – and science does play a huge role in people’s everyday lives. History does not come naturally, and an understanding of history allows one, at bare minimum, to learn from others’ mistakes.

        Social skills do not always come naturally, either. They didn’t for me – I had to learn them. I had to learn to read facial expressions and body language, and I am still not good at it.

        Yes, some people are naturally curious. Some people, faced with a situation where they clearly don’t have the knowledge to handle it, will seek out the knowledge they need.

        A lot won’t. A lot of people decide, when, say, faced with something like my inability to instinctively recognize expressions, that they shouldn’t have to bother with learning them, and so they bull through life and make interacting with them that much more difficult.

        Frankly, I see basic education as a social responsibility – both on the part of society to see children educated, and on the part of the people being educated to learn what they need to know to function properly.

      • Composer 99

        How, exactly, is “just by living” making up for losing out on qualifying for even the minimal requirements of a high school diploma or GED in the US?

        The statistics for people who are dropouts (or equivalent) vs people with diplomas/GEDs (whether gone to public/private schools or homeschooled) are rather stark. Yes, obviously not generally applicable to everyone, but a big problem nonetheless.

        Based on the evidence, “just by living” just isn’t working for far too many Americans.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        “And you are always learning whatever is necessary for your own life, largely determined by your own motivations.”

        So how are kids from underprivileged backgrounds in under-served areas supposed to learn about how to make DIFFERENT kinds of lives for themselves than the ones they know? How are they supposed to become motivated to learn when they have no readily available examples of what learning can make possible in their own lives?

      • Saraquill

        I’m guessing that Rillian is unfamiliar with people like Genie, or the early life of Dani Lierow.

      • http://www.facebook.com/leoba.mordenvale Leoba Mordenvale

        So in an unschooling situation, what happens when you have a child who doesn’t like reading, at all, but loves craft and cooking? Do you concentrate on the craft and cooking, and wind up with a child who can make lovely jewellery and cook a three course meal, but is functionally illiterate… or do you, oooh, MAKE the child learn to read properly, even if they don’t want to? Because you can actually learn to make jewellery and cook without learning to read.

      • guest

        A good teacher could make a child eager to read recipes or histories of food, make him/her love math by making jewelry in geometric forms, or make science interesting by studying the formation of gemstones or what happens when you heat food, etc. That’s the ideal version of homeschooling.

      • http://www.facebook.com/leoba.mordenvale Leoba Mordenvale

        Thanks for the response. I can still see problems with this approach, but I can also see how it would work.

      • Saraquill

        I strongly disagree. I would not have been able to learn coping skills and ways to adapt to my disabilities purely by going through daily life. It was through formal schooling that I got diagnosed. If it weren’t for that, I would just be considered a lazy person prone to mood swings. Instead, I know how to adapt to my circumstances, or at leas where to start.

    • Anat

      It also makes sense if teaching kids punctuality and good work habits is good. Not many people have the option to make their own schedules when they are adults.

    • AlisonCummins

      Rilian,
      Education is good. This example is parents who not only take their children out of school, they decline to provide them any other education. This educational neglect.

      • NeaDods

        You’re never going to convince Rilian, who resents still being a student.

      • Rilian Sharp

        I’m not in government school anymore. Of course I resent having been a slave.

      • Saraquill

        Your flippant use of the word slave is disgusting.

      • Rilian Sharp

        You just don’t acknowledge it for what it is. It’s not as bad as the slavery we usually associate that word with, but it IS slavery, being treated as an object rather than a person and being kept prisoner and being forced to do work (paperwork, chores) against your will.

      • http://www.facebook.com/leoba.mordenvale Leoba Mordenvale

        ” being forced to do work (paperwork, chores) against your will.”
        Oh come on. There are very, very few people who LIKE doing chores. I’m currently taking a break from mowing my lawn. I hate mowing the lawn. But if I don’t mow the lawn, I can’t get out my back door. I also have to hang out the washing, a really boring task. If I don’t wash my clothes, towels and sheets, I run out of clean things to use.
        I hated doing chores as a child. I used to whine about it all the time. But you know what? It meant I knew how to operate a washing machine, how to clean a kitchen, how to cook, when I left my parent’s house. These “life skills” you put so much emphasis on.

      • Nancy Shrew

        Homework and chores are akin to slave labor? Are you fucking kidding me?

      • Bez

        If you really think that doing chores and having to go to school are slavery, you are in for a HUGE shock when/if you actually get to the real world. It’s cool, though, you’ll either grow up and adapt or you’ll have a very miserable life. I can only hope that you don’t drag anyone else down with you.

      • The_L1985

        Wow, what a sickening ad-hominem attack. Schools are not slave drivers!

        As an educator, I assure you that forcing kids to spend their days in drudgery is the LAST thing I want to do. Either you went to a school with VERY bad teachers, or you are remembering things very, very wrong.

      • Rilian Sharp

        Ad-hominem attack? Against schooling?
        The kids are being held against their will and forced to do work. Slavery.
        I don’t think that teachers are evil. They get into teaching because they want to help. But, yeah, school is usually drudgery, to put it mildly.

      • Anat

        So is requiring a kid to wash the dishes and fold laundry slavery?

      • Rilian Sharp

        Also, that’s an ad-hominem argument.

      • jmb

        No, it isn’t. You didn’t even learn what an ad hom argument is, from “life.” Logic FAIL.

      • Rilian Sharp

        Nea is saying that I argue what I argue because I “resent” being in school. That is attacking the person rather than the argument. That is an ad-hominem. And I WENT TO GOVERNMENT SCHOOL. So if you think I’m stupid, blame them.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Dude, come the hell on. No matter how much contempt you have for public school education–much of which I will be the first to say is justified–getting into trouble and being chronically truant are not good things or any kind of solution. Most kids who ditch school a lot are not doing it so they can dedicate the time to self-teaching the viola da gamba or whatever is going on in your fantasies.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        oops, sorry! This should have been a response to Rilian.

      • Conuly

        Well, at least you replied to somebody who might actually read your response.

  • Bez

    I had an aunt that “homeschooled” 2 of her 5 children. Not only did she not actually homeschool, she used it as an excuse to neglect all of her children by foisting them off onto the oldest (the first one being “homeschooled). Her third child was also homeschooled, because her abusive husband picked her as the one he wanted to pick on. Needless to say, both of her homeschooled ones ended up more than a bit damaged and stunted educationally. The younger girl is the more heart-breaking of the 2, however, as she suffered physical abuse for a number of years due to being hidden.

    As an aside, my family is not particularly close, so we didn’t really know what was going on with them for awhile. It took the oldest boy calling me to finally shine some light on the situation, and only because something had happened and he didn’t know what to do. Once we found out, my dad (one of the few good and honorable things I can recall him doing) gathered up his brother and I to go over to her house for a little …chat. It should be noted that my dad was fairly abusive as well, and that he had raised these particular siblings of his. The gist of the conversation was that her husband was to be gone and that the kids were to be enrolled in school no matter what. The alternative being that DCS would be called and the adult males in the family would split her kids up until she got her act together.

  • deh

    Public schools have also figured out that homeschool is a way to get rid of students that are really dropouts without counting them as dropouts.

  • Schaden Freud

    I can see the appeal of homeschooling for neglectful parents. It can involve almost no effort on the parents’ part if that’s how they want to do it. I know my mum got into unschooling because it meant she didn’t have to do anything, or even see me at all outside mealtimes (a good outcome for both of us, since it was becoming increasingly clear that we didn’t like each other). Now, she certainly didnt think she was being neglectful and wouldn’t have done it if she thought it was neglect, but the unschooling philosophy allowed her to rationalize what she was doing. I suspect the state would have used the phrase “educational neglect”. It makes me a bit angry these days when she takes the credit for my subsequent educational and career success. If it had been left up to her I’d have no qualifications and no future.

    • Sally

      I hear you! Sounds like you weren’t even unschooled, you were “not schooled.”
      Libby Anne, if you’re still reading this long thread, I’d love to be able to discuss how homeschoolers protect unschoolers as kind of a buffer for freedoms, but that there are unschoolers who are really “not schoolers,” shall we say.
      It’s really a topic that is different than this thread, I think, but might be a worthy one. Just a thought.

  • Rilian Sharp

    I’m just saying, stop trying to force me to do things I don’t want to do. If you have a problem with freedom, then you’re pro-slavery, at least a little bit of slavery. If you don’t have 100% freedom, then you have some percentage slavery. Ie, people being made to live and work for others. The key word being “made”. If they choose it, it’s fine.

    • The Other Weirdo

      So, how would you organize society, from childhood through to adulthood?

    • http://www.facebook.com/leoba.mordenvale Leoba Mordenvale

      (used to post as Christine in Australia)
      Rilian, there are many, many laws and regulations that “force people to do things they don’t want to do,” and I *like* that. I like living in a country where strict gun control laws prevent people from owning high powered weapons. I like living in a country with speed limits and strict drink driving controls, because it means I’m less likely to get killed when I drive my car. Come to think of it, I like living in a country where people are forced to demonstrate a certain competence before driving a car.
      And I like living in a country which has strong government regulation of education, because it means fewer people who are completely useless.

    • Alix

      I’m just saying, a functional society requires that people do things they don’t want to do at least sometimes.

    • guest

      If you expect to live your life without ever having to do anything you don’t want to do, you must think it’s OK for other people to have to do what they don’t want to do to make that possible for you. (I have a hard time believing you’re so incredibly charismatic, grateful, or uniquely valuable to humankind that others are competing to offer you goods, services and money for just being your own special self.)

    • Composer 99

      If you have a problem with freedom, then you’re pro-slavery, at least a little bit of slavery. If you don’t have 100% freedom, then you have some percentage slavery.

      I don’t believe there is any coherent response to this except: screw this! But I will try.
      You better believe I have a problem with people who decide they are ‘free’ to pollute the air, water, soil, and biosphere.
      You better believe I have a problem with people who decide they are ‘free’ to make free with other people’s life savings with cooked-up investment products based on dodgy mathematics and dodgier assumptions of human behaviour.
      You better believe I have a problem with people who decide they are ‘free’ to define reality as they see fit, however badly their imagination matches the real McCoy, and then go around mucking up politics, education, and general society based on their ill-conceived bubble reality.
      You better believe I have a problem with people who decide they are ‘free’ to fail to develop a broad spectrum of knowledge and critical thinking, then to get taken in by quacks, cranks, and frauds.

      And if you try to tell me that making it so that:
      - polluters either can’t pollute or have to pay to clean it up
      - half-baked ‘get rich quick’ schemes that wreak havoc on the day-to-day economy of ordinary people are out of the picture
      - people operating on false realities can’t impose their folly on others
      - people have to learn more than ‘just enough to get along’
      is “for slavery” then I believe the only appropriate response is really, really rude.

    • David S.

      That’s an argument from rhetoric. My only answer is “So?”. If you want to define any regulation, any limitation as slavery, then I can only say that I wouldn’t not want to live in a world without your form of slavery.

  • fiona64

    In my experience, the people who rush to homeschool their kids a) do so for reasons of extreme religiosity and not wanting to “expose their kids to the wrong ideas” (like, you know, critical thinking) and b) are supremely *unqualified* to teach. I had not considered the attraction of “homeschooling” to abusers, but it is true that teachers are mandatory reporters — and homeschooling keeps victims close to hand. Sad all the way around.

  • rae

    I used to believe as well that only the most dedicated and loving and involved parents would homeschool because it takes work. Now that I have had three kids and all three are almost preschool age, I am SO wanting to homeschool for the sole reason that I am lazy! It’s so much easier to have no accountability, no schedules, no (future) homework that you HAVE to help them with or face the teacher. If your kids are learning things you don’t want them to at school it is more work to re-teach them than to shield them from those things in the first place. Homeschooling can easily be the less involved and more lazy option, there is no inherent reason that makes it the more dedicated and involved option.

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  • Rachel Heston-Davis

    Um, yeah…no. The idea that homeschooling parents can’t possibly be abusive is an argument that even homeschoolers can see through! I had a boyfriend who was homeschooled (by a normal, well-adjusted family). I remember him telling me once (this was years ago, before this issue had become big in the public eye) that there are many reasons a parent might choose to homeschool, and unfortunately, hiding abuse was one of them. He said that in a HS co-op group, it “wasn’t hard to tell” which families were homeschooling due to abuse and neglect.

    He was a teenager when he said this, and was from a conservative family that really believed in homeschooling. If even people in that environment can tell that not all HS parents are good parents, then no one else has any excuse to believe that, in my opinion.

    Now, had I had this conversation today, I probably would have asked him why, if it was so obvious, didn’t other HS co-op parents try to intervene…but sadly, I missed my chance to have that very interesting (and probably disheartening) conversation.

    • Rachel Heston-Davis

      Also I’d probably take issue with his belief that it was NEVER difficult to spot child abuse. I’m sure sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.