Homeschool Victim Blaming

Yesterday I posted about a young woman I know—Sarah—who was homeschooled, and wasn’t taught science. She credited her mother’s failure to cover science as part of her homeschool education to the lack of accountability for homeschoolers in her state—a state with no oversight of homeschoolers whatsoever. Here is what one of the commenters—a homeschool parent—had to say in the comments section of that post:

There’s no reason an adult, such as this young woman, cannot self educate herself in science or any other subject, that she feels she is laking. She needs to recognize that “parent blaming” will not allow her to grow as a person. Does she even use science in the world she finds herself in? What about the accountability of herself to do something about what she feels she missed out on?

And:

If she had a passion for science, she would know it. When our kids are passionate about things, they ask a million questions, they research, they experiment, they explore. A person chooses how involved they want to be in their own educational awareness, and of their lives. She seems to be looking for someone to blame. Did she ask her mother to do some science, did she pursue the subject at the library, did she ask a million questions? Or any?

First, how can someone know they have a passion for a subject unless they have exposure to it? This is why public schools try to offer students a broad overview of a variety of subjects—so that students can gain a basic working knowledge in a breadth of subjects and learn what it is they enjoy. Believe it or note, people don’t automatically know what they do and do not like without trying thing.

Second, a child of eight or fourteen is not old enough to know what she does or does not need to know for life, and she’s also not old enough to be responsible for teaching herself each subject. There is a reason that children are not independent and allowed to make all of their own decisions in life, and that is because they are not yet prepared for that responsibility. Just as parents should not limit children’s freedom arbitrarily, even so there are times when parents must limit children’s freedom in fulfillment of their parental responsibilities—and times when parents must provide direction and structure.

As I’ve talked about in earlier posts, parents have a responsibility to bring their children to their majority prepared to be a responsible and independent adult. Part of that is education. Most parents fulfill this responsibility by sending their children to school and then making sure they do their homework and study. Homeschool parents fulfill this responsibility by teaching their children themselves. But that responsibility is there either way, and parents who shirk that responsibility are violating children’s right to an education.

Third, the homeschool parent who left those comments is engaging in victim blaming. Rather than admitting that yes, Sarah’s mother should have taught her science, she is instead blaming Sarah for not teaching herself or at the very least for not nagging her mother to teach her. This goes back to what I said earlier—as a child and even as a teen, Sarah wasn’t mature enough to have the responsibility for educating herself or for making sure her mother educated her. That was Sarah’s mother’s responsibility, a responsibility she took on when she chose to have a child.

Ever since Homeschoolers Anonymous got off the ground, some homeschool parents have responded by saying that people like Sarah, who dare to off criticism of their homeschool experience, are bitter, or engaging in parent blaming, and that they need to just move on with their lives. These sorts of statements are attempts at silencing people. They also miss the point—if we talk about our experiences we engage in healing and help others, who may have felt alone, heal as well, and if we talk about our experiences maybe we can work toward change, change that will ensure that future homeschooled children will have better experiences. And I’m not just talking about oversight, either, I’m also talking about prospective homeschool parents learning from the mistakes of previous homeschool parents.

The interesting thing is that even as homeschool parents like the one quoted here blame homeschooled children like Sarah for their limited educational experiences, they would never blame a public school student’s academic failure on the student rather than on the school or the teachers. They would never say “that student should just have taken some initiative and taught herself.” They would never say “the problem isn’t the public schools, it’s kids who don’t ask their teachers to teach them and kids who don’t study hard on their own.” Nope. Apparently the public schools have all the responsibility while homeschool parents have none.

As for me, I reject this logic and I refuse to be silenced.

HSLDA on those "Radically Atheistic" Public Schools
The Latest Threat to Homeschooling---a Citizenship Test
Homeschooling Parents Dismiss Alumni Voices Again
A Letter from Jesus and Living in Fear
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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