Dear Abby Responds to an Isolated Homeschooler

Here is an installment in Dear Abby column from last week:

DEAR ABBY: I’m a 16-year-old girl. I am home-schooled with one friend. I’m lonely, sad, mad and depressed. I have always wanted to go to a real school, but it’s not an option for me. My parents are against it.

I am always lonely. I don’t know where to turn. I want to meet new people, but I don’t know how, or if my parents will let me do new things. I have been cutting myself for more than a year and have lost all motivation to do my schoolwork. I feel lost. Please help me. — SAD, MAD AND DEPRESSED IN BOZEMAN, MONT.

DEAR SAD, MAD AND DEPRESSED: Most parents who home-school make sure their children are exposed to activities within the community to ensure they engage with people of all ages. They participate in scouting, 4-H, sports, field trips, etc.

That you cut yourself to distract yourself from the pain of your isolation is serious. If you have a family doctor, please bring this up with him or her so you can receive the help you need to quit.

I’m sure your parents love you and want to protect you, but they appear to be doing it too diligently. At 16, you should be learning to interact with others your age. If you have a relative you trust or feel close to, I’m urging you to talk to that person about this. Perhaps your parents will accept the message from another adult.

What do you think? How did Dear Abby do at answering? What would you add?

There is one thing that sticks out at me: Why did Dear Abby have to start by saying that most homeschool parents make sure their children participate in a variety of activities? Clearly, the writer’s parents don’t, or at least don’t have her participate in enough activities to satisfy her need for a social life. So why start with this statement? I guess I feel like it would be like starting the response to a letter from an abused wife with “Most husbands don’t hit their wives or threaten to take away their wives’ credit cards. Most husbands are kind, gentle, and caring.” Who would do that? No one! So why do it here?

Voddie Baucham, Daughters, and “Virgin Brides”
I Co-sleep, But: Some Thoughts on Attachment Parenting
HSLDA on those “Radically Atheistic” Public Schools
The Latest Threat to Homeschooling—a Citizenship Test
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.

  • Jayn

    Based on some of the responses to other homeschooling threads, I’ve been starting to wonder about the types of activities that HS children take part in, and if they’re necessarily good for making friends. I think that more structured activities leave less room for this to happen–the DnD group I take part in hasn’t yielded good results on that front. Part of it is that the group is rather fluid, but most of the interaction takes place in the context of the game, so even though I’m meeting other people, I’m not getting a good chance to know them even if they are regulars. Compare this to the trading card leagues I took part in in high school–while there was structure to the activity, there was also a lot of free time to chat with other people and get to know them between games, and I made some good friends that way.There’s a difference between meeting and interacting with people, and getting to know them in a way that would lead to actual friendships.

    • KB

      I don’t think I made any friends from homeschool events. I remember lots of awkward conversation with kids who didn’t know how to talk to other people, and I remember hanging out with friends who I already knew from non-homeschool circles, but I don’t remember making new friends at those events. Maybe some kids do make friends that way but I know I didn’t.

      • Brightie

        I made a couple, but the credit doesn’t necessarily go to the programs we engaged in… One of the best friends I have today I made because we were both sitting out of the same game in a gym time. Can’t remember if we were just allowed to opt out and the game didn’t look appealing, or if we were both not picked for the team.

    • Alice

      Absolutely. The large majority of my “social time” growing up was at church, and my parents always rushed in and out, so there was very little unstructured time. Also, researchers have found that unstructured play is very important for child development, and I think most children need more of it, whether they are in public school, home-school, or private school. That is one of the main things that was positive about my home-school experience. My parents realized unstructured play was important, and I had more time to do it than most kids. Now it was by myself instead of with other kids, but it was still very beneficial. All four types have their place.

      • The_L1985

        This is also why I cringe when I hear about kids whose entire waking lives consist of structured extra-curriculars–even if the kid likes all that stuff, there isn’t enough time left over for spontaneous fun.

  • GreenEyedLilo

    You know homeschoolers of all stripes would be up in her and the papers who publish her’s face if she didn’t. It’s sad she had to include that, but I understand why.

    I think otherwise, it’s fairly solid advice. I think “Abby” understands they won’t listen to the girl herself, or will put her in a fresh new hell if she tries to talk to them by herself. I do wish “Abby” had given her more options.

  • victoria

    Could the reason she included that have been to confirm the LW’s intuition that the way her parents treat her isn’t, in fact, normal and common?

    • tsara

      She could have phrased it that way, then. To me, the way it’s written reads as though she suspect that the LW’s parents fall under the category of ‘most parents’, and that the LW’s just misinterpreting their behaviour.

      • kisarita

        i thought so its that it shouldn’t be perceived as “anti homeschooling”

  • Goatless

    One thing that gets me, other than how she started, was the suggestion of talking to a family doctor. Depending on how long they’ve been going to that doctor or the doctor’s closeness to the family going to somebody you’ve known for most of your life about something like self-harming can be absolutely terrifying. You worry they’ll judge you, that they’ll tell your parents (regardless of whether they are legally allowed to), that they won’t be understanding etc.

    Depending on her situation she might not even be able to get to the doctor without her parents knowledge. “I need to go to the doctor but I don’t want to tell you why” does not generally go down well, or brings the most terrifying scenarios to mind.

    There are other resources I’m sure which could provide support which may be more anonymous or provided by people closer to the writer in age with whom she might feel more comfortable sharing.

    • Aeryl

      Yes, my mother worked with our family doctor in a professional setting, so when I was younger, there was no way I was ever discussing something I didn’t want my mother to know with him.

    • The_L1985

      When I was an underage teen, my psychologist shared details of our meetings with my parents. It wasn’t until I mentioned this in the comments of this very blog that I learned this wasn’t legally or morally acceptable practice. Most kids just assume “Until I’m 18, the doctor will tell my parents everything.”

      • smrnda

        This caused me massive problems since my parents *sent* me to a psychiatrist, who would have blabbed everything. Worst was that a lot of my problems were *because of* my parents, but if I’d said so, the doctor would have sided with them and not me.

        My mental health didn’t improve until I moved out and was on my own.

      • kisarita

        i observed my brother pressuring his little boy to tell him what they discussed with the school psychologist.

      • Ms_Morlowe

        It depends on what the details are: regular details should not be shared, but psychologists are obligated to tell a minor’s parents if they feel that they are a danger to themselves or others. So suicidal ideation, eating disorders, etc, will be shared with parents. (In my experience, anyway)

      • The_L1985

        If the psychologist had limited his sharing to that sort of thing, I wouldn’t be so touchy about the topic of psychotherapy today. This was rather personal stuff that my parents did NOT need to know.

  • Trollface McGee

    I’d kind of be worried about that “talk to your family doctor” bit. Self-injury is very misunderstood by huge swaths of society and if the family doctor is a “good Christian” it might do more harm than good. I think I’d advise to talk to a doctor if they feel safe enough to, if not she should have at least listed some online resources or something.

    • Machintelligence

      Doctors and most health care professionals are under legal requirements to report child abuse in most states. Isolation to a degree that causes stress resulting in self injury would probably qualify. If that doesn’t work she could probably call herself.

      • Trollface McGee

        I agree to a point – that kind of isolation coupled with depression, family that doesn’t seem concerned with her physical/mental health is probably the major factor in the self-injury and could be considered neglect.

        My main concern is with the response of the doctor. S/he could be great, helpful, etc. Or it could be awful. A lot of doctors are very judgemental about things like SI, or treat it like drug abuse (with the lovely “tough love” approach in some cases) which can work for some and be awful for others. Depending on the doctor and the person, it may be more helpful for her to access help or at least get support on her own and there are a lot of resources out there and I really wish she’d have listed even a few.

      • Melissa_PermissionToLive

        Yeah, not always helpful. My family Dr growing up was a fundamentalist homeopathic who was basically a tool for my parents to control us even more. When my sister tested as severely stressed (fried adrenal gland, very high white blood cell count) he told her that her health was suffering because she was in rebellion!

      • Marie

        How awful :(

    • Semipermeable

      If she has a regular family doctor, some of my homeschool friends had issues going to college because their families used ‘faith healers’ and they didn’t have much of a medical record or the required immunizations.

  • lana hobbs

    ‘most parents’… that bugged me, too. but maybe she was trying to say ‘this is what should be the case’ to an isolated child who is probably heavily indoctrinated if not brainwashed,, what should be – what a healthy family is like – is not always obvious.

  • Yamikuronue

    I suspect, perhaps too charitably, that the first paragraph was meant to encourage the teen to speak to her parents about possibly taking up those activities. It should have been state explicitly, but that might be a constructive suggestion: “ask your parents if you can join scouts” or something.

  • Gillianren

    Yeah, she definitely didn’t want the mail she’d be getting from half the homeschooling parents out there if she didn’t make it perfectly clear that this situation isn’t normal.

    However, I don’t think a teenager in this situation necessarily has an adult who will speak up for her and to whom the parents will listen. The parents may not even have a family doctor, and if they do, what are the odds the kid can get an appointment without explaining why to her parents? If the kid is this isolated, odds are pretty good their pastor won’t be supportive of the idea of the kid’s going to public school. There might be relatives, but there is no guarantee. This is the problem–there is no one to speak for this kid, and I’m sure that, if the parents read Dear Abby, they will think, “This can’t be about us!”

    • onamission5

      My first thought, too, was that this girl many not even have a family doctor, or have a doctor who falls outside of her parents’ circle of control, and if she does, what is the likelihood that her parents allow her to be in the examination room alone? Not high.

      • Gillianren

        Right; a doctor who would insist on it is probably not a doctor that isolationist parents would let a kid see.

      • kisarita

        most teens are examined alone, it should alert a health care provider if a parent insists on being present for the exam. even a male provider often has a female staff member act as chaperone for female clients.

      • onamission5

        That’s assuming a typical dynamic between the parents and the doctor, and that the doctor is a separate entity from the parents. If the parents are highly controlling, the likelihood that they specifically and deliberately chose a doctor who shares their belief system is quite high. What ‘most’ doctors do, what ‘should’ happen at ‘most’ doctors’ offices, that’s not what we’re proposing here.

  • luckducky

    I thought this was really inadequate… but was at a loss for what else to add. Of course, a lot depends on how much autonomy she actually has. Is she a Homeschoolers Anonymous horror story and her every contact with the outside world is heavily monitored and circumscribed? Or is she more or less run-of-the-mill Christian homeschooler whose parents underestimate the importance of socialization and possibly have limited homeschool network opportunities? She probably wouldn’t know but she also didn’t give much information to indicate whether her isolation is a result of ignorance/neglect of opportunities or a result of far more deliberate (abusive) choices.

    I would encourage her to seek out sympathetic adults OUTSIDE of her parents’ circle — a librarian or at a youth program and I would suggest that she contact a nonprofit social service agency. I’ve worked with Lutheran Family & Children for years and their social workers provide counseling on a sliding scale, refer for additional services as necessary, and are more than competent at determining whether DFS or police need to be involved. Of course, those suggestions are predicated on her having a degree of autonomy — access to a computer, private email, unsupervised time at the library, the potential that she could “run an errand” and stop by a social service agency or youth program unattended. Without that autonomy, DFS is probably the only viable alternative and probably merited too.

  • Hopewell

    I think she’s simply clueless of this subculture

  • AAAtheist


    I’m not sure Abby is aware of the problems many homeschooled students face with socialization as you’ve detailed in your blog.

    Abby also assumes that the 16-year old’s parents have her best interests at heart, which I don’t think she’s in a position to establish. Abby’s response should have included at least one reference on how to get help for self-harming, such as the following:

    Seeking solutions to self-injury

  • tsara

    I would have at least provided information on where to look for things like suicide hotlines, CPS phone numbers, and solid mental health information, plus a few scripts for talking to her parents about her social situation in the event that she feels that they would, actually, listen.

    • MoseyM

      Yes, this! Some practical advice, not this vaguey vagueness about talking to “someone” (who?? she’s isolated!).

      I also found the advice to “talk to her doctor” frustrating. Yes, it’s good to encourage teens to talk to their doctors, but teens have virtually no power over who they see, when they see them and IF they see them at all. And plenty of doctors are in a rush or too imposing to invite such a vulnerable revelation; of the doctors who are good listeners, they will probably refer her to psychiatrist, and the parents will likely not pursue that. Not to mention, an isolated teen likely has no idea if she can talk to her doctor privately without her parents knowing.

      So yes, I agree that phone numbers and websites would have been an obvious place to start with the advice.

  • MyOwnPerson

    The response was a bit weak. I’ll give her points for choosing it for publishing though. Even with the “most parents” disclaimer she’ll probably get a lot of backlash from defensive homeschool parents.

  • trinity91

    I think messages like what Abby started out with are important because they make it clear that the person in question is not dealing with a normal or typical situation, ie there is something wrong and it needs to be addressed. To me that sort of statement comes across as validating the experiences of the abused person

    • The_L1985

      Especially since she follows up with “That’s clearly not the case in your situation.” I feel that Abby made two points quite admirably:

      1. Homeschooling doesn’t automatically imply dangerous degrees of isolation.

      2. Dangerous/abusive levels of isolation are happening to this girl, and therefore do happen.

    • Christine

      It also states that “these are important things, that your parents should be doing”, rather than just “well your in an odd situation, so here’s help you need”.

      • trinity91

        exactly. I felt like to did a decent job of making it clear to the lw that she needs to seek out help, from multiple different people if necessary.

    • Kagi Soracia

      Clearly I should read the comments before replying, lol. Yes, this.

  • Lynn Grey

    It sounded to me like Dear Abby knows what a touchy subject this is in homeschooling and doesn’t want a bunch of angry parents writing in, defending how they do it the right way. Whatever the reason, the first sentence definitely came off as a statement meant to protect the image of homeschooling.

    • Alice

      Yeah, that was the impression I got. That is the disclaimer I heard several times over the years, from my therapist, youth minister, and several other adults. They weren’t just concerned about angering the parents, but the children also since it is such a touchy subject. Hell hath no fury like a fundamentalist home-school parent/child scorned. However, I am completely open to the possibilities other comments have suggested.

  • Chimako

    I think her first statment was meant as validation to the 16 yr old that it’s okay that they feel cheated/lonely in their homeschool experience since it appears their parents aren’t doing it “right”.

  • Caitlin

    I disagree about the way she starts her answer. I think she’s trying to point out that the girl’s parents are not normal. While I might not start a response to an abused woman as you stated, that also seems like it would be pointing out that the husband’s behavior was not acceptable–most men don’t hit their wives, so this is not something you should tolerate or think of as normal.

    • Sally

      I agree. Over the years I have seen and participated in threads on a forum I frequent where someone posts describing their husband’s behavior and asks what they should do. The person is distressed and yet needs to actually hear that this is not normal. I do think it’s a valid way to respond to someone in either of these situations.

      • Rilian Sharp

        Caitlin replied to Caitlin?

      • Jayn

        Discus screws up with names sometimes. Try refreshing the page.

  • Rilian Sharp

    At first I was afraid she was going to deny that the problem could really be as the person was saying. “No, parents don’t do that.”

  • smrnda

    If I had to give advice, I’d probably not be so optimistic. This kid is screwed until she can leave the house, and then probably afterwards since unless she submits to her parents’ every whim they’ll cut off all support. She’s socially disconnected so she can’t really rely on anyone else once she’s 18, and she’ll be at a disadvantage of knowing fewer people, not really knowing how a lot of things work, and possibly being really emotionally and psychologically distressed.

    • Feminerd

      The Dear Abby advice writer probably doesn’t understand just how isolated she might be, though. I would have had no idea if I hadn’t read LJF first- that sort of thing is just so far outside of anything I’ve ever dealt with. It really is a very minor subculture in the US, and because they usually interact mostly with their own, the vast majority of people don’t understand how possible it is to truly isolate your kids.

      • Alice

        Yes, and there are also plenty of home-school families who don’t understand. When the socialization discussion comes up, some families who are involved in a lot of social activities talk about how many kids are in their groups, how all the home-schoolers they know are well-socialized*, but that is just the point! The isolated kids are /invisible/. Fewer people will see them, and even fewer will know them well enough to know how isolated they are.

        *As Libby Anne has written before, there are three different aspects to socialization, and sometimes parents do not realize there is a problem, but there are plenty of home-schoolers who are truly well-socialized.

  • Rachel Heston-Davis

    Maybe she was trying to assure the girl that her parents’ behavior should not be considered “normal” or “okay” or “just the way everyone does it.” Maybe she was giving the girl permission to see the behavior as bad.

  • Amethyst Marie

    “I guess I feel like it would be like starting the response to a letter from an abused wife with “Most husbands don’t hit their wives or threaten to take away their wives’ credit cards. Most husbands are kind, gentle, and caring.” Who would do that? No one! So why do it here?”

    This might actually be helpful if the abused wife has honestly forgotten or never knew in the first place that her husband’s behavior was abnormal. It happens.

  • Amethyst Marie

    This is what a friend of mine, who was in a similar situation, said she would reply to the letter-writer:

    “If I could tell you one thing, it is that if you feel the need to do that, your parents (and any other passive family/church) are doing something very, very wrong. It is right to need friends and grow as a person, and you should not listen to ANYONE who says that it doesn’t matter that much, or that your parents mean well. Cutting is often linked to very complicated and neglected pain. So you will need to determine for yourself what you feel the exact root of the cutting is, and then go from there to stop it, as you feel comfortable. But I hope you can be safe, and figure it out soon, because it can be a very dangerous habit. There are a lot of adults out there who would never treat you like you are being treated now, and would think it very abnormal. There are families, communities, and churches who let their young people be very free, and that’s the way it should be.

    To sum up – DON’T LISTEN to anyone who blames you if they find out about you cutting yourself, because it is not your fault you felt driven to it. You have a lot of people out there rooting for you to figure it out as fast as you can, because they want you to be safe. Remember what we believe – you deserve to have the things you want. I know it may seem like your youth is disappearing very fast, and you don’t have much time left to be a young girl, and that nobody cares whether you get that or not. Believe me, you have so much youth left, for years and years and years. Cling fast to all of your dreams and young feelings, because they are who you really are.”

  • persephone

    The current Dear Abby is an idiot. She has lived her life in an ivory tower, without a clue about the real world. I don’t even read her anymore. Dear Prudence on Slate is much better.

    • Christine

      Most of the time Dear Prudence is a lot better. But when she misses the mark she misses big time. I find her narrow-minded and arbitrary insistence that things not done the way she feels best are wrong to be more annoying than Abby’s, because she says that narrow minded insistence that things be done one way is wrong.

      • persephone

        I’ve had a couple disagreements with her, but she takes more of a real world stance on most issues.

    • victoria

      Team Carolyn Hax! (though I like Dear Prudence too).

    • tsara

      Team Captain Awkward!

    • Brian

      Team Cara Carabowditbowdit!

  • Kagi Soracia

    “Why do that here?” — Speaking as a homeschooler who has been in the same situation as that girl, I didn’t feel like that opening was hmm, dismissive or whatever. It seemed more like an admission or validation that ‘hey, yes, your experience is (or should be) atypical and wrong, the fact that you are angry and hurting is okay because something is wrong in the way you are being treated.’ That can be a powerful thing, I don’t think it was necessarily out of place here, but it might have been phrased better.

  • Physeter

    RE: “Why did Dear Abby have to start by saying that most homeschool parents
    make sure their children participate in a variety of activities?”

    I read that as if Abby was telling the kid what her parents are doing is NOT NORMAL. Being homeschooled shouldn’t have to mean total isolation, and if it does for this girl, the parents are doing something wrong, Abby is saying.
    I think depending on the situation, some people WOULD say what you said to an abused woman. “No, actually most men don’t hit their wives. No, most wives don’t have to get permission to do what you want to do. No, this situation you’re in is not normal. It’s not just the way things are. It’s not good enough. It’s not okay.”

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Interesting…that’s an interpretation I didn’t think of.

  • VollyfromtheBlog

    I don’t think Jeanne Phillips has the slightest idea of how certain pockets of the homeschooling public think. Her late aunt Esther (“Ann Landers”) was much more widely read, especially in the latter half of her career, but Pauline Phillips (the late “Dear Abby”) and her daughter who now fill the role, consistently give generic answers that reflect a conventional middle-class upbringing. She doesn’t get the fringes that exist in the 21st century and would fall over from shock if she got a full understanding. I’ll bet she’s never read QuiverFull or any of the related blogs. And yet she is considered the standard-bearer for advice columnists. A shame.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      To be fair, this is subculture that most people don’t know much about, including people who are generally quite well-informed. I’ve always tried hard to be a well-informed person. I travel, I read a lot, I make a lot of effort to keep up with what’s going on and learn about lifestyles and subcultures that are not my own, including the subculture of the US Religious Right. But until recently, when Libby started writing extensively about homeschooling abuse issues and I met some people who had experienced them personally, I never would have guessed that homeschooling had such a sinister side or that it was so poorly regulated. I would not have read this girl’s letter the same way I do now, or have fathomed that the stakes could potentially be so high for her.

      If anything, this just demonstrates how much more work there is to be done to raise awareness of the experiences of children in abusive/extremely isolated homeschooling situations and how little recourse there currently is for so many of them. I think that work is really just starting to take off, thanks to Libby and others but it doesn’t surprise me at all that it hasn’t reached a lot of people yet.

    • Naomi

      Yeah. I feel like we should note that this is the “phoning it in from Mars” zombie Abby, not the original. Jeanne gives mostly terrible advice.

  • Healthily Homeschooled

    Dear Abby started the way she did because she didn’t want to alienate anyone. You don’t influence people by attributing malicious (or ignorant) intent to them or their loved ones (parents in this case).

    Libby, as an ex conservative Christian, I’ve found most of your posts a breath of fresh air. It has been very healing for me to read your blog and see that I’m not alone. But as someone who was home schooled healthily by for all of elementary school by parents who didn’t register with the state, I’ve been on the fence about your opinions about home school. You definitely have some valid points, but sometimes you seem to be going a bit overboard. This is definitely one of those times.

    Home schooling is not all bad, so your comparison to abused wives is not valid. I feel bad for inappropriately home schooled children too, but you need to lighten up a little bit.

    • Anat

      Libby Anne never said homeschooling was all bad. The comparison was between a homeschooling situation where the child was extremely isolated and spousal abuse, not between homeschooling in general and spousal abuse.

      • Sally


    • luckyducky

      I think there are 2 separate issues:

      (1) I’ve never read Libby Anne as saying that all homeschooling is abusive just that homeschooling, particularly homeschooling without any sort of accountability, makes children very vulnerable to abuse. It may seem as if she is saying the former because, in order to make her point, she has highlighted cases of neglect and abuse. Her argument is that even if these stories are not representative, if they are extreme, there are enough people who use homeschooling as means to abuse their children and the consequences are so profound, that the risk outweighs individual parents’ desire to be accountable to no one.

      (2) I’ve read Libby Anne as saying it is difficult to do homeschooling really well. No matter how we are educated, one can find faults or holes; the question is what trade-offs are you making. In the case of homeschooling, particularly without accountability, it is very difficult to say what individuals are gaining (short of cases where the other option is a disastrous public school*) in exchange for what they sacrifice.

      • Healthily Homeschooled

        (1) Yes, the abuse consequences are profound, but I’m not sure that the risk outweighs the other concerns, because…

        (2) I can tell you very clearly what I gained. I was able to travel a lot with my parents and expand my world view. I was able to put significant time and energy into extracurricular activities that I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. I was able to pursue my academic passions at my own pace, which happened to be much more quickly than I would have been able to do in school.

        So, back to #1…when you systematize things, you lose a lot of this. It can be very difficult to see what you’re losing. We have already seen this theme played out in the case of No Child Left Behind. You start with the good intention of wanting to ensure that all children learn a core set of knowledge. You end up with a horrible system that is (from everything I’ve heard) almost universally reviled and has had very real negative effects.

        So does the risk outweigh the cost of the solution? I don’t know. But if you claim it does, then you must do it while addressing these issues.

    • Amethyst Marie

      Not all wives are abused. That was the point of her comparison.

    • Libby Anne

      I don’t compare homeschooling to being an abused wife. I compare it to marriage — most husbands are great, but some are abusive. I would say the same of homeschooling — most homeschool parents are great, but some are abusive.

      • Healthily Homeschooled

        Ahh, yes, you’re right. I was wrong on that point. I think what I was trying to pin down is that there is still a significant enough difference between a bad homeschooling situation and an abused wife that Abby’s opening is appropriate while the analogous one for the wife would not be.

        I think the difference is that with an abused wife the harmful nature of the situation is more clear and unambiguous. It’s also VERY important for Abby to not alienate homeschooling parents here (the good and the bad alike). Because by not alienating parents that might read this, she opens up the possibility of them starting to see some of the harmful aspects of homeschooling that they may not have seen before.

        The same is not true of abusive husbands. Nobody is going to write to Abby saying, “Hey, you’re wrong. I have the right to beat my wife. She had it coming.”

        There’s also the issue of position. Parents have a larger degree of rightful control over their children than husbands have over their wives. This makes the homeschooling situation more murky because we don’t know how much honor/respect (or whatever word is most appropriate here) the girl still has for her parents.

        I’m sorry if I came across too strong here. I’m still not sure where I stand on the homeschooling issue. You’ve definitely opened my eyes to a dark side of homeschooling that I hadn’t seen before. It can definitely be a horrible situation. But when you start talking public policy as much as we would like to eliminate every sad story of abuse, we have to look at it from the bigger picture taking a holistic cost/benefit analysis into account.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Pro-tip: Telling people to “lighten up” is also a pretty bad way to influence people. Why should she “lighten up?” It is a very serious issue and people who make a point of talking about serious issues are always being told “lighten up.” Just…don’t do that.

      I really don’t think Libby was saying that over-isolating your children is just like abusing your life. An analogy is not the same thing as an equivalency. I think the point she was trying to make is that it is not helpful to tell someone “Most people do not do [bad thing]” when that bad thing is clearly already going on in the life of the person you’re addressing. That was the point.

      Also, even if she were saying that the two wrongs are equivalent, that still only applies when the wrong is actually being committed. So she wouldn’t be saying “all homeschooling is like marital abuse.” She’s be saying “abusive homeschooling is like marital abuse.”

      • Healthily Homeschooled

        I wasn’t telling her to “lighten up” on the issue of abusive homeschooling. I was saying to lighten up on the criticism of Abby. Yes, maybe “lighten up” was not the best choice of words. But blog comments will always be a bit more raw than blog posts.

  • Caravelle

    I think it makes sense to say “most parents do X” or “most husbands don’t hit their wives”, if the message you’re trying to convey is “what you’re going through is not normal“.