Why I Don’t Trust the Homeschool Community to Self-Police

When I was a young teen I made some new friends, a couple of homeschooled girls like me, both right around my own age. They were the oldest in a large homeschooling family that in some ways was very much like mine own. In other ways, though, their family was very different.

As far as I could see, unlike my mother their mother never lesson planned, never sat down with her children to work on multiplication tables, and never pulled out the science supplies and a biology book. Their mother was very involved and active in an all-consuming interest of her own, and the children were pretty much left to their own devices. The children had interests, but they never really had the tools they needed to carry those interests out, and they certainly never had the basic education in a range of subjects like math, English, and science that we so often take for granted. And while I won’t get into specifics, the repercussions of missed opportunities have followed my friends and their younger siblings into adulthood.

What’s most baffling is that no one said anything. To my knowledge, the other homeschool parents (including my own) not only didn’t report this family or intervene and try to help, they never even said that what was going on was wrong. It’s true that someone might have said something that I didn’t hear, but I was pretty up on the homeschool community gossip (homeschool moms do talk, or at least they did in my community), and I knew well who was disapproved of for having the wrong religious doctrine or being too submissive or not submissive enough. I’m pretty sure I would have heard something.

Anyway, this is why, when homeschool parents inveigh against outside oversight and say that the homeschool community provides its own sort of internal accountability and self-policing, I want to bang my head into a wall. It doesn’t work. The culture of the homeschool community in which I grew up was such that I’m really having a hard time imagining anyone ever reporting anyone, or even simply calling them out for what they are doing.

Why is this? There is a range of factors.

There is the idea that family always knows whats best and that the family unit should be sovereign. If a family decides not to educate their kids, then, that’s their business. Inviting the government into a family’s affairs, or even questioning how they run their family, is a violation of that family’s autonomy.

There is the idea that even going completely uneducated is better than being sent to “government” schools. We saw this in HSLDA’s response to Josh Powell’s story, a story that in many ways mirrors that of the family I knew growing up—except that unlike my childhood friends, Josh ultimately fought his way into getting an education.

There is the idea that failure to educate is simply “unschooling,” and therefore a perfectly legitimate way of homeschooling. John Holt would probably be horrified to know that his ideas are today being used by some to justify robbing children of an education. But then, maybe he would have agreed with HSLDA and argued that even no education at all is better than “government” schools.

There is the idea that the importance of education is overrated.—that it is life experience, family living, and the passing on of religious values that matters. It doesn’t matter whether a child knows algebra or can write an essay, the argument goes. If they love Jesus and have a heart dedicated to serving others, that’s enough.

There is this idea that government involvement in anything ever is always a bad thing. The highest value is the individual freedom of every adult citizen. To get the government involved would put people under the thumb of bureaucrats intent on telling people what to do and result in corruption, child-snatching, and worse.

I don’t trust the homeschool community to police itself—I just don’t. It’s worth noting that some of the ideas listed above aren’t isolated to the Christian homeschool community—they’re more endemic than that. In other words, it’s not like this problem can be solved by telling the homeschool community to self-police better—they don’t self-police because they can’t self police give the nature of their beliefs. As long as these ideas remain knit through the homeschool community, I will be an advocate for outside oversight. To be less would be a betrayal.

Because here’s the thing—my friends’ mother wasn’t a bad person. She just needed to actually be required to educate her children and to be held accountable for doing so (this isn’t the first time I’ve written about this need for accountability). If she’d lived in a state with required subjects and periodic assessments to verify that instruction and learning were taking place, things would almost certainly have been different. She would have pulled things together, and while the education she provided her children might not have been perfect, it would have been something.

[Note: I've edited this post to make it clear that I was myself homeschooled. I have this information in my about section, and I had thought it was clear from context in the original version of this post, but given that at least one person has read the post and assumed that I wasn't homeschooled and only had homeschooled friends I thought I'd edit slightly to make sure it's perfectly clear.]

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.

  • kisarita

    wondering what did the kids do all day?

    • The_L1985

      I once encountered a young man who was “educated” using the online Alpha & Omega system. He’d stumbled upon a certain skeptic community and was basically pointing out, “I am finding these things deeply disturbing, and what research I’ve been able to do online indicates that most of this stuff isn’t just nonsensical, it’s factually wrong. People deserve to know that this stuff is being taught.”

      He was essentially put in front of a computer and ordered to do his schoolwork while his parents were at work and his little sister was in public school. How much he actually got done in a given day, I have no idea. I just know that the injustice was painfully obvious to him, and no matter how much he begged to go to school, his family wouldn’t let him.

      This fellow was in high school and was not allowed to leave the house without a parent present. He was like a male version of Rapunzel in the tower, except that Rapunzel didn’t have a younger sister who was allowed to come and go as she pleased. It was like this young man was the family whipping boy.

      • Conuly

        It’s not uncommon in abusive families for one child to be singled out either for special abuse or, alternatively, for special privileges. And that’s exactly what that situation sounds like.

  • Verne Riga

    Have you heard of this story from Germany?

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/06/children-christian-sect-police-raids-twelve-tribes
    It’s about physical abuse more than educational neglect but I would be very interested to hear your thoughts.

    • Hilary

      I read that article too. What I like is the sect leader outright saying they punish their children in ways that, quote, ” Only inflict pain, not damage.” As if being in parentally inflicted pain isn’t damaging to a small child / bitter sarcasm /

  • Hilary

    Libby, nobody is good at internal policing, hence the need for external audits in the business world.

    • Machintelligence

      Yes, indeed. Trust — but verify.

    • ako

      Yeah, I can’t think of any group where I’d feel confident going “They can police themselves so well that outsiders shouldn’t be allowed to intervene at all (or not for anything short of murder).” Humans are fallible.

      • Gillianren

        This is what I knew I would respond with as soon as I saw today’s topic. Why should I trust the homeschooling community more than I trust literally any other group?

    • Conuly

      Pretty much. And the more any group claims it should be left alone to police itself, the more you have to wonder what they’re scared of. If its all on the up-and-up a little transparancy (and, in the case of the homeschoolers, testing) shouldn’t be the end of the world.

      • trinity91

        The problem with the testing is that one of the reasons parents give for homeschooling is that standardized testing is harmful in many many ways. It’s extremely taxing for all students and impossible to navigate effectively for many students with learning disabilities. School districts have to teach to the test in order for students to score well. Homeschooling parents want more freedom to teach in a way that is good for the student (which means not just teaching them to memorize a bunch of facts but actually understanding the material they were learning) a standardized test is meant to have you spit out memorized facts.

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

        Just as an FYI, there are different kinds of testing. My parents had me take the Iowa Test after certain grades just so they could see how I was doing, and it wasn’t a teach to the test kind of test. We didn’t study for it, it wasn’t assuming you learned X in X grade, etc. It was just a general test of the extent of my knowledge, and I actually really enjoyed it. And plus, it was just a couple of hours one time, very different from the way it is in public schools. Most states that require homeschoolers to be tested require this sort of testing. That said, I’m also a fan of the portfolio option, where the parent pulls together a sampling of the child’s work and a certified teacher looks it over, talks to the child, and signs off stating that the child has made academic progress.

      • trinity91

        Under NCLB the only type of test that is legal to determine aptitude for k-12 is the state created standard based assessment. If the state of Iowa has passed some state law allowing it I’m unaware.

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

        The Iowa test isn’t a state test, it’s a national standardized achievement test. Yes, the name is misleading. But if you look at states that require homeschool testing, they almost universally have students take the Iowa or another national standardized achievement test like it, not the actual state testing (South Carolina is the exception to this, and since you can homeschool under the oversight of a homeschool group and not have the testing requirement anyway, it ends up being optional). So we’re not talking about days of testing, or testing over a specific level of education. Again, I took the Iowa and found it kind of fun, perhaps because that sort of thing was so rare in my life. I approached it as an opportunity to show off what I knew.

      • fiona64

        The Iowa test isn’t a state test, it’s a national standardized achievement test. Yes, the name is misleading.

        Exactly. We didn’t take the Iowa test where I grew up (in the Pacific Northwest); we had the CAT exam. CAT = California Achievement Test. Has nothing to do with where you live.

      • Conuly

        Have you looked at standardized tests lately? There are a lot of problems with them, but until the upper grades they’re pretty short on fact regurtitation.

      • trinity91

        Yes I have. If you read below it would have told you that the last time I took a Standardized test was 6 years ago. The standardized tests that I took all through school were all fill in the bubble fact memorization based tests.

      • Conuly

        Well, I can tell you that I have been, every year for the past four years, diligently going through the required state tests where I am to prepare my nieces and to make sure I know what to work on with them. I can’t speak for the older grades, but the elementary level tests are truly short on facts.

      • Rosa

        then those parents should do the extra work to send in portfolios or other documentation, instead. That’s actually what a lot of public school teachers and reform groups have been advocating for years as well.

      • trinity91

        I’m totally cool with the portfolio idea, but not the standardized testing.

      • Rosa

        But the anti-regulation folks are anti any form of supervision or documentation, and they’ve been winning in the state legislatures for years now.

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

        Again, most states with an assessment mechanism give parents an option between the two. You wouldn’t want to deprive a parent who would rather standardize test than go through the effort of creating a portfolio of that option, would you? I’m assuming you mean you’re not okay with *requiring* standardized testing, and that you don’t have a problem with making it an option, but I just want to point out that there may actually be some parents out there who would prefer the testing to the portfolios.

      • trinity91

        I would advocate for a complete removal of all standardized testing from any education setting.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        I wouldn’t. The current usage and prevalence of tests is bad, but standardized tests have a useful purpose. They can tell you what students are and are not learning- used as diagnostic tools (and with more essay/short answer, less multiple choice), they serve a valuable purpose.

      • trinity91

        I disagree. A portfolio system would serve all students much better than the standardized testing. Lots of students are doing well, but it doesn’t show up on the tests for many reasons. A lot of kids don’t test well, and even the ones that do may not handle the pressure of that specific type of test. If we want a one size fits all solution, then standadized tests can have no part of it.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Portfolios are an excellent option, in large part because some students don’t test well.

        But me? I test excellently, and I hate putting together anything creative. I’m not good at it, and portfolios of art projects and such would make me look worse than standardized tests. Let me just tell you what I know in a short essay; don’t make me make it pretty. One-size-fits-all is always going to disadvantage some students and advantage others.

      • trinity91

        A portfolio doesn’t necessarily have to be creative and pretty. An example of a writing sample, a couple of math assignments, maybe an art project, science fair pictures, etc could all be a portfolio. I also don’t think a portfolio should be exclusively a student’s job to assemble. Ideally I see a student sitting down with the teacher and the two of them talking together to pick assignments that are an accurate assembly of the work the student has done that year. This way a student is being judged based on their progress from year to year as well as measuring that to the AYP standard. It makes it much easier for a teacher to know exactly where their students strengths and weaknesses are and where they need to start in any given subject that year. It gives the teacher a lot more room to teach the way that works for them. If a teacher has a classroom full of high energy kinesthetic learners as an example, lots of active projects are going to help those kids learn better than book work sitting at their desks all day.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Fair enough. I can definitely get behind that sort of portfolio. I know for AP chemistry (and also IB, though that wasn’t available to me), students had to submit their lab books as well as take the written test. I believe the same was true for physics and biology as well.

        I just don’t think that saying standardized test are always evil and always useless is very helpful. They have a purpose (as a diagnostic tool, one of many tools out there), and they are currently being misused. I wouldn’t call a stethoscope useless because it’s bad at picking up bone cancers; that’s just asking of a tool what it was not designed for, and it’s not the tool’s fault people are misusing it so.

      • trinity91

        okay and I can consider that fair. How would you propose using standardized testing as a proper diagnostic tool?

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        At the beginning of the year, to determine which students were weak in which areas and needed a little extra attention to catch them up.

        Possibly mid-year as well, for the same reason.

        Not part of a grade, though, not having anything riding on it. Also, no multiple choice. That’s a terrible test format. Problems in math, short answers and maybe an essay for other subjects. Asking people to tie together things they’d learned, not just spit back facts.

        A teacher could also use it as feedback on hir teaching- if kids are repeatedly not understanding X, maybe ze needs to turn to another teacher for help in how to teach it better. It should by no means be the only method of feedback for teachers, but it is a potentially valuable one.

      • trinity91

        So couldn’t and especially with the mid year shouldn’t it be a test created and administered by the teacher? Afterall, if you have a group of students who were all woefully below grade level come into your classroom by midyear you may only be able to get them to where they should have been at the beginning of the year.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        The problem is that teacher-designed tests are only as good as the teacher who designed them. There will always be teachers way better than standardized tests who can write better ones, but they are not the norm.

        We do need some sort of way to figure out what’s going on nationally. Individualized tests just don’t give us that information unless we also compare tests across regions, then compare scores. We need to know which reforms are working and which ones aren’t, which states and ISDs are doing it right and which ones aren’t, so successful models can spread. One could compare sample portfolios across regions, I suppose, but that is an insanely huge amount of work on someone’s part. A test can tell you the same information. Again, this shouldn’t have any effects whatsoever on the students.

        A midyear test that shows students caught up to the start of the year says the teacher is doing well, but the teacher before hir? Probably needs some assistance- new books, mentoring, refreshers on pedagogy, something. As I said, these are diagnostics. Part of using a diagnostic tool is figuring out what it’s telling you.

      • trinity91

        A teacher needs to know the state and national standards in order to teach to a national standard. That means their test is going to have to reflect those national standards. If you can’t even trust a teacher to develop a test how do you trust them to actually teach? Also, I frankly do not care how hard it makes someone’s job. Scoring a non fill in the bubble test is going to be harder than scoring a fill in the bubble test too. That doesn’t mean we hang our children out to dry in the interest of making an adult’s life easier. Standardized testing does have an effect on students. Timed tests with ridiculous rules are extremely stressful for young children.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        State and national standards? What national standards? The Core Curriculum (a great idea, I might add) is completely optional to the states. It’s become national because states are signing on to it, but it’s technically a subsidiarity thing, not a federal thing. And given that many teachers can write tests, but they will be no better than a standard test, why make the teachers’ lives more difficult?

      • trinity91

        NCLB is a national standard, and is still in effect. Common core actually doesn’t replace only supplements the requirements of NCLB. As I’ve mentioned before I have friends who are teachers. None of them are happy with common core. I trust the judgement of three of them and they all say that while it’s a step in the right direction it’s still not enough. Also, your last statement is not a given. I disagree with the premise that a teacher created test is going to be on par or worse than a standardized test which was likely not created by somebody with an education degree.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        So it’s not perfect, a step in the right direction is still just that, and given how things have been going, an important one. And given that writing a test is hard work, and we can’t actually compare across teachers if they write different tests, I repeat: why make teachers’ lives more difficult?

        The people who write tests actually do have education degrees. They usually also have a psychology background and have learned the fine art of asking neutral questions (psych research does a lot of polling, and learning to write poll questions is quite difficult. Similar, though not identical, skills go into writing test questions).

      • trinity91

        Teachers write tests all the time. It’s part of their job. Most of them administer tests at the beginning of the year to garner information about where the class is already, so it’s not like this is going to be some huge thing for them to have to do. Psychology and education degrees are not the same thing btw. I’d like to see the information you are using to say that the people writing tests have education and psychology degrees.

      • Conuly

        I’m good with portfolios, actually, provided that there are clear standards as to what they should contain and how they should be assessed. I don’t think people should be guessing at how to put those together.

    • Christine

      There are a lot of self-regulating professions, but they a) have some legal backup and b) limit who can get in. You can’t just call yourself an engineer, or a doctor, you have to actually be licensed. This makes it harder for accidental negligence, and makes it easier to enforce the rules.

  • Kellen Connor

    Yeah. My state needs tighter regulations, too.

  • Ahab

    American homeschooling is in desperate need of oversight and regulation. Too many kids are being indoctrinated, under-educated, or uneducated, which leaves them unprepared to function as adults in the bigger world.

  • http://yllommormon.blogspot.com/ aletha

    I guess what I find the most terrible is that my home life was terrible. I’d rather have the crappy public school education that I got, then be around my screwy family 24/7.

  • MyOwnPerson

    Yep, it doesn’t work. Another factor is that group solidarity is more important than education. Ratting someone out would be unfaithful to the cause. Homeschooling is more important than children.

    • Sally

      Absolutely!!

  • trinity91

    FWIW my experience was exactly the opposite. My public school teachers knew my mom was abusive and did nothing about it. When my mom pulled me out of public school and started taking me to the coop they called her out on it, regularly. She wasn’t the only one that was severely reprimanded for failure to parent non abusively, or for not meeting educational standards. The problem as I see it is not homeschooling, it’s fundamentalist homeschooling.

    • MyOwnPerson

      That’s probably true, but at least when I was growing up the fundamentalist variety was about all there. Or at least the political libertarian variety.

    • KarenJo12

      When did you attend public school? Teachers have been required to report suspected abuse in Texas at least since the early 1980′s, and this one is seriously enforced, even here in the Fundie Paradise.

      • trinity91

        I’m 22 and graduated in 2009. I was in public school from kindergarten through 5th grade, so fall of ’96-spring of ’02; homeschooled from 6-8 grade so fall of ’02-spring of ’05 and then attended a public charter high school which I graduated from. The point that I’m trying to get across is that even with laws in place to help students who are being abused, it’s still up to the teachers to report and they may have their own reasons for not reporting. If a teacher doesn’t report who is going to actually do anything about it? The principal and the school district can’t prove that the teacher knew or even suspected. In NM where I graduated there isn’t any punishment for a teacher who doesn’t report, and I highly doubt that even in a state where there is that it’s actually enforced. How do you prove that a teacher knew there was abuse going on?

      • Angela

        Wow, in my state teachers have lost their licenses and faced criminal charges if it’s proven that they had knowledge of abuse and did not report it. The same goes for health care workers and clergy. Sure, it’s not always possible to prove that they knew but in cases where the kid came to school with multiple injuries or claims to have told a teacher or counselor there’s always an official investigation as to why no report was filed.

      • KarenJo12

        Same in Texas. I know the lawyers that do these cases, and they have a very heavy caseload, even excluded test fraud stuff. I have to wonder if the school district had been sued once for a false report.

      • Rosa

        Yeah, this same dynamic of fearing repercussions, not being sure of what’s going on, and having general peer pressure (what if the abusive parent is a school board member? Or a local politician? Or a really litigious person?) can happen in public schools too. Not to mention teachers and other professionals have their own baggage – it’s not like abusive parents can’t also be public school teachers.

        But there’s at least some formal encouragement to report and theoretical protection for mandatory reporters, which people have fought for years to pass and strengthen. Just like homeschoolers, public school staff do better with better laws.

      • trinity91

        I honestly think that making homeschool coop members required reporters would do wonders. It makes it clear to them that they are going to be held responsible if something happens and they knew, it helps give members who want to report and don’t good reason why they should, and it helps protect kids. If the mandatory reporting is working in public schools there’s no reason why it wouldn’t work in a coop.

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

        Do you think this could be combined with some form of training, maybe even an online thing where you read something or watch a video and do a little quiz? I ask this because in some homeschool communities at least, there is a lot of unclarity about what actually constitutes abuse.

      • trinity91

        absolutely! I’m all about providing more resources for parents whether they send their kids to public school or not. I have two friends who graduated with their teaching degrees in May and are now teaching and *they* don’t even know what it is that they are supposed to be reporting on, so I definitely think that mandatory reporters should have to at least watch a video and demonstrate understanding of it. In Washington state food service workers have to get a food safety license and that’s done online. I don’t know why states couldn’t require all mandatory reporters to do something similar.

      • Conuly

        I think it absolutely should be. Heck, I think training for what constitutes abuse and when it should be reported should be freely available (free also in the sense of no cost) to everybody.

        The situation otherwise is that people refrain from reporting actual abuse AND ALSO report things that definitely aren’t abuse, tying up social workers’ time and making life harder all around.

    • Sally

      I’m so sorry this happened to you and really impressed with your co-op. How would you describe the co-op in general (religious, secular, big, small)? Do you feel like you have any insight as to why they were so gutsy? Did it help your situation? In other words, they called out your mom, but did it cause the abuse to stop? (-Hope you don’t mind these follow-up questions.)

      • trinity91

        I don’t mind at all as long as Libby Anne doesn’t feel like I’m going off topic. The coop I attended had a total of 35 students ranging in age from prek-high school. We met at a church, but the coop left religious instruction up to the parents saying that the focus of the coop was to provide things for the students that parents needed help with, such as math instruction, science labs, and field trips (we did a lot of fund raising to help offset the cost of highly expensive things like museum trips). The coop culture made it clear that the reason they were homeschooling was because the local public schools were absolutely terrible in every possible way (I’ve talked extensively about my families experience with this school district so I won’t repeat it again) and that they had an uphill battle convincing other people that homeschooling was a valid option. The school district does it’s best to keep parents from homeschooling because the state sends school money based exclusively on enrollment numbers. One of the things that the district uses to get parents to support them is the fear of other people abusing their children.
        The abuse never stopped, but it did get a lot better when I was in the coop. She was significantly less violent, significantly less manipulative, and actually tried to fix things. I also want to point out that it was the first time I ever got told that what she was doing wasn’t okay and that made a significant difference because it gave me the ability to fight back.

      • Sally

        Wow, thanks for sharing your experience.

  • antimule

    Figures. When you consider the existence of government to be original sin coupled with absolute patriarchy, what do you expect?

  • KarenJo12

    The idea that education doesn’t matter or can even be pernicious is older than the current homeschooling movement and thoroughly embedded in American culture. Purely “idea” classes like languages, art, music and literature get cut from school budgets, even colleges, while allegedly practical vocational classes flourish, even though all the evidence supports music, art, and languages improving IQ while vo-Ed doesn’t do anything but make idiot school boards able to justify themselves to their corporate overlords.

    • Sally

      I agree with your post, but what do you mean by corporate overlords?

      • KarenJo12

        The corporations who require a docile and stupid workforce. Vocational Ed provides only enough information to perform the most basic and poorly-paid entry level jobs, while at the same time making sure the kid can’t go on to get a degree later without incurring massive debt to take remdedial classes before she can even start thinking about college.

      • Sally

        Hmm. I’m not sure this is coming from corporations through school boards. What about this whole movement of treating every kid like he’s headed for an ivy league school and the terrible results that is giving us? Here’s a trailer to a movie that I saw in my town a few years ago. It was pre-Common Core. I know CC is supposed to do less but more in depth, but I don’t know that it will fully address the issues behind this movie. Anyway, a written description almost makes it sound like kids are intentionally being dumbed down by being asked to do too much and then they shut down and/or cheat their way to “success” but actually have no academic skills. But I’ve seen the whole movie and it’s definitely not about corporations causing this. Even the trailer says it’s from pressure from parents, colleges, and the government. But the schools have tried to “raise the standards” in all the wrong ways
        (test scores and too much homework).
        Now you mentioned vocational training dumbing down the work force. I have to ask what you’re talking about here. Where is this vocational ed taking place? Are we talking about kids who for one reason or another have low academic success so they get put into vocational programs at their high schools (1/2 day classes, 1/2 day some kind of job training)? Maybe there’s some kids in those programs who really should be on a more academic track, but don’t you think there are a certain number of people who aren’t cut out for college and having a trade is actually desirable? I’m still having trouble seeing vocational training as a corporate conspiracy (or is that putting words in your mouth? Asking sincerely.) Maybe it depends a lot on what the vocational training is and who is in the programs. But I don’t think this is the main thrust of what school boards are doing.

      • Sally

        Sorry. Here’s the Race to Nowhere Trailer page.

        http://www.racetonowhere.com/trailers-and-clips

      • KarenJo12

        Read Diane Ravitch’s book on the subject: “Left Back.” Vocational education programs started from the premise that most students were too dumb to benefit from learning Latin or higher math and sciences. Shockingly, students from poor, dark-skinned, or immigrant families were directed into these classes while white privileged males got to take college prep and advanced classes, even if said privileged males weren’t actually going to college.

      • Sally

        I wonder to what degree that is happening today. And I wonder what the vocations are (which is a separate issue from who if anyone is being pushed into them unfairly today).

      • The_L1985

        I don’t think there are too many vocational courses left. You don’t even hear of kids taking wood shop or home ec anymore in a lot of places.

      • The_L1985

        IMO, the vocational “track” should be 100% voluntary, as should the college-bound “track,” and students should be able to choose in high school. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re going to see that happen, simply because the whole issue is so complicated.

      • Anat

        Do you have links to examples of such vocational programs? Are these full programs intended to train students for an occupation or individual classes or what?

        Washington state now requires 1 credit of occupational education as a high school graduation requirement, but I am not sure what would be good classes for schools to offer for this.

        What would be good occupational preparation for kids not intending to go to even community college? And what would be relevant to teach in a high school setting as occupational training for kids intending to go to college?

    • Gillianren

      It’s funny, though, because the Massachusetts Bay colony was obsessed with education. How could you worship God properly if you couldn’t read your Bible–and what Martin Luther, John Calvin, and so forth had to say on the subject? I’ve often wondered where the change came about.

      • Sally

        That’s where Sunday school came about originally. It started as a gathering of children to teach them how to read so they could read the Bible. I’m not sure that particular goal translated to valuing education beyond the minimal 3 R’s, though. That’s not to say we as a nation have never valued a world class education, but I don’t see inconsistency with teaching people to read the Bible and not valuing education beyond that.

      • Gillianren

        Except try reading Sarah Vowell’s The Wordy Shipmates–they thought a proper education included knowing Greek and Latin, so you’d know how translation worked. It was a lot more than just Sunday school. Harvard started as a divinity school, after all.

      • Sally

        I think we’re just talking about different aspects of American culture here (getting back to KarenJo’s comment). One subculture is motivated by Bible reading and may or may not limit their kids to that (some did, some didn’t), while at the same time others are laying the groundwork for world class university education in the U.S. which did start with the earliest colleges (Harvard, William and Mary, Yale …) I think we’re just talking about different parts of society, even very early on. Wealthy planters could and would send their kids back to England for an education or to American colleges, while dirt farmers may be illiterate and it was an accomplishment to make sure their kids could read. I don’t think we’re disagreeing.

      • Gillianren

        Oh, I’m talking about the days before there were wealthy planters, even. When Jamestown was barely making subsistence and half the people sent there (at least!) were starving to death or what have you, Massachusetts Bay was already emphasizing education. You know, while they starved to death or what have you. But it may well be that part of the issue was that certain segments of the population found it pretty easy to abandon education in favour of not starving to death. And then in the South, wealthy planters, when there was such a thing, saw education as just one more thing to be snobby about. Which probably would have created a backlash where some segments of the population didn’t want to be like Those People, which led to a vicious cycle which ended in bragging that you hadn’t done algebra since high school and didn’t know why anyone had bothered to teach you anything in the first place.

      • Joykins

        If you were a man, anyway. Educated women only had to be able to read English.

  • Sally

    I could have made almost your same list as a member of a non-sectarian homeschooling group, based on the members of that group. In fact, I know of one family that claimed to be unschooling but was really doing almost nothing. When they moved away, the mother wrote a post on the email list that said among other things, “I feel like I have failed my kids.” She was vague and didn’t say how she’d failed them. And knowing her, she was looking for reassurances that she hadn’t failed them. But I took it to mean she didn’t provide them with a decent education and they were bored and lonely (that’s how the kids seemed). Did I do anything? No.
    Why? I have to dig deep to answer that. I think I was scared of her (she was kinda mean and weird), and I was scared of ruining my chances with the group. And I didn’t want to be that person. Who was I to decide she
    should be reported? I’m sure I justified not doing anything other ways in my mind, too. By the time I knew what was going on, two were young adults. So it was down to one kid who was already a teen. I think I told myself that if she’s a real unschooler, she’ll step up if her teen tells her he wants more. And being a teen, if he doesn’t speak up (if he doesn’t want more), authorities coming in will just make it worse. And maybe I’m wrong. Maybe they’re getting all kinds of great education. Or maybe it’s not great, but it’s at least minimal. It’s not like I witnessed them not knowing how to read, or something as obvious as that. Let me be clear. I’m not justifying my thinking; I’m sharing it.
    So don’t flame me. I share those things to shed light on why Libby Anne is right about the homeschooling community in general, not just a small group of religious conservative hsers.
    I live in a state with very strong unschooling lobbying and virtually no hsing regulation. I understand and support real unschooling, where the family spends a ton of time pursuing child-led learning and the messy, unpredictable route that can take, but I agree that absolutely no educational oversight or check-in is not acceptable.

    • sunnyside

      It’s similar to bystander intervention – many people feel they should mind their own business, that they don’t have all the information, that they aren’t in a position to do something (expecting leadership or more authoritative people to intervene and, when they don’t, trusting their decision). It’s one of the reasons there’s a push to teach bystander intervention (as well as to teach people how to break up the crowd by not just saying “help” but pointing & saying “you, call 911″).

      In a homeschooling group, few are going to break ranks and report because they think the behavior is being sanctioned b/c the leaders aren’t acting or they’re afraid of blow-back.

    • ako

      It’s sometimes very hard for a neighbor or community member with no special authority to 1) know something’s gone wrong, 2) feel confident enough in their conclusion to do something about it, and 3) know what to do. That’s part of the benefit of having special outsiders trained to intervene. They can learn what signs to look for, they generally feel they have more of a right to ask questions, and there’s a procedure for how to react.

    • Naomi

      There is a large “natural parenting” (read: anti-vax, anti-science, pro-woo) bulletin board that has an Unschooling sub-forum. About once a month or so, someone posts something along the lines of, “I feel like I’m failing my kids. My ten-year-old son barely knows how to read, he can’t do simple arithmetic, he will OCCASIONALLY let me read to him but mostly he wants to play video games all day. I want to throw in the towel.” Or, “I feel like I’m failing; my teenager spends all day on World of Warcraft, he’s never learned any math beyond multiplication, he can’t write a sentence, he likes reading books but all he reads are tie-in novels.” Or, “I am really worried that my kids aren’t learning anything. They’re perfectly happy playing all day, and that’s great and educational up to a point but my ten-year-old can’t read.”

      And yes: every single time, without fail, they get told “you are doing JUST FINE, Mama! Trust in yourself!” It is a community norm that people never say, “You know what? You’re right. You ARE failing your child. They have a right to an education, and they’re not getting one right now. You should put them in school, where someone with more internal fortitude than you apparently have will sit down with your child and some books and INSIST that they learn to read, right, do simple arithmetic, learn algebra, etc.”

      (These are pretty much all secular families, FWIW. I think unregulated homeschooling has risks for all sorts of children.)

      • Saraquill

        I’m appalled. How do they expect their children to have the skills needed for employment?

      • Sally

        In theory the child will wake up, decide he/she wants an education, and will be internally motivated and therefore the best student you could ask for. That’s the theory. But at some point ya gotta say, hey, my kid isn’t waking up!

      • Anat

        In my high school class there were some boys who just barely graduated. Then a few years later (this was in Israel, so they had military service in between) got serious, took college prep classes (somewhere between high school and community college on the hierarchy), repeated some of their matriculation exams and went on to do well in college and beyond. They had a later start. But their starting level was already way ahead of those WoW-playing kids.

      • Sally

        I think this is an example of what some parents are thinking will happen in unschooling (if it doesn’t happen sooner). But it’s one thing if you give the kid every opportunity and they don’t step up. It’s another thing if you give them video games and no academic expectations and then wonder why they’re playing video games all day. Sure, it can still work out. But it’s not a good public policy model (not that you’re saying it is, just expanding on the discussion).

      • Hilary

        Problem: by the time they wake up, assuming that they *do* wake up, it may be too late. The window for first low pay jobs may already be closed, if there are any minor criminal actions on their records that will shadow and limit their lives for a long time. Starting damn near from scratch getting a GED in your 20′s can be a major accomplishment, valuable and not to be dismissed, but you are still a decade behind your peers who graduated from public high school then went to college and can start careers in their 20′s.

      • Sally

        Well, again, in theory this waking up takes place early, and by age 12 or so the kid has tried a bunch of stuff and is ready to “major” in their interests. So if there are teens doing nothing, you’re waaaay past the unschooling ideology already. But of course what may be a good idea when it’s first used gets distorted and becomes disastrous as it morphs into some unrecognizable form by random people all over the country. At some point you gotta ask yourself, how is what we’re doing any different than living in an illiterate country just working in the fields all day?

      • Hilary

        What a minute – are you saying preteens with no experience of scheduled work, no experience of time sensitive expectations that have to be met whether or not they are fun, no understanding of the interlocking cycles of job – work – money – bills – living necessities . . . Are some how magically supposed to get so interested in learning that they will be able to self direct themselves towards the right topics with enough discipline to acquire the skills necessary for either gainful employment or a successful business?!?!

        What . . . The . . . Fuck . . . ? That is one of the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard regarding raising children. And it does them no favor.

      • Renee

        I think this is a fair way to describe some USers, but the ones I know are in no way like this.

        Why wouldn’t they learn about business, bills, work and such? They participate in daily life even more then other kids, and are not clueless to this at all. They do lots of things that are time sensitive and require deadlines, they just choose them for any number of reasons (interested, need to learn something to do another task they want, etc.). There is also no rule that US has to be fun, just child led. Kids really do boring, tedious stuff when they see a reason.

        Here, the young teen USers often start their own businesses, with the help of the group for funding. Some succeed, some do not, but many get an honest entrepreneurial experience, or even several. This may be where they brush up on the math they actually need- and they DO IT.

        People have a LOT of assumptions about US, but I think so many are wrong. Its just that totally negligent parents use the term US and it makes everyone look bad. You can dislike US for many reasons, but they should be accurate ones.

      • The_L1985

        I think part of the problem is that it’s so hard to separate the wheat from the chaff and be sure exactly what is meant by US.

        There are some aspects of child-directed learning that I think are awesome! But there are also some topics that I know my children need to learn and are unlikely to just randomly start discovering on their own (like how the government works). If nothing else, an adult needs to scaffold the learning process, and make absolutely certain that the child is being exposed to experiences that will make it more likely that they want to learn important life skills.

      • Christine

        My objection to US is that it’s being done by people who are not qualified to do it. (Well, that and it’s being assumed that it will work for all children, but they go hand in hand). It’s a great idea, but I’m not entirely comfortable with it being done as a homeschooling variant, because it’s so tricky to do properly.

      • Lucreza Borgia

        “Why wouldn’t they learn about business, bills, work and such?”

        Why would they automatically learn about such things just from staying at home?

      • Naomi

        You’ll get no argument there from me!

      • Saraquill

        I want to like this repeatedly.

      • AnotherOne

        Yep. And it sucks mightily.

      • Renee

        Its not too bad to start late, if….

        I went to college but never finished, and slacked and partied until I was 26. I had to start at the very bottom, but by 32 was just where my friends that finished college (in something useful, I went for Art), and went right to work, were at. Same income, same stability, same professional level.

        The difference is that I wasn’t US’d. I went to an excellent HS, and did learn in college, even though I didn’t finish. If you are clever, find a workable niche, are privileged (must present as middle class or better, and being white always helps- totally unfair as that is) and are willing to work hard, you can do just fine.

        But these are some pretty huge Ifs. If you aren’t able to work with current technology really well, and you cannot write and speak well, you will never make up for it until you go back and figure it out.

      • AnotherOne

        In my parents’ case, they were barely employable themselves; surviving day to day took all their energy and resources. Preparing us for the future was never really on the table. It’s taken me the better part of 15 years to claw my way toward self sufficiency, and I’m doing way better than most of my siblings..

      • smrnda

        I’m against the idea that education is just job training, but if you even mention that to some parents like that they flip out with the ‘how DARE you suggest my kids should be cogs in the corporate machine!?!?!’ The problem is that people without adequate educations are going to be cogs since not only will they be shut out of decent jobs, they may lack the ability to even advocate for themselves or figure out how to solve their own problems.

      • Hilary

        I’ve spent the last 10 years being a cog in a corporate machine, with a steady paycheck, healthcare, and a raise every year. It’s not the worst fate in the world, to be honest. Although it does help that I get along well with my boss.

      • Rosa

        I’ve taken to telling those parents – including the ones who are against offering any therapy or drugs to ADHD or Aspberger’s kids because it’s just forcing them to be “normal” against their nature – that my kid will have the OPTION of being a cog if he wants. Doesn’t mean he has to , doesn’t mean he will. But should he ever need to be able to fit into mainstream society he will by god have the tools to do so.

      • The_L1985

        Ugh. If I hadn’t been formally diagnosed with ADHD, I wouldn’t have a reason for my delay in learning self-control. I’d feel like some kind of monster. Sometimes just having a label for what’s wrong can help your self-esteem and make it easier for you to deal with it.

      • CarysBirch

        “Sometimes just having a label for what’s wrong can help your self-esteem and make it easier for you to deal with it.” YES THIS A HUNDRED TIMES.

        Realizing I was depressed not lazy was the most liberating thing in my life to date. I had a problem, not a character flaw. I had a real, genuine, medical condition, I wasn’t a worthless, spineless, badly brought up, lazy person.

      • The_L1985

        Oh gods, depression. I still get bits of it now and again, but it’s not nearly as bad as I once was. There was a point in high school where I honestly felt that I would be better off dead, but couldn’t just go committing suicide because then my parents would blame themselves and it would probably hurt them a lot, and if I failed, they’d feel the need to do something about it and I wasn’t worth the effort. I believed that suicides probably either went to hell or got reincarnated (“You tried to get out of life, so now you’re going right back in!”) but I figured ANYTHING had to be better than that horrible, numb emptiness.

        You know how they say suicidal thoughts are a serious red flag? I can’t help but wonder what it says about me that 10 years ago I was actually too depressed to be suicidal.

      • CarysBirch

        I don’t think that’s that uncommon actually. When I first went on an antidepressant one of the Very Serious Warnings (TM) that I got was that a lot of suicides happen as depression starts to lift and the depressed person begins to have enough energy to think and plan again. I was sternly reminded to tell someone immediately if I had suicidal thoughts. At the time I did not, but there was another time in my life where I felt so… little… that I might have done something if I could have cared enough to follow through with it. Fortunately I didn’t, and I’m much better now.

      • Christine

        Would those parents let kids with Asperger’s get therapy if they wanted it? Because, honestly, i have loved the effects of mine. I’m not, and never will be, NT. But it’s nice to have some clue of what’s going on around me.

      • Rosa

        I have more experience with the ADHD anti-treatment parents (or alternative-treatment ones – i know some who homeschooled to do that no red dye diet 100%) because all the ASD/Aspberger’s kids I know are from treatment or public school. But the parents of ADHD kids tend to let the kids get traditional treatments, mostly medications, when they are done homeschooling and trying to start jobs or college. At that point the kids are often really resistant to treatment because they’ve grown up being told using medication to manage ADHD is a horrible last resort their parents are protecting them from.

        Autism spectrum stuff seems like it would be harder because it’s SO MUCH more effective if you start earlier and it’s a lot more complicated to access than ADHD meds.

      • The_L1985

        I had the opposite experience, actually. My parents figured 1 year of psychotherapy was all I needed, and just kept me on the pills. At one point I weighed 65 lb and needed 45 mg/day of Ritalin just to function.

        It’s one thing to trust modern medicine, and quite another to expect drugs to do everything for you.

      • The_L1985

        Not to mention, if you’re not exposed to a lot of different fields and ideas, how do you know what you want to do with your life? A lot of the ideas I came up with as a kid (astronaut, genetic engineer, doctor, computer engineer) were things that I learned about in school! Where do they think that psychologists and engineers and accountants come from? I’m pretty sure nobody says at age 7, “I wanna be an accountant so I can do other people’s taxes.”

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        I wanted to be an astronaut ballerina when I was 7 lol. Space is awesome, and my first grade teacher was an amateur ballerina in a fairly decent amateur group. She got us all free tickets to go see her perform in The Nutcracker, and I was hooked!

        Not in school, while I still might have wanted to be one or both those things, it wouldn’t have been the same. And while I was in a fairly well-off family, most of the kids at that school were quite poor. This was one of the few opportunities they’d had or would have to get any sort of “cultural enrichment”.

      • Sally

        “And yes: every single time, without fail, they get told “you are doing JUST FINE, Mama! Trust in yourself!”
        Yep! This is exactly the culture. Same thing with socialization.

      • AnotherOne

        So, so true. I have said many times that I’m SO glad the concept of unschooling hadn’t gained traction when I was a kid (I never heard of it until I was in my late 20s). It would have given my parents exactly the paradigm they needed to explain away the educational neglect and excuse it to themselves.

      • Renee

        Must be Mothering.com…..

      • CarysBirch

        I am so very frustrated with “Mama culture” right now. It’s extremely alienating to a woman with no children in her thirties.

        This has nothing to do with anything, I was just thinking it earlier today and of course it’s not socially acceptable to vent about on most social media outlets.

        /vent finished

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

        To be perfectly honest, it’s extremely alienating to most mothers, too. In other words, no one wins, because you’re looked down on if you don’t have kids and you’re also looked down on if you don’t follow the proper parenting trends in raising your kids — you would be surprised how often I find a blog I love and agree with on so many parenting-related things, only to find they’re strident anti-vaxxers, or they are unschoolers who think any other way of life is wrong, etc. etc. And then we get it from the other side too, i.e. if my kids are being too “wild” I’m judged as a bad parent once again. NO ONE WINS. Don’t have kids? You lose. Have kids? You lose. UGH. So yeah, I’ll join you in your rant/vent. :P

      • trinity91

        Also, if you’re pregnant on purpose it’s just awful. You get inundated from all sides by people who want to judge you and offer their parenting “advice”. Also the people telling you how not to raise your kids or deal with babies because apparently everything “ruins” them. Apparently wanting to cosleep means that I’m going to roll over on my baby and kill them or they’ll die from SIDS or they’ll drown from breast milk. It’s also ruining them to have them sleep in a crib because then they can’t get the comfort they need. I honestly don’t think any woman can win in this system. Not a parent? We’re going to judge you because you’re clearly just selfish. A parent? We’re going to judge you because you are overpopulating the Earth and how you parent is wrong.

      • victoria

        A few sentences that are very, very useful:

        In response to “Are you going to vaccinate/breastfeed/cosleep/use BabyWise?”: “We’ll see what works for our family when the baby’s here!” / “We’ll decide on that when the time comes.”

        And (for unsolicited advice) “Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind!”

        Getting the tone right on those is tough; you’re going for “I’m genuinely not annoyed/offended, but we are NOT having this conversation now.” They do work, though!

      • trinity91

        oh I’ve already tried both of those in response to the oh so helpful “advice” (read you telling me that I will smother or crush my baby to death is not advice, it’s fear mongering) I’m getting a lot of pushback from the OB that my midwife sent me to see (insurance company will not pay for a homebirth unless an OB signs off on it) and I’m getting SO MUCH JUDGEMENT all around from everyone about every decision that I haven’t even made yet. My favorite comment? “You’re so crunchy that the baby is going to die from dehydration!” I don’t consider myself very crunchy, I just want evidence based medicine and evidence based parenting to win out over woo.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        I agree that cosleeping, breastfeeding, etc is all up to you and shouldn’t be judged at all.

        Vaccinating, though? That’s a public health issue. I care about that for my own health and my (theoretical future) infant’s health. If you’re not going to vaccinate, I need to know that, because I need to keep my kid far away from your pertussis-, measles-, mumps-, rubella-, diphtheria-, and chicken pox- susceptible kid. It shouldn’t come up in casual conversation with strangers, but from family? They do need to know. Vaccines are evidence-based medicine.

        And if this rant is completely off base and you do intend to vaccinate on schedule, just ignore me! Vaccines are just one of the things I get passionate about- they’ve saved so many lives, and are still so necessary, and people are just not giving them because … I don’t know why, honestly. The needle sticks make the baby cry, or they’re still convinced by a debunked study from over a decade ago about an ingredient that’s not even in vaccines anymore, or something. But it’s hurting and killing children (and immuno-compromised adults) across the country, and that makes me furious.

      • trinity91

        I do plan on vaccinating because I know it’s evidence based medicine. I do intend to have them administered on a different schedule because of family history for both my side and my husband’s side of the family of severe allergic reaction (my sister cannot be vaccinated at all because of her reaction, and my husband’s cousin died of an allergic reaction to a vaccine.) Given separately if my child has a bad reaction to one of the vaccines we will know exactly which one is causing the reaction and then we can plan whether the reaction is bad enough to warrant stopping that specific vaccine’s scheduled administration, or if the symptoms can be managed well enough to continue. What this means is that my child will go into the doctor every week to get a different vaccine for the first few months. Once we can establish that the child has no reaction we can start administering them on a more normal schedule.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        That makes sense. You have a very good reason indeed to have a modified vaccination schedule!

      • trinity91

        Thank you for your support. I feel so incredibly judged right now by everyone who I talk to about it because they don’t get it. I take the societal necessity of vaccinating very seriously, but I also want to make sure that my own child’s health isn’t put at risk.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        It’s a balancing act, and one you seem to be doing very well. Parenting is hard (says the not-parent, so take of that what you will), but you’re doing your best to make sure your child’s health and public health are both well-served. I don’t see how anyone could ask for or expect more.

      • CarysBirch

        In case there’s any confusion, I don’t find your parenting posts annoying. Mostly because you intersperse them with other subjects that ARE relevant to me, so I’m able to be interested in them without being overwhelmed by them. And because you never position parenting as the only worthwhile thing a person can do.

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

        Don’t worry, no confusion. I’m totally fine with people being childfree if they want, and since I want every child to be a wanted child I would *never* suggest that everyone should have kids whether they want to or not. And besides, there are plenty of kids in this world already. I have several friends who don’t plan to have biological children but do plan to adopt. And honestly, kids can be really hard, I totally get why some people don’t want them. And to be honest, a big part of why I post on such a range of subjects is that my life doesn’t revolve around my kids. I hate it when people act like people’s lives end or something when they have kids. They shouldn’t, they really shouldn’t. I love my kids to death, and spent plenty of time with them, but that’s not the entirety of my life.

    • Angela

      I think you also need to consider what you realistically had the power to do. In most states unless there’s actual physical abuse or neglect then calling the authorities wouldn’t really do anything at all. The fact is that if there’s no regulations you CAN’T police anything.

      • Sally

        In theory I could have called the district superintendent’s office and they should investigate. Our very minimal law does say certain subjects have to be taught and a record of attendance has to be kept. In theory if they’re doing almost nothing, a savvy superintendent could have probably done something with that minimal law. Now, there was no guarantee that would have happened if I’d called.

    • AnotherOne

      Yeah, it’s hard to know how to intervene. I used to be angry that the few families we knew well never intervened or took my parents to task. We were pretty isolated, but there were three homeschooling families who knew us well enough that they had to know how dysfunctional things were. (The educational neglect was among the least of my family’s problems).
      Now, I kind of understand. First, the reason we were so isolated is that my parents actively cut off contact with anyone who dared question what was going on. Second, they hid the worst of it. But third, I think the three families who stuck around just didn’t know what to do. I don’t actually know what they could have done. My parents met the bare minimum state requirements for homeschooling (which were minimal to non-existent). And while we might have been bad off enough to warrant a CPS investigation, I don’t think things ever came to a point where putting us in foster care would have been better than what we were in. (I’ve been too intimately connected with the foster care system to pretend that we would have been better off there than with our parents). So, those families stuck around, bit their tongues, and were a refuge of sorts for us kids. They were happy, conservative Christian families who put a lot of effort into homeschooling their kids, and if we hadn’t had them as kind of a social net, my childhood would have been worse than it already was.
      Sadly, sometimes that’s all you can do in the case of families where the law isn’t being broken, and where things aren’t bad enough to call CPS–just be there as a support. I benefited from the friends who did that for my family, and I try to pay it back by being a stable and safe presence for kids I know who are in troubled family situations.
      One thing I’m very confident that WOULD have benefited my family is stricter homeschooling laws and requirements. Had my parents been subject to laws that made them actually plan and follow a curriculum, and do testing, and meet benchmarks, I think they would have felt compelled to either provide us with some kind of education, or send us to school. In the absence of regulations, education is going to go by the wayside when families are struggling.
      This is what pisses me off so bad about the “good” homeschooling parents who do a great job educating their kids, but are completely resentful of, paranoid about, and resistant to any laws regulating homeschooling because they don’t need them. Which is such bullshit. Maybe your family doesn’t need them, but my family is living proof that some people really do.

      • MyOwnPerson

        “This is what pisses me off so bad about the “good” homeschooling parents who do a great job educating their kids, but are completely resentful of, paranoid about, and resistant to any laws regulating homeschooling because they don’t need them. Which is such bullshit. Maybe your family doesn’t need them, but my family is living proof that some people really do.”

        Amen to that! I had a conversation about homeschool regulation with a homeschool mom, specifically about a state passing a law that pretty much deregulated homeschooling entirely. She thought the law was a bad idea, but she didn’t want to do anything about it because she saw homeschooling of itself as the greater good and didn’t want to do anything that would make it harder for anyone to get into homeschooling. *facepalm*

      • Rosa

        I’m really lucky that there’s no one in my circles right now I have to walk this tightrope with, but that’s a common issue when you have more of a connection with kids than with parents (or more of a connection with an abused partner than the abusive one) – you can’t criticize enough to get cut off, if you want to help at all, but you don’t want the person suffering to think the treatment is OK.

        As a kid I lost more than one friend to me saying to the friend “Your parents aren’t really allowed to treat you that way” and then the friend tried that line out on the parent and suddenly wasn’t allowed to talk to me anymore.

  • Sally

    “or being too submissive”
    Huh? What’s that about? Just curious.

    • InvertIntrovert

      I paused over that sentence too. “Wait, there’s a too submissive now?” Then I figured maybe the gossipers were talking about husbands.

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

      My mother said asking your husband’s permission before leaving the house, even just to take the kids to the park, was just too much, and we knew a family where that was the norm.

      • Sally

        OK, I get it. It’s kind of what I was actually talking about in yesterday’s CTNAHM thread about my brother in law realizing he didn’t want to be the head of the house by having all of his many kids ask his permission for every little thing. Yeah, it’s the impracticality of micromanaging to that level that seems to be the limit for anyone who wants to at least have a functional, albeit not modern, family life.

  • Angela

    There is no internal policing when there is no power to enforce. Even if everyone in your circle had disapproved what recourse would they have had? There is a family in our neighborhood who homeschools. Purportedly they are unschooling but it really seems like more of an excuse to let the kids run wild. Only the oldest kids (10 and 13) are able to read at all and even then only barely. Anything beyond Dr Suess level trips them up. The parents are also opposed to setting limits of any kind and the parents refuse to correct them no matter what. I’ve seen this mother look on while one child kicked another adult in the shin and another child repeatedly dumped sand over a baby while she remarks that eventually natural consequences will teach them how to behave.

    The thing is the entire neighborhood (even other homeschool families) disapproves of their methods and is very concerned for the kids but we have no power to help or intervene. The parents are totally unreceptive and as far as I know they haven’t broken any laws. Physically I’ve seen no evidence of abuse or neglect and my state has no homeschool regulation laws.

    If there were actual internal policing it would look something like this. First of all since policing only deals with enforcement then the educational standards would be set by the government and not homeschoolers themselves. Homeschool communities would then need to select a measurable way to demonstrate whether the standards are being met (testing, portfolio review, etc) and appoint representatives to carry this out. Then of course if a family falls short the representative could issue warnings, refer help, and eventually report families that fail to meet the minimum requirements. This actually would not be a bad system although I would argue that homeschool communities would need to have some kind of accrediting process to ensure that their reviewers are competent and honest. To be considered “policing” though there has to be actual authority and homeschoolers seem to pretty opposed to that, even internally.

    • Sally

      “my state has no homeschool regulation laws”
      My state doesn’t require any kind of testing or proof turned into anybody. However, all homeschoolers fall under their local superintendent. So while no one is checking on homeschoolers, in theory if someone were reported to the local superintendent, he or she would be obligated to investigate. Is it possible that is true in your state?

      • Angela

        It used to be that if there were concerns a parent would need to produce a curriculum and transcripts or a portfolio if they were reported but now the parent simply has to sign an affidavit stating that they are including the mandatory core requirements in their curriculum and the state just takes their word for it.

  • ako

    I’ve noticed you get people who act as if “government school” must always be the worst possible outcome. Kids failing to learn? Well, obviously, a public school would not only have failed to teach them, but stomped out their love of learning! (Never mind all of the public school graduates who enjoy both an excellent education and a lifelong passion for learning.) Kids abused? Well, obviously they’d have been beaten worse if they’d been left with some government school teacher! (Never mind how many public school students are not only never beaten in school, but surrounded by professionals who want to make sure they’re not being abused at home.) Remember, it’s impossible to completely disprove a counterfactual, so you can hold it up as proof! (But only when asserting the superiority of homeschooling.)

    It’s legitimate to say that some people have terrible experiences in public schools and are better off homeschooling, but it’s just fanaticism to assume that every single homeschooler, no matter how badly homeschooling failed them, is somehow better off than they would be at a public school.

    • Gillianren

      And honestly, you have to figure that a lot of the kids who don’t learn while homeschooled don’t have a love of learning to begin with, at least according to the premise that a love of learning is enough to overcome bad teaching. After all, the kids aren’t learning, so where’s that love? Is it being stifled? Because at least in public school, you learn something. Maybe the way you learn it isn’t the most fun, but it’s got to be better for a love of learning than just never learning at all.

      Of course, I take a lot of flak for my belief that not all kids love to learn, or anyway not all kids love to learn the sorts of things we as a society need them to learn. Yes, I’m sure if there were plenty of jobs for people who know the plot of every episode of Naruto or whatever, that would be sufficient. But I’ve known a lot of kids who didn’t love learning math, science, history–or how to read. I deal every day with people who think that having learned spelling and grammar, and caring, means there’s something wrong with you. I don’t think that’s the fault of public school, given how many of my classmates did extracurricular activities that were basically “and now learn about something else that you won’t even get extra credit for.” Kids just aren’t all the same. Is it unfortunate that public school, by definition, kind of has to find a common way of teaching? Yes. But at least we all graduated literate and able to multiply and divide.

    • NeaDods

      Yes, that appears to be an article of faith right there – no matter *what*, public school is worse. Nevermind how much is accomplished by the public school majority, the worst of public school experiences is considered the norm, while the worst of homeschool experiences is an outlying example that can safely be handwaved as unique.

  • http://smashed-rat-on-press.com/ The Rodent

    > the idea that the importance of education is underrated

    Did you mean to write “overrated”? Given the sense of the paragraph after that I was confused.

  • TLC

    I don’t know much about this aspect of homeschooling. The homeschoolers I’ve have taken great pains to meet state standards and make sure their kids were well-educated.

    Here’s my question: How do these parents (fathers) make a living? How do their uneducated kids make a living? Because if you have a closed, isolated community of uneducated people, they have to do something to feed their kids. Or do they rely on assistance from the same government that they don’t want interfering with their freedom and their choices?

    Yes, these parents are free to make their choices. Their children, however, are not. They are prisoners in this system until they can leave and make their own choices. That us, if they’re allowed to leave and ever find out they have choices.

    • Hilary

      Anat and Ki Sarita can correct me on this if I’m off base, but from what I know about the Haredi in Israel (Jewish ultra-orthodox/fundamentalists) this is a real problem where there are very closed communities with very few socially allowed economic opportunities, no birth control, large families, yet very dependent on Israeli public funds. And given the contempt they have for secular/non-orthodox Israeli Jews and general citizens, there is a lot of hatred building up on both sides.

      • TLC

        Same thing with the FLDS communities. Women find it tough to leave because they don’t have job skills or education. And when they dump their “lost boys” off somewhere, many end up on the streets.

    • Sally

      My brother in law struggled for years until he stumbled upon a job where he entered as fairly unskilled and got training on the job and is now a supervisor. Their grown kids work in other people’s family businesses for something around minimum wage. These are daughters still living at home so far (and are still older teens). It’s going to be a while before they have a son old enough to see what happens there. I know one of their family friends’ sons is going to be an EMT.

      • Sally

        This family homeschools and is very conservative, but they do a fairly good jog at least with the 3 Rs. They will learn enough math, for example, that they could keep their own books in a family business or use basic math skills in construction (which can involve some geometry).

    • Rosa

      A lot of them give up and send the kids back to school after awhile. Like the mom who said to me “Well babycare is as important as whatever he was going to learn in 3rd grade anyway” – her kids went back to school after a year, probably none the worse for wear.

      The combination of not really being interested AND being ideologically committed is a special kind of bad, and luckily it’s rare. But the dynamic of not interfering with other people’s parenting choices Libby’s talking about is not at all rare.

      • CarysBirch

        My (still trapped) former best friend in the movement sent her two older children to public school this year. She did it out of sheer, utter defeat, which is depressing. And she’s feeling like a horrible mother and a complete failure for having to take that step. But I am so, so, so proud of her for doing the right thing for her kids against the standards of her community and family. She really could not homeschool the way her kids needed it because she has one child with severe developmental delays and two babies AND a chronic pain condition.

        I am brokenhearted that she sees this necessary, healthy step that she took to take the best care of both her children and herself is something she feels shame and failure for.

      • Rosa

        That shame is really terrible. I hope you tell her how proud you are of her. The people who choose ideology over their children are so inhumane, “giving up” is a sign of tremendous care for your kids.

  • Palindrome

    And what’s also sad is that some people within the fundamentalist homeschooling community would criticize and blame your friends (rather than their parents) for not taking initiative and learning on their own. There seems to be some thought that kids should be able to self-teach. If they do well despite their parents’ neglect? Well, their parents must’ve done something right! After all, they taught their children to love learning, and they taught their children self-discipline, which is more than can be said about public schooled kids! I suspect there’s a double standard, though, because if a public school were to neglect its students, they’d likely think that the students who did well did so despite the school rather than because of it.

    • Sally

      Right, part of the problem with self policing are the excuses that build up to defend doing a lousy job. Tell the parents they’re doing it right even when the parents themselves are doubting it, and then if it still doesn’t work out, blame the kids. How do you police that from within!?

  • Saraquill

    People were frown upon on your childhood circles for being too submissive? I’m surprised.

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

      My mother said asking your husband’s permission before leaving the house, even just to take the kids to the park, was just too much, and we knew a family where that was the norm.

      • Anat

        Because the ultimate key is to keep women doubting themselves – is this too little? too much? They will have to go somewhere trustworthy for answers, won’t ever think for themselves.

      • mary

        Holy. Shit. There are no words. Well- no polite ones, anyway.

  • Holly Houston

    I totally agree. There is this sense that parents are the ultimate authority and are able to decide what is best for their children, and should not be challenged, even if they are wrong. Because if the wife is being submissive and the children are honoring their parents, God will work through that situation for the good of all involved.
    And then of course, studying the bible and being discipled was considered so much more important than academic work. I remember my mom expressing feelings of guilt because she emphasized our academics and we weren’t just reading the bible most of the day. Thankfully that didn’t stop her from requiring academic excellence, but we definitely got some disapproval from the ATI families in our homeschool group.
    But her determination and perfectionism is why I actually studied higher math and science and did well in college, versus my ATI friends who, as girls, were not challenged academically and when some of them chose college (against their parent’s wishes), had some major struggles to overcome. One dear friend had a literal nervous breakdown during college which she still has not recovered from.

    • Sally

      I’m guessing her parents said the breakdown was confirmation that she shouldn’t have gone in the first place. Sigh.

  • Guest

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    • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

      And I’m tired of people barging in here and claiming Libby Anne (who WAS HOMESCHOOLED HERSELF) doesn’t know anything about homeschooling. Kindly take your self-righteous nonsense and piss off.

      • Sarah Butler MacLeod

        She never states that in this article. Not. Once. She makes a few references to knowing people in the homeschool community, but that hardly takes being a homeschooler oneself. Barging in? This is a public space. Manners much?

      • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

        Manners means reading the “About Me” tab, or clicking on the “Filed Under: Homeschool” link at the bottom of the post to learn a bit more before going off on a big, ill-informed rant. I repeat: Piss off.

      • Sarah Butler MacLeod

        Why the hostility about a different point of view? I’ve edited my original. 95% stands.

      • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

        Because it’s always the same “Homeschooling worked for me, so clearly all your experiences with abuse don’t count” horseshit. It’s rather tiring.

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

        BringTheNoise, just so you know, your comment here is in violation of my comment policy. For the record, so was Sarah in her comment in response to you, but she appears to have disappeared. Accusing her of barging in was fine, but telling her to piss off was not. No hard feelings, I understand you were angry, but I do have to insist that everyone on each side adheres to the same policy or I will be being inconsistent and unfair.

      • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

        I apologise. I’ll do my best to avoid anything like that in the future.

      • TLC

        If you would scroll to the top and click on the About Me link, you would read in the second sentence that Libby Anne was homeschooled. If you keep reading, you would read Libby Anne’s reason for blogging.

        No blogger can be expected to repeat his kind of information in every post they write. Hence, the reason for the About Me page.

      • Barbara

        She does say in this post that she grew up in the homeschool community, which is a bit different from simply knowing some people who were in it.

        Also, the trouble here seems to be a lack of context. This appears to be the first post you’ve read on this blog. The author has made it clear on numerous occasions that she was homeschooled. Additionally, her problem is less with homeschooling in general and more with the sort that is based on religious fundamentalism. While ranting that the author has failed to do her research and that she has made assumptions about homeschooling without knowing anything about it, you’ve failed to do your research about the author and have made an assumption about her based on partial knowledge.

        On another note, just as the fact that there are people who have had terrible experiences with homeschooling does not mean that there are no people who have had good experiences with it, the fact that you have had good experiences with it does not mean that no one has had terrible experiences. The thrust of this entire series is that there should be mechanisms in place to protect children who wind up in toxic or negligent environments, not that homeschooling is something that should be completely done away with.

      • The_L1985

        “Growing up in” and “knowing people in” are two separate concepts.

        Plus, the second sentence of her “About Me” post, which is prominently linked to on every single page of her blog, says clearly that she was homeschooled.

    • MyOwnPerson

      Umm, yeah. It seems to me that you are the one who doesn’t have a broad knowledge of homeschooling. I was also homeschooled, and although my parents and a lot of people I knew valued education, I also knew quite a few homeschoolers who did not. The children had no way of getting a decent education because state requirements were too lax, and they were usually surrounded by like-minded people who also believed that as long as they got their religious education the academic stuff was just a nice bonus.

      • Guest

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      • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

        We’ve been through all this SO MANY GODDAMN TIMES. Again – go read through the “Filed Under: Homeschool” link, so we don’t have to waste time rehashing the same old crap.

      • MPG

        Umm, our state requires all homeschoolers to test grades 3 thru 9 and yes their scores are significantly higher than the 50th percentile. It is not a self-selected group.

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

        Arkansas is actually the only state that currently collects testing data from all homeschooled students, and you are right, that means that it is not a self-selected group. However, that data shows that homeschoolers outperform public school students by a vastly smaller margin that HSLDA claims (to the extent that I’m astounded HSLDA can keep claiming homeschoolers score in the 87th percentile when the Arkansas data exists showing that nothing near that is the case!).

        What is key to remember is that the demographics of homeschoolers are not identical to the demographics of public schoolers. Homeschool parents tend to be better educated and have slightly higher incomes; they also tend to be two-parent families, and are more likely to be white. Public school students with the same demographics *also* do better than the public school average. In other words, it’s not just a matter of finding data that isn’t self-selected, it’s also a matter of correcting for background factors, something the Arkansas data does not allow us to do (given that they don’t collect that demographic information).

      • lucifermourning

        that doesn’t necessarily follow. in a state where homeschooling is properly regulated, it is quite probable that parents who aren’t involved and generally on top of stuff won’t homeschool. to meet requirements (like making your kids get tested!) you’d probably have to be fairly organised, reasonably intelligent/educated, actively involved in your kid’s education, etc.

        which is great. proper regulation should weed out parents who don’t have the skills and commitment to make homeschooling work.

        but it also means the kids are more likely to test well regardless of being home- or public-schooled.

        this is, of course, just a theory. the point is that there are multiple ways to self-select.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Homeschoolers are a self-selecting group. Are they testing better than other students who share their demographic characteristics (race, socio-economic class, parental education level, etc)? Because current surveys of the (inadequate, underpowered, sub-par methodology) literature say no.

      • Sally

        Libby Anne explains how incredibly skewed those test scores are. Basically those studies are done by groups which collect test scores from homeschoolers who volunteer to be part of the study. When people volunteer that way, you get unscientific data because it’s not a random sample. To make the point clear, someone whose children don’t do well on the test likely won’t volunteer to report. People who don’t believe in testing won’t even likely hear about the study let alone participate.
        Do you have any links to studies done scientifically? (I’m asking sincerely.) I’ll see if I can find Libby Anne’s info, although don’t depend on me. You may be able to find them faster than I do.

      • Sally

        I meant to say, “… incredibly skewed those studies are.”

      • Sally

        I see Libby gave you the link to her post on studies.

      • TLC

        RANT WARNING!!

        OK, now I am so pissed off that I went and fired up my laptop, even though it’s Sunday and the first day of NFL football, because it’s too hard to type this much on my iPad.

        If you had any Internet skills at all, you would see at the top of this page is a section that says “Search this blog.” I went there and typed in “homeschooling test scores.” In the results that appear, the first is an article called “Where is your sense of compassion, HSDLA?” It has several links to articles about homeschooling test scores, one being a story about how the author of an oft-cited study is frustrated that his work is so often misquoted. Since you’re too lazy to look, here’s the link: http://web.archive.org/web/20120423040400/http://www.stanford.edu/group/reichresearch/cgi-bin/site/2011/01/05/home-schooling/

        You are the perfect example of why I get so frustrated with people who post without thinking. This is the INTERNET, people. How long would it have taken you to look this stuff up? 30 seconds? One minute? And yet you’re still here, ranting and raving, insulting a very well respected blogger and all of us who follow her, simply because you’re most interested in expressing your VERY uninformed opinion rather than doing a little research.

        I found this blog a few months ago. I was not homeschooled, but am a born-again Christian who was incredibly hurt by these fundagelical churches. I find Libby Anne’s blog to be a very positive, healing part of my day. Furthermore, as a former reporter and current researcher, I have not had any problems with how Libby Anne presents her information. She speaks from her heart and experience (the best sources for any blogger) and adds concrete information from other sources when needed.

        So please, the next time you decide to impart your wisdom on this blog or someone else’s, take 30 seconds to do a little looking around to verify the facts. It would greatly enhance your credibility. And it would set an excellent example for your students too.

      • Sarah Butler MacLeod

        And do you also know children from schools who had poor educations? I bet you do. I have nothing against schools, and I wonder at issues of oversight, but until the schools can show that they have the answer to a quality education for more than a slice of the kids, I’m not eager to have them tell me to what kids my standards should be held.

      • Sally

        “The schools” is too broad a term, I think. Also, it’s not OK to leave some children stuck at home without an education because there are some poor schools, or even if all of American public education is broken. Solving the issue of lack of hs regulation in some states doesn’t have to involve schools at all. I think if we are open to creative problem-solving, we can strengthen hsing, not ruin it. I think we have to protect the rights of kids and parents to hs very differently than public schools, but that doesn’t mean we therefore do no problem-solving. And the starting point of that problem-solving is to admit there are problems, sometimes beyond our own hsing groups, and that we hsers can’t regulate ourselves (and I do mean the most minimum of regulation here).

      • brbr2424

        You sound like one of my kids. I’m not going to take out the garbage until Johnny does the dishes.

        Homeschooled kids are only kids for less than 18 years. Then they become members of society and expected to contribute. That’s basic civics. There have to be minimum educational standards. If you want to exceed the standards, then more power to you.

      • NeaDods

        In other words, all public school kids must be perfect before any homeschool kid has standards? Neither feasible nor logical. But is you wish to discuss the matter from that angle, please start with hard data for these parts of your assertion:

        1) How many children, either in number or percent of population, is “a slice.”

        2) What is your standard for “a quality education”. How was that standard derived?

        3) What is your non-biased source of data for saying that only “a slice” is getting that “quality education”?

        Assertions are easy but emotional. Facts are hard – but only hard data is a valid point from which to argue.

    • Sally

      Look, you have some valid points, but the way you wrote your post is going to garner some hot replies. Making your first post here “I’m tired of rants…” before you’ve checked out the blog a little more makes it pretty unlikely people are going to hear your valid points. I do think it’s valid that many homeschoolers do an excellent job educating their kids. I was one of them (a homeschooling parent).
      But as homeschooling parents, you and I both know there are certain taboos. We don’t admit our kids might struggle socially, and if you know any homeschoolers who are doing a poor job, you are aware that this is often done under the guise of “unschooling.” Yes, unschooling done well is very different than conventional school, but equally valid. But when it’s used as an excuse not to educate children, or a subculture that believes girls don’t need much of an education and which distrusts universities for boys is left to their own devices, someone needs to speak up. Spend some more time reading on this blog. We’re not doing ourselves any good as homeschoolers circling the wagons or trying to shut down honest dialogue about the issues that do affect *some* very real people.

      • Guest

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      • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

        It’s a focus on a small portion of homeschoolers who aren’t succeeding at home

        Yeah, those are the ones who would benefit most from oversight. That’s why they come up in a discussion like this.

        Oversight doesn’t seem to help in the schools, and I’m not convinced it would help at home.

        [Citation needed]

      • Sally

        “Plenty of homeschoolers don’t struggle socially, and many who struggled in schools do far better at home and in the community at large.”
        I agree. In fact in my own family, I had one who did well socially, one who did so-so, and one who had a terrible time socially. In the last child’s case, the problem was that he just couldn’t get friendships going with kids whom he didn’t see about 5 days a week. We spent a lot of time with a lot of kids, but it was a little bit different at each activity or event. Yet my other two did better. But here’s the thing, the fact that plenty of homeschoolers don’t struggle socially doesn’t relate to what I’m saying about the taboo. It’s the kids who *do* struggle that we need to be able to talk about. I couldn’t talk about it in my local group, and I couldn’t talk about it in my online group. I could try, but I got trite answers. Now, eventually I found some hsers I could talk to, and we started a co-op together. I could be totally honest with those co-founders. But I agree with your point that the reason we don’t talk about it outside of homeschooling groups is because of how it can be used to say, “See socialization is a
        problem with hsing!”
        But my co-op cofounders and I still couldn’t solve the problem for my one struggler. He needed full time contact with kids (which we eventually got him by sending him to school). So I really couldn’t solve it within hsing. Now, maybe if I had been able to talk about it openly when I first started seeing a problem, I might have gotten some good advice. In fact, I do have that advice to give to others. And I have given it amidst other people saying, “It will be OK, your child doesn’t really need friends right now.” I give advice like differentiating between busy with various groups Vs connecting with a community that has a more than once-a-week connection… stuff like that. I want to talk about this stuff because I want hsing to get better. But we have to acknowledge that some families struggle academically (for a variety of reasons) and some struggle socially (and some both) before we can get creative and address these issues.
        I think hsing has taken root. We need to stop being afraid of admitting the weaknesses and start hearing hsers who are now young adults (like Libby Anne, but others too) who can give us the feedback we need … feedback that reaches beyond our own personal hsing experiences in many cases.

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

      Just as a quick note, as you now know, I was homeschooled and grew up surrounded by homeschoolers. All my friends were homeschooled. My parents were the presidents of the regional homeschool group, and put on annual homeschool conventions that attracted thousands of attendees. In college away from home, I offered tutoring for homeschooled students and got to know a wide variety of families, including a number of unschooling families (I hadn’t know many unschoolers growing up). Some of these unschooling parents are still friends of mine today. I actually wrote up my thoughts on unschooling in a blog post not long ago: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2013/06/my-concerns-about-unschooling.html

      For more on my thoughts on homeschooling, you should check my homeschool tab: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/homeschooling This is not the first time I’ve written about homeschooling, and I’m far from ignorant on the subject. I’ve known homeschooling parents who did a great job, homeschooling parents who failed their kids, and everything in between. I don’t have a stereotype of homeschoolers, but the more I listen to others’ stories and do research on homeschooling and read things online, the more passionate I become about the need for some basic regulation.

      Finally, as for your claim that homeschoolers score far better on standardized tests, I’m afraid that’s based on propaganda and not good data. I’d recommend reading my post on the subject: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2013/06/stop-saying-homeschoolers-are-brilliant.html

    • MyOwnPerson

      Yes, the best controlled research we have shows that homeschoolers score about the same as their similarly demographically situated public schooled peers on standardized testing. But even if that weren’t the case that wouldn’t be any reason to leave homeschoolers without recourse when their parents don’t bother to educate them.

    • TLC

      Well, it looks like she deleted her comment and went away. Interesting.

  • Susie M

    Spoken like a true homeschooled kid. I mean, we’ve all seen it. There’s always that one family…the one that everyone pretends isn’t ruining their kids futures. And it’s always so sad.
    My mom refers to herself as an ”education coordinator”–rather than a ”teacher”. She finds the curriculum, classes, and degree paths for her kids and insists on excellence. And, when someone isn’t thriving at home, that child is put in school. She bases it on personality and aptitude. Of course, she’s heralded as THE PERFECT HOMESCHOOL MOM, but in reality, she’s just a good parent. (I’ve noticed that my friends whose parents are public school teachers have the same storyline.)
    Yes, mass education doesn’t work well. But, not educating someone is even worse. As for the kids who leave public schools complete morons, that probably has something to do with legitimately neglectful parents and incredibly apathetic students.

    • trinity91

      that’s not fair to students AT ALL. It’s also not fair to parents. Most students who grow up having problems out of the public schools are not lazy or apathetic to begin with. Most of them come from incredibly poor areas; who have parents who work two, three, or more part time jobs to make ends meet. You try being in those conditions most likely hungry I might add with a teacher who is burnt out and not willing to help you and don’t become jaded and apathetic toward education. I knew a very small number of people who were having trouble in school who didn’t have one or more of the problems that I’m talking about. Bad public schools exist. Victim blaming the kids who have been failed by the public schools is not a good solution.

      • Susie M

        I’m truly sorry I offended you. I think context will help you see MY viewpoint. I’m from a small town. There’s no inner city. There’s small schools. People care. Someone cares about you. So the people who do turn out uneducated really do have neglectful parents and have *become* apathetic.

        I’m not saying that because a 14 year is apathetic about Algebra class, he/she deserves to have a bad education (because wouldn’t we all.)

        However, before you judge me so harshly you should know… After my father died my family lived WELL below the poverty line. I know what it’s like to go hungry. I know what it’s like to watch a parent struggle to keep a roof over your head. I know what it’s like to work forty hours a week and go to school. And I know what it’s like to succeed, despite all that.

        I’m definitely not blaming ”victims” of bad public schools any more than I would blame ”victims” of poorly constructed home schooling efforts. I appreciate your tenderness on this issue–obviously it’s something close to your heart.

        Anyways, I’m sorry I offended you. Written words can so easily be misinterpreted.

      • trinity91

        Small town rural bad schools exist too. I grew up in a poor as dirt farming community. Not the inner city. There are awful schools everywhere regardless of location. You didn’t offend me, I just think you are dead wrong.

      • Susie M

        Anything is possible, so I could definitely be wrong. ;) But I’m curious as to what you actually think.
        Are you saying that it’s ALWAYS the school district’s fault if someone comes out uneducated? Or do you think we should look to the schools first before assuming it was a personal issue? I’m curious because I tend to attribute it to family and personal responsibility (again, just my perspective from what I’ve personally seen). But I don’t have a lot of experience with poor public school districts, just poor people.
        You and I seem to have polar experiences–yours was with poor districts and people who were caught in a vicious cycle, and mine were with people who had every opportunity and just didn’t care. (Homeschooled kids are a different story, probably more akin to the horrible systems you’ve experienced.)

      • trinity91

        I think that students who start out as kindergartners with an inability to learn due to their own personality are exceedingly rare. I think that terrible teachers in the early grades along with poverty, malnutrition, parental absence, undiagnosed learning disabilities, and community violence are all MUCH larger factors in how apathetic a student is going to become.

      • Susie M

        I agree (and always have) that’s it is outside factors that turn students apathetic–what those are definitely vary, though.

      • trinity91

        okay so why are you blaming the students if their apathy is not their fault.

      • Susie M

        Like I’ve mentioned multiple times, the students I’ve personally encountered typically emerged uneducated because they willfully chose to ignore the opportunities given to them–good schools, good parents, etc–or had parents who simply did not care. So my comment was one sided based on MY experiences. Obviously now, my view point is expanded, etc.

        An outside factor could simply be a student has never had to fight for anything. Education has always been there and he doesn’t see its value. That’s a good factor: the continuous presence of free education. Still, some people simply don’t appreciate it. Maybe you haven’t met people like that. I, however, know too many people who just stopped caring, thinking they were too cool for high school, that they would show the system. OR just skate through just because. It happens.

    • The_L1985

      Or just plain poverty. If you’re not getting enough nutritious food (not just X amount of calories but the actual vitamins and minerals your body needs to thrive), then you can’t think. If all your parents can afford to give you are rice and beans, or fast food, then you aren’t getting enough vitamins, and school is going to be HARD.

      There are a lot of kids who aren’t being properly nourished because their parents can’t afford good healthy food, but earn too much for SNAP. Those children aren’t going to do well in school, and it isn’t their parents’ fault. Furthermore, their apathy is generally based in malnutrition, and studies have shown that when such children are being properly fed, the apathy tends to vanish.

      • mary

        Can nutrition make an impact? Certainly. But surviving on rice/beans (which I’ve done) doesn’t make you bad in school. I personally think that adults in your life who value education make more of a difference than anything. Trust me, you can be dirt poor and not have advantages and still do very, very well. My dad worked two jobs for a while and my mom cleaned houses and babysat…

        Also, I find you mention of the studies interesting…. do you happen to have any links or names that I could google?

      • The_L1985

        They were referenced in my college educational psych textbook. I took the class in 2007, and ended up selling the textbook back at the end of the term, so sadly I don’t have specific info.

        I do remember reading more than once, though, that implementing free and reduced-price lunch plans in schools tended to increase student test scores very quickly.

      • mary

        your, not you…. wish guest posts could be edited. :)

        Thanks. :)

        Yeah…… my parents emptied piggy banks to pay for diapers, we lived in a rented trailer for years…… and I’m the only one of the five (also the oldest) not pursuing an advanced degree in something. (we have one law student, one stock broker, one physical therapist-in-training, and one engineer-in-training.) Statistically, economic level is a factor in academic achievement, but my theory is that it’s because those families are less likely to have a drive to educate their kids and an appreciation for the importance of education, the parents may be woefully uneducated themselves, and they may live in a culture which devalues education in favor of easy money elsewhere or which ridicules those who succeed. . I think that it’s easy for a kid to see the possibility of making 20-30k a year in construction or service industries (no say nothing of less legal pursuits) and, having never had money of their own, not be seduced by the income and independence. Some kids will see the value in going through the difficulties of college/finishing high school without adult encouragement, some won’t.

      • Susie M

        Agreed. Like I was explaining to another commenter, I don’t immediately think of dire poverty when I meet an uneducated person. But as someone who couldn’t afford lunch some days (and then did the poor college student gig) I completely understand.

        And like I referenced before, in the circles I run in, a lack of an education typically is not the result of poverty, etc. But I’m learning more every day and being reminded of situations far from mine. (And school children going hungry in the US is utterly heartbreaking.) So thank you.

      • Rosa

        Also if you don’t have a set place to sleep and study. In one of our local elementary schools, at the height of the foreclosure crisis a few years ago, HALF of the kids had unstable housing at any given time. That is, they were in homeless shelters, couch-hopping, or staying short term with various relatives because their parents were homeless.

  • http://www.wideopenground.com/ Lana

    The homeschool community is not a good police. One of my friends from a large homeschool family was not able to get a GED. I’ve tried to encourage her to study – even though she is so far in a hole that studying for it will mean not only learning new content, but learning whole concepts she never learned. But it’s brought her down.

    I am, however, not convinced other communities are helpful either. The church said nothing to this family (we went to their church), and none of their neighbors did, clearly. When my parents neighbors werne’t homeschooling or unschooling just nonschooling, my parents nor our neighbors never said anything. It’s hard to report your neighbors for just not homeschooling enough. I am not saying we shouldn’t speak up to the family about it – I am just saying most people are timid to do so. Regulations would make it easier.

  • Alice

    My parents never checked to see if I was doing my schoolwork. One year I barely completed 1/3 of the math book, and they didn’t find out until the end of the year. I didn’t have trouble self-policing most of the time because I was scared to death of failing a standardized test, and the state sentencing me to public school. Or falling so far behind that I would never be able to catch up when it was time for college. Or just the fear of my parents’ disappointment.

    To get an education, I had to become an expert at guilt-tripping and scaring myself all along the way. It worked at the time, but it’s been very hard to unlearn as an adult.

  • mary

    Couldn’t agree more, LA. ANd I’m a current homeschooling parent. We follow the state’s guidelines for what our kids should know at their grade level, meaning that by the end of a year they must have all the competencies that the state recommends for their level, at a minimum. This is voluntary, though, and not everyone does it. I’m not a fan of ideological oversight by government entities, (the right to be stupid is very, very basic, folks. :) ) but we can have regulations requiring a basic education. Think basic Math, English, History, Economics. I also have tremendous concerns about our local public schools, and I think that needed education reform should address both the desperately needed homeschooling regulation and the needs of public education. For one thing, our local schools do not have ANY of their curricula available for parental review. Like, not even a single copy of each text that must stay in the library. This is a problem. Also a problem is the new “common core” stuff being adopted- specifically the ditching of math algorithms. I could go on. Both ways of educating have issues, and I think that either one, done well, can work for a child.

  • SamRocha

    You don’t really give unschooling or deschooling its due here. I say this as a parent who un/de-schools and a professor and scholar of education.

    • The_L1985

      Er…she’s said more than once that homeschooling itself is not a bad thing. She’s also pointed out that while unschooling CAN be very beneficial to children, a lot of the people who claim to unschool are actually just sort of letting the kid do whatever and not offering any real educational experiences or motivation (i.e., not actually unschooling from what little I can tell of it).

      I agree 100% with Libby Anne that a person who is ideologically invested in something is guaranteed to view that particular topic through rose-colored glasses. This isn’t a homeschooling or unschooling thing; it’s a human thing. Sure, your teenager’s boyfriend Spike has a criminal record, is nasty to his mother, and has disturbing images tattooed into his skin–but to her, he’s a perfect angel who can do no wrong because she loves him. Sure, buying lots of crystals to help you with their “healing vibrations” instead of getting actual medical treatment won’t help with your cancer–but the book says that crystal healing always works, so clearly you’re the one who’s not doing it right.

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

      This post was not about unschooling. The only part that touched on unschooling was about people using the term “unschooling” to cover for educational neglect. I’d like to think that unschoolers like yourself would be against that. I’ve addressed it more here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2013/06/my-concerns-about-unschooling.html

      • SamRocha

        I haven’t followed the link yet, but I read (perhaps wrongly) your comment as trying to be dismissive about un/de-schooling. If that was not your intent, then I’ll gladly retract my comment. My impression by this post, however, seems to be that “self-policing” is suspect in cases that would include un/de-schooling. After all, to un/de-school, you often have to register as a home schooler, for legal purposes. I guess that I am unsure what, exactly, “self-policing” means in this context that somehow keeps un/de-schooling out of range.

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

        I think if you read the link to my other article you will find that I have no problem with unschooling done well, but a lot of problem with people who aren’t actually unschooling invoking “unschooling” as a cover for educational neglect. I explain it all there.

        As for self policing, when someone says that there should be regulations on homeschooling to ensure that children are being educated, I am often told by homeschool parents that the homeschool community can police itself, i.e. that if a child is not learning someone will step in and say something or do something. As for how unschooling fits into this, I don’t personally find unschooling incompatible with regulation, as all I would argue regulation should do is ensure that children are *learning.* I would not support regulations that seek to dictate the method of education or when each subject is learned, rather, I support regulations that ensure that learning is happening, and the unschoolers I know (I have several friends who unschool) would have no problem pulling together a portfolio showing all the fascinating things each of their children did in a given year and everything they learned. If an unschooling parent can’t demonstrate that there is learning taking place, there is a problem. You may disagree with me on that point, I don’t know, but my understanding (as you’ll see if you read my other post) is that unschooling is about creating an educationally rich environment in which child-led learning can take place in nonconventional ways (i.e., without curricula or lesson planning or school-like pedagogy), not about no learning at all taking place.

      • trinity91

        Libby Anne I’m curious to know if you’ve heard of Sudbury schools and if you have what your thoughts on them are.

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

        Nope, haven’t heard of them. If they’re anything like Montessori or Waldorf, well, I generally have no problem with school reform geared toward making schools more response to students and more understanding of their development and needs.

      • trinity91

        The best way to describe it is an unschooling school. So they have extremely rich educational resources available (the local one is on land which salmon spawning grounds run through) and teachers, but no official curriculum or regimented structure.

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

        Provided learning is taking place, and provided students are somehow encouraged to get a basic education in a variety of subjects before graduation, I have no problem with it at all. One thing that concerns me about unschooling is that if never required to study a broad array of subjects students may reach the end of high school and never have made a study of, say, math. Sure, a kid can learn mat from scratch at 18, but I’ve known people in this situation (from neglectful homeschooling, not unschooling), and it’s really unpleasant. In other words, I can see cases in which unschooling can shut off doors for students. The way we currently approach schooling, every student is supposed to have a basic education in a variety of subjects by the time they reach 18, preparing them to head off into the world and pursue a chosen career or what have you. Of course, the unschoolers I’ve known as an adult all have younger children, and I can see ways to try to guide children in the direction of subjects they’ve neglected for lack of interest, so these concerns may or may not be well grounded in actual problems, it’s hard to say. I would wonder, though — if a kid at a Sudbury school was 17 and had never studied math and didn’t want to study math and had never shown any interest in math, what would they do?

        As for me, I don’t mind putting my kids in public school, where it’s more regimented, because I think it will help prepare them to navigate the adult world. I guess I feel that if a kid is allowed to create their own assignments for the first 18 years, there may be problems when that child hits college/the workforce. But then, this is just my opinion and it could be wrong, I don’t know.

      • Conuly

        Children in those schools tend to perform about the same as children in other schools, however it is worth noting that many of the students aren’t there because their parents believe it is the best method for all children but because they were so unhappy in more typical schools that they weren’t learning or, in extreme cases, weren’t going.

        So in their case, the choice is between this method and no school, not this method and another.

      • SamRocha

        I am not sure why (the discipline and policing of) learning is so singularly important to you. The history and literature on education and schooling don’t really give that impression. On the one hand there are many other things to take into account besides learning, like unlearning. On the other hand there is always some learning happening; the real question is whether it is good or beautiful or worthwhile learning. My principal objection is the implication that schooling requires police. This may be true for compulsory schooling, but it is not the case for most of the schooling that exists in the world. Having said that, I think most homeschoolers are very bit as dull and unimaginative about education as public and private schoolers. I feel the same way about many starry-eyed de/un-schoolers, too. Even myself.

      • The_L1985

        Just FYI, your post is there. 3 times. :)

      • SamRocha

        Sorry, must be a glitch on my end. Feel free to delete the repeats…

      • SamRocha

        Was my previous comment lost or deleted?

        In case it was lost, here it is again:

        I am not sure why (the discipline and policing of) learning is so singularly important to you. The history and literature on education and schooling don’t really give that impression. On the one hand there are many other things to take into account besides learning, like unlearning. On the other hand there is always some learning happening; the real question is whether it is good or beautiful or worthwhile learning. My principal objection is the implication that schooling requires police. This may be true for compulsory schooling, but it is not the case for most of the schooling that exists in the world. Having said that, I think most homeschoolers are very bit as dull and unimaginative about education as public and private schoolers. I feel the same way about many starry-eyed de/un-schoolers, too. Even myself.

      • SamRocha

        I am not sure why (the discipline and policing of) learning is so singularly important to you. The history and literature on education and schooling don’t really give that impression. On the one hand there are many other things to take into account besides learning, like unlearning. On the other hand there is always some learning happening; the real question is whether it is good or beautiful or worthwhile learning. My principal objection is the implication that schooling requires police. This may be true for compulsory schooling, but it is not the case for most of the schooling that exists in the world. Having said that, I think most homeschoolers are very bit as dull and unimaginative about education as public and private schoolers. I feel the same way about many starry-eyed de/un-schoolers, too. Even myself.

    • Lucreza Borgia

      Why is it so important to protect the institution of homeschooling to the point that any criticism of it must be met with comments such as yours?

      • trinity91

        I think the vast majority of defensiveness comes from society at large being extremely critical of homeschooling. I think most of what Libby Anne says is fair criticism. I however do not find a lot of the criticism from most people to have any nuance to it, or for the people talking about it to have any knowledge of what they are talking about. When you have to explain multiple times a week (read every trip out in public during school hours) to angry people that homeschooling is not ruining your children you tend to get defensive of everyone who is criticizing homeschooling. This is especially exemplified if you are unschooling.

  • Supergirl999

    All these ideas of can-do’s and cannot-do’s which prevent accountability for the wellbeing of children in the homeschooling community are aided by the additional cultural idea that mental illness shouldn’t be talked about; it’s not polite and none of your business.

    Homeschooling kids and parents are affected by mental illness just like everyone else; a depressed parent doesn’t make a good teacher and an untreated anxious kid doesn’t learn and so forth. Homeschooling, in my experience, especially allows for a bubble where seeking help for these type of issues must be done without the resources of school personnel…and that’s if anyone is brave enough or aware enough to see it in themselves or others. Theres no school guidance counselor; how are kids even supposed to know they could be helped if their parents are (at least seemingly) hush-hush about this stuff?

  • Beth Clarkson

    In general, self-policing only works in environments where social pressure is sufficient to get adequate compliance or failure do do an adequate job will result in official ‘policing’. Without some method of oversight and corrective action for failures, self-policing will not work for anyone not committed to doing their best whether we are talking about homeschooling or any other application.

    But before we get to the issue of whether or not homeschoolers can be trusted to “self-police”, I think a major issue is whether or not others (i.e. society in general) has the right to ‘police’ the education of children when their parents who choose to homeschool.

    This is NOT a question with a built-in answer, but is dependent on what sort of society you want to live in. For example, if you want to live in a society where parents have the freedom to choose unorthodox methods, such as unschooling, then the price society pays for allowing this sort of freedom is the inability to distinguish between parents who do so and parents who are neglecting their children’s education.

    This philosophic reason is why many people object to outside evaluations for homeschoolers. Our society does not insist that all parents be evaluated by appropriate professionals to make sure they are not being neglectful of their children with respect to nutrition, adequate housing, etc. We simply assume parents are doing an adequate job unless there is reason to believe otherwise. I don’t think education is any more important to the child than such things. If we are going to examine all children in our society on a regular basis to make sure they are being adequately cared for and providing with the things they need to become self-sufficient contributing members of our society, then we need to discuss whether or not we want a society that subjects all parents to outside assessment of their parenting choices.

    If you don’t object philosophically and you want to live in a society that ensures that every child gets an adequate education, then outside policing of some sort will be required. This has it’s own set of costs and benefits which need to be evaluated with respect to the the effectiveness of meeting the goal of every child receiving an education.

    The only way to attempt to allow for unorthodox methods like unschooling requires a costly, invasive and detailed evaluation by someone outside the home. This is necessarily a subjective evaluation and vulnerable to the problems inherent in that methodology.

    In practice, evaluations generally mean that homeschoolers are required to take standardized tests. The problems with those are well-established with some public school teachers and parents starting to ‘opt out’ of subjecting their children to them. Unschoolers generally want to avoid them altogether as inappropriate for their approach.

    My own opinion is that the root cause of the major problems with children acquiring a good education result from neglectful parenting. I think this is a problem that is often either caused or greatly exacerbated by poverty and/or addiction issues. I don’t think that requiring policing of homeschoolers is going to provide much improvement with respect to those problems. It may help a few families, such as the one you describe in your post, to achieve results more in line with society’s expectations, but it will also discourage others from attempting more unorthodox approaches that could have resulted in better outcomes for their children.

    To me, the major impact of policing homeschoolers would be to force compliance with a traditional education model, something unschooling parents are generally attempting to avoid.

    • Rosa

      We do not, in general, assume that all parents are doing an adequate job: we assume that most parents and children are in contact with enough is mandatory and voluntary reporters that the laws about basic parenting standards (cleanliness, food, care, education) are being brought to bear without specific scrutiny on each family.

      That is why (after decades of activism by survivors, for domestic laws, and repeated rounds of reform in the business world) we have an entire legal structure protecting whistleblowers and encouraging reporting, as well as various public education campaigns about what breaking the law looks like and what people can or should do about it.

      Homeschoolers deliberately remove their families from a major edifice of this legal structure that ensures children’s rights. That is why the subject of self-policing is even relevant. People who are sending their kids to public schools and accredited/licensed private schools and daycares are voluntarily putting their parenting under a certain level of scrutiny and putting their children’s education into a public sphere where it’s subject to evaluation. Homeschoolers are asking for a special right to not be policed.

      • Beth Clarkson

        I interpret this situation differently. The fact that our society relies on people interacting with children to report suspicion of child mistreatment rather than investigating every home with children indicates to me that our society trusts parents to adequately care for their children unless there is cause to think otherwise.

        Further, homeschoolers do not remove their children from society. They are not isolated just because they choose to forgo traditional schooling.

        I don’t think self-policing is relevant because parents are not policed on how well they parent. Only if there is cause for suspicion are people expected to report on them and social workers sent to check up on the situation. I haven’t seen any convincing arguments for why education should be an exception to this general approach.

      • Conuly

        Some homeschoolers, particularly some of the more religious ones or the ones who claim they are homeschooling as a cover for abuse, do remove their children from society.

        This may not be typical, but it is lying to claim people like this don’t exist. And while it is absolutely possible to isolate your children and send them to school (often within an isolated community that otherwise doesn’t participate with the wider society), there are slightly more legal checks there to protect kids in those situations

      • Beth Clarkson

        I’m not claiming such people don’t exist. I’m saying such people are not typical of homeschooling so we are in agreement on that point.

        I don’t think that homeschooling regulations and/or requirements are an effective means of reaching and helping the children of such parents. Ideally, such parents should be identified and the situation corrected prior their children reaching school age.

      • Conuly

        “Ideally, such parents should be identified and the situation corrected prior their children reaching school age.”

        How? That isn’t sarcasm, I really want to know how we would do that without hitting the points on your previous post about not assuming parents are abusive from the get-go.

      • Beth Clarkson

        We can’t. That’s my point. Either we assume parents are not abusive and don’t investigate without cause for suspicion or we must require some sort of state agents to inspect and evaluate the parenting of all infants and preschoolers.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Or, we make all children go to some sort of school or have some sort of oversight if they don’t, to make sure they come into contact with adults outside the family who are mandatory reporters. Which is the thing that is being suggested and occupies a firm middle ground between just letting abusive homeschoolers get away with it and doing home studies of all new parents.

      • Beth Clarkson

        This is not ‘middle ground’. You are agreeing with the basic premise that society should not trust parents as a default. You may disagree about what age society should begin keeping tract of children (you think school age is fine rather than newborns) and no doubt other details like what is appropriate parenting and what should be cause for intervention, but those are implementation issues.

        You apparently disagree with the philosophical idea that parents should be trusted to raise their children as they see fit with society intervening only when there is cause for suspicion. Instead, you are supporting the idea that all children should be regularly observed by others just in case their parents are abusive or neglectful in some way.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Well, we know what happens when we trust parents. Children are abused and murdered by their parents in much larger numbers than when we admit that parents aren’t all good at it and some are downright terrible at it and need to not have contact with their children any more.

        I absolutely disagree that parents should be trusted to raise their children as they see fit so long as they can hide abuse. You say “cause for suspicion”, but if a child never sees anyone outside a very closed community of like-minded individuals or even anyone outside the family, who is going to have the cause for suspicion? Who is going to report it? Oversight of homeschooling for children who may have no other outside contact is really not too much to ask.

        Homeschooling in and of itself is a suspicious choice; it is incredibly abusable, for all that it can also be a fabulous experience. That’s why oversight of homeschooling is necessary- trust but verify. Just trust leads to, well, Hana Williams and Lydia Schatz dying, to Immanuel Williams getting beaten on the soles of his feet (a known torture method), Libby Anne watching her toddler sister be starved, children kept in cages, children tied to beds and left to die in a house fire, children raped by friends and/or relatives and calling it “spanking”, children reaching 18 without knowing how to read or write, children learning that the Earth is 6000 years old and a talking snake told a woman to eat a magical apple and that’s why they’re horrible evil little bundles of sin who should feel bad about themselves all the time.

      • Beth Clarkson

        Interesting rant. It sums up quite well why I am opposed to the idea that we assume all parents are abusing/neglecting their children and should be regularly checked up on. You object to everything from children being tied to beds and left to die in a fire to parents teaching them religious beliefs. It’s this sort of narrowing the bounds of acceptable parenting that I am concerned about.

        Question for you – if what parents teach their children about God were defined to be child abuse, which do you think is more likely to end up prohibited: the talking snake or the non-existence of god?

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Parents can still teach their kids about the magic and woo and religion outside of class, you realize. The kids just have a chance to interact with people who are different, who believe differently, and who can help them take their first tentative steps toward independent and critical thinking if they aren’t homeschooled, or at least if they have some contact with the outside world.

        My husband knows a woman, at 25, who still believes dogs “go to the farm” when they get old, instead of dying. That, to me, is child abuse. To raise your child to be so credulous, so gullible, and so naive as to be nonfunctional in the outside world as an adult is … mindboggling. It shouldn’t, and can’t, be illegal to teach one’s children about one’s religion. It should be illegal to teach one’s children false things about other religions and the world around them; every person has a right to an education, and that means a real education, full of facts about the world.

        The Earth isn’t 6,000 years old, and to ignore or denigrate geology and biology and astronomy and chemistry and physics and paleontology and all the other sciences that show this to be true means that child is not actually getting the education they are entitled to. A homeschooling parent who teaches the talking snake story as fact is literally abrogating a child’s human right to an education, and yes, the state must step in and fix that. The state’s job (at least one of them) is to protect the rights of its citizens, and children are citizens.

      • Beth Clarkson

        I can only say that I disagree that teaching children as you describe above constitutes child abuse. Further, I don’t want to live in a society that has the kind of power you want it to have regarding how parents are allowed to raise their children and teach them their religious beliefs. I would ask that you seriously consider the implications of what you are advocating if they were to be used against your own beliefs.

        I’ll ask my question again: If what parents teach their children about God were defined to be child abuse, which do you think is more likely to end up prohibited: the talking snake or the non-existence of god?

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        It’s a stupid question, because parents will never be disallowed from teaching their children about God. The children just must also be taught the science.

        Now, most people are clearly incapable of teaching all those branches of science. I’m an extremely well-educated person myself, and I couldn’t do it. But that’s what teachers are for, no?

      • Beth Clarkson

        It’s a stupid question despite the fact that such impositions and prohibitions have happened in the past in various human societies? Well, your opinion of it and reluctance to answer communicate something of your attitude as well.

        BTW, homeschooling does not require that only the parents can ever be the teachers so that isn’t a valid critique of homeschooling parents.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        I don’t get where you’re going with this. At no point in this discussion has anyone suggested parents should be banned from propagating their religion to their children. All I’ve ever said is the children must receive a real education, and the state must step in to ensure that happens. Whether that’s oversight of homeschooling or a requirement that all children go to accredited schools I don’t care.

        Do I think religion is stupid? Yes. Do I think parents shouldn’t tell their kids things that are blatantly false? Yes. Do I think the government should stop parents from telling their kids things that are blatantly false? No. The fact that state-based religious persecution has occurred in the past doesn’t mean it’s likely to happen in a state governed by a constitution that expressly prohibits such behavior, and should such start to occur, I’ll fight against that. Requiring you to teach your child real science isn’t religious persecution, though.

        And you still haven’t answered how isolated, abused children are supposed to ever be rescued without oversight.

      • Beth Clarkson

        “I don’t get where you’re going with this. At no point in this discussion has anyone suggested parents should be banned from propagating their religion to their children. “

        A few posts back, you listed such activity along with rape, beatings and torture as the behavior you wanted to stop by requiring all children to be regularly evaluated by people outside the family. If you have reconsidered, and now agree that teaching children religious beliefs should not be considered a form a child abuse, I’m please to have helped you recognize that. If you feel that it is accurately termed child abuse, then it is a reasonable implication that you feel such parental behaviors should be banned.

        In answer to your question, I don’t think such children can be reliably rescued without draconian oversight such that the harm of the oversight is very likely worse than the abuse. Homeschooling regulation certainly would not do so reliably and is not a reasonable justification for such regulations.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        I’m sorry, is actively trying to drive one’s children into a suicidal depression now a protected religious belief?

      • Beth Clarkson

        I don’t think so. What religion has that belief?

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        The one that teaches that a talking snake told a woman to eat a magical apple and that’s why they (the children) are horrible evil little bundles of sin who should feel bad about themselves all the time.

      • Beth Clarkson

        Oh, I see. You’re equating the one with the other. I don’t agree. But that confusion does illustrate the problem I have with idea that we need oversight of homeschoolers.

        Even if I don’t agree with those beliefs, I think we have to be very very careful about equating teaching those beliefs to be actively trying to harm their own children.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Do note, also, that I think parents should be allowed to teach their children that a talking snake told a woman to eat a magical apple and that’s why bad things happen. It’s not the religion I object to. I object to telling children that they are horrible creatures who should feel bad about their very existence. I don’t care why you tell a child that- it’s still emotional abuse. I don’t think religion should get a pass on emotional abuse just because it’s religious.

        Do you understand where I’m coming from now?

      • The_L1985

        “Further, homeschoolers do not remove their children from society.”

        A lot of religiously-motivated homeschoolers do, in fact, isolate their children, because “the world” is believed to be evil.

  • http://rebeccasdaughter.blogspot.com/ Rebeccas_Daughter

    “maybe [John Holt] would have agreed with HSLDA and argued that even no education at all is better than “government” schools.”

    I did not get this impression at all, after reading at least 3 of his books. John advocated strong educator involvement with the children being educated, but just on a different model than the school model. He advocated following the child’s interests, letting the child guide the direction of their own education, yes; but a vital part of that was having an involved adult to provide guidance, advice, and information. He was a dedicated educator, and based his theories on what he saw work. I believe he would prefer school to being set adrift.

    In my state, homeschoolers have to test every 2 – 3 years; if they fail to reach a minimal level of performance, they have to test annually, and if it continues sub-par, the kids have to go to school. As a homeschooling mom, I’m okay with that. But then, I’m not a purist. I’ve got one kid in school and one hybrid, 1/2 school, 1/2 homeschool. So, yeah, the state has a vested interest in the well-being of children, and allowing homeschoolers to self-police is unlikely to be effective.

  • Vicq_Ruiz

    If parents don’t give a crap whether or not their children learn, the children will (almost) certainly not learn.

    This is in every way as true of a public school environment as it is of home schooling.

  • Carmen

    Libby, I read your blog a lot, and just love it. I don’t have children myself – was never interested in that – but a lot of my work involves advocating for children (I’m a lawyer). One of the areas I practice is in family law, particularly cases involving non-traditional types of families, such as guardians who care for kids or same-sex couples, adoptive couples, etc. I have been trying to advocate for rights for children for many years. Anyway please keep up the good work.

    The question I have is what can be done to intervene? My brother and his wife are home schooling their two kids (8 and 10) for religious reasons. My sister and I are very concerned about how far behind the kids seem to be (among other things). But my brother tells them all the time how smart they are. If you met them the first thing they would tell you is how smart they are.

    It is perplexing to understand why my brother decided to take his kids out of the system like this. Our parents were both educators, both went to college, my dad (an immigrant) all the way to a Ph.D., they sent us all to public schools and public colleges, my dad worked in a public university, and my sister has a Ph.D. and works in a public school district. My family fought hard against Prop 13 in California which took resources from public schools. Without public education, my family would never have gotten as far as we have.

    • Conuly

      Are they in violation of the law where they are? Because if they are, the first thing I would do is call child services anonymously if you really feel they are being neglected. That might be the only thing you can do.

      • Carmen

        Yes, that’s a good idea, but I don’t think know I enough to know if they are in violation of the home schooling laws. They are in Oregon and while I can research the laws there, I just don’t know what they are teaching them (or not). My brother doesn’t volunteer that information. Also I’m hesitant to just call CPS without knowing more.

      • David Kopp

        If it helps, I have had CPS called on me twice. Because our old daycare provider was an idiot in many, many ways.

        CPS has always been good, respectful and fair to me. They don’t do a “take kids first, ask questions later” unless there’s an indication of physical danger to the kids, which I’m guessing from your description there isn’t.

        You could always consider calling them, and just ask. Say you know someone in the community that seems to be neglecting their children’s education, but you’re not sure if you can report it or how. Use their knowledge to help. The worst thing they’ll say is “We can’t do anything”

  • pfamilygal

    Unfortunately, many of us live in states where oversight is negligible. In Texas, I am not required to do anything but teach civics and Texas History at some point in their educational journey. Which is sad. We adhere to a rigorous Classical model in our home, but I know many homeschoolers who do not have such lofty goals. One mom I know admitted that they just didn’t do math the year before, because the new baby kept her too busy. She has a new baby almost every year!! I hurt for those children.

  • EmilyTwist

    I don’t trust any group of humans to self-police. So, basically, we’re all screwed, lol.

  • http://www.patheos.com/Pagan Christine Kraemer

    I would be concerned that standard assessments would undermine otherwise successful alternative learning structures. For example, I know the Sudbury school model enables a great deal of one-on-one, self-directed learning, but that subjects aren’t necessarily tackled in the same order as in public school. Parents sometimes get upset when they realize that their ten-year-old is way behind grade level in some subject — but the Sudbury schools have a long history of graduating students who successfully go on to Ivy League colleges, because temporary “deficiencies” are eventually addressed in an organic way that varies from student to student. Parents have to be coaxed to trust the process, even though it doesn’t look like the standard one.

    How do you ensure accountability without stifling innovative and potentially very effective alternative educational techniques?

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