Over the last few days, my social media pages have blow up with comments and articles about Joe and Nicole Naugler, an “off-grid” couple whose ten children were removed by CPS following the discovery that the family was living in tents and had inadequate heat, water, and sewage—a discovery that followed a standoff between Joe and one of the neighbors, in which Joe trespassed on a neighbor’s property in order to steal water, and then, when confronted, threatened to shoot said neighbor.
News articles about the removal tend to have titles like this:
Some homeschooling parents are posting article on the situation to HSLDA’s facebook page to try to get them involved, and I’ve seen scads of homeschooling parents defending the Nauglers as a good, honest, hard-working homeschooling family that just happens to have made different lifestyle choices from other families. If you want an honest look at the situation and what all is involved, see Kathryn Elizabeth’s post, Here Are 7 Surprising Things You Need to Know about Joe and Nicole Naugler. But there’s something slightly tangential that I want to touch on here.
Technically, Joe and Nicole Naugler are not homeschooling.
Yes, you read that right.
Kentucky does not require homeschooling parents to submit academic assessments of their children’s progress or keep portfolios of children’s educational materials, but the state does require homeschooling parents to file paperwork with the local school board, and the Nauglers have not done so.
Technically, the Naugler children are not being homeschooled—they’re truant.
Please don’t think I’m here to nitpick or to suggest that education cannot take place at home if the proper paperwork is not filed. I’m not. Because the Naugler’s self-identify as homeschoolers, I’m inclined to think of them as homescholers even though they’re not considered homeschoolers before the law. This blog post is absolutely not to say that we should reject the family’s identification as homeschoolers (though we absolutely should support them filing the paperwork to homeschool legally).
Why, then, am I bringing this up? Simply put, because it seems like every time a homeschooled child is horrifically abused or killed by his or her parents (such as the cases listed here), anti-oversight homeschooling parents disavow the family as not actually homeschooling. We saw this most recently after the deaths of Stoni Blair and Stephen Berry, who were in fact legally homeschooled regardless of what anti-oversight homeschooling parents claimed. There are other cases of horrific abuse where the parents claimed they are homeschooling but never filed the proper paperwork. In these cases, homeschooling parents are quick to distance themselves and denounce the family as not actually homeschooling. I would understand this if it was consistent, but as the response to the Naugler family makes clear, it’s not.
Homeschooling parents have not (that I’ve seen) questioned Nicole Naugler’s self-identification as a homeschooling mother even though Nicole never filed the required paperwork and her children were therefore legally truant. But it goes further than this. I’ve been told that the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) accepts families as members even when they’re not following their state’s legal requirements for homeschooling. In other words, HSLDA accepts as members families that are not considered homeschoolers before the law, and are instead legally truant. But then, when horrific abuse comes to light in a family that claimed to be homeschooling but didn’t file the required paperwork, they’re suddenly not actually homeschoolers.
How is it not obvious how inconsistent this is? You either need to not consider any families that are legally truant as homeschoolers, regardless of whether they claim to be homeschooling—and that includes Nicole Naugler—or you need to count all families that are legally truant as homeschoolers if they claim to be so—even if they are revealed to have brutalized or murdered their children.
What is your criteria for including a child in the HIC database?
We include all school aged children (ages 5 to 17) who were the victims of severe or fatal abuse or neglect who were legally homeschooled or whose parents, guardians, or captors claimed to be homeschooling them at the time an incident occurred.
While not everyone may agree with their method of characterizing which children are and are not homeschooled, they do at least have a consistent standard. I’d like to see homeschooling parents who oppose oversight demonstrate the same consistency.