Also by Rebecca on HA: “I Was Beaten, But That’s Not My Primary Issue With Homeschooling” and “‘Fake Someone Happy’: A Book Review.”
“No true Scotsman is an informal fallacy, an ad hoc attempt to retain an unreasoned assertion. When faced with a counterexample to a universal claim (“no Scotsman would do such a thing”), rather than denying the counterexample or rejecting the original universal claim, this fallacy modifies the subject of the assertion to exclude the specific case or others like it by rhetoric, without reference to any specific objective rule (“no true Scotsman would do such a thing”).”
When my mother decided to homeschool us, we became homeschoolers.
We joined the local homeschool support group, my mother bought our textbooks at the state homeschooling convention, and we paid dues to the Homeschool Legal Defense Association. We joined a homeschool choir, homeschool art classes, and homeschool sports team. We went to homeschool park days and joined in on ‘homeschool day’ at Raging Waters.
To the other homeschoolers it was clear: we were homeschoolers.
The people my parents interacted with in a personal or professional capacity knew that we were homeschooled and asked us the normal homeschooler questions: “But what about socialization?”, “How can a parent teach their children subjects they don’t know?”, etc., and we answered them with the same responses homeschool parents and children publish on the internet today.
We joined the homeschool debate league, for which being legitimately homeschooled (by their definition, legitimate meant: not attending any school) was an enforced requirement. When my mother hosted homeschooler debate conferences, it was unquestionable that we were homeschooled.
When we hosted homeschool game nights, homeschool dances, homeschool ‘Reformation Day’ parties, we were a celebrated part of the homeschool community. When a family friend’s daughter was struggling with school, her parents asked my mother to homeschool her for the rest of the year to get her caught up with her grade.
When my mother was frequently complimented on how ‘good’ her teenagers were, ‘not like teenagers at all but like little adults’, our homeschooling was the accepted cause. When I was admitted to community college and college, my homeschooling was clearly understood as my background. When I ‘graduated’ high school, we rented out a church with four other homeschool graduates, packing out the building and holding an elegant outdoor buffet for the homeschool community on the neighboring school’s lawn after.
For years after, I was accepted as a part of the homeschool graduate community.
I participated in the exclusive ‘Homeschool Alumni’ network. I connected with other adult homeschoolers and compared notes about our childhoods. Nobody questioned the fact that I had been homeschooled. Instead, it was celebrated as the reason for my intelligence, creativity, work ethic, and academic success. Due to my father’s unique position in our local community, there were – and there are – (and this is not an exaggeration) easily more than a thousand people who knew that I was homeschooled, that I played the harp, and that I went to Santa Clara University, followed by Oxford. Many of them knew my face, and possibly even name, as well. I was the homeschooling success story of Saratoga, California, and my family was a model family, one strangers regularly told me I was ‘so lucky’ to be a part of.
But the moment I say that homeschooling enabled my parents to hide abuse and neglect, all of these facts melt away.
I’m no longer a homeschooling poster child.
After all, no true homeschooler would abuse or neglect their child.
I was an aberration. My family was a one-off, virtually non-occurring instance. The families we knew in which the entire community softly murmured about how the children were sexually abused, or neglected, but did not report because ‘it would give a bad reputation to homeschooling’ or ‘the children would be taken away’ also become aberrations the moment I mention them publicly. The number of homeschoolers I personally knew via activities such as homeschool support groups or homeschool debate who were also mistreated, several of which have written for HA, has no reflection on the percentage of homeschool homes where mistreatment occurs. After all, they weren’t true homeschoolers either.
The true homeschoolers were the ones who gave their kids great educations and a great upbringing.
Every account of homeschool experiences should, we all know, contain a disclaimer: ‘not all homeschooling families are like this. Most homeschool families are loving homes that provide their children with an excellent education’. Except, we don’t have any evidence or statistics that this is true. So why is this a required disclaimer? How can we even make this statement at all?
It’s also appropriate to ask: what do the phrases “loving home” and “excellent education” mean to the homeschool leaders and parents who use them? They tell us that true homeschoolers spank their kids, sure, but not to an abusive extent. It’s just to teach them to respect authority. True homeschoolers don’t isolate their kids; they just keep them inside during school hours to avoid calls to CPS, and they protect them from worldly influences. True homeschoolers aren’t educationally neglected; instead, many homeschool girls are raised to succeed at the high calling of being wives and mothers, learning home arts such as cooking, sewing, and cleaning, and taught applied academics as well – for example, how to multiply and divide via cooking lessons, and geometry through sewing.
Start asking specific questions about the ‘happy’ home and ‘good’ education they describe, and an unexpected picture often emerges.
After I had been working with my therapist for three years, she said to me, “You had a truly horrible experience, but I don’t think it is a reflection on homeschooling as a whole. All the other homeschoolers I’ve talked to have had great experiences.” I responded, “Yes, but how many of them were graduated homeschool kids?” Her eyes visibly widened as she replied, “Actually, they were all homeschool parents. That’s a good point. I never thought of that before.”
Homeschool parents: stop crying ‘no true homeschooler.’ If you can’t, an echo of Shakespeare comes to mind: “Methinks thou dost protest too much.”