We Need Advocates: Philosophical Perspectives’s Story, Part One

Screen Shot 2014-08-23 at 1

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “PhilosophicalPerspectives” is the author’s chosen pseudonym.

*****

In this series: Part One — We Need Advocates | Part Two — A Tool In Someone Else’s Culture War

***** 

As a kid, I remember seeing national media stories about homeschool families like Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz, who beat their daughter to death in 2010, or Banita Jacks, who in 2009 was convicted of murdering her four daughters.

I clearly remember having conversations with my mother about how “those people weren’t really homeschooling” and how our family and friends were getting it right. We talked about how they weren’t really part of any home school community, and their parents were just trying to get away from the responsibility they bore for the abuse they inflicted, by claiming the title “home schoolers.” The home school community distanced itself from these stories, claiming that the abuses of a few “nutjobs” shouldn’t impact the rights of the whole homeschool movement.

It’s been interesting to hear the same lines come up in response to the stories shared on this blog. In comments on other sites, I’ve read many things like, “you could find 30 abused kids in any school system!,” or “these kids’ parents were just crazy. That’s not what home schooling is really like!” It seems like many people invested in the homeschooling movement are reading this blog in the same way my mom read stories like the ones mentioned above — as extreme examples of abuse from people on the far fringes of the homeschool movement.  I’ve read comments that go so far as to dismiss these stories outright. More people, though, lament the suffering they read about, but make comments that distance themselves from the problem. These extreme cases are hard to catch, the sentiment goes, because these families never show up to homeschool groups or 4-H clubs or churches or anywhere we (homeschoolers) might be able to intervene. “These kids were totally isolated! It’s not our fault!” they declare, explicitly or implicitly.

This is misguided.

For many of us who are sharing our stories, our families were not on the fringes of the homeschooling movement — we were at its center. Our parents were the ones running the debate leagues, and founding the AWANA programs. We were the ones winning awards, respect, and acclaim. We are the poster children of the homeschooling movement.

And yet, we suffered serious abuse and neglect, and no one intervened on our behalf.

As a survivor, I started asking why. I was (almost constantly) involved in a myriad of extracurricular activities, and none of the adults in my life intervened in the neglect I experienced. They either didn’t notice, or didn’t care.

This is what isolation looks like in the homeschooling community.

I interacted with many adults outside of the homeschool movement, in many different contexts, and I honestly don’t think any of them had an inkling of what was really going on. Homeschoolers have always been trained to put on our most adult, most mature face to the outside world. This has to with the ways we’ve been socialized and the pressure we face to be walking proof of  the “success” of homeschooling — but that’s another post. Regardless, we’re excellent at being polite and reciting (often eloquently!) the ideas we’ve been taught. We therefore often make a very positive impression on outsiders — I can’t tell you how many times I was told how grown-up, how mature, how insightful I was when I was a tween. Most of the adults outside of the movement were so blown away by my irregularity (and my ability to discuss the classical origins of astronomical nomenclature) that they never asked deeper questions about my education or physical well-being, let alone about the emotional and spiritual abuse that was present in my home.

I also regularly interacted with adults within the homeschool movement, where parents should have been able to notice what was happening — and still, no one spoke up. Many of them didn’t (and still don’t) consider what many of us endured abuse — it’s just part of the process of “training up a child.” Many bought into the same vision of religious indoctrination and corporal punishment. The “us vs. them” mentality was huge, and “them” was often Child Protective Services. I’d still be surprised to hear of one home school parent reporting another. Even when the “moderate” parents didn’t agree with the techniques of the more fundamentalist ones, the “rights of the parent” continuously won out over the rights of the child. This line of reasoning is currently being used by the HSLDA to justify the refusal to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The combination of these factors created a unique culture that fosters and covers up or ignores the abuse and neglect that happens at the center of its community. The case against Sovereign Grace Ministries, an evangelical denomination that promotes homeschooling, is just one example. We’ve experienced it, and we’re hurt. There was a deep sense of community in the homeschool movement, and many of us, as kids, trusted deeply in its people and institutions. Now that I’m an adult reflecting on my experiences, I feel betrayed. The people I trusted perpetuated the systems of indoctrination that harmed me, and facilitated my parents’ neglect.

This is what isolation looks like in the homeschooling community.

The invitation that this blog presents to the homeschooling community is to begin to take abuse, neglect, and indoctrination seriously, and refuse to look the other way. The children of homeschooling need advocates, and our parents aren’t always looking out for our best interest. Neither is the HSLDA.

To be continued.