Visualizing “The Myth of the Unsocialized Homeschooler”

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Heather Doney’s blog Becoming Worldly. It was originally published on July 7, 2013.

I googled “homeschool” to see what pictures came up. Many of them had to do with socialization and the messages that homeschool parents get and give about it. So I figured I’d talk about homeschooling and the issue of socialization today and use some of the cartoons I found in the process. Some of them are a little disconcerting in the way they point out issues I see, just maybe not quite in the ways the cartoonists intended.

What is This “Socialization Problem” You Speak Of?

So first a bit about what socialization is and how it relates to homeschooling. This diagram explains socialization pretty simply and it comes from a site that talks abut stopping cycles of discrimination that are often passed on intergenerationally.

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I think the site the diagram comes from – Parenting for Social Change – makes an excellent point – that this is generally how socialization is done but socialization can sometimes be bad. You can absolutely be taught harmful things as well as positive things in the course of your socialization and most people are taught a mix. What homeschooling parents often become inclined to do though is try to eliminate or greatly reduce these “bad” things by winnowing their child’s socialization opportunities down to only parentally vetted and approved sources and quite often those approved sources are fellow homeschoolers, religious leaders, highly edited texts and media, other “likeminded families,” and sometimes, when the parent is particularly controlling or inept at socialization themselves, nobody at all except for the immediate family.

Yes, this last one is a real big problem because terrible things can happen when families get isolated like that and it is a big risk factor for all kinds of abuse, neglect, and poor mental and physical health. Thing is, this social isolation problem happens in homeschooling much more frequently than it should. In fact, even in Brian Ray’s wacky (and so methodologically unsound that I am stopping myself from going on a rant about how many problems it has) “Strengths of Their Own” study included something I found interesting about it. See if you can catch it.

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That’s right. The third bar from the bottom. The yellow one. If 87% of the children in Brian Ray’s highly self-selective study play with “people outside the family” (and I will leave you to ponder right along with me as to why this wording is not “other children outside the family”) then that means that 13% of children in Brian Ray’s study do not play with others outside of their own family, which I would most definitely define as a socialization problem. If Brian Ray, excellent fudger, misconstruer, self-quoter, and ideological spit-shiner of homeschool data extraordinaire, has almost 15% of the kids in his rather cherry-picked study having this issue, how common must it actually be in real life and how do people in homeschooling react to this issue? Well, let’s see…

Socialization Sarcasm

This cartoon makes fun of the concept that socialization problems exist in homeschooling. To me it implies that socialization happens so naturally that it simply isn’t something a homeschool Mom could forget. Why? Well, I’m honestly not exactly sure. Socialization is a component that definitely can be ignored or accidentally left out and it has openly (and wrongly) been discounted as being unimportant by many prominent homeschool leaders. Because it has been ignored and dismissed as a necessary part of many homeschool curriculums is the main reason why homeschoolers have gotten the reputation for being unsocialized in the first place.

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Most homeschool kids don’t like being stereotyped as unsocialized or feeling like they are unsocialized (I mean really, who would?). So there’s also some memes and jokes that have been spread by teenage homeschoolers implying how inherently dumb or inappropriate they think it is when people make socialization an issue. Most of these involve poking fun at the “myth” that socialization is a problem in homeschooling. There is this YouTube video by a homeschooled girl who is trying to do this by distinguishing “the homeschooled” from “the homeschoolers” and while I find it funny, I’m quite sure that her pie chart is wrong and she perpetuates elitist stereotypes she has likely heard throughout her homeschooling experience.

This blog had a post by a homeschool graduate complaining about people asking what’s become known as the “socialization question” and in her post she uses a picture I’ve seen fairly often. There’s even t-shirts with this printed on them that you can buy.

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Socialization is Fishy

So what do homeschooling parents think about the socialization issue when theydo actually address it? Let’s start out with this cartoon, as it’s used a lot. It claims that a lack of socialization in homeschooling isn’t just a rare problem, but an outright myth. It implies that homeschool kids are not only actually in diverse environments as part of a natural ecosystem but are thrilled about it. It also implies that children who are socialized in public school are like half-dead sardines in a can rather than the school of likeminded fish they are expected to be.

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This cartoon is a direct dismissal of there being any merit to the “socialization problem” and it is compounded with a public school counter-stereotype. This is unsurprising to me as the argument that homeschool socialization problems are an outright myth is quite often included with something disparaging about public school or insulting to teachers (and this cartoon is no exception). Notwithstanding how insulting it is to imply that most people who go through public school are like dead fish, is this depiction of homeschool versus public school in any way accurate? Well, I imagine for the occasional situation it is, but in general, certainly not.

Oddly this cartoon was actually almost the exact opposite of my experience. In the CHEF homeschoolers group I was in it was all white Christian families and our parents had to sign a statement of faith to join. It was absolutely a school of fish all swimming the same way and because we got together infrequently, I generally felt like that fish in the fishbowl. Also, when I went to public school in 9th grade I was certainly no canned sardine, even if I wasn’t exactly the manic fish thrilled at the ecosystem in the upper righthand corner. The teachers often tried to corral us into all doing things the same way but we didn’t make it altogether easy for them and generally I expect it was a bit like herding cats. We were all individuals, as were the teachers. I had favorite teachers and subjects and ones I didn’t like and I made friends of different races and beliefs and political persuasions, many of whom who are still my friends and acquaintances to this day.

The Dark Knowledge of Teen Degenerates

Here’s another cartoon about homeschool kid socialization from a slightly different angle, and this one does address the idea that kids don’t always do what you want them to do and by invoking the dreaded “peer pressure,” implies that its all bad. Which one is it – are they lobotomized sardines in a can or are they violent and rebellious ingrates? Make up your mind! Also, how realistic is this, do homeschool moms actually think public school kids are like this? Where are the public school kids who are not “at-risk” of being part of the school to prison pipeline? Why aren’t there any of those at the bus stop?

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Also, in this little dystopian cartoon, gang members with knives read books on values (morally relativistic ones, no doubt), evolution, meditation, and “new age” religion (if that isn’t a culture wars, fearmongering buzzword, I don’t know what is) and pregnant girls read about sex ed and still don’t know what made them pregnant. This cartoon is crazy stuff. People don’t drink beer and shoot up heroin (yeah, there’s a needle on the ground in the cartoon) while waiting for the school bus (although some do smoke cigarettes). People who read a lot don’t typically join gangs. People who know about comprehensive sex ed aren’t any more likely to have sex than kids who don’t and they are much less likely to accidentally get knocked up. Honestly, if this is what anyone actually thinks the world is like then they are not fit to educate other human beings and they probably need some mental help themselves.

Sweet Homeschool Girl in the Ghetto

This cartoon is similar to the previous one in that it also indicates that public school socialization is all bad, but it depicts the expected reaction of the homeschool girl in the public school and implies that if your daughter goes to public high school (obviously radiating her feminine purity with a big hair bow and below-the-knee church skirt) that she will soon be shocked and horrified to encounter people dressed immodestly, young people openly dating, tattoos and piercings everywhere, vandalism and crime, blatant teenage rebellion, and big scary black boys that look more like grown men. So obviously the answer is to just have her at home not knowing that people who are different from her exist, and make most of the people her age out to be disgusting, immoral, and scary, right?

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I followed this cartoon to its site, a blog called Heart of Wisdom, trying to get a higher resolution picture. The blog talked about how homeschool kids should only selectively socialize with other Christians and claims this is biblical. Yep, this is just the type of homeschooling “socialization” I am familiar with. It’s a form of social isolation and indoctrination called “sheltering.” This stuff is all about parental fear and desire for control and helicopter parenting to this extreme is very unhealthy for your child. It will mean that in adulthood that they won’t know how to function at an optimal level. You cannot shield your kid from all “bad influences” and indeed there is nothing in the bible that says your kids cannot play with the kids of people who have different beliefs. That is quite a stretch and it is insular, cultish thinking.

My Homeschool Kid is Smarter than Your Honors Student

That same Heart of Wisdom blog had this other cartoon about homeschooling, so I followed that link and it was to a page dedicated specifically to homeschool cartoons. When I see stuff like this cartoon I have to once again ask – is this supposed to be funny? Do these people actually think this is accurate? My main question, though, is why the elitism and negativity? Even if your kid is getting a much better education in homeschooling, why talk trash about children who through no fault of their own don’t have as good of an education? Why make it into a competition, act like homeschool kids in general are “better” than other kids? It shows me some immature and defensive parenting, really. If you revel in it when someone else isn’t doing as good as you it shows you are 1) being a jerk and 2) secretly worried that you’re no good at what you’re doing. Nobody should ever be excited about other kids having a sub-par education, thinking it makes them and their kids look better. That’s just gross.

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As it is, I find that there is a grain of truth in this cartoon but perhaps not quite in the way the cartoonist intended. I’ve known a lot of homeschool kids who do use big words in conversations and they soon realize that it comes across as awkward when they socialize with other non-homeschool kids. Admission: I was that kid myself. I read a lot of classic literature and became familiar with words that simply aren’t used in everyday speech anymore. Trying to use them in peer-to-peer conversations didn’t reflect on me being smarter. It reflected on me not having a modern day frame of reference as to what is appropriate. It reflected on me being socially backwards. Lots of public school kids who are bookworms like I was know many big words. They also know the right words to use for their audience. Context is everything. An unsocialized homeschool kid doesn’t have that context and very well might find that using 18th century literary terms in a conversation about basketball will indeed get people looking at them sideways. If homeschool parents want to be proud of that, think it makes their kid (and by extension them) “better,” it shows they truly don’t understand the issue at hand.

Parental Fear & Social Anxiety

That’s where I think we hit the crux of this whole thing. I think the main issue is parental angst and fearfulness. Too many homeschooling parents socially struggled in school themselves and/or got into drugs or unhealthy sexual relationships. Instead of taking a broader view today, they expect that they need to hide their kid away from these settings or the exact same thing will happen to their kid even though their kid is in a different school district in a different generation and *gasp* a different person. These parents become scared of or hurt by the society we live in, withdraw, and then use homeschooling as an excuse to be separatist, snooty, and helicopter over their kids. These are not positive reasons for homeschooling and these are the exact kind of fearful and overbearing attitudes that lead to socialization problems for homeschool kids.

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Because people with strong views often find themselves in positions of leadership, those with exclusionary, separatist, and elitist attitudes often end up running things and then set this negative and divisive tone for the homeschooling group and the community it serves. It’s so pervasive that even some “second choicers” who start homeschooling simply because the other educational options in the area aren’t up to meeting their child’s particular needs (which is an excellent reason to homeschool, in my opinion), can get sucked into this culture, an “us versus them” mindset where homeschooling represents everything that is pure and good and healthy for children and public school and the people and structures that support it represents everything bad. This creates a parallel society of sorts and then you see people start calling public schools “government schools” in a pejorative sense. All this “us versus them” talk fans the fear that homeschooling parents are vulnerable (although still superior) outsiders who are or soon will be discriminated against and this in turn leads to easy exploitation of these scared people.

Why does widespread homeschool participation in things like the fundamentalist-led HSLDA, which capitalizes on these fears and requires dues money (that then goes into their cultish culture wars arsenal) for unnecessary “legal protection” exist? Because many these people are too freaked out to do anything more than cling onto a protector, ignoring all evidence that their “protector” just wants to use them – financially and for furthering a disturbingly anti-democratic agenda. This fear grows and leads to the kind of mindset that spawns ridiculous cartoons like the one below.

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Put in prison for homeschooling – really? Of course in this cartoon there’s that same (expected) depiction of scary people with piercings, this time instead of a shocked daughter (projecting much?) it’s got a dejected homeschool Mom being shunned by hardened criminals who sarcastically note that her “crime” was homeschooling.

Homeschooling parents who follow these “leaders” (often starting because their local homeschool support group requires or recommends HSLDA membership) hear these divisive messages and become scared to death of being framed, exposed, persecuted, worrying that they will land in jail just for homeschooling. It may be a wacky and unrealistic fear given what’s actually going on, but if people hear it often enough they often come to believe it, along with the bogus stats and stories claiming that homeschooling is as close to perfect an educational option one can get in such a messed up society, and the myth that there is no evidence to the contrary because homeschooling is just so awesome.

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Because homeschoolers test scores aren’t made public and often not even expected, registration isn’t even required in many states, and most people don’t pay much attention to homeschooling unless their kids are being homeschooled. Homeschool movement leaders have been able to get away with exhibiting the cream of the homeschooling crop as representative of all homeschoolers. This has painted an inaccurate picture and hurt the vulnerable kids by leaving them ignored as they fall through the cracks.

Saying “our homeschool kids are socialized but socialization doesn’t matter and in fact it generally sucks if it isn’t coming directly from parents” is a very unhealthy attitude to go into educating with. Responsible homeschooling parents really need to do a bit of soul-searching as to why they tolerate these inaccurate depictions of what socialization is and isn’t, why there is this the across-the-board maligning of all public schools within many homeschool communities, and why so many participate in this ugly (and frankly in my opinion undeserved) elitism, and contribute to such extreme (and inaccurate) stereotyping and putting down of children who have had to attend lower quality inner-city schools, all in order to inflate the merits of homeschooling.

Two big question:

(1) Does this kind of attitude help do anything beyond artificially boosting homeschool egos?

(2) Is there any need for this behavior if homeschooling is really so awesome?

Also, if there is no good data on the problems of homeschooling then instead of celebrating the cobwebs we need to be collecting more data. Every single education method in this world has problems and the places where the problems are denied is where child maltreatment can and does flourish.

The Truth Between “Stereotype” and “Myth”

I get the message that not all homeschoolers are cloistered and don’t know how to talk to people their own age, but the fact is that too many are and we need to recognize that it is a real problem affecting a sizable percentage of homeschool kids. Also, homeschoolers are simply not the most brilliant people in the world or inherently “smarter” than other kids, and as such they shouldn’t need to feel pressured to achieve perfection, perform as child prodigies, or that there’s a black mark on them if they mix up “asocial” and “anti-social” in a conversation.

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This “myth of the unsocialized homeschooler” is an issue in homeschooling but the prevalent idea that the socialization problem is a myth is the real problem, not the legitimate questions and concerns about socialization that homeschool parents keep being asked. Those questions actually need to keep happening because social isolation and ostracism in any setting (including homeschooling) often follows a person into adulthood, and can leave people struggling with social anxiety, a small social network, low levels of social capital, mental health issues, and an unnecessary amount of sad and lonely memories.

The least we can do is stop making fun of people, stop being in denial, stop pointing fingers elsewhere, and acknowledge that it is real, it happens too often and it should be assessed and addressed as the serious problem that it is.

Why I Blame Homeschooling, Not Just My Parents: Reflections by Nicholas Ducote

By Nicholas Ducote, HA Community Coordinator

Author edit to clarify my call for more oversight: I recommended intra-community policing in my post. State action should be a last resort. Those that care to preserve their parental rights to homeschool need to hold other parents accountable. Unfortunately, fundamentalist homeschooling communities are often isolated from anyone who would question the parents. I don’t have a solution, but I know we can’t just assume the status quo will fix things. Hopefully, projects like this will scare other parents enough to make them confront other parents. But let’s be honest, do you see that happening in these sort of communities? Most of these people laugh at the idea of children having rights and would never support anything that encroaches on their ability to teach their children whatever they want. If you suspect child abuse or neglect in a family you know, please report them to Child Protective Services. 

Homeschooling, as a method of instruction, is not intrinsically bad, dangerous, or damaging. I saw many children raised in homeschooling who were not abused by religious fundamentalism – even if they were Christians. However, as a society, we have to realize that the current state of homeschooling gives parents unique power over their children. Yes, many homeschooled children are a part of co-ops, interact with neighbors, and have relatively normal social interactions. But other homeschoolers are isolated in rural areas, with no contact with neighbors, or the outside world. Abuse develops in these environments because there is no oversight from outside the parents and, if criticism if lodged, the parents are defensive. To many homeschooling parents, homeschooling (the method) is part of a larger worldview that involves rejections of secularism, science, and academic institutions.

I developed claustrophobia, a generalized anxiety disorder, and panic attacks in high school. At the time, I assumed my panic attacks were the result of the Holy Spirit convicting me of my sins. The most common trigger for my panic was sexuality. As a teenager, I would often shake uncontrollably after masturbating. Homeschooling can make children feel trapped because they are literally never away from their parents. When I was quasi-dating girls in high school, behind my parents’ back because they wanted me to court, I would have a mini-panic attack when the phone rang – scared that my parents would find out. When I got in trouble it meant a few hours with mom and dad, crying and arguing about what God told them to do, ending in me feeling completely trapped. When I woke up the next day, I had no choice but to bottle up my anger, shame, and humiliation and go “do” homeschooling. In ATI, many leaders preached about how listening to rock music would literally result in demonic possession. This is abusive to teach to children. To this day, I struggle with anxiety before I fall asleep.  I was taught, by my parents and by ATI’s leaders, that demons were very real and they could possess rebellious Christians. Many in the homeschooling movement conceptualized the “culture war” as spiritual warfare — the secular humanists were literally portrayed as the minions of Satan.

Spiritual abuse is a difficult term for many people to wrap their heads around. It may seem like we are trying to say that raising children in a religious tradition is abusive, which we are not. However, I can say that when homeschooling is mixed with religious fundamentalism, abuse almost always occurs.

There is a distinction between religious fundamentalism and mainstream religions. I once told my mom, “I would have been fine if you stayed Baptist. It’s when you drifted into fundamentalism that hurt me.”  What many people fail to realize is that most parents don’t wake up one day and decide they need to start controlling their childrens’ lives and prepare them for the culture wars. Yes, my parents are to blame for subscribing to fundamentalism, but the homeschooling community and movement are also to blame.

In many states in the 1990s and 2000s, homeschooling parents received most of the curriculum, instruction, and indoctrination at state, regional, or national conferences. There are a myriad of institutions and groups that formed the movement, so it is impossible to point to a single root cause of the abuse in homeschooling. But I know abuse doesn’t just happen because of bad parenting. The bad parenting that people indict was being advocated on stage before thousands of people. There is a reason why so many homeschooling alumni share stories and experiences. Tens of thousands of homeschoolers attended state Christian Home Educator Fellowship (CHEF) conferences, where they were exposed to

  • The Harris family and their beliefs about Biblical courtship
  • David Barton and Little Bear Wheeler’s revisionist history
  • Evangelical leaders that scared everyone about the evils of secular humanism
  • Michael and Debi Pearl’s harsh ideas on corporal punishment and misogynistic ideas of gender roles
  • Huge book sales populated mostly by Christian fundamentalist textbooks — advocating creationism, teaching math based around the Gospel message, or other “educational tools.”

All of these ideas circulated around the homeschooling communities and trickled down to local CHEF chapters.

Parents’ responses have been mixed, but many of them see our blog as a tool to take control of their children away from them. Parents emphasize their rights to raise their children however they want. But, as a society, we have already decided that parental rights end where abuse begins. Thus, one of the main issue in this debate becomes whether or not a homeschooling environment is emotionally or spiritually abusive.

You might think this is only a problem of the past decades — that now, in this new zenith of modernity, fundamentalist homeschoolers that spiritually abuse their children are dying out. You would be wrong. Yes, there is growing momentum behind secular homeschooling, but there is no hard social science about homeschooling.  At this point, observational data is almost all that exists about homeschooling and its demographics. We know very generally how many people homeschool and for what reasons. But ten states do not even require the parents to inform them of their childrens’ “enrollment” in homeschooling.

This is the start of an important conversation about homeschooling. I am opposed to religious fundamentalism in all forms and I believe that the abuse that occurs when fundamentalism is allowed to dominate homeschooling has no place in the modern world. I’ve heard so many Evangelicals and homeschooling parents mock the Islamic madrasas for their religious instruction, but fundamentalist homeschooling isn’t different by much.

To those homeschoolers who are afraid of this exposure, it’s time to own up. These abuses happened, the community’s leaders encouraged it, and the community does not regulate itself. If the homeschooling community is not willing to regulate itself – lest a parent tell another parent their methods and ideologies are abusive! – then someone else will.

I am tired of sitting around hoping that the abusive fundamentalist culture within homeschooling will die out.  I don’t want it to die out, I want to trample it out so that no other children face the sort of abuse I, and many other, went through. Part of the means telling the honest, visceral truth about what happens in many homeschooling homes. Yes, abuse is ultimately the fault of the perpetrators, but why does everyone leave the homeschooling community blameless for how it brainwashed my parents?

The issue of abuse in homeschooling is an issue of the distortion of parental rights and the reality of systemic indoctrination.

You cannot stop the abuse without exposing the advocates.

homeskooled )q.e.d.): A Poem by Adam O’Connor

homeskooled )q.e.d.): A Poem by Adam O’Connor

*****

johnny asked a question

his momma couldn’t answer

billy popped a pill

he knew he couldn’t handle

then the dog got hit

while out runnin’ the street

that boy limped home

and he got a treat

so i woke up late

and left my bed unmade

so I could come home

to fall asleep again

some love too much

and others too little

but both

clip

and snip

what is held

most tender

cause the lesson

done took

much more

than it gave

so see

i dig me some

shallow graves

*****

adam
Adam O’Connor.

About Adam

Adam O’Connor’s homeschooling was, at first, sprinkled with other forms of education. Homeschooled for preschool, he then went on to attend public school for the first and second grades, private school for third, charter school for the fourth and fifth before finally returning to his homeschooling roots for the remaining years of primary education. His family joined CHEF, where he taught photography and tutored in English for his local chapter. In his sophomore year his family joined NCFCA and IBLP / ATI. He found himself a modest success at speech and debate and competed in the national tournament in his junior year. The year following his graduation he left with a small group as an ATI sponsored initiative to teach English in Yuli, a rural town in Hualien, Taiwan. It was during this year that the accumulated years of indoctrination and his otherwise ultra-conservative, hyper-religious mindset began to unravel and he soon found himself in a crisis of faith. Although it took much longer to fully realize the effects of this year, he lost his faith in Taiwan and came home unrecognized and at odds with the social circles he had spent his entire life thus far building. He spend the next year commuting to Nicholls until transferring to Louisiana Tech for nearly three more years, dropping out one quarter shy of graduation. He is now pursuing his writing, particularly poetry, and hosts the Secret Meetings of the Dinky Tao Poetry Hour, the second oldest reading in New Orleans, currently located at the Neutral Ground Coffee House. He has been seen reading at the 17 Poets at the Goldmine, the open mic at Buffa’s, and was featured at the Apple Barrel on Frenchman for the Book Fair in 2011. He is currently working on his first book of poetry, entitled “…till the moon howls back”.

Visit his poetry blog here.

12 Reasons Why My Homeschool Story Doesn’t Matter

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Heather Doney’s blog Becoming Worldly . It was originally published on February 10, 2013.

Homeschooling parents sometimes react badly to stories like mine. It’s generally the ones who see themselves as fighting an uphill battle with society, surrounded by enemies, feeling personally threatened when any problem within a homeschooling environment is openly discussed. I guess it should not be surprising, but I am often a bit shocked by how nasty and devoid of empathy things can get when people feel defensive. How did I become some “opponent” getting yelled at for being honest about how it really was for me and what I think the problems really are??

The people who do this often fall into a predictable pattern of trying to silence, drown out, invalidate, or scare away all potentially negative reviews, positioning themselves as a long-suffering yet expert victim trying to set the story straight, then beginning to (often viciously) attack and attempt to eviscerate the whistleblower’s credibility.

I find that kind of behavior pretty messed up to say the least, so I figured I’d just write down my responses to the 12 most common reasons why my story and my homeschool experience apparently don’t matter. The next time someone says one of these, instead of re-explaining myself, I’ll just send them a link.

1.) “You were not really homeschooled. Don’t generalize about your dysfunctional family experience.”

I may have been the only one to learn to read in that place, but we were registered as a private school with the state. We belonged to a CHEF homeschoolers group, signed a statement of faith, paid dues to HSLDA. Also, there are over 30 “survivor blogs” right here talking about pretty much the same thing. I don’t need to generalize. This is a bona fide pattern.

2.) “Plenty public school children get abused and get terrible educations.”

Because bad things happening in one place obviously makes it ok for them to happen in another…

3.) “There are crazies out there, but real homeschooling is always a good thing”

Homeschooling is very diverse, so there are many real kinds and more than a few fake ones. If by “real” you mean “most prevalent,” then no, I think it’s often a bad thing. Homeschooling was started with good intentions to liberate kids from rote learning but now the “culture war” crazies pretty much run the place. You people who are not trying to indoctrinate your kids are outnumbered.

4.) “Hey, I’m not hurting anyone over here and that other stuff is not my problem”

Here’s where I quote Edmund Burke and say “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

5.) “I know plenty conservative Christian homeschooling families who are happy/well-adjusted/successful”

I too know some who I imagine genuinely are and plenty who I thought were and later learned were just playing the part like my family was. It’s hard to tell the difference. When kids get punished every time they disobey or display a “bad attitude” they learn to give “correct” answers, think “correct” answers, and even instinctively smile when sad or disappointed. Sometimes you can only tell something is wrong by their overenthusiasm and the weird hungry look in their eyes.

6.) “You just have an axe to grind”

I used an axe once in a rather unsuccessful attempt to chop wood. I have never sharpened one. I am a fan of peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness, burying the hatchet, solving the problems. I do not want anyone’s head on a platter.

7.) “You are not a parent so don’t tell me how to be a parent”

By age 12 I’d bandaged up more skinned knees, cleaned more snotty noses, rocked and patted more hiccuping infants, and cleaned more poopy toddler butts than plenty of grown folk. I may not have popped out any offspring of my own just yet but I can give you tried and true pottytraining tips, recipes for picky eaters, and bedtime reading suggestions too.

8.) “As a parent I alone will decide what is best for my children”

My Grandad once said “children don’t come into this world to you, they come into it through you.” I will always be grateful that he stepped in where it was “not his place” simply because my siblings and I mattered to him.

In societies where we are “our brother’s keeper” (i.e kindly say something or help the vulnerable when we see someone headed in a dangerous direction), we have stronger communities and happier people. When there are no safeguards for when people (parents included) make bad decisions or struggle (and everyone does), that’s when things can get real bad. Please don’t push things in that direction because you are scared people might misunderstand and judge. Telling everyone to butt out might not hurt your family but it contributes to a standard that hurts others.

9.) “You’ve never been a homeschooling parent yourself, so what do you know?”

I almost want to say “well, you went to public or private school, so what do you know?,” but that would be acting like experiencing homeschooling from the parental side means nothing, which is untrue and would be just like saying that experiencing it from the kid side doesn’t count. Fact is the first generation of homeschooled kids are now in their late 20′s and early 30′s. You now have “consumer reviews.” Ignoring those and just going with the recommendations of other first-time homeschooling parents means you are missing out on valuable info and your kids may one day be giving less than stellar reviews themselves.

10.) “You are obviously not a Christian or you’d understand”

Why do you have to be a “bible-believing Christian” to have a problem with the legalistic sickness and power-drunk behavior that stems from the so-called Christian homeschooling leadership and infects vulnerable families like it did my own? It looks nothing like love and everything like fear and controlling behavior. If God is love than devout Christians should have a bigger problem with this stuff than I do.

11.) “Shh! The government will persecute us and take our kids”

There were a few truancy prosecutions in the late 70′s. Acting like that’s still reality is HSLDA fearmongering and hype to keep themselves in business. Unless you get caught actually running a homeschool meth lab project or something, nobody’s taking your kids.

12.) “All the stats/facts/studies say homeschooling is the best option”

By this I assume you are referring to studies on homeschooling done by NHERI, a “research institute” run by Brian Ray. A study where an author self-quotes without caveats using data funneled in by an advocacy group (HSLDA) and with an only 23% survey response rate may convince most journalists for now, but once an alternative story comes out (and it is) that stuff just won’t hold water. Even if they were solid stats (and they aren’t), generalizing a self-selected sample (the “prep school” equivalent of the homeschooling crop) to the general public school environment (where low-performing students can’t opt out) is comparing apples to oranges.

Because of all the work the HSLDA has done convincing lawmakers to deregulate homeschooling, we just don’t have much real data on the lower-end homeschoolers aside from case studies and personal accounts. Not collecting information on these kids has only made them invisible, not nonexistent.

*****

My life is pretty good today. I don’t need to harp on the past. The reason I speak out is to use my experience to shed light on a problem. It is for friends who grew up like I did and didn’t get the opportunities I did. It is knowing little children are living today the way I did then. We need to listen to one another, brainstorm, form coalitions to make homeschooling better, to make education and society in general better, to raise our children in the best and most informed way possible, because that’s ultimately the goal, isn’t it? So please don’t yell at me or get defensive when I tell you about my homeschooling experience. Hear what I’ve got to say, ask me questions, and share your (hopefully much better) homeschooling stories. I’d love to hear them.