10 Homeschooled Children of Joe and Nicole Naugler Once Again Under Parental Custody

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

After 2 months, the 10 homeschooled children of Joe and Nicole Naugler have been placed back in their parents’ custody.

The children were placed in state care at the beginning of May after allegations of unsafe living conditions and truancy surfaced. The children remained under government protection after both a May 11 hearing and a June 3 hearing did not find it was safe for the children to return. The May 11 hearing came with a dramatic turn of events when 19-year-old Alex Brow, Joe Naugler’s oldest son who lives out of state, showed up at the courtroom and alleged he was physically and sexually abused by his father.

Joe and Nicole Naugler and several of their friends created two fundraisers that raised almost $70,000 to improve living conditions as well as boost Nicole’s dog grooming business.

A local Kentucky news source, WDRB, broke the news today concerning the return of the children:

The couple’s lawyer confirms, the Nauglers now have “physical custody of their children”

However, both parents are still facing criminal charges.

Joseph Naugler faces charges for allegedly threatening a neighbor. Nicole Naugler is charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, following a confrontation with police when the children were removed from their home.

For more information about the Naugler case, see the following:

Children of Joe and Nicole Naugler to Remain in State Care

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

The 10 children of Joe and Nicole Naugler, who were placed in state care after allegations of unsafe living conditions and truancy, will continue to remain in state care. According to the Naugler parents’ Facebook page, Blessed Little Homestead, Joe and Nicole had a hearing today in district court. The result of that hearing was that the children will remain under government protection for at least another week.

Text and images from the Nauglers’ updates are as follows:

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 6.22.28 PM

Text is,

I haven’t been on much, I apologize for not responding to questions and messages.

We have a hearing today in district court. I will update as soon as I can.

Thank you for your support. The kind words have been encouraging. And thank you to those who do not support us, but have remained civil in their discussions.

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 6.22.10 PM

Text is,

The reunification of our family has been delayed another week. We are devastated that the children are not returning home today. We want the world to know our children, Jacob, Quinten, Abigail, Isaac, Zachary, Olivia, Urijah, Ezra, Lucas, and Mosiah.

Their voices have been kept silent. They are young adults, and tender children, and they have been treated like property. We want their wishes known and respected. We will continue to fight for our family’s rights. We will continue to work very closely with all agencies involved and have complied with every request.

This is not the first time the children have not been returned to the parents after a court hearing. The children were kept in government protection after a May custody hearing as well.

For more information about the Naugler case, see the following:

Technically, Nicole Naugler Is Not a Homeschool Mom

Photo from Blessed Little Homestead’s Facebook page.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on May 9, 2015.

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:

Kentucky Police Seize Ten Children of Homeschooling Off-Grid Family, Arrest Pregnant Mother

BREAKING: Police Seize 10 Children From Homeschool Family Because They’re Off-Grid

Pregnant Homeschool Mom Assaulted by Sheriff as CPS Kidnaps Her Kids in Kentucky

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.

Here is how Homeschooling’s Invisible Children, run by the alumni-founded Coalition for Responsible Home Education, determines which cases to include in its database:

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.

“Worse Than Any House I Saw on My Little Island”: A Homeschooled MK’s Thoughts on the Naugler Family

Our eating table. We're sitting on either buckets or the captains chairs. It was my birthday.
Our eating table. We’re sitting on either buckets or the captains chairs. It was my birthday.

Danica is a MK and homeschool alumni. She blogs at Ramblings of an Undercover TCK.

I came across an article about Joe and Nichole Naugler on my newsfeed today and clicked on it out of curiosity. As a quasi-homesteader myself (we live on ten acres, have chickens, and aim towards a self-sufficient lifestyle), who was also homeschooled and has homeschooled my own kids, I was interested to see for myself the ‘horrible living conditions’ mentioned in the article.

I was highly skeptical that the conditions were really all that bad.

See, my personal definition of ‘livable’ is very different from the average American’s definition of ‘livable’. This is because I grew up, not in America, but on a small Pacific island called Luaniua, in the Ontong Java atoll.  Do a search for it on Google Earth, and you’ll find my family’s little house still standing, just behind the church at the center of the village.

One of the village houses.  Our village was kept pristine — no trash anywhere.
One of the village houses. Our village was kept pristine — no trash anywhere.

The house was tiny, only 900 square feet.  It stood five feet off of the ground on stilts, had mat walls woven from coconut fronds, and a corrugated tin roof which both housed our solar panels, and also funneled drinking water into our rain tank.  The floor was 2×4 timbers, each spaced about a centimeter apart.  This was helpful when sweeping, because food would fall through the cracks to the chickens waiting below, but also provided the village kids hours of entertainment by way of poking little sticks up through the cracks into our bare feet above.  The cracks also allowed mosquitos to come up into the house when the monsoon rains left puddles for them to propagate by the millions, so Dad used to pay us 25 cents a ‘line’ to Elmer’s glue strips of cardboard into the cracks.

The front door, accessible by steps made of more 2×4’s (everything in the house was built of 2×4’s, plywood, or mats), was rigged with a rope that stretched to a pulley under the eaves, then down to a heavy conch shell that pulled it shut with a slam whenever anyone went in or out.  The locals were convinced that we had affixed that conch shell as a tribute to our ancestors (it was at the front door of the house, and anyone who entered had to pass by it, so logically speaking it was there to protect the family, obviously), and wouldn’t be dissuaded no matter how many times we tried to tell them otherwise.  The front door opened into the veranda, which stretched across the entire front of the house.  Here is where we ate our meals together as a family, and also entertained people who stopped by.  It was a long but narrow room, so Dad rigged up the dinner table by attaching it to hinges to the wall.  At meal times, we’d lower it down.

After we were done eating, we’d raise it back up like a drawbridge, and you could access the whole room again.  We had two folding captain’s chairs and took turns sitting in those, while everyone else sat on 5 gallon buckets of rice or flour.  Mom cut squares out of plywood, padded them with some foam egg crate, then covered them with cloth.  These we used to lean against the wall, or put on the buckets as seats (5 gallon buckets can get really uncomfortable if you sit on just the lids for extended periods of time – plus, the lids wear out and the seats protected the lids from all that use).

My sister and I on the veranda grating coconut (and feeding the cat).
My sister and I on the veranda grating coconut (and feeding the cat).

Our little 900 square foot house was divided into thirds.  The front third was the veranda.  The middle third housed the kitchen and the girls’ room, side by side.  From the kitchen you could access the back third, which was the boys’ room and my parents’ room.  My sister’s and my room was barely wide enough to accommodate our two beds, which my dad built against opposite walls on lofts, with about three feet between them.  At the foot of my bed, was the wall of fiction books.  At the foot of my sister’s was the food safe.  Under our beds were our desks (built from more 2×4’s and plywood), and our ‘closets’, which were the shipping crates we had used to move all our stuff from America, to the island.

My two brothers slept in a bunk bed, with their clothes stored underneath in plastic containers.  One wall of their room was dedicated to our nonfiction books, including an entire set of encyclopedias and all of our school books.  Both of their desks were also in that room, and there was just enough room in their back corner for our solar powered fridge.  My parents’ room was mostly taken up with their bed (all of our beds consisted of 2 inch thick foam mattresses), with a desk on one side and another shipping-crate-turned-closet on the other.  The space under their bed was for storing boxes of canned goods, other supplies, and more buckets of flour, rice, oats, sugar, and powdered milk.

Me washing a pot on the beach.
Me washing a pot on the beach.

The kitchen had laminate counter-tops, made from the lids of the shipping crates that my mom had the foresight to have laminated back in America.  She cooked all our family meals on a single Bunsen burner.  We had a sink that was connected to the rain tank outside, which we didn’t use for washing dishes (that would have been a waste of precious drinking water).  The kitchen also had more storage for more 5 gallon buckets.  There was a chalk board taking up one entire wall.  Our ham radio was also in the kitchen.

No space was left unused.  The rafters above were lined with shelves, which housed more boxes of canned goods.  We came out to the village for several months at a time, and we had to bring enough food for our entire village stay, out with us.  Extra school supplies, toiletries, birthday presents, tampons, batteries, first aid supplies … whatever we’d need were stored up in those rafters.  Under the house, we had clothes lines, clothes washing station, and a dish washing station, as well as several more buckets for carrying water from the well, and a couple tubs for washing.

This was the house I grew up in, my home for seven years. This was normal for me.  

This is why I really don’t fret about cobwebs in my house here in America, or the sink faucet that doesn’t work unless you twist it just so, or my perpetually dirty floors, or the moths that dive bomb my light when I read at night.  It’s also why I was skeptical when I first read the article about the Nauglers.

Surely this was just a bunch of first world Americans complaining about first world problems.

Surely the Nauglers’ living conditions weren’t that bad.

We daily swept dirt out with coconut brooms. Here's me sweeping the path behind our house.
We daily swept dirt out with coconut brooms. Here’s me sweeping the path behind our house.

Then I clicked on the link to their Facebook page, showing pictures of their house.

The ‘house’ that the Nauglers live in with their ten children is worse than any house I saw on my little island.  It was even dirtier and more poorly kept than the grass huts most of the Islanders lived in.

And the Island huts had dirt floors!  

I have lived in what I feel are the sparsest of living conditions, but even a grass hut with an earthen floor can be kept clean.  And this was in the third world, on an island that had a ship visiting it only every four months or so, where there was little electricity and no vehicles, and everything had to be built literally by hand.

There is absolutely no excuse for a family who lives in America, where there is a Home Depot or Walmart within even a day’s driving distance, to live in such conditions.  

The Nauglers are deliberately depriving their children of running water, a warm home in the winter, and even their own beds to sleep in.  More than that, they are depriving their children of an understanding of how to function in the world they will eventually inhabit.  I had to learn how to use a microwave, how to cook on an electric stove, how to operate a washing machine, skills that most American kids learn young, I learned as a teenager.  I know from personal experience that the Naugler kids will have to learn all of this, not to mention the ‘hidden curriculum’ of how to relate to their peers who grew up in typical American homes.  Their parents are depriving them of physical comforts now and key skills they need for when they are adults.

This isn’t an issue of civil liberties.

It’s an issue of stubborn, close minded adherence to a way of living even our forefathers were working to rise out of.

Joe Naugler’s Oldest Son Alleges Physical, Sexual Abuse; Children Not Returned

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Joe and Nicole Naugler, the off-grid homeschooling family in Kentucky whose 10 children were taken away last week due to allegations of unsafe living conditions and truancy, attended a custody hearing today before a Breckinridge County judge. Kentucky Child Protective Services had placed the 10 children in foster care after the local authorities seized them. The seizure happened after local sheriff Todd Pate showed up at the Nauglers’ homesteading property to serve Joe with a summons for allegedly threatening his neighbor with a firearm. According to an emergency custody affidavit from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, the family lives on property with only one makeshift shed and two makeshift tents.

As of 5:45 pm Pacific, the Nauglers have remained silent on their Facebook page as to the results of the hearing. However, local news agencies and a family representative report that the Naugler children will not be returned to their parents this week.

The most dramatic turn of events is that 19-year-old Alex Brow, Joe Naugler’s oldest son who lives out of state, showed up at the courtroom with Sheriff Pate and made a public statement. When Brow was 4 years old, he too was removed from his father’s care. Brow said he fears for the well-being of siblings because he personally experienced significant abuse from his father. According to WLKY, Brow said, “I am very worried about them and I hope that everything that can be done, that was done here, can help them move on and have a better life.” Brow alleged not only physical abuse, but also sexual abuse: “I got all the beatings. I got most of the mental abuse. There was a lot of sexual abuse towards me. We had a very dysfunctional relationship.”

HSLDA, the Homeschool Legal Defense Association, is allegedly assisting the Naugler family. HSLDA attorney TJ Schmidt spoke in defense of the family for a WorldNetDaily article and Michael Farris, Jr., HSLDA’s social media director and son of HSLDA founder Michael Farris, also expressed support.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, May 12, Joe and Nicole Naugler will return to court to face criminal charges.

Additional reading:

UPDATE, 05/11/2015, 6:12 pm Pacific: Joe Naugler issued a statement via their Facebook page claiming that CHFS “have confirmed, and confirmed again today that our children are happy, healthy and well cared for and that our property is sufficient for their needs.” Joe also said he was “heartbroken” over his oldest son’s testimony. An image of the statement is saved here or you can read the full text below:

We have allowed CHFS to inspect our property and interview our children multiple times. After every visit they have confirmed, and confirmed again today that our children are happy, healthy and well cared for and that our property is sufficient for their needs. Despite that, the judge decided as a result of the deliberations in today’s hearing that our children will remain in CHFS care while they continue their investigation. Alex, my 19-year-old estranged son, testified in today’s hearing. We are both heartbroken with the way Alex’s upbringing away from us and his strained relationship with his mother have affected him. Although we are sad our children will not be returned to us today, we have nothing to hide. We have cooperated with all requests made to us by CHFS and will continue to do so. We are confident that throughout this process Nicole and I will be shown to be the good parents that we are and that our family will be reunited. We thank everyone for all you have done for us and ask for continued prayers for our children. We want all our children to know that we love them and we are constantly with them in our hearts.

UPDATE, 05/12/2015, 1:35 pm Pacific: Joe and Nicole Naugler appeared in court again today (Tuesday) to face criminal charges. They each pleaded not guilty. Additionally, HSLDA today said in a WorldNetDaily article that they are no longer assisting the Naugler family.

A Former Off-Grid, Homeschooled Child’s Thoughts on the Naugler Family

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Paul Jerry.

The following post is written by Gary. The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Gary” is a pseudonym. Also by Gary on HA: “The Deep Drone of Unseen Cicadas” and “Hurts Me More Than You: Gary’s Story”.

To begin with I would like to state several things.

1. I do not know the Naugler family. I have never met them. All of the following observations are based solely from the information this family posted, publicly, on their blog and public Facebook page.

2. Much of the “information” being spread about the internet in regards to this family is clearly, factually incorrect. This can be seen through simple observation of posts on the family’s public Facebook page and blog.

Most of the information people are referencing is based only from the first few photos and/or posts on the family’s blog and Facebook page. For instance, the cover photo used in much of media coverage is clearly (based off the age of the youngest child featured) taken as much as two years ago. Another instance would be the “cabin”. When the family first moved to the property they did, indeed, have a cabin of sorts. In reality it was a small prefab home bought on credit. But this cabin was later returned. Where it stood is now a concrete slab, bare and seen in photos as a resting place for a heard of goats.

Since then the family has lived in a series of small open air shacks and tents — none of which even have 4 walls, windows, a solid floor, or a working door. This as well is clearly visible from photos publicly posted.

3. The dates of the photos posted on the family’s pages do not necessarily correlate to the date the photos were actually taken. Once again, this can be established by noting certain structures (or lack there of) on the land, the ages of the youngest children, and the time of year the photos were taken. Thus, no reliable timeline of any kind as to the health and welfare of the children, at the time they were taken, can be established by the online information. The most recent group photo I could find (once again based from the ages of the children) might have been taken as long ago as last fall.

4. The situation at the homestead, based off the photos and posts available, seems to be getting worse. There are several reasons for this, and they have to do with the effects of animals (goats, chickens, dogs, etc.) and human habitation on a spot of land. In the beginning the pond appears to be a real pond (turtles and fish are pictured), by the (apparently) latest photos, the pond has turned into a filthy mud pit devoid of most life. This is the natural consequence of animal dung running off the surrounding landscape with the rain and melting snow, the traffic of people, animals, etc.

This same trend can be seen in the yards and areas surrounding the shack. At first the dirt is held down by plant roots, but as the small trees were killed by the goats or chopped down to form fences, the dirt turned to mud. This mud gets mixed with the animal dung (goat, chicken and dog) and gets tracked by the bare feet of the children over every surface of the homestead. This state of affairs is clearly visible in the photos.

With this comes water from rain running straight off into the pond, carrying with it animal dung and any and all other forms of filth, from oil and gasoline from the generator, to cooking and food waste. This means that any photos taken at the beginning of this homestead experience simply can not be relied on to show the true living conditions of the current day.

We do see some photos of a shallow ditch covered by a few muddy boards, that was dug in an attempt to keep this filthy rain run off from flooding the shack.

5. These conditions will continue to get worse unless there are major and lasting changes to every aspect of the family’s food preparation area, sleeping area etc. The mud and run-off water will get worse as the hillside continues to break apart. The pond will become even worse of a health hazard as it fills with more animal dung and garbage. The structures, such as they are, will begin to mold and rot from the ground up. (This is, in fact, based off photos. It is already taking place).

6. I am not going to talk here about the family’s religious beliefs, their choice to un-school or homeschool their children, their practice of not providing their children with immunizations, Social Security numbers, or birth certificates.

All those issues are, in my opinion, secondary to the very real and pressing issues of the health and physical safety of these ten children.

Despite all the media coverage to the contrary, that does seem, based off all information available, to be the actual and factual reason the children were taken from their parents.

So without further ado, here is a bit of what is going on.

*****

My family is sick.. We never get sick, its been nearly 3 years since we have been sick…But I think the children ate some bad food. ~lesson learned, ask mom before you eat something.. 7 of 10 children down. Olivia, being the nurturing one that she is, is taking care of everyone with me. She is bringing water to them, making sure they are all cared for..She has been on top of it not missing a step even when I stopped to feed the baby. Quinten made up everyone’s spot.. .. ,,,,at least they like to sleep outside. ( true campers!) But no one is up for roasted marshmallows

-Direct quote from the “Blessed Little Homestead” Facebook page, posted on July 24th 2014

In the photo (which got over 20 likes) we see multiple children, dressed in dirty shorts, sprawled on mounds of blankets in the dirt around an open air fire pit.

They are obviously sick:

Food poisoning. Or was it? They, “the children” had eaten some unidentified “food” with out asking their mother if it was safe to eat.

Was it some of the wild mushrooms featured in many photos on the “Blessed Little Homestead” (BLH) Facebook page?

Was it rotting left over food sitting in any number of the unwashed and grime incrusted Tupperware and plastic containers lying scattered around the open air “kitchen” (really a stack of bricks filled with open flame and topped with rusty and filth incrusted wire racks)?

Was it Salmonella?

Let us see if this description matches some of the living environments seen on the BLH Facebook page.

Food: Contaminated eggs, poultry, meat, unpasteurized milk or juice, cheese, contaminated raw fruits and vegetables (alfalfa sprouts, melons), spices, and nuts

Animals and their environment: Particularly reptiles (snakes, turtles, lizards), amphibians (frogs), birds (baby chicks) and pet food and treats.

There are picture after picture after picture of small children, covered in grime, holding and handling:

  • Snakes.
  • Toads.
  • Baby Chicks.
  • Turtles.
  • The list goes on and on.

There is photo after photo of a “homestead” coated inches deep in mud, and with up to eight goats roughly a dozen chickens, two cats and seven dogs running loose around and in the shacks that serve as “home” for this family, one can know, with absolute mathematical certainty,  that this “mud” that coats everything form the children to the floors and walls in a persistent layer of grime, is at least in a significant part, animal dung.

So, was it Salmonella?

Was it E-Coli?

Was it poison mushrooms cooked up by an unknowing child in a grimy pot over an open fire? (The kids, after all, are shown doing the “cooking”, and the mother brags in several posts about how “the kids do almost all the cooking for the family.”

We don’t know. The mother doesn’t know either. And that’s a big problem when it comes to the health and safety of the 10 children living in filth and squalor in a 380 ft. three sided shack.

*****

But what makes you an expert you may ask?

Well.

I grew up in a similar environment.

My family bought 12 acres of land, 50 miles from the nearest town, in the North West back in 1982. We spent that first summer living in an army tent. During that first summer my father and mother and older brother built a 20 by 15 foot log cabin. That’s 300 square feet.

By snow fall we had a insulated, steel roofed, 300 square foot log home, it had a real cinderblock foundation, it had 3 double pained insulated windows, and it had a barrel stove.

We did not have electric, we did not have a well, we did not have indoor plumbing. Internet and cell phones did not exist in 1982. The nearest phone was at a neighbors home over three miles away. Then over the next 3 summers my father and mother built a 8 room, two story, glass windowed and hard wood floored, log home. It has a stone fireplace, a full basement, and a root cellar and a pantry.

They also built: an animal shed, a shop, a tool shed, and a woodshed.

During those years we became a working “homestead”, including 4 goats, two dozen chickens, geese, a small horse, a dog, 35 rabbits and two cats. We had a large garden as well. During none of this did we ever have: a well, a phone, air conditioning or refrigeration. We lit our home first with kerosene lamps and candles and then later with propane lanterns. We cooked our meals first on a wood stove, and later on a propane stove. We gathered our water from a local public well. (for drinking) and from a system of rain barrels, (for bathing and watering the garden.) After about 10 years we hooked up solar power and ran a system of electric lights.

We were (and my parents still are) “off the grid”:

  • 33 years with no well.
  • 33 years with no internet.
  • 33 years with no indoor plumbing.
  • 33 years with no eclectic grid hook up.
  • 33 years of gardening and eating wild game.
  • 33 years of gathering drinking water at a local public well.

All of us children were raised, from 1982 till 2013 when the youngest left home, in a true “homestead” environment.

We lived it.

I lived it.

For the first 18 years of my life.

I ran free in the woods, home schooled only 4 months out of the year, much of it self directed learning. I milked goats, I hunted wild game, I tilled that garden by hand, and toted water from rain barrels to water the plants. I was barefoot all summer long, from May to October. I fished in the river, at the age of 9, with no adult supervision.

It was, quite literal, “homestead” living.

It really was.

However.

We had a real house, insulated, enclosed on all 6 sides, and heated. We had a fully enclosed, 7 foot deep, ventilated outhouse, with a real toilet seat and a locking door located a sanitary distance form the house. We had bedrooms, with real beds and real mattresses, for the children, one for the girls, one for the boys, (bunk beds with your brothers can be great!) We had a bathtub. We were kept clean, very clean, by the constant work and insistence of my mother. Our farm animals were kept separate from our yard and our home by fences.

Even our yard was clean, swept with a push broom till it was smooth hard packed earth.

We were healthy.

Our meals were cooked in spotless pans and served on real ceramic plates at a real table, (solid oak, passed down from Grandpa). We had a “real” Homeschooling curriculum for all 12 grades (sure, it said electricity was a mystery and people road dinosaurs like horses just 4,000 years ago, but what can you do?)

The family of 12 (soon to be 13) living on the “Blessed Little Homestead” have none of those things.

I have been on their Facebook page.

I have looked through years of photographs.

I have read post after post, on the public Facebook page and on their public blog.

Their living conditions are among the worst I have ever seen. Ever.

My family was not the only one “homesteading” in this remote area of the Pacific North West. I knew over a dozen families living in nearly the same conditions as my self. That is: living on clean, well organized and maintained farms and homesteads, usually with out electric or plumbing, often home schooled, and deeply conservative. I knew a family living in a teepee for two years. I knew a small commune of three families living in a communal yurt. And I never, ever, saw living conditions even half as dangerous, anarchistic or filthy as what is shown on the “Blessed Little Homestead” site and Facebook page.

This family isn’t “homesteading”, they are, for all practical purposes, homeless.

This family does not have the cabin featured in some of the photographs, it was bought on credit and later “returned”.

This family was living, twelve deep, in a tree sided shack. The floor is covered in dirt and filth, the children are as well. The shack they sleep in is built from old pallets and two by fours. I won’t bore you with the details of structural integrity, but let’s just say that I am very surprised the shack did not collapse under last winters several feet of snow (photos of which are on the BLH public Facebook page) and kill or injure the 12 family members huddled inside.

(Note how the two by fours are driven, with out foundation, strait into the dirt, and how the load bearing single two by fours in the front of the shack are spaced 6 feet apart.)

I could go on for pages about the myriad dangers from accident and infection and disease these children were being exposed to on a daily basis. I could mention the animal dung covering the whole area in a layer of slime, pounded into a grimy coating by the bare feet of ten children, draining with the rain and melting snow, down hill from the “homestead” into the pond that has now, after several years of occupation, apparently gone from being home to fish and turtles (in earlier photos) to being a mud pit doubling as an open sewer choked with animal dung.

I could mention the generator and gasoline cans, (visible in several photos) located right next to the shack ( there is an extreme danger of carbon monoxide poisoning killing the entire family, in fact, the only reason I suspect this hasn’t happened yet is the fact the dwelling is not enclosed on all four sides).

I could mention the filthy conditions of the “cooking area”, including dirt encrusted plastic cups, drifting smoke and food being eaten by the grimy unwashed hands of children as young as 4 who cooked their own meals, over the open flames. (also clearly visible in photos on the B.L.H. public Facebook page.)

I could mention the photos of dog bites, wasp stings, scrapes, cuts, and bruises.

I could mention that the BLH blog links to articles about how Tetanus shots aren’t needed as long as the:  “wound bleeds, cus Tetanus can’t live in oxygen and there is oxygen in your blood”    (I kid you not).

I could mention the  fact that with out any doubt what so ever, this “homestead” also smells like an open sewer.

It does.

I know because I grew up on a farm/homestead.

I know because you simply can’t have 8 goats, 7 dogs, two cats, a dozen chickens and twelve people living loose around a muddy pond in the Kentucky summer heat with no running water and not have it smell so rancid that it could be smelled half a mile away.

It’s impossible.

This has been framed as a “off the grid” issue. It is not. “Off the grid” does not mean, by default: dangerous, filthy, ignorant of basic food preparation and safety, anti Government and anti documentation. “Off the Grid” living can be done safely, cleanly, and in full compliance with all local laws and regulations (in many states). I know. I lived it.

This has been framed as a homeschool issue.

It is not.

Kentucky has very open homeschooling laws. It’s legal. Heck, “un-schooling” is legal there too.

The children were taken because it was unsafe. VERY unsafe, not because they were homeschooled.

This, surprisingly, has not been overly framed as a religious issue, at least not yet.

But this isn’t about homeschooling, parents rights, “off the grid living” “government control”, “erosion of our right to do what we please” etc.

It isn’t.

It is about the fact that the conditions at this particular site, in this particular case, with this particular family, where absolutely horrifyingly dangerous, unsanitary, and unsafe on multiple levels. This isn’t hearsay or supposing.

This is clearly visible in dozens on dozens of posts and photos posted publicly by the family themselves.

Quite frankly, I am surprised all the children made it out alive.

A Brief Word of Caution Regarding Joe and Nicole Naugler, The “Off-Grid” Homeschooling Family

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By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Have you seen the article going around entitled, “BREAKING: Police Seize 10 Children From Homeschool Family Because They’re Off-Grid”? The one about the “off-grid” homeschoolers, Joe and Nicole Naugler, whose children were allegedly stolen because of the family’s off-grid lifestyle? (Karen Campbell’s Relationship Homeschooling​ and HSLDA’s ParentalRights.org​ shared it today.)

Please know that there is so much more to know about the Nauglers than meets the eye in this case: allegations of theft, illegal transportation, fleeing the law, threatening neighbors with death, child neglect, and more. Homeschoolers and unschoolers that actually know the family are cautioning people that this family is troubled. HA blog partner Kathryn Brightbill is working on a summary of the situation that we will crosspost and share once it is complete. (It is complete! Read it here.) In the mean time, please exercise caution (and encourage your friends on social media to do so as well) before promoting their story and/or giving them money.

Update, 05/08/2015, 2:41 pm Pacific: The following image was shared by the family’s mother, Nicole Naugler, on Facebook. Nicole described it as the intake call against them:

10417585_10207024422955024_7297186380181231541_nFurthermore, Nicole has revealed that her children do not have identification documents:

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This can lead to situations of identification abuse, as we have documented in our 2015 Survey of Identification Abuse Within Homeschooling and seen in the stories of Alecia Pennington, Cynthia Jeub, and Eleanor Skelton.

Update, 05/08/2015, 5:23 pm Pacific: Kathryn Brightbill has finished her excellent synopsis of what’s going with Joe and Nicole Naugler. The situation is highly complicated and, as Kathryn points out, “What these things do demonstrate, at the very least, is that this family desperately needs help and they ought not be lifted up by homeschoolers as martyrs for the movement.” Read Kathryn’s synopsis here.