We receive many emails from people worried about educationally neglected homeschooled children. These individuals—who are often friends or family members—want to know what they should do about their concerns, and how they can help. We generally point them to information on recognizing educational neglect and advise them on how to report educational neglect in homeschool settings, which varies from state to state. Sometimes, though, those who email us also want practical ideas on how to encourage (or prod) a child’s parents to provide them with a better education.
If you have a friend or family member who is homeschooling but not adequately educating their children, we have some ideas you can put into practice (in addition to reporting suspected educational neglect to the authorities) to improve the education these children are receiving.
High school is an especially critical time for homeschooled students. If a homeschooled child finishes high school with little in the way of records and only spotty coverage of core subjects, college can be out of reach and even jobs that don’t require a college education can be difficult to obtain. If the child you are concerned about is in or approaching high school, ask your friend or family member if they have looked at their state’s high school requirements and encourage them to find tutors or classes for core subjects. Offer to look up the requirements yourself, or to research what affordable classes are available. Learn more about homeschooling through high school, and remember that homeschooled high school students in many states can take individual classes at their local public high school or local community college.
Make sure your friend or family member knows that enrolling their children in school—whether for high school or before—is not a sign of failure. Point out that putting the children in school is an option in casual and non-judgemental ways, perhaps noting that putting an older child in public school for high school would give them more time to focus on a younger child, or to return to a career they loved. Remain positive and focused on the needs of both the children and the parent.
Be aware that in some cases homeschooling parents (especially mothers) may make homeschooling part of their identity and perceive of any criticism or concern as a personal attack. In addition, many homeschooling parents are accustomed to facing criticism or even ridicule for their choice, which can make them defensive. This is unfortunate, as it can make being introspective about the quality of the education they are providing more difficult. This is something that should inform how you approach your friend or family member in this process.
Don’t put reporting suspected educational neglect off the table. In most states, the only time the state intervenes to ensure that homeschooled children are educated is after a concerned individual makes a report. While reporting a family for educational neglect may be difficult, especially if the person is a close friend or relative, making a report can bring needed change. We know of cases where the simple act of being reported has led neglectful homeschooling parents to improve the quality of education they provide their children. Learn how to make a report here.
Simply having a supportive adult in their life can make a world of difference for an educationally neglected homeschooled child. Your actions—and your support—may change a child’s life.