What does an eight-year-old girl who’s required to cook dinner, wash dishes, and put younger siblings to bed every night have in common with a 16-year-old boy who’s not allowed to make himself a snack, take a walk around the neighborhood alone, or pick out his own clothes? Age-inappropriate treatment. Children need to be able to learn, play, make mistakes, and take on new challenges to develop into self-sufficient, independent adults. When children are treated like they’re younger or older than they actually are, their ability to grow in a healthy way is limited.
For homeschooled children who aren’t treated in age-appropriate ways, the risk of missing out on important developmental experiences can be greater than that of their traditionally schooled peers. Homeschooled children may not get many opportunities to act their age if their parents control their every move. Issues like this one are why we created the Bill of Rights for Homeschooled Children, a vision for homeschooling that prioritizes children’s overall wellbeing. In the Bill of Rights, we declare that homeschooled children have the right to be children, not infantilized or expected to behave as an adult. As an advocacy group for homeschooled children run by homeschool alumni, we know too well how detrimental being treated in age-inappropriate ways can be to people in our community.
During our July 29 #HomeschoolChat, our biweekly Twitter chat for homeschool alumni, we asked participants to tell us about their experiences with infantilization and adultification and to share their advice for people who want to help homeschooled children they know in difficult situations. Here’s what they had to say:
What kind of adult responsibilities did you have as a homeschooled child? What chores, tasks, or roles did you handle that should have been handled by a parent?
Many #HomeschoolChat participants who experienced adultification had a long list of chores that would be challenging for an adult, let alone a child. Their responsibilities included:
How did your homeschooling parents infantilize you? What were you not allowed to do that other children your age could? What were you forced to do that other children weren’t?
For #HomeschoolChat participants who experienced infantilization, not being allowed to make their own decisions or keep up with their peers was discouraging. Their restrictions included:
How did being treated in developmentally inappropriate ways affect you?
For many #HomeschoolChat participants, being adultified or infantilized has had lasting effects on their ability to make decisions, feel confident, manage emotions, and balance work and rest. The negative impacts include:
What can extended family members, friends, and community members do to help homeschooled children who are being treated in developmentally inappropriate ways?
According to #HomeschoolChat participants, creating safe spaces for children to be themselves, making sure they know how their parents are treating them isn’t right, and recognizing and reporting abuse are some of the best ways to help homeschooled children who aren’t being treated in age-appropriate ways. Here’s what they recommend:
Homeschooled children deserve to be treated in ways that are developmentally appropriate. By understanding what it can look like when homeschooled children aren’t allowed to act their age and how this mistreatment can harm them, we can be better advocates for the homeschooled children in our lives.
#HomeschoolChat is a biweekly Twitter chat hosted by the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE) that allows homeschool alumni to share their experiences, find community, and give recommendations to make homeschooling safer and better for children. If you’re a homeschool alum and would like to participate in a future #HomeschoolChat, follow CRHE on Twitter.
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The views and opinions expressed by #HomeschoolChat participants do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education. This content does not constitute legal advice.