“Enforcing the current requirements that Indiana has in place could help to prevent children like me from slipping through the cracks.”
As Gloria Steinem said, “The final stage of healing is using what happens to you to help other people.” In 2019, I was diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and PTSD stemming from the years of isolation and neglect I experienced during my childhood. I was homeschooled in the ‘90s and early 2000s in the state of Indiana. From birth through my “graduation” at age 18, my mother oversaw my entire education. In Indiana, there are very few regulations on homeschooling families. The regulations that are in place are hardly ever enforced. I was never checked in on by anyone from the state; my siblings were never checked in on by anyone from the state; not a single homeschooling family I knew or currently know have ever been checked in on by anyone from the state.
I love my parents and I maintain a good relationship with them, but I was failed in my education and upbringing. I was mostly given books and told to read them or go through the worksheets on my own. There was very little structure and almost no oversight. I stopped doing math around the time I should have been in the 7th or 8th grade. The last science I remember being assigned was a high school level physics course. I remember the cover of the book being green and nothing else. I sat with that book in my lap for two years and never completed a single exercise, experiment, chapter, or test. On my final high school transcript that my mother and I filled out together, I was given an overall grade of a B in physics. The state simply trusted that what was written on my graduation transcript was the truth. I worked two jobs my senior year of high school, including one for the county government. I worked 39.5 hours per week as a 17-year-old senior in high school for the local government and no one from the state came to check up on me. I took the SAT. I borrowed my brother’s calculator to take with me. I didn’t know how to use it and had never used one before. The last math I recall doing was learning long division. I remember giving up while learning fractions. SAT level algebra was so far above my own education level that I scored in the bottom 10% in the state and bottom 5% in the nation on the math section. Even with a tangible test score on my record, the state never followed up on my education.
I am the youngest child in my family and the only girl. In a homeschooling family this means that most of my time was spent alone. Much of my childhood is a blur with no distinct concept of time. I remember spending days, weeks, months, and years in my bedroom alone just reading or listening to music. I wasn’t always allowed to play sports with my brothers and time with church friends was severely limited. When the isolation and loneliness became too much I would break down and cut myself. I didn’t have much experience with people and wasn’t good at making friends, so I ended up having a few people take advantage of me. Including one man who sexually assaulted me because I didn’t know how to strongly say “no”. I remained friends with him afterwards because I didn’t know how else to make friends.
I am now a 30-year-old woman with no high school diploma, no GED, and no college degree. I took remedial classes at the local community college, gained entrance into a local public university based on these classes and my falsified high school transcript, and began having severe panic and anxiety attacks during my final year. I dropped out. I have tried to go back multiple times, but I have not yet had the strength to overcome my mental illness in order to finish my degree. I do however have the strength to fight for the educational rights of other children.
Enforcing the current requirements that Indiana has in place could help to prevent children like me from slipping through the cracks. Creating new requirements and guidelines for homeschooling parents could ensure that every child will, at the very least, have access to an adequate education.
State oversight could also help curb child abuse. It is a commonly known tactic for abusers to isolate their victims. Homeschooling is the easiest way for an abusive parent to isolate their children from the outside world. They decrease the likelihood that the child will encounter a mandated reporter and they create an isolated life where abuse and pain is all the child has ever seen. In the state of Indiana and in many other states, it is highly likely that these children will never be checked in on by the state and therefore will never receive the help that they so desperately need.
My goal is to use the pain that formed me to ensure that no child can be deprived of the vital human right that is an education. There is no parental right that trumps a child’s right to feel safe in their own home, to be properly socialized, to be appropriately monitored, and to be provided free access to an adequate education.
Danielle C. was homeschooled in Indiana from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Community Voices page.