How Oversight Would Have Helped: Collected Stories
There is currently no statistical data to allow us to compare homeschooled students’ performance in states with high levels of oversight with homeschooled students’ performance in states with low levels of oversight. What we do have are stories from homeschool alumni—and homeschooling parents—of how oversight of homeschooling helped them or how lack of oversight harmed them. The individuals whose statements are listed below sign off on one or more of these statements:
1. Without oversight to hold our parents accountable, my or my friends’ education and/or homeschool experiences suffered.
2. The accountability and/or guidance oversight would have provided would have improved the quality of my or my friends’ education and/or homeschool experiences.
3. I lived in a state that did have oversight of homeschooling, and I saw it improve the quality of my or my friends’ education and/or homeschool experiences.
4. As a homeschooling parent, I have seen how oversight improves my or other parents’ homeschooling, and how lack of oversight decreases the quality of education provided.
Many, though not all, of these statements are drawn from the stories told by homeschool alumni and homeschooling parents in our Testimonials section. You can read more about the current state of homeschooling oversight HERE and view our policy recommendations HERE.
Oversight of my home education would have given me someone to see the severe authoritarian parenting happening in our home. The beatings that were handed to us daily as obedience to god. Maybe an agency of oversight would have missed the abuse. But I can tell you that not having anyone really paying attention to my education cost me years of having to make it up.
My kindergarten through eighth grade experience provided me a mostly balanced, interesting, and engaging homeschool program. . . . Every year, we submitted a portfolio to our licensed evaluator and she interviewed me. She was a retired schoolteacher, so she was able to compare my progress with her former students realistically. . . . In New Jersey, things fell apart. Without oversight, there was no need to think about compiling a portfolio. Without state standards, there was no benchmark for my progress. We still tried to follow the Pennsylvania guidelines for high school (3 years of math, 3 of science, 4 of English, etc.), but no one was there to check up on us or offer help as I entered harder subjects.
I wasn’t homeschooled with a rigid plan or even a schedule, but rather, I was unschooled, in the literal sense. Besides my mom teaching me to read at about age 5, she really didn’t directly teach me anything else. I taught myself. History, science, geography were all “taught” through reading 100 year old books. It wasn’t until 11th grade I actually took a science class and even then it was very menial and lacking. Math was nonexistent and neither of my parents took time to help me when I got stuck. My mom ended up just giving me consumer math so I could at least finish high school with some sort of GPA. It was all a joke. With 9 kids in the family, I was specifically told to not expect to go to college because my parents were only going to pay for the boys. I had no idea scholarships were options or that even working a job to pay for my own classes was an option. I believe there needs to be some form of oversight for homeschooling parents to make sure their kids are up to par so they can get into college without lacking some sort of important bits of education. I think states need to require state testing or something that means homeschooled children are learning the same things at the same time as public schooled kids. If my parents had had some sort of oversight, so many of my siblings would not have been so far behind when they did start college or public school.
As a homeschooled student, I needed a system that would help hold my parents accountable for the type of education that I was receiving. Neglect and abuse reigned in our home because there was a lack of accountability. If educational standards had been in place and annual testing mandatory, it would have become apparent that my parents needed support to address the holes in my understanding. The abuse and neglect would have been addressed and my educational quality (as well as quality of life) would have improved.
When I began to be homeschooled in 9th grade, I was a year ahead in math in high school, I was in the National Junior Honor Society and I made very good grades. I was well on my way to starting Calculus in 12th grade and graduating with honors and going on to college. Instead I never got past Algebra because my parents were unable to teach high school math to me. I never went to college because my parents did not see the value. If anyone besides my parents had been around to watch and guide me I may have stayed in school, or they may have been forced to get tutoring for me in order to continue in my math studies, and hopefully I would have gone on to college. As it was, my education essentially stopped at 9th grade because my parents had no clue what to teach me.
In the state of Colorado, homeschooled students are required to take placement tests every couple of years. There’s an exemption for parents who are certified teachers. My dad had a bachelor’s degree in English, and had taught it briefly, so we never took any tests. The first tests I ever took were my driver’s permit test and the SAT. As such, when I got to college, I struggled with scoring well on tests I’d studied for, because I’d never been trained for the pressure of the test layout and format. My homeschooled friends who did take the tests didn’t have such a difficult time with the organization of college when they graduated.
My education was lacking in math, science, sex education and physical education, but my high school education in many ways was adequate because I had the language skills to sound like a high school graduate and I managed to get jobs mostly through personal connections for the first couple of years. Fortunately during my high school years we lived in a state and town that required more reporting than most and I managed to get into a trade school by showing those records and getting a letter from the public school stating we followed the reporting laws. One of my sibling’s high school years were spent in a state that required very little reporting, and because of that they have struggled a lot more because with less reporting there was little motivation to actually educate them as much as myself and my siblings were. Also, there is almost no proof of the education they did get, and that has made life significantly harder for them.
I was homeschooled 7th-12th grade. Because the only requirement for homeschooling in Indiana is to school for 180 days per year like public school, my parents counted field trips with our co-op group, baking and cooking(fractions), and morning bible study as schooling. It is referred to “un-schooling” in the homeschool community. But since no one checks up on homeschooling families about the 180 day requirement and no testing is required, my siblings and I didn’t school 180 days a year, not even with “un-schooling” methods like field trips and cooking. I am absolutely convicted that some form of accountability by the state would have prevented the inadequacies of my education and I would have had a shorter, less expensive, and more fulfilling college experience had I not had to spend years taking remedial, high-school level courses to make up for what I was missing so I could get into a 4-year school and earn a bachelor’s degree. I could not take the SAT because I didn’t have that knowledge so I had to take earn twenty-five transferable credits at a community college instead. Many people I know who were homeschooled are directionless in their adult lives since they were not encouraged to pursue a secular, higher education, instead trying to pursue a career through experience. Most are currently experience financial trouble trying to make ends meet or stuck paying the bills through a job they never would have chosen.
My mother got frustrated a lot with me when I didn’t catch on to Math and Spelling as quickly nor as well as my younger brother. Eventually things got to the point where I feel like she just gave up on me and didn’t bother to check and see how I was doing with my education—or if I was even doing my schoolwork. It would have helped to have oversight in my situation because then I wouldn’t have been largely ignored during my schooling just because I wasn’t as smart as my brother.
Many of my friends and I do not have high school diplomas or transcripts. In the states in which we were homeschooled, there was little oversight and no requirement that parents provide such documents to graduating home school students. In addition to the rampant educational neglect that occurred in homeschool circles, the lack of proper documents made it difficult for many of us to access higher education. . . . If there had only been some protection in place that would have allowed me to have access to a transcript, I would have at least left homeschooling as a free adult.
Thankfully, I have moved into my own house now, and I am financially independent, working as a warehouse clerk. I’m rebuilding my life again, slowly but surely, and I have cut contact with my parents. I just wonder, however, that if sensible regulation and oversight of homeschooling would have been in place, if my life would have been different. For example, if my family would have been required to send me for standardized testing each year, or meet with local educational officials or social services workers to make sure we were complying with regulations, hopefully one of them would have saw the signs of the abuse and dysfunction in my family, or at the very least, noticed that I was depressed and isolated, and said something about it.
I am haunted by the question of what might have been different if there had been someone on hand to urge my parents to acknowledge the failure of their methods and get professional help. Homeschooling students who, like me, are privileged to have the skills necessary to fill in the gaps in our education can often bounce back from sub-standard educations. But others, like my brothers, who lack these skills will forever pay the price. The costs of the lack of oversight are borne by the most vulnerable.
Upon settling in Pennsylvania, which has regulations that are generally seen as “stringent,” my parents refused to report, having not reported previously. I met other homeschooling families who followed the laws and their children usually participated in a co-op or other activities with other homeschoolers. Other homeschooling parents griped constantly, but followed the laws and each year got their mandatory evaluations “out of the way,” trading “terrible evaluator” horror stories and sharing the ones they had proven to be lax (or just less demanding or thorough). I was not aware of any educational shortcoming in my friends—even the large families used evaluators and spent a lot of time DOING school.
I support oversight of homeschooling because I grew up in a physically and psychologically abusive home. I had no relationships with adults who would not have defended my parents’ choices and their right to make those choices for us. Oversight would not have prevented the abuse in itself, but it could have given me and my siblings the idea that someone else wanted to know what went on behind the façade of a model religious family. As it was, no one ever asked. . . . I support oversight of homeschooling because I have been a homeschooling parent in a state without oversight and I believe that children should have adults besides their parents checking on their welfare.
I support effective oversight of homeschooling because it’s so easy for people like me and my family to fall through the cracks—to find all the loopholes and do as little work as possible in the way of educating, keeping it about convenience and theology instead equipping children for adulthood. . . . If my parents had been unable to write off the validity and necessity of subjects based on theology or gender, if it had been harder for my parents to circumvent the rules, if I had been required to have an evaluation done by a teacher unrelated to my family, I think I would have had a better chance at a decent and well rounded education.
I was very shorted in the high school subjects. I had no formal science like chemistry or biology, no algebra higher than pre-algebra, no history beyond a unit study, and no literature or required book reports. If there are degree requirements for home schooled students and oversight to enforce those requirements, it would force parents to provide a better education in order to meet those requirements. Without those requirements and oversight, I have a diploma that does not match the education level of my peers. With the requirements and oversight, my parents would have been forced to either give me the classes and education that they didn’t give me, or not allow me to graduate and have to deal with the repercussions and stigma that would go with that.
I think a tiny bit of support and regulation would have helped our family. First of all, if we had been required to submit a plan, my parents would have made us follow it. It wasn’t that we were trying to do badly. We were out of touch. It’s worth noting that even my sister two grades younger doesn’t have as many gaps because they woke up when I graduated and saw what was required. Second, I would have known that I wasn’t stupid or behind, and so would my mother (or maybe she wouldn’t have, but I would have known it). Third, with better homeschool laws between the state and homeschool family, I could have just taken science and a foreign language at the high school.
My parents failed to educate me, perhaps valuing my separation from a secular environment over the quality of my education; annual lesson plan approval and testing might have encouraged more earnest academic investment on their behalf. At the very least, such measures might have brought attention to my situation. My parents believed that children should not be allowed to have a voice in regards to their education or psychological wellbeing; contact with other adults might have provided me access to a person who could have listened to and respected my thoughts and feelings about my situation or my mental health.
I was homeschooled in Illinois from kindergarten on. I hesitate to term that as “K-12” because I never really had much high school level education. I learned how to read early on, some on my siblings were almost 10 when they learned how to read. I had an advantage in that my mom had a bit more time in my early education years, I was the oldest child. However, I ended up being the oldest of 11 children, and by the time I was 10 or so, education was largely self-guided. I did math work books, practiced handwriting, and read a lot of books, but never received any education in geography, sciences, reproductive health, or history. I never took any tests, or had any deadlines, schoolwork was done when and if I had time after my household responsibilities were met, including childcare, cooking, and cleaning. Education in my childhood home was guided by my parents understanding of gender, most of my schoolwork was limited and guided by how it would serve me as a stay-at-home mother someday. We were also extremely isolated for a period of at least 9 years, where we had little interaction with anyone outside of our home and small inner circle. If my parents had had some sort of standard of education to meet, or certain things they had to participate in, I believe it could have been a helpful wake up call.
I believe that requiring my parents to have more than a high school education would have made a significant difference, as well as requiring a state-certified or licensed professional to evaluate an annual portfolio. It was far too easy to outright lie in the portfolios we submitted to our umbrella school. Simply being asked to take a standardized test is not enough, as I took them every year and got better-than-average scores in every subject; I knew enough about spelling and grammar and arithmetic to get by.
I was homeschooled K-12 and I believe that my education was thoroughly inadequate. I had no consistent curriculum. I was not taught basic math and science, my history education was weak and incomplete, and I did not write any academic papers until I got to college. I strongly believe that oversight of homeschooling is necessary. I think that if my parents had been held accountable by some type of legal standard, they would have been forced to a do a better job in educating me and my siblings.
If my parents were required to show some sort of portfolio, they would have needed to make sure that there were books, and show progression through grades (even if the progression was at an individual pace). They would have also needed to obtain and evaluate school work from us. Because there was no one to show the work too, and there was no measurement of failure as homeschoolers, my parents were not motivated enough on their own to provide a good education, and there was no one to step in and ensure that a good education was provided between when my oldest brother started being homeschooled in 1992 and 2006 when everyone was finally given the opportunity to go to school. That is 14 years of unsuccessful homeschooling, which could have been avoided with some form of homeschooling oversight.
The solution isn’t one that most homeschool advocates want to hear: Oversight. I spent most of my homeschooling years in Virginia, where my parents taught me under an academic exemption. There are two ways to homeschool in the state; families with an academic exemption are required to submit students for standardized testing, and families with a religious exemption were allowed to go totally off the grid. Standardized testing isn’t enough. I performed well on those tests, but still received a substandard education. Parents should be required to submit curriculum plans to the local district every year, and they should also be required to adhere to certain basic academic standards. School district officials should also be trained to recognize signs of abuse in homeschool families.
If there had been more oversight, my mom may have been able to get more motivated to get organized and give me and my sisters the education we needed. My sisters and I would not be in the very difficult place we are right now because of being under educated. More oversight would’ve helped not only educationally but also, in my family’s case, emotionally. I believe having motivation to get out of bed and a daily goal of doing school would’ve given my mom, my sisters, and I more purpose.
I feel VERY strongly that if there was someone really looking at what we were doing and being taught it could have made all the difference in my siblings’ and my own education. If their early education had been better my siblings could have had a much easier time when they were put in school—perhaps they would have even graduated. It could have made all the difference in their lives.
As a licensed civil engineer, I would not think twice about my superior evaluating me. It simply wouldn’t be safe for the public if I were to design something without that design being checked by my superior. I think about accountability and oversight of home education in the same way. For the safety of my children’s education, I want a professional looking at what I’ve done. I welcome her insight. I want to hear her criticism so that I can make changes if any are needed. I want her to tell me where I’m pushing too hard or not hard enough. I want to know if my students are testing at grade level as compared to their peers in the public school system.
If we hadn’t had excellent homeschool standards in Iowa, my children would not be where they are today. I hadn’t anticipated they would be good enough to play a college sport, since those qualities did not emerge until later in high school, and so I would not have been foresighted enough to have a supervising teacher, or to make sure they met those NCAA core requirements for classes.
If there had been more regulations on homeschooling in the states in which I lived I would have been more aware of my success or failure as my children’s primary educator. We are taught as homeschoolers to protect our privacy at all costs. But so much stress would have been alleviated with more oversight. Resources from the local school district would have been helpful, or at least having a state hotline where I could ask questions and find out about support groups in my area would have been good. Requiring testing every few years (as most states do for public school students) would have helped keep me accountable to stay on track with the curriculum. Plus would help identify weak areas in my students.
During our 18 years of homeschooling we witnessed many successful students go on to become happy, productive members of society. But, we also witnessed some homeschool failures as parents did not provide an adequate education for their children. The parents did not hold themselves accountable, either under an umbrella school as allowed by law in our state, or by following the state law requirements for homeschooling. They were accountable to no one and their children did not learn. They could not do the basic 3 R’s of reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic. They could not get into college nor could they find gainful employment.
Florida’s home education statutes required that a home educator keep a daily log of learning activities, a list of all texts and materials used, and be able to supply those records along with samples of a student’s work upon two weeks written notice from the local school districts superintendent’s office. As a home educator who takes education seriously, I appreciated the professionalism involved in keeping meticulous records. It kept me on my toes, as I made sure that my children’s education would be shown to be challenging them “commensurate with” their individual “ability”. I touched on every subject every school day, and probably put more effort and creativity into projects and field trips knowing that at the end of the year, a licensed school psychologist would look at my records and evaluate my program. After moving to North Carolina, I continued to keep records for my own benefit, but I must confess they were not as detailed as I kept in Florida, because no one would ever see them. . . . To be plain, I am saying that the only way my home education could have been better was if I had access to professional accountability all the way through graduation, as I had in Florida.