“I was homeschooled … in Illinois, a state that has no homeschool regulation, no testing requirements, nothing. Unless a homeschooled child has been in a public school district before being homeschooled (which would require the family to notify the district as they withdraw the student), local officials and the state quite frankly don’t know you even exist if you are homeschooled.”
I was homeschooled from the 1998 to 2007, 5th grade to graduation, in Illinois, a state that has no homeschool regulation, no testing requirements, nothing. Unless a homeschooled child has been in a public school district before being homeschooled (which would require the family to notify the district as they withdraw the student), local officials and the state quite frankly don’t know you even exist if you are homeschooled.
I grew up in a fundamentalist family with a curriculum called Accelerated Christian Education (I’ll call it A.C.E from now on), a very pro-creationism system, and as with many such systems, it’s sorely lacking to say the least in teaching real science, and proper math skills. To this day (I’m 25 now), I’m still far behind in those subjects.
My mother was highly emotionally abusive well into adulthood, and physically abused me until I was about 11 years old. I haven’t had any contact with her since this December. Between the abuse, and a very long history of mental illness in the family, I started showing signs of depression as young as about 9-10 years old.
I became extremely withdrawn, gave up on trying to have friends, between my mother’s paranoia about other people not being “godly enough” according to her rigid standards, always finding fault with everyone, even where such faults didn’t even exist, and my complete inability to understand people at all due to the isolation.
I could relate somewhat to adults, but definitely not to people my own age, and I honestly didn’t have any friends until about 16-17 years old, when two girls from my church at the time, one of whom would go on to become my girlfriend of 3 years, and the other my best friend during for many years, wouldn’t give up on me and tried to bring me out of my shell.
Their best efforts though, didn’t prepare me for what came next: college.
I went off to Southwest Baptist University, a conservative Southern Baptist college, and despite being able to blend into the conservative culture there, I couldn’t handle the everyday stresses of college life. I had never been in a typical public school style classroom before, was not familiar with the ideas of lectures, mid terms, finals, etc. I had never even been able to make everyday life decisions for myself from the mundane to the important, it was overwhelming.
My depression went from lingering in the background, to setting in with a vengeance to attack, and extreme panic attacks hit hard, I had 15-20 severe panic attacks that year I was there at Southwest Baptist, and many smaller attacks. It led to me having to drop out, and come back to my family, to more misery back home.
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.
My life could have been much different had just one person spoke up for me, but I’ll never know, because without regulations, many more children are probably right now going through similar situations or worse in homeschooling families, because in states where regulation doesn’t exist, the state doesn’t know about your existence. Abuse can go on unchecked, with no one being to speak up for these children, because they’re not exposed to the outside world, to people like teachers and coaches who are covered under state mandatory abuse reporting laws.
I want to see that change, now.
Jamie G. was homeschooled from the 1998 to 2007, 5th grade to graduation, in Illinois. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Testimonials page.