Jane N.: “We were completely cut off from the outside world”
“Even when taken to the doctor, I was not allowed to see them without a parent present. I think this was because my mother was afraid what we might say. I believe I was pulled out of public school for a similar reason when a few teachers began noticing her controlling behaviors.”
I was homeschooled in the mid 90s and again in the early 2000s for some of grade school and most of junior high and high school in a state that only requires notification. While I was not educationally neglected like some of my peers, I was unprepared for the real world due to our use of fundamentalist curriculum. Despite being college educated, my mother had no ability to teach high school math, having never taken a teaching course, and science and history were purely religious focused. I watched Abeka DVDs and then was yelled at until I finished tests that were never sent in for grading, and if I didn’t know enough of the answers, my mother would finally get tired of yelling at me and just give me the answers. I learned very little math, or anything else that was difficult for me, because of this environment.
In college, this created a lot of stress trying to catch up. I had adequate writing and reading skills, but, given my choice to pursue a STEM field, most of my science classes expected me to know things that would’ve been taught in high school and that I never learned, either because Abeka found it unbiblical or because I was never really forced to learn it with my mother not wanting to enforce test taking. The stress of trying to perform well enough for future professional school admission, along with the unresolved trauma of abuses that worsened due to the isolation of homeschooling, ultimately led to a mental health crisis in my late teens that resulted in me being unable to function for several years. I later finished the degree after years of mental health issues, way behind schedule. And the intentional isolation and abuse that escalated with homeschooling caused a lot of trauma I am still working through 15 years later.
An already dysfunctional environment was exacerbated with homeschooling. I saw this with the few family friends we had around us as well. Homeschooling gave my mother an easy way to deny me any right to socialize, especially when they began “home churching”, and accelerated her already controlling behaviors. A friend in this home church had it even worse. I saw her experience even more extreme abuse than myself, and despite the fact she was technically in the foster care system, was never once checked on. We lived in extreme fear and had no access to mandated reporters while alone. Even when taken to the doctor, I was not allowed to see them without a parent present. I think this was because my mother was afraid what we might say. I believe I was pulled out of public school for a similar reason when a few teachers began noticing her controlling behaviors. We were completely cut off from the outside world except as much as my mother allowed, only occasionally visiting homeschool groups, until it was decided to send me to a church. Even then, I was verbally abused for having friends at church, and at this church I witnessed multiples types of abuses with the few homeschooling families there. I also witnessed educational neglect, with one family friend’s child being unable to read at 10 years old simply because she wasn’t taught to. Mental health issues were as treated as demonic, and anyone (including myself) with mental health issues had no access to counselors or any other sort of help.
These experiences have made me a firm supporter of homeschool oversight that holds parents accountable as any other teacher would be. While homeschooling can be done in a way that benefits children, it’s far too often used as a cover for abuse, neglect, and religious motivated isolation and indoctrination. I think children should have a right to an education equivalent to their public school peers, access to mandated reporters, access to school counselors for any mental health concerns, and a say in whether or not they are homeschooled. All of this would’ve made a big difference for myself and other homeschooled children I knew. Even if it wouldn’t have always solved dysfunctional home environments, any sort of intervention, especially had it ended in us being returned to a public school, would’ve improved the isolation and lack of access to any of the services available to our public school peers.
Homeschooling is a powerful tool that can be used for both good as well as abuse. It is a tool far more powerful than most school systems, because only one or two people (the parents) are completely in control of a child’s education. I support accountability measures to ensure this power is used for the benefit of the child. As some of our most vulnerable members of society, children deserve to have checks and balances in place to keep them safe from abusive homeschooling, just as checks and balances exist for public schools.
Jane N. was homeschooled in Arizona from 1995-1996 and 2000-2004. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Testimonials page.