Jerusha Lofland: “Ignorance leaves people vulnerable”
“I support oversight of homeschooling because every child deserves a good education in all subjects. I received a great education in English grammar, and I could recite entire chapters from the Bible. But my parents gave up teaching me basic algebra, my textbooks viewed history through a primarily anti-Catholic lens, I was warned against studying the humanities, and I have spent a decade unlearning much of the “science” I was taught.”
I support oversight of homeschooling because it underscores the value of education and sets the parameters for a basic education. Despite being a curious young person, thirsty to learn new things, I really had no idea whether I was capable of competing with my peers academically, and I was discouraged from higher education because it would involve classrooms and secular instructors and might foster pride. I was intimidated by applications and testing, enrollment and schedules. Without the closure of a high school graduation, I always felt like some kind of dropout.
I support oversight of homeschooling because every child deserves a good education in all subjects. I received a great education in English grammar, and I could recite entire chapters from the Bible. But my parents gave up teaching me basic algebra, my textbooks viewed history through a primarily anti-Catholic lens, I was warned against studying the humanities, and I have spent a decade unlearning much of the “science” I was taught. My parents chose to homeschool in large part so that they could control the influences on their children, and they certainly did that. I was not taught facts so much as a belief system. I reached adulthood almost entirely isolated from both popular and mainstream culture. This has hampered me socially my entire adult life.
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. As far as I could tell from my homeschooled peers, our home was normal. Looking back, I realize that my mother had untreated psychological issues that terrorized her children, who had no respite from her moods. Oversight of homeschooling would not have helped her, but perhaps they would have made it more difficult for my parents to conceal her troubles.
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 know children who can drive motor vehicles or hunt with guns, but are basically illiterate. The family claims to be “homeschooling” and since their state makes no demands beyond notification of intent, there is nothing anyone can do, even when concerned relatives call CPS to investigate. Learning to read affects the very development of a young brain, and while those children may remedy some of their educational deficiencies as adults, they may never be able to recover all the ground lost.
I support oversight of homeschooling because today we know so much about the development of the child’s brain, about the benefits of early education, and about how children learn. It is unfair to any child to give parents complete freedom to conduct their own educational experiments on him/her, to allow them unlimited freedom to ignore a century of research and to decide what, in their opinion, their child needs to know and what will not be “useful” to his or her future. It may turn out well, but it may turn out badly. Ignorance leaves people vulnerable, and no child should be willfully subjected to that risk.
Jerusha Lofland was homeschooled in Michigan from 1983 to 1993, from 2nd grade through 12th grade. She homeschooled her own children in Kansas from 2007 to 2013. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni and homeschool parents, see our Testimonials page.