Kathryn Brightbill: “I’ve seen how wonderful homeschooling can be”
“I will never forget the time at a homeschool gathering where I overheard several mothers talking about how they were not teaching their daughters algebra because it wasn’t necessary for girls to learn higher math. Where I got the opportunities that allowed me to thrive, those girls had their options cut off before they even had the chance to dream.”
I support oversight of home education not because I had a bad homeschooling experience, but because I had a good one. I’ve seen how wonderful homeschooling can be when it works because I’ve lived it. When I hear the stories of homeschooled students who experienced educational neglect or abuse, or the formerly homeschooled adults who are struggling to overcome the deficits in their education, it saddens me to know how much the system failed them. The educational method that gave me wings to soar is the same one that left them hobbled and struggling. It doesn’t have to be that way, it shouldn’t be that way.
My education was filled with pile upon pile of history and science books from the library, microscopes, telescopes, the local museum and planetarium practically a second home for many years. I was taught to be curious about the world around me and given the tools to explore that world—tools that included not just access to materials, but the strong foundation in math that enabled me to pursue a computer science degree with confidence.
Yet, even as I write about my own education in math and science, I will never forget the time at a homeschool gathering where I overheard several mothers talking about how they were not teaching their daughters algebra because it wasn’t necessary for girls to learn higher math. Where I got the opportunities that allowed me to thrive, those girls had their options cut off before they even had the chance to dream.
I could tell other stories, but there are so many. The kids whose parents stopped bothering to teach them anything after 3rd grade and had to struggle to overcome that educational neglect well into their twenties. The ones who had to figure out a way to get to college after their parents withheld their records and refused to sign their FAFSA to allow them financial aid. The child who, in one of the worst cases of abuse and neglect in my hometown, was starved, locked in a room and forced to live in filth and squalor, before being beaten to death, his short life made into hell on earth by parents who escaped detection by homeschooling.
I know many parents who did a good job of homeschooling and produced well-adjusted, successful adults, but the success stories do not negate the real harm that some children experienced and continue to experience into adulthood. The very educational option that was so wonderful for me is what enabled those children to be left behind. I support oversight because every homeschooled child deserves to have the experience that I did. Without oversight, there is no way to ensure that all homeschooled children are protected.
At its best, homeschooling opens up a world of possibilities and gives children the tools they need to be successful in whatever path they choose. All homeschool children deserve to be given that experience.
Kathryn Brightbill was homeschooled in Florida in the 1980s and 1990s. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Testimonials page.