Abuse in Homeschooling Environments


While many homeschooling parents provide their children with positive, child-centered learning environments, it has become increasingly clear in recent years that there are also parents who misuse states’ homeschooling laws by using them to isolate or abuse their children. CRHE has been tracking cases of severe or fatal abuse that occur under the guise of homeschooling since 2013.

By examining cases of abuse and neglect, we can identify and analyze particularities of abuse and neglect in homeschooling settings. For this essay, we draw from a variety of sources, including entries in our Homeschooling’s Invisible Children database, stories shared on Homeschoolers Anonymous, the HA Basic Surveyvarious state child abuse fatalities reports, and an assortment of news reports. All told, we have examined hundreds of cases.

We want to curb this abuse by creating better safeguards for children’s welfare. We believe all homeschooled children should have a positive experience. By analyzing abuse cases to identify themes, we can work toward a future where homeschooling is used only as a positive and healthy educational option.

Physical Abuse

When abusive parents use homeschooling to isolate children and conceal abuse, children may be denied contact with mandatory reporters or others outside the home. This allows parents to escalate their maltreatment without fear of this abuse being noticed or reported. In some cases, fundamentalist beliefs about child discipline may contribute to physical abuse.

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Verbal & Emotional Abuse

Homeschooled children who are verbally or emotionally abused may have nowhere to go for respite or a break from their abuse. They may also have no one to contradict their parents’ abusive and manipulative messages. Children homeschooled by narcissistic or mentally unstable parents may be especially at risk.

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Confinement & Food Deprivation

Homeschooling gives abusive parents the ability to deprive their children of food or confine them permanently. In some cases, children have been starved to death or kept locked in their rooms for years. This is one way abuse in homeschooling situations differs substantively from abuse of children who attend school.

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Sexual Abuse

Children who are sexually abused in homeschooling situations may not have access to age-appropriate sex education that might give them the tools needed to understand and report their own abuse. Further, children homeschooled by sexually abusive parents may not have a respite or escape from their abuse.

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Adoption & Special Needs

A disproportionate number of cases of severe abuse and neglect involve children who are adopted or have special needs. Some of the cases involve both, as well-meaning couples adopt large numbers of special needs children and then find themselves unable to properly care for all of them.

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Medical Neglect & Identity Abuse

With no school to require children to have physicals or vaccinations, some homeschool parents deprive their children of needed medical care or reject modern medicine altogether. Some homeschooling parents also refuse to obtain social security numbers for their children as a result of anti-statist views.

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Trafficking & Missing Children

In some cases, children homeschooled by abusive parents may go missing and have their disappearances unreported for years afterwards. Because these children are not in school, there is no teacher to notice their absences. Other children may be trafficked, sold over the internet through disrupted adoptions, or hidden by kidnappers.

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