Sage N.: “My parents were clearly unprepared to be teachers”

Some level of oversight would have really helped me because I think my parents would have felt compelled to keep up with my education far more than they did, and it may well have prevented my experience from also happening to my sibling.

I was home educated by my parents from birth to age 16. As an adult, I have since discovered that what happened to me is known as ‘unschooling’ and constitutes nowadays as educational neglect. Coming to terms with this has been, and continues to be, an incredibly difficult journey which has permanently altered the way I view my parents and other adults who choose to home educate their children. The education I received mostly occurred between the ages of 4 and 8, at which point my younger sibling was born and I found myself being given less and less educational work to do and more childcare duties. From around the age of 11, I essentially taught myself everything I know today using the internet, including learning about sex and reproduction via fanfiction websites and pornographic popups that would appear during my web browsing. I can count on the fingers of my hand the things I was actually taught by my parents after age 11. This includes 3 short essays I was asked to write and being given a decade-old A Level book that had been my mother’s. 

There was no structure to most of my education. Moving into broader territory, another issue was money. Both my parents quit their jobs to raise and home educate me. This directly impacted how much socialisation I ended up getting. Classes, groups and clubs often cost money to attend, and require you to stay in one place. Our (avoidable) poverty also set me up with a troubled relationship with money. I still directly equate my own self worth with how much money I make. My parents having no jobs meant we had the freedom to move whenever we liked. So we did. While culturally enlightening, this also meant I maintained no friendships, and by age 9 had given up trying to make friends outside of the internet because I knew we would probably just move away from them again. 

The thing that sticks out in my mind looking back was the way my parents were clearly unprepared to be teachers. Neither of them had finished university and neither had the patience to teach a child. My father would become progressively louder the more I didn’t understand something, which would stress and panic me to the point that I couldn’t work out the problem in front of me, and my mother gave up teaching me maths problems if I started to cry over any of them. I thought it was my fault for not being clever enough, and not simply already knowing everything. This insecurity has followed me for the rest of my life, to the point where I internalise every mistake I make and every simple problem I can’t figure out. 

Some level of oversight would have really helped me because I think my parents would have felt compelled to keep up with my education far more than they did, and it may well have prevented my experience from also happening to my sibling. The main thing I would say to anyone considering home education is this: When you home educate your children, it relies on you alone to do the job of parent, teacher, emotional support and counsellor. It is worth bearing in mind that as a child, it can be difficult to grow up with just two people who are your sole authority figures with no one else to be a sounding board. You essentially learn never to question anything they say, because there is no alternative viewpoint from which to construct a unique opinion. My partner pointed out to me some time ago that the reason I have some boundary issues with my parents was because I didn’t have anyone else growing up to bounce off. If you are a child and your parents are mad at you, you can talk to a nice teacher. If your teacher reprimands you, you can talk to your parent and they’re separate from the situation somewhat and can give impartial support that is emotionally detached from the issue. 

In the UK, parents still have rights to educate their children in whichever way they see fit, with no input from the government unless abuse is suspected or reported. All the trauma and abuse I experienced was emotional, verbal and mental, and went under the radar. If I had known at the time what life was really like for other children, how balanced their lives were, maybe I could have contacted someone. I just thought that was what childhood was like. I never want another child in this world to experience what I have experienced.

Sage N. was homeschooled in the UK from the early 2000s to the early 2010s. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Community Voices page.

Hope M.: “I don’t even know how many people knew we existed”

“There were certainly several years in which we didn’t take any sort of test. There was no way for me, as a child, to connect with anyone outside of my household. There was no way for anyone to even see that I existed.”

I am the middle child out of five sisters (I’m smack in the middle). My sisters and I were all homeschooled all the way through school, never once attending any other sort of public or private school. While homeschooling can be a great experience, the lack of oversight creates a breeding ground for abusers to trap their children in a hostile environment. 

My father and mother emotionally and mentally abused me for years, resulting in me now having PTSD, depression, and anxiety. I have found out that my father sexually abused at least one of my sisters, and my oldest sister physically abused me from the time she was in middle school through when she was in college. I didn’t know of any way to tell anyone, and to be honest, I don’t think I even knew that it wasn’t “normal” or “okay.” 

We never took part in a homeschool co-op or anything like that. We were barely allowed to leave the house. I don’t even know how many people knew we existed, since we were never allowed to make friends at a park, or go anywhere by ourselves, or ever, ever speak to an adult who wasn’t our parent. Thankfully, I was able to make some friends through a library book club as a teenager (which I am still unsure of why my parents let me attend, but very glad that I did). But even though I could be out of my parents’ sight, I didn’t feel like I could tell anyone about the abuse happening behind the scenes. I was terrified that things at home would get even worse if my parents found out that I had anyone, and I also doubted that anyone would believe me, since my father somehow could convince anyone that he was a stand-up guy. 

As I drew closer to the end of high school, my parents essentially gave up on overseeing any of my education. For years I had simply been given textbooks and told to teach myself through them, but when my parents stopped checking them, I just stopped using them. I spent half of 11th grade reading novels that I hid under the edge of the table if my mother happened to walk by. While I am forever grateful that my Language Arts curriculum was intensive yet easy for me to do on my own, I am still stunted by my lack of math and science education. In high school, I only took one math “class”: Algebra 1. I didn’t even finish the book. It was too difficult for me to follow on my own, and my parents refused to help. So I just never finished. I also never took biology or chemistry, and my “science” books literally mostly talked about how climate change isn’t real. 

I was really looking forward to “graduating” and getting out of that house, and my parents let me go visit some colleges, although they tried very hard to convince me not to go. I was also, thankfully, able to convince them to let me take the ACT. However, to apply to college, I needed a transcript. My father drew one up for me… And it was wildly inaccurate. I guess I was a star student who got A’s in everything, despite never doing some subjects. They said that I had taken 2 years of Japanese, even though I’d only studied it for a few months. They said that I got A’s in Algebra 1 and Algebra 2, and that I had taken completely different science “courses.” Despite feeling wrong about submitting that “transcript,” I used it to apply for college, and I was accepted. Though I then did very well in college (graduating magna cum laude), I spent much of college stressed that the administration would somehow find out how much of a lie that transcript was. 

That brings me to today. Today, I am a happy 24-year-old, married to a wonderful spouse, have a great job, and am working on a master’s degree. However, many others were not so lucky. I know that there are thousands of others who were homeschooled and were not able to get out of their terrible situations, and that those who did survive abusive homeschooling situations may not have found it so easy to adapt to the “real world.” I know that my older sisters certainly are not well-adjusted. 

Homeschooling can be great. Many of my friends in college were homeschooled, albeit in far better home situations with caring, loving, education-supporting parents. And as I stated before, my Language Arts curriculum put me well above my peers in English college classes. I am considering homeschooling my future kiddos. But if I do, it will look far different than my own situation. 

I was homeschooled in Minnesota for the entirety of my childhood education. Minnesota’s laws are extremely lax regarding homeschooling. My parents simply had to tell the state that we had taken a standardized test (no scores necessary). There were certainly several years in which we didn’t take any sort of test. There was no way for me, as a child, to connect with anyone outside of my household. There was no way for anyone to even see that I existed. I was completely isolated from the outside world, and no one ever checked in to see if we were okay. If someone had been able to check in on me as a child, I would not have endured over a decade of abuse. My sister may not have been sexually abused. I would not feel ashamed for lying on my high school transcript, and I would have perhaps discovered a love for science or math. There are so many “what ifs.” 

I do believe that most parents should be able to homeschool. I do believe that parents and children should have freedom of choice of curriculum. And I firmly believe that students and their home situations should be assessed by trained professionals in order to spot potential abuse and stop abuse before it gets worse. Homeschooling will not be stifled by more oversight, and it is sorely needed to protect vulnerable children.

Hope M. was homeschooled in Minnesota from the early 2000s to the mid-2010s. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Community Voices page.

Danielle C.: “The state never followed up on my education”

“Enforcing the current requirements that Indiana has in place could help to prevent children like me from slipping through the cracks.”

As Gloria Steinem said, “The final stage of healing is using what happens to you to help other people.” In 2019, I was diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and PTSD stemming from the years of isolation and neglect I experienced during my childhood. I was homeschooled in the ‘90s and early 2000s in the state of Indiana. From birth through my “graduation” at age 18, my mother oversaw my entire education. In Indiana, there are very few regulations on homeschooling families. The regulations that are in place are hardly ever enforced. I was never checked in on by anyone from the state; my siblings were never checked in on by anyone from the state; not a single homeschooling family I knew or currently know have ever been checked in on by anyone from the state. 

I love my parents and I maintain a good relationship with them, but I was failed in my education and upbringing. I was mostly given books and told to read them or go through the worksheets on my own. There was very little structure and almost no oversight. I stopped doing math around the time I should have been in the 7th or 8th grade. The last science I remember being assigned was a high school level physics course. I remember the cover of the book being green and nothing else. I sat with that book in my lap for two years and never completed a single exercise, experiment, chapter, or test. On my final high school transcript that my mother and I filled out together, I was given an overall grade of a B in physics. The state simply trusted that what was written on my graduation transcript was the truth. I worked two jobs my senior year of high school, including one for the county government. I worked 39.5 hours per week as a 17-year-old senior in high school for the local government and no one from the state came to check up on me. I took the SAT. I borrowed my brother’s calculator to take with me. I didn’t know how to use it and had never used one before. The last math I recall doing was learning long division. I remember giving up while learning fractions. SAT level algebra was so far above my own education level that I scored in the bottom 10% in the state and bottom 5% in the nation on the math section. Even with a tangible test score on my record, the state never followed up on my education. 

I am the youngest child in my family and the only girl. In a homeschooling family this means that most of my time was spent alone. Much of my childhood is a blur with no distinct concept of time. I remember spending days, weeks, months, and years in my bedroom alone just reading or listening to music. I wasn’t always allowed to play sports with my brothers and time with church friends was severely limited. When the isolation and loneliness became too much I would break down and cut myself. I didn’t have much experience with people and wasn’t good at making friends, so I ended up having a few people take advantage of me. Including one man who sexually assaulted me because I didn’t know how to strongly say “no”. I remained friends with him afterwards because I didn’t know how else to make friends.

I am now a 30-year-old woman with no high school diploma, no GED, and no college degree. I took remedial classes at the local community college, gained entrance into a local public university based on these classes and my falsified high school transcript, and began having severe panic and anxiety attacks during my final year. I dropped out. I have tried to go back multiple times, but I have not yet had the strength to overcome my mental illness in order to finish my degree. I do however have the strength to fight for the educational rights of other children. 

Enforcing the current requirements that Indiana has in place could help to prevent children like me from slipping through the cracks. Creating new requirements and guidelines for homeschooling parents could ensure that every child will, at the very least, have access to an adequate education. 

State oversight could also help curb child abuse. It is a commonly known tactic for abusers to isolate their victims. Homeschooling is the easiest way for an abusive parent to isolate their children from the outside world. They decrease the likelihood that the child will encounter a mandated reporter and they create an isolated life where abuse and pain is all the child has ever seen. In the state of Indiana and in many other states, it is highly likely that these children will never be checked in on by the state and therefore will never receive the help that they so desperately need. 

My goal is to use the pain that formed me to ensure that no child can be deprived of the vital human right that is an education. There is no parental right that trumps a child’s right to feel safe in their own home, to be properly socialized, to be appropriately monitored, and to be provided free access to an adequate education.

Danielle C. was homeschooled in Indiana from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Community Voices page.

Amy W.: “Supporting homeschool oversight is the least we can do”

“I lived in a continuous state of fear and learned helplessness. I was afraid to make even the smallest decisions for myself.”

My family began homeschooling in 1991, the year my older sister was set to enter kindergarten. Our local public school had a terrible reputation, and my mother believed she could provide us with a better education by homeschooling us. My mother was in some ways a model homeschooling parent, or at least she was very disciplined about doing school every day, and I was given a high-quality education, at least according to my standardized test scores.

The problem, however, was that while my mother may have successfully taught me to do formal, written academic work, she didn’t teach me to do anything else. We didn’t follow a highly structured schedule and I never had homework or due dates or anything, so I never learned any sort of time management skills. My mother kept track of all of my books and papers, so I never learned any sort of organizational skills. We didn’t have opportunities to play in an active way, such as recess or PE, and my mother didn’t sign us up for sports, so I became weak and uncoordinated. We rarely did science labs or arts and crafts, so I never learned to do anything hands-on. I seldom had the opportunity to play with other kids, and when I did, my sister was there too, so I never learned to be independent in social settings or to speak on my own behalf. I learned to read and do math, but otherwise remained on the level of a helpless toddler.

My mother was manipulative and emotionally abusive. She would become frustrated with me if I made small mistakes or had the slightest difficulty with anything. She would sometimes demand that I defend or explain minor decisions (one time when I was helping her cook, she demanded to know why I was standing on the side of the table I happened to be standing on. I felt stupid, because I couldn’t provide her with a logical explanation). Sometimes she would make demands that were completely self-contradictory (one day she might be angry because a light had been turned out and the house was too dark, but then another day she might be angry because the same light had been left on and was wasting electricity). There was no telling what would set her off on any given day. She could literally become angry because you looked at her wrong. She was never empathetic to my distress. If I cried, I got a spanking. (This only applied to me: my sister was never spanked for anything.) I lived in a continuous state of fear and learned helplessness. I was afraid to make even the smallest decisions for myself, like deciding which side of the table to stand at when cooking, for fear that I might somehow be doing something wrong. There were hours at a time when I had nothing to do: my mother would only give me schoolwork and housework to do and I was left to my own devices for long periods, but I was too scared to initiate any activities of my own or to come up with my own ideas.

If I had been in school, my mother would not have had such complete control over my life because I would have been away from her during the day. I would have learned a much wider variety of skills, and I could have had frequent contact with people besides my mother, and learned how other people think and behave.

When I was in third grade, my family moved to a better school district, but we continued homeschooling. I spent fourth grade begging and pleading with my mother to enroll me in public school. She finally relented and I started public school for fifth grade. School was terrifying. Most of the time, I felt like I had no idea what was going on. My teacher was often frustrated with me, and my classmates looked down on me and picked on me. The problem wasn’t so much that I was missing any specific piece of factual information so much as I was missing certain pathways to learning new information: because my homeschool curriculum had only included reading and writing, I had never learned to follow along with spoken instructions or visual demonstrations. Because most graded assignments in public school are written, I was able to straggle along and make good grades, but I couldn’t do anything else. I couldn’t do art projects, play sports, make friends, or do anything besides pencil-and-paper bookwork. I’ve never met anyone who attended traditional school K-12 who has the kinds of problems that I have. To this day my communication skills in reading and writing greatly outstrip my skills in speaking and listening. I don’t drive, and I don’t believe I have the observational skills required to drive. I am thirty years old and still dependent on my parents. I have spent most of my adult life as isolated as I was during childhood. I’m glad I attended public school for grades 5-12, but it did not replace the experience of attending grades K-4.

I don’t exactly support homeschool oversight, because there is no type of oversight that would have helped me. The only thing that would have helped me would have been if homeschooling had simply not been an option for my mother. Homeschooling is not a workable method of education. It is a giant social experiment that has failed miserably and needs to be ended as quickly as possible. It is impossible for even the most dedicated parent to provide their child at home with the same rich variety of experiences that would be available at a real school, and homeschooling by its very nature cannot meet a developing child’s need to begin establishing independence from parents. No regulation will ever be able to change this fundamental flaw with the whole concept of homeschooling. For me personally, the most damning piece of evidence against homeschooling is that I’ve never known anyone who actually benefited from being homeschooled. I’ve known some people who liked being homeschooled, including my own sister, but these people are not discernibly different from people who were educated entirely in traditional schools. If a homeschool success story is one in which the student isn’t harmed, that’s not much for the homeschooling community to be proud of. If the best possible outcome of homeschooling is that the students grow up to be perfectly normal, there is no reason for homeschooling to continue existing.

Because homeschool families are so spread out and lead such private lives, there is no practical or effective way to monitor what they are doing. Even if it were possible to require every homeschooling family in the country to attend weekly interviews with social workers, that would not be enough–most homeschooling parents would feel no guilt about lying to social workers or evading the law completely. If you personally know a homeschooling family, you have no way of knowing what really goes on behind closed doors. Neither would a social worker who might visit once in a while. The only way to end abusive homeschooling is to end all homeschooling. If homeschooling became completely illegal tomorrow, the lives of thousands of neglected and abused children would improve, and nothing would be harmed but the egos of narcissistic parents.

As you read this, there are homeschooled children all across the country who are in the process of being slowly tortured to death by their own parents. If homeschooling became illegal tomorrow, perhaps those children’s lives could be saved. But because that’s not going to happen, we’ll learn those children’s names on the news in a few years’ time, after their mangled bodies have been discovered and it’s too late to help them. It is on these children’s behalf that I refuse to compromise on this issue, or to waste time pretending that homeschooling can somehow be made to work if only there were enough oversight, or to humor narcissistic homeschooling parents by assuring them that most homeschooling is good. The whole concept of homeschooling needs to be condemned wholesale and burned completely to the ground. I’m soaking it in gasoline; I dare you to light a match.

The current popularity of homeschooling should be considered a national crisis. Unfortunately, there are as of yet no organizations that have the nerve to stand up to homeschooling parents, or to treat the need for a complete ban on homeschooling with the urgency it deserves. Supporting homeschool oversight is the least we can do: if we can’t completely remove this cancerous tumor on society, perhaps we can at least keep it contained.

Amy W. was homeschooled in Georgia in the early to mid-1990s. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Community Voices page.

Reanna G.: “Homeschooling was not in MY best interest.”

My goal one day is to help give children a voice about whether or not they wish to be homeschooled or go to public school.”

I was homeschooled. It has to be the worst aspect of my childhood. I was raised by a relative, whom I called mother, and who ended up homeschooling me because I suffer from anxiety. (My biological parent thought it would be a great idea to have me be homeschooled so that I did not end up doing drugs behind the high school dumpster like she had.) I was behind in some subjects in school early on, and having panic attacks during class further prohibited me from learning. The idea was that if I was homeschooled, I would be able to learn more and focus better. (Mind you, I was not excruciatingly behind the rest of the class. I did not have an IEP, but I did attend a smaller reading group.) 

My complaints about homeschooling, and the reasons I would like to advocate for efficient accountability for the homeschool parent and student, have been on my heart heavy lately. My mother did not give me a choice of being homeschooled. Instead, I was forced to be homeschooled regardless of my own wishes, starting from the 5th grade up until I dropped out in my senior year because I needed to move out of my home due to various reasons. I feel that I was cheated out of having a sufficient education. There were months where I would not have the opportunity to study certain subjects like math or science because my mother did not have the time to teach me. 

I also had to help my sibling out considerably. My sibling is very smart but has a learning disability that makes it harder for them to keep up. Every single assignment we had, we had to do it together. I’m talking about if we had to read a 500 page book and write a report on it, we had to take turns reading the book out loud and write the paper together. Even in high school, we had to do every single assignment together. 

My mother’s religious agendas were also a hindrance to my learning. Instead of studying history in my freshman and sophomore year of high school, I was forced to read out loud the Old Testament and then the New Testament. Every subject in school was faith based. Because this naturally made me behind in history, when I needed to remove myself from my home at 18, my mother told me that I did not have enough credits in history to walk away with a high school diploma. She told me that I had sufficient credits in everything else to graduate except history because I was made to study the Bible instead. (I also took Spanish class for 6 years straight, plus Latin for two years, and German for two years. To my knowledge, that is a lot of language credits, and more than I feel like I needed to spend my time on.)

Life at home was likewise just as miserable. I was very sheltered and was only allowed to attend my church and church youth group. Although I enjoyed my church and youth group, I felt like I was shut off from the rest of the world. I was the rebel, however. Every rule my parents made, I found a way around. This later led me to pick up a two-year drinking habit and other unhealthy ways of coping with the rules and isolation. I was not “allowed” to have a cell phone, social media, wear makeup, listen to the radio, watch most t.v., go for a walk by myself, or date. Again, I did everything anyways in secrecy, but this is to just give a representation of the life I was expected to follow. 

Once I moved out/dropped out, my mother told me that if I wanted to get my high school diploma, I needed to take two history courses at the local community college that I had already been involved in, and that I would then need to contact my public school district for my transcript, and viola, I would have proof of graduating high school. I did not know it at the time, but this information was incorrect. I paid out of pocket for two history courses at the local community college, only to find out that the school district has no record of me ever being homeschooled. Even if there have been records of my being homeschooled, I know now that it is parents, and not school districts, that issue homeschool diplomas. At 22, I decided to get my GED; I passed on the first try. I wish I had known that trying to follow the requirements my mother told me would be a dead end, because if I had I would have just gotten my GED in the first place. I am currently working on an Associates in Human Services. 

My goal one day is to help give children a voice about whether or not they wish to be homeschooled or go to public school. Homeschooling can be great for some people, but for me, it was not. Although my family had the best of intentions, sheltering me and keeping me at home to school was not in MY best interest. My education suffered as did my need to be around other people. It is not healthy for a child to be home all day with family and have no opportunity to grow socially and academically like every other child gets to when they attend public school like a normal child. I should not have had to be my sibling’s helper, or stressed out because I had to take a year off from studying math because no one would teach me. 

Even though I am from Massachusetts where we have some of the more stricter laws regarding homeschooling, if you really look at them, they are not that protective for the child. Something needs to change, and I hope to be a part of that.

Reanna G. was homeschooled from 2006 to 2014 in Massachusetts.

Kelley Richey: “My mom let her mental health issues seep into every aspect of our lives”

Mom would tell me that I was refusing to learn how to read because I didn’t love her. That really triggered so much anxiety in me as a youngster trying my very best to understand new concepts that weren’t easy.”

The following story is my own experiences as a product of homeschooling. I have taken chunks of already written material from my blog where I discuss my experiences in depth. I have compiled the most relevant information within this testimonial and I hope it is eye-opening as well as informative. 

My name is Kelley Richey and I am the middle child of six children. We were raised in an extremely religious and right-wing, homeschool setting in rural Kentucky. My two oldest sisters attended elementary school until they were pulled out of the public school system to be taught at home. I was homeschooled from Kindergarten through highschool graduation. Due to the nature of my experiences, the process of being taught at home was not easy, and definitely not pleasant. 

My mom is a woman who suffers from severe mental health issues, which made life and school extremely hard. She was both emotionally and physically abusive with every one of us. She let her mental issues, which ranged from severe depression to multiple personality disorder, seep into every aspect of our lives. 

My memories of being homeschooled early on consist of mom trying to teach me to read. It was such a difficult and traumatic process for me. She would take my struggling to learn as a personal attack. Mom would tell me that I was refusing to learn how to read because I didn’t love her. That really triggered so much anxiety in me as a youngster trying my very best to understand new concepts that weren’t easy. I always felt like the stakes were SOOO high if I did not succeed. 

I loved my mother regardless of her inability to see it. I wanted to read and I wanted to learn. But even though I eventually did learn how to read, it remains a very traumatic period in my young life. She would tell me that I wasn’t learning math (or whatever the struggle was that particular day) because I couldn’t prove to her that I loved her. If I was really having trouble with a concept, I would receive a spanking or two. Every day, learning to me meant that if I did not pick up the concepts, then I would be beaten or told that I was an unloving child. 

Later on my mother would end up not teaching me high school. As I entered my freshman year she said “I will not help you with your schoolwork at all if you cannot once and for all prove to me that you love me”. This was an impossible task because she had severe abandonment issues and deeply believed that nobody loved her at all. Her idea of love was so specific, unknown, or unachievable to us, it increasingly became impossible to achieve or prove. 

The most exciting thing about homeschooling as a kid was the excitement over new books, which was the extent of my mom’s effort in providing us with an education. We would put a lot of energy into picking our curriculum. Abeka, which was my favorite brand of textbooks—I loved their science books and thought the textbooks were beautiful, with lots of colorful illustrations and photographs—or Bob Jones, which was the most depressing and colorless curriculum I’ve ever seen in my life. We would get our new books, we would be excited, we would open them and we were then given free rein to teach ourselves. 

That, in and of itself, was hugely detrimental. How can a child teach themselves a subject they don’t understand? Math for instance was and remains hell for me. I can’t tell you how many beatings I received over my inability to learn it. In fact, I believe to this day that I was dealing with an (undiagnosed) learning disability like ADHD or something to that effect, but it was seen as just pure rebellion. 

I don’t fully understand how I even survived as a child, but I did love to learn and I would try my best to teach myself. But there was no structure or designated school time, and there was no real guidance and no test taking to measure progress or understanding. How can children be expected to have the foresight and discipline to handle their own educations? There was no way to track our progress and it would be completely reliant upon whether my mom was in a good mood or feeling mentally stable enough to even sit down and go through a chapter with us. There were six of us, and she really didn’t even care about any kind of structure. It was solely dependent upon us, the children, to take interest in our own educations, or for any learning to take place whatsoever. 

When we lived in town, we would try and play outdoors as much as possible. But the house was too close to public streets and Mom would tell us that we would get taken by social services if they saw us playing outside during school hours. This had us completely terrified of social services as some evil entity that would come and take us away from our parents for absolutely no reason. Once we moved into the countryside, we could play outside more freely. But she still had us running scared so that any time we heard the sound of a car coming up our long driveway, we would immediately scamper inside. Our goal was to be invisible and not look suspicious of being out of school. 

In the end, social services were called on my mom specifically at least twice by friends of the family or by distant family relatives. My mom would always win in these scenarios because when they would show up she would simply call the Home School Legal Defense Association. HSLDA would come to the rescue and the social services would not even be allowed to step foot in the house. Case closed, nothing to see here. 

“How do homeschoolers get high school diplomas for their children?” you may ask. HSLDA and the homeschooling powers that be can blindly provide you with a legitimate high school diploma. Even in the absence of tangible proof that you’ve actually taken the classes that you claim to have taken. This is not a joke or exaggeration. There was no testing, no nothing. I just got a high school diploma in the mail without having to prove that I had actually completed Algebra 1 or 2 (which never happened). I would say about half of the things on my high school transcript were almost completely fabricated. 

There is a huge gap within laws and checks and balances (when and where those do exist) in place (or not) to protect the child and to ensure that learning is being done. In contrast, there are plenty of protections for parents, including legal assistance such as HSLDA. 

Every single homeschooling family that I grew up around was homeschooling for religious reasons: to keep their children from any kind of secular influence. There was no other meaningful reason(s) that the parents were using to justify homeschooling. Simply done to keep their child away from “dangerous” concepts like evolution, science, or religious tolerance. In my opinion, the values they base(d) their lives upon must be flimsy. Flimsy because of their belief that the only way to ensure the child is kept from going astray, is to keep their child away from people who might tell them anything that goes against their ideology. 

The very curriculum that we purchased for our fake school was solely based around the fact that they were biblically-based. And the assurance that some kind of religious worldview would be pushed upon children. It wasn’t for the purpose of learning real world facts. Instead it was scripturally based, and did not prove conducive for actual learning and life skills. 

The very first and only test I had ever legitimately taken before college was the ACT. This was the test that would determine my eligibility for entering college. The only reason that I successfully was able to take that test was because of my sister. As the oldest of us, she was such a good example, a hard worker and was so determined to not let our pasts define us. She wanted me to have the chance to go to college as well, so she made sure to mentor me and help me through the preparation process. Without her I would never have made it. 

I think homeschooling has its place in our society. I think that it is and can be good. But it serves its purpose only if the guidelines and protections in place are just as beneficial for children as they are for parents who choose to homeschool. Without these standards and laws in place, there are many who abuse and have abused the privilege to school at home. So I believe some serious reform is needed nationwide to improve the standards and expectations of parents. 

I want to use my story as a way to not only educate and empower those who are considering this for their own children, but also as a cautionary tale for how wrong things can go. Especially when there are no checks and balances in place. I thankfully went on to go to college and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Arts. It took me a long time to finish. I moved around a lot and had to stop and then pick back up and continue my degree a few different times, but I finally graduated last year. It only took me from 2006 to 2019, but I can proudly say that I was an A student and graduated with a 3.9 GPA.

Overall I didn’t do too badly for myself, but that is only because of my stubborn perseverance. My homeschooling experience hindered me more than it helped me in my ability to achieve success in current endeavors and where I currently am, educationally and socially. I want to be a part of a revolution and change in the realm of homeschool laws and protections. If the United States wants to continue to allow this practice to continue, we are all going to have to take a hard look at what is really going on. We have to implement better ways for children to be protected and followed up on, especially when they are away from the public eye. This is an area where we cannot turn away and say less government oversight or regulation is better. When it involves education and safety for our children, we must take action. 

Thank you all for your time and attention! If you would like to join me in this discussion, please hop over to to listen and read some interesting material on the subject. 

Sincerely, Kelley Richey

Kelley Richey was homeschooled in Kentucky in the 1990s and early 2000s. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Testimonials page.

Elizabeth B.: “I begged my mother to help me come up with a transcript and diploma”

When I was 18, I begged my mother to help me come up with a transcript and diploma, so that I could attempt to pursue a higher education. She would refuse each time and tell me that she didn’t want to ‘limit me’ by defining what my education was.”

I was homeschooled by my parents through my entire childhood. I never received any formal education and I am also the oldest of eight children. From a young age, my parents taught us to lie to our family and hide the reality of our education and daily lives. We would be coached on what subjects we were “working on” before going to see family. And we were given a laundry list of topics we weren’t permitted to discuss. 

My mother claimed to be “unschooling”. However, this was just a cover to completely neglect our schooling. Any time extended family expressed disagreement with their parenting, my parents would threaten to keep us from seeing them. Many times they followed through, either cutting off family members completely or preventing us from seeing them for months on end. 

Aside from close family, social interaction was extremely limited. There were many times we would go months at a time without meeting new people or even being allowed to leave the house to go grocery shopping. 

By the time I was 13, we older children were responsible for feeding and teaching our younger siblings; In addition for being responsible for our own schooling. My younger 4 siblings do not have social security numbers and the youngest 2 do not have birth certificates. Only what my parents claim is a “certificate of nativity” which is not recognized as a record of birth. 

When I was 18, I begged my mother to help me come up with a transcript and diploma, so that I could attempt to pursue a higher education. She would refuse each time and tell me that she didn’t want to “limit me” by defining what my education was. So I attempted to make my own, only to discover that it required a record of curriculum and that I had received no such curriculum during any of my middle or high school years. When I confronted my mother I was told to deal with it and that I wasn’t permitted to speak on my siblings’ education. Any further attempts to change her mind were met with hostility and verbal abuse. 

I am now 22 and living on my own. However, most of my younger siblings are still living with my parents, who continue to neglect their education. Because of my childhood experiences, I believe that the oversight and regulation of homeschooling is critical to ensure the proper protection and education of children. I knew something was wrong growing up, but I had no way of asking for or getting help. 

The homeschool oversight in my home state was, and continues to be, practically non-existent. Social services don’t observe educational neglect as a sufficient reason to investigate. And most families that are reported will only receive a letter in the mail and a request for attendance records, which can be created fraudulently with ease. 

That is why we NEED oversight, to prevent the further abuse and neglect of children like myself.

Elizabeth B. was homeschooled in North Carolina in the 2000s and early 2010s. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Testimonials page.

Advocacy Group Releases Groundbreaking Study on Homeschooling Outcomes

For Immediate Release: Homeschool Advocacy Group Releases Groundbreaking Study on Educational Outcomes of Homeschooled Children

08/25/2020—The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE) announces the publication of a groundbreaking study on the educational outcomes of homeschooled children. “A Meaningful Measure of Homeschool Achievement,” published in the current issue of the peer-reviewed academic journal Other Education, is the first study to compare homeschooling outcomes with those of children in public school in a statistically rigorous way. “Through all the decades of debate over homeschooling, we’ve never had an accurate statistical picture of how homeschooled children perform academically compared to their peers in traditional schools,” says the study’s co-author, Dr. Rachel Coleman, who is also CRHE’s Executive Director. “This study is an important first step.”

“No study of this kind, with a large and randomized data sample, demographic weighting, and a direct comparison with public-schooled children, has ever been attempted,” explains lead author Dr. Chelsea McCracken, Senior Research Analyst at CRHE. “Most previous studies have relied on volunteers, which skews the results, and haven’t weighted for socioeconomic status or other factors that we know influence educational outcomes. You don’t learn much by comparing the best homeschooled students with average students in traditional schools. The important questions are: how do the average students in both groups compare with one another, and what factors cause students to perform better or worse in each setting? Our study is the first to propose an answer to these questions.”

“Efforts to study homeschooled students’ academic outcomes have been hampered by the fact that no state currently collects all homeschooled students’ test scores,” says Coleman. “This is why we were so excited when we discovered a public-private partnership in Alaska that does collect this data.” 

This data source allowed McCracken and Coleman to look at around 195,000 test scores for students homeschooled in Alaska from 2003 to 2014. “These students were enrolled in programs that allowed their parents to receive public reimbursements for educational expenses while homeschooling independently,” Coleman explains. Coleman published a companion study in the same journal that traces the history of homeschooling in Alaska. “These programs are very popular in Alaska due to the financial incentive families receive,” says Coleman. “The vast majority of homeschooling parents in Alaska enroll in them.” 

McCracken and Coleman’s findings on homeschooled students in Alaska have important implications for homeschooling families across the United States. “Families in Alaska homeschool for many of the same reasons other families homeschool,” Coleman explains. “They use similar educational methods and similar curricular materials.” 

The homeschooled students whose scores were used in the study were required to take state tests in reading, writing, and math. McCracken and Coleman’s study compares these students’ scores with those of students in Alaska’s traditional public schools. The data are also broken down by students’ economic status, race, and disability status. “For the first time, we can get a full picture of how demographics affect homeschooled students’ test scores,” McCracken says.

The study’s primary findings were as follows:

  • Homeschooled students who were white or middle- or upper-class had lower scores across the board than similar students in traditional public schools.
  • Homeschooled students in all categories scored worse in math than their peers in public schools, while the results for reading were more mixed.
  • Where homeschooled students performed well, low income students, students of color, and students with disabilities were primarily responsible for the higher scores.

“These results are remarkable,” says Coleman. “They don’t fit the established narratives either for or against homeschooling. Our findings suggest that if you’re white and relatively well-off, your children may do better academically in a traditional school than in a homeschool. On the other hand, if your children are being discriminated against or disadvantaged in a traditional school, home education may improve their academic performance.” 

McCracken and Coleman found unanticipated differences in reading scores between different groups of students. “While previous research has found that homeschooling is associated with higher reading scores, we found that these gains were concentrated entirely among disadvantaged students,” says McCracken. “White students and middle- and upper-class students who were homeschooled showed no reading advantages.”

McCracken and Coleman were also surprised by what they found when they looked at students’ math scores. “While the existence of a homeschool math gap has been clear in the research for some time, this is the first time we’ve seen how it breaks down by income and race,” Coleman explainces. “We found that white and middle- and upper-class students had the biggest disadvantages in math, while low income students and students of color had smaller gaps.” 

Coleman is quick to note that this topic merits further study. “Homeschooling parents who enroll their children in these programs receive thousands of dollars in education reimbursements, as well as access to other resources,” Coleman noted. “It is unclear how our findings may translate to homeschooled students’ performance in states where these supports are not available. There may also be other explanations for our findings as well. This is an area where more research is badly needed. Our study points in new directions rather than offering definitive answers.”

McCracken emphasizes that the study has complex implications both for educational policy and for parents looking at educational options. “It’s time to move past the idea that homeschools are better or worse for kids than traditional schools are,” she says. “Both models have strengths and weaknesses. Policymakers should work to help disadvantaged children succeed better in traditional schools, and to develop resources for homeschooling families to provide better instruction in math.” 

As for parents, says McCracken, “The key is to prioritize the specific needs of your child instead of worrying about which educational method is better. Remember that averages may not tell you which educational option is best for a particular child. Look carefully at how your child is interacting with teachers and peers in school and at home. Above all, listen to your child.”

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education empowers homeschooled children by educating the public and advocating for child-centered, evidence-based policy and practices for families and professionals. 

Homeschool Organization Has Advice for New Homeschooling Parents

For Immediate Release: The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is offering an introductory course for new homeschooling families

07/16/2020—In the midst of a global pandemic and the potential for widespread rolling school closures in the fall, the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE) is taking steps to support new homeschooling families. CRHE, which was founded by homeschool graduates to advocate for homeschooled children in 2013, approaches homeschooling from a children’s rights framework. “When children are centered, seen, heard, and involved in the process, homeschooling works out better for everyone,” says Dr. Rachel Coleman, executive director of CRHE. “Children need to know that they matter.” 

CRHE has developed an online course for new homeschooling families, which will begin on August 3rd and will run for eight weeks. The course will cover everything from educational philosophies to instructional techniques, and will walk parents through the process of choosing curricular materials and getting started homeschooling. “If you want to do homeschooling right, we’ll tell you how,” says Coleman. “Our goal is to start parents homeschooling for success.” Course enrollment is open through July 31st. 

Parents can enroll here: 

Coleman emphasizes the importance of preparation and a committed caregiver who is able to devote time to home education, regardless of the curriculum or program used. “When there is no adult in the home able to be a full time caregiver, we recommend that parents seriously consider their district’s virtual schooling option,” she says. 

Many school districts are offering virtual programs as an option for families this fall. These programs save parents the effort of having to select, purchase, and curate curriculum themselves, Coleman says, and gives parents access to learning partners in their children’s teachers. But she urges parents not to assume that this means they can check out on their children’s education: “The research on online virtual charter programs suggests that without parental involvement, students often fail to engage,” she says. Coleman adds that not every online or remote teaching program is created equal. “Good virtual programs should have synchronous learning elements, involving direct, real-time interaction between the student and their teacher,” she says. “Virtual learning should be creative and engaging.” 

For families that have a full-time caregiver in the home, Coleman says, autonomous homeschooling can be a positive learning experience. “Autonomous homeschooling allows parents to set their own schedules, innovate, and create positive, interactive learning experiences that have the potential to bring the whole family together,” she says. She adds that the best homeschooling is hands-on and interactive. “Parents should make sure they meet state learning standards for their child’s grade, particularly if they plan to re-enroll their children later, but they should also feel free to craft learning experiences tailored to their children’s interests and to their own strengths as home educators,” Coleman says. 

Children should be at the center of families’ decisions about home education, Coleman says. “Engage your children in creating their own learning goals and in setting their own school schedules,” she says. “Homeschooling done well is about empowering children.” 

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is a national organization founded by homeschool alumni and dedicated to raising awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, providing public policy guidance, and advocating for responsible home education practices.

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