Homeschool Graduates Launch Nonpartisan Organization to Advocate for the Legal Interests of Homeschooled Children

December 18, 2013

Canton, Massachusetts — Homeschool graduates are launching the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), the first-ever non-profit public policy organization to advocate on behalf of the interests of homeschooled children. With an estimated 1.8 million children home educated in the United States, this is the first time since the home education movement began in the 1980’s that a lobbying force will seek to defend and advocate specifically on behalf of homeschooled children.

CRHE’s Executive Director, Heather Doney, was inspired to create the organization after being homeschooled in what she describes as “an educationally neglectful setting until the age of 12.” She was then tutored intensively by her grandfather, later being placed in a public school from which she graduated. She went on to earn an MPP from Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management, writing a capstone paper entitled “The Wild West of Homeschooling: Bringing Adequate Oversight to Parent-Educated Children and Youth.”

“I was inspired to create CRHE,” Doney says, “through a combination of my academic research and personal experience.” She came up with the idea in 2011. Through “a supportive environment made up of young public policy professionals and the former homeschool student community,” her desire has now turned into a tangible goal.

CRHE’s Director of Research, Rachel Coleman, who has worked closely with Doney in founding the organization, was homeschooled from kindergarten through high school. She attended Ball State University for her undergraduate and master’s degrees and is now at Indiana University working on a Ph.D. in history. Coleman is not new to homeschool research. She wrote her 2010 master’s thesis, “Ideologues, Pedagogues, Pragmatics: A Case Study of the Homeschool Community in Delaware County, Indiana,” on homeschooling. Coleman says that while she had “a very good homeschool educational experience,” she also knew peers who did not. This balance of experiences has made her “very passionate about working to help as many homeschooled students as possible have a similarly positive educational experience.”

Doney and Coleman are not the only board member of CRHE to be homeschooled. Each member of the founding board has significant homeschooling experience.

CRHE’s mission is to raise awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, provide public policy guidance, and advocate for responsible home education practices. As Coleman points out, “There is currently no homeschool organization that focuses solely on safeguarding the interests of homeschooled children. We plan to fill that gap.”

Current U.S. public policy on homeschooling is sparse and inconsistent. Most states have some combination of (1) notification, (2) parent qualification, (3) days of instruction, (4) subject, (5) bookkeeping, and (6) assessment requirements. Yet few have all six. In 11 states parents need have no contact at all with state or local education officials. 39 states have no parent qualification requirements at all. Only a limited number of states require parents to maintain attendance records, immunization records, test results, or portfolios of children’s work.

Those leading CRHE believe that better public policy is necessary to safeguard homeschooled children. Coleman says, “Legal oversight of homeschooling should provide accountability to ensure that homeschooled children receive a basic education. There should also be background checks ensuring that adults who have been convicted of past sexual crimes or child abuse cannot homeschool without a judge’s approval.”

While advocating for legal oversight of homeschooling is often seen in homeschooling circles as anti-homeschooling, the former homeschool students that lead CRHE do not see it that way. “We are not anti-homeschooling,” Doney emphasizes, “but rather want more protections for homeschooled children in order to make homeschooling better for everyone.”

Through a combination of both personal homeschooling experiences and a passion for better public policy, Doney, Coleman, and their team are accomplishing something unique. Doney says, “CRHE is the first and only policy advocacy organization founded by homeschool students to help ensure the wellbeing and safety of homeschool students, and our efforts are based on a desire for quality research, best practices, and a holistic child-centered approach to homeschooling policy.”

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is a nonpartisan organization committed to ensuring that the interests of the homeschooled child are respected alongside the interests of the homeschooling parent. Founded in December of 2013, CRHE advocates for policy changes and oversight in order to raise awareness of the needs of homeschooling families, promote adequate protections for homeschooled children, assist current and former homeschoolers in accessing the resources they need, collect data, and report on potentially underserved homeschool populations. For media inquiries, contact CRHE’s News and Social Media Director, R.L. Stollar, at media@responsiblehomeschooling.org.

Alisa Harris: “Even growing up, I knew I was one of the lucky homeschoolers”

“Even growing up, I knew I was one of the lucky homeschoolers. My family knew homeschooled children who worked in the family businesses instead of doing school, kids who could barely read and who had learning disabilities that their families were not equipped to even identify, let alone address.”

alisa_harris_headshot_360.pngMy homeschooling experience was a rich and wonderful one. History came alive through the diaries of pioneer women, epics like The Iliad and The Odyssey captured my imagination, I had free rein of the public library to check out everything from Tolstoy to Thoreau, I wrote as much as I wanted to, and gave speeches on all of the things I was passionate about. My education was beautifully tailored to develop my talents and imagination, and my parents encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone and do activities that challenged me.

My mother was a certified elementary school teacher who was able to help children love learning, which wasn’t a problem because I loved it anyway. I dutifully did all of my lessons, cried when I got less than perfect scores, devoured 19th century literature, and read Jane Eyre before I could properly pronounce lunatic. My father was actively involved in our intellectual development, kept track of the books I read, and encouraged me to read deeper.

There were downsides, however. My science education was often scientifically inaccurate and haphazard. I was convinced I was bad at math, in part because my conservative homeschool circle did not encourage girls to get a STEM education, and in part because it’s difficult to learn higher-level math when your teacher isn’t trained to teach it. It’s a problem that still crops up every time I take a standardized test.

Even growing up, I knew I was one of the lucky homeschoolers. My family knew homeschooled children who worked in the family businesses instead of doing school, kids who could barely read and who had learning disabilities that their families were not equipped to even identify, let alone address. There were cases of neglect and shocking domestic violence and sexual abuse. In so many of these cases, the physical, educational, and emotional neglect was never confronted, not even by fellow homeschooling parents, the only people in a position to see it. The abuse remained hidden until it ended up on the nightly news or the wives and children fled.

Perhaps because my own experience was positive, I’ve only recently made the connection between those problems of neglect and abuse and the complete lack of homeschooling regulation or oversight in so many states. In my home state, neglectful homeschooling families had only to notify the state before they proceeded to ignore their children’s education. Standardized tests might have motivated these parents to pay more attention to their children’s education, but when I was in high school a homeschool coalition lobbied to repeal all required testing, and my younger siblings and their friends took no standardized tests at all.

Throughout my homeschool experience, my social circle was limited to other homeschoolers, and since I was one of the older children, I had almost no social interaction with children my age. In the few instances where I was able to interact with strangers, my parents were encouraging and did their best to coax me to be friendly, open up, and focus on other people rather than my own insecurity and fear. Still, without regular social interaction with peers, I struggled with shyness longer than I should have with parents who encouraged me. My siblings have been able to cultivate a wider social circle by joining local sports groups, public school drama groups, and choirs. These rich and diverse experiences have been incredibly valuable to their education and their social skills.

For all of the above reasons, I am in favor of sensible homeschooling oversight that preserves all the best aspects of homeschooling—the rich, individualized, and creative education—while mitigating some of the isolation, neglect, and potential harms. Homeschooled students should be allowed to benefit from the diversity of relationships and experiences they can gain by taking a class at a public school or by participating in public school sports and extracurricular activities.

We also have a responsibility to protect children who may be at risk for neglect or abuse. We need to intervene and assist if a child’s education is being neglected, and we need to ensure that parents are qualified to teach. My parents and the many other responsible homeschooling parents I knew would have easily exceeded the standards proposed by Coalition for Responsible Home Education. For less fortunate kids, these standards would have protected them and kept them from slipping through the system’s cracks.


Alisa Harris was homeschooled in New Mexico K-12, 1991 to 2003. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Testimonials page.

Elizabeth W.: “I am a survivor”

“My mother informed me that from now on we were all going to be “homeschooled” so that no more nosy teachers would be interfering in “our” (her) lives. One of my youngest stepsiblings had made some mention to a teacher of the rampant domestic violence that routinely rampaged through our home. . . . Homeschooling was the first step my mom took to make sure no one could get involved through children’s loose tongues ever again.”

My name is Elizabeth and I am a survivor. I am the oldest of seven children, two of whom are still trapped in the isolated, abusive world created by our mother. My mother began “homeschooling” in the fall of 1993, immediately after three of her four children were returned to her by the state of New York. I had been placed with my biological father for the previous nine months, while my siblings were in a foster home as both their biological father and our mother were in jail. Our mother had been charged with child endangerment and was mandated to attend counseling. I am unsure whether she did or not. Regardless, her abusive and violent behavior continued only to escalate after this time. I had been miserable being placed with a father who was virtually a stranger to me, over a thousand miles away from my brothers and sisters.  In October of 1993, I finally convinced my dad that I wanted to be with Mom and my siblings, so he took me back to her—a decision I would live to regret in many ways, but, looking back, would not have chosen differently at the time.

My mother informed me that from now on we were all going to be “homeschooled” so that no more nosy teachers would be interfering in “our” (her) lives. One of my youngest stepsiblings had made some mention to a teacher of the rampant domestic violence that routinely rampaged through our home. (Thus the subsequent investigation and arrest of both our parents.) Homeschooling was the first step my mom took to make sure no one could get involved through children’s loose tongues ever again.

While mom had always been explosively violent with me I didn’t remember quite so many constant beatings and verbal abuse before this all happened.  After my return from my dad’s house, Mom began to turn on me with sudden and unpredictable rage.  She slapped me across the face multiple times, knocked me down and dragged me around by my hair, repeatedly slamming my head off the floor or walls, all the while screaming that I was lazy, stupid, ungrateful, “just like your father”, “you’re a traitor, you’ve betrayed me”. Often the attacks seemed to be triggered by her simply looking at me and not liking my facial expressions. She would look at me and say that I was looking “rebellious” if I happened to be unhappy and withdrawn that day. I often heard that I looked just like my father, which also seemed to set her off. We stayed in the new apartment for another month or two before mom and my stepdad got back together and moved into a new place in Buffalo, New York, in December 1993.

Mom continued to “homeschool” us, which consisted of buying a few textbooks (sometimes grade appropriate, sometimes not) and telling us to go to our desks and “do school” for a few hours a day.  Many days I was interrupted by mom telling me I needed to “watch” the newest baby for several hours while she talked on the phone or went and did errands. I spent so much time caring for my newborn sisters that two of them actually called me “ma”, until Mom heard.  This was one of many things that set off her punching, kicking, pulling me by the hair and screaming obscenities at me until she was hoarse. I can honestly say that was the extent of my “schooling” for the next six years until I left. Mom did the New York State required “quarterly reports” on our progress, usually late and always false. We also took the mandatory annual CAT tests and usually scored fine on some subjects and poorly on others. Mom officially enrolled us in the Clonlara Homeschool Association that year, which meant she bought “curriculums” from them (which we never used) and we went to their annual conferences a few times.

When I was eleven, my mother arranged for me to work a large paper route that covered 12 city blocks on our street. I worked that route for the next four years, eventually adding another 12 blocks. My mother took all of the money I earned except for what I needed to buy dog food for my dog. She also pushed me to take other jobs. I mowed people’s yards, did landscaping, house cleaning and babysitting. I was never allowed to keep any of the money—this was how she was supplementing the family budget, as she never worked.

Soon after we moved to Buffalo, Mom joined a local homeschooling chapter of born again Christian homeschoolers—LEAH (Living Education At Home). Aside from the one or two weeks a year I was allowed to go to a local YMCA camp, and the occasional summer soccer games with the kids on our street, LEAH was the first regular social interaction I’d been allowed since I left public school in 1993. None of us kids were thrilled with the group, because it was very religious and preachy and we were not (yet). However, it was a few hours a week that we got to leave the house and be out from under mom’s constant supervision and iron rule, so we made the best of it.

The winter I turned 14 our car was repossessed and mom began sending my little brother and I to do all the errands during “school” time. We walked miles through the Buffalo snow to get groceries and the mail (at the post office) every few days. I was also expected to do nearly all of the housecleaning, mopping every room, sweeping, dishes, folding laundry (for seven people), as well as most of the babysitting. There was very little time I could have done “school” even had I been brilliant enough to teach myself a sixth through tenth grade school education. As it was I spent my free hours immersing myself in books I borrowed from the library, ranging from fiction to history and anthropology, classic literature to feminist studies. I credit the natural inclination of my curious and inquiring mind combined with my access to a library with my ability to survive any and all later academic pursuits.

Before long the constant screaming of our mom and my stepdad echoing through our apartment drove our neighbors crazy and they asked the landlord to evict us. In the winter of 1996 we moved a mile down the road into a HUD (low income fixer upper) house, the first my parents had ever owned. Outwardly, things continued much the same, I had my myriad jobs and housecleaning and babysitting duties and mom sat at home and talked on the phone or did “bills” all day. We still attended the LEAH group, though not regularly, and often escaped for a week or two of summer camp. After the move we didn’t make new friends, and so spent even more time in the house and grew gradually ever more isolated. Mom slowly alienated her family, although her parents and sisters made a valiant attempt to stay in touch long distance. Mom had an unparalleled ability to say cruel and hurtful things and make people recoil and stay away. My stepdad’s family was not accepting of the biracial aspect of our family and, with the exception of one uncle, made no attempt to be part of our lives. Neither Mom nor my stepdad had a single friend that I knew of, and no one ever came to our house. We weren’t allowed to have friends over, talk on the phone, use the computer, listen to music, or even have uncensored mail. This quickly put a stop to any attempt on our parts to have even casual friends. Looking back, I can see that after we moved and no longer had immediate neighbors to hear the screaming when she beat me or my brother, she felt much less restrained and the violence increased in frequency and intensity.

If I was quiet and withdrawn (which was pretty much always) and Mom decided my quietness was “rebellious” or “disrespectful”, or if I forgot to say “ma’am” after addressing or answering her, she would begin screaming at me, calling me a disrespectful whore/slut/tramp/bitch, while simultaneously slapping me across the face hard enough to knock me down. She began to use bigger and better weapons than her hands and the bristle side of a hairbrush. I was beaten with length of copper pipe, pieces of two by four, a thick wooden yardstick (which broke on me eventually), thrown down stairs, had my wrists twisted until she forced me to my knees screaming in agony, was dragged around the house by my hair and my head bounced off any and all hard objects. I was often punched in the face, back and stomach, or thrown on the floor and kicked repeatedly until she tired. She tried to suffocate me several times, held me down and forced a pillow onto my face with all her weight, while screaming she was going to kill me and she wished I would die. My head and face were forced under a pouring tub faucet and held there until I thrashed my way out of her grasp.  These things happened at least several times a week, sometimes more than once a day, interspersed with the verbal abuse, and her refusal to address me by name, but rather as “bitch” or “slut”. I was regularly told I was “ugly”, “fat”, “disgusting”, “crazy”, and “stupid”.

For those who think I may have been a “difficult” teenager from 11 to 16 or so when this pattern really took off—I never raised my voice to my mother, never cursed at her, never had friends over or snuck out, never wore anything other than black, baggy clothes (which is hardly slutty), never disobeyed a direct order, never did an illegal drug, smoked or drank, and only ever argued by politely stating I didn’t want to do something, or I thought she was mistaken. The latter two always resulting in a beating or several, so rarely did I dare say no to anything. In public, my siblings and I were always perfectly behaved, rarely speaking, never making noise or stepping out of line. Mom only had to give us that angry glare that promised later retribution for us to think twice about doing anything at all. There was no one around who knew us (beyond the brief homeschooling afternoons with the LEAH group) who could have possibly known that anything was terribly wrong in our house. We were very isolated. There was no one I could have spoken to, even had I found the courage to do so. We’d been trained to fear the authorities and child protective services and had no friends or family to speak of.

Mom “volunteered” me to go work at St. Vincent de Paul soup kitchen once a week to win points with the local Catholic church she dragged us to once in a while. At first I was furious that she had volunteered me without even asking me, but after a while I realized it was a few hours a week out from under her thumb and grew to enjoy it. Mom also signed me up for confirmation classes at the local Catholic church, after she had begun attending workshops run by a fundamentalist Catholic homesteading family who also homeschooled their twelve children. Mom decided it was time for all of us to get more “spiritual”, and began three times a day “prayer circles” where we would all be forced to sit and read aloud from the Bible and sing hymns that the “Fahey’s” (the Catholic family she was imitating) sang. She instituted a clothing change, head-coverings for the girls (I refused), she began making ankle length dresses for herself and us (I also refused), and only long sleeved button down shirts for the boys. She threw out our shorts and t-shirts, started getting rid of her college feminist lit, and any and all of our books she found too “worldly”. Mom sold the computer my grandparents had bought for us, got rid of our tiny video and CD collection, and began instituting even stricter rules for us to follow. During these changes I attended confirmation classes at the local church, which I despised and between the forced Bible study there and the forced Bible study at home quickly grew to despise Christianity and the confining, narrow-minded tenets the Bible espouses. I never spoke my thoughts aloud, but my mother could tell from my face when I wasn’t agreeing or complaisant enough and my face invariably led to new beatings and verbal abuse.

Mom began to use the Bible as an additional weapon, quoting the “Thou shall honor thy father and mother” and telling me that God said I must be obedient and respectful to her. (Even though I was always obedient and never voiced any disrespect.) This just furthered my disgust for the Bible, although I now see that, like homeschooling, it was simply being used by my mother to her ends, not necessarily bad unto itself.

I was falling deeper and deeper into a depression that seemed like it was swallowing me whole. I started sleeping really late every day, shuffling through my duties with my head down and my mouth shut. I began snapping at my siblings when mom wasn’t looking, I had no patience for their demands for my attention or their quarrels. My brothers began fighting viciously with each other, first when mom was out, later even when she was home, resulting in beatings for them as well as me. I knew my mother hated me, I didn’t know why. I tried so hard, for so long, to be what she wanted me to be, obedient, respectful, responsible, but never seemed to find her approval or even a respite from her rage. I am, at my core, fundamentally an honest person, having no talent for acting, for pretending to be happy when I am not. This was my downfall. If I had only been a better actress, perhaps I could have fooled her into thinking I was, in fact, what she wanted me to be, rather than merely doing whatever I was told with my face betraying my misery and despair.

I tried to kill myself twice. Once, at summer camp, I stepped in front of an oncoming semi-truck with a feeling of exultant freedom and calm. A boy who liked me happened to be standing nearby and turned around and yanked me out of the road as the truck went by. The second time, my brother Alexander and I were coming home from the paper route and I decided the easiest way to end my misery would be to poison myself. I picked a handful of deadly nightshade berries and was about to throw them down my throat when my brother jumped up and slapped them out of my hands and started screaming and crying hysterically. I felt sad, resigned, and guilty for terrifying him so, and didn’t try to kill myself again.

In 1997, Mom decided my paper route was allowing me too much freedom and she wasn’t making enough money off of it/me to be worth the trouble, so she called my boss and “quit” for me. I was devastated by this as it was among my last outlets for momentary respite from the hell that was my home.

The following year I got my first real job, washing dishes at a local pizzeria for minimum wage. I was ecstatic at being able to get out of the house a few evenings a week and being allowed to save a little money to buy a puppy for my sixteenth birthday. After about six months, my mother called and told my employer that I could no longer work there because I was sleeping with a married 30-year-old man who was a coworker there. All this because I had spoken to him on the phone (about a dog) while she was listening in, and she said she could tell we were having sex by the tone of his voice. Really. There was no other evidence for her accusation, that was it. Mom convinced herself that this was true even though both he and I told her she was mistaken and crazy. She then beat me, off and on, for the next two days for this delusional belief until I could stand it no longer.

I packed my things and lived on the streets of Buffalo for next three weeks. I camped out in the basement of an abandoned apartment building, slept in a refrigerator box when I could, and mostly just tried to process what on earth to do next. Going home was not an option because if I stayed another minute I knew I would kill myself. I felt as if I was being slowly crushed by my life and there was only a spark of life and spirit left. After a few weeks I found a runaway shelter that helped me track down my biological father, who came and got me.


Elizabeth W. was homeschooled in the 1990s in New York State. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Testimonials page.

Giselle Palmer: “Good home schools will show progress”

“In a country where education is compulsory and all schools and teachers face extreme levels of accountability for their teaching, home schools (while having some degree of curricular freedom) should also demonstrate that they are, in fact, educating children. If parents are providing sufficient education for their kids, this should not be a frightening prospect.”

Giselle PalmerMy name is Giselle Palmer, and I am an advocate for homeschool accountability.

I was homeschooled in Alabama from 1985 to 1989 (2nd to 5th grades), in Florida from 1989 to 1991 (part of 6th and all of 7th grades), and in Tennessee from 1992 to 1996 (9th to 12th grades). During those years, we were registered under “umbrella schools” that helped to supervise homeschool families. I also attended private schools off and on during my school years.

My homeschooling experiences were almost always positive. We started homeschooling primarily because we moved frequently as a result of my father’s job as an engineer. The laws regulating homeschooling in our states of residence varied, and my parents were careful to abide by them. They were conscientious parents and made sure that we were educated in a way that would prepare us for success in life as well as college entrance if we desired to attend. We were registered under “umbrella schools” and completed periodic reporting requirements, based on the state. The reports were reasonable measures of accountability and not invasive. We also took standardized achievement tests regularly and did very well.

Although our parents were conservative, they were neither abusive nor overly controlling. When I was growing up, I did not have any definite knowledge of families who abused their children, but there were a few families we thought seemed a little “off,” and now I wonder . . . . We also knew families whose children seemed to be a little “behind” academically, and this concerned us somewhat. Looking back now from the perspective of a public school teacher, I realize that most of these children were probably still in the average range for their grade levels. Some of them even attended college as they got older. Some likely had undiagnosed learning disabilities.

My main reason for supporting accountability for homeschoolers is to help prevent the abuse and neglect of children. I have met children who were “homeschooled” and then entered the public schools woefully unprepared. I’ve encountered others who were habitually abused and, because they were homeschooled, no one knew or suspected what was going on in their families.

I believe that the majority of homeschooling families raise and educate their children in good faith, to the best of their abilities, and in a generally appropriate fashion. I do not believe intensive oversight of families is necessary, unless there are serious suspicions of abuse or educational neglect, demonstrated by a lack of academic progress. However, as an educator and a child advocate, I believe that all children have the right to learn and live free from fear and abuse. For these reasons, I support homeschool accountability at the state/county level.

In a country where education is compulsory and all schools and teachers face extreme levels of accountability for their teaching, home schools (while having some degree of curricular freedom) should also demonstrate that they are, in fact, educating children. If parents are providing sufficient education for their kids, this should not be a frightening prospect. I am not suggesting that home schools must follow the same scope and sequence of public schools, just that academic progress should be observable. Children’s abilities vary widely in all educational environments, but good schools show progress from year to year.

Good home schools will show progress, as well.


Giselle Palmer was homeschooled from 1985 to 1996 in Alabama, Florida, and Tennessee. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Testimonials page.

Holly S.: “If there had only been some protection in place”

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“Many of my friends and I do not have high school diplomas or transcripts. … In addition to the rampant educational neglect that occurred in homeschool circles, the lack of proper documents made it difficult for many of us to access higher education.”

I think that homeschool regulation is important because my life and the lives of my homeschooled contemporaries would have been improved by some degree of regulation. During my time being homeschooled, I suffered from various types of abuse along with educational neglect. I believe that if I had been in school I would have had less time to be exposed to the family members who abused me. Also, I would have had the opportunities to make the most of my education and to take classes that I missed out on in a homeschooling environment.

Many of my friends and I do not have high school diplomas or transcripts. In the states in which we were homeschooled, there was little oversight and no requirement that parents provide such documents to graduating home school students. In addition to the rampant educational neglect that occurred in homeschool circles, the lack of proper documents made it difficult for many of us to access higher education. Sadly, many of my friends are chronically underemployed and trapped in bad marriages because they have no way to support themselves.

Although I have achieved a great deal of educational success, it took me 15 years after high school to achieve my goal of a master’s degree. I wasn’t in school the whole time by any means, but I had to start and stop my higher education career several times.

The most difficult part of my higher education experience was the lack of choice. While most people would assume that an adult could make his or her own choices, a homeschooled student is continually hampered by the lack of documentation. I was not allowed access to my own transcripts, and so I could not apply to college where I wanted to go. My parents preferred that I not go to college at all, but that I go to an apprenticeship program. Because I resisted this option, they eventually allowed me to go to college.  My grandfather had given me money to pay for college, which no one told me until I was eighteen. However, my mother said she would not make up a transcript for any school that she did not choose. I did agree to go to a very conservative college of my parents’ choosing, but it was a bad situation for me.

If there had only been some protection in place that would have allowed me to have access to a transcript, I would have at least left homeschooling as a free adult. Although I still suffered abuse and educational neglect, it was additional abuse that bound me to my parents as an adult “child” to force me to do their will through college. This is one of the reasons I support reasonable regulation of homeschooling. My concern is not that parents be denied rights to raise their children, but that children are given protections. I also think that all children should finish a high school education with the ability to earn a diploma and access to transcripts.


Holly S. was homeschooled 4th-12th, from 1988 to 1997, in South Carolina and North Carolina. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Testimonials page.

Ryan Stollar: “Not everyone had parents like I did”

“That moment made me realize that, while my parents were highly invested in us jumping through all the hoops to make sure we succeeded, not all parents are like that. Not all homeschool parents know how to educate their children — let alone educate them well. Not all homeschool parents care about the quality of their children’s education.”

Ryan StollarI didn’t always believe in homeschool oversight.

I used to think the IRS was “the Gestapo of the United States” and that public schools were run by “communists and socialists” who want “to brain-wash America.”

When I was 15 years old, I had a pocket-full of libertarian dreams inspired by the Cato Institute andWhatever Happened to Penny Candy? I made a low-quality website, stitched together with my beginner-level html skills, and dubbed it “The Center for American Freedom.” On that website my teenage self waxed (not very) eloquently about how American children were “hooked on drugs, are likely to commit suicide, and know no difference of what is right and wrong” — and all because of “the federal-run public schools.”

As I have grown up, I have realized that accountability and responsibility — even when required by the government — can be great tools. I have realized that checks and balances — even checks and balances on parental authority over children — aren’t a vast left-wing conspiracy but are actually fundamentally conservative.

What might be most confounding about this shift away from my childhood’s “libertarian or bust” mentality that loathed all government intervention in education is that I had a positive homeschool experience. Believe it or not, my positive experience is exactly why I support oversight today.

I was raised in the state of California. I was homeschooled all the way, from kindergarten through high school graduation. My parents were dedicated, thorough, and conscientious. They wanted to besure that we received a good education, so we took the Iowa Basic Skills Test several times. We took the PSAT and the SAT. Subjects my parents could not teach, like chemistry, we took at the local junior college. My parents kept detailed records of what we did, so that our transcripts were legitimate and descriptive.

But we had privilege.

I was lucky. Not everyone had parents like I did.

Not everyone had parents like I did. That’s why I support oversight.

Here’s how I realized this: When my older brother and I were about 16 and 14, my parents had us take the California High School Proficiency Exam (CHSPE). The CHSPE is an early-exit exam for high school students in California. Students who pass it are — for all intents and purposes — “graduated” from high school. California law declares, for example, that any business that requires a high school diploma for any purpose must accept the CHSPE as satisfying the requirement.

As my brother and I (and a few of our friends) prepared for the exam, we heard about how easy it was. We heard that the fact that it was easy was proof that public schools do a bad job of teaching. If it’s so easy and that’s all you need to graduate from public high school, how bad are the public high schools? Har har!

Full disclosure: it was super easy to me. And I was 14 years old. There was not a single algebra problem on the exam. It was nothing but arithmetic.

But two things surprised me:

One: I wasn’t the only young kid there taking the exam. There were other 14 year olds who were public schooled. Some of them even finished the exam before me. So I realized that my perception of public schools was slightly off. Whether a school was “home” or “public” couldn’t be presumed to be indicative of the quality of a child’s education.

Two, and more importantly: A few months later, after my brother and our friends and I passed the CHSPE with flying colors, we were standing around joking about how easy it was and how stupid anyone must be to not pass it. It just so happened that, unbeknownst to us, a 17-year-old homeschool girl overheard our conversation. She went home crying. We found out later that this young woman — 17 years old — failed the CHSPE.

17 years old. And homeschooled.

That moment was the beginning of a long journey, a journey that has led to what I believe today. That moment made me realize that, while my parents were highly invested in us jumping through all the hoops to make sure we succeeded, not all parents are like that. Not all homeschool parents know how to educate their children — let alone educate them well. Not all homeschool parents care about the quality of their children’s education. Even the parents that co-existed with mine, that went to all the same meetings and conventions that mine did.

My parents did everything above board because they believe in accountability and stewardship. And they looked to existing laws to ascertain what “above board” meant. Not every state even has such laws.

I didn’t always believe in homeschool oversight.

But I used to be blinded by my privilege.


Ryan Stollar was homeschooled in the 1990s and early 2000s in California. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Testimonials page.

Kieryn Darkwater: “It’s so easy for people like me … to fall through the cracks”

“If my parents had been unable to write off the validity and necessity of subjects based on theology or gender, if it had been harder for my parents to circumvent the rules, if I had been required to have an evaluation done by a teacher unrelated to my family, I think I would have had a better chance at a decent and well rounded education.” 

Kierstyn KingI support effective oversight of homeschooling because it’s so easy for people like me and my family to fall through the cracks—to find all the loopholes and do as little work as possible in the way of educating, keeping it about convenience and theology instead equipping children for adulthood.

My home state, Florida, required an annual portfolio review by a certified teacher. We had one portfolio review done by a teacher who was a neutral third party, and she started asking me questions about my education that year. My mom became upset and we never went back. Instead, one of my relatives who is in the adult education field and has been a certified teacher for as long as I can remember “reviewed” our portfolios for us. I say review lightly, because no thorough review was expected or given—if that had been the case, my math and my siblings’ writing and reading comprehension skills would have been noticed. Instead, we presented our portfolios, and they were signed off on without a glance.

My parents told me that I was done with my education when I was 15, though I continued to finish up what remained of my books until “graduation” the following May when I was 16. I thought this was odd, because I had been doing the calculating myself and thought I was behind. For example, my parents had completely given up on my math under the reasoning of “well, you’re a girl, you won’t need algebra anyway, you’ll be running a home.” With the responsibility of my education off of their shoulders once I “graduated,” I was then “free” to fully dedicate my time to the raising, care, and education of my siblings and the maintaining of the house.

If my parents had been unable to write off the validity and necessity of subjects based on theology or gender, if it had been harder for my parents to circumvent the rules, if I had been required to have an evaluation done by a teacher unrelated to my family, I think I would have had a better chance at a decent and well rounded education.

I feel somewhat responsible for the lack of education my siblings are receiving today as a result of the lack of oversight and all-too-easy loopholes that my parents continue to take advantage of. I want homeschooling to have effective oversight so we can help make sure that siblings like mine actually have an education appropriate to their level of understanding instead of being held back because of convenience or shot forward because of their age like I was (which I suppose is also about convenience).


Kierstyn Darkwater was homeschooled in Florida in the late 1990s and 2000s. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Testimonials page.

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.”

Kathryn BrightbillI 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.

Rachel Coleman: “Good homeschooling … is not something that happens automatically”

“All of the things my parents did—creating curriculum plans, putting together annual portfolios, having us tested—they did in an effort to homeschool us effectively and responsibly. My parents would not have found oversight of homeschooling an inconvenience or burden because they already voluntarily did everything effective homeschool oversight generally requires.”

Rachel ColemanI was homeschooled from kindergarten through 12th grade, from 1992 to 2005. I received an excellent education and went to college on scholarships. So far, four of my siblings have similarly graduated and headed off to college on scholarships as well. A fifth sibling will graduate this spring and already has college all lined up. History, art, accounting, engineering, computer science, nursing—my parents have launched five, and almost six, homeschool graduates who are successful and productive adults by essentially every measure.

I was homeschooled in Indiana, a state with no oversight of homeschooling. My parents did not even have to file notice, which meant that as far as the state knew, we did not exist. All of the things my parents did—creating curriculum plans, putting together annual portfolios, having us tested—they did in an effort to homeschool us effectively and responsibly. My parents would not have found oversight of homeschooling an inconvenience or burden because they already voluntarily did everything effective homeschool oversight generally requires.

At the beginning of each year, my mother planned what subjects my siblings and I would study and created a curriculum plan for each of us. She poured over homeschool catalogs, browsed curriculum at homeschool conventions, and consulted with my father and my siblings and me. She sought to take each of our desires, needs, and interests into account. At the end of each year she created a portfolio for each of us. It included that year’s curriculum plan (revised if there had been any changes midyear) and samples of our work on each subject. Much of what was included was creative work, along with worksheets, tests, and exercises. At the end of sixth and ninth grades my parents had us tested using the Iowa test in order to see where we scored compared to other children our age and ascertain what subjects needed extra work.

One of my younger sisters has Down syndrome, and my mother diligently put in the research and found therapy for her. My parents joined a support group for parents of children with Down syndrome and participated in the local Down syndrome community. My mother worked with various service providers to draw up developmental plans and goals for my sister, according to her own needs and abilities, and regularly assessed where she had made progress and where she had more work to do. She is ahead of her therapists’ projections for her.

There was more that contributed to our success, of course, including numerous cooperatives and enrichment activities. During high school, my siblings and I took AP tests at a local high school and courses at a local state college. There were children’s choir, music lessons, music groups, and ballet and gymnastic classes. Over the years we were also involved in a variety of homeschool co-ops and activities. Especially memorable to me are a music and arts co-op and homeschool speech and debate, both of which I participated in throughout high school. More recently, number of my younger siblings have been involved in Civil Air Patrol.

Good homeschooling, the kind that produces productive and successful adults, is not something that happens automatically. It is something that takes effort, work, and tireless dedication. My parents were well-educated and financially stable, which gave them access to resources and social capital that also contributed to our positive experience. Further and perhaps most importantly, my parents placed an incredibly high value on education and took their responsibility very seriously. My mother worked with my siblings one on one, and my parents have been receptive to feedback from their oldest children as well. When several of my siblings and I told our mother some time after we graduated that learning advanced math independently out of a textbook had been too challenging for us, she responded by finding math tutors or online programs for the middle and younger children. My mother also recognized that each child was an individual with different interests, learning styles, and educational needs. When one of us had difficulties in a given subject, she sought out resources and looked into new teaching strategies. Today, my mother speaks at regional homeschool conferences on subjects like getting started homeschooling, homeschool record keeping, and homeschooling through high school.

Growing up, I assumed the other homeschooled children I knew were receiving the same solid education I was, and perhaps they were. My friends and I generally bonded over things other than our schoolwork or academic pursuits, and I lost touch with many of them when I moved away and went to college. When I was first in graduate school, however, one of my brothers got me in touch with a friend of his who was in an abusive and neglectful homeschooling situation. I wanted to help, but there wasn’t much I could do because of the laxity of Indiana’s homeschool law. After I talked ot her and heard her story, I called child protective services, the only agency that deals with educational neglect in homeschool settings in our state. When I got back in touch with her some years later, I learned that child protective services had indeed visited, and that they had helped. I also learned that her parents had moved to Tennessee, and that as a result of that state’s more thorough oversight of homeschooling, her younger siblings’ education had improved. When I told her that I had called child protective services, she responded by saying “Thank you for caring enough to call.”

Better homeschooling laws would have improved my own experience in some small ways. Some of my siblings were interested in sports, but were barred by law from participating in the state’s public school leagues, which severely limited their options. Also, a homeschool law with specific subject requirements for high school would have helped my parents better plan my high school years. When my mother went to put together my high school transcript, she found that in order to award me a “Core 40” diploma I would have to meet certain subject requirements. She had not known this, because the lack of any homeschool law meant it was not specified anywhere. I did not meet the requirements, and that sent my mother scrambling to pull things together. She did not have this problem with the middle and younger children, but only because she had belatedly learned what was needed when graduating me from high school.

While my homeschool academic experience was overall very positive, my interaction with my brother’s friend revealed to me just how badly homeschooling could go wrong, especially where there is a lack of accountability. I am an advocate of homeschool laws that provide homeschool parents with guidance and accountability and offer homeschooled students resources and safeguards. I believe that every homeschooled child should have access to a basic education, and I would contend that even dedicated homeschool parents like mine stand to benefit from effective oversight and good homeschool laws.


Rachel Coleman was homeschooled in Indiana from 1992 to 2005. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Testimonials page.

Amanda Smith: “I want a professional looking at what I’ve done”

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“As a licensed civil engineer, I would not think twice about my superior evaluating me. It simply wouldn’t be safe for the public if I were to design something without that design being checked by my superior. I think about accountability and oversight of home education in the same way.”

I am the parent of four daughters, and I have been educating them at home for ten years. During our decade of home education, we have lived in Illinois, Florida, and, within the last three months, Georgia. For the stake of protecting the identity of my daughters, I’m writing this testimonial under a pseudonym. My daughters did not grant me permission to use them as examples, nor would I ever put them in the position of asking them to be poster children for home education. That said, I am not in the least bit shy about providing my opinion, and should anyone reading this want to correspond with me privately, please contact me through the CRHE board.

Before I share my thoughts on oversight and accountability, I think it is necessary to provide some reasons why I home educate my children. I don’t home educate because I am scared of the public school system. I don’t home educate because I want my children to see the Ten Commandments hanging on the wall of their classroom. I don’t home educate because I am afraid my children will hate God if they read a science text on evolution. I don’t home educate because I want flexibility to travel. I don’t home educate because the thought of “unschooling” seems like a great way to provide academic rigor. I don’t home educate for religious reasons, though I unabashedly love the Jesus of the Bible. I don’t home educate because I want to validate my stay-at-home-mom status.

I do home educate because my specific children with their specific backgrounds and their specific needs are better able to learn in the academic environment I provide in our home. To provide such an environment, I have traded a six-figure income career that I loved and miss for part-time work from home as an engineer. I have willingly sacrificed money, relationships, and time in order to home educate. I work tirelessly to meet the academic needs of my children so that they receive the best possible education. It is an opportunity for which I am immensely grateful.

When I first began home educating, my family was living in Illinois. At that time, there were no home education laws regarding oversight or accountability. I did not have to tell anyone I was home educating, nor did I have to submit any documentation to that end. This seemed strange to me. I had worked hard to choose learning methodology and stellar curricula and I remember feeling disappointed that I couldn’t show anyone what I had done. When my oldest child was a second grader, we moved to Florida where the home education law requires parents to register with their county’s superintendent and submit documentation to the school district at the end of each year. To meet that requirement, I chose to have my children evaluated by a certified teacher at the end of each year. I have paid for various teachers to do this at the end of every year for the last eight years. It is money well spent.

During these evaluations, the teacher spends nearly the entire day at our house. She individually evaluates each child (without me in the room), and gives my students various tests to see where they are with regard to the county’s standard for that child’s specific grade. She thoroughly reviews the work my students have done throughout the year. She then sits with me for an extended period of time and talks with me about the academic progress of my children. Frankly, I enjoy showing off the hard work that I’ve done as a teacher throughout the year. Most importantly, I am able to receive information about any holes that the teacher sees in my teaching. I am then able to take that feedback and fix what needs to be fixed.

As a licensed civil engineer, I would not think twice about my superior evaluating me. It simply wouldn’t be safe for the public if I were to design something without that design being checked by my superior. I think about accountability and oversight of home education in the same way. For the safety of my children’s education, I want a professional looking at what I’ve done. I welcome her insight. I want to hear her criticism so that I can make changes if any are needed. I want her to tell me where I’m pushing too hard or not hard enough. I want to know if my students are testing at grade level as compared to their peers in the public school system. Why wouldn’t I want that kind of accountability for the children I love more than I have the words to express?

Opposition to oversight and accountability within education seems foolish. If parents educating their children at home are educating their students well, they have nothing to fear when it comes to oversight and accountability. Why wouldn’t every home educator welcome the opportunity to receive feedback on the job they are doing? Why wouldn’t every home educator desire to show how many days of school they’ve completed in a year? Why wouldn’t every home educator support, for the sake of those children in situations where they aren’t being educated well, oversight and accountability? If a home educator bristles at any of those questions, that educator needs to evaluate the motives and quality of their home education.

It’s time for home educators to speak up about what quality home education should look like. It’s time for home educators to urge their fellow parent-peers to seek out reviews of their teaching work, whether their state requires it or not. And it’s high time that home educators stand up and advocate for reasonable oversight and accountability guidelines for every student in every state. The future of children’s lives is at stake.


Amanda Smith has homeschooled her four daughters for over a decade in Illinois, Florida, and Georgia. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool parents, see our Testimonials page.