Caitlin T.: “In New Jersey, things fell apart”

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“In New Jersey, things fell apart. Without oversight, there was no need to think about compiling a portfolio. Without state standards, there was no benchmark for my progress. We still tried to follow the Pennsylvania guidelines for high school (3 years of math, 3 of science, 4 of English, etc.), but no one was there to check up on us or offer help as I entered harder subjects.” 

I was homeschooled from kindergarten through twelfth grade, from 1991 through 2005. I’ve experienced both regulated and unregulated homeschooling, and the differences are profound. From kindergarten through eighth grade, I lived in Pennsylvania and was subject to state regulations: annual reviews by an evaluator, periodic standardized tests, and basic curriculum standards. In 9th grade, however, my family moved to New Jersey. There were no formal requirements for homeschoolers. As far as the state was concerned, we didn’t exist.

My kindergarten through eighth grade experience provided me a mostly balanced, interesting, and engaging homeschool program. We switched math books until we found one that suited me, and I learned verbal skills through voracious reading and daily writing. Every year, we submitted a portfolio to our licensed evaluator and she interviewed me. She was a retired schoolteacher, so she was able to compare my progress with her former students realistically. The portfolio consisted of tests (graded by my mother), samples of my written work, and photos of field trips. There was no question of falling behind in grade level, because homeschooling produced competitiveness in most families I knew. We were all obsessed with being ahead of public schooled kids, and the best measure of that was taking on material meant for older kids. In every subject but math, I frequently studied a year (sometimes two) ahead of my grade level. We interpreted the state standards as minimums that we had to beat.

In New Jersey, things fell apart. Without oversight, there was no need to think about compiling a portfolio. Without state standards, there was no benchmark for my progress. We still tried to follow the Pennsylvania guidelines for high school (3 years of math, 3 of science, 4 of English, etc.), but no one was there to check up on us or offer help as I entered harder subjects. I spent one entire academic year with my geometry book propped up on my dresser, open to the same page. By this time, our homeschooling friends had sucked us into a culture that told us girls’ education wasn’t valuable anyway, that I should be learning homemaking skills and preparing for a life of obedience to my husband. (We would never have been exposed to these ideas if we hadn’t joined a homeschooling group—we were ordinary, moderate Christians when I was in kindergarten.) Homeschooling had become a moral mission for my mother, such that putting me in public or private school was no longer an option—even if it meant I did nothing instead. My expected graduation date passed and I became suicidal. I was convinced that I was stupid and a failure for not being able to teach myself geometry or chemistry out of a book.

My break came when my mother decided to have me enroll in community college for the last credits of high school. I thrived on the classroom environment. It was almost comical how eagerly I approached the remedial math class the college taught out of a trailer in the parking lot. I took philosophy, psychology, earth science, American literature, and that remedial math, and, with those credits, graduated the following summer (a year late, which embarrassed me for many years).

The basic regulations in Pennsylvania gave my mother and me a yardstick for measuring our progress and a sense that we weren’t going it alone. I looked forward to visiting my evaluator and being praised for working above my grade level. The state framework fostered ambition and provided rewards. The absence of regulation in New Jersey, however, meant that I was cut adrift. There was no one to ask for help with geometry, no one to give my mother realistic warnings about my declining performance. Had we stayed with the evaluator, she might have helped us find a solution so I didn’t spend a year paralyzed in fear and depression about my inability to tackle difficult subjects.

More profoundly still, oversight might have kept me thinking about the rewards of performing well in school. Between ninth grade and my year in community college, I received no encouragement to pursue further education or a career—every single adult in my homeschooling group worked against the idea that women should be full participants in society. When my mother mentioned something I’d done in school, I watched other women bristle and talk over her about their sons’ achievements. It wasn’t until I was a junior in college that I started to believe I was actually smart, that my ideas mattered.

I am the only girl in my circle of friends who has graduated from a four-year college. Most have never worked and are now married with several children whom they are also homeschooling. They are raising their daughters to be homemakers, to believe their education only matters as practice for homeschooling the next generation. This is not what a revolutionary, high-achieving population looks like. Groups like HSLDA convince parents that government regulation holds children back from their full potential. From what I’ve seen, the absence of regulation does that far more effectively. It was only under the supervision of my evaluator, regular testing, and the close mentorship of my professors in college that I realized I had any potential at all.


Caitlin T. was homeschooled in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Testimonials page.

Jerusha Lofland: “Ignorance leaves people vulnerable”

“I support oversight of homeschooling because every child deserves a good education in all subjects. I received a great education in English grammar, and I could recite entire chapters from the Bible. But my parents gave up teaching me basic algebra, my textbooks viewed history through a primarily anti-Catholic lens, I was warned against studying the humanities, and I have spent a decade unlearning much of the “science” I was taught.”

Jerusha LoflandI support oversight of homeschooling because it underscores the value of education and sets the parameters for a basic education. Despite being a curious young person, thirsty to learn new things, I really had no idea whether I was capable of competing with my peers academically, and I was discouraged from higher education because it would involve classrooms and secular instructors and might foster pride. I was intimidated by applications and testing, enrollment and schedules. Without the closure of a high school graduation, I always felt like some kind of dropout.

I support oversight of homeschooling because every child deserves a good education in all subjects. I received a great education in English grammar, and I could recite entire chapters from the Bible. But my parents gave up teaching me basic algebra, my textbooks viewed history through a primarily anti-Catholic lens, I was warned against studying the humanities, and I have spent a decade unlearning much of the “science” I was taught. My parents chose to homeschool in large part so that they could control the influences on their children, and they certainly did that. I was not taught facts so much as a belief system. I reached adulthood almost entirely isolated from both popular and mainstream culture. This has hampered me socially my entire adult life.

I support oversight of homeschooling because I grew up in a physically and psychologically abusive home. I had no relationships with adults who would not have defended my parents’ choices and their right to make those choices for us. Oversight would not have prevented the abuse in itself, but it could have given me and my siblings the idea that someone else wanted to know what went on behind the façade of a model religious family. As it was, no one ever asked. As far as I could tell from my homeschooled peers, our home was normal. Looking back, I realize that my mother had untreated psychological issues that terrorized her children, who had no respite from her moods. Oversight of homeschooling would not have helped her, but perhaps they would have made it more difficult for my parents to conceal her troubles.

I support oversight of homeschooling because I have been a homeschooling parent in a state without oversight and I believe that children should have adults besides their parents checking on their welfare. I know children who can drive motor vehicles or hunt with guns, but are basically illiterate. The family claims to be “homeschooling” and since their state makes no demands beyond notification of intent, there is nothing anyone can do, even when concerned relatives call CPS to investigate. Learning to read affects the very development of a young brain, and while those children may remedy some of their educational deficiencies as adults, they may never be able to recover all the ground lost.

I support oversight of homeschooling because today we know so much about the development of the child’s brain, about the benefits of early education, and about how children learn. It is unfair to any child to give parents complete freedom to conduct their own educational experiments on him/her, to allow them unlimited freedom to ignore a century of research and to decide what, in their opinion, their child needs to know and what will not be “useful” to his or her future. It may turn out well, but it may turn out badly. Ignorance leaves people vulnerable, and no child should be willfully subjected to that risk.


Jerusha Lofland was homeschooled in Michigan from 1983 to 1993, from 2nd grade through 12th grade. She homeschooled her own children in Kansas from 2007 to 2013. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni and homeschool parents, see our Testimonials page.

Amethyst Marie: “The students most affected … were girls”

“I believe that the education I received through homeschooling was likely better than what I would’ve gotten in my local public school districts.  But I can’t say this for all the homeschoolers I grew up with. I knew teenagers who weren’t being given a complete high school education, particularly high school math and science. The students most affected by this were girls.” 

AmethystI was homeschooled from 1987 to 2000, from kindergarten through 12th grade. I grew up in small rural towns whose public school systems were a joke. Literally. “There’s your [town’s name] education” was a thing in one of these places, and it wasn’t a compliment. I believe that the education I received through homeschooling was likely better than what I would’ve gotten in my local public school districts.  But I can’t say this for all the homeschoolers I grew up with.

I knew teenagers who weren’t being given a complete high school education, particularly high school math and science. The students most affected by this were girls. “She’s not going to college anyway.” “How is she going to use algebra as a housewife?” “Why does she need to know pi? Is she going to decorate a round room?” “It’s better to use these years to prepare to be a wife and mother.” These are all things I heard my friends’ parents—their homeschool teachers—actually say. Eventually some of my friends started saying these things about themselves.

We hear about girls like Malala Yousafzai who have to fight for their right to be educated, and we pat ourselves on the back for fighting the Taliban and bringing American freedom to those girls, over there. But it’s not just over there. It’s not just the Taliban. There are plenty of Malalas right here in America. In your state. In your city. Maybe next door. How many are there? We can’t know, because many states don’t collect any kind of data on homeschool students, or even basic records that show whether or not these girls and boys are actually receiving an education of any kind.

I was homeschooled in Missouri, Kansas, and Texas, all three states with little in the way of oversight for homeschooling. I am in favor of oversight for homeschooling because I don’t want even one American girl to hear that she doesn’t need a complete education because she’s a girl.


Amethyst Marie was homeschooled from 1987 to 2000 in Missouri, Kansas, and Texas. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Testimonials page.