When I was growing up, I was badly abused by my parents, to the extent that it meets the current definition of intrafamilial child torture. Solitary confinement (being locked in my room for days or weeks at a time) was a significant part of my torture, and when I was locked in my room I had inconsistent access to food, water, and bathroom. I also endured beatings that were planned and systematic, and sometimes had religious components (father telling me I was possessed with a demon, and screaming “OUT Satan!” while beating me). I was also sexually abused.
During a few times of solitary confinement, or when I had bruises or marks on me, I would be kept home from school, and my father would tell the school I was “out sick” indefinitely. When the school would not accept this and demanded a letter from a doctor, my father would then say he was homeschooling me. The school would give him instructions for proving that he was homeschooling me, but he never complied with any of the instructions and the school never did anything to enforce their regulations. No one ever came to check on my safety or well-bring, and no one ever came to see if I was being taught at home. My father actually never taught me anything when I was home, I was simply denied an education.
When I was 16, my father became enraged and jealous when he thought I had become sexually active for the first time. He kept me home for the entire semester, and I had to be in the same room with him, with eyes on me at all times, and was told I could not leave the house or be unsupervised until I turned 18. I faced severe psychological abuse during this time, including spurning, isolating, denying emotional responsiveness, making threats of physical and sexual harm to me, and of course educational neglect. He told my high school that he was homeschooling me for the rest of 10th, 11th, and 12th grade. He was again told to turn in forms to demonstrate his homeschooling plan. Months passed and the school did nothing to enforce this, no one ever came to check on me or help me, and I was never taught a thing while at home. With two weeks left in the semester, the school threatened to call Child Protective Services (CPS) if he did not either turn in homeschooling forms or send me back to school. So he sent me back to school for the last week of the semester, and I was issued an “F” for every single class since I had turned in no assignments for the last 5 months.
I felt so betrayed by my school—they were the ones who never enforced the homeschooling regs, they are the ones who never called CPS when I disappeared for 5 months, and they punished me with six “F”s for having survived and endured unbearable child abuse. How would I ever get into college with six “F”s?! How would I ever graduate on time with no credits for the whole semester?! From my dad, I expected evil, but from my school, who had known me all my life growing up in a small town, how could they do this to me? They let my dad use fake homeschooling to cover up abuse.
I was eventually rescued and removed by CPS over the summer and placed in foster care. But I could have been rescued months earlier, had the school done their job to oversee claims of homeschooling. I believe my father should have been given no more than 30 days to turn in proof of homeschooling- not 5 months, and then in the end never required to prove what happened during those 5 months at all. The school district should have followed their own policies, and there should have been oversight from the state department of education to make sure school districts are following the law. There should also have been regular welfare checks where a professional social worker came to my home to see what was going on and interviewed me about whether I was safe at home, and if I was actually being homeschooled.
It was too easy for my father to use homeschooling to cover up child abuse. Oversight should be dramatically increased, to make it very hard for abusive parents to hide behind claims of homeschooling.
Sarah was “homeschooled” in Ohio in the 1990s. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Testimonials page.