When You Aren’t Learning Enough

Our organization was founded by adults who were homeschooled as children. Some of us had active, engaged parents who helped us learn a lot; others of us had to teach ourselves and fell behind. If you are a homeschooled student and your parents are not giving you the educational resources and support you need, we are truly sorry to hear about your situation. Every child has the right to a solid and well-rounded education, and you are showing a lot of courage by taking steps to make sure you and your siblings get what you need.

Two people holding hands. One hand has a tattoo of a bird on it, and the other hand has a tattoo of an empty birdcage.

It may be that your parents are not educating you at all. Perhaps they are busy caring for other children, or are distracted by other things. It may be that your parents are expecting you to educate yourself on your own. Perhaps you have tried but have found you need more guidance. It may be that the curriculum your parents are using is not working for you. Perhaps you are worried that you are falling behind or not understanding the material.

In a 2014 survey of homeschool alumni, 17% of respondents reported that they were educationally neglected. That is nearly one in five. 33%, or one in three, knew a homeschooled student who was not educated. 25% stated that their homeschool education did not adequately prepare them for the future. If your parents are homeschooling you but not giving you the instruction, educational resources, or support you need, you are not alone.

Take a moment to consider your goals. What do you want to do with your life? What do you want to be as an adult? Don’t be afraid to dream big. Next, consider what you will need to achieve this. Remember that a well-rounded education is important regardless of what you plan to be. Think in terms of practical steps. When you have some idea of where you are going and what you need to get there you will be better prepared to tackle your current issues.

So, what can you do?

1. Talk to your parents.

A black and white photo of two kids walking along a path. The photo is taken from behind, so only the backs of them are shown.

Sit down with your parents and let them know that the way you are being homeschooled is not working for you. When your parents decided to homeschool you, they took responsibility for your education, and that is a responsibility they need to meet. While homeschooling may sometimes involve learning straight from textbooks without a teacher, this approach does not work for everyone and your parents should always be ready to assist you when needed. You should not be expected to educate yourself alone and without guidance.

If you feel your goals would be better met attending public school, let your parents know. Assure your parents that putting you in public school would not make them failures as parents. Not everyone is cut out to homeschool. However, whether you attend public school or are homeschooled is ultimately up to your parents, and if they choose to continue homeschooling you, or if you would yourself prefer to continue homeschooling, you may be able to work with your parents to find new curriculum, new resources, or new patterns of homeschooling that better support your learning.

In some cases homeschooled students have convinced their parents to send them to school. In other case that have succeeded in asking their parents to adjust how they homeschooled. If you aren’t sure how your parents will respond to this conversation, you may find it helpful to read our page on when there are problems at home.

2. Reach out to a relative or trusted adult.

An old and a young person holding hands. Only their hands are visible.

Are there any adults in your life whom you can trust and can talk to—a grandparent, an aunt or uncle, a friend or neighbor? A trusted adult can be a great resource for you and can give you advice about how to continue your education. They can also help you talk to your parents and tell them that the way you’re being homeschooled isn’t working.

Some homeschool alumni have written about reaching out to a relative or other trusted adult and having their educational prospects look up as a result. We are often contacted by individuals worried about relatives or neighbors who are being homeschooled but not educated. Reaching out may be the first step to getting help.

3. Report your situation to the authorities.

A closeup of a landline phone.

If your parents are educationally neglecting you, reporting this to the authorities may help. Look up your state’s homeschooling law and see whether your parents are following it and meeting its requirements. Learn how to report educational neglect in your state here. The process generally involves calling either your local public school superintendent’s office or social services to make a report. Reports are anonymous and confidential.

You may be nervous about having contact with school officials or social workers. That’s okay. Remember, it’s their job to make sure your parents give you an education, and children are usually only removed from their parents if there is clear impending danger. You may also worry about hurting your parents’ feelings and getting them in trouble—this is a normal thing to feel. Remember that your relationship with your parents isn’t one-way—as your parents, and as parents who have chosen to homeschool, they have responsibilities to you. Your education is important.

In some cases homeschool alumni have reported report that the education their parents provided improved after someone reported their parents’ failure to teach them. Other homeschool alumni have written about their experiences with social services.

4. Educate yourself on your own.

A young girl reading.

Your parents should be involved in supporting and guiding your education, but if this is not possible there may be things you can do to educate yourself on your own. Public libraries and the internet are great resources on just about every subject you could imagine. Libraries usually have textbooks on various school subjects. Read as much and as widely as you can. If you have access to the internet, sites like Khan Academy or Shmoop.com offer free classes and videos on a variety of subjects.

Look up your state’s high school requirements and set about finding ways to fulfill them yourself. Read books about chemistry, work through algebra textbooks, and watch online tutorials and documentaries. Document your studies so that you have a record of your education. While educating yourself on your own can be challenging, it can keep you from falling too far behind and help you achieve your goals in the long run.

Concluding Thoughts

A heart drawn on paper with oil pastels.

You can get through this. The path ahead of you may be difficult, but success is not impossible. Once you are an adult, your education will be in your own hands. Whether to get your GED, take community college courses, or join the workforce is up to you. A poor homeschool education may slow you down, but it doesn’t have to hold you back permanently.

You’re not the only one to have this experience. There is a whole community of homeschool alumni at Homeschoolers Anonymous, many of whom may have backgrounds like yours. As you approach adulthood, you may want to look at Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out (HARO), which provides informative links for homeschool graduates transitioning to adulthood.

We asked several homeschool alumni with backgrounds like yours what advice they would give you. This is what they had to say:

“You will turn 18 and you can leave. If you’re safe but disadvantaged in education you should read as much as you can. And try to learn algebra now before you’re out in the world working and can’t find time. But if you’re being abused physically and/or sexually just call the police. It’s not your fault that terrible things are happening and getting out of there is the only thing you can do.” ~ Emily, 24, homeschooled 2nd-12th

“Be strong. You will make it through. You will find people who are willing to help you. You’ll make friends, you’ll find a job, you’ll find love. You will be free to be you. You can still get an education, as long as you are willing to keep an open mind and work for it. Read as much as you can, from as many sides of an issue as you can. It may be extremely difficult at times, but I promise, someday you will wake up and look around you and breathe deep and know that you are happy and that the journey to that place was worth every step.” ~ Rachel, 23, homeschooled K-12th

Believe in yourself and your potential. You are important and your dreams matter.

This advice was designed for homeschooled students who receiving a deficient education due to lack of parental involvement or guidance. If you are a homeschooled student and feel unsafe in your home environment, we have more information for you here.

This article does not constitute the giving of legal advice.

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