Child abuse? Is homeschooling really child abuse? Abuse comes in many forms, not just the obvious that results in bruises, broken bones or the sexual denigration of children. There is also mental abuse and neglect. The mental abuse that some parents and religious leaders inflict upon our youth is well documented. But what about neglect? Isn't neglect just not feeding them, or making them sit in dirty diapers for days at a time, or leaving them home alone?
Yes, these things are neglectful, but neglect can also be summarized as not affording a child what they need to properly function in society, and can include not being given training on how to interact in social or professional settings, failure to provide basic skills in communication and giving false information as accurate. All of these, and several others, intentionally force a child to grow into adulthood, and often throughout the rest of their lives, at a disadvantage.
This brings us to homeschooling. Should you home school your kids? This is a question that many parents at least consider at one time or another, but many do not follow through for a variety of reasons. For secular or mainstream religious parents, the reason is often the lack of a variety of curriculum that mirrors the standards that public schools have, particularly with regard to science.
The reason for this is that a vast majority of curriculum is centered around the Christian religion, and is either specifically anti-science/pro-creationism, or only covers the rudimentary aspects of the discipline that do not conflict with their religious beliefs.
For the fundamentalist Christians who do choose to home school, there is a plethora of materials available to them, and if they find themselves in legal trouble, there's always the Home School Legal Defense Association.
Founded in 1983 by Michael Farris, the HSLDA in 1983 for the purpose of defending the families of those who chose homeschooling during a time when the laws regarding it were murky, at best.
Farris' organization was instrumental in getting legislation passed that specifically addressed homeschooling, and ended up playing a major role in the 1994 defeat of language in bill HR6, which would have required all teachers in the U.S. to have teacher certification.
This would have potentially included home educators.
The HSLDA has approximately 80,000 members, which evidences the popularity of homeschooling with particularly religious parents.
Farris is known to many for his controversial statements, including a warning he sent out last year that the United Nations would place under their control kids who wore glasses, and floating the idea that President Obama may be planning an executive decision ban on homeschooling.
Recently, Farris was interviewed by Jim Schneider of VCY America on the program “Crosstalk” regarding a legal battle between the HSLDA and a case involving a German citizen who is seeking asylum in the United States because homeschooling is illegal in Germamy.
“It can because of the precedent that any case like this can set and it also reveals the heart and intention of our current administration. Their belief is anti-individual liberty on a very broad basis and their group think is at a deep and dangerous level. That repudiation of individual liberty should shock every American. Secondly, for homeschooling itself specifically, you know we’ve seen executive orders on lots of different subjects and so if President Obama gets it in his head that he is going to issue an executive order to ban homeschooling, you know, I wouldn’t put it pass that administration to try something like that especially as they get closer to the end of this four year term. They are capable of anything, who knows?”
The desire for our children to get a proper education has plenty of advocates, though.
One of those advocates is Ryan Stollar, who runs the venue 'Homeschoolers Anonymous.'
Here, Stoller sums up the purpose of HA as,
“It is time to stand together — within and without the homeschooling community — and demand that HSLDA, the public face of American homeschooling, launches a public awareness campaign to fight abuse within our communities. Together, we can make homeschooling better. “
Stoller goes on to point out,
Homeschoolers Anonymous is made up of a diverse group of people. We don’t really have a “thing” that we all agree on other than this: we have seen or experienced harm within the conservative Christian homeschooling movement and we think those stories should be told. The truth should be known.
The people involved with HA are not homeschooling’s worst nightmare. Rather we are its internal whistleblowers. We are all intimately aware of the problems in homeschooling because we were there. We’re former homeschool kids, former homeschool parents, and even current homeschool parents.
We know how unpopular it is to say, “Hey, I have some problems with homeschooling,” but we care about raising awareness so people can address the issues, make things better, and begin to heal. The first step is recognizing that a problem exists.
The Homeschool Legal Defense Assocation (HSLDA) made a decision yesterday. That decision was to respond via Facebook status (screenshot is here) to criticism from a former homeschooler who has been researching the impact and goals of HSLDA advocacy. This former homeschooler, Libby Anne (a blog partner of HA), came to the conclusion that HSLDA has not handled the issue of child abuse within homeschooling environments appropriately. Instead of responding to allegations of child abuse responsibly, HSLDA passed off these abusers as wrongly “persecuted” Christian homeschoolers.
These allegations are serious. When talking about Michael Gravelle, a man charged with abusing his biological kids and then putting his adopted kids in cages, Scott Somerville — an HSLDA attorney — called him a “hero.” This fact was documented by the Akron Beacon Journal and the Journal article has been preserved.
As if this was not enough, before this abuse case with the cages, Michael Gravelle had sexually molested his biological daughter, who ran away from home at age 16, which she personally disclosed in an interview. After the abuse case, Michael Gravelle punched and violently shook his wife. He was charged with domestic violence. Then a warrant was issued for his arrest because he failed to show up to his court hearing. Then Michael and his wife (not surprisingly) filed for divorce.
A man who molests his own daughter, puts his adopted kids in cages and shoves their faces in toilets as punishment, and then beats his wife is a “hero” to an HSLDA attorney?
Stoller has a link on his venue that navigates to a Change.org petition addressing the issue of homeschooling.
From the petition,
HSLDA, an organization with revenues of over $10 million a year which purports to "advocate for homeschooling", has fought toweaken protections and enforcement against child abuse and neglect,to allow abusive and negligent parents to withdraw their children from school, and to weaken children's legal rights, while publicly defending the character of convicted child abusers who homeschool their children.
All children deserve to be treated humanely and with respect. No child should have to live in fear of abuse or neglect.
As former homeschool students, homeschooling parents, and community allies, we demand that HSLDA takes a stand against child abuse and neglect in homeschooling families.
When chosen, the site sends a letter with the following attached:
Michael P. Farris, Esq., Chairman and Co-Founder, HSLDA
Mike Smith, President and Co-Founder, HSLDA
Michael Donnelly, Staff Attorney
Every child deserves the protection of their bodily integrity, a life with dignity, and an education which prepares them for an open future. Abuse and neglect should not be tolerated within the homeschooling community.
As a member of the community, I ask that you take a stand for the well-being of homeschool children and address the problems of abuse and neglect within homeschool families.
This issue is the topic of the upcoming Internet radio program 'Freethought Fridays and Variety Show' on The God Discussion Show, airing this coming Friday on BlogTalk Radio. Stoller is one of the guests.
From the site,
Homeschooling has become an increasingly popular option in the United States and is particularly appealing to fundamentalist Christian parents. By 1992, homeschooling was recognized as a legal option in every state.
This episode of the Freethought Fridays and Variety Show with Al and Deborah focuses on Christian homeschooling – from the perspectives of young adults who were homeschooled as children and from parents who advocate homeschooling.
Topics will include:
- A history of the homeschooling movement;
- The 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit that emphasized “the necessity of patriarchy” and other issues about female submissiveness;
- Christian nationalism and history revisionist David Barton’s involvement in the Christian homeschooling movement;
- Escape from secularism: Homeschool ideologies and literature;
- Creation “science” taught in the Christian homeschooling environment;
- Perspectives from parents; and
- What it’s like to be LGBT in Christian homeschooling.
Information about the program, including times and guest list with biographies can be found here.
There are some organizations that cater to secular homeschooling. One of those can be found here, and according to their website,
SecularHomeschool.com was created to provide information, resources, and a place to share and connect with secular homeschoolers across the world.
This is an issue that is not likely to be without contention for the foreseeable future.