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Homeschooling & Bullying

Damon Linker is understandably horrified by the Turpin case in Los Angeles — homeschooling parents kept their children in lockdown and under torture — and calls for changes [1]. Excerpt:

Public schools shouldn’t be in the business of using a comprehensive secular ideology to stamp out all vestiges of traditionalist religious belief in their students’ minds. As long as that’s what’s happening in public schools, such believers will have a compelling case in favor of home-schooling.

But that doesn’t mean that such schooling should be completely unregulated. There can and should be greater oversight. As Young suggests, annual checks by a state government employee, empowered to look for signs of abuse and evidence that kids are actually being educated, would seem to be a minimum required by a commonsense concern for the well-being of the children involved. Sure, the home-school lobbyists will object. But then they will find themselves in the awkward position of defending the right of the Turpins to torture their kids undetected.

Damon’s a friend and I’m a big fan of his work, but this is not one of his better columns. “Defending the right of the Turpins to torture their kids undetected”? Really? In all honesty, it’s the kind of column that I write from time to time, frankly, motivated by moral outrage over a particular incident. It’s easy to let one’s heart get out ahead of one’s head. Alan Jacobs took fierce issue with Linker’s column [2], in a way that highlights how Linker’s take does that. Excerpts:

Spousal abuse is surely a greater blight on our society than child abuse by homeschoolers, so I make this proposal: In households of married people, annual checks by a state government employee, empowered to look for signs of abuse by one spouse of another, would seem to be a minimum required by a commonsense concern for the well-being of the adults involved. Sure, some pro-marriage lobbyists will object. But then they will find themselves in the awkward position of defending the right of men to beat their wives undetected.

Please don’t try to tell me that children can’t choose their parents while marriage is a voluntary arrangement that can be ended by either party. We know from long experience how many people, especially women, remain in profoundly abusive relationships because they fear something worse. As in sexual relations more generally, “consent” is a vexed concept.

Though perhaps you have another objection: my plan is unworkable. There are not, and could never be, enough state government employees to visit every household of married people. If so, you have a point. It is, I admit, far easier to direct the suspicious attentions of state power on tiny minorities of people whom you despise for cultural reasons than to address truly widespread social tragedies.

You see where he’s going with this. Jacobs is pointing out that we would never advance the cause of such a massive intrusion of state power into other areas of domestic life for the sake of protecting individuals within families from bad actors within those families — even if, as in the case of wife-beaters, there are far, far more of them than there are of homeschooling monsters like the Turpins. Saying that we should not do that does not amount to defending the right of wife-beaters to torture their wives undetected.

change_me

More Jacobs:

I confess that I speak as an interested party here, because my wife and I taught our son at home — in conjunction with a homeschooling co-op — from seventh grade through high-school graduation. And we did not do it out of conviction that public schools are intrinsically evil. We are products of public schools ourselves, throughout our entire education. We did it because he was relentlessly bullied over the course of an entire year, and no teacher or administrator or local government employee or state government employee did a damned thing about it. We did it because I myself had been relentlessly bullied for several years in elementary school — I was two years younger than most of my classmates and a very easy target — and no teacher or administrator or local government employee or state government employee had done a damned thing about that either, and after what I had been through I could not stand by and watch my once-happy son descend into sheer and constant misery.

When people who cry out for mass surveillance of homeschooling families articulate some strategy for addressing the far, far larger problem of bullying in schools — I’ll even allow them to ignore spousal abuse — then I’ll believe that they care about the children. Until then, I’ll continue to believe that recommendations like Damon’s exemplify plain, straightforward bigotry against religious conservatives.

That really resonated with me, the bullying part. People choose homeschooling for all kinds of reasons. In my family’s case, we did it not because we wanted to shield our precious babies from the Heathenous Public Schools™, but because we really did (and do) believe that we can do a better job teaching them what we believe they need to know. We have never lived in a state that doesn’t care what you teach kids. Our kids have had to take state assessment tests every year, and they’ve always done very, very well. I think that’s a reasonable expectation from the state, frankly.

We have also been flexible about their schooling. Like a lot of homeschooling families, our kids have been part of co-ops with other kids and parents, sharing the teaching and giving the kids social opportunities. For the past several years, our kids have been attending a classical Christian school that is a hybrid model, offering classroom instruction in the mornings, and expecting parents to homeschool in the afternoons. People who think there is a single model of homeschooling, and only one motivation for doing it, are simply wrong. It is also the case that there are bad homeschooling parents, and believe me, homeschooling parents cannot stand them, because in living up to the world’s stereotypes of homeschoolers, they confirm the world’s prejudices.

Anyway, bullying far from the determinative reason my wife and I chose homeschooling, but it was not a minor reason, either. Both of us were bullied in school — and no administrator did a damn thing about it. As I’ve mentioned in this space before, in the incident that started two years of misery before I was finally able to go to another school, some older boys held me down in a hotel room on a school trip, and tried to take my pants down to humiliate me in front of their girlfriends, who were laughing. I was 14, but they were all older and bigger, and there were so many of them. Two adults who were chaperoning the trip were in the room, and literally stepped across me, pinned to the floor, as I begged them for help. They wanted out of the room. As far as I can figure, they didn’t want to be on the outs with the cool kids, who were my bullies — and who eventually let me go without unpantsing me.

That’s where it began. It didn’t end until I got out of  that school. And I was not the only kid who was the recipient of that crowd’s bullying.

Today David Brooks has a column about the power of touch [3], for both good and for evil (he’s connecting it to the discussions in public about sexual abuse and harassment). He writes:

If the power of loving touch is astounding, the power of invasive touch is horrific. Christie Kim of N.Y.U. surveyed the research literature [4] on victims of child sexual abuse. The victims experience higher levels of anxiety throughout their lifetimes. They report higher levels of depression across the decades and higher levels of self-blame. They are more than twice as likely to experience sexual victimization again.

Over the course of each year, people have many kinds of interactions and experience many kinds of mistreatment. But there is something unique about positive or negative touch. Emotional touch alters the heart and soul in ways that are mostly unconscious. It can take a lifetime of analysis to get even a glimpse of understanding.

I have spent the past 37 years thinking, one way or another, about what happened to me on that hotel room floor in the summer of 1981. It’s not that I obsess over it, but rather that it keeps coming up when I interrogate myself to understand why I feel so strongly about certain things that seem unconnected. To be clear, nobody in that hotel room touched my genitals, but they threatened to, and threatened to do so in a humiliating way. As I’m typing this now, I can feel my temples begin to throb, and a band of tension cross my chest, just remembering what it was like to feel the hands of those older boys pressing down on me, holding me down. And you had better believe I remember what the faces of those two adults who walked across me, with me begging them to help, looked like as they exited the room.

So much of the way I see the world was determined right there in those few minutes in that room, I now understand. My white-hot loathing of bullies, obviously, but also my deep contempt for authority figures who have it within their power to defend the weak, but who do not. There is little question in my mind that if not for summer 1981, I would likely have come through the fire of confronting and writing about the Catholic sex abuse scandal with my Catholicism intact. And I wasn’t even molested, or in any way harmed by a Catholic priest! 

Still, for me, that moment became an emotional archetype, imprinted in my flesh, for the way the world works. The powerful will tend to abuse those without power, and absent the intervention of authority, will get away with it. The corruption of authority — the Law — is the worst thing, because it leaves the weak at the mercy of the wicked and the strong. And look: ordinary people who would never bully anybody else are often willing to ignore the pleas of the weak and suffering, because to hear them and believe them requires those ordinary people to confront the fact that the imaginative structure they use to keep chaos at bay is false.

Just this morning I was drinking tea with a friend who told me that when she was a little girl, she was molested by her widowed grandmother’s boyfriend. She finally found the courage to tell somebody. Her molester went to prison (she wasn’t his only victim, as it turned out, but she was the first one who spoke up). She told me that her grandmother hated her for a long time over it. Granny was willing for her granddaughter to be a sexual sacrifice rather than lose the love of the man she had put at the center of her personal world.

A sexual abuse victim I knew in New York told me that when he went home from parochial  elementary school one day in the 1960s and told his mother that the principal, a monsignor, had raped him, his mother — working-class Queens Irish Catholic — slapped him hard and told him never, ever to speak that way about a priest. That kid became the sex slave of the monsignor — and later in life, a sexually promiscuous alcoholic whose affairs were often with priests. When I knew him, he had found sobriety, but was an emotional mess. Yet I believed him, in large part because he became a source of mine for damaging information about sexual abuse cover-ups in the Archdiocese of New York — information that I was able to substantiate.

Can you imagine? Your grandmother spiting you as a child for speaking out against your molester. Your mother effectively turning you over, as a child, to a molester priest as his catamite. All because those in authority — in this case, in the family — preferred to see children suffer rather than confront ugly truths.

However, the Turpin children were held captive and tortured for years by the only authority figures they knew: their parents. It is easy to understand how people — including adults who were once homeschooled in harshly authoritarian environments — can have the same gut reaction to this that I do, though for other reasons. (N.B., I don’t have any reason at all to think that Damon Linker does.) In my recent Benedict Option book, I featured comments from a young woman who had been homeschooled under conditions she described as cultish, by paranoid Christian parents. She lost her faith, as did her older siblings. I included her words in my book as a warning to those attracted to the Benedict Option not to ignore its potential for darkness.

So, look, I understand why Damon Linker (and others), in their entirely justifiable rage over that, want the state to be more involved in the lives of families like that. It makes intuitive sense, but then you stop and think about what that kind of involvement would mean, and you may reach the same conclusion that Alan Jacobs did. I hope you would, anyway.

But Alan and I know from personal experience that the state cannot be relied on to protect the weak from bullying and abuse, and going to public school or some other form of conventional schooling is by no means a preventative against harmful abuse. It is one thing to abuse children behind the walls of a home. Child abuse that may not be sexual, but that changes lives forever, can and does happen in the hallways, locker rooms, bathrooms, and classrooms of schools — and indeed, right under the noses of authority figures who prefer to look the other way, and to lie to themselves about the kind of men and women they are.

UPDATE: Reader Violet comments:

Rod, as a public school teacher, may I note in reference to your anecdote about the homeschooled teen boys that can barely read, that in my husband’s 9th grade English class there are some teen boys that can barely read, and when asked to write a paper turn in a half page handwritten and badly spelled, without a single complete sentence. Are these children troubled at home, naturally incapable, or poorly educated? All this to say, testing and public schooling are not necessarily giving better results for some teen boys.

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93 Comments To "Homeschooling & Bullying"

#1 Comment By William M. On January 20, 2018 @ 4:21 am

Being a former homeschooler, this topic has a special significance to me. In my family’s case, the homeschooling was because of some bureaucrat who tried to screw over my special-needs brother’s education just to prove they could. My parent’s didn’t have any problems with the school we were at. Shucks, the principle only hired teachers who also taught Sunday School. (It was Middle Tennessee, a number of years ago.)

We also didn’t have any bullies in that school (it was a grammar school, k-8). The staff wouldn’t tolerate any and the kids weren’t inclined to do it, probably because it was a very small community. There was only one class for each grade so you basically spent your entire time with the same batch of kids. Even when there were changes to the group, the new kids were usually from somewhere else in the county so there would be kids who already knew them. Occasionally we got new to the county kids but they integrated pretty well far as I remember.

As it was I learned to love homeschooling, especially after we moved to Indiana and my parents adopted the laissez faire approach to my education. (Indiana had the least restrictive homeschooling laws in the US.) Of course, that approach only really works for the kind of kid who considers Shakespeare, Adam Smith and, the Encyclopedia recreational reading.

My parents didn’t pull us out of school out of some paranoia about tainting spiritual influences, but because they thought that it was in our best educational/developmental interest. Those seem to be the homeschooling cases that turn out the best. Interestingly, tainting spiritual influences were why they pulled us out of church. (Long story.)

#2 Comment By EngineerScotty On January 20, 2018 @ 4:38 am

This thread confuses two separate responsibilities of the State:

1) Ensuring children are educated
2) Protecting them from abuse.

The main way we handle the first item in this country is with the public school system. (Or systems, as this is generally considered a local affair). Obviously, the US is generally lenient about allowing parents to provide alternate means of educating their children, including both parochial schools and home-schooling. Some jurisdictions care more about educational quality than others, in all of the different educational environments. Depending on where you live, home-schoolers may or may not need to periodically demonstrate that the kids are indeed being educated (at a minimum, are being imparted with basic literacy and numeracy skills).

Public schools help with the second as well–teachers are “mandatory reporters” for signs of abuse in many places–but this is not the primary function of public schools. I’m actually a bit skeptical of the argument that “homeschooling is bad because teachers and other public officials aren’t given a regular opportunity to observe the children”.

The Turpin case strikes me as an extreme outlier. (I do try to avoid the temptation of extrapolating from such outliers to an entire demographic–part of being a liberal, I guess). I’m not sure how we should prevent this sort of thing–random inspections (without cause) seem to be a bit too intrusive for my taste, and hard cases make bad law.

That said–were the children being educated, even? Or was homeschooling, in this case, merely offered as a reason why they weren’t enrolled in the public schools (or private schools)?

#3 Comment By DeeAnn On January 20, 2018 @ 5:33 am

Using the logic of some people on this thread, since kids under 5 aren’t required to attend school, then all homes with children under five need to be inspected annually by the police. Because who knows if abuse is going on!

Seriously, though, if there’s evidence of abuse, the state can get involved. Otherwise they need to stay the heck out of people’s lives. There is nothing in our constitution that states the government is responsible for educating its citizens. Nothing. It’s great great that we have our public education system (although it’s failed miserably for many kids) and it’s also great that parents can homeschool and be responsible for their kids education (although some have also failed miserably.)

Ultimately, parents are responsible for their kids, not the state. The state should get involved only when it’s obvious the parents have failed in their very basic duties, not because someone thinks their ideology should prevail.

#4 Comment By Sam M On January 20, 2018 @ 7:55 am

Rod,

Worth noting that many states have a similar laissez faire attitude regarding non-public schools. I run a Catholic school system in PA. Our kids do not take the annual state exams. Which is good. The exam is hot garbage. It changes every year. It takes um an inordinate amount of instructional time, and teaching directly to that test instead of teaching content yield major improvements in scores while depriving kids of real learning. Ask a public school
Teacher in PA about it. Especially at the high school level.

My school is NOT against testing. It’s important. But we take TerraNovas in es/ms and rely on SAT and ACT at the HS. If we did use the state exams we would face the prospect of arranging the entire schedule and curriculum around regulatory preferences or performing poorly. Honestly, one of the main reasons academically minded parents choose or school is because they despise the maniacal focus on high stakes testing in the public school.

A regulation like you propose fire home schoolers would, I bet, roll uphill to private schools. Some states do require all schools to use the state exams, but that would be a huge problem for us.

Now. I am sure their are weird academies out there that teach young earth creationism as science. But… should that be illegal? I am sure there are Amish schools that have curricula you’d find objectionable for your kids.

Should they be forced to shut down or follow state guidelines?

I dunno. That seems dangerous.

#5 Comment By Bill On January 20, 2018 @ 8:35 am

I don’t understand why you are so dismissive of people that choose to homeschool to shield them from the “Heathenous Public Schools”. Seems like this a the most obvious example of applying the Benedict Option.

#6 Comment By Judy On January 20, 2018 @ 8:50 am

I was homeschooled and will was held against my will for years after turning 18 by my parents. Not as terrible or abusive as this family, but abusive none of the less. We didn’t see a doctor unless we were extremely sick, and my parent never left the room when we did to make sure I never said anything. I got a good education, but was abused and held captive. My mom made me more or less her slave. I did all the cooking, laundry, and childcare and most of the house work while she homeschooled the others. When I graduated, I then also assisted her in teaching. It was a bad situation. She refused to let me leave the house unless she or specific siblings were with me and I was kept from voting on multiple occasions. This was all based on her religious beliefs that because I was female, I was her property. She talked about selling me. I got out when I was 25 by telling my dad that either he let me get a job or I was joining the military. There does need to be SOMETHING done for kids/adults like me. We aren’t uncommon amongst certain branches of Christianity that homeschool to keep their children completely under their control. They shamelessly teach that.

Also, an adult spouse who is abused has a choice. A child does not. A child that grew up isolated and into captivity to their parents as an adult doesn’t either. Something does need to be done. I am not on any % of homeschooleded abuse chart and most of the kids who grew up and did manage to get away aren’t either. We didn’t know we were being abused so we didn’t report it and now the statute of limitations has run out in my state for me to report it.

#7 Comment By Northmoor On January 20, 2018 @ 9:00 am

“In all honesty, it’s the kind of column that I write from time to time, frankly, motivated by moral outrage over a particular incident. It’s easy to let one’s heart get out ahead of one’s head”.

Yes! – I chuckled when I read that, and am inclined to agree that there is more of moral indignation gravy in Mr. Linker’s article than the graver charge of “ecclesial profiling” that Mr. Jacobs (very persuasively, as always) makes. That said, the inquisitor-profilers are out in force, and this incident will provide fodder.

I’m not sure the bullying comparison is entirely apt, although the comment space is too small a margin to explore this in detail. What happened with this family was completely beyond the pale, as was the personal bullying incident you described (those teachers should have been cashiered). But I also think that some level of what schools are trying to stamp out now with their anti-bullying initiatives is a normal part of growing up – a necessary corrective from the world at large to remind us that we are not always as wonderful as we think. As such, I’d say there is also something of a “safe space” or “nanny state” dynamic here that is not specifically anti-Christian.

Of course, as the state becomes more and more the vehicle for achieving the (non?)-rapturous Progressive-Heaven-on-Earth-That-Is-to-Come, the lines blur. We think we know child abuse when we see it, and yet we have no problems prescribing dangerous hormone therapies for confused adolescents whose psychological conditions have not adequately been assessed.

#8 Comment By No comment On January 20, 2018 @ 11:20 am

Vile comments by Linker. I think the authorities should send inspectors to his place once a year to make sure he isn’t up to anything criminal.

The HSLDA is right: you have to resist all scrutiny by the state because if you give the state an inch, the state will take a mile.

#9 Comment By Ron Chandonia On January 20, 2018 @ 12:36 pm

As a former home-schooling parent, I read this comment with interest:I assume that home-schooling parents already have to provide some evidence that they are actually, you know, schooling the children, meeting basic standards for imparting reading, writing, arithmetic, social studies, hard science. Not true in Georgia. In fact, all I had to do was submit monthly “attendance” records. I could have killed my child and buried the corpse, and the state would never have been the wiser. I think more regulation (including on-site visits) are essential.

#10 Comment By Laura Rimarachin On January 20, 2018 @ 12:37 pm

I was friends with a kid all the way through elementary and high school. In eighth grade, he was a small, friendly kid who desperately wanted to fit in. He would try to make people laugh, always being a clown. I supposed he realized people were laughing at him, not with him. One of our teachers, [name deleted], was an insecure bully. He ridiculed my friend for taking “so long” in the bathroom, accusing him of reading gay porn in there. And he announced that we were shunning my friend. No one was allowed to speak to him, or we’d get detention. I wasn’t going for that. I was outraged. I made a point of speaking with my friend as usual before class started the next day. The teacher walked in an saw us talking. He immediately called me out on it. I told him I was NOT shunning Chris. The teacher
gave me detention, where he tried to convince me that I should shun my friend. (I cried, of course, but did NOT go along with the shunning).
There are terrible abuses of power in schools. I wish I’d had the maturity to go to the principal about it.

In a neighboring town, my friends’ children didn’t use the bathroom all day at school, because the bathrooms are dangerous. They have finally graduated and are free.

There was plenty of bullying in our schools. My brother was small amd was bullied most of his childhood. I was even threatened with violence toward him if I wouldn’t date someone. I dated the creep for a while.

I homeschool my son. I wasn’t being consistent and when he was about to turn 7 and didn’t really know how to read, I looked for more help. He has an online program and we do supplemental lessons on the side. He’s doing really well, now, 87- 100% scores on his exams, and he’s reading much better. Math, social studies, science: he loves it all. My husband and I value the time he gets to spend with us and other adults. I remember walking to school in the dark and getting out of school in the dark, in the winter. I thought it was a terrible waste of my time/life. So little of what I wanted to know was being taught, and my day was spent inside.
With homeschool, we can go outside, we can go to the library, we can go ice skating, we can catch frogs at the pond. We can work and our son can come, and he can do homeschool classes on the tablet. He meets our customers, sees how different people live, learns that people eat, dress, and believe differently. We bake together, we read to him, and he has time to play with trucks and draw. He can spend time with his grandma and he can play the musical instruments we have.

Does he want more time with kids? Yes. Are we working on that? Yes. The biggest challenge is that the other kids don’t have any time. They’re in school, they have homework, then they go have to go bed early.
I don’t see that as a failing of homeschool.

I view public school as a giant babysitting organization which allows parents to work full time. I don’t think it’s better than parents spending time with their children.

I did really appreciate the ceramics, woodshop, small engine repair, CAD, and music theory classes I got to take in school. I do realize that not everyone has the ability to broaden their children’s horizons. I view homeschool as an opportunity for me to expose him to more experiences like those. We see it as including our son in LIFE.

We plan to send him to VO-TECH part-time in high school. And to trade school afterwards. We’ll see what he wants as he matures.

#11 Comment By Ellimist000 On January 20, 2018 @ 1:25 pm

“Except, in this case, someone did intervene and stop it: our own homeschooled children.”

I was homeschooled my whole childhood. Sounds like you’ve done well, Fran! 🙂

#12 Comment By Robert E. On January 20, 2018 @ 2:53 pm

@Judy

Generally, our government moves with an abundance of caution when it comes to child abusing religious sects. We know there are polygamist sects that practice child marriage in the US. We know of sects where religious leaders have their followers turn over their wives and children so they can rape them. We know there are cases of religious slavery.

We don’t do anything out of fear of another Waco debacle or that it will stir up the hornets nest of champions of “religious liberty”.

#13 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 20, 2018 @ 5:51 pm

I call this out as B.S. unless there is proof provided. (Which there won’t be.)

“This was all based on her religious beliefs that because I was female, I was her property. She talked about selling me. I got out when I was 25 by telling my dad that either he let me get a job or I was joining the military. There does need to be SOMETHING done for kids/adults like me. We aren’t uncommon amongst certain branches of Christianity that homeschool to keep their children completely under their control. They shamelessly teach that.”

The great thing about the internet, is anyone can assert anything. And the thing that isn’t great, too.

#14 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 20, 2018 @ 6:05 pm

I am NOT a bald-faced liar:

“Clinton managed to get state authorities so worked up that they legally demanded lists of homeschooling parents from homeschooling associations and placed them on state child abuse watch lists.

“That’s a bald-faced lie, Fran.”

Miami-Dade County, Florida, 1994. We were there and once the requirement was announced, most folks disbanded their formal homeschooling associations, so that names and addresses would not be turned over. This was an awful thing, because by doing this, the state deprived us of a very valuable communal resource.

Once on that list, it justified visits by social workers looking for abuse, as it provided the legal framework to do so. And by public education authorities who were inclined to believe it was abuse.

Just by being associated with homeschooling, your children were now suspected of being at high risk for abuse, by parents disposed to be like that. Parents and homes that did not homeschool were not suspected at all. But we know a neighbor whose children were public schooled, whose parents were psychologically abusive to the point their child became enormously obese, requiring him to eat or be abused. Nothing was ever done by these state authorities so interested in rooting out home schoolers.

What planet have you been on? Public education authorities have been hostile to homeschooling all along, except for some recent changes. Part of that is financially driven, for subsidies of thousands of dollars a year are lost to school budgets for each child not enrolled. Are the unions being honest?

Look at how quickly this aspect is dredged up again by those of liberal interventionist bent. The right to homeschool was won through lengthy and expensive litigation and there’s no way we will consent to go backwards because of these slanders.

You may think me a liar, but by denying these facts, you have made yourself one.

#15 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 20, 2018 @ 6:19 pm

Because some people abuse freedom, it’s necessary to relinquish freedom.

The mantra of our post 9/11 country.

Except in the matters of sex and drugs.

#16 Comment By Alice Paul On January 20, 2018 @ 6:37 pm

I think it was obvious years ago that Mr. Turpin was a little strange.

[5]:

#17 Comment By Anonymous On January 20, 2018 @ 7:33 pm

KD:

This is BS. Some parents abuse or neglect their children. This happens whether or not they home school.

Sending state bureaucrats to check on children in home schooling environments is stupid. Might as well send annual bureaucrats to inspect every parent’s house. . .

I would imagine that this is a nice way for the state to start cracking down on homeschooling and in the future not allowing it.

#18 Comment By Judy On January 21, 2018 @ 11:25 am

Fran

I realized that I can’t prove anything that has happened to me and that I’m just some faceless person on the internet. But your comment hurt. People like you are why it took a very long time for me to start sharing my story and seeking help for the emotional scars that I still carry. I didn’t ask for help while held captive because I didn’t think that any one believed me.

I am not opposed to homeschooling, I plan to homeschool my own children. I am able to look outside of my experiences and see both sides of the debate. One side as a parent and one side as a survivor or abuse. I’m asking you, and everyone else, to do the same.

#19 Comment By Peter On January 21, 2018 @ 12:15 pm

Rod,

Perris (crime scene) is in Riverside County, Not Los Angeles.

Thanks,

A native

#20 Comment By Dale On January 21, 2018 @ 1:01 pm

“Please don’t try to tell me that children can’t choose their parents while marriage is a voluntary arrangement that can be ended by either party. We know from long experience how many people, especially women, remain in profoundly abusive relationships because they fear something worse. As in sexual relations more generally, “consent” is a vexed concept.”

Sure, Jacobs, it may be difficult, but it’s not *that* difficult. Whether or not things get tricky among married adults, they are at least capable of consent/dissent w/r/t being married. Not so for children w/r/t how they are schooled.

I’m not sure, but it seems like conservative, religiously minded journos should feel especially ashamed when they pass off this kind of sophistry. “Oh please, don’t make me think carefully about concepts for more than two seconds.”

#21 Comment By mwing On January 21, 2018 @ 2:49 pm

Fran Macadam says:
“It was difficult to get hostile public university bureaucrats to accept our children.”

I was on a scholarship committee at a public college, and it WAS hard for us to assess homeschooled children (of whom there were very few, as i live in a place where the public schools are generally pretty good.) The scholarships we were awarding often had legally-set (State legislature) requirements about grades/class rank/test scores- pick two out of three, or something. Homeschooled kids had no class rank and not always grades- or at least not necessarily grades measuring their progress in the context of a group of 100s of other children.
It wasn’t bias on our part, and we wouldn’t have even known why a kid was homeschooled, it was just a mismatch. The measurement tools were designed assuming school attendance.
(We DID have a bias, in fact, but it was pro-boys, because boys were underrepresented.)

#22 Comment By Mark VA On January 21, 2018 @ 5:37 pm

Based on my experience with home schooled students, a hybrid system is optimum, especially at high school level. I have a hard time imagining a person capable of teaching and tutoring all high school level courses, at quality levels. Also, a hybrid system has a better chance of identifying the outliers early;

In general, grade school and high school education in the USA is out of sync with the global standards of the “Programme for International Student Assessment” (PISA). This test is administered triennially by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to 15 year olds. In a nutshell, we do poorly, consistently;

If the “education of today is the economy of tomorrow” (or culture of tomorrow), I wonder where we’ll be in 10, 20, or 30 years from now. Global Industry waits on no one, and it uses this test as one of the main criteria for where to invest, and which places to avoid:

[6]

This is what the Global Industry expects our 15 year olds to understand:

[7]

#23 Comment By Donald ( the left leaning one) On January 21, 2018 @ 5:45 pm

I haven’t followed the story and didn’t realize people were using it as a reason for more state monitoring of parents. I agree with you— this sounds like an overreaction based in making vast unfair generalizations. I also agree with Engineer Scotty’s comment—

“I do try to avoid the temptation of extrapolating from such outliers to an entire demographic–part of being a liberal, I guess).”

Of course, not all liberals really follow that principle.

#24 Comment By Violet On January 21, 2018 @ 6:36 pm

Rod, as a public school teacher, may I note in reference to your anecdote about the homeschooled teen boys that can barely read, that in my husband’s 9th grade English class there are some teen boys that can barely read, and when asked to write a paper turn in a half page handwritten and badly spelled, without a single complete sentence. Are these children troubled at home, naturally incapable, or poorly educated? All this to say, testing and public schooling are not necessarily giving better results for some teen boys.

#25 Comment By Mike Garrett On January 21, 2018 @ 6:57 pm

Coeducation is at the heart of American education, and it alone is enough to slowly sink the culture. Throughout the ancient world boys married at nineteen to girls fourteen. In North America today we see the same pattern when we look at divorce statistics. The couples with the lowest rate of divorce are those in which the male is five years older than his wife. When boys in Junior High turn fourteen the voices of many of them have not yet changed; they are still little boys. The girls, on the other hand, are almost all developing breasts and looking like women by the age of fourteen.

Forcing the two sexes into large classrooms with everybody exactly the same age is the fulfilment of a Viking equality fantasy not the achievement of some magical equality. Putting the two sexes together in classes at the same age derives from the application of “self-evident truth” that we are all the same, all equal. The older civilisations applied real knowledge of human life based on hundreds of generations of literate recording. The West bases its equality notions on childish oversimplifications that are ultimately destructive. Coeducational schools in America should be highly praised and supported by the rest of the world, because this year by year holding back capable young men, giving all the attention instead of young women who will never bear children or care for ageing family, this pattern will slowly drive America into the ground.

Around the world you can easily monitor the extent to which countries have abandoned their long-standing traditions in favour of putting women into the trade economy. In places like Pakistan the level of participation of women in politics is a very accurate measure of the capitulation with the Western barbarians. And, when this massive US dollar usury bubble breaks, taking most other currencies with it, survival rates will be lower the more urban and feminised the trade economy. A place like Afghanistan would not even notice if we would let it be.

#26 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 21, 2018 @ 9:48 pm

Except in the matters of sex and drugs.

The ruling class is never more indulgent in giving opiates to the masses than when removing all other freedoms.

I will stipulate that I don’t believe Fran Macadam is a liar, bold faced or otherwise. That she has a bold face is, I think, something she would not deny.

I don’t know that the specific point she made about Hillary Clinton is true, but its very much in character, so until someone offers an empirical account that matches hers, I will tentatively believe it.

I soured on Clinton, more than any other specific influence, when I read in her mistitled book “It Takes a Village” that in the modern world government IS the village it takes to raise a child. Which is a bold faced lie. Government has a legitimate role, but the village it takes is neighbors, uncles, cousins, teachers, coaches, a whole range of people who in some way or another take an interest and expand a child’s horizons beyond what parents alone can do — albeit parents and siblings remain central to the whole process. Government can never replace all those people and roles. It was insidious that she believed it could.

On the other hand, I find this entirely credible too:

We aren’t uncommon amongst certain branches of Christianity that homeschool to keep their children completely under their control.

The fact that it happens does not mean all home schooling should be subjected to detailed, frequent, and intrusive government scrutiny. The fact that many people sincerely and competently provide their children with home schooled education does not mean that certain brands of Christianity do not ever make totalitarian hells out of their offsprings’ childhoods.

#27 Comment By Olga On January 21, 2018 @ 10:22 pm

Most people that homeschool are very involved and loving parents. Of course, we have read reports that some people “claim” to be homeschooling, but are using that to hide abuse.

Having a social worker check-in once a year, to make sure the children are not abused and isolated (easy to determine) and that they are at least keeping up with children in public school (a bit harder to determine) is an easy minimum bar that most homeschoolers I know can meet.

We want involved caring parents to have this choice. However, I just can’t imagine the lives those young adults and older children are going to have being deprived of a proper education and life experience. It is horrifying.

#28 Comment By Jezz Jonas On January 22, 2018 @ 12:16 am

I do not homeschool my children but I am a very strong supporter of it.

An annual test by the education department to monitor the children’s “3R’s” progress seems reasonable. At this time a social worker could speak to the children in case there is abuse they might wish to disclose?

This seems reasonable and a fair balance of the rights of parents and the duty of care to protect children.

#29 Comment By J May On January 22, 2018 @ 2:36 am

I was abused at home and the last thing I wanted was the state to know about it. I would have rather been in a situation where there was some love, even mixed with hatred and chaos, than become the property of a heartless, nameless, impersonal system. I intuitively knew that as a child. Every situation is different, but mine was crazy. And decades later I still am so glad the state never got involved.

The Turpins are an example of where it’s good for the state to get involved, but there are a lot of issues that come with state involvement. Plus, as is pointed out here, there’s the general issue of the state meddling with the lives of non-Turpin-like families (i.e. the other 99.9999999%). Particularly within an individualistic, atomized society that possesses a militant progressive wing.

#30 Comment By J May On January 22, 2018 @ 2:42 am

The Turpins case also reminds me of the Ariel Castro case with the three women he kidnapped and kept as sex slaves for ten years. Should we check the homes of single men every year? Then there’s the other California case from last year with the lesbian couple that kept their kids chained to the floor like animals. Should we check the homes of lesbian couples every year? Or should we rather assume, rightfully so, that these are very, very rare and disturbing cases? (At least I pray that they are very, very rare.)

#31 Comment By John C. On January 22, 2018 @ 9:44 am

I am grateful for the dearth of the laws in my state regarding homeschooling. If our journey has proved nothing else, it has shown abundantly the total inability of state actors to handle this kind of responsibility.
The moment we made the decision to homeschool, our children became the targets of abuse by teachers and administrators. And this at one of the top performing elementary schools in our state.
Till that point, I erroneously believed that the teachers and administrators, being grown adults, had moved beyond the gang mentality they embraced in public school. It was surprising to see nominally mature adults openly prey on elementary school children in an attempt to compel us as parents to get in line.
The social pressure we as parents came under was even more pronounced and totally unanticipated. We were outright shunned by people we thought of as our very closest friends. These were people we went to church with. One man, whose child had grown up with my own said, “My child is only going to play with kids she sees at school everyday.” This person was like a brother to me, his daughter like one of my own. All it took for the façade to shatter, was for us to do something a little different from what he was doing. We basically never spoke again.
The common denominator across these groups was fear of “different”. That fear is why Benedict Option style communities are so important. The connected covenantal community Rod describes in his book is, I believe, a much more effective remedy than the nanny state. Its ethos and objectives are more aligned with helping struggling parents to be more Christ like than finding and punishing offenders of the law.
My wife and I, we believe Home Schooling and the Benedict Option are much more in line with what God is calling us to do than anything the public bureaucracy has to offer.

#32 Comment By Potato On January 22, 2018 @ 10:15 am

Coeducation is at the heart of American education, and it alone is enough to slowly sink the culture.

I regret to inform you that the cat is now out of the bag, if you will, and that we educated Western women decline your invitation to have our daughters married off by the age of 14, to remain barefoot and pregnant for the rest of their (probably short) lives. I hold several graduate degrees, and yet I managed to raise four children who are credits to the community at the same time, so if you don’t think that is possible you are not in touch with reality.

May I recommend that you re-locate to some place like Afghanistan under the Taliban, where women are not allowed to get an education. You will be happier, and more successful, without the competition. My sympathies that you were “held back” by the very presence of women in your classrooms.

#33 Comment By Potato On January 22, 2018 @ 11:03 am

Fran Macadam often (not always) makes sense, but telling Judy that she is lying about the circumstances of her own childhood is way out of line (unless Fran has some evidence we don’t know about, which I seriously doubt).

I’m puzzled by Fran’s comment. I don’t find Judy’s story even slightly incredible, especially in light of the Turpin story. Doubtless Fran would heap scorn on the Turpin story and the Turpin kids too, if it were not exhaustively documented. They’re making the whole thing up, right?

#34 Comment By March Hare On January 22, 2018 @ 3:40 pm

” There is nothing in our constitution that states the government is responsible for educating its citizens. Nothing”

Fortunately for those of us who would like to advance beyond medieval peasantry, most state constitutions DO have this statement. Very clearly in most cases. Such notable commie havens as Kansas, for example, have constitutions that specifically include education.

#35 Comment By JonF On January 22, 2018 @ 4:30 pm

Re: . I would have rather been in a situation where there was some love, even mixed with hatred and chaos

J May, might I suggest a bit carefully here that the above sounds like the logic of women (and occasionally men) who stick with abusive spouses?

#36 Comment By JonF On January 22, 2018 @ 4:33 pm

Re: Throughout the ancient world boys married at nineteen to girls fourteen.

You need to document this. Laws certainly did allow for early marriages (it was 12 and 14, for girls and boys respectively, under medieval canon law), but most people did not marry that young, and in antiquity Plato and Aristotle both recommended that women should not marry, or at least should not have children, until they were at least 20.

#37 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 23, 2018 @ 2:30 am

For familial support to be viable in an era when lifespans were 45 and there was high infant mortality, marriage at 14 was a survival strategy.

#38 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 23, 2018 @ 2:35 am

Why am I not surprised that “Potato” wants Christian parents monitored for “deviancy”?

He/she doesn’t even recognize the reality of what following Christ means.

True Christians would be far better at recognizing deviancy in a society, although their remedy would be entirely volitional, but that is not something those potatoes without eyes to see, would want.

#39 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 23, 2018 @ 2:46 am

In a nation where every electronic communication is recorded, evaluated and tabulated for later use, it is a triviality to make inspections of lives a very ordinary task for those with access to the database.

#40 Comment By Mia On January 23, 2018 @ 7:27 pm

“To be clear, nobody in that hotel room touched my genitals, but they threatened to, and threatened to do so in a humiliating way.”

So what you are actually saying here, Rod, is that you have a #Metoo story. Yes, you were a guy, and your bullies were guys, and nothing sexual happened exactly, but it was still on some level an attempted sexual assault perhaps? Does sexual humiliation fit into the definition of a lower band of that kind of behavior?

Otherwise, thank you for this post. Some days I can hardly stand to listen to people around me talk and go into my tilt mode because they are unable to see what really goes on. They get very offended by anyone who points out alot of this terrible behavior and just gloss over as if it was nothing. I think over the past 20+ years of dealing with it that aspect is the hardest thing to take that just wears you down day after day.

#41 Comment By Mia On January 23, 2018 @ 7:46 pm

Let me add to that comment I just made that I think that even if you didn’t actually experience a rape, there can still be sexual impropriety. Let me use my police brutality case as an example. One thing that happened alot when I was arrested was that I was subjected to strip searches. That’s not rape, but given the situation and bogus case from the start, it adds a dimension of impropriety to an already really ugly situation. A few years later, that same jail was subjected to a successful lawsuit for improper strip searches and forcing inmates to clean their cells naked for no purpose. The inmates in the lawsuit weren’t touched, but it still is troubling behavior on the part of the guards and probably upset the inmates they forced to do it.

#42 Comment By Karen On February 26, 2018 @ 1:12 am

I find it disappointing that so many of the comments refer to “those darn liberals,” as though being liberal means one supports the idea of state inspections of homeschool homes. I just want to throw out there that I am quite liberal in many ways, I homeschool for academic reasons, and I’m totally opposed to this kind of government overreach.

Please resist the urge to polarize this debate along political lines.

#43 Comment By Where Your Children Are On May 18, 2018 @ 3:31 pm

I think it’s important to note that bullying can occur and does occur with alarmingly higher frequency in schools than it does in homeschooling families, and it’s not seen with nearly as much horror and disgust as child abuse in the home. “Kids will be kids,” and “bullying is a part of life” is something thrown around quite a bit, as if protecting our children from it is somehow doing them a disservice. I’m not willing to gamble with my child’s physical and emotional well being.