Help, Government! Stop Me Before I Teach My Children Again

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My poor children. We home-school them.

Oh, how we trample on their rights. They are obviously ignorant of the world; brainwashed – or using today’s buzzword, indoctrinated – to parrot their parents’ intolerant belief system. They possess neither the ability to socialize, nor think for themselves.

Somehow, the government must save them.

A recent article in The Washington Post Magazine speaks to all the problems of home-schooling and the need for, not only more government oversight, but actual intervention when a child does not want to be home-schooled.

This takes a giant leap from “It takes a Village to raise a child” to “The Village will determine how you raise your child.”

The article focuses on two former home-schooled women who now advocate for those children whose rights are being neglected in home-schooled situations.

The second paragraph gets right to the point, stating that one of the women’s goals is …


     … advising young women who have fled their sheltered, fundamentalist Christian

     home-schooling families in search of independence and opportunity.


There you have it. It’s the sheltered, fundamentalist Christians vs. independence and opportunity.

Of course, much depends on how you define these terms – or does this article simply assume extremes? (Spoiler alert:  it does.)

I confess, I shelter my children. Isn’t that my job as a father? I play a role in their protection.

I don’t consider myself a fundamental Christian, but how do you define it? I’m a practicing Catholic – which means I’m headed to Hell, according to some fundamentalists; or a brainless, science-denying fool, according to some secularists.

To summarize, I’m a parent who is serious about his Christian faith and his role in raising his children – despite what trending beliefs come along. Go ahead, apply your labels.

Am I anti-independence? Yes, when you’re talking about children. They are learning to be independent; they are not yet ready for it. 

Am I anti-opportunity? Yes, if you mean the opportunity to learn about “pop-culture touchstones such as … Madonna” (an actual complaint in the article, concerning “alienation”). But no, if you mean the opportunity to be the best person they can be.

The article touches on abuses of homeschooling – confiscating a child’s identification (called a “common parental tactic” in the article) or forcibly restraining children.

Another frightening statistic is presented – 84 home-schooled children have died from abuse or neglect. It does not give a time frame. As alarming as that figure is, the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System estimates that 1,580 children died in the United States from abuse and neglect in 2014 alone. Most were not school-age. Of those who were, there is no distinction of what kind of schooling they received.

Abuse and neglect is not a home-schooling problem. It is a child welfare problem.

Every child has a right to be safe. Who doubts that?

But the “advocates” featured in this article want more than safety, including the …


     … emphasis on the right of home-schooled children to have a greater say

     in their destiny, even when it contradicts their parents’ wishes.


Also mentioned in the Washington Post magazine was an article one of the advocates wrote for the Georgetown Law Journal.


     It asserted that children have a fundamental right to an education and

     that judges should accept petitions from home-schooled youth who want

     to attend public school when doing so would be in their best interest.


If Johnny does not like being home-schooled, he should sue his parents, because a judge will know better.

Where will the Village stop, in determining how to raise my child?

The article describes the upbringing of one of the advocates in dull terms – changing diapers, tutoring siblings, reading, and watching educational videos.

To all of the above, my wife and I plead guilty. Our nine children have always been taught to care for each other, diaper-changing and all. They help each other with school.

They read, a lot.

And part of their history curriculum is listening to lectures on video – they learn, and they learn to take notes in a lecture format.

Plus, a lot of self-learning takes place, in a monitored environment. Isn’t “learning how to learn” an admirable skill? Ask that question to any teacher, whose students only want to be given information, rather than discover it themselves.

Socialization – the biggest concern that people express to us – has not been a problem, not with family, extended family, friends, and out-of-home activities. They learn to converse, especially with adults, with emphasis on the art of listening.

Admittedly, we are not full-bore home-schoolers. We are fortunate to be near a Jesuit Catholic high school that offers a rigorous curriculum and generous financial aid. Our kids “graduate” from the home after eighth grade.

And how have our alienated, sheltered children fared?

Of the nine, four have graduated high school. Our oldest earned his B.A. and is working at a university. The next two, both females – emerged from their oppressive environment to attain master’s degrees, with plans for doctorates. Our fourth is at West Point. Two are in high school, and three are still being indoctrinated – I recently watched a Shakespeare play on DVD with my 9-year-old. She helped me follow the storyline. (And know, before I submitted this story, my 14-year-old gave it a thorough editing.)

Studies show that the prime factor in determining academic success is motivation. And central to that motivation, at least early on, is the encouragement of parents.

Motivated children excel in public school, in private school, and in home-school.

Why are so many children unmotivated? Maybe the Village should be pondering that, instead of disparaging parents who care.


Kevin Thomas is a writer and teacher, living with his wife and children in Standish, Maine.