31 Oct 2010

Get tough on home-schooling to weed out abuse, says UK review

The Guardian - UK June 5, 2009

by Polly Curtis

The government will be advised to crack down on home education to ensure it is not being used as a cover for child abuse or for parents to avoid educating their children at all, in an independent review that has angered families that home-school their children.

The inquiry into home education was ordered by ministers in January to investigate whether home education is used to conceal "child abuse such as neglect, forced marriage, sexual exploitation or domestic servitude".

Sources close to the review have confirmed that its author, the former director of children's services at Kent county council, Graham Badman, is looking "favourably" at proposals that would require parents to register their children with their council when they are born or when they move to a different local authority.

Campaigners claim the move would fundamentally undermine the responsibility that lies with parents to ensure their child is receiving a good education, and allow the state an unprecedented intrusion into family life. The review has sparked a furious row between home-educating families and social services departments in local authorities, which say they need extra powers to prevent the few but serious cases of child abuse.

The government estimates that around 20,000 children are registered with local authorities as receiving home tuition, but the real number could be closer to 50,000 because parents are obligated to inform the authorities only if they withdraw a child from school, not if they have never been to school.

The review, which is due to be published in the next week, is also expected to recommend new guidelines on minimum standards for educating children at home. This would clarify the circumstances under which a local authority can order a child back into school, if it believed the provision at home was not up to scratch.

Jacqui Newvell, a principal officer of the children's charity the National Children's Bureau (NCB), which took part in the review, said: "We need to put children's interests at the heart of this and embed a children's rights agenda instead of a parents' rights agenda. This is a very, very sensitive issue, We know a lot of home educators are doing a great job but our concern is the minority who slip thought the net."

The launch of the inquiry in January, when the children's minister Delyth Morgan warned that in "extreme cases" home education "could be used as a cover for abuse", was widely condemned by campaigners for home education, who said they were unfairly being made the subject of suspicion.

Fiona Nicholson, of support group Education Otherwise, said: "We felt rocks were being thrown at us. We'd had circumspect, polite conversations with ministers and civil servants, and then suddenly we were being accused of child abuse.

"If they introduce a registration system it would completely shift the balance of power. The state is coming into family life and trying to regulate it. It is an extraordinary invasion of the family."

One organisation for families, Action for Home Education (AHEd), has called for the Badman review to be abandoned, saying it has been skewed to favour the evidence provided by local authorities. The public was invited to answer six questions in a survey feeding into the review, but councils were asked to fill in a separate questionnaire with 60 further questions.

In a written submission, the organisation said: "AHEd members believe that the review has been composed in this skewed manner in order to attain predetermined answers for the purpose of supporting the government's desire to impose compulsory registration, monitoring and tracking of electively home-educated children and their families, including state control and prescription of educational method, content and outcome for all children."

Andy Winton, the chair of the National Association of Social Workers in Education, said: "School is a good safety net to protect children. They have access to adults who can detect behaviour and are with children who make them realise what is normal social behaviour. If parents are home-educating, that safety net is not there. We don't think home education is a route to abuse – the majority of it is brilliant – but we think there is an additional risk."

Morgan said: "There have been concerns that some home-educated children are not receiving the education they need, as well as suggestions that in some very extreme, rare cases, home education could be used as a cover for abuse or neglect … I'm sure the vast majority of home-educators are doing a good job, but we want to make sure that the right systems are in place to address quickly any concerns."

This article was found at:



Home school custody battle turns on religious freedom

German family seeks US asylum to homeschool kids


  1. The dark side of home schooling: creating soldiers for the culture war

    The Christian home school subculture isn't a children-first movement. Some former students are bravely speaking out

    by Katherine Stewart, The Guardian UK May 8, 2013

    Several decades ago, political activists on the religious right began to put together an "ideology machine". Home schooling was a big part of the plan. The idea was to breed and "train up" an army of culture warriors. We now are faced with the consequences of their actions, some of which are quite disturbing.

    According to the Department of Education, the home schooling student population doubled in between 1999 and 2007, to 1.5 million students, and there is reason to think the growth has continued. Though families opt to home school for many different reasons, a large part of the growth has come from Christian fundamentalist sects. Children in that first wave are now old enough to talk about their experiences. In many cases, what they have to say is quite alarming.

    When he was growing up in California, Ryan Lee Stollar was a stellar home schooling student. His oratory skills at got him invited to home schooling conferences around the country, where he debated public policy and spread the word about the "virtues" of an authentically Christian home school education.

    Now 28, looking back on his childhood, it all seems like a delusion. As Stollar explains:

    "The Christian home school subculture isn't a children-first movement. It is, for all intents and purposes, an ideology-first movement. There is a massive, well-oiled machine of ideology that is churning out soldiers for the culture war. Home schooling is both the breeding ground – literally, when you consider the Quiverfull concept – and the training ground for this machinery. I say this as someone who was raised in that world."

    Too frequently, Stollar says, the consequences of putting ideology over children include anxiety, depression, distrust of authority, and issues around sexuality. This is evident from the testimonials that appear on Home schoolers Anonymous, the website that Stollar established, along with several partners.

    Stollar's own home schooling experience started off well. But over time, as his family became immersed in the world of Christian home schooling, his "education" became less straightforward and more ideological. "I particularly remember my science curriculum," he says. "We used It Couldn't Just Happen, which wasn't really a science textbook. It was really just an apologetics textbook which taught students cliché refutations of evolutionism."

    Many parents start off home schooling with the intention of inculcating their children in a mainstream form of Christianity. However, as many HA bloggers report, it is easy to get sucked into the vortex of fundamentalist home schooling because extremists have cornered the market – running the conventions, publishing the curricula, setting up the blogs.

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  2. As HA blogger Julie Ann Smith, a Washington state mother of seven, says:

    "If you are the average Christian home schooler with no agenda, and you have the choice between attending a secular home schooling convention and a Christian one, chances are you'll choose the Christian convention. But they only allow certain speakers who follow their agenda. So you have no clue. What you don't realize is that they are being run by Christian Reconstructionists."

    Smith is referring to the Calvinist movement, founded by Rousas John Rushdoony, that advocates a Christian takeover of the political system in order to "purify" the nation and cleanse it of the sin of secularism. Rushdoony taught that public schools – "statist education," in his words – promote chaos, primitivism, and "a vast disintegration into the void". He advocated home schooling as a way to rear a generation that could carry out the mission of retaking the nation for Christ.

    Much of fundamentalist home schooling is driven by deeply sexist and patriarchal ideology. The Quiverfull movement teaches that women need to submit to their husbands and have as many babies as they possibly can. The effects of these ideas on children are devastating, as a glance at HA's blogs show.

    "The story of being home schooled was a story of being told to sit down and shut up. 'An ideal woman is quiet and submissive,' I was told time and time again," writes Phoebe. "The silence and submission I was pushed into was ultimately a place of loneliness, bitterness and almost crippling insecurity."

    The fundamentalist home schooling world also advocates an extraordinarily authoritarian view of the parental role. Corporal punishment is frequently encouraged. The effects are, again, often quite devastating. "People who experienced authoritarian parents tend to turn into adults with poor boundaries," writes one pseudonymous HA blogger. "It's an extremely unsatisfying and unsustainable way to live."

    In America, we often take for granted that parents have an absolute right to decide how their children will be educated, but this leads us to overlook the fact that children have rights, too, and that we as a modern society are obligated to make sure that they get an education. Families should be allowed to pursue sensible homeschooling options, but current arrangements have allowed some families to replace education with fundamentalist indoctrination.

    As the appearance of HA reminds us, the damage done by this kind of false education falls not just on our society as a whole, but on the children who are pumped through the ideology machine. They are the traumatized veterans of our culture wars. We should listen to their stories, and support them as they find their way forward.

    to read the links embedded in this article see:


  3. Escape from Christian Fundamentalism - the Kids Who Flee Abusive, Isolated Christian Homes

    They were raised to carry the fundamentalist banner forward and redeem America. But now their Generation is rebelling.

    By Kathryn Joyce December 6, 2013 The following story first appeared on the American Prospect.

    At 10 P.M.on a Sunday night in May, Lauren and John,* a young couple in the Washington, D.C., area, started an emergency 14-hour drive to the state where Lauren grew up in a strict fundamentalist household. Earlier that day, Lauren’s younger sister, Jennifer, who had recently graduated from homeschooling high school, had called her in tears: “I need you to get me out of this place.” The day, Jennifer said, had started with another fight with her parents, after she declined to sing hymns in church. Her slight speech impediment made her self-conscious about singing in public, but to her parents, her refusal to sing or recite scripture was more evidence that she wasn’t saved. It didn’t help that she was a vegan animal-rights enthusiast.

    After the family returned home from church, Jennifer’s parents discovered that she had recently been posting about animal rights on Facebook, which they had forbidden. They took away Jennifer’s graduation presents and computer, she told Lauren. More disturbing, they said that if she didn’t eat meat for dinner she’d wake up to find one of the pets she babied gone.

    To most people, it would have sounded like overreaction to innocuous forms of teenage rebellion. But Lauren, who’d cut ties with her family the previous year, knew it was more. The sisters grew up, with two brothers, in a family that was almost completely isolated, they say, held captive by their mother’s extreme anxiety and explosive anger. “I was basically raised by someone with a mental disorder and told you have to obey her or God’s going to send you to hell,” Lauren says. “Her anxiety disorder meant that she had to control every little thing, and homeschooling and her religious beliefs gave her the justification for it.”

    It hadn’t started that way. Her parents began homeschooling Lauren when she struggled to learn to read in the first grade. They were Christians, but not devout. Soon, though, the choice to homeschool morphed into rigid fundamentalism. The sisters were forbidden to wear clothes that might “shame” their father or brothers. Disobedience wasn’t just bad behavior but a sin against God. Both parents spanked the children with a belt. Her mother, Jennifer says, hit her for small things, like dawdling while trying on clothes.

    The family’s isolation made it worse. The children couldn’t date—that was a given—but they also weren’t allowed to develop friendships. Between ages 10 and 12, Lauren says she only got to see friends once a week at Sunday school, increasing to twice a week in her teens when her parents let her participate in mock trial, a popular activity for Christian homeschoolers. Their parents wanted them naïve and sheltered, Lauren says: “18 going on 12.”

    Mixed with the control was a lack of academic supervision. Lauren says she didn’t have a teacher after she was 11; her parents handed her textbooks at the start of a semester and checked her work a few months later. She graded herself, she says, and rarely wrote papers. Nevertheless, Lauren was offered a full-ride scholarship to Patrick Henry College in Virginia, which was founded in 2000 as a destination for fundamentalist homeschoolers. At first her parents refused to let her matriculate, insisting that she spend another year with the family. During that year, Lauren got her first job, but her parents limited the number of hours she could work.

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  4. Even conservative Patrick Henry felt like a bright new reality. While much about the college confirmed the worldview Lauren grew up in, small freedoms like going out for an unplanned coffee came as a revelation. She describes it as “a sudden sense of being able to say yes to things, when your entire life is no.”

    Family ties began to fray after she met John, a fellow student who’d had a more positive homeschooling experience growing up; he took her swing dancing and taught her how to order at Starbucks, and they fell in love. Her parents tried to break the couple up—at one point even asking the college to expel Lauren or take away her scholarship for disobeying them. Their efforts backfired; soon after her graduation, Lauren married John and entered law school.

    For Jennifer, matters grew worse in the six years after Lauren left home. She rarely went out on her own except to walk the dog or attend a co-op class taught by other homeschooling parents. When she would ask to go to a friend’s house, she says, her mother would begin to cry; after a while, Jennifer stopped asking. She never had a key to the house. Tensions escalated after she went vegan. Animal-rights activists were communists and terrorists, her parents told her, and the Bible said she should eat meat.

    By the time Jennifer made her call in May, Lauren and John had discussed that she might eventually have to come live with them. Jennifer wasn’t often able to phone her older sister, because their parents closely monitored cell use. But Jennifer kept a secret e-mail account, which she used to write to Lauren. After the fight that Sunday, she hid her phone as her parents were confiscating her computer, then sneaked an SOS call. Lauren phoned around their hometown, trying to find family friends to take in Jennifer and her pets. She asked the family pastor to check on her sister. But the friends seemed scared to intervene, and the pastor refused, saying he didn’t believe Lauren because she was estranged from her parents. So the couple started driving, switching off through the night, to meet Jennifer after her co-op class the next day. “I wasn’t even sure she still had the resolve to go through with it,” Lauren says, “but we thought, even if she doesn’t want to leave, she still needs to know that her big sister is going to drive 14 hours for her if it gets to that point.”

    Jennifer was ready, though. The plan was to gather her things while their mother was out shopping and their father was at work. Instead, their mother pulled into the driveway while the sisters were loading Jennifer’s dog into the car. As their mother lunged for Jennifer, Lauren says she tried to stop her by grabbing her in a bear hug. Her mother wrestled free, slapped Lauren hard in the face, screaming that she was trying to kidnap Jennifer and destroy the family. She pulled the dog away from the girls so hard that Jennifer feared he would choke. Lauren called the police, and her mother summoned her father home.

    “I was so scared I had a hard time breathing,” Jennifer says. Her father told police that John had brainwashed Lauren and that Jennifer had “the mind of a 12-year-old” and was too immature to be trusted. Because she was an adult, however, the police allowed her to leave—but only with some clothes and toiletries, which she piled into trash bags as her father trailed her through the house, yelling. The rest of Jennifer’s stuff-—her computer and her pets—had to be left behind, since she had no proof of ownership to show the officers.

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  5. On the long ride back, Lauren and Jennifer were stunned by what they’d done. They tried to think about pragmatics: What now? How would they handle college applications without parental involvement or get Jennifer insured or find her a job? Lauren called extended family members, trying to stay ahead of the story their parents would tell. She and Jennifer didn’t want to lose everybody. “I was on the phone for hours,” she says, trying to explain to relatives who hadn’t witnessed the family’s abusive dynamics and had a hard time believing her—especially after years of hearing how Lauren had been corrupted by her husband and turned her back on her family.

    “Children in these situations are taught that if you talk badly about your parents, that’s a sin, and you’re going to hell,” Lauren says. “So when they finally get the courage and determination to say something, no one believes them, because they didn’t say anything all those years. You end up having to find an entirely new support network of people who actually believe you.”

    In Washington, that new support network immediately kicked in. Through an informal group of young women who broke away from fundamentalist families, Lauren had become friends with Hännah Ettinger, who writes “Wine & Marble,” a blog about transitioning out of fundamentalist culture. When Lauren told her the story of Jennifer’s rescue, Ettinger posted a brief account. She asked readers to chip in to defray Jennifer’s costs of starting over: buying a computer, acquiring normal clothes, applying for community college. Within the first day, the blog’s readers donated almost $500. Then a new website, run by another former homeschooler, linked to Ettinger’s appeal, and within a few days, close to $11,000 had been donated.

    It was a surprise, but it was hardly a fluke. Jennifer’s rescue coincided with the emergence of a coalition of young former fundamentalists who are coming out publicly, telling their stories, and challenging the Christian homeschooling movement. The website that linked to Jennifer’s story wasHomeschoolers Anonymous, launched in March by two homeschool graduates, Ryan Stollar and Nicholas Ducote. Their goal was to show what goes on behind closed doors in some Christian homeschooling families—to share, as one blogger puts it, “the stories we were never allowed to talk about as children.”

    As of October, Homeschoolers Anonymous had published nearly 200 personal accounts and attracted more than 600,000 page views. For those outside the homeschooling movement, and for many inside it, the stories are revelatory and often shocking. The milder ones detail the haphazard education received from parents who, with little state oversight, prioritize obedience and religious training over learning. Some focus on women living under strict patriarchal regimes. Others chronicle appalling abuse that lasted for years.

    They want to show what goes on behind closed doors in some Christian homeschooling families, to share "the stories we were never allowed to talk about as children."

    Growing up in California and Oregon, Stollar wasn’t abused, but he met many other homeschoolers who were. His parents led state homeschooling associations and started a debate club in San Jose. The emphasis on debate in fundamentalist homeschooling was the brainchild of Michael Farris, the founder of Patrick Henry College, and his daughter Christy Shipe. Farris believed debate competitions would create a new generation of culture warriors with the skills to “engage the culture for Christ.” “You teach the kids what to think, you keep them isolated from everyone else, you give them the right answers, and you keep them pure,” Stollar explains. “And now you train them how to argue and speak publicly, so they can go out to do what they’re supposed to do”—spread the faith and promote God’s patriarchy.

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  6. As a teenager, Stollar toured the national homeschool debate circuit with a group called Communicators for Christ, sharpening his rhetorical skills and giving speech tutorials. Along the way, he found himself increasingly disturbed by what he saw. He met families that follow the concept of “Quiverfull,” wherein women are submissive to men and forgo contraception to have as many children as God gives them. He encountered entire communities where women wore only denim jumpers for modesty’s sake, where parents burned their daughters’ birth certificates to keep them at home, where teenagers practiced “betrothal,” a kind of arranged marriage. He met homeschooling kids who dealt with the stress by cutting themselves, drinking, or developing eating disorders—the very terrors their parents had fled the public schools to avoid. “Even as a conservative Christian homeschooler,” Stollar says, “I was constantly experiencing culture shock.”

    A decade later, Stollar, who lives in Los Angeles, was still hearing the stories from his peers. The ex-debaters and homeschoolers were now grappling with the fallout from their childhoods: depression, mental illness, substance abuse. “I was starting to see these patterns emerging,” he says, “and we all felt that they came from the same places.” Homeschoolers Anonymous was inspired by a woman who fled her Quiverfull parents and published an essay online, appealing for financial aid so she could go to college and then establish a safe house for refugees like herself. When her appeal went viral, Stollar and his friends decided to create an outlet for more such stories. Around 40 homeschooling alumni planned the site together on a secret Facebook group.

    The timing was propitious. For several years, mothers and daughters who had escaped from Quiverfull families had blogged about their experiences and organized to help others get out on sites like No Longer Quivering. “Survivor” blogs written by former fundamentalists were also proliferating online. The bloggers doubtless inspired one another, but an additional factor was at work: Children from the first great wave of Christian homeschooling, in the 1980s and 1990s, were coming of age, and many were questioning the way they were raised.

    Homeschooling leaders had dubbed them the “Joshua Generation.” Just as Joshua completed Moses’s mission by slaughtering the inhabitants of the Promised Land, “GenJ” would carry the fundamentalist banner forward and redeem America as a Christian nation. But now, instead, the children were revolting.


    Homeschooling didn’t begin as a fundamentalist movement. In the 1960s, liberal author and educator John Holt advocated a child-directed form of learning that became “unschooling”—homeschooling without a fixed curriculum. The concept was picked up in the 1970s by education researcher Raymond Moore, a Seventh-Day Adventist, who argued that schooling children too early—before fourth grade—was developmentally harmful. Moore’s message came at a time when many conservative Christians were looking for alternatives to public schools.

    Moore’s work reached a massive audience when Focus on the Family founder and Christian parenting icon James Dobson invited him onto his radio show for the first time in 1982. Dobson would become the most persuasive champion of homeschooling, encouraging followers to withdraw their children from public schools to escape a “godless and immoral curriculum.” For conservative Christian parents, endorsements didn’t come any stronger than that.

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  7. Over the next two decades, homeschooling boomed. Today, perhaps as many as two million children are homeschooled. (An accurate count is difficult to conduct, because many homeschoolers are not required to register with their states.) Homeschooling families come from varied backgrounds—there are secular liberals as well as Christians, along with an increasing number of Muslims and African Americans—but researchers estimate that between two-thirds and three-fourths are fundamentalists.

    Among Moore and Dobson’s listeners during that landmark broadcast was a pair of young lawyers, Michael Farris and Michael Smith, who the following year would found the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). With Moore’s imprimatur and Dobson’s backing, Farris and Smith started out defending homeschooling families at a time when the practice was effectively illegal in 30 states. As Christians withdrew their children from public school, often without requesting permission, truancy charges resulted. The HSLDA used them as test cases, challenging school districts and state laws in court while lobbying state legislators to establish a legal right to homeschool. By 1993, just ten years after the association’s founding, homeschooling was legal in all 50 states.

    What many lawmakers and parents failed to recognize were the extremist roots of fundamentalist homeschooling. The movement’s other patriarch was R.J. Rushdoony, founder of the radical theology of Christian Reconstructionism, which aims to turn the United States into an Old Testament theocracy, complete with stonings for children who strike their parents. Rushdoony, who argued that democracy was “heresy” and Southern slavery was “benevolent,” was too extreme for most conservative Christians, but he inspired a generation of religious-right leaders including Dobson, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson. He also provided expert testimony in early cases brought by the HSLDA. Rushdoony saw homeschooling as not just providing the biblical model for education but also a way to bleed the secular state dry.

    With support from national leaders, Christian homeschoolers established state-level groups across the country and took over the infrastructure of the movement. Today, when parents indicate an interest in homeschooling, they find themselves on the mailing lists of fundamentalist catalogs. When they go to state homeschooling conventions to browse curriculum options, they hear keynote speeches about biblical gender roles and creationism and find that textbooks are sold alongside ideological manifestos on modest dressing, proper Christian “courtship,” and the concept of “stay-at-home daughters” who forsake college to remain with their families until marriage.

    HSLDA is now one of the most powerful Christian-right groups in the country, with nearly 85,000 dues-paying members who send annual checks of $120. The group publicizes a steady stream of stories about persecuted homeschoolers and distributes tip sheets about what to do if social workers come knocking. Thanks to the group’s lawsuits and lobbying, though, that doesn’t happen often. Homeschooling now exists in a virtual legal void; parents have near-total authority over what their children learn and how they are disciplined. Not only are parents in 26 states not required to have their children tested but in 11 states, they don’t have to inform local schools when they’re withdrawing them. The states that require testing and registration often offer religious exemptions.

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  8. The emphasis on discipline has given rise to a cottage industry promoting harsh parenting techniques as godly. Books like To Train Up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl promise that parents can snuff out rebellious behavior with a spanking regimen that starts when infants are a few months old. The Pearls claim to have sold nearly 700,000 copies of their book, most through bulk orders from church and homeschooling groups. The combination of those disciplinary techniques with unregulated homeschooling has spawned a growing number of horror stories now being circulated by the ex-homeschoolers—including that of Calista Springer, a 16-year-old in Michigan who died in a house fire while tied to her bed after her parents removed her from public school, or Hana Williams, an Ethiopian adoptee whose Washington state parents were convicted in September of killing her with starvation and abuse in a Pearl-style system. Materials from HSLDA were found in the home of Williams’s parents.

    Homeschooling leaders argue that child abuse is no more prevalent in homeschooling families than in those that enroll their kids in public school, and they push back against even modest attempts at oversight. In 2013, HSLDA lobbied against a proposed Pennsylvania bill that would have required a short period of oversight for parents who decide to homeschool and already have substantiated abuse claims against them—in essence defending the right of abusive parents to homeschool without supervision. The group is currently challenging state laws that allow anonymous tips to Child Protective Services to be grounds for investigating parents. In June, the HSLDA–authored Parental Rights Amendment was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives with 64 co-sponsors. The amendment would enshrine in the Constitution parents’ “fundamental right” to direct their child’s upbringing however they see fit, free of state interference.

    To the parents and the movement that brought them up, the ex-homeschoolers know they must seem not just disappointing but unfathomable. Their parents believed they had a recipe for raising kids who would never rebel and would faithfully perpetuate their parents’ values into future generations. But the ex-homeschoolers say that it was being trained as world-changers that led them to question what they were taught—and ultimately led them to leave.

    “I grew up hearing that we were the Joshua Generation,” says Rachel Coleman, a 26-year-old leader in the ex-homeschooler movement. “We were the shock troops, the best trained and equipped, the ones who were to make a difference in the fight—a fight between God and Satan for the soul of America.” Coleman, who co-founded the watchdog site Homeschooling’s Invisible Children, is writing a doctoral dissertation at Indiana University about children and the rise of the Christian right in the 1970s and 1980s. Her parents, she says, told her and her 11 siblings that they hadn’t become missionaries themselves because “they’re raising up the 12 of us to go be pastors, missionaries, and politicians. They’re changing the world through these kids.”
    When he addresses incoming students at Patrick Henry, Michael Farris likes to dream aloud of the day when the president of the United States and the Oscar winner for best picture are homeschooling graduates who roomed together at the college. That would be a sign that fundamentalist homeschooling was, in the movement’s lingo, “winning the culture.” Youth civics ministries like TeenPact, which hosts training camps for homeschoolers to mingle with lobbyists and write sample legislation, encourage homeschoolers to “change America for Christ.” HSLDA’s youth-activism group, Generation Joshua, works on voter-registration drives, lobbies at state legislatures, and door-knocks for conservative candidates. As Farris told The New York Times, “If we put enough kids in the farm system, some may get to the major leagues.”

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  9. For Ryan Stollar and many other ex-homeschoolers, debate club changed everything. The lessons in critical thinking, he says, undermined Farris’s dream of creating thousands of eloquent new advocates for the homeschooling cause. “You can’t do debate unless you teach people how to look at different sides of an issue, to research all the different arguments that could be made for and against something,” Stollar says. “And so all of a sudden, debate as a way to create culture-war soldiers backfires. They go into this being well trained, they start questioning something neutral like energy policy, but it doesn’t stop there. They start questioning everything.”

    Many women leaders in the ex-homeschool movement had fewer opportunities than men to join debate clubs or political groups like Generation Joshua. They developed their organizing skills in a different way, by finding power in the competence they gained as “junior moms” to large families. “All of these girls who are the oldest of eight, nine, ten children—we are organizational geniuses,” says Sarah Hunt, a Washington, D.C. attorney who grew up the oldest of nine in a strict fundamentalist family. “We know how to get things done. We know how to influence people. Put any of us in a room with other people for 45 minutes, and they’re all working for us. That’s just what we do.”

    Like other homeschooling daughters, Coleman assumed outsize responsibility as a teenager not only for household chores but for teaching and disciplining her younger siblings. Her initially mainstream evangelical parents moved right as they homeschooled, adopting ideas like young-earth creationism and patriarchal rights. They made it clear that Coleman, like their other daughters, was to stay under her father’s authority until she married a man of whom he approved. Her parents became activists, too, joining the steering committee of their local homeschooling group. Coleman’s mother was charged with sending out the “welcome packet” to new homeschooling families, suggesting reading materials and movement magazines. When other mothers came to watch her homeschool, she’d give them a copy of To Train Up a Child.

    Like most homeschoolers, Coleman believed that her family was an anomaly. But in 2009—after she’d gone to college, married, and broken away—she came across No Longer Quivering. The site was aimed at Quiverfull mothers, but it had already sparked a number of “daughter blogs.” For Coleman, it was the first time she’d seen people critically discussing the kind of culture in which she’d grown up. “You were discouraged from saying anything negative about homeschooling,” she says. “You were never allowed to speak really, truly honestly, and even if you did, your own sphere of what you’ve seen is so limited that you can’t speak outside of that.” Soon Coleman was connecting with other Quiverfull exiles and working to inspire young women to, as she puts it, “pick freedom.”

    When they reject the certainties they were raised with, they leave behind an all-encompassing world: not only families and faith but the moral code that guided all their choices.

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  10. Thanks largely to sites like No Longer Quivering and Homeschoolers Anonymous, a critical mass of homeschoolers and Quiverfull daughters now know that their families aren’t unique and that they aren’t alone in questioning the certainties with which they were raised. But when they take the next step and reject those certainties, they leave behind an all-encompassing culture: not only their families and their faith but the black-and-white moral code that guided all their choices. “When you’re raised in this lifestyle,” says Elizabeth Esther, author of a forthcoming memoir about leaving fundamentalism, Girl at the End of the World, “everything from politics and religion to your tone of voice, the clothing you wear, even how you open and shut doors—everything is based on doing it in a manner that was pleasing to God.

    “I had never really lived in the real world. I didn’t understand how Americans thought. All my language was religious language. I didn’t know how to interact with people without trying to convert them. I had a lot of really discouraging experiences where I realized that you could leave fundamentalism, but at the end of the day fundamentalism was still inside of me.”

    Nothing easily fills the void. Esther found pop culture vapid and alienating and atheism bleak, a common experience for former fundamentalists. But when she tried going to different evangelical churches, she suffered panic attacks; it was too familiar and seemed to confirm her greatest fear: “I truly believed that leaving my family was tantamount to leaving God.” Esther ultimately found a home in Catholicism, which to her was appealingly mysterious and impersonal, a more comfortable way to practice her faith. But she still struggles with the perplexing transition from her family to the mainstream.

    The closest parallel to transitioning from strict fundamentalist families to mainstream society may be an immigrant experience: acclimating to a new country with inexplicable customs and an unfamiliar language. “Mainstream American culture is not my culture,” says Heather Doney, who co-founded Homeschooling’s Invisible Children with Coleman. Doney, who grew up in an impoverished Quiverfull family in New Orleans, felt for years that she was living “between worlds,” never sure if her words or behavior were appropriate for her old life or her new one. She didn’t understand what topics of discussion were considered off-limits or when staring at someone might be disconcerting. She couldn’t make small talk, wore “oddly mismatched clothes,” and was lost amid pop-culture references to the Muppets or The Breakfast Club. When public-school friends talked about oral sex, she thought they meant French-kissing.

    More than a decade later, Doney still finds herself resorting to a standard joke—“Sorry, I live under a rock”—when people are taken aback by her. “It’s a lot easier to say that,” she says, “than to explain that I was raised hearing that you’d be allowing demonic influences into your house if you watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I feel like an expat from a subculture that I can never go home to, living in one that is still not fully mine.”

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  11. In the past, those who left Quiverfull and homeschooling families had to look for help through an informal grapevine of survivors. Now the young rebels are using their organizing skills to build a full-scale online network. They share stories and connect on sites like Homeschoolers Anonymous and No Longer Quivering. They strategize about how to combat the homeschooling establishment on the Protect Homeschooled Children Working Group; offer practical and moral support through the Quiverfull Sorority of Survivors; and collect data on abuse cases at Homeschooling’s Invisible Children. Through a group provisionally called Ruthslist, they’re organizing safe houses and compiling a “Quiverfull daughter escape guide.” They’re finding a new sense of purpose to replace the one they were once assigned by their parents, always motivated—sometimes haunted—by the thought of the siblings left back home and the old friends who are “still in.”

    In May, two months after the launch of Homeschoolers Anonymous, the ex-homeschoolers declared their first social-media war. Homeschool alumni converged on the Facebook page of the Home School Legal Defense Association, challenging what they see as the group’s record of defending abusive parents, covering up evidence of abuse, and lobbying for laws that remove state oversight of children’s education and well-being. A lengthy back-and-forth ensued as homeschool parents clashed with homeschool graduates. The debate has begun to shake the foundations of fundamentalist homeschooling.

    Some homeschooling leaders have reacted just as the ex-homeschoolers expected—by suggesting that parents further tighten the reins. Kevin Swanson of the Christian Home Educators of Colorado warned listeners of his podcast, Generations with Vision, about “apostate homeschoolers” who were organizing online. Swanson, who helped bring debate clubs to Colorado, said he’d seen a “significant majority” of debate alumni turn out wrong, becoming “prima donnas” and “big shots.” “I’m not saying it’s wrong to do speech/debate,” Swanson told his listeners, “but I will say that some of the speech/debate can encourage sort of this proud, arrogant approach and an autonomous approach to philosophy—that truth is relative.”

    For the ex-homeschoolers, defensive reactions are better than no reaction. They were surprised, however, when for the first time, the HSLDA felt forced to respond. In July, the organization posted a new page about homeschooling and abuse on its website, complete with instructions on how to report suspected child abuse. It was an imperfect set of guidelines, suggesting observers address behaviors with parents before reporting them. But it was a sign of how seriously the homeschooling establishment is taking the upstart challenge. Another sign: In October, HSLDA President Michael Smith contacted Rachel Coleman to request a meeting to discuss the ex-homeschoolers’ concerns.

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  12. Darren Jones, a staff attorney for HSLDA, declined a telephone interview for this story but responded by e-mail. The stories of abuse shared on Homeschoolers Anonymous dismay and sicken him, Jones wrote, but need to be seen in a broader perspective. “Some of the grievances I am reading now against homeschooling seem to be merely differences of philosophy in child-rearing,” he wrote, “similar to the reactions that young adults in the 1960s had against their ‘square’ and too-conservative parents. But I don’t say that to discount actual abuse. I have read some of the stories of abuse and neglect from homeschool graduates. These people really suffered, and their stories turn my stomach. I have nothing but sympathy for them—and anger toward those who abused them.”

    Still, Jones expressed the HSLDA’s long-held position that abuse cases are too rare to warrant new regulation. “Although abuse does exist in the homeschooling community,” he wrote, “we believe that statistics show that it is much less prevalent than in society at large. This is one of the reasons that we have always opposed, and continue to oppose, expansion of monitoring of homeschoolers.”

    Willie Deutsch, a Patrick Henry graduate who worked on HSLDA’s Parental Rights Amendment campaign, says the leadership is far more worried about the resistance than Jones acknowledges. “When you’re focused on protecting the right to homeschool,” he says, “it takes a while for it to get on their radar, but I think it’s getting on.” There’s a growing sense among HSLDA staffers, he says, that “if people don’t wake up to the problem and continue to double down and defend the movement, we could be in for a lot of trouble down the road. It will be a general black eye.”

    As their movement spreads, the ex-homeschoolers are developing a reform agenda. Members are teaming on state-by-state research assessments of homeschooling policy, drafting policy papers, and grading the states on how well they protect homeschooled children. Participants jump in with their own expertise: Coleman’s academic research, Lauren’s legal skills, Doney’s and Ryan Stollar’s writing and editing skills. The ultimate goal is to build a lobbying counterforce to the HSLDA, challenging its message of parental rights and religious freedom with a voice that has long been absent from discussions of homeschooling: that of children.

    When she was growing up, Elizabeth Esther remembers wondering, “Does anyone know what’s happening to us, does anyone care?” The question, she says, filled her with a tremendous loneliness that she can sense in the other exiles she’s met—and in those who haven’t made it out. “I know there are young women and men who, even if they can’t tell me, are depending on us to tell the stories, until they get free.”

    Kathryn Joyce is the author of Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement (Beacon, 2009).


  13. Barely Literate? How Christian Fundamentalist Homeschooling Hurts Kids

    The Religious Right touts homeschooling as the "responsible" educational choice. But what about the kids whose parents opt-out of the system -- and out of educating them, as well?

    By Kristin Rawls, AlterNet September 3, 2014

    Kristin Rawls is a freelance writer whose work has also appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, GOOD Magazine, Religion Dispatches, Killing the Buddha, Global Comment and elsewhere online.

    My interest in homeschooling was first sparked nearly 20 years ago, when I was a socially awkward adolescent with a chaotic family life. I became close to a conservative Christian homeschooling family that seemed perfect in every way. Through my connection to this family, I was introduced to a whole world of conservative Christian homeschoolers, some of whom we would now consider “Quiverfull” families: homeschooling conservatives who eschew any form of family planning and choose instead to “trust God” with matters related to procreation.

    Though I fell out of touch with my homeschooled friends as we grew older, a few years ago, I reconnected with a few ex-Quiverfull peers on a new support blog called No Longer Quivering. Poring over their stories, I was shocked to find so many tales of gross educational neglect. I don’t merely mean that they had received what I now view as an overly politicized education with huge gaps, for example, in American history, evolution or sexuality. Rather, what disturbed me were the many stories about homeschoolers who were barely literate when they graduated, or whose math and science education had never extended much past middle school.

    Take Vyckie Garrison, an ex-Quiverfull mother of seven who, in 2008, enrolled her six school-age children in public school after 18 years of teaching them at home. Garrison, who started the No Longer Quivering blog, says her near-constant pregnancies – which tended to result either in miscarriages or life-threatening deliveries – took a toll on her body and depleted her energy. She wasn’t able to devote enough time and energy to homeschooling to ensure a quality education for each child. And she says the lack of regulation in Nebraska, where the family lived, “allowed us to get away with some really shoddy homeschooling for a lot of years.”

    “I’ll admit it,” she confesses. “Because I was so overwhelmed with my life… It was a real struggle to do the basics, so it didn’t take long for my kids to fall far behind. One of my daughters could not read at 11 years old.”

    At the time, Garrison was taking parenting advice from Quiverfull leaders who deemphasized academic achievement in favor of family values. She remembers one Quiverfull leader saying, “If they can do mathematics perfectly but they have no morals, you have failed them.”

    The implication, she says, was that, “if they’re not doing so well academically, well, then they can catch up on that later. It’s not such a big deal. It was a really convenient way of thinking for me because I wasn’t able to keep up anyway.” This kind of rhetoric, Garrison notes, provided a “high-minded justification for educational neglect. I would not have gotten away with that if I’d had to get my kids tested every year.”

    Over time, Garrison lost faith in her fundamentalist ideology and became aware that her children’s education was being neglected. Eventually all but one of her six younger children ended up entering and excelling in the public school system.

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  14. Why did she stick with homeschooling for so long, despite her difficulties? “We were convinced that it would be better for our kids not to have an education than to be educated to become humanists or atheists and to reject God,” Garrison says. “We became so isolated because the Quiverfull lifestyle was so overwhelming we didn’t have time or energy for socialization. So the only people we knew were exactly like us. We were told that the whole point of public school was to dumb down the children and turn them into compliant workers – to brainwash them and indoctrinate them into this godless way of thinking.”

    Garrison believes that homeschooling has become so popular with fundamentalist Christians because, “there is an atmosphere of real terror among some evangelicals. They are horrified by the fact that Obama is president, and they see the New Atheist movement as a vocal, in-your-face threat. Plus, they are obsessed with the End Times, and believe that the Apocalypse could happen any day now...They see a demon on every corner.

    “We homeschooled because we wanted to protect our children from what we viewed as the total secularization of America. We listened to people like Rush Limbaugh, who told us that America was in the clutches of evil liberal feminist atheists.”

    Just how common are stories like Vyckie Garrison’s? Unfortunately, it’s hard to know. The federal government only maintains very broad demographic statistics about homeschoolers in this country; federal data only keeps track of what kinds of people are homeschooling and why. You can find plenty of information about homeschoolers according to race, family income or highest education obtained by the parents. But as regards neglect related to homeschooling? The government cannot tell you -- and there is no systematic state-by-state record of the percentage of truancy convictions (possibly the best measure of educational neglect at present) that involve homeschooling families versus those involving enrolled students and/or their parents.

    Capturing that kind of data is essential to understanding the scope of this problem, but getting real numbers will always be complicated by the fact that many homeschooling families choose not to comply with the law by submitting to state homeschool regulations, or even report their homeschool activity to the state. While it’s possible that some forget, others intentionally fail to report because they fear too much government intervention in their lives. For many conservative Christians, this is a key aspect of their decision not to report.

    Given the scarcity of numbers on this issue, the best one can hope for at this point is anecdotal information about the problem. But because homeschooling is such a highly politicized issue, it is often difficult to get a clear sense of what is happening from homeschooling parents themselves. And because many parents see themselves as advocates of homeschooling, they are not always very eager to discuss potential gaps in homeschooling education.

    Luckily, more than a few adult homeschool graduates are eager to talk. And as I talk to more and more people who recount first-person stories of homeschool-related neglect, it becomes hard to write off what homeschool advocates would call “exceptions” simply as fringe outliers.

    Erika Diegel Martin’s story is particularly haunting. A homeschooling graduate of the mid-1990s, and an ex-Quiverfull daughter I have known for many years, Diegel Martin was pulled out of public school at 14. Because she was old enough to remember several years of public schooling, she says she never really believed her parents’ dire warnings about it. Her younger brothers were another story. “When the school bus would come by, my youngest brother would go, ‘There goes the prison bus.’ Our parents had them believing that public schools were these horrible places, just dens of iniquity.”

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  15. The narrative about public schools, she says, went something like this: “How would you like to get stuck in a building with no light – and secular, godless, atheist teachers for seven hours of the day without even being able to see your parents or go out to play?” As a result, she says, “My brothers were terrified of the public schools.”

    Like Garrison, Diegel Martin recounts notable educational gaps in her own family, where there was little academic encouragement. One of her brothers decided to quit school at 16 and faced no parental opposition. The youngest, Diegel Martin says, ceased his formal education at the age of 12, when she left home and was no longer available to teach him herself. And though she was fortunate enough to receive sex education before leaving public school, her siblings were not so lucky. Their parents never taught the three other children about sex, and Diegel Martin remembers giving her 21-year-old sister “the talk” the week before she got married. She also had to intervene to ensure that her younger brothers learned about sex.

    As for herself, when she completed her schooling, she says her parents did not allow her to obtain her GED as proof of high school graduation. Their reason? “The girls weren’t allowed to get a GED because we were told we wouldn’t need it. It would open up opportunities that were forbidden to us. We would work in the family business until we got married, and then become homemakers.

    “When I talked about wanting to go to college, my parents said, ‘Well, you’re a girl. You don’t go to college.’”

    Melinda Palmer, 29, is another homeschool graduate who is forthcoming about the problems she encountered as a homeschooled child. She had no experience of public education, and quickly came to fear it. Her father cast the local school as a corrupt example of the dangerous world outside the home. The family’s isolationism created an environment in which everyone was so terrified of the outside they saw no choice but to submit to her father’s abusive rule for many years. She says they had come to believe that the tyranny of their father was preferable to what might await them on the outside.

    The oldest of eight children, Palmer grew up in an extremely conservative family that ultimately went entirely off the grid. They lived in a rural country home in Vermont without running water or electricity. Though she says homeschooling started out with good enough intentions, it ultimately fell by the wayside, in part because of the sheer amount of work it took to subsist in Vermont without basic amenities while also maintaining the large family’s produce and livestock. It took so much time and energy to complete each day’s chores that they rarely had enough time to study.

    Though she says all of the children in her family are literate, she tells me that, in math, she never made it past the start of pre-algebra, and that she has not yet obtained her GED. Since leaving the Quiverfull movement, she has found success as an artisanal cheese-maker, but many opportunities remain unavailable to her because of her upbringing. She speaks hopefully of continuing her schooling at some point, but feels self-conscious about working toward the GED at 29, when some of her younger sisters have already earned theirs. “I study and read things all the time,” she says, “but I haven’t done anything official yet.”

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  16. Palmer insists that her family was not alone in homeschool neglect. Among the various fundamentalist families that ran in her family’s social circles, she says, “I knew several families whose children were not very literate.” Moreover, she points out, education is “more than just learning math and science and the facts of history – it’s learning how to interact with the kids around you, and figuring out what different kinds of personalities bring to life.

    “You can do homeschooling right if you’re very careful,” she acknowledges. “Know all the ways it can go wrong and guard against these; have outside interaction; get help with what you need help with and use a decent curriculum.” But most homeschoolers, Palmer points out, “are woefully lacking in every area” of their education.

    Palmer sends me a note after we talk that reads, “I know of a family right now in pretty much the exact same situation we were in back then. They reported [their homeschooling status] to the state once, eight years ago, and never after that, to my knowledge. The state never caught on... They are one of the families I know whose children are functionally illiterate. Their 18-year-old daughter can read, but can barely write a paragraph… and the education goes significantly downhill from there. Her youngest brother, almost 11, has barely learned to read.”

    I follow up to find out if anyone has reported the family to social services. She says they have been reported, but very little has changed.

    Still, this is not to say there aren’t many homeschooling parents who are doing an excellent job of ensuring that their children receive a quality education. Most parents realize they are taking on a tremendous amount of responsibility when they commit to homeschooling a child, so I am not surprised to find many – secular and religious – who are doing well by their children.

    Maria Hoffman Goeller is one of those. A lifelong family friend, Goeller is a homeschool graduate raised in a conservative Christian home, where she never lagged behind in academics. Now she has a son with special needs in the California public school system but educates two other school-age children at home. “Part of the reason we homeschool is because I’m choosing what worldview or what subjects I want to introduce my child to,” she says. But she understand the limits of her own skill, which is why she placed her special-needs son in public school. “While I can teach my children reading, writing and arithmetic, I am not trained in special education,” she says. “I want my child to have the best education he can get, which at this time is public school.”

    Though she considers herself conservative, Goeller does not demonize public schools as some families do. And contrary to stereotypes about Christian homeschoolers, Goeller is adamant that she will not sacrifice academic rigor, or shield her children from views different from her own. In fact, she says she would welcome more opportunities for them to interact with public school students, for example, in sports and even in certain classes now and then.

    Certainly, Goeller is not alone in the care and thoughtfulness she takes with her children’s homeschool education. But in light of what Garrison, Diegel Martin and Palmer tell me, it seems irresponsible to assert, as many homeschooling parents do, that homeschooling neglect is just a fringe element in the homeschooling world. And getting a straight answer about the scope of the problem from people who champion the cause is difficult at best.

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  17. Take Kelly Hogaboom, a secular “unschooling” mother who maintains a popular homeschooling blog called Underbellie, and boasts of having “two terminally truant children.” Hogaboom is an advocate for homeschooling and “unschooling,” a type of homeschooling that often foregoes curriculum in favor of more child-directed education. She is dismissive of the cases of neglect that I bring up, saying, by way of shutting down my inquiries: “Like yourself, I too had…a deep fear of religious fundamentalism and an erroneous belief state institutions could and should stamp it out.”

    Of course, her response misses the mark; the issue of “stamping out” religious expression isn’t the point here. The issue at stake is educational neglect -- which is, as the anecdotal evidence shows, an actual problem. My hope is that by looking to homeschooling parents for insights, they will be able to provide an honest assessment of their own successes and failures -- in order to paint a more textured picture of the actual potential for neglect.

    But in the end, Hogaboom declines to discuss the topic at all, urging me instead to read alternative theories of education she thinks I may have missed. And just in case I don’t understand that she has dismissed the concerns I raise, she concludes our email discussion by saying: “I get a laugh [at] how many grownups enjoy talking amongst themselves about what's best for children” – and following it up with a smiley emoticon.

    Though I am frustrated by her failure to engage with me, on some level, I understand her irritation. Homeschooling parents are probably called upon to apologize for neglectful homeschoolers quite a bit. But apologies are not what I’m looking for. I want to know about their experiences – positive and negative -- as a way of understanding how to better prevent neglect.

    Of course there are parents who are qualified to teach their children at home, and who do an excellent job of it. And there are children who excel in homeschooling environments. These families may well constitute a majority of homeschoolers. But this does not mean that all children do so well, and just as public schools are obligated to educate children who fall behind, so are parents who opt out of the system.

    Kathryn Joyce, author of Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement, confirms that there are legitimate reasons for being concerned about a lack of oversight among homeschoolers. She acknowledges the diversity of the homeschooling movement, but notes, for example, that, “among the Quiverfull community, there are families that homeschool in such a way that education begins to diverge between boys’ education and girls education around the time they hit puberty.”

    Sometimes, Joyce says, girls, “stop receiving the same education as their brothers and are trained instead to fulfill the role that they’re going to have, which is to be a Quiverfull mother and a submissive wife.”

    She recalls an anecdote from Quiverfull leader Geoffrey Botkin, who suggested that girls should be taught to use the tools of the laboratory they will inhabit: the kitchen and the nursery. Girls’ education should prioritize “learning how to be mothers, learning in the kitchen, helping their mothers – not merely as chores that are a part of growing up. Rather, the point was that this should be a key part of their education because this was going to be their chief role.” Though Joyce says many homeschoolers go on to do exceptionally well once they go to college, she has also encountered problems with basics like literacy.

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  18. Given these sorts of issues, I am unconvinced when Rachel Goldberg, a secular homeschooling mother from Charlotte, North Carolina, echoes what I hear from homeschooling parents of every stripe on the subject of government oversight. “I don't think there should be any regulation of homeschooling,” she says. “I'm not a libertarian or a conspiracy theorist, but I am fiercely protective of my kids and my choices about how to raise them. It's none of the government's business how I teach them. Just as I wouldn't want the state to require me to submit menu plans and quarterly nutritional assessments (even though I believe nutrition is vitally important), I don't want the state to require curricula plans, portfolios, etc.”

    According to Joyce, among extremist Quiverfull families (quite unlike Goldberg’s) there is often “a sense of persecution” when it comes to oversight; many families that refuse to report their activities do so because they fear state intrusion. But their fear may have very little basis in fact. “Often, people have to look outside the United States, to countries like Sweden, where homeschooling is much more heavily regulated, to make this argument,” Joyce notes. “There isn’t as much evidence that persecution is happening here, but I think they get a lot of organizing value and activism mobilization out of the argument that they’re persecuted.”

    Erika Diegel Martin, whose parents were anti-government extremists, agrees. Her parents did not report their first year of homeschooling to the state out of fear, but because she lived in a small New Hampshire town, the neighbors eventually noticed when the children weren’t in school. Finally, a truancy officer showed up to inquire, and as a result, the family reported their homeschooling status. “Look, any other parents [in] a public school would be charged with truancy if their kids didn’t show up at school,” Diegel Martin points out. “Why should it be any different for a homeschool family that isn’t reporting their children? It’s our government’s responsibility to make sure that our children are getting a proper education.”

    My old friend Maria Hoffman Goeller is a bit more cautious about the need for oversight. With one child in the public school system and two learning at home, Goeller insists that she has not experienced over-regulation in California, one of the more tightly regulated states. But she is always on the alert, she says, for any government mandate that might try to determine “what I can and cannot teach.”

    Goeller tells me that her apprehension about over-regulation stems from the arrests of homeschooling parents she knew during childhood, before homeschooling was well-understood in the United States. She remembers at least a couple of parents being arrested for truancy, and she remains unconvinced that they deserved this. Some families she knew opted not to report because of these cases. For those children, this meant not answering phones and hiding in the house if a stranger knocked on the front door.

    No one I speak to who is homeschooling today mentions that this sort of oppressive regulation is a reality for current homeschooling families. Instead, they say that today’s regulation consists mostly of bureaucratic paper-pushing – hardly the kind of homeschool persecution some fear. It may be annoying, but so far as I can tell, it’s not trampling on anyone’s rights – though that doesn’t keep homeschoolers from worrying.

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  19. Ultimately, the women who report neglect in homeschooling want their experiences to serve as a warning that either greater restrictions on homeschooling are needed, or states need to do a better job of enforcing existing regulations.

    For 18 years, Vyckie Garrison says, she continued homeschooling even though it became increasingly evident that “we should not have been homeschooling. It was a really bad idea for us, but we believed firmly that it was our obligation, that it would be sinful to send our children to public schools, which we called ‘Satan’s indoctrination centers.’” She tells me that yearly testing requirements “would have made a huge difference for our family. It would have either convinced us to quit homeschooling, or to do a much better job of meeting those minimum requirements.”

    I don’t believe the answer is to end homeschooling altogether, and neither do any of the women I talk to, no matter what their experience with homeschooling. But neither is it acceptable to allow more homeschooled children to fall through the cracks. And since no one should be deprived of an education, we have a duty to listen to those who were overlooked.

    Melinda Palmer has become a vocal critic of homeschool neglect since leaving her home about six years ago at the age of 22. She cites “the grace of God” as the reason for her survival, as well as the support of her mother and siblings. She is still a Christian, but says her family believed in a “warped understand of God.” Today, she is no longer a fundamentalist and no longer afraid of living out in the world. She has also gotten involved in advocacy on behalf of better homeschooling regulation.

    Of all my sources, Palmer has the most concrete ideas about what needs to change in order to make homeschooling safer for all kids. “First,” she says, “we should not reduce the oversight. Second, we need to make sure every child who is not in a public school is either on a private school roster or is on the homeschool watch list. I know of many in Vermont right now who are not even registered as homeschoolers, and no one pays attention…When kids are far below grade level, it should raise red flags, and someone should be looking into it.”

    Furthermore, as a sister to several children with cognitive disabilities, Palmer highlights the particular attention that homeschooled children with special needs deserve. “If kids have disabilities, the government needs to make sure that the disabilities are being addressed either by the parents or by an intervening agency.…A child with disabilities,” she notes, “has as much right to an appropriate education” as any other child.

    Just before we hang up the phone, she makes a final request: “Please spread the word that it is really necessary for the government to make sure children aren’t being robbed of an education… Kids have rights too, and one of them is the right to an education appropriate to their age and ability.”

    It’s an important point, and I conclude with it because it is one of the more incisive analyses I’ve heard on this topic yet. There is simply no justification for allowing cases of educational neglect – wherever it exists – to go unchecked. We need not imprison more parents to make sure this happens, but improving state and local oversight of those who opt out would be one step in the right direction. As Garrison, Diegel Martin and Palmer acknowledge, better checks on their own home education would have made a vast difference for them. This is why, they say, they will continue to speak out.

    read the links embedded in this article at:


  20. Police destroy Josh Duggars record

    By ALLEN REED The Associated Press May 22, 2015

    LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas police have destroyed a record outlining a nearly decade-old investigation into reality TV star Josh Duggar, a spokesman said Friday, a day after the 27-year-old resigned his role with a prominent conservative Christian group amid reports about sexual misconduct allegations from when he was a juvenile.

    The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, which obtained the offense report before its destruction, reports Duggar was accused of fondling five girls in 2002 and 2003. Duggar issued an apology Thursday on Facebook for unspecified bad behavior as a youth and resigned his role as executive director for FRC Action, the tax-exempt legislative action arm of the Washington-based Family Research Council.

    "I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions," Duggar wrote. "In my life today, I am so very thankful for God's grace, mercy and redemption."

    Duggar appears on the TLC reality show 19 Kids and Counting, which stars his family. He is the oldest of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar's 19 children.

    Springdale Police began investigating Duggar in 2006 when officers were alerted to a letter containing the allegations that was found in a book lent by a family friend to someone else.

    The report, originally published by tabloid In Touch Weekly, states that a member of Harpo Studios, the producer of Oprah Winfrey's then show, received an email containing the allegations before the family was set to appear in 2006. The tipster warned producers against allowing the Duggars on the show and studio staff members faxed a copy of the email to Arkansas State Police.

    Springdale Police spokesman Scott Lewis said Judge Stacey Zimmerman ordered the 2006 offense report destroyed Thursday. Zimmerman didn't return a request for comment Friday.

    "The judge ordered us yesterday to expunge that record," Lewis said, adding that similar records are typically kept indefinitely. "As far as the Springdale Police Department is concerned this report doesn't exist."

    Neither Duggar nor his father, a former state representative, returned calls seeking comment Friday.

    Several Arkansas Republicans have rallied behind the Duggar family, which is still engrained in state politics. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar attended the kickoff event earlier this month for Republican presidential nominee Mike Huckabee, who supported the family in a Facebook post Friday.

    "Those who have enjoyed revealing this long ago sins in order to discredit the Duggar family have actually revealed their own insensitive bloodthirst, for there was no consideration of the fact that the victims wanted this to be left in the past and ultimately a judge had the information on file destroyed, not to protect Josh, but the innocent victims," Huckabee wrote.

    Arkansas Sen. Bart Hester said Josh Duggar, who he has known for about five years, has been open and honest about the incident with wife, family and friends. State Sen. Jon Woods, who has known the Duggar family since 2005, said the family had put the issue behind them.

    "It's between the family members and was addressed a long time ago but it's new to the public," Woods said. "The family had time to heal and now the public needs time to heal."

    read the links in this article at:


  21. What You Need to Know about the Josh Duggar Police Report

    by Libby Anne, Love, Joy, Feminism (blog) May 21, 2015

    When I first saw rumors circulating yesterday I didn’t pay any attention, because the accusations were vague and felt rehashed. Remember when the tabloids reported that Jessa Duggar had sex at the church immediately after her wedding, based on a word of an obviously satirical blogger who claimed to have been there? Yeah, I remember that too. There have been rumors circulating for years about Jim Bob blaming Josh for the loss of a political campaign, based on “sin in the camp,” so I thought it was probably just those rumors being rehashed in the way tabloids do.

    But now there’s a police report. And now People Magazine has posted Josh’s confession. And now Josh has resigned from Family Research Council.
    What happened exactly? Answering this question is sensitive because of the need to protect the identity Josh’s victims. According to TMZ, one of Josh’s victims has asked to have the unredacted police documents destroyed to protect her identity—and even the redacted police report gives more than enough information to guess at the victims’ identities. This is a problem.

    I’ve gone back and forth about whether I should blog about this. This is not a gossip blog. I blog about weighty issues, and when I do blog about scandals like this I try to do so in a way that makes larger points, rather than just scoring cheap shots. That said, I’ve decided to go ahead and blog about this for several reasons. For one thing, I want you to have a reliable place to get good information (there’s still incorrect information circling out there). For another thing, I do think there are larger points to be made here. I’ll start by summarizing the police report.

    In December 2006, someone called a hotline and reported that Josh Duggar had sexually molested several girls three and a half years before. Around the same time, Harpo Studios faxed an email they had received informing them of the allegations (the Duggars had been slated to be on Oprah) to the Department of Human Services. It seems that at the time of the assaults a family friend wrote a letter about what happened and put it in a book, and that book was loaned out years later and the letter discovered, and the person who discovered it wanted to disclose the information.

    Jim Bob was called in and interviewed. He stated that Josh had sexually molested several girls over the course of a year. Jim Bob knew of this beginning in March 2002, when Josh was 14. Josh’s victims were children younger than him, and in some cases significantly so. For an entire year Jim Bob knew what was happening, but did not go to the police or seek treatment or outside intervention. In March 2003, with the incidents of molestation still occurring, Jim Bob said he and the elders at his church, to whom he had gone for advice, agreed that Josh should enter a treatment program.

    But when one of the elders at Jim Bob’s church suggested sending Josh to a legitimate treatment program, Jim Bob demurred, reasoning that Josh would likely be exposed to more serious offenders and that that was not appropriate for the nature of his offense. So instead of sending Josh to an actual treatment program, Jim Bob sent him to Little Rock for four months to help a family friend with some remodeling.

    When Josh returned in July 2003, Jim Bob took Josh to speak with a state trooper he knew personally about what had happened. The trooper gave Josh “a very stern talk” but didn’t file a report, reportedly reasoning that nothing needed to be done because Josh had already gone through a treatment program.
    Except of course that helping a family friend in Little Rock do some remodeling is not a treatment program. (The trooper who spoke with Josh was later convicted of child pornography.)

    continued below

  22. After interviewing the victims and other witnesses (all of whom corroborated Jim Bob’s story), police closed the case. Why? Because in Arkansas the statute of limitations for sexual assault is three years, and they were unable to find any evidence of any act of molestation or assault within the last three years. At this time Josh was 18. Police ascertained that Josh had at least five victims from at least two families.

    I don’t know whether Josh has molested any children since 2003. I know very little about the science behind sexual molestation that occurs while the perpetrator is still a minor. There are some things I do know, though.

    1. Sexual abuse should always always always be reported to the authorities immediately, even when the perpetrator is a minor. Jim Bob did not report what happened for well over a year, and when he finally did, he went to a trooper who was a family friend. This is a serious serious problem. The case of Zion and Glenda Dutro presents an especially hideous example of how badly reporting to cops who are personal acquaintances can go wrong (click through at your own risk). Don’t do this!

    2. Professional counselors and treatment programs are a must in cases involving sexual abuse. Talking to your elders or doing manual labor for a couple of months does not constitute counseling or a treatment program. Josh told People that both he and his victims received counseling. But given that his parents stated in 2006 that the only treatment he received was several months of manual labor, I’m highly skeptical that his victims received any actual counseling themselves. I know of a large Christian homeschooling family where incest was discovered between two of the sons, partly as a result of a complete lack of sex education, and both were shamed for what happened, nothing was reported, and no counseling was received. This is a problem.

    3. It is not okay to conceal a history of child molestation from parents of other children a perpetrator has regular contact with. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely believe in protecting the identity of victims. But if someone is an offender against children, they have the potential to reoffend. People should not leave children alone with a person with a history of molesting children, and that means they need to know that a person has a history of molesting children. While Jim Bob told the elders at the family’s church about what had happened, neither they nor the elders notified the church members more generally. This is bad, as it put other children at risk.

    4. Handling child molestation as “sin” rather than addressing the psychology behind it is a serious problem. In their statements to People, the Duggars spoke of Josh’s past wrongdoing as “past teenage mistakes” and spoke of growing closer to God through it. But it appears that Josh never had legitimate counseling or treatment to work through his problem. Some sexual things are normal for a teen to do—say, masturbating—but other sexual things are not typical behavior—say, molesting children—and those things need to be addressed professionally rather than simply as “sin” issues. Failing to do so places other children at risk.

    5. In too many cases, church elders fail to report sexual abuse to the proper authorities. We’ve seen this before, again, and again, and again. It is not clear from the police report whether Jim Bob spoke with his church’s elders about the incidents of molestation first in March 2003 or whether he spoke with them earlier as well. But even if he only spoke with them in March 2003, they still failed to immediately report the incidents to the authorities as they should have.

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  23. According to Jim Bob, the elders agreed that he should report the situation to the authorities once Josh returned from the remodeling project in Little Rock, and one of the elders went with him when he did so. This was both too late (they should have reported it immediately) and too little (the report was made to a trooper who was a friend).

    6. Local police and state troopers need to take sexual molestation seriously and follow the law with regards to reporting it. The trooper Jim Bob and Josh spoke with was a mandatory reporter and should by law have filed a report and launched an investigation. He failed to do so, and as a result the statute of limitations ran out before any action could be taken. This particular trooper was later convicted of child abuse, spent time in prison, then reoffended and is now back in prison. This was a serious, serious law enforcement fail.

    7. Good sex education is very important. I don’t know for sure what sort of sex education Josh Duggar received, but I do know that children homeschooled through the Christian program the Duggars used with Josh (ATI) are generally woefully uneducated when it comes to sex. Parents who avoid more comprehensive sex education often see themselves as trying to avoid awakening children’s sexuality too early, but these efforts can end very very badly because leaving children completely ignorant about sex can be a serious problem.

    8. The good Christian family aura can hide underlying problems. If I had a dollar for every time someone has praised the Duggars for being a perfect example of a good Christian family, I’d be rich. Sweet smiles and matching clothes can cover up a lot and make people assume that things are more perfect than they are. I know what it’s like to force a smile for family pictures people later ooo and ahh over, even as I’m crying inside. We need to remember that.

    9. Sheltering children from the world doesn’t work. For years now, I have seen commenters across the internet praise the Duggars for raising godly children away from the materialism and sexualization of the modern world. Sorry guys, it doesn’t work like that. Please stop promoting the Duggars’ lifestyle by claiming that it has protected these children from the evils of the world! It hasn’t.

    10. Homeschooling can limit children’s ability to report abuse. Children who attend school have contact with teachers, counselors, and other adults they can go to for help, or for advice about problems in their home situations. Both Josh and his victims were homeschooled, which almost certainly limited the number of trusted adults they could go to for help, especially given that their social activities appear to have revolved around their church and other likeminded families who probably also believed in dealing with such problems in-house. According to the police report, some of the victims did try to get help. It’s just that their avenues for obtaining said help were sadly limited.

    I still feel weird about posting this because of the gossipy angle so much of the media is giving it. So, I’d like to make a suggestion. When you see people talking about this story, whether on facebook or in person or in a comment section, steer the conversation toward the more substantive issues. Let’s use the attention the tabloids and other news sources are giving this story to educate the public about the problems with dealing with sexual molestation in house, the importance of sex education, and the dangers of judging the character of a family by outward appearances alone.

    And while you’re at it, please remind people to protect the identities of the victims.

    read the links embedded in this article at:


  24. Josh Duggar apologised

    So what?

    by Jonny Scaramanga, Leaving Fundamentalism (blog) May 22, 2015

    If you follow other blogs on Patheos or other blogs about the Christian patriarchy movement, you’ll have heard the news about Josh Duggar. For everyone else, some context: Josh Duggar is the eldest of the Duggar children, the quiverfull family who star in the reality TV show 19 Kids and Counting. This week it came to light that Josh was named in a police report as having been accused of child molestation. Yesterday, he resigned from his job and publicly apologised for his actions.

    I’m not linking to any press on it because it’s possible to identify the victims from the information that’s circulating, and I think they should have the right to decide if, when, and how they talk about this in public, but if you want to know more, the story is everywhere today.

    Groups like Homeschoolers Anonymous have been warning about the abuse in patriarchal Christian movements for years. They’ve been telling everyone who’ll listen how abuse is facilitated by the power structures in that world, and how the same system works to cover it up. How many more victims do there have to be? When will people start to listen? If anything good can come out of this atrocity, it would be for it to become the tipping point where people start to take safeguarding in homeschooling and fundamentalist environments seriously.

    What follows is a guest post by Kathryn Brightbill, who is legislative policy analyst for the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), although she writes here in a personal capacity. Kathryn is a Christian and was home schooled all the way from Kindergarten to 12th grade. This post is reproduced with permission from her blog.

    Josh Duggar is doing damage control. He can’t stop the truth that he’s a serial child molester from getting out, the police reports made sure of that.

    What he can do is change the focus.

    Josh doesn’t want you talking about his victims, he doesn’t want you focusing on the five prepubescent children he molested. No, he wants you to talk about how sorry he is.

    Don’t let him change the focus. Josh Duggar’s apology is not the story. Josh can apologize until he’s blue in the face, but that’s never going to undo the trauma that he put his victims through.

    Josh, and Jim Bob and Michelle alongside him, have shifted the burden onto the victims, painting Josh as a child who made mistakes, apologized and should be forgiven. They’ve tried to shift the narrative so that it’s just a short hop to viewing Josh as the victim.

    This isn’t penitence, it’s not repentance, it’s what child molesters do. Rewrite the narrative so that in the end the audience feels sorry for them and forgets about their victims. We’re supposed to give Josh points for confessing and resigning so quickly, while feeling sorry for him that he’s now unemployed with three children and a fourth on the way.

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  25. Except that Josh didnt confess quickly he hid this for over a dozen years, hid it while he became a television star, hid it while he became a rising star in the religious right, hid it while the organization he headed repeatedly attacked LGBT people as child molesters. Josh Duggar would have never become the household name he is if he and his parents hadn’t hidden the secret that he is a serial child molester.

    Of course he’s going to release a statement apologizing once the police report is all over the internet. What else was he going to do? You can’t deny what’s there in black and white, all you can do is shift the focus.

    And shift the focus he did.

    All of the headlines are about how “Josh Duggar Apologizes” not, “Josh Duggar Molested Five Children.”

    It’s only a short step from there to turning Josh into the real victim of an unforgiving public who refuses to let it go even though he said he was sorry and apologized.

    Worse, with the statement they released, they’ve now framed the story so that the victims cannot come forward, if they choose to do so, without being painted as “unforgiving” and choosing to “ruin his life” even though he said he was sorry.

    It’s a statement designed to silence the victims.

    Make no mistake. Josh Duggar is not a victim. Jim Bob and Michelle are not victims. The only victims in this story are the five children that Josh sexually assaulted. Five children, some of whom may still be minors, whose abuse is being minimized and deflected by Josh, Jim Bob, and Michelle.

    Whether or not his victims choose to forgive Josh is up to them, and too much of their personal agency has been taken away already for me or anyone else to tell them whether they should or should not forgive him. Forgiveness does not, however, erase what happened, and forgiveness should not be used as a cudgel to silence victims. Neither does forgiveness ameliorate the consequences of Josh’s actions, and all the apologies in the world don’t erase what Josh did.

    read the links embedded in this article at:


    Further reading:

    The life and opinions of Kathryn Brightbill, person — Kathryn’s blog

    Libby Anne – What You Need to Know about the Josh Duggar Police Report

    Boz Tchividjian – A grand deception: The successful response of sex offenders

  26. Interest in Home Schooling Surges as California Parents Look to Sidestep Vaccine Law

    A new law making vaccinations mandatory has sparked an uptick in the number of parents exploring the home school option.

    By Anita Chabria / The Guardian September 3, 2015

    With the passage of a new law this summer mandating vaccines for schoolkids in California, home school advocates and organizations say they are seeing surging interest in off-campus education options that would exempt them from the requirement.

    “The word on the streets is that, yes, people are coming to home schooling,” said Sarah Ford, membership director for Sonoma County Homeschoolers Nonprofit in northern California.

    The controversial mandate, co-authored by state Senator Richard Pan, a pediatrician backed by the California Medical Association, requires any student in public or private school to have 10 vaccinations as an attendance requirement, with some exceptions for medical conditions.

    En route to passage, the proposal sparked scathing controversy on both sides of the issue, with opponents (wearing red to symbolize children who have been harmed by vaccines and often with their own kids in tow) regularly flooding hearings at the state capitol to protest.

    Pan even received death threats over the measure, and in the wake of its passage is facing both a recall effort and a statewide referendum to repeal the law. But barring any repeal, the law will go into effect at the start of the next school year.

    Lyn Elliott, a mother of a 20-month-old girl, says she is taking a serious look at home schooling because of the law. While her daughter Rebel is “mostly vaccinated”, there are certain shots she feels are unnecessary “and that I feel have risks”.

    Next summer she will have to face the choice of giving vaccinations she does not want, or lose access to daycare – where some of the vaccine requirements will also apply. A single parent after her husband died in a motorcycle accident, she says home schooling could mean a critical drop in her income, but it’s a move she feels compelled to make.

    “For myself and my personal situation, school was something I was somewhat looking forward to,” she says. “I think it would actually be more beneficial for [Rebel] to be in public school but I am not willing to take that risk or let them make that decision for me just to make my life easier.”

    Nicole Arango, a 34-year-old mother of two, said she faced a similar choice and decided to move forward with home schooling now.

    She recently moved from Oxnard, California, to Simi Valley with her son, Ryan, 13, and daughter, Juliet, 6. Because Ryan had an adverse vaccine reaction when he was young, Arango has chosen not to vaccinate further. Rather than put them in school in their new town for a year and have to pull them out when the law goes into effect, she is beginning home schooling this fall.

    “I was already kind of on the fence about home schooling anyway but the vaccine law really pushed me over because that’s not something I’m going to have shoved down my throat,” she said. “I feel like I have no other alternative.”

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  27. Elliott and Arango are likely just the beginning of a wave of parents looking for options as the deadline moves closer. The law, one of the strictest in the country, eliminated both personal belief and religious exemptions to vaccinations, closing opt-out possibilities for the majority of vaccine-averse parents aside from home school.

    Teresa Fitzpatrick, president of Anaheim-based California Homeschool Network, said her organization has also seen a mild increase in calls and questions about vaccinations, but since the requirements for shots do not go into effect until next fall, “we are probably going to see a bigger increase then”.

    “Home schooling is definitely seeing a bump, absolutely,” seconded Corin Goodwin, CEO and executive director of Gifted Homeschoolers Forum (GHF), a resource site for homeschooling parents.

    Far from being a few fringe families, home schooling in the US now has a myriad of both nonprofit and for-profit support networks and curriculum possibilities that service about 1.77 million students – a number that has been steadily increasing for years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Nationally, about 3% of kids between ages five and 17 were home schooled in the 2011-2012 school year.

    California has one of the largest populations of home-schooled children, with about 177,000 in some form of homeschooling, according to estimates by home-schooling expert Anne Zeise, who runs the website a2zhomeschooling.com.

    But few reliable statistics are available for the number of students in California who attend home school because the term applies to different options.

    Home school can mean a parent who files the proper paperwork is personally handling a child’s education, or it can mean that the child has a private tutor. It can also apply to kids utilizing private or public charter school programs that offer a home-study option – but those students are often officially counted as part of the traditional school system.

    Diane Flynn Keith, who runs home-school information seminars in the San Francisco bay area, said her three-hour sessions have been filling to capacity since the law passed. Her most recent seminar earlier in August drew a sold-out crowd of 40, when normally she would expect about 25.

    “At least 10 of the people there asked me specifically about vaccinations,” she said. That demand has led her to add more events in the coming months.

    Goodwin added that her organization has also fielded more inquiries from programs and vendors that are interested in doing business or expanding in the state.

    “We are hearing a lot more from the charter programs,” she said.

    Keith cautions parents that home schooling “is not easy” and those seeking a way out of vaccinations represent a “whole new group that are sort of being forced into it”.

    “You may have people that are sort of doing it more out of fear than anything else, they have no choice,” said Fitzpatrick. “If it’s not done because they believe in the philosophy of home schooling and they want the experience of home schooling, then it’s going to be harder for them. And I think it could be more of a struggle for the children too.”


  28. Small Group Goes to Great Lengths to Block Homeschooling Regulation

    By Jessica Huseman, ProPublica | Report September 5, 2015

    In the fall of 2003, police in New Jersey received a call from a concerned neighbor who'd found a boy rummaging in her garbage, looking for food. He was 19 years old but was 4 feet tall and weighed just 45 pounds. Investigators soon learned that the boy's three younger brothers were also severely malnourished.

    The family was known to social workers, but the children were being homeschooled and thus were cut off from the one place where their condition could have gotten daily scrutiny — a classroom.

    After the story of the emaciated boys appeared in national newspapers, New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg was moved to introduce new legislation. "My question was, how does someone fall off the face of the earth so that no one knows they exist? I was told it was because he was homeschooled," she said.

    Her bill, introduced in 2004, would've required parents, for the first time, to notify the state that their children were being homeschooled, have them complete the same annual tests as public school students, and submit proof of annual medical tests.

    Soon afterward, a small group of homeschooling parents began following Weinberg around the capitol. The barrage of phone calls from homeschooling advocates so jammed her office phone lines that staffers had to use their private cellphones to conduct business. "You would have thought I'd recommended the end of the world as we know it," said Weinberg. "Our office was besieged."

    Many of the "hundreds and hundreds" of calls she said her office received came in response to an email alert from the Home School Legal Defense Association, a small but fierce advocacy group based in Purcellville, Virginia. The email, sent May 3, 2004, urged members to immediately place calls opposing a bill that would "devastate homeschooling in New Jersey" by giving the state Board of Education "virtually unlimited power to impose additional restrictions" — a claim Weinberg said was untrue. Additional alerts with similar language were sent out on May 13, 14, 18, 21, 26 and 28.

    "There are very few fights I have given up in the more than 20-some-odd years I have been involved in the state Legislature, but this was one of them," Weinberg said. While Weinberg dropped the bill that year, she has picked it up several times since —as recently as 2014 — even removing the testing requirement in favor of reviews of student work in an attempt to compromise with the HSLDA. Each attempt has failed.

    To lawmakers who have made similar efforts across the country, this comes as no surprise. Since homeschooling first became legal about 25 years ago, HSLDA's lobbying efforts have doomed proposed regulations and rolled back existing laws in state after state. The group was founded in 1983 by lawyer and ordained Baptist minister Michael Farris, who also founded Patrick Henry College. Although its members represent only about 15 percent of the nation's estimated 1.5 million homeschooled children — up from 850,000 in 1999 — its tactics have made it highly influential.

    "To my knowledge, I can't think of an occasion where we went backwards [in our goal]," said Farris, who said the HSLDA has been involved in "virtually all" legislative efforts involving homeschooling in the past two decades.

    "Somebody who wants to file a bill, they should expect to hear from every homeschooler in their state. We will do everything we can do to make sure every homeschooler knows what is going on," said Farris.

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  29. Judy Day, a former Democratic assemblywoman in New Hampshire, experienced this firsthand when she attempted to pass a bill that would have required annual tests and evaluations of student work, called portfolio reviews, in 2009. In November 2008, before the text of the bill was even released, the HSLDA sent an email alert to its members, listing Day's phone number and personal email address. A subsequentalert sent in January 2009 called the bill the "most serious legislative threat ever faced by New Hampshire homeschoolers."

    Day said she often talked with homeschooling parents for upward of an hour, explaining that the only intent of the bill was to catch the children who were receiving a poor education. "The general response was that they weren't that interested in the other kids — they were interested in their own children and that's where it stopped," she said. These discussions, she said, further convinced her that regulation was necessary. The bill went to a vote but overwhelmingly failed. Day believes other legislators didn't want to deal with the blowback she'd received.

    That same year, David Cook, a former representative from Arkansas, attempted to pass a bill that would have required homeschooling parents to seek approval from the local district to homeschool. "I was a superintendent for 18 years, and in that time I saw a lot of folks that said they were homeschooling and they really weren't," he said. But all of Cook's cosponsors removed their names from the bill after HSLDA-prompted calls flooded in. "They thought it was good legislation until the heat got to them," he said, noting that a similar bill he'd written in 2005 had died in committee. After meeting with several homeschooling groups to attempt to compromise on the 2009 bill, Cook came up empty. "They told me the only legislation they wanted was what Alaska had, which was nothing," he said.

    In an alert sent shortly afterwards, the HSLDA thanked its members. "There is no question that your outcry against this terrible bill is what made the difference," the email read. "I have no doubt that had you not contacted these legislators, this bill would have become unstoppable."

    The HSLDA's campaigns have continued over the past few years. At the end of 2013, Ohio Sen. Capri Cafaro proposed a bill that would have required social services to interview parents who wished to homeschool. Her office was flooded with angry phone calls from all over the country. She wasn't surprised when the particularly threatening email arrived. According to a copy provided by the senator's office, it said she had made a "fatal" mistake and that she "wouldn't see her next birthday," By that time, she'd received thousands of emails, more responses than she'd gotten for any other piece of legislation during her more than seven years in office. She withdrew the bill two weeks after introducing it. Last year, Pennsylvania — among the few states that broadly regulates homeschooling — rolled back some of its laws under pressure from the HSLDA. And this year, West Virginia's state Legislature passed bills that would have drastically reduced homeschooling requirements in the state, but the governor vetoed the measures.

    "I've never seen a lobby more powerful and scary," said Ellen Heinitz, the legislative director for Michigan Rep. Stephanie Chang, who ran up against HSLDA backlash when she tried to pass homeschooling regulations a few months ago. "They make the anti-vaxxers seem rational."

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  30. The HSLDA has even fought and won battles over a broad swath of issues that seem only tangentially related to homeschooling. Farris said the group has three "bedrock" concerns — not only homeschooling, but also parental rights and religious freedom. In Washington, the group's efforts blocked laws that would have allowed grandparents to petition for visitation rights, claiming that such policies made it possible for disapproving grandparents to stop children from being homeschooled. In Montana, the group thwarted proposals that would have made high-school attendance mandatory beyond age 16. Initiatives ranging from prekindergarten programs at public schools to the legalization of gay marriage have pushed the HSLDA to action.

    Farris said the HSLDA "always encourages people be polite" and often provides a script to help guide conversations. Threats are not sanctioned by the organization, he said. "Iget death threats. I would never want anyone else to receive a death threat," he told me. Still, he recognizes that the calls and visits can get out of hand. He said it comes with the territory. "Look, politics is a rough-and-tumble business at times," he said. "If somebody can't take some criticism, then they shouldn't be in politics."

    When Farris established the HSLDA in the mid–1980s, homeschooling was illegal across the country. Today, it's legal in all 50 states, but regulations vary dramatically. Some of the discrepancies (many of which were highlighted in a new report from the Education Commission of the States) include:

    Forty-eight states have no background-check process for parents who choose to homeschool. Two have some restrictions. Arkansas prevents homeschooling when a registered sex offender lives in the home, while Pennsylvania bans parents previously convicted of a wide array of crimes from homeschooling.

    Fewer than half of states require any kind of evaluation. In some of these, including Washington, New Hampshire and Georgia, homeschooled students are tested, but these tests are not submitted to the school district and there are no ramifications for failure. Others, like Oregon, require parents to submit the test scores only if the local districts request them. A third category of states, including Maine, requires that test scores be submitted but set no minimum score.

    Seventeen states have no required subjects for homeschooled students. Of the 33 states that do, 22 have no means of checking whether a parent is actually teaching those subjects.

    In 40 states, homeschooling parents are not required to have a high-school diploma, even if they intend to homeschool through 12th grade.

    Twenty-five states do not require homeschoolers to be vaccinated. Another 12 mandate vaccinations but do not require records. Only five states require homeschoolers to submit proof of vaccinations at any time.

    In states with more vigorous homeschool regulation, officials have a good idea of how each child is performing. In New York, for instance, parents who wish to homeschool must notify the state and submit an education plan. Each year, they must provide the results of one of several approved standardized assessments — including the Iowa Test of Basic Skills and the Stanford Achievement Test — or, if parents prefer not to test their children, an agreed-upon portfolio review. If their children aren't making adequate progress, parents can be put on probation and eventually forced to enroll their children in school.

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  31. But if parents don't like this degree of oversight, they can move across the Hudson to New Jersey. The word "homeschooling" is not mentioned once in the education regulations of New Jersey; it's covered under a broadly worded provision that allows children to receive "equivalent instruction elsewhere than at school." The state is so uninvolved in homeschooling that it took me two weeks and over a dozen phone calls to the New Jersey Department of Education to locate someone who could answer any questions about it. The person who eventually fielded my call said he'd never been asked about homeschooling before and called our conversation "a learning experience."

    Christopher Lubienski, an education professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who studies homeschooling, notes that public-school students are flagged if they are chronically truant, while homeschooled children might be illiterate, suffering from acute medical conditions or enduring abuse and no one would notice. "We put basic requirements and limitations for who can teach our children in schools," he said. "But when you introduce homeschooling outside the ability for the community to see what happens in the home, that becomes even more of a problem." Parents who have committed violent crimes against children, he said, can legally homeschool, and there's often "nothing the state can do."

    Similar criticisms have been levied against private schools, which frequently do not require children to pass state-mandated assessments or follow the same background check processes as public schools. In some states, accreditation is optional, giving private schools greater freedom to deviate from public-school requirements. But even these schools are expected to meet minimum requirements and conduct screenings that may expose abuse or neglect. In Texas, where homeschooling is not regulated in any capacity, private schools are at least required to offer vision and hearing screenings, as well as screenings for scoliosis. New Jersey, where homeschooling is also totally unregulated, prevents private schools from using corporal punishment.

    Milton Gaither, a professor of education at Messiah College in Pennsylvania and the author of "Homeschool: An American History," pointed out that private schools, by their nature, also fulfill a need homeschooling does not: to have eyes other than the parents' observing the child.

    There's one way the government can check in on homeschooled families: by sending social workers. These visits typically happen only when officials get a tip from a concerned neighbor or have other reasons to suspect neglect or abuse.

    Farris believes such visits present a dire threat to homeschooling families, encroaching on personal freedom and family life. Social workers, he said, fundamentally misunderstand homeschooling and too often target families that are in no way abusing their children. "These are armed officers invading people's houses, in many instances without a warrant," Farris said. "The reality is that we want to stand together as a movement. If they touch one of us we are going to go to their defense, and we have the ability to go to their defense with rigor and expertise."

    Farris said his group gets 300 calls a year from dues-paying members worrying about "social workers at the door." This number, however, represents just 0.35 percent of the HSLDA's membership, assuming each call came from a different family.

    But Gaither said Farris' view is outdated. When homeschooling was first legalized, social workers often misunderstood the intent of parents who chose to keep their children home, he said, and visited homes unnecessarily. He said similar behavior today is rare because of how mainstream homeschooling has become.

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  32. If social workers are particularly interested in homeschooling families, it's not because they assume those parents are predisposed to be abusive, said Barbara Knox, a University of Wisconsin pediatrician who specializes in child abuse. It's because parents who do have a pattern of abuse often pull their children from school under the guise of homeschooling in order to avoid scrutiny. A 2014 study conducted by Knox and five colleagues looked at 38 cases of severe child abuse and found that nearly 50 percent of parents had either removed their children from public school or never enrolled them, telling their respective states they were homeschooling.

    "This is a pattern all of us see over and over and over again," Knox said. "Certainly there are wonderful homeschooling families. But the lack of regulation for this population makes it easier to disenroll children from public school to further isolate them and escalate abuse to the point of reaching torture."

    Farris acknowledged that such cases exist, but believes more often social workers are simply harassing parents who choose to educate their children outside the mainstream.

    In 1995, when the organization was first growing into a national power, the HSLDA put out a role-playing guide called "How To Handle Visits From Social Service Agents," written by former HSLDA attorney Chris Klicka. The social worker in the scene is named Orwell, and he forces his way into the home without a warrant and attempts to strip search the children.

    Every family who pays the HSLDA's annual $120 membership fee is entitled to legal aid from the group whenever social workers come calling. Farris said families would otherwise find it "almost impossible" to track down a lawyer who understood the applicable laws and had the resources to act quickly.

    Whenever a family does reach out to the group for help, the HSLDA sends out electronic alerts to all its other members and posts articles on its site advising families how to avoid the same fate. An article from August 2014 is titled "Social Workers Snatch Sick Kids."Another, from 2013, is headlined "Social Worker Says 'I'll Be Back!' Attorney Says 'Make My Day.'" Another, from 2012: "Let Me In or I'll Huff and I'll Puff and … I'll Take Your Kids!"

    Farris is frequently paid to give talks to conventions and homeschooling organizations on the risks of allowing children to talk to social workers. He published the book "Anonymous Tip" in 1996 — a 470-page fictional account of an overzealous and abusive social worker who fakes bruises in order to take a mother's children away. A fictional lawyer (and fictional graduate of Farris' real-life law school) comes to the mother's rescue.

    Julie Ann Smith, who homeschooled her seven children in Oregon until last year, joined the HSLDA after she heard one of the group's attorneys speaking at a conference, telling parents about "difficult cases" in which children were taken from homeschooling parents. She began receiving the group's monthly magazine and clipping out instructions on handling social workers, taping them to the inside of her cupboard for easy access. She even followed HSLDA's advice not to tell any of her neighbors or family members she was homeschooling for fear one of them would call social services. Her children weren't allowed to play outside or answer the door during school hours because she thought someone would report her for truancy. "It robbed my kids of opportunities to be outside, and honestly, it robbed my sanity not to send them outside for a break," said Smith, who now sends her children to a local school.

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  33. LaDonna Sasscer had a similar experience when she was homeschooling her two children in Florida. She was so worried about social workers that she became the legislative liaison for her local homeschooling group, and she was the HSLDA's main point of contact for lobbying efforts. She said she encouraged people to join the HSLDA by telling them "scary stories that social workers were going to come and take your children."

    "I used to read [the monthly report] cover to cover and flip to my state right away and say 'Oh my gosh! Look what's happening in Florida!'" said Sasscer, who has since left the HSLDA and no longer homeschools. "They had us all paranoid."

    Farris rejected the idea that the HSLDA is scaring people into buying memberships. "I think it would be strange that anyone would think I would do anything differently than teach people their constitutional rights," he said. "I don't know how it's scary to tell the stories of my experiences." He adds that Smith and Sasscer represent only a "small percent of people," and that those who are unhappy are free to leave the HSLDA at any time and receive a full refund.

    Although the HSLDA is the nation's leading homeschooling advocacy group, its 85,000 memberships — which Farris said encompass more than 250,000 children, an average of three per member — represent only a small portion of the homeschooling population. Some of these families, and almost certainly a majority of HSLDA members, have religious motivations for choosing to homeschool; many use alternative textbooks that teach creationism instead of evolution and offer a Christianity-centered view of American history.

    Non-HSLDA members, who constitute about 85 percent of the nation's homeschoolers, choose to homeschool for a variety of reasons, said Gaither, the Messiah College professor and homeschooling expert. Some hope to protect their children from what they see as the systematic racism of public schools, while others want to give a child with special learning needs more individual attention. Some families homeschool because a parent's job requires constant moving, and still others do it simply to become closer to their children.

    Karen Myers Bergey homeschools her two daughters, ages 10 and 13, in Pennsylvania, the most heavily regulated state for homeschooling in the country. She said she began homeschooling because she thought she could give her daughters a better, more self-driven education than her local school district could.

    "I wanted to be able to live as creative of a life as possible," she said. "If we want to go take in a show in the city, I can have them get their schoolwork done to allow time for that. We can also take a week off to do an educational trip or even a fun trip somewhere without someone questioning that."

    While she says her family is faithfully Christian, she doesn't homeschool because of that. She teaches evolution and Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States," which she says her evangelical friends frown upon. While she's confident homeschoolers like her make up much of the population, she said she's frustrated she doesn't see this represented.

    "We aren't for or against anything in society at large — we are just experiencing life together with our children. That voice isn't heard," she said. "What you hear on TV and the radio is the HSLDA saying to leave us alone." Bergey said she's never felt like she was "jumping through hoops" to meet Pennsylvania's standards, and says she's willing to deal with the regulation if it means keeping kids safe.

    "I'm confident that I'm doing a good job for [my children] but I'm willing to give up some of my freedom to make sure that every child is being educated in a healthy and beneficial way," she said.

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  34. Some of these smaller groups complain that the HSLDA is perpetuating a stereotype. "Because of the HSLDA, people think we are all far-right, extremely religious, maybe even fanatics," said Shay Seaborne, a long-time homeschooling activist and former board member of The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers. Gaither said many parents like Bergey never join homeschooling organizations because their reasons feel so unique to their own families. Secular homeschooling groups exist in every state, but their primary role is to offer support and resources, not to lobby politicians. Even if these groups were to feel strongly about a potential new law, their lack of organizational prowess and funding would make it impossible for them to mount campaigns on the scale of the HSLDA's.

    The HSLDA argues that it is advancing the goals of all homeschooling parents, not only through its lobbying but by funding most of the published research on homeschooled children. There are few independent studies measuring how much these kids are learning, Gaither said, since it is difficult to get a random sample of students because notification laws vary so drastically by state. When homeschoolers take the ACT and SAT, they tend to perform fairly well. But those who choose to take these tests are likely already on the higher-achieving end of the group; as a whole,studies have shown homeschoolers take college entrance exams at a lower rate than their public or private-schooled peers.

    The HSLDA has funded dozens of studies on homeschoolers' academic performance, most of them conducted by Brian Ray at the National Home Education Research Institute. Every study Ray has published on homeschoolers indicates they are performing at or above the level of similarly situated public school students. Studies not funded by the HSLDA do not tend to be as positive or have such definitive findings, though most find that the small sample of homeschooled students studied are not performing demonstrably worse than their peers.

    Gaither said Ray's studies are generally as sound as surveys, but they don't necessarily indicate how homeschooling impacts the average student, since they rely on voluntary surveys given to members of HSLDA and similar organizations. Parents whose children do poorly, he said, are unlikely to volunteer to submit their results.

    The HSLDA tends to draw conclusions from Ray's studies far beyond even Ray himself. While Ray typically includes disclaimers that the studies should not be used to draw broad conclusions, one HSLDA pamphlet touting his research leaves this out, claiming, "Homeschoolers are still achieving well beyond their public school counterparts — no matter what their family background, socioeconomic level, or style of homeschooling."

    Ray acknowledges the way in which his work is used by the HSLDA. "I wouldn't say it's fine, but it's what they do," he said. "I try to be responsible for what I write, but I'm not their policeman."

    Over the past few years, some members of the first homeschooled generation have begun advocating for stronger regulations. Ryan Stollar is the co-founder ofHomeschool Alumni Reaching Out, with a mission of improving homeschooling for future generations. "When homeschooling is done responsibly, it can be amazing," the group says on its website. "What we oppose is irresponsible homeschooling, where the educational method is used to create or hide abuse, isolation, and neglect."

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  35. Stollar said the homeschool alumni he has spoken with "never felt like they had a right" to speak out because they were always expected to be "perfect examples and show homeschooling can work." Now, he said, that's changing. "These last three years have been the first time people have felt like it's okay to say, 'Hey, everything wasn't perfect.'" On the HARO website, alumni are encouraged to share their experiences of abuse and neglect and provide critical analysis of the curricula, principles and leaders who dominated the field when they were growing up.

    Rachel Coleman, a co-founder of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, said she felt for years that if she criticized homeschooling she would be labeled "a traitor." Her group advocates for homeschool reform and aims to make homeschooling "a child-centered option, used only to lovingly prepare young people for an open future."

    When asked about the groups, Jim Mason, an attorney with the HSLDA, told me that, while he takes issue with what he called their "tone," he thinks "some of their criticisms [are] very well taken or valid." The HSLDA is "certainly open to considering constructive criticism" he said. But when I spoke to Farris, he dismissed both organizations outright, calling them "a group of bitter young people" who are "fighting against homeschooling … to work out their own issues with their parents."

    Farris has rebuttals to each of the five practices recommended by CRHE, Coleman's group. At the moment, no state follows all five recommendations, and only a small percentage of states follow any of them.

    First, CRHE said all states should require homeschooling parents to annually notify the state of their intent to homeschool. "Do we ask parents to annually notify the state that they are feeding their kids?" Farris responded. "No. But that's necessary for well-being, too. We trust parents to feed their kids, and we have an elaborate infrastructure called society that interfaces with people and checks up on them. Does it work every time? No. Do people fall through the cracks? Yes. Nonetheless as a free country we have decided that we do not want the country invading every home."

    The HSLDA also takes issue with CHRE's second suggestion: that all parents who choose to homeschool are subjected to a background check. The HSLDA contends such a policy would be redundant, as parents convicted of abuse are already subject to additional oversight. But Coleman said this isn't always the case, as social workers tend not to remove children from the home unless extreme circumstances are present. Also, she said, parents convicted of crimes such as drug abuse or assault against someone other than their child may still have custody.

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  36. The CHREs third recommendation is that homeschooled students complete annual standardized tests or a portfolio review, to be assessed by a non-relative. The HSLDA strongly opposes all types of standardized testing, which Farris said forces a curriculum onto parents by default. The group recently succeeded in lobbying the state of Arkansas to repeal its testing provision, which an HSLDA news alert said had "no stated purpose." (This was true — the test had no minimum score and was not submitted to the state, which meant it could not be used to intervene in a child's education.)

    Fourth, the CRHE advocates for a system that would flag homeschooling families with a troubling history of social services involvement, subjecting them to additional oversight such as random visits or additional testing. Mason, the HSLDA lawyer, said this ran counter to American principles by punishing families for unproven wrongdoing. "We live in a country of presumed innocence," he said. "Suspicion of wrongdoing shouldn't limit the actions of anyone."

    Knox, the abuse expert, disagrees. She supports increased communication between family services agencies and school systems, so that when a child with a history of family services involvement is removed from public school for homeschooling they can be flagged and monitored.

    Finally, CRHE said homeschooled students should be subject to the same medical requirements as public-school students. At the moment, almost every state requires public school students to submit medical forms filled out by a doctor. The HSLDA is neutral on whether parents should vaccinate their children, but it opposes "any attempt to weaken exemption provisions currently in state law" and sends out emergency alerts when states propose removing exemptions. This year alone, alerts have been sent out warning parents of bills concerning vaccination requirements inMaine, California, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Oregon, Maryland, and Mississippi.

    Rob Reich, a professor of political science at Stanford who has written extensively about homeschooling regulation, said it's "hard to oppose" laws that would limit abusive parents from homeschooling. But, he said, legislators should first pass laws that gather data on homeschooling.

    "The HSLDA points out their success stories, and the skeptics point out the abuse," he said, but neither side has real numbers to back up its claims.

    Luis Huerta, an associate professor of education and public policy at Teachers College-Columbia University, is also in favor of CRHE's data collection proposals and says he's fascinated by the group's emergence.

    "Never have we had this strong of a group who are advocates [of homeschooling] and who are also demanding that we have information from which to be able to draw empirical conclusions that influence policy decisions," he said. "This can potentially change the landscape."

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  37. Farris is frustrated by the criticism from groups like CRHE and HARO, insisting that many of these groups will "say the opposite, no matter what we say." When I told him that I'd spoken to homeschoolers who told me HSLDA doesn't represent their views, he responded, "We don't ever say that we do. But 15 percent, I will say, is bigger than anything they can organize."

    Stollar, the co-founder of HARO, said his group is constantly struggling to let legislators know there are other perspectives out there. Last year, he and several other former homeschoolers showed up at the Virginia statehouse to lobby in favor of a resolution proposed by Tom Rust, a Republican assemblyman. Rust had proposed a study of the state's religious exemption law: In Virginia, homeschoolers are officially required to register and document their children's progress. But parents who file a religious exemption are allowed to forego school without any requirements at all. About 7,000 Virginia children are currently homeschooling under this provision. Rust said he wrote the bill after receiving phone calls from constituents who felt members of their extended family were receiving a poor education under the exemption.

    HSLDA quickly sent a notification out to its member families, urging them to "accept the possibility that Rust's call for a study is a mere pretext, and that his true intention is to try to take away some of your freedom once the study gives him some 'cover.'" Carol Sinclair, Rust's legislative assistant, answered most of the group's phone calls, which came from all over the country. She said most of the callers were "downright difficult" and refused to acknowledge that some homeschooled children were being poorly educated. "If you care enough about homeschooling, I would think you would want to make sure children didn't slip through the cracks of the system," she said.

    Until I spoke to Rust, he had assumed, as many legislators do, that the HSLDA represents the majority of homeschooling families. "They clearly came across as speaking for all homeschoolers — that's certainly the impression they gave — and to be honest with you, I thought that's what they were doing," he said.

    It may take some time to change that impression, said Stollar. When he and his fellow homeschooling alumni showed up at the statehouse to voice their support for Rust, many of the legislators assumed they were part of the HSLDA and dismissed them immediately.

    "One legislator in particular put her hand up and said 'I'm not even going to talk to you guys,'" he recalled. "We explained our position several times, and she just didn't get it. Finally, it dawned on her that we were in favor of the bill. She was astonished by that."


  38. Salvation Army Cancels Conference Promoting Child Marriage

    by Michael Stone, Progressive Secular Humanist May 6, 2016

    Busted: After negative media attention the Salvation Army has cancelled a conference to arrange child marriages for Christian homeschoolers.

    The “Let Them Marry” retreat was planned for November, and was “designed to bring together like-minded families who are committed to young, fruitful marriage and to help them overcome the barriers which have kept their children unmarried.”

    In essence, the conference was a gathering for parents to arrange marriages for their teen daughters without their child’s consent, while making a profit from the transaction.

    After multiple reports about the conference dedicated to arranging child marriages, concerned citizens contacted the the Salvation Army of Wichita/Sedgwick County where the conference was to be held. As a result of citizen complaints, the conference was cancelled.

    The Salvation Army of Wichita/Sedgwick County released the following statement announcing the decision to cancel the event:

    The Salvation Army has denied a request by the Let Them Marry organization to conduct its event at Camp Hiawatha.

    Our decision is based upon our long-standing concern for the welfare of children. At The Salvation Army, we work every single day to provide a safe, caring place for children, many of whom have been left vulnerable due to the actions of adults.

    We remain steadfastly focused on our mission of advocating for and protecting children.

    The “Let Them Marry” website issued the following brief statement:

    Note: The November Get Them Married Retreat has been cancelled.

    And the group, embarrassed by all the negative publicity, attempted to deny any wrongdoing:

    Note: Contrary to vicious internet rumors we do not support or in any way condone child sexual activity of any sort, child marriage, or any other illegal activity. Nor do we support or condone forced marriages. We believe that parents should NOT seek a spouse for a child where that child has not actively sought for the parents to do so.

    Yet despite the group’s denial, a glance at the the website’s Frequently Asked Questions shows that the group not only condones child marriage but actively promotes child marriage. Further, the group cites Biblical scripture to defend the position that children are essentially the property of the father to be sold into marriage without their consent.

    For the record, the Salvation Army deserves credit for doing the right thing and rejecting the conference.
    However the underlying problem remains. The “Let Them Marry” group and philosophy continues to exist, and as long as that group and philosophy continues to exist, children will continue to be exploited.

    For more on the group and the canceled conference see: Conference Will Arrange Child Marriages For Christian Homeschoolers - http://www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2016/05/conference-will-arrange-child-marriages-for-christian-homeschoolers/

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