Recognizing Educational Deprivation

The quality of education provided by homeschooling can vary widely, as do the educational methods and philosophies used by homeschooling parents. If you know a homeschooling family or a homeschooled child and are concerned about the quality of the education being provided, this section will help you determine whether your concerns should lead you to take action.

Many homeschool parents allow their children to progress at different paces in different subjects based on their interest and aptitude, meaning that at any given time their children may be ahead in some subjects and behind in others. In addition, many homeschool parents embrace experiential child-led learning that may look little like formal classroom learning. Homeschooling offers families an amount of flexibility and an ability to individualize and innovate that can be both extremely attractive and very positive. Whether or not learning is taking place is more important than whether or not a family is using textbooks, replicating a school setting, or covering the same subjects and material a child would be studying at their age and grade level in public school.

Sometimes concerns about a homeschooled child’s academic progress may be allayed by learning more about the child’s education. If you are in a position to do so, ask the child’s parents about what curriculum they use or their educational philosophy, or about what the average school day looks like for their family. Parents are generally eager to answer questions about homeschooling if those questions are asked out of honest interest rather than out of criticism or suspicion. Ask the children about what they have been learning recently or about their favorite subjects, and encourage them in their interests. In some cases, learning more about what homeschooling looks like for a given family may put concerns to rest. In other cases, however, concerns are warranted.

Consider the possibility of educational neglect when the child:

  • Has not learned to read or do basic math by age 10
  • Is significantly behind grade level in a majority of subject areas
  • Is not making educational progress in core subjects like reading, math, or science
  • Is given a heavy load of chores and little time for academic work
  • Is expected to provide significant academic instruction to younger siblings

Consider the possibility of educational neglect when the parent or other adult caregiver:

  • Has neither a curriculum nor a philosophy of education
  • Does not take time to engage in educational activities with a child
  • Does not provide a child with books or other educational supplies
  • Seems unconcerned with a child’s educational success
  • Does not give a child regular one-on-one attention

If a child is behind grade level as a result of special needs, that is not necessarily a result of educational neglect and may instead be result of the specific challenges faced. Most parents who homeschool children with special needs obtain therapy and various other services for their children as needed. There are also various curricular and pedagogical methods that help homeschool parents tailor instruction to their children’s special needs. Homeschooling can be a positive educational environment for many special needs children. However, some homeschooled children with special needs are not given the services or supportive environment they need, which is itself a form of educational neglect. Further, some homeschooled children may have special needs or learning disabilities their parents are unaware of because they have not been tested. This too can be a concern.

If you suspect a homeschooling family of educational neglect, please take action. In some cases, you may be able to point homeschooling parents toward various educational resources or encourage homeschooled children in their academic interests (see For Family, Friends, and Neighbors). In other cases, taking action may involve reporting your concerns to the proper authorities (see Reporting Educational Neglect).

Homeschooled children should have access to the same basic education as any other child.


For more on educational neglect, see:

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