Jennifer P.: “My parents broke the state’s homeschooling laws knowingly”

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“Upon settling in Pennsylvania, which has regulations that are generally seen as “stringent,” my parents refused to report, having not reported previously.  I met other homeschooling families who followed the laws and their children usually participated in a co-op or other activities with other homeschoolers. . . . I was not aware of any educational shortcoming in my friends—even the large families used evaluators and spent a lot of time DOING school.”

I was homeschooled in the United States from 2004 to 2008.  My family moved around Maryland, New York, and New Jersey, finally settling in Pennsylvania in 2006.  My parents homeschooled all their children.  They were drawn in by various seminars as young people and newlyweds, especially by Raymond and Dorothy Moore, whom they heard of via Focus on the Family.

Upon settling in Pennsylvania, which has regulations that are generally seen as “stringent,” my parents refused to report, having not reported previously.  I met other homeschooling families who followed the laws and their children usually participated in a co-op or other activities with other homeschoolers.  Other homeschooling parents griped constantly, but followed the laws and each year got their mandatory evaluations “out of the way,” trading “terrible evaluator” horror stories and sharing the ones they had proven to be lax (or just less demanding or thorough). I was not aware of any educational shortcoming in my friends—even the large families used evaluators and spent a lot of time DOING school.

All of the families I met and knew were religious. Most were some form or Protestant, but a handful of Catholics in the northwestern part of the city often got together, having theater productions and classes together.  Religion was one of the main reasons cited by all of the families for homeschooling, academics coming in a short second.

My education was stellar, as my mother was very specific about her subject matter and spent hours putting together lesson plans and correcting and grading our work.  My younger siblings had less time (decreasing with each additional sibling), and while she reused many of her lesson plans some of them will definitely not get the time, effort, and attention that I and my older siblings received.  However, they have received much more outside activity participation, as my parents are now allowing them homeschooled (gender segregated) soccer, volleyball, and even church-sponsored events.

A family we knew who had 14 kids, who had defected from another state because they had been reported by family members for failures in homeschooling and because their family didn’t support them homeschooling, were also not following the laws.  The older boys worked to help support the family and the older daughters did so much child care that they literally did no school.  They were 15 times more strict than my family, but not religiously so.  My mom lent them schoolbooks.  The oldest daughter (then 14) had a passion for math and had done only up to multiplication.  My mom gave her an old copy of our Saxon 7/6 and pre-algebra and she acted like she had been handed the moon.

I and my siblings suffered mainly from religious, psychological, and emotional abuse.  We were constantly chastised for our failing and spanked as children following the methods of Michael and Debi Pearl.  As we got older the punishments became less physical and more psychological.  We were made to write essays about our faults or failings, derided for hours, or made to find, copy, and recite bible verses that highlighted our sins.  Eventually, removal of computer and internet privileges and grounding from any or all outside activities became the chosen method of punishment.  The younger siblings are still spanked, but other punishments are also doled out such as added chores or a special, shameful chore like scrubbing the trash cans.

I think increased oversight for homeschooling in the state of Pennsylvania has already been accomplished.  Unfortunately, they are considering adding a “religious exemption” clause (like Virginia has) allowing parents to opt out of all requirements.

My parents broke the state’s homeschooling laws knowingly.  I think outsider participation on our homeschooling would have caught my brother’s dyslexia faster, would have given my mother accountability when her curriculum was not all that superior, and would have integrated us with our community and state much sooner.  Following laws is not an option, and I think that having contact with the children is vital for families as cloistered as ours.  I believe that increased oversight would have lessened the religious abuse that gave us PTSD.  In our home, my father was God, and God doesn’t have to follow orders.  Seeing an evaluator in a position of power and authority over him would have definitely put his attitude into check and had a significant affect on all of his children.


Jennifer P. was homeschooled in Maryland, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Testimonials page.

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