Jessica A.: “Homeschool is an abusive parent’s dream”

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“I support homeschool oversight because most child abuse is committed by parents against their own children. I believe people oppose homeschool oversight because most people only worry about their own kids. They won’t admit it, but as long as their own kids aren’t at risk, even “good” homeschoolers just don’t care.”

I was homeschooled through a church. Regarding quality of education, it was a joke. Kids I knew who were in the program since birth actually believed the Salem Witch Trials has been about real-life witches. We were taught seven-day creationism. I got a D in one year of highschool biology because I refused to say the Earth was only 6,000 years old. I remember writing “4 billion” in the answer, my mom tearing up the sheet and giving me a blank copy and again writing “4 billion.” I was a rebel.

When I was six, my dad was convicted of sexually assaulting and battering my mother. That alone should have disqualified him from being involved with any kind of homeschool program. He’d never be allowed to teach. But being given unlimited control over his own children and isolating them from outside help? Totally LEGAL!

My mom chose to stay with my dad even after the conviction. The sexual assault and battery of my mother was a regular occurrence in our home. Most people don’t understand just how brutal and violent and disgusting it was. He would call her a whore, fat, a pig, scream about her sexual history—and scream Bible verses about submission all while she screamed and begged for help. All in front of me when I was as young as six years old.

My father also abused me, although my mom denied it when I told her, insisting that he only ever harmed her. My father was openly into “sexy little girls” and I’ll leave this at that.

The short end of it is, after my public school tried to get involved to protect me and get me counseling when I was in fifth grade, my parents’ response was to move to a new suburb where I didn’t know anybody and to put me into an extremely isolationist homeschool program. Homeschool is an abusive parent’s dream. Total isolation, with no outside influence save a church with invested interest not to stir the pot? Oh goody.

Needless to say, with free range my dad’s abuse intensified.

After running away from home as a young adult and living in extreme poverty (I got down to 86 lbs), I reached out to my homeschool program’s director. Without prompting, she said to me, “I knew your father was abusive, but I never reported anything because they’re always trying to shut down homeschool.”

At first, I was elated that she said that because I finally had acknowledgement that I’d been abused. I even joked to my friends about being part of a church cover up, but years later the hurt is very real.  

It hurts insanely bad to know I was so low on her totem pole that knowing what was happening to me, she couldn’t be bothered to take the risk that her program might be scrutinized. She wouldn’t risk losing her comfy job as a “director” of a church homeschool program where she got paid for planning BBQs and arranging dances. God forbid she stick her neck out for a kid.

The truth is, in the homeschool program and the church I was a pariah. I was treated like a bad kid. Nobody ever admitted to me then that they knew I was abused. Instead they justified their inaction and protection of my dad by dehumanizing me. I was told I was sinful; I was picked out for private sessions by the youth minister who would tell me I was godless. I was told the way my dad treated my mother was his right as a husband and I needed to stop fighting God’s plan or whatever.

So while I was dealing with my abusive and openly pedophilic father at home, I was being labeled a sinner and shamed into silence at church. When I tried to talk about abuse they turned the blame around on me and told me I needed to accept God in my life. The message I got was that the abuse was my fault for not being a good Christian, that I was “less-than” and shit. It’s taken me years to come to the conclusion that those were lies. I now am convinced that they were relieved when I ran away because I was a thorn in their side. I was the sacrificial lamb who wouldn’t die.

I support homeschool oversight because most child abuse is committed by parents against their own children. I believe people oppose homeschool oversight because most people only worry about their own kids. They won’t admit it, but as long as their own kids aren’t at risk, even “good” homeschoolers just don’t care. They’d rather sit by and watch someone else abuse their own children than have to deal with a little bit of regulation.

My answer to that is: “Most elementary school teachers/administers are good. So we should eliminate background checks?” Of course not, because then YOUR kid might be in danger. Try not to think of kids as property and instead as individuals who can experience suffering and who deserve a fair shot at life even if their parents are shit bags. Don’t lump kids in with their parents and then discount their suffering because you don’t like the people who birthed them. Odds are, they don’t either.


Jessica A. was homeschooled in California from 1997 to 2004. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Testimonials page.

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