The Case for Oversight

Quality education is critical to children’s future wellbeing. Responsible parents understand this and work to ensure that their kids receive the best possible education, whether in public or private schools or through homeschooling. But some parents are not responsible, and when these parents homeschool the results can be disastrous.

Most states provide little accountability to ensure that homeschooled children are educated, and as a result some children fall through the cracks. Further, while many children in bad home environments have access to a teacher or guidance counselor who may take an interest in them, homeschooled children do not have this recourse. Homeschooling offers abusive parents the ability to isolate their children, compounding their maltreatment.

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education was founded by homeschool alumni—some of whom had positive experiences, and some of whom did not—to work toward a world in which all homeschooled children have access to a good education in a safe home environment.

Table of Contents

Lack of Oversight

Current oversight of homeschooling is patchy at best. In many states, homeschooling parents need not have any contact with state or local officials whatsoever. The result is a staggering lack of accountability for homeschooling parents.

Child Abuse & Educational Neglect

The current lack of accountability or oversight of homeschooling has negative consequences for thousands of homeschooled children. In some cases homeschooling serves to hide abuse, and in other cases parents shortchange their children educationally.

Physical Abuse

Abusive parents who homeschool their children do not have to worry about a teacher noticing or reporting their children’s bruises or other physical manifestations of abuse. This allows them to push farther and abuse their children in more extreme ways than they might otherwise. Read more.

Verbal & Emotional Abuse

Homeschooled children who are verbally or emotionally abused may have nowhere to go for respite or a break from their abuse. They may also have no one to contradict their parents’ abusive and manipulative messages. Children homeschooled by narcissistic or mentally unstable parents may be especially at risk. Read more.

Confinement & Food Deprivation

Homeschooling gives abusive parents the ability to deprive their children of food or confine them permanently. In some cases, children have been starved to death or kept locked in their rooms for years. This is one way abuse in homeschooling situations differs substantively from abuse of children who attend school. Read more.

Sexual Abuse

Children who are sexually abused in homeschooling situations may not have access to age-appropriate sex education that might give them the tools needed to understand and report their own abuse. Further, children homeschooled by sexually abusive parents may not have a respite or escape from their abuse. Read more.

Educational Neglect

The quality of instruction provided in homeschool settings depends almost entirely on the parent. As a result, some parents dedicate themselves to their children’s academic progress while others let academics fall by the wayside. Read more.

Truancy & Concealment

In some cases, parents homeschool their children to avoid prosecution for their children’s chronic truancy, but without any intent to actually educate. In other cases, abusive parents homeschool in order to conceal their maltreatment. Read more.

For more on these topics, see our briefs on Abuse in Homeschooling Environments and Homeschooling & Educational Neglect.

childHomeschooling’s Invisible Children

Homeschooling’s Invisible Children, a project run by CRHE, documents and archives cases of severe abuse and neglect in homeschooling settings. As of October 2014, the website has 242 cases listed, of which 94 involve fatalities. Homeschooling’s Invisible Children only archives cases where the abuse comes to light and is documented in newspaper articles or court records. New cases are added regularly. Read more here.

Homeschool Alumni Speak Out

Many members of the homeschool community have recognized these problems and support oversight of homeschooling, including current and former homeschooled students and homeschool parents. Many homeschool alumni have come forward with stories of abuse or educational neglect, shedding light on the factors that can lead homeschooling to fail. It is our hope that these stories will serve as a call for improvement and will result in changes that will improve the experiences of future homeschoolers. Read some of these stories here.

Our Policy Recommendations

The CRHE team has created a set of policy recommendations we believe have the potential to help protect the interests of homeschooled children. These recommendations are based on feedback from homeschool alumni and best practices currently in place in several states. Our policy recommendations include:

  • A system to flag at-risk children based on troubling histories of social services involvement
  • Record keeping requirements to ensure that homeschooled students have evidence of their education
  • Annual academic assessments via either standardized test or portfolio review
  • Intervention procedures that give responsible parents the resources they need to succeed while also respecting children’s right to an education

Read the rest of our recommendations here. We are committed to conducting further research on what forms of oversight are most effective at safeguarding homeschooled children’s interests.

Together we can do better.