Rebecca F.: “The physical abuse and neglect was obvious to me from a very early age”

Although parents had to submit lists of textbooks that they were using for each grade as part of their report to the local school district, it became apparent that the school district didn’t know what to do with this, and didn’t read the reports at all.”

I was homeschooled from first grade through most of high school, and then went to public school very briefly after moving. Although homeschooling was effective in helping me get a very strong math and science education, and we were in New York—a state that, according to my parents’ homeschool group and organizations like HSLDA, had very “restrictive” homeschooling laws—there were many major gaps in my education that still affect me today.

As I grew up, I saw that these “restrictive” laws still translated into practically no oversight as to either the quality of the education or of the well-being of children who were homeschooled.

The physical abuse and neglect was obvious to me from a very early age: One little girl in our homeschool group nearly died of pneumonia at age four, due to her mother’s refusal to seek medical attention, even when she had difficulty breathing. She wasn’t taken to the dentist until age six, at which point it was discovered that her teeth were so decayed, she needed multiple root canals. Parents “spanked” their children all the time, which in reality often meant outright beating them with tree branches or plastic pipes. I clearly remember overhearing adults having conversations about how they hid these items, and what excuses they used to keep their children out of swim lessons or in long pants or sleeves on occasions that suspicious bruises would be visible. I remember children who were deprived of food for days, with their parents telling them that they had to eat a specific food item or part of their meal before getting any further food, even when the food they were being coerced into eating made them ill.

The next thing I noticed was the educational neglect. One family “unschooled” their children, which to them meant they counted allowing their children to play with American Girl dolls as “history” and handling cash while they purchased items at the grocery store as “math.” Although these children could pay for a purchase, by middle school they were lagging far behind their peers. I personally experienced this somewhat later: My parents had no idea how to write, and taught me English using a curriculum that only went to 8th grade, and past that, allowed me to read books and do nothing more for “English Literature.” I had no idea how to structure a paper or even what a “thesis sentence” was until a college professor actually sat me down and asked me what I knew about writing.

The lack of oversight was also quite obvious: Although parents had to submit lists of textbooks that they were using for each grade as part of their report to the local school district, it became apparent that the school district didn’t know what to do with this, and didn’t read the reports at all. Standardized testing was required, but parents were allowed to administer it themselves, in their homes, and there was no safeguard to ensure that the parents themselves adhered to time rules and didn’t assist their children. The quarterly progress reports we had to make were similar, and parents who didn’t feel like properly grading their children’s work would simply estimate grades or use a pass/fail system, making accurate estimates of the students’ progress nearly impossible.

As an adult, I also saw that there had been a near complete failure for children to be tested for learning disabilities or other developmental delays. I showed clear signs of autism from an early age, yet my parents were angered at a suggestion that I get assessed, and looking back I can remember many other children who showed clear signs of autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and more who were neither assessed or treated, whose parents were at best blissfully unaware, and at worst bragged about how homeschooling meant their children would have been “labelled” if they had been in a public or even private school, unaware of the resources that their children so desperately needed in order to succeed.

The last issue that I experienced was transitioning from homeschooling to the professional workforce. Due to a disconnect between the homeschooling graduation requirements and public school graduation requirements in my state, although I completed every class necessary to “graduate” as a homeschooler, I didn’t complete them all while homeschooled, and didn’t complete enough to graduate from a public school. As a result, I don’t have a high school diploma. I was discouraged from taking the GED, which has left me with no proof of having graduated high school. This has occasionally presented a difficulty when applying for jobs that want proof of high school completion regardless of college degrees. (I was able to attend college as a legacy admission.)

I strongly support better oversight of homeschooling—regular contact with mandated reporters, academic assessments that aren’t administered by parents—because for many years now I have seen that it would have helped uncover or prevent many of the dozens of cases of child abuse and neglect that I saw around me growing up, and would have left many of us homeschooled students better prepared for our own independent adult lives.


Rebecca F. was homeschooled in New York State from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Testimonials page.

Fairfield Abuse Case Highlights Lack of Oversight for Homeschooling

For Immediate Release: The rescue of ten homeschooled children from a life of torture comes following other concerning cases and a new provoking study

Canton, Ma., 05/21/2018—Officials are accusing Ina Rogers and Jonathan Allen, of Fairfield, California, of torturing their ten children, ages 4 months to 12 years, for “a sadistic purpose.” The children did not attend school; Rogers reports that she was homeschooling them. The couple stands accused of shooting the children with pellet guns and crossbows; strangling and scalding them; and waterboarding them. “This case in Fairfield fits many of the themes we have seen in child abuse cases that occur in homeschool settings nationwide,” said Rachel Coleman, executive director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), a national nonprofit organization that advocates for homeschooled children.

“Cases like the one in Fairfield, California, need to be understood within a wider context in which abusive families routinely use homeschooling to hide abuse,” said Coleman. “Many individuals have rightly noticed similarities between this case and the Turpin case and expressed concern,” said Coleman. “But the use of homeschooling to conceal child abuse and neglect is neither new nor isolated or rare.” CRHE has been cataloging similar cases in the Homeschooling’s Invisible Children database since its founding in 2013; the earliest case in the database is from 1986. “Inadequate homeschool laws that offer no safeguards are easily manipulated by parents who want to escape the legal consequences of child abuse,” Coleman explained.

In April, the Connecticut Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) released a report finding that 36% of children withdrawn from school to be homeschooled in six school districts between 2013 and 2016 lived in families subject to prior accepted child abuse and neglect reports. The majority of these children (88%) lived in families that were subject to multiple prior accepted reports or had been the subject of at least one substantiated report.

“The OCA report is not the first study to raise concerns about homeschooling being used to conceal child abuse,” noted Coleman, referencing a 2014 study of child torture in which 47% of school-age victims examined had been withdrawn from school to be homeschooled and another 29%, like the Fairfield children, had never been enrolled in school.  

According to the California Department of Education, Rogers and Allen did not register their homeschool with the state. However, this does not necessarily mean their homeschool was not operating legally. Many homeschooling parents in California enroll their children in private “umbrella schools” which allow them to avoid providing their information to the California Department of Education. These umbrella schools often offer little to no oversight of their students. It is also possible that Rogers and Allen were operating their homeschool in violation of the education statues — homeschoolers often refer to such truancy as “homeschooling under the radar.”

“If state laws were not being followed, that ought to have surfaced when the family was investigated by social services three years ago,” said Coleman. “Unfortunately, we have found that social services does not always verify whether a family that claims to be homeschooling is doing so in accordance with the law. We need both good laws and effective enforcement.”

Following the Turpin case, in which 13 homeschooled children were rescued from decades of imprisonment and starvation in a Perris, California home, two bills designed to improve the state’s oversight of homeschooling were introduced in the California Assembly. Both bills were opposed by organizations representing homeschooling parents and neither made it out of committee. “It is our hope that the Fairfield case and the growing attention being paid to this issue nationwide will bring the California Assembly back to this subject in the next legislative session,” said Coleman. “There are homeschooled children out there today who need help.”

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is a national organization founded by homeschool alumni and dedicated to raising awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, providing public policy guidance, and advocating for responsible home education practices.

Many Homeschool Families Have Past Child Welfare Reports, CT Study Finds

For Immediate Release: New data suggests cases where homeschooling is used to hide child abuse or neglect are disturbingly common

Canton, Ma., 05/18/2018—Last month, the Connecticut Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) released a report finding that 36% of children withdrawn from school to be homeschooled between 2013 and 2016 lived in families with at least one prior accepted report of child abuse or neglect. “This finding backs up concerns we have voiced about lax homeschool laws for years now,” said Rachel Coleman, executive director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), a national nonprofit organization that advocates for homeschooled children. “While opponents of oversight claim that homeschool abuse cases are isolated or rare, the OCA report suggests they are much more common than anyone realized.”

In Connecticut, reports to Department of Children and Families (DCF) are either accepted or “non-accepted” based on whether an allegation meets the state’s definition of abuse and neglect.) Since 2012, accepted reports have entered a two-tier system: lower-risk reports are assigned to a Family Assessment Response (FAR) track that connects families with services while higher risk concerns are investigated and given a finding of substantiated (when investigators find evidence to support the allegations) or unsubstantiated (when they do not).  

In order to conduct their study, the OCA obtained lists of all students withdrawn to be homeschooled between 2013 and 2016 from six school districts and cross-referenced these names with records from DCF. The OCA found that 36% of these children lived in families with at least one prior accepted report of abuse or neglect, and that the vast majority of these children (88%) had families with multiple reports or a single report that was substantiated. Of the 380 students withdrawn to be homeschooled in these school districts, the OCA found that:

  • 63.4% lived in families not subject to any accepted report
  • 4.5% lived in families subject to a single accepted report that was not substantiated
  • 8.4% lived in families subject to a single accepted report that was substantiated
  • 12.4% lived in families subject to 2-3 prior accepted reports
  • 11.3% lived in families subjected to 4 or more prior accepted reports

“It is well known that abusive parents can and sometimes do use homeschooling to isolate children and conceal child abuse,” said Coleman, pointing to a 2014 study of child torture in which 47% of the school-age victims examined had been withdrawn from school to be homeschooled. In that study, researchers found that this homeschooling was “designed to further isolate the child”; that it “typically occurred after the closure of a previously opened CPS case”; and that it “was accompanied by an escalation of physically abusive events.”

CRHE’s policy recommendations, which are based on patterns observed in the cases of severe and fatal abuse and neglect catalogued in the Homeschooling’s Invisible Children database, include creating a screening system to catch cases where a child has been withdrawn from school to be homeschooled following a concerning history of child welfare reports. No state currently has such a screening system.

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is a national organization founded by homeschool alumni and dedicated to raising awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, providing public policy guidance, and advocating for responsible home education practices.

Connecticut Study Finds High Rates of Past Child Welfare Reports Among Homeschooling Families

In late April, the Connecticut Office of the Child Advocate released a report based on data from six school districts, finding that 36% of students removed from school to be homeschooled from 2013 to 2016 lived in families subject to past accepted reports of child abuse or neglect. This report followed a case where a child was removed from school to be homeschooled despite past abuse allegations, with tragic results. The study was conducted as part of the Office of the Child Advocate’s investigation of the case.   

We have been asked whether we found these findings surprising. We did not. This is not the first time we have seen numbers like these. A similar study conducted in another school district in another state — but not publicly released — had comparable results.

One of first themes we noticed when we began logging cases in our HIC database involved families who pulled their children to homeschool after the closure of a child protective services investigation, to avoid further scrutiny. This research does not reflect concern about parents who remove their children from school to provide them with an innovative, child-centered, educational environment in the home. Instead, it points to inadequate laws that offer no safeguards and are easily manipulated by parents with abusive motivations.

Child protective services cannot conduct an investigation if there are no allegations, and no allegations can be made if a child is isolated from contact with adults outside of the family, as often happens in cases where parents remove their children from school after the closure of a child protective services case. We need a screening system to catch these cases.

How many reports were substantiated?

One question that has followed the report released by the Connecticut Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) is this: How many of these children lived in families subject to allegations that were substantiated? We wondered this too! When a report of child abuse or neglect is screened in, it is typically investigated and found either “substantiated” or “unsubstantiated.” When we started asking questions, however, we learned that the system works slightly differently in Connecticut.

As in other states, allegations of child abuse are either accepted or screened out. However, in Connecticut, unlike in many other states, accepted reports then enter a two-tier system: lower-risk families are assigned to a Family Assessment Response (FAR) track and connected to services while higher risk concerns (such as allegations of physical or sexual abuse) are investigated and the allegations are either substantiated or unsubstantiated.

The FAR system was created in 2012. While accepted reports made before 2012 received a substantiated or unsubstantiated designation, after that year roughly 40% of accepted reports have been tracked into the FAR system and thus have not received either a substantiated or unsubstantiated designation. To avoid confusion over this change, the OCA report focused on children in families subject to multiple reports rather than on whether the reports were substantiated.  

How do the numbers break down?

The OCA obtained lists of all students withdrawn to be homeschooled between 2013 and 2016 from six school districts and compared the names with records from the Department of Children and Families. They found that 36% of the 380 students removed from school to be homeschooled lived in families subject to at least one prior accepted report of abuse or neglect. The vast majority of these children (88%) lived in families subject to multiple reports or a single report that was substantiated. Furthermore, the majority of these families (75%) were subject to an accepted report dated 2013 to the present.

The OAC released the following breakdown of all students removed from school to be homeschooled in these six school districts during this period (chart created by CRHE):

Here is the same data in bullet points:

  • 63.4% lived in families not subject to any accepted report
  • 4.5% lived in families subject to a single accepted report that was not substantiated
  • 8.4% lived in families subject to a single accepted report that was substantiated
  • 12.4% lived in families subject to 2-3 prior accepted reports
  • 11.3% lived in families subjected to 4 or more prior accepted reports

There is currently no screening system to catch cases like these or to otherwise prevent fraudulent homeschooling. Removing a child from school to homeschool them after a concerning history of child abuse and neglect allegations, cases, and even convictions is not prohibited by law, and families that do so do not receive additional monitoring.

Do we have other data?

To our knowledge, there have been only two studies of the rate of past child abuse allegations among homeschooled children, each conducted locally — the OCA’s study, and a second that we are aware of in another state, but whose findings have not been released publicly. However, there are a few other data points that can be useful in considering this issue.

In 2014, Barbara Knox and a group of researchers published a study of child abuse so severe it could be rightly termed child torture. Of the school-age cases Knox examined, 47% of victims were removed from school to be homeschooled. Knox writes that this homeschooling “appears to have been designed to further isolate the child” and that it “typically occurred after the closure of a previously opened CPS case.” Knox also found that these students’ removal from school “was accompanied by an escalation of physically abusive events.” Knox’s finding that the children in her study were generally removed from school “after the closure of a previously opened CPS case” should raise concern.

In April, six children of Jennifer Hart and Sarah Hart died when their family’s van plummeted from a cliff in an apparent murder-suicide following years of abuse. The children had been removed from school years before, days after the conclusion Sarah Hart’s prosecution for physical abuse. By isolating their children, Jennifer Hart and Sarah Hart were able to carry out years of physical and emotional abuse undetected. Removing children from school after the conclusion of child protective services scrutiny can offer parents a way to avoid being subject to future reports.

Children who have been the subject of previous abuse or neglect reports are at elevated risk of future abuse. The Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities (CECANF), which was commissioned by Congress in 2012 to make recommendations for decreasing child maltreatment fatalities, found that “a call to a child protection hotline, regardless of the disposition, is the best predictor of a later child abuse or neglect fatality.”

Concluding Thoughts

Parents with a concerning history of child protective services reports should not be permitted to use homeschooling to remove themselves and their children from the radar of child protective services. And yet, this is what we currently see on a regular basis. These cases are not hypotheticals or rare instances. The OCA’s report suggests that homeschooling is used to conceal child abuse far more frequently than has been commonly thought.

An estimated 1.7 million children are being homeschooled today. If the OCA’s findings hold true across the country, the implications are massive: We are looking at hundreds of thousands of children who are very likely in abusive situations. Creating a screening system that flags cases where children are pulled from school after a history of child protective services involvement is crucial.  

California Assembly Bills 2756 and 2926 will improve protections for homeschooled children in CA

For Immediate Release: CRHE and homeschool alumni support CA AB-2756 and AB-2926, which would improve protections for homeschooled children in California.

Canton, Ma., 04/16/2018—Two bills proposing homeschool regulatory reform were introduced to the California state legislature on February 16, 2018. AB-2765 was brought by Assembly Members Medina, Eggman, and Gonzalez Fletcher, and co-authored by Assembly Member Rodriguez. A second proposal, AB-2926, was introduced by Assembly Member Eggman.

CRHE members and homeschool alumni support both these proposed California homeschool legislative reform bills.

AB-2756 would allow the California Department of Education to more effectively gather information on the state’s homeschools by creating different categories for different types of private schools. It would also ensure that local school districts receive full contact information for students being homeschooled locally. We support these proposals without reservation.

We also applaud AB-2926, which would create an advisory committee to assess the state’s oversight of homeschooling and make recommendations. We commend the intent of this bill and would urge an advisory committee to consider (1) requiring homeschooled students to receive an annual physical by a practicing physician and (2) requiring these students to take an annual standardized test or have an academic portfolio reviewed by a certified teacher unrelated to the family.

While we recommend that certain academic standards be met by homeschooling parents, such as having a high school diploma or GED, we do not find that requiring homeschooling parents to have a teaching certificate is an effective way to ensure that homeschooled children are educated. We strongly suggest that lawmakers amend the current text of AB 2926 to remove its mention of a possible teacher certification requirement, instead considering other alternatives to ensure that academic standards are met in homeschooling families, such as annual academic assessments.  

AB-2926 would open a much-needed larger conversation on homeschooling oversight in the state of California.

We at CRHE support and applaud the legislative efforts to evaluate and improve homeschool oversight in California currently under consideration. We are passionate about preventing children from falling through the cracks and ensuring that homeschooled children receive an adequate education. These proposals uphold the spirit of our work to make homeschooling safe.

Background

California has no specific codified legal process for homeschooling. Instead, homeschooling parents register themselves as private schools and are obligated to do little more than record how many days they participated in “schooling” (what “schooling” looks like is determined by the parents). This system fails to provide homeschooled children with effective protections or oversight to prevent abuse or ensure they receive a basic education.

These bills were introduced in response to revelations that David and Louise Turpin isolated, starved, and imprisoned thirteen homeschooled children in their Perris, California, home. The Turpins took advantage of the laxity of current law, but they were far from the first California parents to use homeschooling to hide abuse. Indeed, the story did not come as a surprise to us. Our database of homeschool abuse cases contains dozens of other cases of severe and fatal abuse in homeschool settings in California alone.

In a 2014 study of child torture, Barbara Knox, a pediatrician at the University of Wisconsin, found that 47% of the school-aged victims she examined were withdrawn from school to be homeschooled. As Knox explained: “This ‘homeschooling’ appears to have been designed to further isolate the child and typically occurred after closure of a previously opened CPS case.”

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is a national organization founded by homeschool alumni and dedicated to raising awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, providing public policy guidance, and advocating for responsible home education practices.

Hart Children’s Deaths Raise Questions about Homeschool Law

For Immediate Release: The Hart case fits a pattern of abusive homeschooling following child abuse convictions, cases, and reports

Canton, Ma., 04/04/2018—On March 26, a van sped off a cliff and into the Pacific Ocean. California Highway Patrol reports that the speedometer was stopped at 90 mph, suggesting that the crash was intentional. Inside the van were the bodies of parents Sarah and Jennifer Hart, and three of their six adopted children. Their other three children are missing but presumed dead. Investigation revealed that the children were homeschooled after Sarah Hart pleaded guilty to assaulting 6-year-old Abigail in 2011. The abuse had been reported by school officials after Abigail showed them her bruises.

The Hart children’s deaths occurred two days after a child protective services official visited their home following a report made by a neighbor that one of the children had come by her home a dozen times asking for food, stating that he was being starved as punishment.

Rachel Coleman, executive director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), a national nonprofit that advocates for homeschooled children, did not find the details of the case surprising. “The Hart children’s abuse and tragic death fit many of the themes we have identified since we began maintaining our Homeschooling’s Invisible Children database in 2013,” said Coleman. “A disproportionate number of severe and fatal child abuse cases in homeschool settings involve adoption.” Many of the cases in CRHE’s database, such as the high-profile deaths of Lydia Schatz in 2009 and Hana Williams in 2011, also involve interracial adoption, as in the Harts’ case.

This is not the only theme Coleman noted. The food deprivation suffered by the Hart children fits into a common pattern in CRHE’s database. “Children who are homeschooled do not have access to food at school like other children,” Coleman noted. “Abusive parents wield food as a weapon; homeschooling allows them to do so with sometimes deadly efficiency.”

Sarah Hart’s 2011 domestic assault conviction for abusing her daughter also does not come as a surprise to Coleman. “We have seen other cases where individuals who pleaded guilty to child cruelty, often after a report made by school employees, subsequently homeschooled and abused their kids,” said Coleman. “In these cases, homeschooling is frequently used to deliberately hide abuse.”

In a 2014 study of child abuse so severe that it could be termed torture, researcher Barbara Knox of the University of Wisconsin found that 47% of the school-aged victims she studied had been removed from school to be homeschooled. “This ‘homeschooling’ appears to have been designed to further isolate the child and typically occurred after closure of a previously opened CPS case,” Knox wrote. The abuse typically intensified after homeschooling began.

Only one state — Pennsylvania — currently bars convicted child abusers from homeschooling, and then only if the conviction is in the past five years. No state has any system to flag cases where parents pull a child to homeschool after a child protective services case is closed, or after a series of concerning child abuse reports. Coleman, however, is hopeful. “We are seeing more legislation designed to protect at-risk homeschooled children introduced this year than we have any year since our founding in 2013,” she notes.

“Public education is not perfect, but attending school does offer children access to a support system outside of the home,” Coleman stated. “Prior involvement with child protective services is one of the strongest predictors of future abuse. We as a society need to protect children who are especially vulnerable, not abandon them.”   

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is a national organization founded by homeschool alumni and dedicated to raising awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, providing public policy guidance, and advocating for responsible home education practices.

California Assembly Bill 2756 Opens Conversation on Homeschooling

For Immediate Release: As long as homeschooling takes place under the private school law, homeschools should be required to follow that law

Canton, Ma., 02/21/2018—Last week Assemblyman Jose Medina introduced Assembly Bill 2756, which would require homeschools in California to be inspected annually by the local fire department or the State Fire Marshal, in keeping with the requirements of the state’s private school law. “We applaud Assemblyman Medina for taking action to protect homeschooled children like those rescued from a Perris, California, ‘house of horrors’ last month,” said Rachel Coleman, executive director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, which advocates for homeschooled children. “This is a conversation lawmakers need to be having.”

In California, homeschooling takes place under the state’s private school law. The private school law requires annual fire inspections, but this requirement is typically not enforced for homeschools. The discovery of the thirteen starved, imprisoned children last month has lawmakers rethinking this exemption. “As long as parents in California homeschool under the state’s private school law, they should have to follow that law,” said Coleman. “Assemblyman Medina’s bill would ensure fairness, requiring families that teach their children at home under the state’s private school law to follow the same rules as any other private school.”

“It is our hope that Assemblyman Medina’s bill will open a larger conversation about homeschooling in California,” stated Coleman. “Both parents and children would be best served by the creation of a dedicated homeschool statute.” California’s private school law was not created with homeschooling in mind; efforts to apply requirements written for traditional private schools to homeschools are confusing to parents and district superintendents alike. Currently, parents face uncertainty when laws that weren’t designed for homeschooling are interpreted and enforced differently depending on the district where they live.

“A dedicated homeschool statue would cut through confusion and give lawmakers an opportunity to create a law that protects all children from the outset,” said Coleman.

Families homeschooling in California could avoid a potential fire inspection requirement by enrolling their children in a private school satellite program that allows them to homeschool without filing as an individual private school with the state. While some of these programs offer tutoring or classes, many of them exist only for paperwork purposes; in some cases, parents can enroll their children online, without ever having in-person contact with those operating the program. “Any effort to effectively support homeschooled children in California needs to create requirements for private school satellite programs,” said Coleman.

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is a national organization founded by homeschool alumni and dedicated to raising awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, providing public policy guidance, and advocating for responsible home education practices.

Jennifer I.: “All that was required was a note every year”

Most of my homeschooled peers were much like me, in that they were handed a textbook and then expected to essentially teach themselves from grade eight on.”

I was homeschooled from K-12 alongside my siblings by my mother, initially due to concerns about the quality of the local school district, and then due to religious reasons. We tried many different versions of homeschooling, from unschooling, to support groups, and pre-packaged curriculums like Sonlight. While my parents chose to homeschool out of a desire for the best for us, the experience left me essentially playing catch-up to this day, even as I pursue my masters degree after successfully obtaining my bachelor’s from an accredited university.

Rhode Island state law is extremely lax when it comes to regulating homeschooling, and leaves much of it up to individual school superintendents. This led to the superintendent in my district being pressured into not providing more than minimal oversight due to the small size of the town, and the homeschooling community essentially threatening to block the school budget vote from going through. All that was required was a note every year confirming that you were homeschooling, and a “transcript” of what the child had done the last year, which was rarely accurate and was never challenged by the school.

These lax regulations lead to the first standardized test I ever took being the SATs at 18, and my learning disabilities being undiagnosed and unaddressed until college. Gaps in oversight led to a great deal of “freedom” in my self design of my entire high school curriculum, namely I primarily “studied” what I pleased unless my mother felt up to fighting with me to get me to try and learn algebra.

While it sounds impressive that I completed a western civilizations course focused on unifying trends in mythological narratives around the world and completed two national novel writing challenges before the age of 18, what that description hides was my complete lack of scientifically based science classes, my minimal mathematics abilities, inability to diagram a sentence or define an adverb, and complete lack of study skills.

My first year of college was a struggle because of these gaps in my base education, and to this day I find myself attempting to self educate to hide these gaps as they affect my ability to complete higher level education. Any level of oversight may have helped prevent that, and I feel fortunate that my parents were prosperous enough and invested enough to help give me the resources I had growing up, since my education was still miles ahead of some of my homeschooled peers in terms of content and instruction. Most of my homeschooled peers were much like me, in that they were handed a textbook and then expected to essentially teach themselves from grade eight on.

My father has a Master’s degree and my mother is a brilliant computer programmer, but their intelligence and education did not adequately prepare them to teach mathematics, biology, chemistry, or even basic grammar for the most part.

Standardized mandatory testing once a year and yearly physicals would provide a level of accountability for homeschooling parents that would ensure that students are not deprived of their right to a education, while still allowing parents the freedom to choose the method and location of that education.


Jennifer I. was homeschooled in Rhode Island from 2001 to 2013. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Testimonials page.

Hawaii SB 2323 Is a Positive Step toward Protecting Homeschooled Children

For Immediate Release: Senate Bill 2323 is a productive response to a nationwide pattern of abusive parents misusing homeschooling to hide abuse

Canton, Ma. 02/07/2018—This week, Hawaii State Senator Kaiali’i Kahele introduced Senate Bill 2323, which would create a screening process designed to ensure that children with elevated risk factors are not removed from school to be homeschooled. Kahele told reporters that he introduced the bill in response the tragic 2016 starvation death of 9-year-old Shaelynn Lehano, who lived in his Hilo district. “We are pleased with Sen. Kahele’s proposal and urge the Hawaii legislature to put homeschooled children first by supporting SB 2323,” said Rachel Coleman, executive director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), a national nonprofit organization that advocates for homeschooled children. “Homeschooling should be used to lovingly prepare children for an open future, and not as an avenue for abusive parents to isolate children and conceal torture and abuse.”

Under SB 2323, the complex area superintendent would run a background check on each individual residing in a home upon the receipt of a notification of intent to homeschool; families with a history of child abuse or neglect would have their notification of intent denied. In the bill’s introduction, Kahele references “Peter Boy” Kema, who died in 1997 after his parents were allowed to homeschool him despite their history of child abuse and neglect. Shaelynn’s case was eerily similar. In a 2014 study of child torture, Barbara Knox, a pediatrician at the University of Wisconsin, found that 47% of the school-aged victims she examined had been removed from school to be homeschooled, an act “designed to further isolate the child” that “typically occurred after closure of a previously opened CPS case.”

CRHE maintains the Homeschooling’s Invisible Children database, which catalogues cases across the country where abuse and neglect occur under the guise of homeschooling. In many of these cases, parents withdrew a child to homeschool after teachers demonstrated a willingness to report signs of abuse, thus preventing future reports. “We have seen case after case where abusive parents have used homeschooling to conceal abuse,” said Coleman.

Currently, two states bar homeschooling based on certain risk factors. Pennsylvania bars parents from homeschooling when an adult in the household has committed a crime that would prevent them from teaching in a public school; Arkansas prohibits homeschooling when there is a registered sex offender in the home. SB 2323 would make Hawaii a national leader in the protection of homeschooled children. The background check and flagging process proposed by Sen. Kahele is in line with CRHE’s recommendations.

“Previous child welfare services involvement is one of the top risk factors for future abuse,” said Coleman. “Children at elevated risk of child abuse should have access to mandatory reporters and a support system.”

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is a national organization founded by homeschool alumni and dedicated to raising awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, providing public policy guidance, and advocating for responsible home education practices.

New Hampshire: Don’t Exempt Homeschooled Children from the Protection of Child Labor Laws

For Immediate Release: Exempting homeschooled children from the state’s child labor laws renders them vulnerable to exploitation

Canton, Ma., 01/25/2018—Lawmakers in New Hampshire are considering legislation—House Bill 1321—that would exempt homeschooled children from the bulk of the state’s child labor law. “Homeschooled children, like other children, need time for their studies,” said Rachel Coleman, executive director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for homeschooled children. “Work experience is not a substitute for K-12 education. Children’s education and opportunities should not be limited by formative years spent working instead of studying.”

HB 1321 exempts “youth receiving home education” pursuant to the state’s homeschool law from sections IV, VI, and VIII of the state’s child labor law. These sections lay out the hours children may work. Children 15 and under are barred from working before 7 a.m. or after 9 p.m. in order to protect their sleep, and may work no more than three hours per school day, 23 hours per week during school weeks, and 48 hours per week during school vacations. Children ages 16 and 17 from may work no more than 30 hours per week during school weeks and 48 hours per week during school vacations (with no limits on when they can work). HB 1321 would exempt homeschooled children from these protections entirely.

“We understand that children who are homeschooled are often able to work different hours from other children,” said Coleman. For homeschooled children ages 16 and 17, she noted, state law already allows for this flexibility. “This bill is not about acknowledging different school hours,” Coleman added. “HB 1321 would allow a child of 14, 15, or 16 to work full time, 40 hours per week or more, for the entire year, allowing little or no time for their education.”

CRHE is aware of multiple cases of child labor violations in homeschool settings, including teens required to work full time year round in farm labor, construction, or house-cleaning businesses. In numerous cases CRHE is familiar with, these children have not had adequate time to complete their studies, resulting in educational neglect that followed them long into adulthood, limiting their career options. Under HB 1321, such situations would not be child labor violations; instead, they would be legal.

HB 1321 would turn homeschooling from a child-centered educational option into a loophole from child labor protections, to the detriment of vulnerable teens. This is especially the case in a state like New Hampshire, where parents are not required to show evidence that they are providing their children an education. “If HB 1321 becomes law, there would be nothing in in the state’s statutes to prevent a parent from homeschooling solely so that they could require a child of fourteen or fifteen to work full time,” warned Coleman.

“Children who are homeschooled may receive their education at home, but they still need time to receive an education,” said Coleman. “We urge the lawmakers of New Hampshire not to exempt homeschooled children wholesale from the state’s child labor protections.”

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is a national organization founded by homeschool alumni and dedicated to raising awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, providing public policy guidance, and advocating for responsible home education practices.