“While I was researching what I would need to do to homeschool, I was stunned to find that in Texas homeschooling is completely unregulated. . . . Professionally I am a counselor. [At one point] I was working with people struggling with substance use disorders and trapped in poverty. . . . A sizeable portion had left school because their parents pulled them out, allegedly to homeschool them.”
I have been a square peg all my life, never fitting into the round holes of society. So my homeschool journey is anything but typical, my views about it are mixed, and I’ve only just started. My oldest child is 5 and has mild autism, and it was in November 2014, when he was in pre-k, that I realized I was going to have to homeschool him. Originally I had planned to have him finish off the school year, but in January things got so bad that I rushed to get him into a therapy program for children with autism and ended up taking him out in February. Since he does have autism and schedule changes are hard for him, and since he is in therapy 20 hours a week, I held off on starting homeschooling until the beginning of June. So hopefully I will have a unique viewpoint to offer.
I have several learning disabilities (or differences as I call them) and am possibly on the autism spectrum. The special education system in Texas failed me in numerous ways growing up, so when I realized that my son, now five, was likely autistic, I was determined that he should not be subjected to what I was in elementary school. He was in Early Childhood Intervention Services at 18 months, and when he aged out he was placed in a special education pre-k in public school. While he needed more services he than he was getting, it was a good place for him until he was moved into a blended pre-k. There he was expected to act like any other child, even though he has autism and has difficulties transitioning, and his IEP was ignored. I knew from my own experience growing up that I had two options, I could spend my son’s entire school career arguing with the school district and advocating for him and getting nowhere, or I could take all of that time and energy and put it into homeschooling him. While I did end up surviving elementary school and went on to get my Master’s Degree, I still struggle with the emotional abuse inflected on me and resentment for being punished for learning differently than other children, and I did not want to put my son through that. So I took him out of school.
While I was researching what I would need to do to homeschool, I was stunned to find that in Texas homeschooling is completely unregulated. All I had to do was inform the school my son was enrolled at was the we intend to homeschool him. I did not even have to inform them which curriculum we plan to use. Even more shocking, if I decide to homeschool my 2 year old daughter, then I don’t have to inform the state. I simply never enroll her in school.
Professionally I am a counselor. Until I left my job to start a small private practice so I could be home more to school my son, I was working with people struggling with substance use disorders and trapped in poverty. Most had not graduated high school and never got their GED. A sizeable portion had left school because their parents pulled them out, allegedly to homeschool them. In reality they were providing care for younger siblings because their parents could not afford daycare, left alone for long periods of time while their parents worked, or it was used to put them under house arrest as a teenager to prevent them from meeting friends who would challenge their parents’ worldview.
Being pulled out of school was something they were not able to recover from and left them in a poverty trap that is difficult to escape from.
So while I understand concerns about the government interfering too much with homeschooling, I think complete dysregulation is dangerous and harmful. I do not see how it would impinge on my rights as a parent to let the state know that I am homeschooling, which curriculum I am using, and the progress that my children are making. If anything, I see this as a measure to help ensure that my children’s educational needs are met. I can all too easily see how someone can start homeschooling with the best intentions only to get overwhelmed and let it slide. We hold schools accountable for educating students, so I don’t see why we also shouldn’t ensure that parents are educating their children. Having an educated populace helps us as a society.
While I personally don’t worry about neglecting my children’s education, where I do struggle is with finding homeschooling co-ops in my area that are not Christian. I am a Secular Humanist, and want to make sure my children get a good education in science and history. While I have found amazing secular curricula online, I have yet to find a homeschool co-op in my area that is not Christian only. Considering I hear so much about how these are important to successful homeschooling, it is frustrating that the only ones in my area are not good fits for me. And considering that one reason I took my son out was so he wouldn’t feel as ostracized as I did, it seems that the problems follows. Whether in school or with homeschool, my son and I are both square pegs.
At times I am resentful that I felt the public schools were so toxic for my son that I have to put the effort into homeschooling. But then, when you have a child with special needs, you’re going to have to work harder, either through advocating for them or just providing them what they need yourself. And while I trust that I have the education and determination to do this well, I would appreciate more government oversight because I do see the harm that comes from this being completely unregulated.
Roianna is a homeschool mother in Texas. For additional thoughts and experiences from homeschool alumni and other homeschool parents, see our Testimonials page.