To register or not to register? That is the question homeschoolers are asking. We fear the government peering over our shoulders, pointing fingers saying we can’t school our children properly. We fear the unknown, what registering will entail and the door we open to a government we do not trust.
We, as responsible human beings, take the task of schooling our children seriously. We spend time and money researching and finding resources to best suit our children’s needs and wants. We don’t want the government hedging us in and tying our hands with regards to how, what and when to teach our kids. We don’t want our homes to be invaded to see if we have a suitable space to homeschool, or if our children are provided for emotionally, physically and academically. Our children are safe in our homes and are blossoming with the freedom that homeschooling offers.
But on the other side of the coin, there is a minority that has caused a cloud to come over homeschooling. Unfortunately, this is the only side of homeschooling that the government gets to deal with and the public gets to see in the newspaper. What happens when a social worker is called to investigate a situation in which a family is known to “homeschool” because the children are at home, but people can see that the children are not getting any input at home? The children are neglected and hang around all day with little to no interaction with the parents. The children are found to be lacking basic skills in accordance with their age. Or the children are seen with bruises and excuses like, “Oh, he fell in the bath” too often. When inquiries are made, the children are found to be abused and neglected academically, emotionally or physically. Many times parents just cannot afford the school fees and pull their kids out of school under the guise of homeschooling, but in fact, never intended to homeschool in the first place.
Unfortunately, these are the “homeschoolers” the government sees, the ones that are reported to social services. They don’t see the happy children that are taken care of and thriving. They don’t see the satisfaction on the little faces when they enjoy their outing to the bird park. They don’t see the trial and tribulation as your senior prepares for his Math exams and passes with good marks. They don’t see the hard work the parent puts into providing a safe and happy home, because they hardly ever get reported and land up in court.
In a testimonial from a homeschool alumnus on the Responsible Homeschooling website (please refer to the original testimony at https://responsiblehomeschooling.org/catherine-s-everyone-needs-a-checks-and-balance-system/ ) Cathrine S was subjected to this type of neglect. Here is an excerpt:
“We (my sisters and I) definitely were homeschooled as a result of and to hide chronic covert abuse on every level. It was done under the guise of evangelical, conservative, baptist Christian faith, but the truth was that my older sister had spoken with one of her public school teachers at the time, telling them what was going on in our home and my parents had to contain the situation by homeschooling us and scare us into silence to protect themselves.
I understand covert narcissism due to my parents. I understand how blindly people can stand in defense of homeschooling, only because they never see, experience, or hear about the diabolical things that are happening in toxic homeschool homes. I know from experience the reality of what we are talking about — helpless children that may never see the light of day outside of their parents’ immediate reach, day in and day out, for 18 years…If mandatory counselors visits or therapist sessions were required by state law without the presence of a parent, either one or all of us could have been saved from the situation…Everyone needs a check and balance system for moral, ethical purposes.”
With this, I am not saying that we should let the government come into our homes and do whatever they want to do. All I am saying is that every child has the right to be provided for emotionally, physically and academically. But if we keep on insisting on no checks and balances, children like Cathrine S. will never be found and protected or given the chance to be helped. We need to consider the fact that not every homeschooler is homeschooling for the same reasons we are and not every child is safe in his or her own home.
Finding a midway is not easy, but I feel that if we all stand together in organised associations, we can bargain for the checks and balances. We have the right to sit in the meetings when homeschooling is discussed and with children like Cathrine S. in mind, make concessions and give input as to who we will allow into our homes to do the assessments, by whom our children may be evaluated and what those evaluations should entail. We must find some midway where we as parents allow space for the system to find children like Cathrine, but where there is also freedom from the system that allows us to teach our children according to their individual needs, emotionally, physically and academically, and not just the requirements of a rigid system.