Social Issues

The Courage Conference: Homeschooling & Abuse

I mentioned this in passing a bit ago, but wanted to take some time to really give this the attention it deserves. I will be presenting at The Courage Conference in Raleigh, NC on October 20-21. Here’s the description of the conference from the website:

The Courage Conference is a non-denominational event that will offer a judgement-free place for survivors of abuse (and those who love them) to gather and hear inspiring stories from other survivors about moving forward in boldness and healing. The event will also educate pastors and church leaders on the topic of abuse and introduce them to safe practices and resources for their faith community. The Courage Conference offers a unique opportunity to hear from advocates and trained professionals through inspiring keynotes talks, Q&A sessions and workshops in addition to connecting attendees with local and national resources, so you don’t have to do this alone.

I’m excited about the lineup of speakers, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to talk about a topic I think is not well understood. Abuse in homeschooling environments can be so headline-grabbing (children locked in closets and starved to death, chopped up and stored in freezers for years, beaten to death) that most news outlets seem to get pretty myopic. While all of those happen and definitely deserve to be addressed as the atrocities they are, the focus on what are, in actuality, a handful of cases out of millions of homeschooled children lets homeschoolers who are abusive in much more mundane ways escape notice. People can say “we’re nothing like that” or “I don’t know anyone like that” and then dismiss the need to examine their communities for the ways it might enable abuse.

These communities end up fighting any kind of oversight and frequently use the sometimes-myopic treatment of the press as a way to cry persecution. Why should they be punished with regulations and oversight because someone somewhere did something unspeakably awful? It happens again and again in the conversations I find myself in about homeschooling and the need for oversight. We end up talking past each other– they think I’m thinking of Lydia Schatz when I’m talking about my own experience and how every single child I knew in my homeschooling communities were physically abused. Not locked in closets, not starved, not murdered, but still very much abused. They feel comfortable with “self-regulation” because no one they know is an axe-wielding child murderer, and they get to ignore the other forms of abuse that may not be obvious to them.

My presentation, which I’ll be giving with Carmen Green who’s founded the Center for Home Education Policy and who you can read about here (I was background research for that article, btw), will be going over all of that for about an hour. What does abuse in homeschools actually tend to look like, and what can we do about it?

Anyway, if you can make it to Raleigh, NC in two weeks I hope to see you there. If you know of anyone who might be interested, please pass along the website. The conference still needs some funding, too. I appreciate that the organizers are trying to make this as affordable as possible, so maybe if you think educating religious leaders on abuse, trauma, and how to help is important, throw a few dollars their way?

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  • CynicMom

    When you’re done would you be willing to post an abstract or summary of your talk?

    • I’ll be posting the power point and some notes after. 🙂

  • Looking forward to reading your PowerPoint afterwards. I skimmed the WaPo piece and want to get back to it. We HS some of the kids; let some of them attend a local vo-tech program, and another is in Classical Conversations.

    Until Christian HS advocates (and I think it’s mostly Christian HS advocates who are so staunchly against any outside controls or checks) admit that there are flaws in their system, we won’t get anywhere. I understand 1st Amendment concerns, but from the other side, Christians talk about how flawed and evil humans are. How then can a schooling system confined to the home with no outside checks be anything but flawed and evil? It’s like they want the best of both worlds, and don’t see the dichotomy.

    • In my experience so far, even secular homeschoolers tend to be very much against regulation or oversight. They don’t oppose it for the same reasons — they don’t believe the government opposes their Christian faith, and so wants to persecute them, for example– but they might believe other ideas that still require them to resist oversight.

      • Kellyanne

        I am studying in France right now, and one of my classes was comparing education in France with the United States, and everyone was fascinated and horrified by my perspective as a homeschooler from a state with no oversight. In France, there are very few homeschoolers, but those that do have a lot of oversight and tests that children have to pass every year, etc.