13 Again

I feel like I just found a time machine and was transported two decades back in time. You may have seen that American Prospect came out with an article, “The Homeschool Apostates,” that chronicles some of the people who were hurt by the fundamentalist homeschooling world, and how homeschool graduates are pushing back. It’s a pretty long and important article and discusses Homeschoolers Anonymous, which I’m involved with. The article has gotten a lot of press and buzz on Twitter, including from Richard Dawkins (who I really don’t like for lots of reasons, but hey, he’s super famous) and Dan Savage (who I like much better than Dawkins). Plight of homeschooled children with religious wingnut parents: http://t.co/9FxSwfokuJ. Support group here: http://t.co/56Hp3X4v6B — Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) December 6, 2013 Terrific—and depressing—longread: children escaping from homeschooling families. Read: http://t.co/eXKMiiCcGs — Dan Savage (@fakedansavage) December 6, 2013 ICYMI: Compelling piece about kids abused and miseducated by “homeschooling” parents—and how they’re fighting back: http://t.co/XGyt5MizYT — Dan Savage (@fakedansavage) December 7, 2013 That was cool and all, famous people tweeting about something I’m involved with, but what really meant something was seeing that Phil Vischer, creator of Veggie Tales (and voice of Larry the Cucumber), the videos that every evangelical kid of a certain age watched, tweeted the article.  This story about extremes in Christian parenting/homeschooling is frightening, but worth reading. http://t.co/9ryKpAljdk — Phil Vischer (@philvischer) December 7, 2013 And then Lisa “Junior Asparagus” Vischer tweeted about it too. Good homeschooling rocks! But this disturbing article/data is good motivation to avoid unhealthy extremes… http://t.co/40ZqyIfwvx — Lisa Vischer (@LisaVischer) December 7, 2013 It’s silly, but for all of the press and the attention from famous people like Dawkins and Savage, what feels like it really matters is that the Veggie Tales people read the article and[…]

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How bad homeschool research and statistics hurt homeschoolers

When I was in college, I was one of the participants who answered the NHERI/HSLDA/Brian Ray survey of homeschooling graduates. I don’t remember how I got the survey, probably via email forward from my mom, but what I do remember is sending an email to my family after taking it in which I said something about how I wouldn’t believe a thing from the eventual study results. Aside from the fact that an email forwarded among homeschool groups asking people to take an internet survey is a lousy way of getting a representative sample (especially when we’re talking more than a decade ago, when we were nowhere as close to ubiquitous computing as we are now and computer access was still largely along socioeconomic lines), the survey itself was rife with methodological problems. My memory is of a survey where I could tell exactly what answer they were looking to find, based on both the questions asked and the possible answers given for those questions. It was a survey that, even as a college student who had a positive experience and didn’t have the criticisms of the system that I do now, was so bad that I wondered why anyone would design it the way they did unless the goal was not usable data but a certain set of predetermined results. If I got anything out of being homeschooled for twelve years by a math teacher, it’s a healthy appreciation for numbers. Numbers explain the world, or at least they can explain the world if they’re used correctly. Without good numbers, you might as well be stumbling around in the dark bumping your shins into the furniture. Bad numbers are even worse than no numbers; they’re like spreading Legos on the carpet while stumbling around in the dark with bare[…]

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I Resemble That Remark

I’m not generally in the habit of responding via blog post to tweets by 21 year old college students, but when that 21 year old college student is an occasional World Net Daily columnist tweeting slurs to mock something I’m involved in, I’m willing to break that rule. This lovely little gem was tweeted earlier today, he’s since deleted it (without apology, I might add), but too bad the Internet is forever. There’s a good post by Nicholas Ducote, one of the folks who started Homeschooler’s Anonymous, over on the site. I’d encourage you to go read it. Among other things, it points out that you can’t fit the contributors to the site into a box and write the whole thing off with a label. The funny thing about trying to write off Homeschooler’s Anonymous as a bunch of disgruntled “homos” is that of the people who are official blog partners with HA, I’m the only one who identifies as gay. So yeah, Josh Craddock, I guess I resemble that remark. And yet, I’m the one who has repeatedly gone on record talking about how my homeschool experience was overwhelmingly positive (other than that whole courtship thing), even in posts that are critical of aspects of homeschool culture. My story happens to be a mostly good one because my parents didn’t buy into the movement homeschooling to the same level as many parents. I was always taught that could be or do whatever I set my mind to, and was never given the message that there were certain things that were off limits to me because of my gender. I had free reign of the library to read whatever interested me. Other than being told when I was seven that Stephen Hawking was way too advanced for me to understand (I was on a[…]

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Guest Post: Homeschooling’s Unwilling Boosters?

The following is a follow-up to my posts, The One Thing You Should Never Ask a Homeschool Kid, and Well, That Was Certainly Not Something I Expected to be Controversial. The author wishes to remain anonymous. *** Kathryn blogged last week about homeschool children who are asked to defend homeschooling to strangers who want to know if they’re well educated and well-adjusted.   What does it look and feel like when our parents and homeschooling community expect us to be apologists for homeschooling? This kind of upbringing can lead to 2 results: You grow haughty about your own superiority and stand at a distance from your peers You don’t learn to be self-reflective, and you end up a crippled version of yourself because you don’t change the things you need to change to become a fully developed adult and. I know this, because I’ve both seen it in others and lived it myself.  As a homeschool student from K-12, I too was asked by many strangers and friends to defend my experience as a homeschooler.  But the same expectation existed within my own community.    My homeschooling experience started in the early days of the homeschooling movement.  I was often asked by my parents to describe the benefits of my homeschooling experience because they were proud of me, but also because homeschooling still required defense in a lot of circles.  At my graduation, the unwritten expectation of my homeschool community was that I would speak about how my experience was superior to that of my peers.  This expectation exists for most homeschool graduations I’ve been to—parents expect their children to stand as apologists for their homeschool experience.  I once attended a graduation where the two speakers talked about the superiority of their educational upbringing—they were confident, articulate, and very convincing.  Except[…]

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Guard Your Heart, Part Two

This is part two in a two part series. It was originally written as part of the Homeschoolers Anonymous series, “Homeschoolers Are Out.” In this series: Part One | Part Two ***** Sometimes the hardest person to come out to is yourself. After spending a few years post-college working as a wedding and gift registry consultant (turns out I liked studying computer science a lot more than doing it), I decided a change of course was in order, packed up everything and moved to Vietnam to teach for a year. I had a wonderful time and learned a lot about myself and also learned tons from the very talented and accomplished Vietnamese faculty at the university where I taught. Coming back to the US sent me into a tailspin of reverse culture shock and I spent a long few months feeling like I didn’t know which end was up or what ground was solid. During that time I found myself questioning all sorts of things as I tried to figure out what to do with myself and which direction was forward. It was during that time that I began to realize that it wasn’t just that I had been really good at guarding my heart, and that it wasn’t just that I hadn’t found the right guy, it’s that I never was attracted to guys in the first place. When you’re the model homeschool child, “gay” is something that happens to other people. As a kid it was those people I’d see on TV marching, or who my parents’ religious right friends would rail against, but it’s certainly not the sort of thing that a good little homeschooled church kid would consider to have anything to do with themselves. And it’s most definitely not the sort of thing that even crossed my mind as something to consider as[…]

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Guard Your Heart, Part One

This is part one in a two part series, Part Two is here. It was originally written as part of the Homeschoolers Anonymous series, “Homeschoolers Are Out.” *** It turns out that it’s easy to guard your heart when you’re not attracted to someone, but I’m getting ahead of myself here. To begin this story, we need to go back in time, back to when I was a homeschool kid growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Despite my parents running the private school for homeschoolers, and my mom finding herself spending far more time on the phone giving advice to new homeschoolers than she would have liked, and that one time that they wound up helping to put together a state-wide homeschool convention (something they vowed never to do again), my family wasn’t nearly as connected to the homeschooling subculture as many people. There really wasn’t that much of a homeschooling subculture when my parents started homeschooling, since back in the mid ‘80s there weren’t many homeschoolers.

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The one thing you should never ask a homeschool kid

The local paper does stories on all of the high school graduations, and where the stories for the other school graduations follow the same formula–mention something from the speaker, go with a few quotes from graduates about going out into the world, the homeschool support group graduation story includes quotes from kids talking up homeschooling as a concept. Don’t ask that question of kids. Seriously, just don’t. No kid should be put in the position of defending and explaining their education to adults. Aside from the fact that in 2013 it’s not like homeschooling is something nobody’s heard of, that’s just not something you should put on a kid. It’s too much pressure and it makes the kid feel even more like an outsider, an “other,” and not part of mainstream culture. Even if a kid had an absolutely wonderful experience, homeschool apologetic isn’t something a kid should be expected to do. Parents, don’t ask this of your kids. Random strangers, don’t put a kid on the spot and start asking questions. It’s not fair to the kid. I had to put up with random strangers asking me questions about homeschooling since I was six. Six. Let that sink in for a second. How in the world would anyone think that’s remotely something that you should put on a six year old? I can’t even count how many times I was wandering around the public library minding my own business looking for interesting books when I’d be stopped by a stranger asking me, “why aren’t you in school?” Now, granted, back in the ‘80s, homeschooling was a novelty, but still. It would have been one thing if it had ended with me responding, “I’m homeschooled,” but nope, the next question was, “Is it legal?” Seriously, people would ask a little elementary[…]

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Pawns in the culture war

This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes – Morpheus, The Matrix In the few days since I wrote my post about what I strongly suspect is HSLDA’s litigation strategy to make homeschooling a fundamental right with no restrictions, not even for abusers, people have been doing some digging and have found information that quite frankly, is incredibly disturbing. In a nutshell, in 2009 an all male group of homeschool leaders met for a summit at one of Bill Gothard’s ATI training centers to discuss the future of homeschooling. Included among the big names present were Doug Phillips of Vision Forum (and former HSLDA attorney), Brian Ray of NHERI, and Christopher Klicka of HSLDA. Among the topics discussed was a call to abolish child protective services and plans were outlined about how they would go about instituting a Christian theocracy with homeschoolers paving the way. Heather at Becoming Worldly and R.L. Stollar at Homeschooler’s Anonymous both have extremely long and extremely informative posts laying out what exactly happened at the summit, I think it’s important to go read both posts. While I’ve long suspected that there was an agenda based on the bits and pieces of memories I have from things I read and heard from various homeschooling leaders over the years, seeing the road map laid out was chilling. I’ve snarked about the irony of HSLDA setting me on the path to where I am today by getting me interested in law, I’ve imagined how different my life would have been if I’d been accepted to[…]

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Of fundamental rights, HSLDA, and homeschooling

I wasn’t planning on writing more about HSLDA but I was talking to my mom today about HSLDA’s refusal to do anything about child abuse and how it made absolutely zero sense to defend abusers. As I moved on to talking about how I feel that they’re using the Romeike family as pawns in their effort to establish homeschooling as a fundamental right, something dawned on me. Notice that phrase “fundamental right”? It’s a phrase they’ve been throwing around an awful lot when talking about the Romeike case. In law, “fundamental right” has a very specific meaning. It refers to those rights that are basic, foundational rights–things like life, liberty, freedom of association, freedom of movement, freedom of religion, the right to marry, and the right to due process. Under US constitutional law, fundamental rights automatically trigger strict scrutiny. That is, for any law restricting a fundamental right to pass constitutional muster, it must be narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling government interest and must be the least restrictive means of achieving that end. Strict scrutiny is a standard that very few laws can meet. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve heard professors describe strict scrutiny as, “strict in theory, fatal in fact.” If you can get the courts to find something to be a fundamental right, you’re pretty much home free. Very few regulations of fundamental rights can survive the strict scrutiny analysis. So, how does this apply to homeschooling? Right now, homeschooling is protected under parental rights to direct the education of their children. Religious freedom comes into play to some extent (especially if you’re Amish–the courts don’t like to mess with the Amish), but with parental rights it’s still a balancing of the right of the parent with the right of the child and the interest of the[…]

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HSLDA and child abuse

I’ve made no secret that I don’t exactly have the most positive opinion about the Homeschool Legal Defense Association’s brand of religious fundamentalism but I never thought that HSLDA was covering for and protecting child abuse. For all of their scare tactics, and for as much as I think that a legal defense organization is unnecessary in a post-Tim Tebow world, I always assumed that the training-up-the-next-generation-of-culture-warriors aside, it really was just about keeping homeschooling legal. That if they were representing a family, it was because the family was wrongly accused. I found out recently that I was completely wrong. HSLDA is pursuing a course of action that is helping to protect child abusers while doing nothing to protect kids. Blogger Libby Anne at Love, Joy, Feminism, herself a K-12 homeschool graduate, has a series of posts exploring HSLDA and child abuse. It’s a long read but I encourage you to take your time to go read it all, it’s an informative series and it opened my eyes as to just how out there HSLDA really is on this. Seriously, go read it, I’ll wait until you get back. Have you read everything? Good, let’s continue. On Tuesday, HSLDA posted an indirect response to Libby Anne’s series by way of a message posted on their facebook page. Their response is basically a bunch of buzzwords and denials that doesn’t address any of the actual allegations. Libby Anne responds here. I had no idea about what HSLDA was really up to and my memories are filtered through the eyes of a homeschool kid reading the Court Report. I rather suspect that this is news to some of the people reading this as well. It makes me mad because this organization that I thought was there to protect homeschooling has ended up protecting[…]

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