Lawmaker Compares Homeschooling to ‘Child Abuse;’ Two Homeschooled Graduates Respond

As two homeschooled graduates, we'd like to set the record straight for Rep. Marjorie Porter.

By Nancy Flory & Liberty McArtor Published on November 19, 2017

A senior Democratic lawmaker recently compared homeschooling with child abuse. She made the comments during an executive session over a controversial bill on “conversion therapy” for kids with gender dysphoria.

Rep. Marjorie Porter aired her views in an executive session in the New Hampshire House of Representatives Committee on Health and Human Services on October 26. Witnesses speaking on condition of anonymity told Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) that they were shocked to hear the legislator make the comments in that context. The session wasn’t recorded.

As two homeschooled graduates, we’d like to set the record straight for Ms. Porter.

Nancy

My homeschooling experience began in 1982. On our East Texas property sat a one-room cabin perfect for homeschooling. My mother was militant about our studies. Each day she expected us to be standing by our desks at 8:30 ready to say the Pledge of Allegiance, the pledge to the Christian flag and the pledge to the Bible. We’d then sing as our day began.

Our studies were based on the Christian A.C.E. curriculum We were expected to set goals for our studies each day and to follow through. We weren’t allowed to speak without raising a flag atop our desks. Our mother would then come to us and work through problems with us, or handle whatever we needed.

The 1980s were a scary time to homeschool. Homeschooling didn’t have the acceptance that it does today. There was no cooperation between homeschooled children and public school education. It was too risky to tell anyone what we were doing because we were afraid the local school superintendent would cause problems for us. We had friends who went to jail for homeschooling their children. So, every time a car would drive up our driveway we got quiet, just in case the stranger came from the state.

My homeschooling experience gave me a solid academic foundation, contrary to the stereotype from peers and family members back in the ’80s.

I have little doubt that the academics were superior to what we would have received at the local public school. A.C.E. is a self-paced curriculum with a great foundation in English studies. My two sisters and I graduated a year earlier than we would have otherwise. I finished my curriculum in the spring of 1990 at age 16, wrapping up with a 96 percent grade average overall.

My education didn’t stop there, however. I went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and a Master of Journalism from The University of North Texas (with a 4.0 GPA and an induction into Kappa Tau Alpha, an honor society for those who exhibit excellence in communication and journalism). I had the opportunity to study abroad at Oxford University. Finally, I am almost finished with my PhD in Communication from Regent University. I have about a year left, including the dissertation.

My homeschooling experience gave me a solid academic foundation, contrary to the stereotype from peers and family members back in the ’80s. Am I an anomaly? Absolutely not.

Liberty

Mom began homeschooling her children in the 80s, when it was rare. So rare, in fact, that she was arrested. (Turns out homeschooling was not illegal, something attorneys explained to local Oklahoma authorities. Mom was quickly released.)

Thankfully, things changed. I was homeschooled in Texas from the mid 90s to 2011, when I graduated high school at 17. My parents wove a curriculum for me that catered both to my hungry imagination and the need for structure.

As a homeschooled kid, the questions you get are predictable. For instance, “Do you do school in your pajamas?”

Some friends adopted routines that did allow them to pajama-school. But it didn’t work for me. I rose early, did chores and worked out. School began around 8:00 and was completed by early afternoon. Afterward I’d play outside, read or get whisked to an extracurricular activity. 

Which leads to another question homeschoolers get: “How do you make friends?” 

It would take pages to recount the diverse activities I enjoyed, so I’ll stick to the highlights. I was heavily involved in church. I also participated in 4-H, competing in everything from shooting sports to talent shows. 

Mom began homeschooling in the ’80s, when it was rare. So rare, in fact, that she was arrested.

From sixth grade through twelfth, I played on the local homeschool basketball team. We competed in leagues and at state and national tournaments for private and home schools (yes, those exist!). 

I attended a weekly co-op with hundreds of other homeschoolers. It was the perfect opportunity to experience both the competition and camaraderie of a traditional classroom — and the benefits of learning from adults besides my parents.

Many homeschool parents are asked: “Are you qualified to teach that?” Sometimes, the answer is no.

So in junior high I learned algebra from a pastor and math professor who offered classes twice a week. Later, a tutor guided me through geometry and physics. From seventh grade on, a beloved mentor honed my passion for writing into a skill. She even sparked my interest in journalism. 

Which is what I majored in at Patrick Henry College, where I graduated with honors in 2015. During college I had the opportunity to work in Washington, D.C., producing a talk show on WMAL radio during my senior year. Today, I’m happily working in my field. 

Like Nancy, I’m not an anomaly. The homeschoolers I grew up with are leading their own successful lives. They’ve become artists, military veterans, engineers, business owners and everything in between. While many of our experiences overlap, none exactly mirrors another. 

That’s the beauty of homeschooling. 

Academic Achievement

Recent research suggests there are about 2.3 million homeschooled students in the U.S. According to Brian Ray, Ph.D., president of the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), the homeschooling numbers are booming, at a rate of 2 to 8 percent each year.

Parents said the biggest reason they homeschool their children is concern over the school environment. Beyond that, they want to instill moral and spiritual values. They’re also concerned about the education their child would receive at a public school. 

There are about 2.3 million homeschooled students in the U.S. They outperform public school students on standardized tests, and are “typically above average” on measures of social development.

So, how do homeschoolers perform? Homeschooled students outperform public school students on standardized tests from 15 to 30 percentile points. Public school students average around the 50th percentile mark while homeschoolers average around the mid-high 80s on the same tests.

The education level of parents does not necessarily reflect academic achievement in homeschooled students. That is, there is little disparity in students’ achievement based on whether their parents have a college education or a high school education. Also, the level of government control or state regulations on homeschooling does not impact students’ academic achievement. 

Socialization

One of the many questions homeschooling parents get is, “What about socialization?” According to Ray, homeschoolers are once again ahead in the race.

“The home-educated are doing well, typically above average, on measures of social, emotional and psychological development,” he wrote in a recent article. “Research measures include peer interaction, self-concept, leadership skills, family cohesion, participation in community service and self-esteem.”

Part of that is, as Liberty described, due to homeschoolers’ ability and choice to become involved in sports, 4-H clubs, church ministries and an endless list of extracurricular activities.

What to do with Negligent Parents?

We’ve all heard about those homeschooled students who perform poorly because of parental negligence. This is a small minority. In general, parents homeschool because they want their children to receive a better education. So they invest a lot of time and effort in their children’s education.

Still, there are outliers. New Hampshire’s Berlin School District Supt. Corinne Cascadden believes that homeschooled children in her district are not being educated at all. She called for a bill that would “restore the requirement for some kind of third-party review of student progress that was eliminated by a law that took effect in 2012,” reported New Hampshire’s Union Leader.

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But more control isn’t the answer, said attorney Mike Donnelly of HSLDA. “Tools already exist” to take care of negligent parents, he said. “Truancy laws and a child abuse statute exist if education guidelines are not being followed. There’s no need to impose additional burdens on [homeschooling] parents because of a few.”

At the same time, Michelle Levell, director of School Choice for New Hampshire, contends there’s no evidence Cascadden’s claims are true. 

Don’t Turn Back the Clock

Homeschooling has made huge strides in recent decades. But many of those strides are even more recent than you might imagine. As The Daily Signal reported in 2014, homeschooling wasn’t legal in every state until 1996. And where it was legal, it faced a stigma that sometimes resulted in arrests, as we can attest. 

In general, homeschooled students shine both academically and socially. Cultural acceptance of home education continues to grow. Millions of families are leaping aboard the homeschool train. There is simply no reason for New Hampshire, or any state, to turn back the clock. And there’s absolutely no justification for comparing it with child abuse. 

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  • Kristen Adams

    I Homeschooled and attended a brick and mortar school during my childhood. Homeschooling provided a far superior learning experience. I had the freedom to explore my interests, hone my skills, and work on my weaknesses. Given my upbringing, and the wisdom I’ve gained from those experiences, you’d think I’d have immediately began homeschooling my own little ones. But it took me experiencing the school system as a parent to see that homeschooling was not only the best choice for me, but also for my children. My son was reading short vowel words when he entered kindergarten. He left kindergarten at the exact same level. Not only that, but he developed phobias while he was there. HIS DOCTOR suggested I Homeschool him. She said, parents teach their children at home anyway (homework) if they really want their child to succeed. After pulling him out of school, he is now ahead in all subjects. His phobias are also gone, and he’s far more mature than most of his peers. I can’t say enough about the benefits of homeschooling, and teachers need not be offended by homeschooling either. It’s the one on one attention, and love, devotion, and tailored education that makes homeschooling so effective. With fewer children in the system, teachers are free to offer those same experiences to the underprivileged children. Teachers should be lauding homeschool moms, not fighting us.

  • grayjohn

    The government establishment hates home schooling because home schooled kids are light years ahead of their public school peers. Home schooling outs public schooling for the over funded, over staffed, waste of money it truly is. Public school is a fraud and home schooling proves it.

    • James

      If the family has the time, energy, money, and background to dedicate the effort one spouse completely to educating the children.

  • AZ Jeff

    There are many dedicated and gifted public school teachers (my daughter is one). However, public education is more indoctrination, than education. I applaud parents that make the choice to use home schooling. They have decided that the education of their children is a priority, and I believe that is reflected in the higher test scores. The sad truth is many parents have turned over their children’s education to the state, and do not get involved unless there is a problem (my daughter sees this daily). My suspicion is that home schooling is more focused on education than the indoctrination being foisted on children in public school (e.g. gender identity versus the 3 Rs).

  • Patmos

    Most public school systems in this country are pretty bad as a whole. All the data shows that. Not sure what Porter was thinking. To make matters worse you now have Democrats trying to push early education as a replacement for parenting. So in short they destroy and pervert families, then want people to hand their kids over to a crappy school system at a younger age. It’s hard to tell if they are just dumb or flat out evil. It’s one or the other though, as those are the only two options.

  • Lucinda Bedwell

    The government doesn’t need more laws against homeschooling to persecute the families anyway. All it takes is one report and one over-zealous CPS Investigator to accuse parents of whatever abuse/neglect allegations come to their imaginations, and the kids are in custody, enrolled in Public School, and adopted out.

  • Devieg72

    Public schools really don’t care about a kid. They care about kids as a group. And the only reason they care about kids is because f the money involved in “educating” kids. I can remember some fifty years ago when a teacher would urge the students to come to school the next day because the money that the school received was based on the number of students that were at the school that day.
    There are good teachers and there are teachers who care about their students, but all too many don’t. Teaching is a just a job to many of the teachers when they realized that they had to make a living and not spend the rest of their lives in college on their parents’ dime (and I was told this by a High School English teacher some forty years ago) and they really don’t care more for their students than an animal control officer cares for a stray dog. Years ago the president of the American Federation of Teachers said that the union would start worrying about the education of students when the students started paying union dues; his concern was with teachers.
    Here’s the question, as Sam Sorbo put out: Is you child your child or is your child the state’s child? Do you want your child to learn the verities and histories and faith that you hold dear? Or do you want the child to l;earn to become a drone?

    • Andrew Mason

      Increasingly the Left holds that children are the property of the state with parents merely responsible for feeding, watering, housing and entertaining them. The educationindoctrination side of things is fully in the hands of the government and there is no parental right to protect their children from homosexual indoctrination etc.

      • Devieg72

        And the only reason that this happens is because the parents allow it to happen. Public schools can be good if the parents are involved. But because both parents are working and distracted they aren’t. It’s their fault for not paying attention and expecting the state to teach their children. And we all suffer because of it.

        • Elizabeth Litts

          I most public schools , parents are discouraged and even shown hostility if they try to become involved -especially if their ideas don;t conform to the ‘elites’ and the ‘educator’ who , after all know better than the ‘undeucated’ parents.

          • James

            Quite a few teachers have to deal with parents who demand that their child get an “A”, whether or not they have earned it. Or are furious that the teacher dared to discipline their “little angel”.

            When so many parental interactions are like this, teachers get defensive when having to deal with any parent.

      • benevolus

        Actually, as a lawyer, I represented a parent who was homeschooling and charged with “educational neglect” under an ancient Wyoming statute that prescribes a ten-dollar fine upon conviction. Chillingly, the county attorney (whom I later ran out of office for other reasons) actually told the judge in an in-chambers conference that the child belonged to the state. I groaned and corrected her. Anyway, through my wife’s homeschooling connections, I threatened to sick HSLDA on the county, and all charges were dropped.

  • Dean Bruckner

    Progressives want your children. Progressivism poisons everything.

    • Charles Burge

      Specifically, they want to indoctrinate your children with Marxist ideology. It’s a lot hard for them to do that when the children aren’t in government-run schools.

  • SophieA

    What parents seems to have forgotten is their responsibility to be their child’s teacher in all aspects of his/her education. Trouble arises when parents abdicate this sacred responsibility.

    Both my children were mixed homeschooled and campus offered classes. One has a Ph.D and teaches at a university. The other a sophomore in college who won a prestigious scholarship. They have done well because they knew their parents not only cared about their education (both of us are teachers in different disciplines) but also we cared about them and devoted time willingly to develop their gifts. And then all the continuing prayer helps …..

  • benevolus

    My wife homeschooled all of my stepchildren. All of them finished college, and one has a graduate degree in Engineering, working in his field. Another is a school teacher, and the oldest is a mom of two, who works for us part time in our law practice. We plan to send her to law school when her kids are older, so she can take over someday.

  • bbb

    The teacher’s union is a BIG democrat donor class.
    Many States award money to schools based on ADA – average daily attendance.
    When parents who love and care about their children send them to private Christian or other religious schools it costs extra money. Homeschooling is not free, either.
    It’s not the child that schools care about, it is the money.
    Fewer and fewer students graduate with more than bare basics from public schools because of Common Core curriculum and the freely employed use of the classroom to propagandize children.
    Vouchers cannot come quickly enough!!

  • AndRebecca

    Thanks for the great article. I would like to add that depending on where you live today, you might be able to get help from the state to homeschool. I homeschooled a young relative after she became involved with the wrong group in junior high. The state provided all the material for the online classes and kept track of the time needed to complete each course and also did the testing, all for free. All I had to do was watch to see everything was done, and then provide extra learning experiences. The courses were completed in less than half the time as regular school, and my student was able to graduate from public school a half a year early due to the one and a half years of homeschooling. Plus the student was able to go back into regular school with no more discipline problems. So, even if you are working with an average student, and you don’t think you are much of a teacher, the experience might turn out to be greater than expected and done with ease.

    • Arch5

      In most cases, those programs are “free” because it’s not homeschooling but public school done at home. Because it’s public school, they provide the material the student *must* complete and they require testing. As a homeschooler, I can choose any classes or curricula I want, don’t have to track time, and never have to test. Homeschooling costs money, but means freedom.

      • AndRebecca

        There are all kinds of homeschooling programs, both free and not. Communists, Libertarians, and Muslims have homeschooling programs. Most homeschooling material has to line up with Common Core and has to be state approved. I think more people would home school if they knew how easy it is and how beneficial it is to the student no matter the level of expertise. So much time and money is wasted in the public schools and that fact would be quickly realized by participating in any homeschooling program. If I had known how easy it is, I would have investigated Christian programs and started the whole thing earlier.

        • Arch5

          Your state laws are definitely different that most states then. Very few states (if any) require homeschool curriculum to be Common Core aligned or state approved (unless you are using an online public school at home or charter program, which you may be confusing with homeschooling since you keep saying “homeschool programs”) and many people homeschool so they don’t have to use Common Core materials. My state doesn’t even know or care what curriculum I’m using, none of it is online, and I can change it at any time without telling anyone.

          • AndRebecca

            I’m generalizing. I homeschooled in Arizona. You can look up their program on the web. But, I have relatives in Mississippi who homeschool and the state provides the materials and keeps track of the learning. I happen to have a homeschool textbook unrelated to the program my student was in and it says right on the cover “Common Core Aligned.” And, I’ve known adults who have been home schooled. One person in Washington State had to pass a GED when 18, so they had to pass a state test after being schooled at home. The point I was trying to make is that it is beneficial to home school no matter what, and for those who don’t like trying new things, to go for it.

  • kelemi

    I’m a democrat who supports the right to home school. My cousin home schooled her son. He finished his high school at 16 and college at 20. He isn’t socially inept. I’ve seen home school failures and home school successes. The successes outweigh the failures.
    Good article.

  • James

    But more control isn’t the answer, said attorney Mike Donnelly of HSLDA. “Tools already exist” to take care of negligent parents, he said. “Truancy laws and a child abuse statute exist if education guidelines are not being followed. There’s no need to impose additional burdens on [homeschooling] parents because of a few.”

    Unfortunately, homeschooling without any third party oversight can make it more difficult to detect and prosecute child abuse.

    While few parents who homeschool are abusive, homeschooling advocates seem willfully blind to how abusive parents can use “homeschooling” as a way to shield themselves from scrutiny.

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