When children are hit, beaten, hurt, sexually exploited, sexually assaulted, emotionally and mentally tormented, physically and emotionally neglected or murdered at the hands of parents and caretakers, it is an egregious tragedy. When a tragic case of child abuse breaks into the media, if the parents labeled themselves as “homeschoolers”, the media often spins the story to insinuate that “homeschooling” (or what appeared to be homeschooling) is what caused the abuse or allowed the abuse to occur. This deeply saddens me. The majority of cases of child abuse occur in homes where children attend public or traditional school. I can testify to this as I have sadly been working with abused youth of all ages since the 1990’s.
I want to make two points about the media drawing attention to “homeschooling” in rare cases in which abused children were said to be “homeschooled”:
One, the media leads people to believe that school would have protected the child from abuse. The harsh reality is that public and private schools have long, enduring histories of rampant and chronic abuse, trauma and exploitation of children physically, emotionally and sexually. Schools are also neglectful to children’s basic physical and emotional needs. In 19 states in the USA (mostly in the South), it is actually legal for school staff to beat children with paddles, sometimes to the point where a child is severely injured or falls unconscious! Teachers all over the country deny children the right to use the toilet to the point where some children have been forced to eliminate in their pants or urinate in trash cans or bottles to meet their needs. Children are also denied the right to eat, get drinks and move around when needed. There are also thousands of cases of female and male public and private school teachers and staff over the past century who have sexually violated children of all ages. These tragic realities do not even include the relentless peer harassment, bullying and assaults with occur daily in schools around the country, in some cases tragically resulting in suicides and homicides.
School is not a safe place for far too many children. Let’s be straight up about this myth about school being safe!
Although sometimes a more caring school environment may provide an escape, a child abused at home who is in school suffers dual stressful environments, including the stress of homework, grades and performance. If school seems like an improvement over home, then something is certainly wrong and must be dealt with immediately for the child’s safety; school should not be seen as a solution! Also, if an abused child attends school, it isn’t a guarantee that any teacher would suspect abuse. So many of the abused youth I’ve worked with over the years, especially older boys, showed multiple and chronic signs to teachers of abuse but the teachers never reported their suspicions.
My second point is that what causes child abuse and allows it to thrive is a cycle of trauma and violence that is passed on from generation to generation by our cultural beliefs and practices, namely, the belief that children are subodinate beings to adults and are in need of “discipline” and “education”. If our cultural paradigm shifted to, “Children from conception to late adolescence need to be loved, nurtured, honored, respected, protected from trauma and allowed to live and learn in freedom, joyfully, with their needs and passions as the priority”, child abuse and exploitation of all types would cease in one or two generations.
Parents who follow some type of parenting philosophy, religion, tradition or belief system that parents must control, dominate, discipline, punish, teach, educate, shape, inculcate, subordinate or train children are the parents that are most likely to be abusive to children, whether they “homeschool” or allow their children to spend six hours a day in a traditional school. It is these dehumanizing belief systems resulting from generations of childhood trauma and cultural paradigms that are at the root of abuse.
Child-directed learning at home is nature’s intent for children’s learning- It is innocent. The vast majority of parents who allow their children to learn at home are passionate about their children, love them deeply and put them, their needs and their interests first. Child abuse is a tragedy that will continue as long as this culture supports power-over, punitive, subordinating ways of treating children. Unschooling and relaxed homeschooling are part of the solution!