HOME SCHOOLING:  An important alternative or a recipe for disaster?

Home Schooling has become an increasingly popular trend amongst those Americans who have become disenchanted with the education system and seek to take matters into their own hands. The recent news of the Turpin parents who were recently found to have chained and tortured their 13 children under the premise that they were an independent home school is an extreme example of abuse by two very disturbed individuals. These children’s abuse remained under the the radar for years because of the cloak of home schooling, thus shielding the parents’ sick treatment of their children from school officials or social workers. After one child broke free and called the police, the children, aging 2 to 29, were found to be extremely malnourished with signs of stunted physical and mental growth and severe abuse. The father, David Turpin, had obtained a homeschooling license through the California Department of Education website and called his family homeschool, Sandcastle Day School. In this case, whatever accredited source that qualified them as a school was only being monitored remotely online. Not once was there any intervention on the part of social workers, doctors or law enforcement.

Certainly this is a an extreme example, but it opens the discussion for consideration of the potential dangers of homeschooling. Some argue the danger of homeschooling can be in offering children only one perspective. By keeping them away from a group education setting where they are exposed to other backgrounds, races, ethnicities, religious beliefs and ideas, the parent is depriving the child of a huge portion of what education should be about.  Learning through play with others, learning conflict resolution and learning to take turns and be patient are all key factors in the development of a child’s personality. By keeping kids isolated in their home environment, in some cases, it  can be a way of perpetuating and enforcing an extreme belief system, be it religious or ideological. If a child is offered little other vantage point than the belief system of their parents, there is great potential for abuse in the form of mind control or physical or sexual abuse.

HOWEVER

It is a very important option for parents to have the freedom in choosing educational options for their own children. Parents rights issues, are a big factor here. As a society, we want loving, stable and safe parents to be the ultimate advocates for what is best for their own children.  Ideally, a homeschool environment can be a wonderful opportunity for kids who don’t thrive under the cookie cutter learning system of traditional schooling. Also, if the family must  travel for work or the child is a professional actor or a competitive athlete, it is a great way for the family to have an important educational option.  Many homeschoolers form communities where they meet up and interact and often schedule field trips and events together. It can be a great solution for when a child is not thriving in the institutionalization of traditional school.

As parents, we are our children’s first teachers and ideally, we can continue to be throughout their whole life. Being able to let go and to allow them to form their own beliefs, values and opinions is a necessary process of individuation and socialization. Or conversely, being able to make important choices for them and help them with a homeschool situation that may be best for them. While cases of extreme abuse, such as the Turpin family are rare, it certainly shines a light on the need for better regulation and standards for accredited home schools. It would be a shame, for the freedoms and opportunities that homeschooling affords, to be eroded by the negligence of the system, or the deviants who may abuse it.

 

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