Heartbreaking stories have come to light over the years regarding children abused by their parents. When the parents are homeschooling their children, such reports are often met with indignant calls for regulations on home education. The prevailing thought in these situations is that the children have been abused because their parents are homeschooling them. Such accusations are dramatic and emotionally charged. But is there any truth to them?
When emotionally-charged accusations are put forth, there is little opportunity for logic and reason to prevail. The ability to respond to such allegations with unbiased research is critical. The homeschool community is greatly blessed to have researchers like Brian D. Ray & M. Danish Shakeel tackle such a challenging topic.
In order to research this important topic, their groundbreaking study collected a nationally representative sample. They collected data that included a full 13-year schooling history of the participants. They studied demographics from childhood to adulthood as well as the categorical identities of the abusers and when the abuse occurred. They concluded that demographics associated with family structure and size, as well as household poverty, rather than the type of school attended, were factors affecting rates of abuse.
This study fits in with an emerging pattern that seems to be emerging based on empirical evidence to date. So far, there is no strong evidence that there is significantly more or less maltreatment committed against conventionally schooled children as compared to the home educated (homeschooled). A summary of research on this topic to date (Ray, 2022) is available at nheri.org/homeschool-abuse-and-neglect-research
Sensational news stories drive calls for legislation. That is why research is so important! Solid research can silence baseless accusations, moving the argument from one of emotion to one of fact.
Many ideas have been presented by academics and lawmakers with the goal of keeping homeschool students safe and ensuring that they receive a quality education. Some of the suggested regulations include: parents becoming certified teachers to teach their own children, mandatory annual achievement tests, oversight of home-educated students by public school officials, and parents having to apply and receive permission from the government in order to homeschool their children.
Some people are convinced that home education must be regulated or controlled by the government in order to ensure that homeschooled students are protected from abuse. This argument breaks down immediately upon closer scrutiny. Even a cursory online search generates horrific articles about abuse in public schools, with new articles appearing daily. The undeniable abuse happening on public school campuses should be enough to quash the idea that the regulation and structure provided by credentialed teachers on public campuses protect children from abuse.
Harvard law professor Elizabeth Bartholet is one academic who strongly suggested that private home education should be banned. Go to fpmca.org/hsresp to read FPM’s full response to her paper.
Before people call for more regulation on home education, they would be wise to ask if greater regulation has ever been found to decrease the number of cases of abuse involving homeschool students. We can again be thankful to NHERI’s research for the answer to that question. In 2018, Dr. Brian Ray concluded that, “A statistical analysis of 18 years of data from all the U.S. states found no relationship between the degree of state control or regulation of homeschooling and the frequency of abuse of homeschool students.” (nheri.org/degree-of-homeschool-regulation-no-relationship-to-homeschool-child-abuse).
From our practical experience we know that private home education works! We have seen the vast benefits to our children and enjoyed the blessings of having the family work closely together on our educational journey. However, most of us are not in the position to make legislative decisions and directly shape the policies that regulate education. That’s why having access to cold, hard facts is so important. Providing sound research that supports our claims of how home education works so well is vital!
We must all do what we can to ensure there is a sound body of current research that can serve as an answer to zealous calls for regulation.
Visit cheaofca.org/testing-with-bju-homeschool for information about this program and learn how your family can participate.