Homeschooled for good


There’s a website, Homeschooling’s Invisible Children. It was founded by two women who were homeschooled themselves, Rachel Coleman and Heather Doney.

Inspired by the recent high profile deaths of several homeschooled children, including Lydia Schatz, Hana Williams, and Nubia Barahona, HIC shines a light on the dark side of homeschooling, where a lack of outside protections for homeschooled children has led to some horrifying consequences.

Homeschooling can be a useful educational tool in the hands of the right parents, but when it falls into the hands of the wrong parents the results can be disastrous, and it is the children who suffer.

HIC documents and archives cases where homeschooling was not in the best interest of the child and was instead used as a means to isolate, abuse, and neglect, resulting in exceedingly harmful or fatal outcomes. This is for Lydia, Hana, Nubia, the children of the Gravelles and Kluths, and all of those whose stories we may never hear.

Warning: This site’s content includes mention of severe child abuse, torture, and untimely death and contains pictures of children who died under such conditions.

The most recent post there is about Miranda Crockett. [trigger warning – abuse, murder]

10-year-old Miranda Crocket was tied up when she drowned in an ice cold bathtub, the culmination of months of abuse at the hands of her father’s girlfriend. Miranda lived alone with her father, Dan Crockett, until her father’s girlfriend, Chandra Rose, moved in with them with her three children, aged 4, 6, and 11, in the summer of 2012. Miranda was withdrawn from school and was homeschooled by Chandra that fall alongside Chandra’s children. Chandra claims that Miranda threatened her children, and that the abuse she heaped on the girl was retaliation. Chandra locked Miranda in the bathroom, tied her up, forced her to take ice baths, and shut her in a hard plastic storage box barely big enough to fit her body. The day Miranda died, she had escaped from the locked bathroom and Miranda had retaliated by tying her hands to her ankles, tying a cord around her neck to cause her discomfort, shutting her in the storage box for several hours and, ultimately, putting her in the ice cold bath where she drowned.

If she hadn’t been taken out of school, she could have asked for help. Children don’t always do that, because they’re afraid to, but the possibility would have been there. But she was taken out of school and “homeschooled” – which being interpreted means, tortured to death.

The Oregonian reported last March:

The judge also unsealed court documents that for the first time publicly revealed what happened in the Fairview apartment the girl shared with her father, Rose and Rose’s children, ages 4, 6 and 11. It describes abuse heightened by Miranda’s isolation after she left the public school system so Rose could home-school her with the other children.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Rose told police that in the hours before paramedics arrived at the apartment, Miranda had escaped from the bathroom and wouldn’t tell Rose what she used to unlock the door. Rose said she tied the girl’s hands to her ankles with scarves and uninflated balloons. She also tied a cord around the girl’s neck and legs to try to make her uncomfortable.

She placed the child in the fetal position in the storage box, leaving her there for 30 minutes to three hours. Rose also put Miranda in an icy cold bath.

Miranda was home “schooled” all right.

 

 

Comments

  1. ajb47 says

    I will admit that before I thought about how much work it would be (I am basically quite lazy), I thought briefly about homeschooling my kids because our school district wasn’t rated very highly. (It wasn’t just laziness that stopped me. There had been an upsurge in efforts to get the schools up to snuff in the couple years before my kids started and continuing as far as I can tell. The teachers really seem to care and they do seem to work with the kids to get them learning at their own abilities.)

    Nowhere on my “what to teach” idea list (not really my own list as there’s one we would have to follow in this part of Pennsylvania) was “putting my child in a tub of ice while hogtied”. Maybe I’m just old fashioned.

  2. northstar says

    Ok, I will own to being a homeschool mom, have been for about 12 years now. We pulled our eldest from 1st grade, terrified that the school’s indifference to her peanut allergy would end up with her dead. (After an ambulance run from kindergarten, they made it plain they’d rather not have our little legal liability on their hands — and treated her very cruelly while obeying the letter of the law.)

    Now, I had no plan, no training, no idea of how to do this, nothing. Not to mention, I wouldn’t say I have the personality to homeschool to begin with. Fortunately, it has worked out very well indeed — our daughter, now 17, was accelerated and started taking college classes at 14 and was invited to apply by Harvard and Yale. (Cross fingers for us, she’s applied & we’ll find out soon.)

    My point is — and please, no one take it I am in any way defending these horrendous abuse cases — how do you make it possible for people like me to homeschool, and yet somehow keep children like Miranda in school so she could have – maybe- asked for help? As a former abused kid myself, I can say from experience it ain’t that easy. I wish.

    It’s very easy to hate on homeschoolers. So many of them are fundamentalists, and have patriarchal beliefs and behaviors that absolutely drive non-theists out of their skulls. I hope people will pause to consider for a moment that it’s not really the homeschooling, so much as the over-religiosity often associated with it that causes the problems — and sometimes, the abuse. It might be easy to think that if homeschooling was just more controlled, these problems wouldn’t happen… but abuse happens with traditionally schooled children, too, so that’s really not the solution, is it?

    I don’t have a solution for abuse of children. I just don’t. But laws that would have prevented me from taking my child out of school when her dad and I thought it was the only way left to go might have caused a fatality as well – hers.

    And one more note… just as the “abuse become abusers themselves” meme is so destructive and demoralizing to people who are able to overcome abuse and become good parents by their own tremendous efforts, such as yours truly, so too is the emerging meme I see of “homeschooling = ignorance = abuse”. In all these college applications my daughter is turning in, we worry about the stereotyping she’ll face and the prejudices people will have because she’s a homeschooler. So every time I see yet another homeschooling = abuse blog, I wince — yes, tell the stories, yes, let’s confront these horrible child-rearing practices that lead to abuse – but remember, in the same way that “abused become abusers” ends up condemning those it is trying to help, disparaging homeschoolers for homeschooling has much the same effect. My daughter has already had a hard road; she doesn’t need people making it even harder through prejudice.

  3. John Morales says

    northstar @2,

    And one more note… just as the “abuse become abusers themselves” meme is so destructive and demoralizing to people who are able to overcome abuse and become good parents by their own tremendous efforts, such as yours truly, so too is the emerging meme I see of “homeschooling = ignorance = abuse”. In all these college applications my daughter is turning in, we worry about the stereotyping she’ll face and the prejudices people will have because she’s a homeschooler.

    You have a point, though it’s hardly an “emerging meme” — it’s been around from the beginning.

    Bottom line: there is no reason that amateurs can’t achieve what professionals and institutions can—or even better it, given the many resources at hand these days—but I suspect that it’s not going to be more the rule more than the exception unless the system is already broken. In particular, the difficulty of education will rise significantly above the primary level.

    (And yes, undeniably, institutional schooling has its own potential for abuse of children)

    So every time I see yet another homeschooling = abuse blog, I wince — yes, tell the stories, yes, let’s confront these horrible child-rearing practices that lead to abuse – but remember, in the same way that “abused become abusers” ends up condemning those it is trying to help, disparaging homeschoolers for homeschooling has much the same effect.

    This is not such a blog entry (not that you claimed it was).

    The salient quotation (which the OP endorses, and with my added emphasis): “Homeschooling can be a useful educational tool in the hands of the right parents, but when it falls into the hands of the wrong parents the results can be disastrous, and it is the children who suffer.”

  4. northstar says

    Hi John,
    Thanks for your even tone. On another atheist blog I used to enjoy reading, it seemed to me to devolve into a lot of homeschooler-hating, some of which I caught most painfully, and I wanted to get a couple of cents in before it happened here. So yes, I am responding more generally than to just what is contained in this post.

    However, even with being thrown the fish of how homeschooling can be “useful”, the OP does end up blaming the homeschooling (at least, it seems to me) rather than the abuser, for the murder:

    Quote: “But she was taken out of school and “homeschooled” – which being interpreted means, tortured to death. Miranda was home “schooled” all right.<<"

    Ouch. There it is. Yes, the homeschooled = ignorance meme has been there. We do our best in overcoming that perception. (Harder for my learning-disabled dd, to be sure.) But the homeschooled = abused meme, that's new. And despite being so forthright about my past in the post above, there's an enormous amount of prejudice attached to being an abused child, a real suspicion of hidden, undo-able damage… IRL, it is something that very few people know about me; I know it would color people's perceptions, so I keep it secret. So the homeschooled = ignorant = abused meme starts to become a doubling down on the stigma; that's what I'm afraid of, for my daughter.

    So why make a point of it instead of just living my life? Well, the perceptions of intelligent, informed people are the ones that create policy; policies that may create laws with harmful restrictions on people like me, or people who could — and probably should — homeschool. (I am thinking of, among other things, parents with kids who are suicide risks due to bullying.) Also, these are the kind of people who pick up and read my daughter's applications, and will probably read her resume, or her internship essays. What will their perceptions be when they see "homeschooled?'

    (And btw, it's a mistaken idea that homeschool parents can't teach beyond their own abilities or the upper levels; as you say, there are a lot of resources out there. My eldest went beyond my mathematical ability very early on; there are all sorts of video lessons, etc. out there. She is currently killing calculus and physics at the local community college, with the background she got at home.)

    Again: yes, these horrible stories need to come to light. These poor children — I have no words. It's beyond heartbreaking. And the religious "training" that results in abuse, physical and emotional — yes, it MUST be confronted and challenged. I applaud the courage of those who have escaped the system in speaking out. What I ask is that those outside the situation to think and tread carefully, and not cause more harm than help by their attitudes and actions. Understand, it's not an educational method that is at fault; it's terrible parenting. Putting a bunch of restrictions on homeschooling won't end child abuse, however satisfying it might feel, and that seems to be the immediate go-to thought for many.

  5. says

    My point is — and please, no one take it I am in any way defending these horrendous abuse cases — how do you make it possible for people like me to homeschool, and yet somehow keep children like Miranda in school so she could have – maybe- asked for help? As a former abused kid myself, I can say from experience it ain’t that easy. I wish.

    It’s quite simple, actually. Require more contact with the state.

    The problem with many of these cases is that once the child is out of the system, there is literally no contact with anyone other than the child’s family and maybe some equally fundamentalist associates. The child can go years without any contact outside of their fundamentalist bubble.

    And the HSLDA is pushing for eliminated any laws that “fetter” homeschooling parents in states where they still exist.

    The answer to this isn’t to require you to put your child in public schools, but to simply require some contact with the state to show that you are, in fact, educating your child and not abusing her. Require yearly testing. Require periodical sessions with a state observer (say, once a quarter). If you get a chance, read Libby Ann’s blog. She outlines a number of requirements that would not in any way impede any parent who honestly wanted to educate their child at home, but helps give the child contacts outside of any bubbles a parent might try to keep her in.

    but abuse happens with traditionally schooled children, too, so that’s really not the solution, is it?

    Yes and no. I read a heartbreaking survivor story in which the victim actually preferred it when she went to public school, because then her father could not leave marks on her. At least being in contact with teachers opens up the chance that someone will spot the signs of abuse and investigate.

    so too is the emerging meme I see of “homeschooling = ignorance = abuse”.

    Then I suggest you’re not reading closely enough. What we are saying is that the efforts of the HSLDA to remove any and all oversight on homeschooling parents enables fundamentalist parents of, say, the quiverfull movement to practice abusive parenting and schooling techniques to the detriment of their children. Further, saying that a child who grows up homeschooled in a quiverfull family, allowed only to talk to other quiverfull friends and family, and only shown outside influences through the lens of quiverfull fundamentalism will almost certainly continue the tradition as an adult is not the same as saying that “homeschooling = ignorance = abuse”.

    Please, read Libby Ann’s blog. Understand that there are many homeschooling parents like you who only want the best for their child, and that they have recognized that it is in their best interest to fight against what the HSLDA is doing.

  6. says

    northstar @ 4 – no, you misunderstood what I meant by that phrase (my fault – it’s ambiguous, for sure). I meant the scare quotes to indicate that in this case it’s not homeschooling, it’s pseudo-homeschooling that’s actually just psychopathic torture. No, I don’t think homeschooling as such equals abuse. I think it can be painfully consistent with abuse, and that it can be useful for shielding and hiding abuse, but I don’t think homeschooling properly done is abuse at all.

  7. says

    Putting a bunch of restrictions on homeschooling won’t end child abuse, however satisfying it might feel, and that seems to be the immediate go-to thought for many.

    Yeah, see, I have a problem with this reasoning.

    First off, no one is saying it will “end” child abuse. What we’re saying is that giving some state oversight to homeschooling parents gives more avenues for child abuse to be detected and addressed. What your argument therefore becomes is “Well, adding some restrictions to homeschooling won’t totally fix the issue, so it’s not worth doing despite the fact that it would reduce the incidences or severity of abuse”.

    Is that really what you want to say?

  8. says

    And Nathaniel answered your question already but I’ll echo his answer – I’m not saying there should be laws which would prevent parents from removing a child from school for health reasons (among others); I’m just saying there should be good oversight.

    Keep in mind also the other side of the picture – parents who want to keep children out of school so that the children won’t get a secular education at all. Those children need rules and oversight that protect their interests and rights.

  9. Jackie: ruining feminism one fabulous accessory at a time says

    Ophelia,
    “Oversight” is fairly vague. What are you suggesting exactly?

  10. northstar says

    Nathaniel @ 5 — yes, I’m familiar with Libby Anne’s blog; I’ve even written a guest column there.

    >>It’s quite simple, actually. Require more contact with the state.

    The problem with many of these cases is that once the child is out of the system, there is literally no contact with anyone other than the child’s family and maybe some equally fundamentalist associates. The child can go years without any contact outside of their fundamentalist bubble.<<

    Well, not quite as simple as that. Civil liberties are really easy to give up — when they belong to someone else. We have a presumption of innocence here, and personally, I don't want the state breathing down my neck. In a diverse and pluralistic society (and we agree, this is a good thing?) we gotta face it, people are going to do their diverse and pluralistic thing in a way we don't agree with. That includes me. That even includes fundamentalists. Such has been the basis for the way many court cases have been decided — some of them in my state, which has very little oversight because of them. Good. It would do nothing but impede what I am doing, and I want to be left alone without a regulatory system telling me how things need to be done. Selfish? Mayhap. But using horror stories as though they typify homeschooling will make for really bad policy, IMO. Drag netting everyone on the presumption a few are going to be caught… is this really going to work? And people who keep their kids isolated — what is the minimum number of outside influences that need to occur? Because this would have to be written into policy. And fundamentalist beliefs? How is that going to be fixed? In my own family, for example, my 14yo decided to go to public high school this year. We are secular at home. Her biology teacher was a Creationist. How about that for irony? (He was called up for service, so it's no longer an issue.)

    So even people who are not abusing their children, and whose children are high achievers might not approve or agree with more oversight or regulation. I know it's the case for me; I could ask on some lists to see what other people feel like.

  11. says

    As far as I’m concerned, it is essential to the child’s civil liberties that they get a reasonable secular education.

    My problem with your argument is that you phrase it entirely in light of you. This isn’t about you. It’s about your children, and the state’s vested interest in ensuring that you are, in fact, providing your children with a sound education.

    My take is that you are giving up your own civil liberties by choosing to assume the role of the state in educating your child. By assuming that responsibility, you accept that the state should want to check and make sure that you are, in fact, doing what you promised to do. Because again, this isn’t about you. It’s about your child’s right to an education.

    I think that Minnesota, as described in the next thread over, has the right idea. Set, normalized standards, with periodic contact and the ability to call for greater scrutiny if necessary. I do not see this as “breathing down your neck”.

    You’re absolutely right, this is a pluralistic country. That does not negate the necessity of doing our level best to make sure all children receive the education necessary to effectively function in our society.

    And honestly? I think that this is a good way to deal with your dreaded “homeschoolers are uneducated” trope. When you can demonstrate that homeschoolers are held to the same standard as public schoolers, you go a long way towards negating that stereotype.

  12. northstar says

    Nathanial @7

    >>“Well, adding some restrictions to homeschooling won’t totally fix the issue, so it’s not worth doing despite the fact that it would reduce the incidences or severity of abuse”.<< You're strawmanning me? Really? You're going there?

    What I want — and what skeptics _generally_ want — is some evidence the proposed restrictions and interferences are actually going to work before intrusive policies are put into place. Now, if it could be shown that states with high amounts of regulation have low numbers of abuse cases — or even abuse cases that are detected — and states with low oversight has high numbers of abuse cases that come to light — ok, I'm all ears. I'm pretty certain it hasn't worked out that way. But I'm open to evidence.

    and Ophelia @8 —
    My problem is with the inevitable distance between _intention_ and actual application.

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