The Rapture ate their homework

Michael and Laura McIntyre decided in 2004 to homeschool their nine children, using as a classroom some space in a motorcycle dealership that he co-owned. But his twin brother Tracy noticed that the children never seemed to be doing any actual work, instead singing and playing. He also overheard one of the children tell a cousin that they did not need to do any work because they were going to be raptured.

Then one daughter ran away from home in order to attend high school and when the authorities asked the parents for the curriculum the parents used for her so that they could place her properly, they refused to provide it. The school district filed suit against the family for truancy but the parents countersued saying that they had the right to teach their children as they saw fit.

Luckily for the children, they lost their case

The appeals court ruled that educational regulations did not prevent the McIntyres’ First Amendment right to “free exercise of religion.” The court said that 1972 court case which found that Amish did not have to send their children to school after the eighth grade did not exempt the McIntyres.

“No parents have ever prevailed in any reported case on a theory that they have an absolute constitutional right to educate their children in the home, completely free of any state supervision, regulation, or requirements,” the ruling stated. “They do not have an ‘absolute constitutional right to home school.’”

I really feel sorry for the children of these deluded parents. People can overcome a lack of formal education but when that lacuna is filled with nonsensical ideas imprinted at an early age, that is a double burden that can doom them to a life of ignorance. The fact that one child escaped is a hopeful sign that the parents are somewhat disorganized and thus indoctrination was not that thorough.


  1. Chiroptera says

    Then one daughter ran away from home in order to attend high school and when the authorities asked the parents for the curriculum the parents used for her so that they could place her properly, they refused to provide it.

    This part is strange. Is it state law that the school district must assume that random people on the street are capable of teaching to the curriculum even if it were provided? I would have assumed that the school would just on their own determine what the kid was ready for, either through written exams or as part of an oral interview. (Without formal education, I would assume an oral discussion would be less stressful and less rigid, better able to adapt to the kid’s reponses.)

    Unfortunately, it seems more and more “sincerely held religious beliefs” can trump any considerations of people’s well being. It also doesn’t help that too many people view children as their parents’ vanity projects instead of human beings and citizens with individual rights.

  2. hyphenman says

    Good afternoon Mano,

    While I know personally of a number of home-schooled children who, because their parents were well educated and motivated, received excellent educations and had no problems with state tests and college entrance examinations, the other side of bell curve is very strange.

    Over the years I have been called upon to work with a number of students because their parents sent them to a very mainstream (and expensive) private school for grades preschool through 6th that left the children unable to function in a public school. While I was able to assist the children, even after several years of remedial work, they struggled to keep pace with the public-school peers.

    How much more so must some of these home-schoolers be?

    Do all you can to make today a better day,


  3. Chiroptera says

    hyphenman, #2: While I know personally of a number of home-schooled children who, because their parents were well educated and motivated, received excellent educations and had no problems with state tests and college entrance examinations….

    My main experience with home-schooled kids have been mainly with those who made it into college. That tends to skew some of my impression of home schooling. At any rate, these kids have seemed to me to be very intelligent and creative but often unconventional.

    I realize, thought, that my anecdotal experience doesn’t trump empirical statistical data, but I don’t know what that shows. I wouldn’t oppose a state outlawing home-schooling, but I certainly believe that if it’s allowed, then it should have to meet standards similar (but adjusted to the home school situation) to the public schools. On the other hand, I think that private schooling should be more rigidly regulated as well.

  4. dean says

    My main experience with home-schooled kids have been mainly with those who made it into college.

    Mine as well, and abilities do run the gamut. I teach statistics and related mathematics courses. The characteristic I find most often in my discipline is that they may have a good grasp of basic rules and procedures (basic factoring rules in algebra, differentiation if they’ve had exposure, the types of manipulations needed in introductory probability), but when a similar but not identical concept is introduced, they haven’t the experience (or possibly confidence) to adjust the methods they know to the new problem. Admittedly, that is something many students struggle with, but notes from exams and homework problems have convinced me the problems occur with higher frequency among the home-schooled students. Possibly due to emphasis on rote work and memorization rather than actual learning?

  5. Jonny Vincent says

    I grew up in the CoG (Children of God), a fundamentalist apocalyptic cult. The Second Coming was “This weekend..!” for my entire childhood. With the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse due at any moment, I was prevented from going to school but when I demanded to know why I had to brush my teeth, my mother revealed truth with a backhand. She never answered a single question directly but she understood the concept of emphasis.

    The McIntyres don’t really believe the Rapture is coming – their conduct would be littered with contradictions proving the fact – they want to control Their children in isolation. Their concerns are not unreasonable but their children’s interests are irrelevant to them. This is a dispute over Property Rights.

    I ran away at 14. My first day of school was Grade 10. I’d never had friends, played sports, watched TV or movies; I’d never read a magazine, novel or newspaper – the only book permitted was the KJV Holy Bible, which I read cover-to-cover three times in sheer boredom – but I couldn’t understand anyone. All I knew was that my parents, their cult and the Bible consisted of nothing but absurdity and contradictions. So I knew nothing.

    I had no trouble catching up, it wasn’t long before I was reducing myself to conform. It’s a queer world where excellence is ridiculed. Parents are concerned about exposing their children to Society, the State and bullying but they’re blind to reality where they are the bullies and it’s entertainment media (particularly ads and commercials) that destroys children’s minds.

    The State is mixed up with religion in some shady bio-political games of power involving children. Parents are irrationally protected. Children belong to Society as owners have liability. When children are abused, Society pays.

    “I really think it’s crazy that we hit our kids. It really is. Here’s the crazy part about it. Kids are the only people in the world that you’re allowed to hit. Do you realize that? They’re the most vulnerable and they’re the most destroyed by being hit, but it’s totally OK to hit them.”
    – Louis CK

    Humans are the only mammal species with the luxury of nuanced methods to convey information but we’re the only mammal species that ‘needs’ violence, shame and lies to communicate with children. This is a very creepy world.

  6. Mano Singham says


    I am glad that you ‘escaped’ your experience and survived. Children can be quite resilient, as your life demonstrates. I guess they have to be because they manage to grow up under all manner of harsh conditions.

  7. Pierce R. Butler says

    Is it state law that the school district must assume that random people on the street are capable of teaching…?

    Note, this happened in Texas. State law probably requires that the random people on the street get tested, to exclude the literate and other elitists.

  8. cameradragon says

    In TX there are few regulations governing homeschool standards. I was not impressed with the public school standards either and so while we lived there I did homeschool my girls. After moving away my daughter went to public school for three years before requesting to return to a homeschool format, being frustrated with the agonizingly slow pace of learning in her school. At 11th grade now she is quite comfortable with college level material in several subjects, and we hold her to high standards. She loves math and science and aspires to be a computer programmer. Nutjobs like those guys rile me up, they make things so difficult for people who just learn differently and want to school their kids independently.

  9. Katydid says

    We homeschooled our oldest for high school because at 14 he was ready for college-level classes in some areas and high-school-level classes in others. We used an accredited, secular online high school and supplemented with college classes at the local community college where appropriate. He’s 18 now and a sophomore at the state college, majoring in astrophysics. The high school years were rocky, however, because we made a real effort to integrate with our local homeschool community for daytime socialization…and with very few exceptions, the people who choose to homeschool in our state are just…well, very different thinking than we are. The McIntyres would fit in quite well with the group, whereas we were constantly walking on eggshells to avoid offending the thin-skinned but quite opinionated bigots, racists, and mouthbreathers who were terrified their precious snowflakes would ever hear a word of science.

  10. moarscienceplz says

    Just as “every man who is his own lawyer, has a fool for a client”, every child who is home-schooled has a fool for a teacher. I don’t mean this as a dig at Katydid and people like her/him, but I see two big problems with home-schooling:
    One, you don’t know what you don’t know. For example, many people I talk to have a poor grasp of statistics (I include myself in that cohort, although I did pick up some by watching a telecourse). If both your parents are in that cohort, they probably wouldn’t try to teach statistics to you, or they might teach it wrong.
    Two, I think the social knowledge gained from interacting with hundreds of other kids, especially if you can keep the group mostly intact over a span of years, is very valuable and something very hard to replicate in a home-school environment.
    There will be exceptions, of course. A special needs child might not be able to handle interacting with hundreds of people, but could blossom in a more intimate setting. A fast learner would probably need a personalized curriculum, but I feel even they still need to interact with the general school population, because they will have to deal with people like that out in the real world. Do we want more Sheldon Coopers or more Neil DeGrasse Tysons?

  11. brucegee1962 says

    A whole lot depends on the kids, too. I know a family with four daughters and a son. All five were home-schooled by the system of “throw a lot of books at them and assume they’ll read.” With the four girls, this system actually worked just fine. So they were very surprised when they suddenly realized that their sixteen-year-old son was thoroughly ignorant.

  12. corwyn says

    they probably have a better chance than many. The hardest part of learning a new thing is removing the old, wrong, thing currently in that spot.

  13. Katydid says

    @Moarscience, you’ve obviously overlooked the part where I clearly said we used community college and an online accredited high school program. Perhaps closer attention paid to comprehending what you read might help you comment?

    Additionally, you just re-argued my points. We were appalled by the general homeschooling population. My state has very, very lenient homeschooling requirements (if you’re aligned with a religious group, there’s zero proof of accountability, and if you’re not, you can meet once a year with a member of the school board to present a portfolio that’s simple to fake in a couple of hours) and there were many parents who were just apoplectic over that minimal oversight. Texas’s homeschooling requirements are even more lenient–as are many other states!

    What we discovered was the parents who were genuinely interested in academics used accredited secular curricula and free online classes from places like MIT and Stanford. The parents who were terrified of reality went with the religious curricula like Bob Jones and Switched On Schoolhouse or Abeka, or “unschooled” (a.k.a, “We can’t be bothered to set a schedule or set expectations”). It was also a badge of pride in some religious circles to keep their children out of “gummint” schools, leading to bizarre statements like “I’m homeschooling my three-month-old!” (no, sweetie, that’s simply parenting).

    At 14, my son took a 6-week seminar at the local community college for Alice, a programming language designed to introduce children to the concepts of object-oriented programming, taught by the parent of one of the academic homeschooling families and heavily advertised in the homeschooling online groups. He was teamed with a 17-year-old homeschooler, and their first project was to make an animated story. The 17-year-old partner couldn’t spell “general” or “flower”, and the partnership broke down when the partner insisted the story had to be ‘Christ-centered’ and quote the Bible.

  14. Jonny Vincent says

    Katydid:“I’m homeschooling my three-month-old!” (no, sweetie, that’s simply parenting).

    Hah. I have a feeling the 3mo owes her a favor now.

    So many parents imagine doing their job is some kind of favor to their helpless children. I’m pretty sure their logic is something like, “I could have killed you or tortured you a lot more, and I didn’t. So you owe me.”

    The worse they do their job, the more they feel they’re owed in reciprocation. These tend to be authoritarian, religious parents.

    I’ve always hated “favors” but nothing is worse than retroactive bulling for unsolicited favours. As if I could ever need something I didn’t request.

    I’ve met some women in my day who seemed a little confused about favors. But as much as their virtue is worth to their mothers, I’m just not sure how they imagined men could want to buy it. Virtue for sale?

    Who has the rubies to buy liability.

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