Throughout the militant fecundity podcast series, I repeatedly asked listeners this question:
“Do you love children?”
Since most of my listeners are parents and many are homeschoolers and Christians, the answer ought to be obvious. At one time I might have thought the answer would surely be a resounding “yes!” but for some homeschoolers I fear the answer may instead be “Well, I love my own homeschooled children.” I am hesitant to ask that question any more, especially after reading recent reports describing Home School Legal Defense’s continual push for parental rights and their desire to fight against child protective services, even in the most extreme of child abuse cases if it involves homeschooling families.
Last week a former homeschool daughter, now a mom herself, wrote an article describing three examples she believes show that HSLDA has supported the rights of abusive parents to homeschool their children. One of the cases involved a homeschooling family who had adopted 11 special needs children who were reportedly being kept in cages.
“The Gravelles’ children told Sommers of punishments including ”spankings with a board, name calling and being held under water,” Sommers said. One boy said he had ”his face shoved against a bathroom wall until his nose bled,” Sommers testified. The sleeping arrangements for some of the children were homemade enclosures made with wood and chicken wire that had alarms on the doors. County authorities call the enclosures ”cages,” while the Gravelles say they were enclosed beds used to protect the children. The children would soil their beds rather than open the door and go to the bathroom because they did not want to trigger the alarm, they also told the investigator. Another boy told the detective he was forced to write ”in long hand” a book out of the Bible before he was allowed out of his enclosed bed, Sommers testified.”
At one point, an attorney for HSLDA described the Gravelles as “heroes” for caring for these children. I have not been able to find a retraction or valid explanation for this. In one of the other cases where HSLDA defended the homeschooling rights of a family, a child died from the abuse.
I would like to look at these claims from a couple different perspectives and then open the floor for discussion here. Please be sure to read the whole investigative report and the links provided in the articles for a fuller picture of the situation.
First of all, HSLDA has been promoting the Parental Rights Amendment which has been discussed here in the past. If you watch the video clip on this post, it is quite clear that the right to physically punish children is central to this amendment. I have no doubt that one reason so many parents have jumped on this bandwagon is because they believe Scripture requires spanking. The very thought that some of these parents have been followers of Michael Pearl and that to this date HSLDA has not publicly rebuked him is outrageous. (I have looked for any statement from HSLDA regarding Michael Pearl and cannot find one. If anyone has found this, please share it here. I would love to be wrong on this.)
Secondly, I am not surprised in the least that this has been the posture of HSLDA. In 2009 they co-sponsored the Homeschool Leadership Summit where one of the goals listed in their manifesto was to get rid of Child Protective Services which I discussed in this podcast series on august 15 and 21, 2010. From the first time I saw that on the list, I was dumbfounded. While I do not believe the government is the solution to all of society’s ills, I do believe there are times when it must step in to protect children who are genuinely being abused. I know many godly parents who do understand this and have become involved in the foster care system in order to provide good homes for little ones in these situations. But to me, the message HSLDA is sending is that protecting the rights of parents to homeschool trumps protecting children (any children) from abuse.
I can’t help but wonder if this is the same attitude Douglas Wilson recommends for those of us who believe saving the lives of the unborn, whether from believing or unbelieving parents, is important. He wrote in his book Mother Kirk: Essays on Church Life:
“The unbelievers are destroying themselves in a frenzy of child-murder and fruitless sodomy. Let them go. These are hard words. But Christians must learn to say them. Paul taught us that the children of God-haters are “foul” or “unclean” (I Cor 7:14). We must come to the day when the Christian can truly rebuke those who are “without natural affection” and say – “The ancient psalmist blessed the one who would take little ones of those who hate God and dash them on the rock (Ps 137:9). We see by your pro-abortion position that you clearly agree with this kind of treatment. And we in the Church, in a way you cannot truly comprehend, are now prepared to say amen.”
Appalling isn’t it?
I also have written about the importance for homeschooling families to police themselves, not by turning each other in to authorities, but rather, coming alongside each other and encouraging each other while respecting boundaries. And I am not talking only about one on one, family to family relationships but also being wise and discerning when we attend conferences and events. For example, too many conferences now screen their vendors and speakers, putting them through a patriocentric grid before they can teach or sell their products. Why do we continue to support those groups?
What will happen if we do not get involved personally? Well, it has already been suggested that some homeschooling families are in violation of the constitutional rights of daughters if they are not offered educations equal to sons in the same family.
I know someone is going to point out that Libby Anne who did this research is not particularly favorable to homeschooling. I know she, as do many others, believes there need to be more restrictions on homeschooling and that homeschoolers need to meet standards established by the government. But my response is “why?” Does anyone believe the government has been so successful at educating children that they should dictate to homeschoolers some arbitrary standards? And who decides what it actually means to be educated? If we want to scream “educational neglect” we had better do it in the direction of the government schools first!!!
So, this has been brief considering the topic, but what do you think? And how can homeschooling families find the balance between protecting our rights to educate our own children and still care for little ones who are abused, no matter what school they attend?