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Homeschooling and Educational Neglect

HSLDA, Nosy Neighbors

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) would have you think that at any moment a police officer and child services worker could descend on your doorstep and demand to see your children as you have been accused of educational neglect. Sure, it could happen, but the chances of being charged of educational neglect are slim.

What is Educational neglect? Educational neglect occurs when a child is allowed to be repeatedly truant from school, or is of mandatory school age and not participating in any kind of educational program. If a child is neglected educationally, they will likely perform poorly in life.

People who have no idea of what homeschooling is about often accuse Homeschoolers of educational neglect. There was a time during the early days of the modern homeschooling movement when no homeschooler would dare attempt to teach their child at home because is was just a matter of time before a charge of neglect was risen. Lately however, while nosy neighbors, and controlling relatives may voice concerns over educational neglect, few people will actually make a formal accusation.

But don’t some homeschoolers neglect their children’s education, you may surely be asking. Of course, it could happen. It happens every day. When a parent claims to be homeschooling a child but in fact is trying to hide the fact that they are abusing the child, the education of that child is being neglected. When a well-meaning parent decides to homeschool, only to find that they cannot handle the job, and leaves the child to his or her own resources, they are educationally neglecting the child. When a parent allows a child to ‘homeschool’ because they are tired of dealing with the truant officer, the education of the child is being neglected. Such educational neglect however, is very rare.

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What do you do when you think a homeschoolers education is being neglected? If I only had a nickel for every time someone sent me an email with that question… It might not make me rich, but I’d have a few bucks stashed away. If you feel that a homeschooler in your life is being neglected, I recommend you have a heart to heart conversation with the family. One thing you will find out about homeschoolers is that they are rarely shy about sharing their homeschool experience. You may find that what you think is educational neglect, is merely freedom allowed to the child to follow his or her own heart. My kids for example, are free to do what they like in the afternoon. This made my neighbor think they had not structure at home. What she did not realize is that they spent the mornings following a very structured curriculum. So, what I am saying is if you are in doubt, ask… politely.

If the answer causes you more alarm than before, then you either do not understand their homeschooling program (many people do not understand unschooling), or the child is being neglected. If you feel at this point that you may want to report the family for educational neglect is rare, you need to be sure that the child is being neglected. False accusations could end with your being sued for harassing the family.