The Ethical Dilemma: Homeschooling Problems

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Home School Double Duty: I am part of a homeschooling family. I’m set to graduate at the end of May and will no longer be doing any high school curriculum at the end of June. I start college in the fall and am looking forward to it. But there’s a problem that’s been brewing for the last few years. I’ve been drafted against my will to be a schoolwork enforcer for my younger siblings while my dad is off on business trips, and my mom is either off on errands or taking care of stuff around the house that won’t let her be interrupted by constantly checking their progress.

This has been increasing my stress, brewing an unhealthy hatred toward my dad, and making it highly challenging for me to stay on track with my own schoolwork. My siblings get off-task like crazy—it takes two hours of real time and five hours of mental time each day to stay on top of them. I can’t get things done that I need to do, and I don’t want to do any of this, but I don’t think I can tell him, “It’s not my job.”

I feel like I’m about to explode because I feel that I can’t tell him to stop having these expectations of me because I can’t do it anymore and because it shouldn’t have been my duty to begin with.

—Going Crazy

Dear Crazy,

I’m so sorry you didn’t reach out for help sooner, but even if it’s a bit late for you, it may be a good idea to arrest this situation before it gets passed on to your next-oldest sibling.

I know there are rules and regulations governing home schooling, but it apparently varies from state to state. You could look up your state here. The people I know who are involved in homeschooling are members of formal homeschooling associations that share resources and meet regularly to discuss their progress and techniques. If your family participates in such an organization, you might be able to seek help from members of the group (assuming they aren’t all doing the same thing with their kids).

But before you do that, I’m wondering what is making you feel unable to approach your mother or father about this. Maybe they have no idea of the pressure you feel, or how inappropriate it is to lay all this responsibility on a young person. Although parents are within their rights to assign their children certain chores and duties around the home, your account depicts this as excessive, particularly since you are feeling so overwhelmed and angry.

I’m hoping you do find a way to speak to your parents about this. You might try handing them a letter that says the same things your letter to me says (but no need to tell them you already aired this outside your family). If that doesn’t help, or you really can’t bring yourself to confront them, please reach out to an adult (another homeschool parent, relative, trusted family friend, perhaps even a teacher you may interact with through your homeschool program) to help you communicate with your parents. Perhaps they are so absorbed in their own hectic lives that they simply don’t realize how they are heaping inappropriate responsibility on you. If so, they may try to quickly find a way to rectify the situation—even if it means sending some or all of your siblings to regular school.

I would hate for this to escalate to appealing to social services, but that might be a necessary last resort if your reluctance to speak up involves fear of punishment, physical or emotional, or if you remain on the brink of exploding.

Meanwhile, I’m hoping you’ll be going away to college—not living at home, where you’d still be facing the same problems. You sound like a very smart, responsible and resourceful young person. I expect you might be able to get yourself into a nice college and dormitory—with financial aid, if necessary—if not next fall, soon after.

Readers, do you have any experience with homeschooling that might be helpful here?