In protest of the modest, secluded life of homeschooling

Apparently, there is a one woman campaign out of Maine to “wake-up” society to the dangers of homeschooling, via Doris Anne Beaulieu and her book The Torments of the Modest Secluded Farm Life as well as her website, Life’s Ultimate Test.  I’ve spent a little time looking for additional information, but unfortunately our library does not carry the book and all I could find online was the same description she left on my blog as a comment across multiple sites and no independent reviews.  She has received some honors for her work, including some attention from the Obama campaign.  (All block quotes are from the comment she left.  Unfortunately, the comment was post length by itself so I’m going to try to pare it down a bit,)

. . . Who we become as adults is greatly influenced by the way we are raised as children. . . .

I couldn’t agree more.  In fact, I dare say this is one of the primary motivations which unites us as homeschoolers…the desire to provide positive models to our children.

. . . I believe that living a sheltered life at home and home-schooling is not the best way to raise your children. I was a sheltered child at home and attended a private school. Private schools have since improved in time, with legislation to accredit the institution and greater attendance.

I’m not sure that accreditation necessary translates to improvements, but I am not that familiar with the history of private schools in general, nor of Catholic schools in particular.  At any rate, so far the argument being developed seems to be based solely on her experiences as a child raised in a secluded area attending a private school.  One person’s experience, and it wasn’t even with homeschooling.

Home-schooling, however, has been left on the back burner without much legislation to monitor it and has turned into the private schools of the past. Who is ensuring that the home-schooled children are receiving an education that will enable them to be socially acceptable?

I would say predominantly the parents.  As well as neighbors, friends, churches and pediatricians.  In other words, the communities we live in.  And just what is “socially acceptable?”  A lot of people homeschool because their children are not socially accepted and find themselves bullied relentlessly.  In fact, concerns about this environment are the top cited reason for homeschooling.  Sometimes this world still catches up with them because you can never truly shelter a child from the world.

My book paints a very clear picture of the closeness of families who live a protective, sheltered life going to a private school(Which is not the home-schools of today). One’s only friends are those also living under that protective blanket, or in my case, only my siblings. One is raised to believe the whole world lives this way.

If you grow up in a small rural area, chances are you will find a similar environment in the local public school.  These communities are small and your teacher may have educated all your siblings, your parents and graduated with your grandmother.  I’m sure there is some culture shock leaving such a world, but I’m not convinced that there is anything the government can do to help that transition.  Nor that parents are wrong or are guilty of anything but loving their children for wanting to bring their children up this way.

Individuals only speak the truth because one is taught a person is only as good as his word. It is also emphasized that everyone treats others with kindness as that is the pure moral way to live life . . . No matter the direction life may take, make no mistake, one’s childhood mentally follows him or her throughout life, causing doubt in every move because one knows how naive he or she was raised and things are just not the same in the world he or she now must live in.

So children need to be abused in a public system to grow up and transition into the world?  I grew up with this harsh world she goes on to discuss as so shocking when she emerged from her sheltered existence.  And believe me, having been raised watching the lying, stealing, favoritism, bullying, immorality, immodesty, etc., left me with plenty of baggage to carry mentally throughout my life.

. . . I had a conversation on one of the political sites on Myspace where a man said “I quit school at 16 because school was nothing but a waste of my time.” This same man said he was going to home-school his children. Can you just imagine the education his children are going to receive? And how are they going to adjust into society when they turn eighteen? Schools are all being academically measured up, but what are we going to have for these failing parents? What kind of society are we creating?  In the year 2003 there were over one million children being home-schooled and various forms of unschooled. Yes, you heard me right “unschooled,” where counting eggs while picking them is math. . . .

He hasn’t failed at anything yet…except at fitting in to the public school model Ms. Beaulieu seems to idealize.  What kind of society are we creating when our schools fail so many of our children?  Twenty percent of high school drop outs test in the gifted range.  It isn’t just the poor and the minorities we are failing in a system designed for the average rather than the individual.

And until the system can get it right, I’m not terribly confident in what it could possibly do to “improve” education in the homes of homeschoolers.

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0 Responses

  1. I am not buying it. This woman claims to have grown up with NO conflict. At all. She was able to go to private school and manage to find no friends at all but her siblings. So… it isn’t even that she was sheltered from her peers. She saw her peers every schoolday and yet managed to find ZERO friends.

    Sorry, but that must be a highly unusual story. Either her parents were overly (and very strangely!!) involved in every waking hour of her day so that she could never make friends or experience conflict, or she doesn’t see the way people in her home’s culture solved disagreements as conflict. (I’m thinking the latter.)

    I looked at the website, but found no “solutions” there. Perhaps she wants to herd every child off to public school and/or make them “accountable” to the state because she learned the words “ghetto” and “rape” after she was married. After all, well-educated children learn these as part of their first-grade curriculum while reading Judy Blume books and having sex in the stairwells. (Yes, I was overexaggerating on purpose, ok? But what does she really want here?)

  2. I don’t get it. Why has this woman decided to pick on homeschooling based on her life experience which had nothing to do with homeschooling? Why does having grown up in a close knit family and having had no friends outside of family qualify her to make some official statement about homeschooling? While many homeschooled families are very close knit (I am happy to say that ours is!), I think she would be hardpressed to find many homeschoolers that have no friends outside their own family! I don’t know any homeschoolers like that!

  3. I can’t figure out why this woman has received any awards for her writing, considering how poorly written her website is!

    Also, though I haven’t read the book, from her website it sounds like she has a lot of misconceptions about homeschooling. She obviously has not done her research or else she would have discovered that homeschoolers tend to be very active in their communities. We certainly aren’t all sitting around at home all day seeing no one but our own families!

  4. Sometimes I wonder about responding to critiques like Ms. Beaulieu’s.(I understand you responding, Dana, as she commented on your blog, but that’s not what I’m talking about). Her premise appears to be that her life experiences should provide a blueprint for all of humanity, or at least America, which completely ignores the mental and emotional makeup of individuals and their families.

    I am leery of people who don’t want to converse, they want to convert. I am perfectly willing to listen someone who wants to present their ‘side’ if their arguments are based on evidence and principle, and they are willing to listen as well. But when an argument is painted with a broadbrush soaked in a severe bias, I think the discussion is doomed.

    So- everyone will present Ms. Beaulieu with boatloads of evidence that homeschooling often succeeds in producing well-rounded, thoroughly educated individuals, as well as reminding her of the principles of family privacy and freedom of the individual, and also the various reasons why a family would choose home education, plus many anecdotes of our own- but based on what I have read thus far, I don’t see her responding with any reciprocity. Please forgive my cynicism- perhaps it is because my hot water heater is broken and I took an ice cold bath this morning. 🙂

  5. [Who we become as adults is greatly influenced by the way we are raised as children]

    So, her website presents an adult woman who is successful, involved in her community, politically active, and happy. The photos suggest she has a family who love and enjoy each other. Hmmm… Growing up in a close knit family, being educated in private schools (schools her family undoubtedly sacrificed to send her to) hurt her how?

    I grew up with nearly perfect parents. 🙂 Well, not really; they were imperfect people with baggage from growing up in poverty, anger and control issues. But, they loved us kids and did the very best they knew how to do. I became an adult when I stopped blaming my parents for my emotional problems, my choices and my consequences. I was about 30! I began to live deliberately. Apparently, some people have yet to make the mental leap into “I’m grown now.”

  6. Julie makes another good point, maybe without meaning to — age and stage are relevant to the psychology of these annoying universal prescriptions, though seldom mentioned.

    I thought I knew much more about how everyone should live when I was 22 and 26 and even 30, than I do now at 50-something. I was wrong then, not just about others but even about myself! 🙂

    My own life now is much more deliberate and principled and joyous.

  7. This woman has issues and assumes the rest of us share them! Just because she felt her upbringing was too sheltered, she thinks she can prescribe how everyone else should raise their children? Silly. Very silly…

  8. Julie and JJ Ross, I completely agree. I actually started another paragraph on that when I saw the word count and thought I might like someone to at least attempt to read the entry. 🙂 I think it is a repeated theme in a lot of discussions about parenting, education and probably about every aspect of life. “X, Y, Z was a bad experience for me, so no one should do it.” Or, related I think, “I couldn’t do it, so I don’t understand how anyone else could.”

  9. And regarding awards, my impression was that it wasn’t for the writing so much as her very active involvement in her community and public schools in her area. A very good thing, even if I disagree with the premise of this book.

  10. We’re dealing with people just like this working through the proposed legislation changes in New Hampshire right now. It’s maddening!

    Some people just don’t get it and then they want others to join them in their cluelessness for “the greater good.” {sigh} It makes my brain hurt, more.

  11. “But when an argument is painted with a broadbrush soaked in a severe bias, I think the discussion is doomed.”

    But if people in powerful places listen to her, then it could be homeschooling that’s doomed. The fact that Obama praised her book concerns me.

  12. Using Butterfly’s favorite saying(Be sure to insert eye-roll and twelve-year-old attitude),


    Now excuse me, we have to go and count baskets of dirty laundry. I’m combining Home Ec. and Math.

    (Removing tongue from cheek.)

  13. Wow, this Ms. Beaulieu lady needs a lesson in website/blog design! I know of several fifteen y/o, web design award-winners who could teach her. They are homeschoolers.

  14. (From her comment on the other blog:) “Just think for a moment, if you were raised with no conflicts in child’s play.”

    This scenario is so ridiculously far-fetched, I can’t even imagine it, except perhaps in a sci-fi novel.

  15. I agree with her about one thing:

    “No matter the direction life may take, make no mistake, one’s childhood mentally follows him or her throughout life”

    It has taken me years to get over the bullying, molestation, teasing, and ridicule for not being “socially acceptable” that happened to me in public schools. I pulled my daughter out of public school after 1st grade and I wish I had never sent her to public school at all. She had already been “stalked” and bullied by a 3rd grade boy while she was in 1st, and her teacher told me to put her on meds so she could be calmer. She was BORED in school, already reading at 5th grade level in K! Anyway, that woman is wrong, on so many levels.


  16. Her book would have to be self published. *eye roll* Actually, having read through her painful site, it seems to me all it is is self promotion to get people to buy her book. No~one lives without conflict, no matter how sheltered. Honestly. That’s just stupid.

  17. I had to copy & paste her text into Word so that I could read it without getting a headache. She needs to take website design 101 and pay special attention to the issue of contrast.

  18. “Just think for a moment, if you were raised with no conflicts in child’s play.”

    She said she had 8 siblings (from her website – gosh it is hard to read – amazing the president knew anything about it – I would have skipped it). Is she serious that she had no conflict with her siblings? Really?? Did she hang out in a closet or something so she could not see them?? Does she have any children of her own?? I think I mediated conflict at least twice today and heard the children mediating themselves a few times….and that was the older 2 – the baby isn’t old enough yet, lol! I have a hard time believing she had no conflict at school either.

    She obviously has had zero contact with the homeschooling community or she would know that the children get plenty of socialization (as a general rule). Shoot, half the activities are so the MOMS can have some socialization while the children have fun, lol!

    After having recently moved from not having neighbors with children to having several children around us, I miss the no children around area. My children have picked up some lovely (Not!) things from the neighborhood children. Sigh.

  19. Melisa H. said: “from her website – gosh it is hard to read – amazing the president knew anything about it – I would have skipped it’

    One of the links I followed led to a self-promotion page on which she says:

    “My personal site Life’s Ultimate Test and profile has received the attention of the Presidential 2008 Obama campaign for striving to bring about change in an area of education that has been overlooked and left on the back burner. The result was accepting the honor of being the Ambassador of the state of Maine for the 2007-2008 Presidential Obama campaign yearbook.”

    The POTUS may or may not be aware of her work. Maybe a campaign worker in Maine is.

    Hm, I just googled “Presidential Obama campaign yearbook” and all the links were related to her. There is a “50 States for Obama Yearbook” that must be what she’s referring to.

    I couldn’t read her actual site either!

  20. I noticed a thought process which linked the sheltered life of home schooled children with that of children from rural public schools. There may be something important in that observation as it applies to basic values, character and integrity.

    Over the years I’ve noticed a link, real or imagined, to those who become either firemen, police officers or join the military. The ones who stand out the most, those who might be called “country hicks” by their straight forward open approach to social situations, are the ones who have it in the back of their minds that service to the public isn’t simply a pay check; but is part of their character. This isn’t to say urban folks don’t have the character trait as well; only that it seems to be more prevalent with those brought up in an environment where such values are held in high esteem such as rural America or smaller communities.

    Large public schools permit young people to become invisible for the most part and their interchange with adults who would influence their character is diminished to some degree, perhaps even encouraged to shake off traditional values, as would seem more a probability with some of the ideas I’ve heard expressed by those in charge of the teacher’s unions.

  21. Raised without conflict, huh? I’ll run that by my kids who, just this morning, were fighting with spoons. You might think that spoons would not inflict much damage. Perhaps not much on the physical side, but the emotional scars….you just never know.

  22. Someone could just as easily have written and self-published a book called, “The Joys of the Modest Secluded Farm Life” and espoused the benefits of being raised in a close knit stable environment.

    I bet it would hardly get half the attention. Goes to show that being against something often gets you more publicity than before for anything.

    You said it best with, “And until the system can get it right, I’m not terribly confident in what it could possibly do to “improve” education in the homes of homeschoolers.”

  23. When I read the author touting inclusion in the “Obama Yearbook 2007-2008” I immediately thought of the “Who’s Who in America” books that are promoted once you become a senior in high school and college.

  24. Sunniemom, I missed this somehow, but I sometimes feel the same way about responding to some of these. There rarely is any interaction, but that isn’t the only point of responding. The concerns raised in this little promo are common to many homeschool detractors so I think we should respond in some way when these kinds of criticisms are raised.

    When I searched for more information about the book, I found nothing but the same promo piece written across a multitude of websites. Now when you search for the book, this entry comes at #2, just behind her homepage. At least we have an opportunity to share an opposing viewpoint with anyone who bothers to search out more information.

  25. Dana, you didn’t miss much :p – just some frustrated mental meanderings. Plus, my response to you was a by-proxy response to Ms. Beaulieu.

    Most of the time I am pretty optimistic, but every once in awhile I read something by a Lessenberry or a Laden or a Downes, and I wonder why we bother. But of course, as you point out, there is a perfectly good and even imperative reason why we bother. If we don’t lend some sanity to these topics, the inmates will be running the asylum. 😀

  26. I am not so sure. I mean we kept my son home to school him because he has some pretty serious delays and seizures thinking we would protect him and keep any conflict from coming near him. What we found was no matter how hard we tried he would not progress until we sent him from homeschooling to private school. I appreciate greatly both forums of education but I felt it important that he socially get in the mix so to speak.

    May God continue to bless you as you continue to provide quality and informative substance to your posts. God Bless – Rev. Jim Wilson

  27. I believe every parent needs to make that decision for themselves. You know your child and your situation. What worries me about books and arguments like the one discussed in this entry is that people want to set policy and write laws based on anecdotes. Someone in rural Maine felt like it was difficult to adjust to the “real world” so we should now regulate all homeschoolers?

    Anyway, thank you for your comment and I hope your son is doing well where he is now! God bless.

  28. You see! If these kids were all forced to live in big cities, they wouldn’t have all these spoon-related injuries!

    Gotta love it. I was bored as a kid so your kids must be too and that is a completely unnatural state for any child ever and therefore must be snuffed out with 8-5 activities in the local cinderblock building. If you don’t have a big enough building, all children should be moved to a big city.


    Of course she’s self-published. What self-respecting book publisher would look twice at this dreck.


  29. I wasn’t homeschooled, and I don’t have any children, but I enjoy reading this blog and the great comments from time to time. Such a great defense of the wonderful institution of homeschooling.

  30. But the poor woman wasn’t home schooled! I don’t get it. Why is she comparing a private education with being home schooled?

    I am now 43 and nothing that is going on in my life now has anything to do with my schooling or the way I was brought up. I sortd through all that years ago.

    I grew up.

    I am now my own person.

    Sometimes it was tough, but like one of your visitors said, what’s the alternative? Expose our children to some of the awful things we commit in this world so they won’t get a shock when they grow up and realize that nothing is ‘perfect’?

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