Um, more likely serious abusers will use the shield of homeschooling against abuse and neglect investigations. Anytime you have a freedom, some sadist is going to use it for evil, or some dork is going to use his liberty as a license for stupidity. Anyone who's ever driven on the highways could tell you the latter!
Most often homeschooled children actually have some sort of contact with the community. Most children have friends or go to church or co-op classes, or go shopping with their families. And I think most people, homeschooling or not, don't abuse their children. But like any other "right," the right to homeschool can be taken away from parents who have been proven in court to have physically abused their children in the past. That makes me a bit nervous, because all it takes is a person employed by the state with a vendetta against your religion or family, but there it is. Your rights are not absolute.
Julie discusses the case of a 14-year-old "homeschooled" girl being starved on this blog post:
"Like almost every case of abuse tied to homeschooling the children in this case were not 'hidden' from the watchful eyes of government employees as the first article implied. The girl’s plight had been reported to Child Protective Services. A caseworker had visited their home and found the girl thin and confirmed the abuse. The kids had been being homeschooled at the time of the first allegations."
In other words, a homeschooled child came to the attention of CPS as being suspected of abuse. Personally, I would imagine that unless one were plotting ahead of time to radically starve a child, most "bad" parents would go for the free-childcare aspect of public education. I'm not saying that's what public education is about - don't get me wrong. I'm just saying the thought of foisting one's child on someone else to raise for eight hours daily, 40 hours a week has to be appealing to someone who is not together enough to do a good job him/herself right then. That's all.
I also think we ought to be very, very careful before we even think to ourselves that someone might be abusing their children. I know in Elf's case, he has autism. He just does. And he went through a time where I followed the wisdom of James Dobson on dinnertime. You eat what you're served, or you'll eat enough at a later meal (of whatever's served) to make up for it. Left out of the equation? Elf was not being manipulative, and he was going hungry. Don't judge our family for the fact that the child was losing weight for a while, OR for the fact that now I serve a lot of junk foods. While Elf was losing weight, he was under a doctor's care and I was very forthright about exactly how mealtimes went.
Sometimes parents make mistakes. I took the doctor's suggestions seriously, added a few ideas of my own and now the child is actually a little on the chubby side. YES, we serve cookies at our meals often. Beats being too thin. If there were a way to get him to eat a balanced meal of vegetables, fruits and whole grains, you bet I would. But meal after meal being served and uneaten should worry any parent. I **HOPE** any doctor would listen to Mom's concerns, take them seriously and brainstorm about what to do instead of assuming abuse. Though I should think that just about any doctor would hospitalize a 14-year-old well before the 47-pound mark if she were losing weight. These are some parents who almost certainly shouldn't be left alone with their children just yet. I'm leaving open the distinct but remote possibility that some other medical problem is going on. But it's doubtful if the story is accurate in relating the child had very little water and had not seen a doctor in YEARS.
In any event, stories about homeschooled children being abused abound. There are quite a few about public school children being abused as well, but it sure seems to me that people just shrug those sorts of stories off as being just at "that" school. With homeschoolers, it isn't just "that" family; it's the whole "hiding your child in the basement and teaching him the Bible" thing that gets people reeling. It's all of them-thar Fundies hiding out and preparing for Armageddon what done make 'em secular peoples nervous.
By the way, teaching your child Biblical principles is also abusive, but that's another post entirely...