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Woman Accused Of ‘Mom-Shaming’ Her Sister For Not Giving Her Kids Any Formal Education

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With homeschooling on the rise, most of us know at least one friend or family member who has chosen some form of a homeschooling path for their children, from traditional homeschooling to unschooling to even wildschooling.

But it’s forgotten by some that each of these forms of school still require education and learning, forewarned the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.

Redditor Willing_Occasion501 found herself caught between doing what was right and what was easy after observing her nieces and nephew.

But when she was criticized, the Original Poster (OP) wondered if she should have kept her opinions to herself.

She asked the sub:

“AITA for ‘mom-shaming’ my sister?” 

The OP’s sister decided to unschool her children. 

My (28 [Female]) sister and her wife (32 [Female] and 33 [Female]) have 3 kids (12 [Female], 10 [Female], and 7 [Male]).”

“All three kids are ‘unschooled’, basically meaning they don’t go to school or homeschool.”

“My sister had undiagnosed ADHD until college and was miserable in school, so she said she didn’t wanna put her kids through that.”

“My sister explained it as letting them learn naturally at their own pace without it being as rigid as attending traditional public school.”

The OP was concerned about their quality of education.

“Sounds great on paper, except that my sister’s kids don’t do much of any actual learning or anything at all.”

“My nieces attend dance classes and my nephew plays soccer, but that’s basically it.”

“Whenever I go over there, the kids are either glued to the TV, running around doing whatever, or playing computer or iPad games.”

“I know my oldest niece is at least literate, since she’s developed a thing for writing short stories, but if the younger two have ever even so much as read anything that wasn’t a restaurant menu, I couldn’t tell you.”

“At the end of the day, they’re not my kids and it isn’t my choice to make. It’s still worrying though.”

The OP’s sister tried to convince her to unschool her son, too.

“As my own son is getting close to school age, my sister has been bugging me on doing the same with him.”

“I don’t know why she thinks I’d go that route, seeing as my son has probably learned more in daycare than any of her kids have in the past few years.”

“Yesterday, when this was brought up over the phone, I told my sister that me and my husband both work, so it’s not feasible. “

“She offered to watch my son during the day if that was the case, since she’s a SAHM.”

The OP finally shared her concerns. 

“I had to give it to her straight: I think she’s setting her kids up for failure by not giving them a proper education and I’m not going to do that to my son.”

“I pointed out that her kids are uneducated, do a whole lot of nothing, and it’s only downhill from here if she doesn’t set up more structure with them.”

“I’m just not gonna have that be my son, too.”

The family did not respond well to the OP.

“My sister went off and accused me of mom-shaming her, saying I didn’t need to do that and could’ve just said no, her kids are fine and it’s none of my business, etc.”

“She hung up on me and I got inundated shortly after by texts from her wife, basically saying the same stuff, saying I’m horrible for talking about my sister and their kids like that.”

“Now even my mom has gone against me, saying I have no right to treat family like that, and how could I talk about my own nieces and nephews that way.”

“AITA?”

Fellow Redditors weighed in:

  • NTA: Not the A**hole
  • YTA: You’re the A**hole
  • ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
  • NAH: No A**holes Here

Some advised the OP to call Child Protective Services (CPS). 

“This technically is educational neglect. Chances are, if CPS were called, they would get involved and require that the kids were enrolled in a more structured school setting in order to stay in your sister’s home.”

“And honestly, once the s**t hits the fan, you could try to play it off as one of the kids made a comment to a friend at soccer or dance, and so it must’ve been a parent who reported.”

“Alternatively, if you know the kids’ pediatrician, you could perhaps see if you could tell them what’s going on (especially if you can tell them ahead of the kids’ dr visit), because they’re mandated reporters.”alexabutnotamazon

“Honestly – if you care about your niblings – you should report it to CPS or the local equivalent. In most locations, unschooling is illegal for a reason. The state expects its citizens to be capable of self-supporting at some point, and not being literate or numerate is a huge barrier to finding employment or being able to navigate any support systems.”Fraerie

“She can say stuff to the sister all she wants, but unless OP calls CPS or the local school district to report this, nothing is going to change.”RubyRedSunset

Others were worried for the kids’ futures. 

“Wouldn’t this be considered child neglect? For not having her children being schooled in some way? It’s nearly impossible to get a job without a high school degree. I’m worried about the kids’ futures.”VermicelliHospital

“How does she expect her kids to get jobs? They need a diploma from high school!”Taliasimmy69

“Hope you consider reporting them so your nieces and nephews get a proper education.”

“I’d hate for the situation to occur where you and your child (when they are older) are harrassed for money by your sister and her children because the kids aren’t self-sufficient and your kid is the only one (in their generation) educated enough to make a decent living. That will be a far harder burden to bear.”Existing-Dinner5637

Some shared their own stories of homeschool and suggested the OP intervene. 

“[As a survivor of unschooling], it was pretty tough as a teen. My family was pretty dysfunctional, so in addition to no school, my parents had me raising my baby brothers, running the house, etc. I had so much anxiety.”

“I ended up reading books to teach myself and watched YouTube for educational stuff.”

“Luckily, I was able to leave home early and get a job, although it wasn’t until after I got married (my husband was cool with me not working, so I could figure stuff out) that I could focus on getting my high school education. I’m actually almost done officially getting my grade 12!”

“I have a toddler, and my husband and I have pretty much sworn we’ll never unschool.”

“So yeah – pretty tough and I feel honestly so lucky that I made it out!”kmmurr

“I was in a similar situation. My parents pulled me out of school after 7th grade and just let me do whatever. I’m not going to lie, it was fun and nice not having any responsibilities for a few years. However, the shame and insecurity I felt over not having more than a 7th-grade education was terrible.”

“I have my GED now and don’t think about it as much anymore, but I do always wonder what if. I was always a smart kid and had college reading level scores in 5th grade, so there were high hopes from my teachers.”

“Maybe I could have been more. Now I’m just a fast-food worker with no direction in life. It sucks.”thatwe1rdcat

“Another unschooling survivor here agreeing you’re NTA. IMO it amounts to neglect at best and abuse at worst, and I was absolutely set up to fail by my parent refusing to step up and structure my life.”

“I made it out okay because I realized how screwed up it was and took on educating myself, but that’s a confusing and scary process I don’t wish on anyone, and the social, science, and math skills I missed out on learning absolutely hold me back to this day. There’s also a lot of shame, regret, and resentment I live with.”

“They should absolutely be and feel shamed for their choice to willfully isolate and fail their children.”glitter_witch

Though the OP was a little taken aback by her sister’s reaction to her comments, the subReddit was quick to confirm the OP did the right thing. Considering the children’s futures largely depending on the quality of the education, it’s heartening that someone spoke up.

Written by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives in North Chicago, where she works as a poet, freelance writer, and editor. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University, and her BA in English from Indiana University South Bend. Her poems have appeared in Rogue Agent, Whale Road Review, the James Franco Review, Thank You for Swallowing, and elsewhere; and her essays and book reviews have appeared with Memoir Mixtapes, The Rumpus, BookPage, and Motherly, among others. When she's not reading and writing, she's in her garden or spending time with her family. For more, visit www.mckenzielynntozan.com.