In some cases, homeschooling families become cult-like as abusive parents’ desire for absolute control melds with extreme religious ideas. Marcus Wesson taught his 16 children that he was Godand “married” and fathered children with several of his underage daughters. He ultimately shot and killed nine of his children in the midst of a standoff with the authorities. Homeschooling offers individuals like Wesson the ability to isolate, control, and brainwash their children, and while Wesson’s case is extreme, it is repeated in various forms across the country. These situations are often characterized by a father who believes he hears directly from God, brutal beating used to keep the wife and children in line, long-term rape and incest, and a brainwashed fear of the authorities. Other situations are less extreme but no less totalistic. In these sorts of cases, homeschooling becomes a tool used to remove outside influences, isolate completely, and wield total control. Children in these situations not only do not have access to help, they also often know nothing outside of their family, with its emphasis on control and its extreme religious teachings and fear of outside authorities. In some cases, homeschooled children in such families have been known to take up arms and engage in stand-offs with police or social services.
Even apart from the controlling cult-like or totalistic family, some homeschooled children may experience social isolation or have little opportunity to interact with individuals outside of their families. Social isolation has been found to be a contributing factor to child abuse. Sometimes social isolation is extreme, and the discovery of heinous abuse or fatality in a homeschooling family is followed by the revelation that none of the neighbors had ever seen the children in question. There have also been a small number of cases where homeschooled children were so isolated that they developed their own language or only spoke in grunts. Social isolation can also be harmful at much less extreme levels. Children who only leave the house a few times a week, or who have a limited number of friends, may find themselves socially stunted. In some cases, these children may develop social phobias that affect them for the rest of their lives or require therapy to overcome.