Homeschoolers Anonymous

A Former Off-Grid, Homeschooled Child’s Thoughts on the Naugler Family

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Paul Jerry. Image links to source.

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Paul Jerry.

The following post is written by Gary. The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Gary” is a pseudonym. Also by Gary on HA: “The Deep Drone of Unseen Cicadas” and “Hurts Me More Than You: Gary’s Story”.

To begin with I would like to state several things.

1. I do not know the Naugler family. I have never met them. All of the following observations are based solely from the information this family posted, publicly, on their blog and public Facebook page.

2. Much of the “information” being spread about the internet in regards to this family is clearly, factually incorrect. This can be seen through simple observation of posts on the family’s public Facebook page and blog.

Most of the information people are referencing is based only from the first few photos and/or posts on the family’s blog and Facebook page. For instance, the cover photo used in much of media coverage is clearly (based off the age of the youngest child featured) taken as much as two years ago. Another instance would be the “cabin”. When the family first moved to the property they did, indeed, have a cabin of sorts. In reality it was a small prefab home bought on credit. But this cabin was later returned. Where it stood is now a concrete slab, bare and seen in photos as a resting place for a heard of goats.

Since then the family has lived in a series of small open air shacks and tents — none of which even have 4 walls, windows, a solid floor, or a working door. This as well is clearly visible from photos publicly posted.

3. The dates of the photos posted on the family’s pages do not necessarily correlate to the date the photos were actually taken. Once again, this can be established by noting certain structures (or lack there of) on the land, the ages of the youngest children, and the time of year the photos were taken. Thus, no reliable timeline of any kind as to the health and welfare of the children, at the time they were taken, can be established by the online information. The most recent group photo I could find (once again based from the ages of the children) might have been taken as long ago as last fall.

4. The situation at the homestead, based off the photos and posts available, seems to be getting worse. There are several reasons for this, and they have to do with the effects of animals (goats, chickens, dogs, etc.) and human habitation on a spot of land. In the beginning the pond appears to be a real pond (turtles and fish are pictured), by the (apparently) latest photos, the pond has turned into a filthy mud pit devoid of most life. This is the natural consequence of animal dung running off the surrounding landscape with the rain and melting snow, the traffic of people, animals, etc.

This same trend can be seen in the yards and areas surrounding the shack. At first the dirt is held down by plant roots, but as the small trees were killed by the goats or chopped down to form fences, the dirt turned to mud. This mud gets mixed with the animal dung (goat, chicken and dog) and gets tracked by the bare feet of the children over every surface of the homestead. This state of affairs is clearly visible in the photos.

With this comes water from rain running straight off into the pond, carrying with it animal dung and any and all other forms of filth, from oil and gasoline from the generator, to cooking and food waste. This means that any photos taken at the beginning of this homestead experience simply can not be relied on to show the true living conditions of the current day.

We do see some photos of a shallow ditch covered by a few muddy boards, that was dug in an attempt to keep this filthy rain run off from flooding the shack.

5. These conditions will continue to get worse unless there are major and lasting changes to every aspect of the family’s food preparation area, sleeping area etc. The mud and run-off water will get worse as the hillside continues to break apart. The pond will become even worse of a health hazard as it fills with more animal dung and garbage. The structures, such as they are, will begin to mold and rot from the ground up. (This is, in fact, based off photos. It is already taking place).

6. I am not going to talk here about the family’s religious beliefs, their choice to un-school or homeschool their children, their practice of not providing their children with immunizations, Social Security numbers, or birth certificates.

All those issues are, in my opinion, secondary to the very real and pressing issues of the health and physical safety of these ten children.

Despite all the media coverage to the contrary, that does seem, based off all information available, to be the actual and factual reason the children were taken from their parents.

So without further ado, here is a bit of what is going on.

*****

My family is sick.. We never get sick, its been nearly 3 years since we have been sick…But I think the children ate some bad food. ~lesson learned, ask mom before you eat something.. 7 of 10 children down. Olivia, being the nurturing one that she is, is taking care of everyone with me. She is bringing water to them, making sure they are all cared for..She has been on top of it not missing a step even when I stopped to feed the baby. Quinten made up everyone’s spot.. .. ,,,,at least they like to sleep outside. ( true campers!) But no one is up for roasted marshmallows

-Direct quote from the “Blessed Little Homestead” Facebook page, posted on July 24th 2014

In the photo (which got over 20 likes) we see multiple children, dressed in dirty shorts, sprawled on mounds of blankets in the dirt around an open air fire pit.

They are obviously sick:

Food poisoning. Or was it? They, “the children” had eaten some unidentified “food” with out asking their mother if it was safe to eat.

Was it some of the wild mushrooms featured in many photos on the “Blessed Little Homestead” (BLH) Facebook page?

Was it rotting left over food sitting in any number of the unwashed and grime incrusted Tupperware and plastic containers lying scattered around the open air “kitchen” (really a stack of bricks filled with open flame and topped with rusty and filth incrusted wire racks)?

Was it Salmonella?

Let us see if this description matches some of the living environments seen on the BLH Facebook page.

Food: Contaminated eggs, poultry, meat, unpasteurized milk or juice, cheese, contaminated raw fruits and vegetables (alfalfa sprouts, melons), spices, and nuts

Animals and their environment: Particularly reptiles (snakes, turtles, lizards), amphibians (frogs), birds (baby chicks) and pet food and treats.

There are picture after picture after picture of small children, covered in grime, holding and handling:

There is photo after photo of a “homestead” coated inches deep in mud, and with up to eight goats roughly a dozen chickens, two cats and seven dogs running loose around and in the shacks that serve as “home” for this family, one can know, with absolute mathematical certainty,  that this “mud” that coats everything form the children to the floors and walls in a persistent layer of grime, is at least in a significant part, animal dung.

So, was it Salmonella?

Was it E-Coli?

Was it poison mushrooms cooked up by an unknowing child in a grimy pot over an open fire? (The kids, after all, are shown doing the “cooking”, and the mother brags in several posts about how “the kids do almost all the cooking for the family.”

We don’t know. The mother doesn’t know either. And that’s a big problem when it comes to the health and safety of the 10 children living in filth and squalor in a 380 ft. three sided shack.

*****

But what makes you an expert you may ask?

Well.

I grew up in a similar environment.

My family bought 12 acres of land, 50 miles from the nearest town, in the North West back in 1982. We spent that first summer living in an army tent. During that first summer my father and mother and older brother built a 20 by 15 foot log cabin. That’s 300 square feet.

By snow fall we had a insulated, steel roofed, 300 square foot log home, it had a real cinderblock foundation, it had 3 double pained insulated windows, and it had a barrel stove.

We did not have electric, we did not have a well, we did not have indoor plumbing. Internet and cell phones did not exist in 1982. The nearest phone was at a neighbors home over three miles away. Then over the next 3 summers my father and mother built a 8 room, two story, glass windowed and hard wood floored, log home. It has a stone fireplace, a full basement, and a root cellar and a pantry.

They also built: an animal shed, a shop, a tool shed, and a woodshed.

During those years we became a working “homestead”, including 4 goats, two dozen chickens, geese, a small horse, a dog, 35 rabbits and two cats. We had a large garden as well. During none of this did we ever have: a well, a phone, air conditioning or refrigeration. We lit our home first with kerosene lamps and candles and then later with propane lanterns. We cooked our meals first on a wood stove, and later on a propane stove. We gathered our water from a local public well. (for drinking) and from a system of rain barrels, (for bathing and watering the garden.) After about 10 years we hooked up solar power and ran a system of electric lights.

We were (and my parents still are) “off the grid”:

All of us children were raised, from 1982 till 2013 when the youngest left home, in a true “homestead” environment.

We lived it.

I lived it.

For the first 18 years of my life.

I ran free in the woods, home schooled only 4 months out of the year, much of it self directed learning. I milked goats, I hunted wild game, I tilled that garden by hand, and toted water from rain barrels to water the plants. I was barefoot all summer long, from May to October. I fished in the river, at the age of 9, with no adult supervision.

It was, quite literal, “homestead” living.

It really was.

However.

We had a real house, insulated, enclosed on all 6 sides, and heated. We had a fully enclosed, 7 foot deep, ventilated outhouse, with a real toilet seat and a locking door located a sanitary distance form the house. We had bedrooms, with real beds and real mattresses, for the children, one for the girls, one for the boys, (bunk beds with your brothers can be great!) We had a bathtub. We were kept clean, very clean, by the constant work and insistence of my mother. Our farm animals were kept separate from our yard and our home by fences.

Even our yard was clean, swept with a push broom till it was smooth hard packed earth.

We were healthy.

Our meals were cooked in spotless pans and served on real ceramic plates at a real table, (solid oak, passed down from Grandpa). We had a “real” Homeschooling curriculum for all 12 grades (sure, it said electricity was a mystery and people road dinosaurs like horses just 4,000 years ago, but what can you do?)

The family of 12 (soon to be 13) living on the “Blessed Little Homestead” have none of those things.

I have been on their Facebook page.

I have looked through years of photographs.

I have read post after post, on the public Facebook page and on their public blog.

Their living conditions are among the worst I have ever seen. Ever.

My family was not the only one “homesteading” in this remote area of the Pacific North West. I knew over a dozen families living in nearly the same conditions as my self. That is: living on clean, well organized and maintained farms and homesteads, usually with out electric or plumbing, often home schooled, and deeply conservative. I knew a family living in a teepee for two years. I knew a small commune of three families living in a communal yurt. And I never, ever, saw living conditions even half as dangerous, anarchistic or filthy as what is shown on the “Blessed Little Homestead” site and Facebook page.

This family isn’t “homesteading”, they are, for all practical purposes, homeless.

This family does not have the cabin featured in some of the photographs, it was bought on credit and later “returned”.

This family was living, twelve deep, in a tree sided shack. The floor is covered in dirt and filth, the children are as well. The shack they sleep in is built from old pallets and two by fours. I won’t bore you with the details of structural integrity, but let’s just say that I am very surprised the shack did not collapse under last winters several feet of snow (photos of which are on the BLH public Facebook page) and kill or injure the 12 family members huddled inside.

(Note how the two by fours are driven, with out foundation, strait into the dirt, and how the load bearing single two by fours in the front of the shack are spaced 6 feet apart.)

I could go on for pages about the myriad dangers from accident and infection and disease these children were being exposed to on a daily basis. I could mention the animal dung covering the whole area in a layer of slime, pounded into a grimy coating by the bare feet of ten children, draining with the rain and melting snow, down hill from the “homestead” into the pond that has now, after several years of occupation, apparently gone from being home to fish and turtles (in earlier photos) to being a mud pit doubling as an open sewer choked with animal dung.

I could mention the generator and gasoline cans, (visible in several photos) located right next to the shack ( there is an extreme danger of carbon monoxide poisoning killing the entire family, in fact, the only reason I suspect this hasn’t happened yet is the fact the dwelling is not enclosed on all four sides).

I could mention the filthy conditions of the “cooking area”, including dirt encrusted plastic cups, drifting smoke and food being eaten by the grimy unwashed hands of children as young as 4 who cooked their own meals, over the open flames. (also clearly visible in photos on the B.L.H. public Facebook page.)

I could mention the photos of dog bites, wasp stings, scrapes, cuts, and bruises.

I could mention that the BLH blog links to articles about how Tetanus shots aren’t needed as long as the:  “wound bleeds, cus Tetanus can’t live in oxygen and there is oxygen in your blood”    (I kid you not).

I could mention the  fact that with out any doubt what so ever, this “homestead” also smells like an open sewer.

It does.

I know because I grew up on a farm/homestead.

I know because you simply can’t have 8 goats, 7 dogs, two cats, a dozen chickens and twelve people living loose around a muddy pond in the Kentucky summer heat with no running water and not have it smell so rancid that it could be smelled half a mile away.

It’s impossible.

This has been framed as a “off the grid” issue. It is not. “Off the grid” does not mean, by default: dangerous, filthy, ignorant of basic food preparation and safety, anti Government and anti documentation. “Off the Grid” living can be done safely, cleanly, and in full compliance with all local laws and regulations (in many states). I know. I lived it.

This has been framed as a homeschool issue.

It is not.

Kentucky has very open homeschooling laws. It’s legal. Heck, “un-schooling” is legal there too.

The children were taken because it was unsafe. VERY unsafe, not because they were homeschooled.

This, surprisingly, has not been overly framed as a religious issue, at least not yet.

But this isn’t about homeschooling, parents rights, “off the grid living” “government control”, “erosion of our right to do what we please” etc.

It isn’t.

It is about the fact that the conditions at this particular site, in this particular case, with this particular family, where absolutely horrifyingly dangerous, unsanitary, and unsafe on multiple levels. This isn’t hearsay or supposing.

This is clearly visible in dozens on dozens of posts and photos posted publicly by the family themselves.

Quite frankly, I am surprised all the children made it out alive.