An off-grid homeschool family of 12 in rural Kentucky was raided, the mother arrested, and the 10 children seized simply because the government disagrees with their lifestyle and their educational choices, family members and friends say.
Until Wednesday, Joe and Nicole Naugler lived with their 10 kids in a cabin on 26 acres in Breckinridge County, about an hour southwest of Louisville.
“They are an extremely happy family,” family friend Pace Ellsworth told Off The Grid News.
Acting on an anonymous tip about the family’s off-grid lifestyle, sheriff’s officers entered the property and home Wednesday, and even blocked the access road to the family property, the family says. Joe and eight of the children were away, but Nicole – who is five-months pregnant – was home with the two oldest kids. Sheriff deputies then seemingly allowed Nicole and the two children to drive away but they got only a short distance before deputies pulled them over and took the two children away from the mom, who was arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. (She says the arrest took place after she did not passively allow deputies to take the children.) Nicole was able to contact her husband and have a brief conversation.
Later, the sheriff ordered Joe to turn over the other children by 10 a.m. or be arrested for felony charges, the family says. He complied.
Deputies also threatened to impound the car, although a friend of the family convinced the deputies to allow Joe to have it back, the family says.
The family may be off grid, but they aren’t anonymous. In fact, they have Internet, as well as a Facebook page dating back to 2012 where they frequently post pictures and videos of their children, animals and their off-grid life. A May 5 post showed a video of a toddler, Mosiah, learning to walk. An April 24 post showed a happy family, gathering around a campfire, roasting marshmallows.
They also post pictures alluding to their faith. Their Facebook page — which has nearly 2,000 likes — is called “My Blessed Little Homestead.”
Ellsworth believes the arrests took place because of their simple way of life that some would call backwards — and because of the way they homeschool. The family’s Facebook page calls it a “back to basics life.” They have a garden and raise chickens and goats. Deputies apparently were concerned about whether the children’s needs were being met. WAVE-TV in Louisville, Ky., quoted one neighbor who was critical of their off-grid life. Another neighbor apparently had a confrontation with the father on Sunday that was reported to police, the station said.
In an official form the family posted online, Kentucky’s version of Child Protective Services said the children were “not living in appropriate conditions” and not “enrolled in school.” Another official form even complained there was no fence around the pond.
In unschooling, there is no set curriculum and the education is based on each child’s strength.
“You let your kids decide the curriculum,” Ellsworth told Off The Grid News. “In unschooling, education doesn’t take a backseat. It’s listening to what they’re interested in and fascinated in.”
It’s the way all children learned before the public education movement, he said.
“This is the natural way to live,” he said. “It’s actually a growing movement. They want to have a personal education and not a factory education.”
Ellsworth called it “whole-life homeschooling.”
“They are completely open about their life,” he said. “Everyone is learning by living. They are all extremely intelligent.”
“They are industrious people trying to teach their children how to live right,” the GoFundMe website said. “Through no fault of their own, they will now be faced with significant legal expenses.”
To read an update on this story, click here.
Note: As you share the Naugler’s story on social media, please use hashtags #kentucky10 and #saveourfamily to continue building support.
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