Confessions Of A Homeschooler: Faith’s Story
HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Faith” is a pseudonym.
Being homeschooled is an incredibly unique experience. It feels like you’re part of a giant club that no one else understands unless they also grew up being homeschooled. It’s impossible to explain to “outsiders”, not to mention that I have always felt a tremendous burden to avoid breaking ranks, so to speak, and making any criticism of homeschooling to the uninitiated. To me at least, there always seems to be an unspoken agreement amongst homeschoolers that we might quibble and squabble between ourselves but we present a united front to the public.
I am in my late 20s now so my education started in the early 1990s. Homeschooling was not quite as popular, particularly in the area of the country where we were living, nor were there as many resources available to homeschoolers. I honestly am not 100% sure of what motivated my parents to decide to homeschool (I’m the oldest) but I do know that, initially, their parents, my Grandparents, were relatively skeptical and not quite “on board” with the crazy kids. Between the relatives and the oddity of homeschooling itself, I have always felt a bit like my siblings and I have carried the burden of proof — living, breathing results that the experiment didn’t go horribly wrong (so we all hope!).
I have never felt like I could discuss my conflict, particularly criticism, with my homeschool experience with my other homeschool friends as they all seem quite happy with their education and plan to homeschool their own children. Not my parents because they would take it as a personal attack on their lifestyle. Rarely with my non-homeschool (and let’s just say it…the non-Christian) friends nowadays because, as I said before, the pressure to maintain the united front still has influence on me. Having the opportunity to write this is incredibly liberating.
First, I want to preface my “true confessions of a homeschooler” by saying that, from the bottom of my heart, I am sincerely grateful for my parents and for all the time, money, energy, and love they have invested in me and my siblings. I understand and have always known that they chose to homeschool us with the best of intentions. Their commitment and sacrifice has been tremendous. I want to acknowledge that and say that I love them, respect them, and hope that, in many ways, I can be as incredible a parent someday as they have been.
Throughout elementary and middle school I really enjoyed being homeschooled. To this day, I can honestly say that I sincerely believe that I would not have such strong relationships with my siblings if we had not spent so much time together. It’s a privilege to be able to say that my brothers were my first best friends and that my sisters (10 and 12 years younger than me) are some of my favorite people to call and talk to. I have great memories of “going to school” with my brothers. The moment one of them zoomed his roller chair into the corner of the wall and broke off a big chunk of plaster, which we then proceeded to color in an attempt to hide the damage. Or the moment my Mom drove down the driveway heading to the grocery store, my brothers burst into a loud rendition of “Ninety Nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall.” The opportunity of spending time with extended family, particularly my Great Grandparents, who have since passed away, has given me so many priceless memories. Our ability to vacation was much more flexible, which was really great and we took some exciting trips. The hours and hours we spent playing outdoors when we probably would have been cooped up in a classroom somewhere are fond memories as well. I have such positive reflections on my homeschool experience during elementary/middle school that I am fairly certain that I would like to homeschool my own children at least through elementary.
I can also say that my early education was quite solid. My Mom never really “stuck” with any one curriculum. There was some cherry picking from various publishers but I recall using Saxon Math, Bob Jones, Calvert School, Abeka…the usual that I’m pretty sure most homeschoolers have seen and used.
Once high school hit things got a little more hairy. I am a classic example of the tendency that, at least in the past, homeschoolers have been minimally educated in math and science. My Dad really did his best (math at that level was beyond my Mom) but he was working all day so I definitely wandered through Algebra 2 at my own sweet will. The same with geography and history and basically everything my 10th grade year. I’m pretty sure I learned…just about nothing that year. The one thing I actually remember is writing a paper on Eva Peron. So, I have that in my bank of knowledge! Every year most of my friends would go to the church school (the “umbrella” school for those of you who will recognize that term) for the standardized state testing but since my Dad was a college graduate, he was able to administer the tests himself.
The one time I darkened the doors of a public high school was when I took the SAT. I actually don’t remember much about that experience but I do remember that sometimes we’d go to high school football games because some relatives lived near the high school. I had a great time observing that other species, the public schooler, those heathens!
The best part of high school was taking classes twice a week at the church school and for 11th and 12th grades I took some classes at the local community college. Quite a few of us from the local homeschool community took classes there so we would generally meet up and have lunch together or walk around campus. In general, my teachers were impressed with me. My English teacher told me I was the best student he had that semester (between several classes) and one memory in particular stands out…he asked the class what the Luftwaffe had been. I responded that it had been the Nazi air force during the Second World War. He looked at me and said “How do you know that?!” and I just shrugged and said “I read a lot.” Good times….
But, on a personal level, high school was hell for me in regards to being homeschooled. I had an extremely negative relationship with my parents, particularly my Mom, for various reasons that I won’t detail. But I can tell you that when you don’t get along with your parents whatsoever and you are miserable, that being at home with them 24/7 is not quite the way to deal with that. I struggled with depression and self-injury throughout high school, of course without ever seeing a counselor or getting any sort of professional help.
Being homeschooled throughout that period of time was damaging in the sense that I felt trapped, which did not help my emotional stability whatsoever. I was not involved in any sort of social group, not even a youth group because my parents didn’t approve of youth groups. My Mom was very occupied with my younger siblings so she had little time to talk and never any opportunity to sort out our issues. I certainly won’t blame my struggles on being homeschooled but I am sure, without a doubt, that homeschooling exacerbated them.
To be honest, I have spent the past 9 years struggling with how bitter I am about my high school experience. There are moments that I wish I had been able to go to a prom, that I had been able to wear the “cool” clothes, that I had gone to the mall and movies with friends like “normal” high schoolers (my friends and I did go sometimes but it was always planned in advance and was never a “spur of the moment” event), not to mention that I really, really wish I had dated in high school. I wish that I had gotten some of the “crazy” out of my system in high school and had more freedom to experience the “real world” and meet non-Christians and sort out my own thoughts and beliefs for myself.
This has been pointed out by other bloggers, but it can be frustrating for those of us who are “first generation” homeschoolers because our parents never had the experience of being homeschooled. I understood that my parents had their reasons for choosing to homeschool and they tended to reflect more negatively on their public school upbringing. But I have always thought it ironic that they seemed to believe that being homeschooled was the best thing since sliced bread and couldn’t understand why we could possibly dislike any aspect of our experience but they had no idea what it was actually like. Sometimes I wish that we could have an honest discussion about it so that, someday, they will understand why I won’t homeschool my own children “all the way through.” Perhaps one day we will. Even if we don’t, at least I will get to make those decisions on my own.
The face of homeschooling has significantly changed, so it seems to me. I don’t think my sisters ever had that fear of being taken away by social services (I avidly read the HSLDA magazine and all the horror stories), they have an extensive social life, they have gone to prom, and have a well adjusted, mature relationship with my parents. They are far better educated than I was upon graduation from high school and I am happy for them. Their experience seems to have been tremendously different from mine (from what I observe) and that is encouraging to me. It definitely seems possible to homeschool without some of the negative results that I experienced and I hope that it is an opportunity I can provide for my own children one day, if possible.