Celebrating One Month of Speaking Up
It’s hard to believe that it was just a month ago that we launched Homeschoolers Anonymous. So much has happened in so few weeks! This is really due to the amazing and wonderful support that you, our community of friends and family and advocates and peers, have so graciously provided.
In a mere month, our WordPress blog has reached nearly 100,000 views. More than 260 comments — almost universally positive — have been made on the site. Our Facebook page has received almost 300 likes. Our most popular post to date, a crosspost by blog partner Kierstyn King (“Sex™ (and the lies I was told about it)”), has been viewed over 3500 times; the second most popular post, R.L. Stollar’s “Homeschool Confidential, A Series: Part One,” has over 3000 views. Michelle Goldberg covered our story on the Daily Beast. We’ve also received coverage by the Daily Mail and Lez Get Real, both Google News providers. We’ve also received inquiries from other major media groups and will keep you posted on those developments.
This is a very difficult project. If you have any experience at all with the conservative Christian homeschooling world, you know how defensive they — we, really — have been, are, and will likely continue to be. You can see how afraid some of us are about speaking out with our experiences. Qualifications and disclaimers abound. The fact that such fear exists, merely about saying one has had a personally negative experience in homeschooling, is indicative that something has gone awry. No one should feel afraid of speaking up about abuse or hurt or pain. That is why we feel this community is so important and necessary. We want to create a platform for sharing and healing. We want to be a voice in defense of those who have been hurt.
It’s truly been a wild ride. We’ve been accused of being nut jobs, anti-God, anti-homeschooling, a vast liberal conspiracy manufactured by Obama, the NEA, and the ATF, and opportunists that want to take advantage of abuse victims in order to achieve vast fame and fortune.
But as someone much wiser than us once said:
Haters gonna hate.
We’re here and we’re not going away. We will continue to share stories, we will not be silenced by intimidation, and we will do our best to represent our collective voice accurately, compassionately, and strongly.
Thank you for your encouragement, support, and love. We are very grateful. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
In honor of our one-month anniversary, we’ve decided to take our top search terms — the phrases that people have Googled that have led them to us — and ask each HA Community Coordinator and Blog Partner to write a paragraph about one of the search phrases. (Some of us went over this paragraph limit.) This was presented to them as a creative challenge. They could write whatever they’d like that they thought was important to say to whoever might be drawn to our site because of the phrase in question. To make this a bit more challenging, we intentionally switched up who wrote about which search term, so it’s different than what that person might normally write about.
The idea is to highlight both the diversity of our voices and the unity of our mission.
So, without further ado, we present to you the first ever group post from Homeschoolers Anonymous!
“homeschoolers abused” — by R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator
Not all homeschoolers experienced abusive situations. Not all homeschoolers have the same story. The fact is, homeschooling is a vast and diverse phenomenon that includes different religions, different political beliefs, and an immense variety of educational philosophies and teaching styles. But from my own personal experience in the conservative Christian homeschooling subculture, I can confidently say that — within my particular subculture — there is a tendency to operate from an “Ideology First” mentality, instead of a “Children First” mentality. And when you elevate the importance of ideology over the humanity and well-being of kids, you can easily create cult mentalities. And cult mentalities can cause immense hurt and pain for so many people. They can create emotional, mental, physical, and sexual abuse.
Not all homeschoolers experienced abusive situations. But many have.
Not all homeschoolers have the same story. But there are striking similarities.
I want their stories — my story, our collective story — to be heard. And if you listen with an open heart and mind, maybe you can help us make homeschooling better in the future.
“homeschoolers anonymous” — by Libby Anne, HA Blog Partner
Why homeschoolers anonymous? I think I understand why. The first time I met someone raised in the Christian homeschooling subculture who had, like me, grown up in a homeschooling family and then questioned and left the pervading ideology of that family and subculture, I was overwhelmed. Before, I had felt alone. Like it was just me. Invisible, unnoticed, an anomaly that people didn’t acknowledge, or even know, existed. When you realize that you’re not alone, that it isn’t just you, everything changes. And some of those who visit Homeschoolers Anonymous may still be in the closet or on the wall, unready or unable to make the leap, to say that there was something wrong, to speak about and acknowledge the hurt and the pain. And that’s why we’re here.
“stand up for my children” — by Vyckie Garrison, HA Blog Partner
I know this will be controversial, but when I was asked to write about the search phrase, “stand up for my children,” I immediately thought of the period of time when all the abuse and dysfunction of our Quiverfull lifestyle culminated in a nasty court battle when I left my ex-husband and sued for custody of our six children who still lived at home.
My lawyer told me that I would need at least three people who would be willing to write affidavits for the judge stating that they were aware of abuse in our home. I was extremely discouraged because I believed I had done such a good job of covering up for my husband and protecting his reputation that nobody, with the possible exception of my mother, had any clue that there was anything amiss in our “big happy family.”
Undaunted, a fellow homeschool mom started making phone calls, and in about a week’s time, was able to gather more than 20 affidavits from friends, family, and acquaintances who all testified that they had been aware that the children and I were being abused.
That’s over twenty Christians who could have stood up for my children and spared us all those years of abuse.
I understand that as evangelical Christians we were all taught to fear the evil government social workers, but looking back now, I can honestly say that the court-ordered involvement of CPS was one of the best things that ever happened for my family.
I have plenty of suggestions for intervention and support (see the NLQ FAQ: How can I help my Quiverfull friend?), but if you clearly see children being abused or neglected, please call this hotline and get the family some outside, professional help: 1-800-4-A-CHILD.
“homeschool uniform denim jumper” — by Nicholas Ducote, HA Community Coordinator
Jumpers, especially the denim variety, were the unofficial uniform of the homeschool mom. My mother had an entire closet full of jumpers in an array of colors, but none rose above her knee. I can count on two hands the number of times I’ve seen my mother wear pants in the last decade. I wish it wasn’t so stereotypical, but a quick Google search of the terms “denim jumper” will bring you to www.denimjumper.com – “your source for everything homeschooling.” Most Christian homeschooling sub-cultures emphasize modesty in young women, especially in reaction to what they see as an over-sexualization of young girls, but their attitudes often read like an unironic guide to rape culture (i.e. The Rebelution’s Modesty Survey). In short, women are told their bodies can make men lust and, in a revolting twist of logic, the immodest women is responsible for “defrauding” the lusting man. Young women are encouraged to hide their curves behind baggy jumpers or long skirts and modest tops. Fashion, they are told, only serves to bring excessive attention to the superficiality of a woman. Modest, godly women do not need to appeal to a man’s lust. Instead, she strokes his ego by serving in the cult of domesticity.
“homeschool cult” — by Anna Ruth Fuller, HA Community Coordinator
Think about what a homeschooler looks like. What comes to mind? If images of religious children passing out pamphlets or holding signs comes to mind, you’re thinking too narrowly. If images of hippies unschooling their children comes to mind, you’re again thinking too narrowly. Broaden your thinking.
Homeschooling occurs everywhere and for all types of reasons. The same is true of public schooling and private schooling. How you choose to educate your children is your choice. However, it is important to remember that in all of this, children have a right to their own views that aren’t necessarily your own. This is true no matter what type of schooling they undergo.
So what happens when parents do not respect a child’s right to their own worldview? Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about letting your children run amok. There’s a difference between pure hedonism and having a worldview.
Not letting your children choose their own worldview is a dangerous road to take. It might seem like a good idea at the time since it is easier to control a child’s thoughts than to guide them. Most parents these days recognize that guiding their chidren’s thoughts is the way to go, but there are those that still cling to controlling them.
It is considered bizarre to isolate your children from the world so that you can protect from worldly things. We are becoming a global society with the advent of the Internet. Preparing your child for the different worldviews they will face (and more importantly, how to respect them for what they are) is crucial to that child’s success. Yet there are many Christian homeschooling parents that purposefully decide to isolate their children from all of this. It is this type of homeschooler we are bringing to light here with our stories.
This brings me to my topic. One of the most popular search terms for our site has been ‘homeschool cult.’ When I learned that, I began think about whether we were really part of a cult as Christian fundamentalist homeschoolers. According to Wikipedia’s article on cults: “The word cult in current popular usage is a pejorative term for a new religious movement or other group whose beliefs or practices are considered abnormal or bizarre by the larger society.”
This definition makes me think we weren’t part of a cult. To have been a cult, we would have needed to have been unified religiously somehow. We weren’t. Each of us went to churches in conflict with each other on various minutiae. There was one thing that united us and that was the need to reclaim this country for the Christian God. Our parents wanted us to dream of a Christian nation and placed that first and foremost in our minds by excluding the teaching of other worldviews (thankfully this didn’t happen nearly as much to me as it did to others). We were trained up in debate to help us become better lawyers and politicians to lead this new country to its destiny. So in reality, we weren’t part of a cult in the religious sense. While there were certainly practices and behaviors that could be seen as cult mentalities to outsiders, we were less a part of a religious movement and more a part of a political movement.
“homeschool and abuse and fanaticism” — by Kierstyn King, HA Blog Partner
This is a touchy subject, because you’re screwed in the eyes of parents or vehement pro-homechooling-beyond-all-reason-crowds from the start. The fact is, this sentence and search term oddly defines my experience in a very succinct way, and like the lonely oppressed girl over here, it’s not a good thing. Homeschool and abuse and fanaticism don’t have to be related, but sometimes they are and here’s how: parents have the idea to homeschool, they then are told they must homeschool to essentially indoctrinate their children to their cause (fanaticism) which in some way or another usually is along the lines of “taking over the world” (who doesn’t want world domination?). Of course getting to that point means squelching the life out of the individuals you’ve stopped seeing as human and started seeing as arrows – focused solely on your needs, wants, and purpose you deny basic rights, dignity, and sometimes the security of unconditional love to the child you’re supposed to care about above everything else (abuse).
The unnecessarily necessary disclaimer here is: obviously not everyone is like that (but some people are).
“why all of the attacks on homeschoolers” — by Julie Anne Smith, HA Blog Partner
I have been homeschooling my children for the last 20+ years. When I hear about “attacks” on homeschooling, I suspect there could be some confusion. Taking a closer look at the attacks, generally, it is not homeschooling in general that is attacked (ie, the education of one’s children at home), but more specifically, a lifestyle connected with the “Homeschool Movement.” The Homeschool Movement is associated with practices and ideologies not even remotely related to scholastic achievement, e.g., full-quiver lifestyle, patriarchy, purity and modesty teachings, etc. These practices and ideologies have had mixed, and sometimes very sad results. The methodologies employed to enforce these lifestyles can also be troublesome. The Homeschool Movement must not be confused with homeschooling. I believe homeschooling to be a valid and exceptional option for motivated and capable parents who have a vested interest in the proper education of their children.
“homeschooling and mental illness” — by Latebloomer, HA Blog Partner
For a well-informed and supported parent, homeschooling may be an excellent way of supporting a child suffering from a mental illness. It could allow for high quality personalized instruction, easier access to appointments with medical professionals, and protection from peer bullying. Unfortunately, the combination of homeschooling and mental illness also has the potential to do great harm. For instance, children with mental illness can go undiagnosed for much longer if they do not regularly come in contact with trained educators and medical professionals. Distrust of those resources is very common in fundamentalist homeschooling circles, where parents are much quicker to blame unusual behavior on rebellion and worldly influences. An additional concern is the potential for harm when a child is homeschooled by a mentally-ill parent. The child will often be far more affected by the parent’s mental illness because of the increased time spent with the parent and the lack of time with other adults. For such children, the parent’s paranoia, depression, narcissism, etc, define their entire childhood and hinder them from developing positive and healthy relationships with others even in adulthood.
“which is more effective for learning homeschool or public school?” — by Brittany Meng, HA Blog Partner
So you’re wondering which is more effective for learning: homeschool or public school. To answer this question more effectively, you should add the phrase “for my child.”
It all depends on what your child needs to be an effective learner. Here are a few issues to consider about the effectiveness of homeschooling for certain ages and needs.
Elementary school: Homeschool can be very effective for Elementary school because children often need one-on-one time to learn basics like reading and math, which are foundational for a strong education. If your child needs extra help in these subjects, homeschooling might be a good choice. On the other side of the coin, if your child is advanced in these areas, homeschooling might be good for your child as well. Nothing squashes the natural love for learning faster than a child who is bored. Homeschooling allows you to move at your own pace.
Middle School: Let’s just face it—middle school stinks for most people. Homeschooling will not remove all awkwardness, angst, self-doubt, or attitude problems from your child. However, if social issues are getting in the way of your child’s academic success, homeschooling may be a good option for your family.
High School: By this point, most young people are able to voice their educational and social needs. These wants and needs should be taken into consideration. This is also the point where parents need to consider how capable they are to meet the needs of their child, especially if he or she wants to go to college. I believe that homeschooling can be effective in high school but only with a strong outside support and supplemental network: classes at a local high school, community college, and/or homeschool co-op.
Personally, I believe that homeschooling becomes less effective for learning the older the child gets but this is a blanket statement. Only you can determine what your child needs.
You also have to consider the needs and abilities of your family: finances, time commitment (contrary to what many people think, your child needs as much academic attention from you in 1st grade as he does in 10th grade. Kids need accountability, motivation, and a sounding board for ideas), a strong support network, and whether or not you actually want to homeschool. Even if you feel that homeschooling would be the best option for your child, if you don’t want to homeschool, don’t do it. Homeschooling is a huge commitment. You can’t toe the water; you have to jump in with both feet. However, some states allow your child to be homeschooled by someone else. Check into all your options.
When choosing the best learning option for your child, it is important to consider what you and your child need and want both academically and socially. So, which is more effective public school or homeschooling? It all depends on your child.
“pscyholgoy of bad/evil” — by Lana, HA Blog Partner
In conservative circles parents often have a tendency to refer to their children as all good or all bad. In public — that is, among other conservative families — kids often are forced to play the role of the perfect family, the perfect godly family. I felt this a lot as a child when we did cookouts with other homeschool families, or a respected homeschool family came over for dinner. I had to smile and pretend that I was godly (whatever that means) while everyone talked about how we were great and the future of America. At home our house was in shambles, but none of that mattered around our friends. Perhaps this alone would make a child go crazy. Why is it necessary to fake it? Why weren’t we genuine? Was it all in my head that my home was dysfunctional? Was it my fault when I was unhappy? Was my friends’ home totally perfect? These are legit questions that I and many others have experienced, but the confusion goes much further. For every time a child is praised as good, its likely that he or she is shamed as bad for the most ridiculous things at home. I was taught that I was not dressed until I wore a smile. If I did not wear a smile, I was ungrateful. If I expressed frustration (that admittedly did get out of hand sometimes), I was disrespectful. A simply bad act is escalated as totally evil or rebellious. There are plenty of homeschoolers who had it much worse, directly being called evil for not being submissive to an abusive situation. And so the soul is torn between good and evil. Sometimes kids just need to be told they are human. We aren’t perfect. We aren’t all bad. We’re human.
“living my life” — by Heather Doney, HA Blog Partner
What my life was supposed to be was set. One story said that because I am a woman, by the time I was 30 I was supposed to have been married for a decade and have somewhere between 3-6 kids, homeschool them in a nice house, and be involved with a local church. The other story was that I was supposed to have a mid-level office job where I wore business suits and cute pumps, had a comfortable salary with decent benefits, ho-hum dates with guys who wore nice watches, and appletinis with the girls on weekends.
Neither are my life. I truly thought I was supposed to somehow make one or both my reality, that they were in fact the going realities available, but now I know they weren’t, at least not for me. I knew it just didn’t feel right, but I somehow figured I’d still end up in one or the other. I didn’t. I’m still just me, and while I do own a business suit and those cute pumps today, I generally wear flats or leather boots with jeans. I have only a laptop computer, not a cubicle, to go to. If I’d wanted a baby already I expect I could have had one, but I didn’t. I don’t go to church and I don’t even like appletinis (or guys who wear expensive watches, for that matter).
So while I didn’t want my life to look like either of these so-called options, I didn’t know what it should look like. What I knew it shouldn’t look like was what I call “living in the meantime.” I lived in the meantime for a few years and meantime mode is where you just let life happen to you, figuring it knows what is best, not-so-patiently waiting until it resembles one of your ideals. The scary thing is it likely never will. You can easily spend your whole life in meantime mode, waiting on serendipity to rescue you, and the thing most people forget about serendipity is that it isn’t just some happy accident or eureka moment that breaks you out of your ordinary life. Serendipity is what you find while you are out looking for, working on, and doing other things. Because serendipity requires action, it is a lot harder to find while in meantime mode or while you’re living someone else’s idea of your life, just going through the motions.
So to me living your life is not about doing one thing or another but about breaking out of that. It is about actively writing the next chapter to look differently, resetting the script, welcoming the changes, courting serendipity. It is about “if you build it, they will come.” In order to do that you have to do something scary though – be real about the person that you know you are, not stuck on the one you feel you “should” be. You can’t go squeezing yourself into a role that makes you look like you’re wearing somebody else’s style.
To live life, forget the ideal life someone else created for you and said should be yours.
Be brave and write your own story.