Step Forward And Call For Change: Sheldon’s Thoughts
The author of this piece writes under the pseudonym Sheldon at his blog, Ramblings of Sheldon. He describes himself as “a former Christian fundamentalist” who “is now a semi-closeted agnostic” that writes about “his fundamentalist past, his beliefs now, and the cult known as the Independent Fundamental Baptist denomination, which his sister was a part of (and he also had some personal experience with).” Also by Sheldon on HA: “Looking Back at my Fundamentalist Home Schooling Past.”
I spent about a year at a well known Southern Baptist university, and some of the people there were homeschool alumni. They use to make jokes about the “awkward homeschool kid” stereotype, and many of them were even members of a Facebook group that was built around such jokes.
It wasn’t very funny to me. They were relatively well adjusted, or at least appeared to be. Many of them had been a part of homeschool groups, sports, some had even been to community colleges or spent some time public high schools before they entered college. They seemed, at least for the evangelical world I was in at the time normal. I never felt that way.
I was lost, confused, very depressed, and unable to understand the people around me in any way, shape or form. It lead to depression, panic attacks, alternating muscle pain/weakness, fatigue, and and overall nervous breakdown that lead me to move back with family in Southwest Illinois.
The “awkward homeschool kid” jokes weren’t funny, because it was very real to me. It was my experience. I was raised in a family that always seemed to be more extreme that most of the churches that they were a part of, which I always thought was odd. My father was always a rather easy going parent towards me, but my mother could have her abusive moments, and she rejected the outside world almost completely, and expected me to do the same.
She saw any modern forms of music, especially anything with a beat as “evil” (except for, hypocritically, more modern forms of country music, which she liked), she hated anyone who didn’t look, think, act, or believe like us. People with large amounts of tattoos/piercings? Must be evil! Does someone follow another religion, or is a liberal Christian? They’re evil! Are they gay/bi-sexual etc? Evil!
As you can expect, shutting out most of the world around you, and fearing them as well doesn’t do well for developing someone’s social skills. To this day, I have a hard time understanding the culture around me, but looking back, I realized I couldn’t understand other children my age at the time either. Not only do I not understand the culture around me at times (though I have gotten far better at that by immersing myself in it), I just don’t understand how people think and act the way that they do in ways ranging from the major to the very minor. It’s like I’ve never learned how to be “normal” in most people’s estimations.
When I’ve talked openly about this, I have had people question whether I was autistic. I really don’t know if I am or not, I can see quite a few similarities, but I have never been to a psychiatrist (though I should, if for no other reason than my persistent depression), and I wonder how much of it is in fact due to my own mind, the isolation of homeschooling or the compound effects of both. It’s hard to tell, especially, since I keep encountering so many stories of people who have experienced the same effects from isolation in their own life.
Some homeschooling parents love to dismiss or even mocked concerns about socialization, but in a recent post by Lana of Wide Open Ground, she complied 12 statements from me, herself, and 10 other people made on her blog alone, from people who had experienced this kind of isolation, and are still struggling to fit into this world.
I’ve had my struggles, but also had my high points in my journey to live post-fundamentalism. Being able to experience music I never heard before, and growing to appreciate and love it. II now listen to that “evil” rock music, and love it. There’s few things I enjoy more than listening to Cake, Rise Against, Metallica, or Alice in Chains.
I’ve also had the opportunity to meet people that I would have never met before, both in person, and online. I remember getting involved in a local discussion website, and getting to know a woman who was a Wiccan. Along with her husband, she owned a music store in my town (unfortunately it closed last October). I was so surprised when I got to know her, not only did she shatter all the preconceived notions I had about Wiccans, but she showed more of a sense of love and compassion to the world than most of the Christians I knew at the time.
I have also gotten to know some great people online as well, many of whom have lived through fundamentalism, and have left it behind. People like Lana, Jonny Scaramanga, and Godless Poutine are people that I am proud to say that I know, and they have been an inspiration to me, as I plan to move on, and come out as agnostic sometime this year.
Though life is starting to turn around for me, the isolation still had its effects, and though some may disagree, I think it’s abuse to isolate a child to the point that they are shut off from the outside world. Letting children interact only with people within a narrow circle of fundamentalists is not socialization, despite what such parents may say, and it does not prepare them for life.
I hope that as time goes on, that we will start seeing some changes in the Christian homeschooling community, I know there are good homeschooling parents out there, and I would like to see more of them step forward and call for change.