Burn In Case Of Evil: Cain’s Story, Part Four
HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Cain” is a pseudonym.
My Home “Education”
A lot of people read this site and remark on how accomplished, out-spoken, and well-educated we all seem. Many have remarked that it was obviously homeschooling that made us who we are. The answer to that question is complicated because I am what I am because of, and despite of, homeschooling. When your entire social life and community K-12 is homeschooled, of course these influences significantly impacted my life. But much of my adult life has been spent “re-learning” everything (from social skills, to history, to biology, to relationship etiquette). I was taught about all of these things through homeschooling. Some subjects I was never taught properly in high school and my insufficiency handicapped my educational opportunities.
My mother was the primary instructor and, bless her heart, she only had a GED and a few college classes. It’s not that my mother is not smart, or stupid; it’s that she was not qualified to give me a high school education. I consider most of my educational experiences before 8th or 9th grade to be generally positive. I excelled in spelling, math, science, and language arts. I really had an interest in science at an early age – I can remember enjoying earth science, nuclear science, and astronomy/space. As I entered high school, a few things happened. First, we got involved in ATI (a homeschooling cult) when I was about 10, but by my high school years the “Wisdom Booklets” became my primary textbooks (other than math). Second, I became involved in NCFCA/CFC when I was 13 – started debating at 14. Third, I started liking girls and “rebelling” by falling for them and having innocent phone and text conversations.
We used Saxon math as a supplement to the Wisdom Booklets. I excelled at geometry, basic algebra, and word problems. I’ve always enjoyed problem solving. As I got involved with advanced geometry and algebra II, my mother simply could not keep up. I would call my older sister, who was pursuing an engineering degree, and she would try to help me through it. But math-by-phone is no substitute for a math teacher.
I think about 15 or 16, when I got involved heavily in debate, my mom stopped requiring me to do math. Debate literally took over my life and I spent about 40 hours a week researching, writing speeches, and talking to friends in homeschool debate. I consider my friends from CFC/NCFCA as the closest thing to a “high school class” because they were the only social group that I interacted with somewhat limited parental oversight. I excelled at debate and it fed my father’s interest in history and politics. So for three years all I did was debate, which was vastly superior to Wisdom Booklets. My education with Wisdom Booklets made me think that AIDS was a gay disease and my sex mis-education was downright reckless. I “learned” about logarithms intertwined with the tale of Jesus multiplying the loaves and fishes.
When it came time to submit my high school transcript for college (and to apply for state scholarships) my parents sat down at the computer and literally made up my transcript. Debate-related activities and research were labeled under lots of different titles (American History, Composition, Logic, Civics, Public Speaking, English, etc). Of course, I got A’s in all of these categories. Now, my parents had some semblance of ethics and they decided I needed to complete some science courses to qualify for the state’s college entrance requirements. My science courses in high school were pathetic, with the exception of computers because my dad worked in the industry for his entire adult life.
During most of my junior and senior years, I worked full-time and debated. There was a long-distance Latin course from PHC, chemistry, and biology course interlaced with working and debate. I got C’s in all of these classes and I’m pretty sure I had to cheat on two of the finals just to pass.
Technically, I took a chemistry and biology course, but in reality, I learned nothing about those subjects. My mom wasn’t that knowledgeable in sciences. I used the Apologia biology textbook. I remember bumbling through the biology book, not understanding anything I was reading. Mostly because there was no grand narrative, like evolution, to make sense of all the different species. I excelled in college biology, but not until I understood the topics from an evolutionary perspective. My chemistry course was me and my homeschooled friend learning from his father, who was a doctor. The “classes” lasted for maybe a month or two, but then life got busy and I stopped going. He didn’t really follow-up, for whatever reason, and my parents didn’t seem that interested either. So I taught myself chemistry? Nope, I suck at chemistry – on a very basic level.
As a side note, I’m great with computers because of my father, but I never took a programming class beyond Visual Basic. He tried to teach me about things, but it always seemed like I was missing part of the story – like he wasn’t “dumbing it down” enough. Looking back, I realize it’s because my father was trying to teach me only the practical applications of computers while never learning the scientific theory. I know he knows all about it, but I don’t know that he was qualified to teach it to a child. It’s not like I gained marketable skills from my computer education.
I was also a huge asshole when I began college. I’m sure you know the type: fundamentalist Christian debater. I had no idea how to navigate relationships with non-homeschooled people and it took a year or two, many broken friendships, and loneliness to find friends. I was also encouraged through programs like Summit to challenge my “evil, secular humanist” professors in class – to “stand up” for Jesus in the public classroom. I was prepared to enter an atmosphere that antagonized Christians and Christianity.
College was fantastic, but difficult and filled with substance abuse. I realized that I had ADD, but self-medicated for sometime with cannabis. Alcohol and cannabis helped with the anxiety –social, existential, spiritual, school and parent-related – and helped me to socialize with big groups. I still can’t socialize with big groups of people easily and I lucked into taking a lot of Honors classes with small class sizes. I almost lost my big scholarship (which required me to keep a 3.5) in my sophomore year because I got terrible grades in science and foreign languages. I didn’t know how grades or tests worked, let alone how to study. I excelled in political science and history, so that’s where I stayed. I didn’t take biology until my senior year. I finally understood it and, since then, I’ve developed a keen interest in neurobiology, psychopharmacology, psychology, and health care issues. At this point, I’d love another two or three years of school to get a B.S. and another three to get an M.S., but that part of my life is over now.
I remember a time in middle school when I really wanted to be an engineer and I still think I could have excelled at it, if it wasn’t for my homeschooling. Yes, I have an MA, but I’m confident I could have a stable, well-paying job in a science-related field. My liberal arts education came easily to me, but I would have relished the challenge of advanced science and math. Almost every public school student has a somewhat competent math teacher and most have access to AP calculus. Yes, debate is a great skill and it has made me successful, but I’ve always been jealous of people who excelled in math or science – like I once did – and moved seamlessly into the job market.
To be continued.