I Am A Testament To Homeschooling’s Power: R.L. Stollar
Do you want proof that homeschooling can be awesome?
Then look at Homeschoolers Anonymous.
Along with Nicholas Ducote, I have organized an online community that — in less than five months — has received national media coverage, garnered over half a million views, received both the praise and the wrath of educational activists, and engages in dynamic social media activism.
I don’t attribute that to myself. I attribute that to homeschooling.
Now, some of you might be thinking, “Well, Ryan, of course you attribute that to homeschooling! You hate homeschooling. If you didn’t hate homeschooling, you wouldn’t have organized this community. How is that a positive?”
First, I don’t hate homeschooling.
Second, sure — if I did not experience negative experiences and observe other people have similar experiences, I would not have made Homeschoolers Anonymous. I’d be on the other side of this whole debate, scratching my head and wondering, “What is everyone upset about?”
But that’s not what I am saying.
What I am saying is that the skills necessary to pull this off – the skills of community organization, advocacy, communication, debate, and social media — I directly credit to my homeschooling experience. All things considered, my parents gave me an excellent education. For example, my mother is an amazing writer and editor. She put an extraordinary amount of effort — and skilled effort, not just energetic effort — into my writing abilities. We read awesome books as kids. We were encouraged to write our own stories.
I was even encouraged to write my own plays.
I wrote a full musical when I was twelve — “The Fun Factory” — and my mom cheered me along. Which is very gracious of her, in retrospect, because the musical is highly embarrassing to me now. My dad constructed an entire theater stage — a real one, with curtains and everything! (my dad worked for a furniture construction company at the time) — for me in the backyard. Along with other kids from our homeschooling group, my siblings and I put on a full-blown production.
That’s awesome homeschooling right there, folks.
I wrote a musical, my dad built a stage, a bunch of kids were creative and self-driven, and we put on a legitimate production for our parents. We even charged an admission fee that covered the costs of the production materials and the food provided during intermission.
That’s Writing, Drama, Wood Shop, Leadership Dynamics, Music, and Economics right there.
I was encouraged to be creative. I was encouraged to think differently. I learned to write and express myself. I did speech and debate. I was taught to pour my heart and soul into research and advocacy. When I wanted to learn html so I could create websites, my parents bought me a book. When I wanted to make research books as a summer job, my parents underwrote my business. When I wrote controversial things for my research books, my parents stood by my side.
And here I am, years later, using these very things — using creativity, technology, communication, and inner drive — to do what I believe in. This drive and these skills I owe to my parents and the homeschooling environment they created.
When I critique the Christian homeschool movement with well-phrased sentences and well-placed screenshots that go viral, I am a testament to homeschooling’s power.
When I am not afraid to stand up and denounce the leaders of the movement who value ideas over children, I am a testament to homeschooling’s power.
That power is not mine to claim.
I had a severe speech impediment for years as a child. No one understood me except my older brother until I was an adolescent. I went through intensive speech therapy. And to make life even more complicated, I was abused by one of my speech therapists. And if that was not enough, I am also an introvert. I am extraordinarily sensitive. I was even a kleptomaniac as a kid. I started shoplifting when I was 6 or 7. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was just a broken, confused, and scared little kid.
And yet through the love and selflessness and dedication of my parents, through personalized experiences that supported me and my unique temperament, I became a national award-winning debater who taught thousands of other kids speech and debate when I was but a teenager.
Me, the kid who couldn’t speak basic syllables correctly.
I am a testament to homeschooling’s power.
This reminds me of something my Dad said about homeschooling shortly after my parents finished with my youngest brother. “When you homeschool your kids they come out very opinionated and independent. You may be surprised by what your kids believe and how different they are from you but that is a good thing.” He said this to a group of younger homeschooling parents and I don’t think these parents were trying for that result. I remember seeing disappointed looks and I think these parents were trying to raise carbon copies of themselves. Knowing what I know now I would add to what my Dad said by saying that this is the result if you do homeschooling right. By the way this was more than 10 years ago and I am sorry to say that most of those parents weren’t listening and the kids suffered for it.
Though I find this website hard to read at times I do think it is important. The stories of abuse break my heart, I didn’t experience what most people describe about homeschooling here, I don’t agree with many of the ideas for solutions but I want you to keep it up. Yes this website is a testament to the amazing power of homeschooling even if it rubs me the wrong way sometimes.
Your dad is on. I believe totally different things from my parents, but I wouldn’t have done that if they hadn’t homeschooled me. I had a generally positive experience, but I recognize it wasn’t perfect. I want this community to improve, and homeschooling to improve. HA just might be the key to that.
Awesome post. Reminds me of how much I like my dad because when I came home from church saying dispensationalistm makes no sense, he said, “no it doesn’t.” And handed me a book to read.
And lol about the drama. We totally did our own sound of music production with the neighbors. It was so awesome, but we had to leave the kissing off.
I’m relieved that your homeschooling experience was a positive one. I think that if done well, homeschooling can provide a good education. Problems emerge when homeschooling is done poorly or used as a medium for fundamentalist indoctrination. Here’s hoping that reforms can lead to more positive experiences like yours and less indoctrination.
Loved this post, Ryan! I have been so impressed with the drive, academic excellence, community, warmth, creativity, vulnerability I have seen here. I’m sad about the destructive sub-culture and would never want to minimize or dismiss the reality of that pain, but there are so many positives and I love it when you (and me as a recovered HS sub-culture parent) can embrace all of those wonderful things that make homeschoolers rock. Bravo!
Hey, I think I was like the head Elf and some bad person in your play… LOL it easn’t completely embarrassing, just a bit of a rip off of Wille Wonka and the Chocolate Factory 😉
I am sorry to hear that some of you (or all of you) were actually hurt by homeschooling. I just started homeschooling my kids, but not because I want to indoctrinate them ( I think they need to be out in the world and test their beliefs against opposition, rather), but because the public school system is so poor and the administrators have no control of the kids. I actually taught school for six years and subsitute taught six more and feel that much of what goes on in school is just crows control; learning itself takes place perhaps 30% of the time. Maybe you think you were cheated out of the public or private school experience, but let me tell you, its ugly out there. Kids are really mean and can scar you for life and the quality of education can also hurt you professionally. Just remember how high the high school drop out rate is in this country. Just a thought
Aren’t children and people mean everywhere? I don’t understand the urge to shelter children from all the ugliness of the world. Bullying happens everywhere and children should develop the social skills to deal with it.
Well, I think kids today have different experiences with bullyiing and some are hurt more than others. Yes, you do have to develop some resilience, but, unfortunately, some situations are too much for anyone to handle let alone a sensitive child. Each case is different.
My experience is that it was the Christian fundamentalism within my home and the greater home schooling community that caused my children harm. I too chose home schooling for the freedom to teach my children at their own pace and the freedom from the crowds and strict scheduling it gave my children to pursue life in their generous free time. I love education, and worked hard to provide my children with a healthy balance of open-ended opportunities for personal exploration and exposure to real word experiences and academic discipline as well. In that way, home schooling was an awesome experience.
However, less religion all the way around would have been better for my children emotionally, socially and spiritually. Two problems arose that I was blind to at the time: though I was to the center of my far right religious idealoque home school compatriots, they pulled me way farther to the right than I ever thought I would be, much to my family’s detriment. Second, the exposure to their ideologies (such as YE creation science, for example) had a much more profound effect on my children than I expected. So I feel compelled to warn you, no matter how balanced you think you are, if you are part of a religious home-school support group you are taking some big risks with your children’s spiritual and emotional development. Be on guard, and consider other options for socialization, like friends in the neighborhood, community sports leagues, community civic organizations, etc.
I appreciate the good intentions and I’ll keep your advice in mind.