A Few Leave, But Others Stay

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on August 29, 2013.

I recently read a post by Lana that made me think about everyone I left behind when I left my conservative evangelical patriarchal homeschool upbringing.

With all the [ex] conservative homeschooler blogs out there nowadays, people may be under the impression that homeschool fundamentalism has virtually disappeared among homeschool alumni. To be sure, this Christian movement among homeschool graduates is dying a very slow and painful death. But it is so far from over, and I have so many friends still trapped in the ideology that I constantly feel the tension with old friends and old hangouts.

I don’t spend as much time in my old hangouts as Lana, so I don’t feel quite as much of the tension that she feels, but I’d like to echo what she says about not assuming that the thriving ex-conservative-homeschooler blogosphere means there’s some sort of mass exodus going on.

Sure, there’s an exodus — but in my experience most stay.

Out of the half dozen girls I was closest to in high school, only one has left. You know her as Kate. Two others are still living at home, under the authority of their father, having never left home even as they are now in their mid- to late twenties. One married young, going straight from her father’s home to her husband’s and has begun to fill her husband’s quiver with arrows. The final two left home with their fathers’ blessings and attended college in traditionally feminine pursuits, only to return home to live once again under their fathers’ authority afterwards.

Both were Gothard girls.

One now attends Vision Forum conferences with her family.

When I widen the net to the dozen or so girls I knew as acquaintances and saw only from time to time, the numbers don’t get any better.

Of the four girls who were in a Gothard Bible study with me, only one has questioned and left. Others I don’t know about—they just drifted away after I left. Two girls I knew are divorced, having married early to men who turned out to be abusive. Others, I really can’t say.

When I widen the net still further, to the teens I participated in debate with or saw at homeschool camps, I can point to a few more. One girl I met at a homeschool camp left home and wound up pregnant. Things were hard with her family for a time, but she made it through and questioned some things along the way. Another girl I met at a homeschool camp also questioned and left. One guy I knew through debate turned out to be gay. He came out and headed for the big city. But of the dozens and dozens others I knew through these venues? I have very little idea.

Of the guys, it’s really hard to say, and for a very interesting reason.

It’s easy to tell when a girl leaves. There are angry sparks and an extremely visible rift is torn. When a guy leaves? In my experience, the process is generally not quite so fraught with trouble, and is sometimes invisible on the outside. No one is going to be telling that guy that he is supposed to submit to his father, or that it’s his role to follow, or that he shouldn’t be pursuing a career. The family expects him to go off on his way and forge his own way, even if they also expect him to maintain a specific ideological viewpoint.

When a guy leaves, 4 times out of 5, it just looks like he’s doing what he’s supposed to do—leaving home, going to college, getting a job, and starting his own life. When a girl does those things, she’s often seen as stepping outside of the box she was supposed to contentedly inhabit.

There really isn’t any way to get at exact numbers, but Lana is right.

We left plenty of people behind when they didn’t walk the same path we did, and some of them are now repeating our parents’ patterns.

3 thoughts on “A Few Leave, But Others Stay

  1. Lois Manning (@lmanningok) September 9, 2013 / 2:56 pm

    Several current TV reality shows feature America’s Amish culture, particularly young adults who, like so many ex-homeschoolers, are desperate to join normal society, to think and live independently. Lack of a secular 21st-century education is the main obstacle. So turn on the TV news, sign up for community college STEM classes, read books OTHER than the bible. Go to movies, discuss substantive issues with people of other cultures and religions. Have fun with it all but GET STARTED. You’ve got a life-long world of excitement ahead of you.

    Like

    • nickducote September 9, 2013 / 8:46 pm

      Breaking Amish was a neat concept, but the cast had been outside their respective communities before, some for awhile. But it really sucked me in for awhile. Sister Wives is a more recent guilty pleasure.

      Like

  2. shadowspring September 16, 2013 / 10:32 am

    I get what you mean about the guys. My husband’s fundamentalist parents don’t want to know what my husband thinks, feels or experiences. All he has to do is attend or claim to attend church, and no tell anyone that he does not fully tow the family ideological line, and it is assumed that he is all in.

    It’s really sad.

    Like

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