The Ideal Homeschool Girl

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Faith Beauchemin’s blog Roses and Revolutionaries. It was originally published on January 29, 2014.

There’s a sick little article floating around the homeschool/ex-homeschool blogosphere right now.  It’s basically one college professor’s gross fetish fantasy about “homeschool girls” (meaning, his formerly homeschooled students who are actually presumably grown women).  He likes them so much because they’re so feminine (“just like a Jane Austen character,” he says repeatedly, leading me to wonder how drastically this English professor has misread Austen and other groundbreaking female writers) and not like those ugly mean selfish feminists.

My most creepy-crawly feeling while reading the article came from the total objectification and dehumanization of women who have been homeschooled.

Mr. Markos, you revel in interactions with homeschooled women because homeschooled women were brought up specifically to please men like you. What goes on behind the scenes to craft that “glorious and unashamed femininity”?  You see the finished product, a woman poured into the mold of a conservative Victorian ideal and seemingly content there (“enthusiastic”, you say, and I am trying to remember any of the legions of homeschool girls I’ve ever known who was truly enthusiastic about performing any part of traditional femininity that was not already rooted in her own personality).  You don’t see how many girls are brainwashed, shamed, abused on a daily basis before they are finally broken down to the point where they can be thus remade.

You would admire my sewing skills, but you would never know about that winter day when me and all my homeschool girl friends were stuck inside learning to quilt while our brothers played in the snow.  You wouldn’t know how badly I longed to be outside, sledding and throwing snowballs, instead of inside learning the traditional feminine arts.

Performing traditional Victorian femininity can be fun….
Performing traditional Victorian femininity can be fun….

You might be impressed that I can draw, until you learned that most of my drawing was used to illustrate a fantasy universe that was populated by women having adventures, going on quests, fighting battles side by side with men.  Or used to illustrate my Star Wars fanfic, where I piloted a space ship and spied for the Rebels.  Or used to design dresses not to be sewn by me, but as part of a secret dream to move to New York City and be a fashion designer.

You’d have praised my “razor-sharp wit” when it was parroting Ann Coulter or whatever I’d learned at church that week, but now that I use it to eviscerate folks like you, it is “marred and twisted by the politics of identity and victimization.”  (And see here you set yourself up to win against all critics, because if I argue that our original identities, pre-brainwashing, are not like the “femininity” you describe, I am now playing the victim card and am therefore “unfeminine” and undeserving of your time).

You might not know, Mr. Markos, anything real about these formerly homeschooled women you interact with.  

Because do you know what we learn above all?  We learn to hide.  

We learn that our real selves are not acceptable.  Anything within us that does not fit into the mold doesn’t necessarily go away, we just have learned not to show it to authority figures or, many times, to potential suitors.  Those in authority over us are the ones enforcing the “ideal girl” model, so the quickest way to avoid punishment and shaming is to perform femininity as we have been taught to.  Because we aren’t taught to be feminine.  Where someone falls on or off the gender spectrum is, I believe, something that is found on one’s own, inside, not something that is taught (gender does not really make sense in my head, but I think that’s probably a side effect of growing up with such strict gender roles).  A person can learn to perform gender traits that have no real resonance with who they are.

And wouldn’t you?  If you were constantly under threat, continually told that god, your parents, and your future husband (who is The Most Important Person You’ll Ever Meet) would all hate you and shun you and turn up their noses in disgust at you if you didn’t fit this particular mold, wouldn’t you force yourself to fit it?  If you were constantly told that “this is what a good woman is,” by everyone around you, wouldn’t you think that you were the problem, that you were a thing to be fixed?

You don’t know these “homeschool girls” you’re talking about, Mr. Markos.  

You don’t know the actual story of their lives, possibly because the real world of homeschool women is kept very segregated from the world of men.  And you don’t know how many of them will join me and my friends in the feminist camp before too long.

…but then, swinging on a vine across a chasm to escape Stormtroopers is pretty fun too.
…but then, swinging on a vine across a chasm to escape Stormtroopers is pretty fun too.

So stop fetishizing my pain.  

It is distressing to see you and so many other Christian men drooling over a neo-Victorian mold of “femininity” (that you label it “Austen-esque” just adds insult to injury).  Drooling selfishly over the idea of a woman whose only purpose in life is to keep your home and to keep you happy.  Drooling over the thought of a woman whose only thought is to please and serve you and maybe oh-ha-ha-ha take you down a peg or two if you are being too “bombastic” but only because she respects you so much.

Women who fit the classic “feminine” mold aren’t less human than women who don’t.  I have never, and will never, think so.  But you’re not saying your personal romantic/sexual preference is women who are quietly intelligent and skilled in the arts.  Many people have romantic/sexual preferences, and that’s completely acceptable.  What’s not acceptable is generalizing your personal and oh-so-weirdly-specific preference and turning it into what everyone born with a particular genital configuration “should be.”  You’re saying that all women, in order to be true women, in order to be truly “feminine” (feminists, you say, are more “masculine” than even you! *gasp*) have to be like this.  And you’re looking at homeschooled women, who were brought up in a culture that thinks like you do, and praising them for being, as you think, monolithically “feminine.”  That perception is not true, not fair to homeschooled women, and insofar as it does bear resemblance to reality, is because of cultural pressures and religious threats, not because of any innate “feminine” qualities.

I’ve seen too many women (and too many people who were assigned female at birth but, surprise, aren’t female, because yes Mr. Markos gender is not the same thing as what you consider biological sex, and conflating the two as you do causes untold damage), myself, my friends, my sister, unspeakably harmed and psychologically and physically abused all for the sake of fitting into that false ideal mold.  I’ve seen peoples’ vibrant personalities little by little give way, squashed into the mold.  I’ve seen other friends who weren’t brought up this way torture themselves, briefly, to go from independent woman to some Christian boy’s submissive ideal, and fortunately escape before any lasting harm was done.

Any man who marries a woman because she fits the “ideal homeschool girl” mold is only perpetuating oppression.  And maybe that’s why they all think feminists are “mean”:

Because we’ll never stop calling you out on this.

Mr. Markos, you can go home and rub one out to Lizzy Bennett as many times as you want, but please stop reducing real human beings to nonconsensual players in your little fetish game.

False Dichotomies: “Homeschooled Girls vs. Feminists”

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Samantha Field blogs at Defeating the Dragons. This piece was originally published on her own blog on December 18, 2013, and is reprinted with her permission.

So, Robert Knight, an extremely conservative writer for Townhall and whose articles occasionally appear in publications like the Washington Times, wrote an article last Tuesday called “Homeschooled Girls vs. Feminists.” Since the article spends most of its time talking about grown women, I have to admit to some mild annoyance to the persistent infantilization of women in conservative circles.

College-aged females are women, thank you.

My real problem with his article, however, is the false dichotomy he frames in the title and then argues in the piece itself. Just a quick review: a false dichotomy, also known as the false dilemma, is an attempt to reduce a complex, nuanced argument down to two separate, extreme positions. This type of argument is probably more familiar to people as “black and white thinking.” Knight’s article is an excellent example of how fundamentalists approach almost any issue– it’s us against them. Good, godly, homeschooled “girls” (grr) verses those big, bad, bra-burning, man-hating feminists.

First of all, I’m a homeschooled graduate and a feminist. My existence flies in the face of Knight’s argument. Also, there has not been any backlash against homeschooling led by feminists. If a feminist figure says anything at all, it’s to comment on the sexist attitude in religious homeschooling culture. Also, the feminist who said that, Laura Collins Lyster-Mensh, homeschooled her children and published that article in Home Education Magazine. The only people who really seem to be saying that feminists oppose homeschooling are homeschoolers. In fact, there are many feminists who choose to homeschool– women like Sara Schmidt. And Suki Wessling.

But it’s not an uncommon reaction for homeschooling advocates to point at people like me who want to see common-sense policies introduced and start shouting “you’re all a bunch of feminists!”

See Robert Knight, and “Overhere” (who was commenting on a secular homeschooling forum). In these sorts of discussions, feminists get painted inaccurately, and motivations are attributed to us that fall right in line with the anti-feminist rhetoric that’s existed for decades. We’re just selfish. We think homeschooling means signing ourselves into a “concentration camp” (which, granted, that comparison comes from The Feminine Mystique…).

Which is, le sigh, not true.

But, I’d like to address how Knight sets up this dichotomy in his article. He’s responding to an article I can’t read, “Feminism’s Worst Nightmare: Educated Women,” by Lou Markos for The City (published by Houston Baptist University), but giving the somewhat paranoid nature of most of his writing, I’m going to assume that this essay is pretty typical fare, and probably falls inside CBMW and CWA -type arguments, which Knight seems to share.

Knight shares Markos’ presentation of the “homeschooled girl”:

They possess a razor-sharp wit with which they can cut pretentious people (especially males) down to size, but they rarely use this skill, and only when they are sorely provoked …

They have a firm knowledge of the Bible, but they (unlike my biblically-literate male students) don’t engage in forensic debates over minor theological points of controversy; they will, however, step in if the boys get too contentious or triumphalist …

Home-schooled girls have wonderfully synthetic and creative minds that make connections across disciplines … they are gifted in the arts; almost all of them can sing and most play instruments and draw. …

They have not bought in to the lies of our modern consumerist state: that is to say, they do not judge their value and worth on the basis of power, wealth, or job status.

There are some pretty specific attitudes that Markos (and now Knight) are praising.

  • These young women are quiet and submissive, meek and gentle– they rarely react, and only when “sorely provoked.”
  • They understand what their place is when it comes to the Bible; they always let men lead discussions and refuse to become involved in discussing theology or become a part of a debate– they only lovingly point out that a debate has become “contentious.” They know better than to think they can engage with men on theological issues.
  • They pursue stereotypically feminine talents.
  • They find their value in the patriarchal attitudes of being a mother, wife, and homemaker and see employment as inconsequential.

Knight follows this up with talking about how Jane Austen and Downton Abbey are so popular– which he attributes to these works as not catering to “politically correct feminist lenses.” All that claim does is demonstrate a rather astonishing lack of historical awareness of either the Regency Era or WWI-era Britain. Trying to appropriate Jane Austen as some sort of anti-feminist figure is ridiculous. I’m not overly familiar with Downton Abbey, but many of my friends love it for explicitly feminist reasons.

And, apparently, feminists are engaged in the “real war on women” because we have some sort of campaign to encourage promiscuity and convince women not to ever, ever get married. Which is a pretty typical conservative phrasing of feminist arguments– they take the sex-positive, anti-shame, you-can-get-married-when-you-want-to-who-you-want narratives of feminism and completely flip them upside down.

Feminists also supposedly scream a lot about how there’s no differences between men and women and about how much we hate femininity and feminine women:

They have the wit and discernment to perceive that the feminist is finally a greater threat than the male chauvinist: for whereas the chauvinist demeans femininity, the feminist dismisses it altogether as a social construct that has no essential grounding in our God-created soul. It’s no wonder feminists hate the feminine Sarah Palin with white-hot intensity.

I would like to actually address this issue, because it’s something that as a feminist I bump into a lot, and I think it’s the essential disagreement between egalitarians and complementarians. Feminists and egalitarians both assert that while biological factors exist (besides the obvious reproductive differences, there’s also different skeletal and muscular structures), that substantial and essential differences don’t. Men and women are both created with the imago dei, both receive spiritual gifts, and both can serve in equal roles. Egalitarians recognize the variety and complexity of all people, and are uncomfortable with dividing that variety according to patriarchal stereotypes.

So yes, feminists actually believe that “femininity” is a social construct that has little grounding in biological sex–  men, women, and trans* persons can have traits and attitudes reflective of socially constructed “feminine” and “masculine” traits. Knight isn’t wrong here.

However, what Knight believes is that there is absolutely fundamental difference between men and women– and it’s doubtful if he recognizes the legitimacy of trans* persons (which would be an attitude he shared with some). He believes that this difference is a part of our “God-created soul” and arguing any differently is akin to arguing against God and his Holy, Inspired, Infallible, Inerrant Word (instead of just a traditional interpretation of it).

It’s interesting to note that Knight spends so much of his article recognizing women he describes in terms of Proverbs 31– as “strong” and, at many points, very capable and intelligent. I think it’s possible that if Knight could engage with feminism, he’d realize that the feminism he’s portrayed here is nothing more than a straw man. I think the views he’s expressed here are sexist, but they come from this conservative preaching-at-the-choir that’s happened for decades now. Organizations like CBMW and CWA have spent a long time telling Christians what feminism is and what feminists do, and it’s gotten to the point that many Christians accept these portrayals without analysis or research.

Feminists don’t hate men.

Feminists want a world where gender privilege no longer exists, where people are treated the same regardless of their sex or gender identity, where women and trans* persons are no longer oppressed by violent systems. That’s it, really.

Sorry Gentlemen, This Homeschooled Girl’s a Feminist

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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 January 29, 2014.

You know those moments where you step back from something and you’re not even sure what you just read? I’m having one of those moments, because I just stumbled upon Louis Markos’ article, “Why Homeschooled Girls Are Feminism’s Worst Nightmare.” Speaking as a homeschooled girl and a feminist, let’s see what Louis has to say, shall we?

I have become famous (or infamous) at my university for my ability to spot immediately a homeschooled girl, at least the kind of homeschooled girl who majors in the Humanities (English, Writing, History, Philosophy, Christianity, Art, Music) or who joins an Honors college devoted to a classical Christian curriculum. What is my method for spotting such literary homeschooled girls? If when I speak to a freshman girl I feel that I am speaking (literally) to a character out of a Jane Austen novel, then I know that she was homeschooled. (To date, my success rate is about 85%).

I . . . feel . . . objectified? I am no one’s specimen.

I’m also slightly disturbed by his equation of “homeschool girl” with “Christian homeschool girl,” and not just that but “super conservative Christian homeschool girl.” I’ve met secular homeschool girls who were complete tomboys. Actually, strike that, I’ve met spades of super conservative Christian homeschool girls who were tomboys—and then were taught, over the years, to repress it. But for many of us—most of us, probably—it didn’t work. I never fit the perfect feminine ideal, and I knew it. I was always too loud, or too clumsy, or too forward. Actually, I’m feeling more erased than objectified at the moment. Or maybe both.

Speaking of years, why is Louis calling these college students “girls”? I get that to a professor undergraduates can look increasingly young, but this isn’t an article about children, it’s an article about women. When I hear the term “homeschool girl,” I don’t think of a grown woman, I think of a twelve year old in braids. Perhaps Louis thinks young adult female homeschool alumni—which is what he’s really talking about—need to be forever infantilized as “homeschool girls.” But why he would infantalize individuals he is claiming are a threat to feminism—unless he thinks the real threat to feminism is for women to never grow up—is beyond me.

On the surface, the link between the homeschooled girl and Elizabeth Bennet is part educational and part linguistic. Most homeschooled girls—henceforth, I will be focusing on the literary type—spend a great deal of their time reading great books, especially eighteenth- and nineteenth-century novels. They therefore possess a much higher level of diction and understand the finer rules of etiquette. They value good conversation and are able to participate in it without succumbing to arrogance or false modesty.

First off, do you know why we spend so much time reading great books? It’s often because our math and science education is given comparatively less time and emphasis—and because we don’t have a lot of time with friends. Second, we learn these “finer rules of etiquette” because we are quite literally taught them (Charm Course anyone?), as though our parents have a grand plan for sending us back in time two centuries. These things are not coincidental.

But the link goes far deeper than that. The Jane Austen connection only rests partly on the homeschooler’s ability to speak with eloquence and wit and to conduct herself with grace and charm. She resembles Elizabeth Bennet because she shares with all of Austen’s heroines a firm and rooted sense of herself as a female member of the human race.

Sigh. It is true that as a “homeschool girl” I learned to tie my identity closely in with my femaleness—and the fact that I was destined first and foremost to be a wife and mother. But honestly? All of this eloquence and wit and grace and charm is way over the top. Louis may be describing some ideal he has, but he is not describing the homeschool girls I grew up with. Although, to be honest, he’s doing a pretty good job of describing someone I’ve met as an adult—and she was a Christian school graduate, not a “homeschool girl.” We most of us were simply normal—though we did wish we could be what Louis describes, for that was the ideal constantly held out to us.

What I have found in my homeschooled students is what one used to find frequently in Catholic girls who attended parochial school. Such girls do not consider their femininity a limitation to be overcome or a weakness to be hidden, but something special and unique that must be nurtured and developed. The properly Catholic-educated girl of the past, like the homeschooled girl of today, is less likely than her peers to engage in pre-marital sex: not because she thinks sex is dirty or men are pigs, but because she views her own sexuality as a gift to be treasured by her and by her future husband.

You know, I actually think Louis is making a mistake in assuming that all feminists everywhere flee their “femininity.”

I don’t think this is true.

While many feminists are queer or prefer an androgynous look and affect or just don’t like gender boxes, plenty enjoy being feminine. But then, I think the problem here may be one of definitions. Louis seems to think that the true essence of being female is exhibiting innocence, being shy, demure, and untainted by the world. He seems unaware that femaleness can be something very different entirely, that it can also be fierce, and independent, and worldly. The fact that we do not exhibit our femaleness in the way that Louis wants us to does not mean that we do not have a firm and rooted sense of ourselves as female members of the human race, as he suggests in the end of his previous paragraph.

And as for the bit about premarital sex—I am pretty sure Louis has never been inside of the head of a woman raised in the purity culture that pervades conservative Christian homeschooling, so I don’t know how he could possibly insist that these “homeschool girls” he knows are truly at such peace with their sexuality.

Louis then turns to “other admirable qualities” of homeschool girls, offering a bullet point list that includes such gems as these:

They know what they believe and have a firm knowledge of the Bible, but they (unlike my biblically-literate male students) don’t engage in forensic debates over minor theological points of controversy; they will, however, step in if the boys get too contentious or triumphalist.

See actually, I and the other homeschool girls I knew spent scads of time engaging in forensic debates over minor theological points. What could be so fascinating as trying to bring out the nuance of a Greek word! (That is actually not sarcasm.) But in a world where so much was off limits, this was a way we could exercise our minds within the safety of our subculture.

Like the aristocratic ladies of the Old South, they are gifted in the arts; almost all of them can sing, and most play instruments and draw.

I can’t sing, I hated to play my instrument, and I couldn’t draw a stick figure. But I wished I could do all of those and well, because I knew feminine accomplishments were important if I wanted to attract a godly suitor.

They proudly identify themselves as daughters, sisters, and granddaughters, and aspire to be identified as wives, mothers, and grandmothers—a self-identification that enhances, rather than diminishes, their sense of themselves.

They desire to be helpmeets in the full biblical sense and to have their husbands trust in them and call them blessed; they desire as well to be mothers who will raise up godly children.

And this would be because this is all they know, and all they have been allowed to know. I know, I’ve been there. When you’ve never been allowed to dream other dreams, it can be surprising how universal your and your friends dreams all seem. How coincidental!

Though not all of them plan to be stay-at-home moms, they all make it clear that if they have children, they will put them first.

You know, I don’t think I have ever met a mom who doesn’t make it clear that she puts her children first. And it’s not just children—it’s family. Most people value family, whether the family the were born to or the family they create. Including feminists. Shocker, I know!

The glorious and unashamed femininity that radiates from my homeschooled students is a beautiful thing that at times brings me close to tears. These young women will give all they have to nurture the children God puts in their care and to make their home a humane and creative place where faith, hope, and love can thrive and bear fruit. And they desire to do this, not because they do not think they can contribute to the business world, but because they consider motherhood a high and noble calling.

Oh good grief.

Try to imagine, for a moment, that you are told from early childhood that your role in life is to be a wife and mother, and that women who are so selfish as to have careers—or even want them—will live lives of pain and sorrow in rebellion against God’s plan for their lives.

Try to imagine, for a moment, that you are taught form early childhood that wives must submit to husbands, and daughters to fathers, that women are to always be under male headship and authority—and that the woman who steps out from under her male head has stepped into danger and will likely come to untimely end.

Try to imagine, for a moment, that you live in a world where finding a godly husband to support and care for you and your future children overshadows every other thought from age twelve on, and where you are told that you must attract a husband through your feminine skills—your cooking, your sewing, your sweet voice, your delicate beauty.

Try to imagine, for a moment, a world where any male characteristics or attributes you may exhibit are fretted over by your mother and the other mothers, where you are put in ballet and put through etiquette classes, where you are told to mind your posture, lower your voice, and not be so rowdy, or who will want to marry you?

Try to imagine, for a moment, a world where your virginity is your most precious asset, where losing it risk utter ruin, where even a stray dalliance that comes to no more than talk can sully your reputation, where bringing your virginity to your wedding day is the most important thing you can do for your husband.

That, gentle readers, is what it is like to grow up female in the super conservative Christian circles of the homeschool world.

And do you know what I just realized? That is also what it was like to grow up in the world of Louis’s beloved Jane Austen. And now I’m not sure what to think.

I read Jane Austen’s books as a girl because they were some of the most steamy love stories available to me that were also approved reading. I read the scenes where Darcy proposes over and over. I reveled in Elizabeth’s wit—a wit that pushed the boundaries, but was careful not to digress so much as to bring censure. I wanted to be a character in one of Austen’s books—but then, I really didn’t. That was the ideal were were taught to aspire to, but even then I could see that women got a raw deal. You see, I read Austen’s other books as well—Persuasion, and Northanger Abbey—and I knew that on some level these were tragedies in the dress of romantic comedy. Perhaps, in some sense, it was Jane Austen who set me on my first step toward feminism.

I’m not going to finish going through Louis’s article. You can read the rest yourself, if you like. I want to finish, I think, on a slightly more somber note. Louis is wrong in his monolithizing of homeschool girls—and he seems unaware that many of us “homeschool girls” join the dark side and proudly take up the title “feminist”—but he is right that this is the ideal so many homeschooled girls are raised to embrace. It is the ideal I wanted—and yet somehow internally resisted. It was an ideal I was unable to obtain, and for years, that tortured me. But no longer.

Being a feminist is not about rejecting family, or rejecting compassion for others.

In fact, I would argue that feminism is very often a fulfillment of both. For me, feminism is the revealing of my inner self, a self that is fierce and somehow calm—a self I tried to hide for so long as a girl. For me, feminism is about unhindered compassion, global interconnectedness, and created community. It is about righting wrongs and asking questions. It is about separating who I am as a woman from the toxic messages of passivity and submission. It is about releasing myself to the wind, and finding myself again. It is about being loud, and being deathly quiet. It is about building new families and forming new relationships—families built on undemanding love and relationships built on honest trust.

It is about a storm, and a calm.

And it is beautiful—more beautiful than that “homeschool girl” ideal I strove for so unsuccessfully for so many years.

Child Marriage: I Dodged the Bullet

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kierstyn King’s blog Bridging the Gap.  It was originally published on January 12, 2014.

I don’t know that I’ve written much about the process of the relationship Alex and I had before we got married. I started my blog after the fact and before I had even begun to process the hellmouth that was my childhood.

With three creepy-as-fuck-patriarchs coming out in favor of child marriage – something they’d always been in favor of, I suppose, but just now coming to light – I keep remembering how close I was to that being my story, our story.

This might be timey-wimey.

*****

Ever since I can remember, my mom really really really wanted to be pregnant at the same time as me.

I don’t know why, I just remember her telling me this, often, and it creeping  me out before I was 10 — and after I was 10, but I remember being really damn young when she was telling me this. I feel like I was 8.

When we started homechurching, my mom become obsessed, I mean obsessed with jewish culture. Like everything about it was perfect and not at all weird, and by jewish culture, I guess I should clarify, I mean old testament jewishness, and whatever of that was referenced in the new testament. Yes, how women were property and bought/traded for dowries, and how they were surprised for when they were getting married, and their parents picked out their husbands (my mom is also obsessed with betrothal), and then how they wait for the couple to do it, and then they bring out a sheet that had better have a bloodstain on it to prove…virginity – because, obv’s everyone bleeds (<nope).

(HA note: Kiery’s mom was not just wrong in a moral sense, but wrong in a religious sense; for an accurate description of how Jewish weddings work, please see Rachel’s comment here and Petticoat Philosopher’s comment here.)

She had, before I was a teenager even, basically planned out my wedding to be like that. Complete with my future husband building an apartment attached to their house, and even as a kid who knew nothing, this was the thing I fought against, this was the battle I always chose, I was not going to allow my mom to pick out my husband, and dictate my wedding and create the most humiliating ceremony I could imagine – just so she could get her jewish fix and fulfill her dream of carrying children simultaneously.

For context: She had also decided that I would marry at 18 to ensure that pregnancy thing would be feasible.

She was pregnant when I was 18 (I’m 18 years and one-week older than my youngest sibling) and I did end up getting married at 18, but the simultaneous pregnancy hasn’t happened (and never will, thanks to my own birth control and my grandparents stepping in after the last baby and paying for my mom’s sterilization).

Anyway, back to the story…

So, my childhood was already riddled with disturbing fantasies from my mom in relation to my future love-life, and I had been fighting this battle for as long as I can remember. Thankfully, my dad was on my side here, and also thought that my mom’s whole wanting to control all of that thing was ridiculous, which made it easier to just look at her and say no whenever she mentioned it (that was the only thing I was ever able to do that with) even though she ignored it.

I had read too much Elsie Dinsmore to be cool with the idea of betrothal.

Anyway, after we moved to Atlanta I went to TeenPact State Class and then TeenPact National Convention where I met Alex and we became fast friends over the course of the year. Later that year my parents told me they were done teaching me/had taught me everything I needed to know when I was 15 and they said I’d graduated. It was 2006. I turned 16 in February of 2007, had my graduation ceremony at the state homeschool convention in May, and Alex came down for camp, and that fall we started courting (which is, in our case, another kind of hell). Because he lived in Maine, our relationship was Long Distance and we saw eachother less than a handful of times a year – which means most of our relationship involved lots and lots and lots of talking and getting to know each other over IM/Email/Phone calls.

Nonetheless, as soon as my dad said “okay” to us courting in September of 2007, my parents – especially my mom- heard wedding bells. Courting is basically like, “dating with the intent to marry” but with everyone sticking their hands and ideas into the situation but without actually caring about or getting to know the two people involved – they just want power and think they can because they’re parents, so they must be right, right? (no)

My mom, at this time, had just had my second brother, and so, my broom services weren’t as desperately needed.

By december they were pushing Alex to propose, made him buy me a promise ring, and kept asking about when we were getting married, anddon’t you love him? (yes) don’t you want to marry him? (sure) but why not NOW? (because I’m 16) We’ll sign the paperwork! eventually I just looked at them and told them, I feel like you’re pushing me out, and I don’t know why. They were like, we’re not pushing you out! and I forget what else they said, but in retrospect, that conversation, and me not coming home engaged after visiting and meeting his family for the first time after christmas changed things.

But one thing remained, they wanted me married. Stat. They wanted him to propose like, right away, and when he didn’t propose by my birthday, in February (because we both decided it wasn’t a good idea to get married at like, 17 and 19) they got pissed and over the course of the summer of 2008, decided to do everything they could to sabotage our relationship.

It was brutal and nasty and deserving of more than one post because it was fraught with verbal and emotional abuse, withholding, and bribery – complete turns of opinions and demeanor’s, saying one thing and then the next morning saying something else, the last pregnancy that ruined everything, and the reason I had to run away.

If I had complied, as I did in every other thing, my relationship with my parents would have been less strained for a short time, but neither Alex or I would be in a healthy place. 16 is too youngMuch too young.

So when people talk about child-marriage proponents, I remember being 16 and pressured, unbelievably pressured by my parents, to make my boyfriend propose and marry me.

because it’s better to marry than to burn with passion 

I wonder if some of the logic of Swanson, Maranatha’s dad and husband, and Creepy Duck Guy wasn’t part of the logic my parents had too: female independence is bad, marry them off young so they can do what god commanded women to do – be fruitful and multiply.

The Homeschool Lobby Now Has Public School Children in Its Crosshairs, Too

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By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

I am getting tired of all the parentsplaining.

I am getting tired of those homeschool parents who, when presented with case after case of abuse in homeschool settings, go to Default Response #1 and say, “If you care about abuse so much, why don’t you focus on public schools instead?”

For example:

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It’s time we all called bull@#$% on this response.

I’m sorry, but parentsplainers and abuse denialists no longer get to control this narrative. These people not only are unmotivated to stop homeschool abuse, they are also unmotivated to stop public school abuse. Their pointing to public schools serves as a red herring. But even more than that, it is disingenuous — because the moment we try to focus on public school abuse, spoiler alert: they’re still standing right in our way. Because these are the same people joining the homeschool lobby in calling for the end of child protective services as we know it. These are the people actively trying to prevent public schools from addressing abuse.

Why do I say this?

The homeschool lobby is coming after Safe2Tell, a program critical to your kids' ability to safely report violence in the public schools.
The homeschool lobby is coming after Safe2Tell, a program inspired by Columbine, that has saved over 1,000 lives, and is critical to your kids’ ability to safely report violence in the public schools.

Because last Friday, January 24, HSLDA — the mouthpiece of the homeschool lobby — issued a legislative alert about Mississippi House Bill 480. HB 480, proposed by Mississippi Representative Bobby Moak, establishes the Safe2Tell program to allow public school students to “anonymously report threatening behavior or endangering activities.” (You can read a summary of the bill here; you can read the bill’s full text here.)

HSLDA is opposing this bill.

Some background: The Safe2Tell program began as a non-profit organization in Colorado. The program was based on

the Columbine Commission Report’s recommendation that students need a safe and anonymous way to keep lines of communication open.  They realized that tragedies could be prevented if young people had a way to tell someone what they knew without fearing retaliation.

Since 2004, Safe2Tell has “prevented 1,000 suicides and 31 school attacks… It has already received reports of 16 planned attacks since the beginning of the 2013-14 school year.” The program has since partnered with state governments, beginning with Colorado in 2007. The movement is “spreading across the country with momentum building for a national Safe2Tell hotline.” Mississippi is next to recognize that violence in public schools needs to be addressed and that allowing students a way to report bullying and violence anonymously is crucial. HB 480’s text acknowledges this fact:

In eighty-one percent (81%) of dangerous or violent incidents in schools, someone other than the attacker knew the incident was going to happen but did not report or act on that knowledge… The ability to anonymously report information about unsafe, potentially harmful, dangerous, violent or criminal activities before or after they have occurred is critical in reducing, responding to and recovering from these types of events in schools.

This has nothing to do with homeschooling. As Libby Anne has pointed out, “This bill is explicitly not about homeschooling in any way, shape or form. This bill is about protecting public school children from school violence.”

Yet the homeschool lobby is aiming to destroy this effort to protect public school children. In their paranoid mindset, “Broadly applied, this legislation would permit anyone to make such a report against a homeschooling family.” They are using a hypothetical slippery slope — without a single example to point to since Safe2Tell began in 2004 — to roadblock a chance to solve actual violence.

Said another way: The homeschool lobby is coming after Safe2Tell, a program inspired by Columbine, that has saved over 1,000 lives, and is critical to your kids’ ability to safely report violence in the public schools.

If you are a non-homeschooler, this is exactly why you should care about the homeschool lobby. This is so much bigger than homeschooling at this point.

The mentality advanced by HSLDA and the homeschool lobby is one of unquestioned dominion of parents over children. It is the mentality expressed by Rosanna Ward (“the government [has] no right to hold me accountable”), Matt Walsh (“we [should] have the unquestioned and absolute right to teach and raise our own children”), and HSLDA’s Scott Woodruff (“a child’s right to an education is held by his parents as custodian until he attains majority”). It is the mentality spoken of with no apologies by Doug Phillips and Kevin Swanson at the 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit (“the core problem with Child Protective Services is its existence”), where HSLDA’s Chris Klicka and NHERI’s Brian Ray also spoke.

And now that mentality is coming after non-homeschooled children, too.

This is not a conspiracy theory.

This is an explicit belief system that is spoken of casually and publicly. I witnessed this first-hand last week in Virginia: when a Virginian Republican delegate unabashedly said, “Parents have a right to screw up their kids,” merely a day after Rita Dunaway (Board Member of the Virginia Christian Alliance) said — in the context of joining HSLDA in opposition to HJ 92 — that children do not have any rights.

This should be alarming to every segment of society that has a vested interest in protecting children.  I said this last May, and I will keep saying it: “This is no longer about homeschooling and child abuse in homeschooling communities. This is about protecting every child in this country.”

When your only concern is protecting “parental rights,” when you have no qualms sacrificing children’s rights and wellbeing on an altar of parental dominion, then you are going to see all children — not only homeschooled children — at risk. You are going to see HSLDA and the homeschool lobby slowly (but not silently) chipping away at the cornerstones of the child protective system — a system that is a safety net to public school and private school children as well.

If you do not want to see homeschooling regulated more (or even if you do), if you want see better child protection laws, then get off your Freedom High Horse and do the work of actually protecting children. Stop paying dues to an organization that called a child abuser a “hero”. Stop defending a lobby that is actively working to not only dismantle child protection laws, but is actively opposing opportunities to make public school children safer.

The homeschool lobby will not content itself with making homeschooled children less safe. They aim high and public school children are now in their crosshairs, too.

Oscar Nominated “Alone But Not Alone”: A Product of the Doug Phillips / Michael Farris Empire

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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 January 19, 2014.

Alone Yet Not Alone, based on a book about two children who were kidnapped by Native Americans during the French and Indian War, was released as a movie in 2013 by Enthuse Entertainment. It showed in select theaters for only one week. This month, to everyone’s surprise, it was nominated for an Oscar. I’m not interested in talking about how it got nominated, which seems to be the focus of most articles on its surprise nomination. I’m more interested in something else, and that is the connections between this film and some major players in the dominionist/reconstrucitonist segment of the Christian homeschool movement, most notably Doug Phillips and Michael Farris.

My first tipoff to these connections was when I learned that Doug Phillips’ daughter Jubliee Phillips is in the film. She plays a Native American girl. Her older brother Joshua Phillips plays a “tall white brave,” according to the cast listing. Doug Phillips is the disgraced founder of Vision Forum, an influential but now defunct Christian homeschool organization.

Phillips himself was originally slated to be in the film, though he is no longer listed.

Other Vision Forum attaches, including Lourdes Torres, also play leading roles in the film. According to one blogger, “the full cast list of the movie reads like a partial who’s who of dominion-mandate Christian entrepreneurs.”

It seems the list of those involved also reads like a who’s who of Patrick Henry College graduates. (Patrick Henry College was founded by Home School Legal Defense Association founder Michael Farris in an effort to train up a new generation of Christian leaders to “retake America for Christ”). Alone Yet Not Alone was written by Tracy Leininger, a graduate of Patrick Henry College. Patrick Henry College alum and The Rebelution founder Brett Harris (brother of I Kissed Dating Goodbye author Joshua Harris and son of prominent Christian homeschool leader Gregg Harris) plays a leading role in the film. Several other Patrick Henry College graduates—including Ben Adams and Peter Forbes—were also involved. Not surprisingly, Michael Farris and HSLDA promoted the film heavily.

Advent Film Groupfounded on the campus of Patrick Henry College in 2007, was heavily involved in producing Alone Yet Not Alone from the very beginning.

The group’s co-founders, George Escobar and Michael Snyder, acted as the film’s co-producers, and Escobar acted as co-writer and co-director. Michael Farris endorsed Advent Film Group and has at times contributed to its screenplays.

There are more Vision Forum connections too. Tracy Leininger is the daughter of James Leininger, the money behind Vision Forum. Enthuse Entertainment, the film company that turned the book into a movie, is listed as the same address as all of Leininger’s other San Antonio enterprises, including Vision Forum Inc. Alone Yet Not Alone was slated to be unveiled at the 2012 San Antonio Film Festival, run by Vision Forum, but it appears that the film wasn’t ready in time. The film was instead screened at the 2013 San Antonio Film Festival. Not surprisingly, Vision Forum both sold the book and promoted the film heavily.

Alone Yet Not Alone appears to be the creation of a collaboration between Doug Phillip affiliates and Michael Farris affiliates. Given that Doug Phillips once worked for Michael Farris as a lawyer at HSLDA, this shouldn’t be surprising. I’m curious how many Patrick Henry College graduates have gone on to work for Doug Phillips affiliated organizations.

I have not seen the movie and I have not read the book, so while I’ve heard concerns about racist portrayals and bad acting, I don’t feel I can confidently speak to the content of either. I will say I’ve found pulling these connections together fascinating.

This film, with its surprise Oscar nod, is a product of the culture I grew up in.

I’ll finish with the trailer, so you can take a look for yourself.

Wifely Duties and Baseball Bats: Morgan Dawn’s Story

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HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Morgan Dawn” is a pseudonym.

Trigger warnings: rape, extreme physical abuse.

At the age of 3, I was adopted by a Navy couple.

Life was great for about 6 weeks, when they adopted a baby boy. That was when the horror began.

I was pushed aside, because I was “just a girl.”  By the time I was 10, the couple had 3 biological kids, on top of myself and the other adopted boy. My adopted mother had lots of health issues, so she was either pregnant or sick.

My adopted father decided that since his wife wasn’t able to perform her “wifely duties,” that job would fall to me. The rapes were a weekly occurrence from then on. When I went to a DOD school official, my family decided that the “safest” thing for me was to be homeschooled. After all, I was a pathological liar.

Right there, my life changed.

They started reading everything they could about “To Train Up a Child” and proper disciplines for “obstinate children.”  Drop a glass on the floor?  I had to stand on that glass until my feet were bleeding badly.  Slam a door?  My hands were slammed in doors until I couldn’t help but pass out from pain.

I would sneak out of the house to see my boyfriend at night. One thing led to another, and by 13 I was pregnant. The father was killed in a drive-by shooting when I was 6 months along.  I managed to hide the pregnancy (my adoptive father was on deployment to the Middle East, so no one was close enough to tell) until he got home. He wanted sex, and I said no.

O, the pain that “no” would cost me.

He took a baseball bat to my body for hours.  By the time the paramedics were called, I was hanging by a thread, and in preterm labor.  They said I’d never walk or talk again.  My daughter was given (without my permission) to a family “friend” who let her drown in a pool on her 6th birthday.

Homeschooling hid everything.

No one really saw me anyways, so not seeing me at all because I was in body casts didn’t alert anyone. When my face had to be reconstructed for the 2nd time, everyone was told that my biological family had passed on defects that needed fixed. Schooling was “Here’s a book, read it and be prepared to debate on it”, but if the debate wasn’t “right” I’d get beat. It was hell.

By 18, I was ready to leave. By then, there were 10 kids total, and I was expected to sacrifice college to take care of them all. I couldn’t. So, one night, I left and never looked back. I’m now forbidden to talk to anyone in the family.

They were all told that all I was was a whore who left because I was pregnant.

I moved out of state with the help of a few friends that had known me before I was pulled from school. Apparently I was the only reason for homeschooling, as the other kids are all back in school. I was the evil sinner who needed punished.  And now, I love that title.

At least this “evil sinner” is now living life the way she wants. I’m currently in school for Social Work, living with my biological mother, engaged to a wonderful man, and happy.  The happy is so strange, but I like it.

There is hope out there.

The Difficulty with Admitting Trauma: Kandice’s Story

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HA note: The author’s name has been changed to a pseudonym at the request of the author.

My name is Kandice, and I grew up being homeschooled.

My parents were and are members of HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) but in our part of Massachusetts, there weren’t too many other homeschoolers.

My seven siblings and I were all home-schooled together; initially started using a mix of curriculum including Christian Liberty, but my parents quickly switched over to Pensacola Christian College’s (PCC) ABeka Book program. I was homeschooled from 2nd grade through 12th.

My siblings and I were raised with very clearly defined social, political, and religious ideology. Strict Calvinism, coupled with the dogma of Independent Fundamental Reformed Baptist theology was the religious perspective; politically, my father is rabidly conservative – huge fan of the NRA, Newt Gingrich, and Rush Limbaugh etc. Socially, we were taught children to follow Biblical principles as my parents saw them.

We were taught the world is full of sin, and you can’t trust anyone other than fellow Christians as all others are under Satan’s sway.

Curiously enough, unlike many in Fundamental circles, my parents are not racist at all. In fact, they harbor great frustration and confusion over racism – we were taught all people are created in the image of god and therefore physical differences don’t matter; my parents explained differences in appearance and language are stemming from the tower of Babel (Genesis Ch. 11).

I have a B.A., which I got from Bob Jones University, which is private and religious.

I was raised by educated parents who valued learning highly – my mother has a B.A. in English and my father has both a B.A., and his M.Div. My father was a minister at an Independent Fundamental Reformed Baptist church – although his religious views didn’t start out there, they progressed to that point. In my early childhood we were traditional ABC Baptists, but after my father got his own church, things began to change.

My political beliefs changed before high school, largely because I knew I was gay, and then continued transforming.

My dad is an extremely conservative Republican and we were raised with that ideology. My biggest passion in life has been reading, I can’t remember not loving words, and this drove change for me. I started reading literature that changed how I saw things – several authors were powerful in this for me: John Steinbeck, Upton Sinclair, Sinclair Lewis, Pearl S. Buck, Thomas Hardy, and Fyodor Dostoevsky.

By the time I entered high school I already disagreed with my family/father on social justice and equality matters – reading literature made me explore history and social science which really helped to broaden my view.

I knew I was gay from a young age, and in college, in my Ethics class, we were taught “facts” about homosexuality that didn’t connect at all with my experience. Such things as, people become gay through being recruited, usually at a bar (I’d never been to a bar and as far as I knew, I’d never met a gay person); or that Jesus and the Bible condemned homosexuality – well, I read everything Jesus said and he did not ever speak out against the LGBT community; the OT references to Sodom and Gomorrah are referencing the sin of lack of hospitality, not being gay. So in college, my political beliefs opened up still further to be able to fully accept myself as gay, and to be able to say that all people, regardless of religion/gender/orientation etc. should have the same rights and freedoms.

My religious beliefs went through transition as I grew older.

I stopped believing in any way that Jesus was more than a man – he existed, but he is not god or any deity. My view of god changed – I don’t have a definition for the power that some of us use the word god to describe. That power exists, and that power is more than me, but beyond that, I don’t have definitions or rules about religion. I learned to see people in light of who they were and what they do, rather than what the claim to believe – beliefs are only as significant as we let them be, and they’re so tied in to our perceptions of reality that they are often wildly flawed. And contrary to what I was raised with, I don’t think it’s my job or duty to try to “convert” anyone. I think my responsibility today is to live the most spiritual life I can, following the path I’m on, and do my utmost to not cause harm but to be of service to others.

These changes occurred because I was reading, and learning. I took what I read and compared it to what I experienced and saw in the world around me and it didn’t align. Teaching I had been taught in the Bible didn’t match up to my experience, or what I experienced from people who were deemed “sinners” or “apostate” or “lost”. And in fact, what some Christians did to me, and others, was distinctly un-Christlike; there was no logic in saying that their behavior was acceptable because they called themselves Christians, while the person who doesn’t believe in god but does amazing good is going to hell.

I would have to say homeschooling was a traumatic experience for me.

I don’t like admitting that. Because admitting trauma means addressing it beyond the bleak recitation of the facts of what occurred. Diving into how it makes me feel, or affects me, is challenging.  I think that unless homeschooling is done in conjunction with an outside schooling process, it leads to isolation, control issues, lack of contact with reality, social discomfort, low self-esteem and self-confidence, poor communication skills, and significant challenges building healthy relationships.

Homeschooling did have some lasting psychological effects on me. While this is not as powerful as it has been in the past, the scars still remain. My journey involved alcohol use that became alcoholism… that was one of the ways I coped with what I was experiencing/had experienced. I also suffered from severe depression and anxiety, leading to suicidal ideation, and this started around age 11. In college I actually attempted suicide because I just had no coping mechanism, and I didn’t know enough to know there were supports available.

Additionally as an adult, I learned that a lot of the behaviors I had as a kid that my parents labelled as “sin” and tried to punish/discipline out of me, were actually tied in to having Asperger’s and having an IQ/mind that naturally asks questions, and that needs to be challenged. It was actually hard to learn that because it hit me really hard to realize that I had spent so many years and so much time trying to change something that was neurobiologically programmed and that couldn’t be changed. Also, it didn’t need to change – it wasn’t wrong.

But the concept of Autistic persons as being sinful is very prevalent in the community I come from.

My father has repeatedly told me he would do the same thing over again, and that it’s [the way I process things] sin, not the way my brain functions.

Guilt over leaving my younger siblings behind to go to college and then leaving them again when I came out as LGBT is something I’m working through. It’s not as bad as it was, by far, because my siblings hold no animosity towards me. I just felt very responsible for them because as their older sister, I always had been responsible for them. And in big families in these environments, you sometimes feel more like a protector or caretaker than a sibling and that changes things.

Had I been in a public school setting, these experiences would have been very different.

I know this for sure since I was in public school for kindergarten and 1st grade – and in 1st grade, when teachers and administrators began to have concerns over what they saw in me, as well as my siblings, my parents shut the door on the world and began homeschooling. Getting diagnosed at a younger age, having supports in place, learning healthy coping mechanisms – yes I definitely believe this would have made a difference. I can truly say I like myself today, though, so I don’t know that I would want to not experience what I experienced because I don’t know who I would be if I hadn’t gone through that.

In conclusion, homeschooling was a mixed bag for me, very much so.

I enjoyed not being held back or slowed down by anyone else, I enjoyed having no homework, and I felt comfortable (translate – safe/understood) being around my siblings. I’ve been told, as an adult by a psychologist who had done a series of IQ tests on me, that homeschooling was actually a very good thing for me in terms of my intellectual development. So I’m grateful for being homeschooled in the sense that it allowed me to really develop my mind.

Emotionally, socially, psychologically, spiritually – homeschooling was extraordinarily damaging. Not knowing how to interact with anyone comfortably that wasn’t from my family, being raised to not trust other people, not having healthy psychological supports in place or anyone in place who could say, “Wait. This is not ok” – that wasn’t good at all. Being able to learn to reach out to people for help has taken years.  And it’s also taken a lot of work. It’s still not easy. Knowing that’s it is ok to feel something other than gratitude for being one of god’s elect was another learning process; the reality that feelings of sorrow, anger, depression, grief, loneliness – these are ok, also they’re normal and they are not sin was definitely not something I was raised with. Most emotions and thoughts were deemed sinful; learning how to first say “sin is man-made, in fact it’s not real” and then say “feelings are feelings, not good or bad unless I want to assign them so”, that also took many years.

If I were a parent, I would not home school my child.

I think we exist as part of a community, a whole, and that community is so much more than a family or small homogenous group.

I think removing the opportunity for children to learn, from a young age, about differences is unacceptable. It stunts growth emotionally, mentally, and socially. I think raising children in rigid, rule-oriented, controlling and judgmental environments is harmful. Not knowing who you are, not being able to develop your own views through experiences and feelings, is not healthy and it leads to damaging behavior and unhealthy practices in adulthood.

I’m not angry or resentful that I was homeschooled; as I mentioned above I like myself and this is a part of who I am. But I can’t in good conscience recommend or advocate for homeschooling.

Two Upcoming Series: Sex Education and Media Memories

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By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

For the first time since we started our topical series, we are going to announce two series at once. If you are interested in writing something, you are welcome to do so for either one (or even both, if you desire).

February Series: Let’s Talk About Sex (Ed)

For many Christian homeschoolers, sex education is one of the top reasons why we were homeschooled — specifically, so that we would either not get any or get a very religious version of it. It remains a motivating factor to this day, which makes sense since “religious or moral instruction” is still the most common reason parents choose to homeschool their children.

For the “Let’s Talk About Sex (Ed)” series, please feel free to submit any stories and thoughts you have about homeschooling and sex ed. Ideas could include (but should be not limited to):

  • What your sex education (or lack thereof) consisted of
  • How better sex education could have helped you
  • How you received a good sex education and how that helped you
  • How you received a bad sex education and how that harmed you
  • What your sex education (or lack thereof) communicated to you about body- and sex-positivity
  • How a lack of sex education kept you silent about abuse
  • Some variation of “What I Wish 16-Year-Old Me Knew About Sex and Sexuality”
  • How sex education (or the lack thereof) that focused only on straight sexuality alienated or harmed you as an LGBT* individual
  • Humorous, embarrassing stories as you went about educating yourself about sex
  • Resources for others on sex education

Deadline for submission for Sex Ed series: Thursday, February 13, 2014.

Please put “For Sex Ed Series” as the title of the email.

As always, you can contribute anonymously or publicly.

If you interested in participating in this, please email us at homeschoolersanonymous@gmail.com.

******

March Series: Media Memories

Being homeschooled makes you part of a cohort. You share a common language and culture with other homeschooled individuals that seems like a foreign language to others outside that cohort. It’s like a variation on the “third culture kid” concept.

As Christian homeschoolers, we also are a part of the larger “American evangelical” cohort. We are the Jesus Freaks: the children of the flannel graph, raised on a healthy diet of Psalty, Veggie Tales, Donut Man, and Carmen.

That culture we were raised in? Many of us (though not all) have mentally burned it to the ground. Yet we find ourselves circling back to where it burned and sifting through the ashes for memories to redeem. Inside that whole culture’s remains — homeschooling in particular, American Christianity in general — we have found solace, peace, and transformation. Maybe you found hope for your depression in Jars of Clay’s Much Afraid; maybe you found stress from the “seriousness” of the church in Veggie Tales; maybe, maybe not.

But for the “Media Memories” series, we want to remember those pieces of media — whether videos (Buttercream Gang, anyone?), music, TV, books, etc. — that were a part of our culture and impacted us deeply. Consider this nostalgia week, basically. Pick something that you loved, or hated (maybe even hated vehemently), or (probably most commonly) have a love/hate relationship with, and talk about it. It can be a song that got you through hard times, a book that helped you break free from the culture, a movie that prompted a new stage in your recovery process — or a creative conspiracy theory about Psalty.

Or even just something you remember lightheartedly with a smile.

Deadline for “Media Memories” submission: Saturday, March 15, 2014.

Please put “For Media Memories Series” as the title of the email.

As always, you can contribute anonymously or publicly.

If you interested in participating in this, please email us at homeschoolersanonymous@gmail.com.

If I Could Wave a Magic Wand: Arachne’s Story

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HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Arachne” is a pseudonym. Arachne blogs at Past, Present, and Future.

A new year is about to start. I am looking forward to it.

This is a new development. I spent years making suicide plans for New Years Eve. The holidays were the worst time of the year for me. That has changed. I survived. I never thought I would, but I did. The hell is over. Gone. Done. I can look forward now and I can be happy. Breathe, even. I guess all the therapy, psychiatric medications, hard decisions, tearful conversations with friends, and general struggles have finally paid off.

I started praying again.

It doesn’t hurt anymore. Of course, my idea of prayer is now very different from what I was raised with. Not so much with the trying to atone for my innumerable sins and the sins of the world. I feel like I have a relationship and connection to Divinity. I am loved and accepted.

I have plenty of anecdotes I could relate. There was the semi-cult at a super traditional Catholic church with a whole gaggle of denim jumper wearing homeschoolers. There was being the eldest child and being female in a strictly patriarchal large family. There was the father who broke the dining table chairs into pieces when he was angry. An emotionally manipulative and unstable mother overwhelmed with the life she believed God commanded her to live. The leather belt they both used. It goes on, but for me, those days are over and those people are no longer in my life. So what comes next?

I don’t know. There’s no plan. It’s terrifying.

If I could wave a magic wand and erase the past, I would.

Trust me. In a heartbeat.  I think about it over and over. What would I have been like if I’d had a decent education? If I hadn’t been abused and controlled by the people who had total power over me, where would I be? Did I ever have a chance at being “normal”? What the fuck is normal? I will never know. At some point, I have to step away and live my life now while accepting who I am and how I was shaped.

There’s only so much I can leave behind, and I’m not saying I’ve moved on. I doubt I ever truly will. I can’t forget my entire childhood. My body is covered in scars from my struggles with self-injury. Depression and anxiety will likely stick with me, even though they are managed now. Catholic guilt fades but doesn’t seem to ever quite go away. There will be many more times when I break down and cry over the past.

All I can do now is figure out how to work with what I have now, and when I take inventory it feels incredible.

I have two wonderful kids who are being raised totally different from how I was, wonderful people in my life, a brain that has some quirky wiring but that still works pretty well, physical health, a spiritual path that has taken me places I never dreamed of going, and so much more.

I have strength. I have freedom.

Don’t let the bastards grind you down.