Autistic and Homeschooled: Isobel’s Story

CC image courtesy of Shade Ardent, sagebrushMoon Studios.

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

I was homeschooled in kindergarten and from fourth through twelfth grades. I was public schooled for first through fourth grade, when my parents and church began to become more cultish. I have been Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) since birth, but my church drifted further and further into Jack Hyles orbit as I grew older. We were also a Quiverfull family who did not put much stress on female education.

I always knew that something was different about me, but could never put my finger on just what it was.

It was so hard to fit in and make friends, whether I was at church or at public school. Home was my reprieve, and I enjoyed being home schooled because I didn’t have the stress of having to interact with people outside the family. What we didn’t know at the time, and wouldn’t know until last year, was that I am autistic. I didn’t get diagnosed until I was 31.

Being autistic actually was somewhat of a protective barrier to the patriarchy and cultishness being preached in the IFB. My lack of eye contact was perceived as being a properly submissive young woman. My quietness was interpreted as me knowing my place. Inside, I was fuming at the way women were treated, but I was never able to explain why it bothered me.

The worst part by far of being homeschooled, IFB, and autistic for me was the extra time that my siblings and I were able to do door to door soul winning. I hated having to talk to strangers. Even though I had a script of what I was supposed to say, I wasn’t able to adjust as the conversation played out, so I was always awkward in my attempts.

The thing I enjoy most about no longer being IFB is the lack of proselytizing.

My favorite part of being home schooled and autistic was being able to indulge my interests. I had a knack for turning my interests into school projects. It was not uncommon for me to write 10-15 page research papers on things that caught my fancy. I made murals of my favorite periods of history and frequently created historical clothes and scenery for my toys as school history projects. I recreated historical technology for science projects. I would never have had this kind of freedom and flexibility in a traditional school setting. I loved every subject except math, mainly because I just could not understand math and no one was available to teach me. I have always learned better from books than from lectures, so home schooling really was the best possible option for me.

Being home schooled allowed me the freedom to control my curriculum and be as prepared as possible for college, even though my church was against females in college. My parents were willing to let me take advanced courses because they knew how much I loved learning, and I was able to balance the home responsibilities of an older Quiverfull daughter with many younger siblings because I could do my school work early in the morning and late at night, when my siblings were in bed.

I have a lot of food-related sensory issues, so being homeschooled allowed me to avoid having to deal with school lunches. I could choose what I wanted to eat from what was available, I could choose when I wanted to eat, and I could eat while doing something else, which effectively allowed me to have enough distractions to be able to tolerate the food. At first, my parents were worried that I was rebelling through food, and I was frequently disciplined for my pickiness, but over time, my parents eventually gave up and let me start cooking I also had some sensory problems with my clothes. So much of what I wore was uncomfortable. Being homeschooled allowed me to wear my ankle-length skirts and loose tops without having to be made fun of. I was also able to keep my three comfortable outfits in constant rotation without having to be made fun of by my peers.

I am grateful to my parents for homeschooling me.

It probably made my life a lot easier than it otherwise would have been. Being raised IFB was not great for me, and has given me a lot to process as I have slowly deconverted to humanism as an adult. I had bought in to the system with all my heart, believing that I was less-than as a woman. I have been slowly gaining my independence and beginning to see myself as an independent person instead of a helpmeet for a future husband. I have also, since my diagnosis six months ago, begun to learn how to work with my brain, using the strategies that were most comfortable for me, many of them learned from trial and error as a homeschooler.

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