Trapped By Homeschooling: Chris’ Story

CC image courtesy of PixabayWokandapix.

Trigger Warning: Discussions of emotional abuse, and descriptions of suicide and suicidal ideation.

Some stories here have recounted the experiences of people who were abused by sadistic parents or brought up in a cult. My own homeschooling narrative is much less severe. There was never any physical or sexual abuse. Religion was not used as a tool to dominate me. What adversity I faced mostly involved being homeschooled for five years by my emotionally unstable mother. She had grown up in poverty and never graduated from college, yet grasped on to homeschooling as a way to join a community and gain some meaning for her isolated life.

My mother wasn’t an evil person.

She and her older sister were raised in a series of apartment complexes by their severely depressed and emotionally abusive alcoholic single mother (my scumbag grandfather had abandoned them to start a new family). Her childhood was unstable, with several new step-fathers coming and going, and one serious suicide attempt by my grandmother. It was in her teenage years that my mother began her history of suicide attempts.

Desperate to leave her broken home, she completed her GED around ages 15-16, and went on to college, where at age 17 she met my father. They married immediately after her 18th birthday. He was several years older than her and not particularly bright or emotionally mature, but he offered the opportunity to escape life with her mother.

Predictably, marriage did not solve her problems.

My parents had totally different personalities and values, and spent the majority of their 20 years of marriage repeating the same fights over and over. But no matter how bad things got, she never considered divorce because their marriage was all she had. She was an emotional dependent.

At age 21 my mother had a stroke after mixing some medication with alcohol, and developed Tourettes syndrome. Crippling anxiety consumed her soon after, isolating her further. The suicide attempts of her adolescence resumed in her mid-20s.

After nine years of marriage I was finally conceived. My mother believed parenthood would be the solution to her problems. For the first three to four years, she seemed to have enjoyed parenting. But by age five I started to become too headstrong for her to manage easily.

My parents constantly disagreed over disciplinary measures.

This led to frequent fights. My father disagreed with her strict parenting. My mother was frustrated over his lack of any real involvement or contribution to parenting beyond criticizing her. After one argument (I must have been seven or eight) she said she was done and left. She came back the next morning.

Anxiety over her Tourettes syndrome finally began to break my mother and she quit her job to start parenting full-time. My younger sister was born almost five years after me. Mom started homeschooling my sister after her fifth birthday. That same year, just starting the 4th grade, I was pulled out of the private catholic school I attended (we were poor, but my paternal grandparents were willing to pay for my tuition). One of the students had ‘stabbed’ (probably poked) another with a pencil and a few mothers,
including mine, overreacted by pulling their children out of the school.

The next five years were hell for both of us.

For the first month I wasn’t taught anything. Eventually my mother began to meet and befriend other homeschooling parents, bought several christian textbooks, and put me and my sister into a co-op.

For the majority of my homeschooling education, character building and disciplining took precedence over any actual learning. Lessons were frequently interrupted because she didn’t like a particular tone of voice I used, or because I looked exasperated.

I had developed sleep apnea as a child due to a deviated septum and recessed lower jaw (I had needed braces for an overbite, which my mother decided against getting me). As a result by age ten I began to experience sleep deprivation and social anxiety. Every morning I would wake up and begin my lessons while dealing with congestion and headaches. As you would expect, children with sleep-deficits can be very irritable, and my mother and I began to bicker constantly.

My mother wasn’t perceptive enough to recognize these underlying issues, and instead assumed my problems stemmed from seasonal allergies and personality defects like obstinance or lack of motivation.

She referred to any display of irritability as ‘attitude’ for which I received consistently ineffectual punishments (spanking, grounding, loss of privileges). Unable to deter me from what she saw as misbehavior, we often fought until lessons for the day could no longer continue and I had to be sent to my room and grounded.

One time she took away my ‘TV privileges’ for a week after I failed to comply with her demand that I suppress any ‘attitude’ during a lesson. I was still unable to hide my aggravation (meaning my face had an angry expression), and after a couple more bitter exchanges I was banned from watching any TV for a full year.

Sometimes my father tried to negotiate down whatever punishment she had decided on.

But he had never wanted children, and expected my mother to perform all child-rearing duties. At the same time he constantly disagreed with her approach to parenting. Her personality was always much stronger than his, so she usually won these arguments. Neither of them had any communication skills, and they were never able to come to any kind of mutual understanding. These were two people who never should have married, let alone had children.

At age eleven I began to experience suicidal ideation, and openly expressed my desire to kill myself. My mother brought a friend from church to pray over me, but the issue was kept quiet after that and never addressed.

Our hostilities rapidly increased during the last two years of her life.

She developed a tolerance for the antidepressants she had been taking, and became an emotional wreck as a result. We tried to avoid each other as much as possible. From this point on (ages 12-14) I was expected to assume responsibility for my own education, while she would infrequently check how far I had progressed into my mathematics workbook. To avoid having to deal with me too often, she placed me in various athletic and religious programs (including the boy scouts) which filled my schedule for most of the week. Our mutual disposition toward one another remained icy.

Near the end of her life she began to rely on humiliation as a tool to discipline me.

In one instance I was made to attend my swim practice (an instructor offered lessons at a local community center) but sit outside the pool for the duration of the class, a consequence for my having disrespected her in some way. Another time she tried to shame me for my recalcitrant attitude by involving my friend’s parents in my disciplining. As with the ban on TV, none of these punishments were ever effective and only worsened our relationship. Her failure to find an effective way to discipline me only increased her frustration.

She eventually discovered that she could exert a measure of control over me by threatening to place me into a public school. I had become incredibly shy, even compared to many of my other homeschooled peers, and she would often deride me for this. It is probably the greatest shame I hold as a homeschooler that I was terrified at the thought of being sent to a public school and having all of my shortcomings (educational, social, physical) exposed to my more secular peers. But she never attempted to carry out any of these threats.

Another serious contributor to our inability to get along was her belief in the obligation of a child to provide emotional support for her/his parents.

She expected me to be a loyal, loving son and friend. She wanted me to be generous, selfless, and religiously devout. Failing to display these qualities invited her frustration and scorn. Instead of meeting her expectations I often displayed a childish selfishness which reminded her of my grandmother.

I wasn’t surprised to learn in recent years that my mother’s emotional dependence on her children paralleled her own relationship with my grandmother. Mom was able to fulfill the role of supportive daughter to my grandmother, and she expected me to serve her in the same duty. In her eyes my inability to do so reflected my poor character.

She became more explosive and vindictive during her final months, and my father asked me if I wanted them to get a divorce.

I said yes. Unfortunately shortly thereafter my mother’s mental state reached a point where divorce was no longer an option. One day she told me she had had enough and left. She was hospitalized later that night after driving into a tree. She came back from the hospital and told me I had “one more chance”. She was often cryptic like this, and it wasn’t until after her death that I came to realize she had been threatening me with her
suicide for months before she finally succeeded in going through with it.

As was inevitable, I spoke or acted out in someway that offended her, and so she ceased speaking with me for the last few weeks of her life (she did continue educating my younger sibling during this time). One day after her 41st birthday she left the house to make her final suicide attempt, a drug overdose.

Her comatose body was eventually recovered from a distant park.

As she lay in the hospital I remember praying to God, begging him to end her life. I hated her completely. On Sunday, our pastor asked the entire congregation to pray for my mother’s recovery. The following Tuesday, she finally perished after two weeks in a coma. I had only recently turned 14.

Her control over my education finally ended after five years, during which time I had received little to no science, geography, language, or history education. What I was lucky enough to get consisted of badly taught christian math lessons from VHS tapes + worksheets and the literature I was allowed to read while confined to my room.

For several years the gaps in my education had been visible to many in the community.

Most of my other homeschooled friends and their parents had noted and even joked about my ignorance. Little was done about it, no one in the community had suggested my mother give up homeschooling. To them it was a religious vocation, primarily centered on an evangelical moral education. Since in their eyes I was a ‘good christian’ and relatively well-adjusted, my mother must have been performing her duties sufficiently. I suspect she was aware of her failings as an educator, and this likely reinforced her  resolve to commit suicide.

Because of the circumstances of her death, I received little to no support.

No one in the homeschooling community ever acknowledged the cause of her death. My mother’s family (grandmother aunt, cousins) never admitted to her flaws or the harm she did, causing a rift between us. My father’s family were all too preoccupied with their own problems to have any involvement in my life. My widowed father coped by becoming a drug addict.

Mom’s suicide spurred my rapid exit from Christianity. I was an atheist by the end of the year (this was in the mid-2000s when atheism dominated the internet). During this time I lost every friend I had. Most of the people I knew in the homeschooling community disappeared because I left fundamentalist christianity. I compulsively severed relationships with all of my closest friends due to the trauma, shame and isolation I felt over my mother’s suicide. Insecurities relating to my physical appearance, lack of social skills, and failed education also contributed to my sense of alienation. Isolating myself offered me the only sense of control I had ever felt over my own life. There was some irony to this, since my mother’s death had already basically emancipated me from any adult supervision/parenting/guidance.

Somehow I was allowed by my relatives to ‘homeschool’ myself for nearly a year before my local I.S.D. finally discovered my existence and sent someone to my house.

Eventually I was enrolled into the nearest highschool where I was able to complete my diploma. Unfortunately this was an inner-city school, and I was passed through without being adequately prepared for college. During that time I slept 14 hours a day and was too emotionally damaged to form relationships with other people or think seriously about my future.

I enrolled in a local community college with no clear idea of what I wanted to do, or even whether I wanted to go on living. By some fluke I was able to score just high enough on the SAT to avoid the need for remedial classes, despite having been too dysfunctional to do any studying.

It was in college that I discovered just how incomplete my education had been.

I was unaware of several basic rules of algebra and barely passed my math courses (I even had to drop a STEM mathematics course for one less rigorous). My science education suffered immensely as a result. A STEM major was out of the question and I realized I would need to switch to a liberal arts degree to maintain an acceptable GPA. I took summer classes and quickly completed my college degree plan, moving on to university as severely depressed agoraphobe who still had no real purpose or direction in his life.

My depression, traumatic stress, physical insecurities, and previously mentioned sleeping issues eventually became too much for me to bear. I dropped out of university and became trapped in a cycle of depression and suicide attempts for the next 5 years. I am now in my mid-20s with no degree or job.

Reading the other stories here I’ve come to realize how lucky I was.

My parents were only moderately pious by comparison to most of the other homeschooling families I grew up around. I was spared any sexual or physical abuse. Because my mother took her own life I was at least able to acquire a diploma and be freed of her psychological abuse. I have also had plenty of emotional support from my younger sibling, who has gone on to have a meaningful life. Out of guilt my father allowed me to live at home for these past few years, so homelessness was never a risk.

My mother was not mentally fit to be a competent parent, let alone homeschool her children. But thanks to the activism of predominantly wealthy, suburban parents, often organized around ultraconservative religious ideologies, the state I live in (Texas) offers zero oversight to homeschoolers.

It is exactly that oversight which could have protected parents like mine from themselves and guaranteed their children the right to an education.

Had some government mechanism existed to check my educational progress, my mother might have been deterred from taking up homeschooling. This may not have solved all of my problems, but without a doubt it would have immeasurably improved my life today.

Why This Simone Biles Homeschool Success Meme Is Disrespectful to Homeschool Alumni (And Simone Biles)

Editorial Note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on August 15, 2016.

Edited by Wende Benner, HA Editorial Staff.

Meme features picture of Simone Biles with this text: But how will homeschooled kids ever compete in the real world? 

 Pretty well, I guess.

Speaking as a homeschool alumna, this meme is disrespectful to homeschool alumni—including Simone Biles—for a multitude of reasons. And yet, it’s being shared by homeschool parents across Facebook as a way to show how awesome and amazing homeschooling is. For years now, I and other alumni have been calling attention to problems in the homeschool world—children left unprepared, young adults struggling—and for years we’ve been poo-pooed and talked over by homeschool parents who would prefer to share self-righteous memes like the one above than to talk about the actual issues homeschool alumni face. You know what? I’m not letting this one slide.

First of all, Simone Biles—pictured in the above meme—didn’t want to be homeschooled. Not only that, when she actually was homeschooled—a decision she cried over—she hated it. That’s right, she hated being homeschooled.

First, look at this excerpt from an article:

To advance to the elite level and be on that cover, [Simone Biles would] have to be homeschooled, Nellie told her. There would be no prom, no after-school activities, no hanging with classmates. The decision was hers. After a weekend of crying, she told her parents she would do it. ‘I was just so lonely all the time,’ Simone says. ‘I missed, like, all my friends at school and stuff. But I mean, in the end, it worked out.’

Next, watch this excerpt from an interview.

Can you see how holding Biles up as the poster-child of homeschool success might be a bad idea? Biles was homeschooled because she had to be to compete at an Olympic level in her sport, not because she wanted to be homeschooled and not because she liked being homeschooled. Indeed, Biles “hated” being homeschooled and missed her active social life and the experiences her peers had in public high school. If she hadn’t been an Olympic-quality athlete, she never would have been homeschooled.

There’s another issue, too. Biles isn’t competing in “the real world” mentioned in the meme. She’s competing in the Olympics. Only a very small fraction of athletes make it to the Olympics, and their shelf life tends to be short—most gymnasts don’t attend the Olympics more than twice, if that. I’m as proud of Biles’ success as everyone else! I’ve watched her incredible floor routine with my jaw hanging open more than once this week. She’s amazing. But when people ask whether homeschool graduates will be able to compete in “the real world” they’re not talking about Olympics—and when 99.99% of homeschool graduates enter “the real world” they’re entering a very very different world from that currently occupied by Simone Biles.

I was homeschooled from kindergarten through high school. I have many friends who were also homeschooled. I know homeschool alumni who went to MIT, and homeschool alumni who have struggled with homelessness. I know homeschool alumni who are earning good, stable incomes, and homeschool alumni who are jumping from minimum wage job to minimum wage job trying to find something that works. I know homeschool alumni who have gone on to graduate school, and homeschool alumni who have struggled with applications to community college. I know homeschool alumni who hate academic learning, after years of filling out mindless worksheets at the kitchen table, and homeschool alumni who thrive on academic learning, having grown up with innovative, rich academic experiences.

When it comes to homeschool alumni, there is no one result. Pointing to specific homeschool success stories while ignoring homeschool alumni who are in jail, struggling with addiction, or homeless is incredibly disrespectful to those alumni. It’s also disrespectful to homeschool alumni struggling to pay for community college, desperately afraid they’re going to be fired from yet another minimum wage job, or barely staving off eviction and fearful about what their future looks like without the most basic of educational qualifications, not to mention an extreme feeling of social otherness and, in too many cases, oft-lurking depression.

Are there individuals who attended public school who experience all of the above? Absolutely! But we acknowledge that. We admit that our public schools are failing some children, and that some schools are failing more children than others. We don’t point to prominent successful individuals who graduated from public schools—Hillary Clinton, or Steve Jobs—and act like this proves something. Instead, we admit that experiences vary, and we put in hard work to improve the experiences of public school students who are being left behind.

Can homeschooling work? Yes. Can homeschooling fail? Yes! Does Simone Biles’ Olympic success tell us anything about the “real world” success of homeschoolers as a group? Absolutely not. It has now been almost four decades since the beginning of the modern homeschool movement in the late 1970s. What do actually we know about homeschooling? A lot, and almost nothing.

We know that homeschooled children can succeed, but we don’t know how homeschooled students score academically on average, and there are to-date no studies on homeschool outcomes that use random samples rather than recruiting volunteers. We know that homeschooled students score slightly better than public school students on the SAT, particularly in reading, but we also know that a surprisingly small number of homeschooled students actually take the SAT—less than 10%. Studies of homeschooled students’ college performance are mixed, some showing higher GPAs and some showing more ambiguity, but even studies with positive findings point to other concerning statistics—there are fewer homeschool alumni in college than there ought to be, and they are less likely than other students to pursue STEM fields than other students. There’s a math gap. There’s also a gendered achievement gap. And there’s a lot we still don’t know.

But homeschooling parents don’t want to talk about any of this. They’d rather talk about Simone Biles. And on some level, who wouldn’t? Celebrating a success story is far more pleasant than putting in the real work necessary to ensure that students don’t fall under the radar and disappear, only to surface later with deficient educations and a future full of dead ends. As for me, I’m here for the students who have no one rooting for them. I stand with my fellow homeschool alumni, and I’m not giving up.

I Was Meant To Be An Arrow

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Grufnik.

Editorial note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kieryn Darkwater’s blog. It was originally published on July 12, 2016.

We would scoff at the idea that people wanted to have well-rounded educated children. I was meant to be an arrow to pierce the darkness and pop all the well-rounded bubbles. << actually a thing that was said.

I watched the news nightly from the time I was 8, I listened to Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingram and Sean Hannity religiously as a teenager. I saw Bill O’reilly speak, Ralph Reed recognized me and said hello at TeenPact. I went to a video conference that Newt Gingrich did, I attend the FRC Action convention with TeenPact twice, I met Bobby Jindal, Zell Miller, and Sonny Perdue knew who I was. I had a name in the Republican circles in GA. I campaigned for countless religious right candidates. My first sign waving venture was during the 2004 election and I caught the bug. I spent time in local campaign offices putting together phone banking scrips that worked really well, I traveled and campaigned for people in Alabama, Florida, Virginia, and New Hampshire – as well as being thoroughly involved in the political scene in Georgia.

My blog was relatively well known – as well known as a teenager’s commentary on politics can be, anyway. I lived and breathed political activism from the time I was 13 until I was just shy of 18 when the burnout set in.

Politics is interesting where it overlaps with religion – and sexism, and gender roles. I’ve talked a bit about TeenPact and the sexism and queerphobia there is just as rampant in the republican party. My political involvement was a bit of a paradox. On one hand it was the only thing that was encouraged besides being a homemaker and I latched on to it for dear life. On the other, we acknowledged that a woman’s place was not in politics unless it was under a man in some way, so my activity was limited to ensure I was always under some kind of male authority – training to be a political helpmeet (my husband or son(s) could be the president someday, after all).

I am keenly aware of the amount of hate and fear of others that runs rampant in the christian conservative-republican communities. I was inundated by messages from all sides that being queer, liberal, compassionate, and seeing The Others as just as human as we are was wrong. Damning, even.

I was told by every authority figure to fear anyone who was different from what I was, what we were. The lack of compassion never set well with me, but I had nothing to compare it to. It was all I knew. I was warned of being too learned, too knowledgeable, too educated lest I become one of those man-hating feminazis. We shunned education in favor of the blissful ignorance paraded as enlightenment by right-wing pundits and preachers.

There wasn’t really a dramatic turning point. The burnout happened when I was close to 18 while my legs were infected and I couldn’t keep up physically or emotionally because life in general was taking it’s toll. I dropped out of politics and into relative obscurity – I was married, so it was expected. Quietly re-evaluating the things that were important to me while working really hard to be the kind of wife I was supposed to be (until self-acceptance became a thing and our relationship was healthier for it).

I wasn’t raised to be an independent person. My mother literally said, of my independence and desire for it “what do you think God thinks of that?!” I was 17 and a half and just stared at her blankly, and quietly mumbled something along the lines of “I think he’s probably okay with it?”. I was raised to obey whoever is above me, it’s something I’m still trying to un-learn.

While campaigning, I wasn’t campaigning for things I truly believed in because I wasn’t allowed to have my own beliefs, I was campaigning along the Paulino Party Lines – because that was accepted and encouraged. As long as I followed the rules, campaigned for those my parents approved of, and didn’t get any independent thoughts in my head, I was free to travel for short periods of time and feel like I was making a difference.

Toxic religion and conservatism permeated every fiber of my existence and my very confused and hyper closeted self. Being told day in and day out that you’re wrong for not being X or Y enough, burying all the thoughts and feelings that don’t line up with what you’re supposed to be…ignoring the things that feel wrong because technically they’re right. I learned that politics is corrupt as fuck and the GOP isn’t better than anyone else, and the reason they can organize and come out in droves is because they use hate and fear as their motivators.

Over time I reclaimed my independence, and I couldn’t let fear and hate dictate my actions anymore. I accepted that the person I am and the person I am becoming is the opposite of the person I was supposed to be. I am everything I was supposed to be fighting against.

Here I am, 2016, actively working to make the world better, to be an arrow to pierce the darkness, to bring light and compassion and empathy into the world any way that I can.

They succeeded, I suppose, just not in the way they meant to.

I Was Raised To Be A Conservative Culture Warrior. Then I Jumped The Political Fence.

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Grufnik.

Editorial note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog. It was originally published on July 11, 2016.

I grew up in a conservative homeschool family and religious community firmly ensconced in the Christian Right. I was raised to be a culture warrior. I was raised to create change, to be a mover and a shaker. But only for the conservative side of things, of course, and there’s the rub, because I’m no longer conservative. My mother recently told me she thinks I should write historical children’s books—she’s always suggesting careers that she thinks would allow me to work from home and homeschool my children—but she had a caveat. “Just so long as you leave religion and politics out of them,” she said. I almost laughed out loud.

As a young teenager, I enjoyed writing fiction, including historical fiction. The story I developed most fully was set in the present. It was about a teenage boy who finds an island off the coast of the United States. In my story, this island is inhabited—I’m not even kidding—by a community of large conservative Christian homeschooling families that fled the wickedness of the United States to establish a secret colony of sorts on an island that had somehow never landed on people’s maps. I cringe when I think of the book, because its content consists primarily of painfully obvious religious and political platitudes.

Still, there was a reason the book looked like that. I was raised to change the world. I was explicitly taught that I, and my fellow Christian homeschoolers, had a mission to “retake” the United States for Christ. I was taught (by Michael Farris of the Home School Legal Defense Association, among others) that our parents were the Moses generation, taking us out of Egypt and homeschooling us in the wilderness, and that we were the Joshua generation, tasked with retaking the promised land. When Farris founded Patrick Henry College, he strategically chose the majors he did so that we, the products of the Christian homeschool movement, could infiltrate and target key areas of government and culture in our battle to remake the country in a Christian image.

My parents were political as far back as I can remember. I walked in more parades than I can count, put up yard signs, worked the polls, attended rallies, and staffed phone banks. I spoke with reporters and we ran campaigns out of our home. My parents counted my work on various political campaigns for high school government credit on my homeschool transcript. One year, I was a delegate at our state convention for the Republican Party. Conservative officials at the state capital started referring to us as their local welcoming committee, because we were always there ready to show our support when they visited our area. I assumed I would always be in politics, most likely as the wife of a political candidate.

This was not accidental. My mother sometimes told me that the reason she and my father weren’t out changing the world as missionaries, pastors, or politicians was that they were instead investing their time and energies in raising me and my burgeoning collection of younger siblings to do those things. We were to go out and change the world as missionaries, pastors, and politicians, with multiplied impact. But we had to be trained and prepared first, and that, of course, was why we were being homeschooled. Some of my siblings grumbled at this expectation, and checked out at an early age—though they were still required to attend functions and participate in political activism. Me? I was excited. I was motivated. I was passionate.

As a teen, I attended a number of conservative summer camps that touched on politics. I went to one anti-government summer camp that consisted primarily of lectures on the evils of environmentalism (a trumped up plot to control the world) and the failed socialism of programs like Social Security. We used pebbles to form slogans like “Get the U.S. out of the U.N.” on the ground outside of our cabins to gain cabin inspection points. I also attended Constitutional Law Camp at Patrick Henry College. At one point during a session, Farris pointed to various sections of the room, waving his hands over us, and declared that those students over there would be Congressmen, someday, and those up in the front would be Supreme Court Justices, and so on. The messianic vision was strong and our mission was clear.

It does something to you, when the weight of the world is put on your shoulders. You can no longer just stand back and let things happen. You feel responsible to fix injustice and actively work to make the world a better place.

At this point, you can probably see why I almost laughed out loud when my mother suggested that I write historical children’s books, but only if I included no mention of religion or politics. She would never have suggested such a thing to me when I was a teen, nor would I have considered it if she had. I did think about writing, sometimes, even about writing historical fiction, but my writing would have been religious and political of necessity. I was taught, after all, that I was to use my talents and skills to change the world—to win converts and to sway the public, to restore the United States to its (at least partially fictional) Christian, small-government past. To write a piece of fiction, especially historical fiction, without any mention of religion or politics would have been almost blasphemous.

In 2008, the Obama campaign somehow ended up with my parents’ home phone number. I was no longer living at home, but it’s theoretically possible that I may have put that phone number on a form I filled out with them. I got a cell phone comparatively late, and was still in college at the time. And so it happened that the Obama campaign called my parents’ home and asked for me. And that is how my parents learned that my politics had changed. In the eight years since then I’ve become increasingly willing to voice my progressive politics on social media, and, sometimes, in conversations with my parents. I’ve also informed my parents that I attend a Unitarian Universalist Church (I wouldn’t have told them, except that they had to keep asking about church attendance).

It seems my parents’ desire that I be a culture changer was conditional on my sharing their view of what our culture should be. I’m not surprised, really. Still, it’s fascinating to see it laid out that way—we know we raised you to be a culture changer, but now that you’re all progressive and such, we’d prefer that you stay silent on religious and political issues, thanks. I’m sorry, but it doesn’t work that way.

I still have the weight of the world on my shoulders. I still feel responsible to fix injustice and actively work to make the world a better place. I can’t just turn that off.

Republicanity (Or, When Politics Is Your Religion): Savannah’s Story

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Grufnik.

TW: Religious/Political Indoctrination, Religious Trauma, Fundamentalist Politics, Cults, Slut-Shaming, Abortion.

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

“A liberal Christian is an oxymoron.” The sentence garnered applause and amens from Baptist churchgoers in suburban Georgia. Like many Southern Baptist churches, mine was primarily composed of staunch Tea Party conservatives, people whose pastime was gossiping about Obama’s birth certificate, the liberal media’s war on Christians, and homosexuals shoving their lifestyle down our throats. Whatever the preacher said the Bible said about a particular issue was what our beliefs must align to. Forget thinking it through for yourself if the conclusion you’d come to differed from the platforms of McCain in 2008 or Romney in 2012.

Here, political conservatism and true Christianity were inseparable—indistinguishable.

I can’t remember the preacher going more than two sermons without bringing up some hot conservative topic. The liberals want to kill unborn babies. The liberals want to jail men for acting on their natural desires when a slut prances around them with her tits out. The liberals want to squash Christians’ free speech and arrest us for calling out sin. He pointed to cases like lawsuits brought forth by same-sex couples that were refused services. How the media and internet vilified the poor business owner just trying to practice her beliefs in peace. How she could go to jail for her faith.

All of it proof that the era in which we’d enjoyed the luxury of a persecution-free life in America was coming to a terrifying close.

I remember being taken to a walk-through drama in sixth grade. The theme, “End Times.” It wasn’t particularly political, which, looking back on it now, was rather unusual for the denomination—and the topic. I don’t remember much about this drama (it was traumatic for a number of reasons), but I do recall that in this near-future, fictional but supposedly soon to be non-fiction setting, Christians were being slaughtered. I saw one actress play a young woman who stole bread from a garbage can because Christians were not allowed to buy food. She was discovered, and given a choice, just like all the others: abandon her faith—conform—or die. The stage lights went out as we heard a gunshot and her scream.

This was where we were headed, my pastor said. If we continued to let the liberal world win, it would come sooner—but if we resisted, we might be able to push it off long enough for us, and our children, to live in peace.

This was our culture war, and our side of the fight was not only divinely sanctioned, but vital to our own survival. The trademark of a cult is an aversion to the outside world. We and only we are your friends. We keep you safe.

Everyone else is the enemy. Everyone else will kill you.

Many places foster this mentality, but this church’s (and I have no doubt that many churches share this idea) was doubly potent. While failing to comply with the liberal world could result in being declared a bigot—or, if the world kept going to shit, death—rejection of conservative Christian principles had a much more serious consequence. The strong stance of anti-abortion, anti-LGBT rights, and pro-everything Republican was much more than a political alignment or a voting guideline.

It was delivered to us by God’s spokespeople, the pastors and spiritual leaders of our time, and to disagree with it was to disagree with God himself.

Over the span of many years, I heard more messages than I can count about what constituted a “true” Christian. Most of the characteristics on the list involved some kind of community service, particularly volunteer work with Christian non-profits or within the church itself. However, the one thing that was always consistent—and perhaps most important—was an adherence to conservative values. One could not be a “true” Christian if one did not hold to these.

A person who called themselves a Christian and held even one liberal political view was misguided at best, but more likely a fraud.

Oft-repeated passages that referred to false believers as “goats” or “tares,” and phrases like “going through the motions,” served to further cement the idea that failure to conform to the conservative ideal was a prime indicator of one’s placement on the path to Hell.

As I grew up and branched out of the sheltered homeschool world, I was met with things that challenged the political views that were beaten into me as a requirement for Heaven—and this experience terrified me. At times it made me suicidal.

I was not only worried about maintaining my acceptance by the cult (when a group convinces you that everyone outside the group wants to kill you, you believe that acceptance by the group is essential to survival), but also about the fact that I now was drifting down the road to damnation.

The more progressive the world gets, the fiercer conservatism-worshiping Christianity lashes out. The cults grow tighter. The bigots come out in full force, and become leaders within the pack.

Some adults may genuinely believe that the rest of the world is out to persecute them, and the rest may just be bigots, but children—children are oblivious. Innocent. Children are told what to believe and they believe it until they learn to question when they are older, if at all. When you tell a young child that a certain kind of person wants to kill them, they do not have the ability to think it through and weigh the evidence. They simply trust you.

I cannot speak for all people raised in such an environment. While I learned to abandon my conservative ideas in favor of what I thought was right (which will never include discriminating against any kind of person), I’ve mostly kept my faith—and reconciling these two things is nigh impossible. I still have panic attacks. I’m still afraid.

It’s been three years since I left the cult, but I’m still suffering.

Rallies and Reason: Nastia’s Story

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Grufnik.

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

I often tell people that the three most important subjects to study are math, physics, economics.  Math gives you a logical mindset.  Physics allows you to understand the natural world.  Economics allows you to understand people and the social fabric that makes up a human civilization.  All other academic topics – perhaps with the exception of basic language and literacy – stem from these.  Physicists are keen to point out that chemistry, biology, and engineering are applications of physics.  Likewise, history and other social sciences are largely founded on economics.  

While this was never an assertion made by my parents, it is unsurprising that I have developed this point of view.

Throughout my homeschooling years, economic principles served as the basis for in-depth studies of history, government, politics, and current events, just as physics and math were the foundation for our science curriculum.  In middle school, my brother and I – with supplemental explanations from our mother – worked through Teaching Company courses on basic economics, the great economists, and the economic history of the 20th century during long car rides to ballet classes.  We argued about the Invisible Hand and Keynesianism, parsing difficult language slowly and gradually building a repertoire of arguments and scenarios.  It was an invaluable lesson in cause and effect.  My mother would often stop the cassette and we would analyze case studies, working out problems verbally and then resuming the course to see if we had come to the same conclusions as our professor.  

It makes me laugh now to remember my sibling and me, at ten and twelve, carpooling with friends who had no idea what GDP was or why we were so passionately discussing it.  

This approach to learning was a cornerstone of my education and the aspect I am most excited to talk about now.  I want to stress how extremely privileged I was to grow up in this environment; at the same time, I feel that this is a successful homeschooling model that should be encouraged in our community.

My parents both have multiple higher degrees – my mother a Bachelor’s in economics and an M.B.A; my father, a Master’s in engineering and an M.D.  Thus, critical thinking and building evidence-based arguments were highly stressed from an early age.  At no point did my education feel like indoctrination.  There were times we disagreed with our course materials, and times we disagreed with each other.  Intellectual honesty was paramount and lively debate was encouraged.  

This was reflected in our approach to politics.

Of course, my views were shaped by those of my parents, but they worked hard to provide evidence for why these views were credible.  Of my own volition, I read extensively from a wide variety of sources – everything from Saul Alinksy’s Rules for Radicals to the Federalist Papers.  An enthusiast of both Russian music and anything related to space travel, the Soviet Union was particularly fascinating to me; it is largely because of my studies of that regime, which my grandfather escaped, that led me to lean more towards libertarianism than my conservative homeschooling peers (or even my parents).  

While I remember both the 2000 and 2004 elections (I was five and nine, respectively), the 2008 election was the first in which I understood the issues at hand.  Naturally, we were conservative Republicans, though not particularly active in politics.  However, many of our homeschooled friends were.  It was one of them (whose father was involved in the campaign of a local candidate) who invited us to join them at one of the first Tea Party rallies in our area.  We attended a few of them, waving signs and marching with thousands of others.  At no point did my parents compel me or my sibling to participate; rather, we were more likely to petition for a day off school to explore this new and exciting world of politics.

Whatever controversy surrounded them, I have only pleasant memories of the Tea Party rallies I attended.

It was an excellent way for me to voice my opinions and try out my somewhat newfound political savvy.  I think it pleased my parents to hear me discuss and debate with fellow Tea Partiers as well as the counterprotesters that inevitably showed up; my sibling and I had vehemently turned down their suggestion that we join the homeschool debate team, so this was a rare opportunity for exposure to differing views.  These events also gave us all a sense of belonging – in my very left-wing city, conservatives tend to lay low, and it was comforting to feel that there were others who held the same principles that we did.  Furthermore, as a young teenager far from voting age, it gave me a way to be involved and feel like I was making a difference in events.  It was of great frustration to me that I couldn’t actively participate in the process I had studied so much about, but at least I could make my voice heard.  

In August of 2010, my family attended the Restoring Honor rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial – perhaps the pinnacle event of the Tea Party movement.  It was exhilarating.  We had traveled cross-country to Washington, D.C. with two other homeschooling families whose children were close friends of mine.  We camped out overnight on the National Mall, where in the morning, tens (perhaps hundreds – the number is highly disputed) of thousands gathered to listen to Tea Party leaders talk about politics, values, and faith.  It felt like we were a part of history, and besides that, everyone we talked with felt like an instant friend.  Coming from an environment where politics was not discussed outside the family simply because it would inevitably lead to conflict, this was profoundly affirming.

Looking back now, I can’t help feeling somewhat ambivalent.  It was all a very emotionally-driven experience.  While I still agree with most of the principles that we fought for – I remain a constitutionalist and favor laissez-faire economic policies – I realize now that most issues are not as black-and-white as they seemed back then.  When reading my old journals, I cringe at how awkward, underdeveloped, and often painfully naïve my views were.  (Then again, so was I – a quirky teen trying to fit into a world that I wasn’t old enough to fully contribute to.)

Since then, my experiences in community college and university have also caused my views to shift significantly towards social libertarianism, a “live and let live” philosophy that would make many of my fellow evangelicals uncomfortable.  I have made close friends with people of different ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, and gender identities.  As a bioengineer, the improved health of marginalized groups and developing nations has been a focus of my higher education, and female representation in science has been a goal of my volunteer activities.  These developments have lead me to be more aware of the people I align myself with.  Especially as many of the people involved with the Tea Party have recently gone in directions that I can’t support, I have felt disillusioned with the Republican party and significant aspects of the conservative movement.

Despite my current position as an outsider to movement politics, I still credit my involvement in the Tea Party as a beneficial experience that imparted in me an interest in politics and commitment to values.  It’s something I’ve learned from and outgrown, rather than discarded.  Perhaps in contrast to many homeschoolers, the most important thing I took away from my political involvement was the importance of critical thinking, summed up aptly be Thomas Jefferson:

“Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blind-folded fear.”

It’s a lesson that has served me well as a researcher and as a citizen.  It’s become my personal mission, to sort fact from fiction and seek the truth, even when it’s complex and goes against my presumptions.  It’s caused me to constantly reevaluate my knowledge, my faith, and my relationships, and back up my conclusions with reputable evidence.  In the meantime, debates with my mother about the future of the GOP and late-night discussions of economics with my father remain grounding pieces of my life.  In an education style that often results in indoctrination and control, it is a massive credit to my parents that both my sibling and I came away with a scientist’s obsession with logical reasoning.

I Grew Into A Culture Warrior: Lauren Wood’s Story

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Grufnik.

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

When I saw the call for stories about homeschool families and politics, I immediately thought of the article “I Lost My Dad to Fox News.” As a person who likes to stay politically informed as a result of my upbringing, I don’t often trust Salon, but that article echoed many of my feelings towards my own father.

Before I can continue, it’s helpful to understand that, as a kid, I had a lot of anxiety, which follows me to this day. While I attribute some of my anxiety to my deep-seated fears about the wooden rod with which my parents spanked us, I’m not a psychologist and can’t say for sure if that was the cause. I did attend a small, fundamentalist high school because my mom recognized that she couldn’t teach things like chemistry and algebra, but my parents still held many of the homeschooling circle’s beliefs, such as courtship.

The first time I can remember an awareness of politics in my family was the pro-life march that our Southern Baptist church organized every October.

Perhaps it was called the Mile for Life, but I believe my first appearance was as a seven-year- old.

Basically, we formed a long line down the main street in my hometown with signs with slogans like ABORTION KILLS CHILDREN, ABORTION KILLS WOMEN, and I can’t recall the others. It scared me deeply to think that thousands of people in my own hometown were killing babies. I didn’t know about sex until at least nine or ten, and considering that there was no abortion clinic in my county (and I believe there’s only one in my state), this fostered a deep paranoia that millions of babies were being killed all around me for some inexplicable reason. I also didn’t understand why women were supposedly dying too. So even though I didn’t want to go, I was very scared about all this death, and I did hope that maybe my sign might convince someone not to kill a woman or child. Refusing to attend the Mile for Life would have absolutely warranted a spanking, because defiance was the quickest way to the rod.

My dad often listened to Rush Limbaugh in the car, and watched the usual cast of FOX and co. When the Gore/Bush election happened, I heard a lot about a conspiracy called global warming, and how Gore would destroy America. Again, I was terrified. I didn’t want my whole country to be devastated. The nail-biting voter counts in Florida were all I heard about, and I sat on the edge of my seat hearing about it, petrified that a single vote would destroy the nation.

A few years later, I also learned that a few states were allowing men to marry men, and women to marry women. I didn’t have the vocabulary for the word “lesbian” or “bisexual”, but I did hear about homosexuals, and my only exposure to that “lifestyle” was from the pulpit of First Baptist. My pastor taught that homosexuals hated God, the nuclear family, and America.

I had no idea why, and I didn’t consider myself “homosexual” because I was not an adult, I didn’t hate God, and I didn’t America.

The thought that I was gay never crossed my mind. Rush Limbaugh said that homosexuals would lead to America’s destruction just like the fall of Rome, as Rush Limbaugh said, and it scared me. Slowly, I began to realize in middle school that it was not in fact acceptable for me to want to hold a girl’s hand or kiss her.

While homeschooled, I learned that evolution and global warming were liberal conspiracies. I learned to fear liberals and how they wanted to destroy my family.

I learned that even though racism didn’t exist, except possibly reverse racism, I was probably not ever supposed to date a black man.

I spent a long time on message boards (probably due to my lack of interaction with other kids) arguing for conservative politics so that they wouldn’t become liberal leaders and run the country into the ground, similarly to how many former fundies express a need to witness to everyone so that they don’t go to Hell. In some areas, that wasn’t too difficult due to the amount of sheer racism and misogyny on the internet. It was always nice to meet other people who agreed that reverse racism was definitely a huge issue and feminists were evil.

Like many homeschool children, I repeatedly heard the phrase “Honor your father and mother, and your days will be long.” They often told me that if I dishonored them with disagreement, I would not have a happy life, and they tell me that to this day. My father made it clear that he was God’s representative to us on earth, and as such, it was his job to let us know right and wrong.

Throughout high school, although I was not homeschooled then, I quashed any budding “liberal” ideas. This included any acceptance of my “homosexuality”, a word I have come to hate. My father’s bookshelf was peppered with Dr. Dobson’s and Charles Colson’s latest, and I read all of it at his suggestion. Both have a lot to say on political issues, and I knew that since my father agreed, I would too. In an effort to change myself so that I might not accidentally end up an atheist at a pride parade, I watched straight or male-male sex scenes in the hopes that I could rewire my brain to associate men with pleasurable feelings. It never worked.

We ate dinner together every night, a blessing and a curse. While my father didn’t rail about politics on a nightly basis, he did bring it up often, complaining about how an anti-American Muslim was now president of the United States. We saw D’nesh D’souza’s conservative propaganda films about how Obama wanted to let immigrants take over this fine nation.

It was a heartbreaking thing to finally realize in college that I could like women, just like those Fat, Ugly Man-Hating Feminist Lesbians who were all going to hell.

I’m not sure why their appearance mattered, but it was usually included in a criticism of lesbians.

I still struggle with my weight, even though I am naturally tall and skinny, out of fear that I might resemble the caricature my parents despise.

They found out a year and a half ago that I am gay, in my senior year of college, my father threatened to pull me out of university. He only didn’t because my major is very uncommon and can’t be found at any more conservative schools. I attend a Southern Baptist university, now in graduate school, although it’s a moderate one that doesn’t care (too much) that I have a girlfriend. My parents now consider it an evil, liberal institution for not somehow stopping me, and now say they don’t care whether my little sister attends a Christian university or not, “because it didn’t help Lauren.” In political discussions, they are often interested in my brother’s thoughts, because they consider him “on the same page” while I am “rebellious”.

My parents also expressed great paranoia throughout my life about what they were certain I told my friends about them. When my father found out I was gay, he said, “I know that you’ve told all your friends and teachers that I’m a close-minded bigot.” I didn’t think I had, but he shook my confidence, so I called my best friend asked if I’d ever spoken disrespectfully of my parents. “No,” he said. “You’ve only ever spoken highly of them.”

Again, defiance is the number one way to get on the wrong side of my parents, and they tell me that my identification as a Democrat/liberal has dishonored them.

On their anniversary, my father tweeted, “25 years together—THIS is ‘love wins’.” He also tweets things such as a girl with a shirt saying, “I’m not going to let Muslims rape me to prove how tolerant I am.” My roommate has encouraged me not to look at his Twitter anymore so that I don’t get outraged; my father tells me he doesn’t have Facebook because he is afraid he will get in too many political debates. I said, “But you don’t have any Democrat friends, do you?” He replied, “Oh yeah, you’re right.”

I can tell for sure that my mother believes I am simply rebellious and want to be a Democrat because I resent my strict upbringing. I don’t think she will ever be able to get over from the fact that a liberal lesbian could have come out of her home—ironic because I am the only one of my three siblings that attends church regularly. My father sees me with a few more dimensions, I think, because he still often tries to engage in political discussion with me, but still holds that anyone with my political views is either willfully defiant or simply ignorant. My sister tells me that my parents wish I wasn’t “so political,” but really, I feel like my upbringing has forced me to stay aware so that I can back up every belief.

The last time I visited home, he asked what news sites I read. He downloaded The Atlantic app at my suggestion, because it seems to be a fairly moderate source, much more moderate than his usual outlets. It’s the biggest accomplishment I’ve made towards nudging him away from the Matt Walsh types that tell him I hate God, I hate men, I am stupid.

I laughed at hearing how my parents think I am too political, because they raised me to be so involved in current events.

Except as a kid, I was raised to be a Culture Warrior for the Religious Right. Of course I am still politically active, because I am still defending myself against what I believe to be dangerous ideology. It’s just that it’s theirs.

Political Families: A Call For Stories

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Grufnik.

By Shade Ardent.

Political rallies, large families, these are things that often seem to go together.

The homeschooling movement has been one that has been involved in politics from almost the beginning. From Reconstructionism to Calvinism, and other ideologies, politics find a home amongst homeschoolers. Even homeschooling itself has been seen as a political statement. Many homeschooling families see the state as their enemy, bent on taking away their rights. Homeschooling conventions are frequently filled with Reconstructionist, Calvinist, or other politically active speakers, so that even the politically neutral families are exposed to rhetoric.

So it is a natural step that parents move from homeschooling as a political commentary to supporting candidates and political platforms as a family, organizing and attending rallies or protests, or taking part in other forms of political activism. As children, we had little to no say in our involvement in these political activities.

Was your family active politically? What types of political activities did your family participate in? How did it impact you personally and politically? Did you agree with your parents politically? Were you an active participant? How did you feel about what you were told to do? Then? Now?

We would like to hear your stories.

As always, you can contribute anonymously or publicly. Please let us know your preference when you contact us.

*Deadline for “Political Families” submissions: Monday, July 11, 2016.*

If you are interested in participating in this series, please email us at

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.

Homeschooled, An Autistic’s Perspective: Katia’s Story

CC image courtesy of Shade Ardent, sagebrushMoon Studios.

On my journey as a homeschool alumna with higher functioning autism, it is patriarchy, not the homeschooling, that caused the problems I have faced.

Homeschooling was Mom’s idea. Her public school experience was horrible, and she was thrilled when she heard Raymond Moore talk about homeschooling on Focus on the Family.

Dad was not thrilled about homeschooling but agreed to do it “until high school”. Mom was to focus on academics and not follow Raymond Moore’s “unschooling” method which focused on teaching children real life skills and learning at their own pace. Mom, to her continuing regret, obeyed Dad because she had been taught that wives submit to their husbands.

Unknown to us at the time, not only was I on the autism spectrum, but my father also fits the criteria though unlike me, he has not been officially diagnosed.

For the sake of my family, I will not go into details of all the issues my family has faced because of Dad’s likely higher functioning autism along with likely narcissism. When Mom sought help from church leaders for Dad’s issues, she was told they were her fault for not “submitting enough”. Mom did her best to follow the advice in the book “Me? Obey Him?” by Elizabeth Rice Handford, but overall, the horrible advice in the book made things worse, not better.

Because of Dad’s issues, my family never fit into to the local homeschool community and I never had close friends there.

Meanwhile, I learned from patriarchy that one did not become an adult until one got married, that single, childless, women were worthless, that women needed to be submissive, and that it was a sin for a woman to work outside the home. I also learned that psychology was evil and that environmentalists were crazy.

I knew that I was different, and the outside world was scary. The idea of staying home and homeschooling my children was safe. I wanted to follow God with all my heart, to fit in, to be safe. So I planned for nothing else in life but to be a wife and mother.

Meanwhile, homeschooling me was far from easy on my precious mother.


Mom would tell me to put it aside for awhile, which was difficult to do. I wanted math out of the way so that I could relax. Mom went through multiple math curriculums with me.

Alas, battles over math were not the only issues Mom faced with her higher functioning autistic daughter. Among other things, I was extremely sensitive to certain stimuli, socially awkward, threw fits when her routine was disturbed, and became an expert on subjects she was passionate about.

Because Mom was so focused on my problems, she did not have the energy and time to give my younger brother the help that he needed, for which I feel bad. Thankfully younger brother is overcoming the issues we had during our youth and is becoming a success.

Thankfully, Dad did not believe in the extreme tenets of patriarchy and insisted that I get my GED, which enabled me to go to college.

Unfortunately, my college education has been worthless career wise because of the lethal effects of patriarchy when it is combined with autism. As I discovered, one can be free on the outside but bound on the inside.

God in his great mercy has led me out of patriarchy, but the effects remain.

Meanwhile, I am deeply grateful that I was homeschooled, and that I was not diagnosed with autism until I was 21. My quiet, happy, mostly isolated homeschooling years spared me the stress of life and thus given me more strength to handle the challenges of life.

I am also grateful for decisions by both parents that have helped me learn coping skills. When I was seven, Dad decided to get chickens. I became their caretaker, and they became my therapy. Many times I would wake up depressed, and caring for my chickens would cheer me up.

They also helped teach me responsibility and other life lessons.

Mom, who worked as an LPN during the early years of my life, became disillusioned with the harsh, ineffective treatments she saw in her work and started to seek out alternatives to modern medicine. There were many times when she could have put me on drugs, but chose to seek out alternatives to my issues. Thanks to her suggestions, diet has helped me function more easily.

Since my autism diagnosis, I have heard dozens of horror stories from individuals on the autism spectrum who went to public school. I know that going to public school would have been a horrible experience for me, even though I might have been diagnosed with autism earlier. At the same time, I have heard homeschooling horror stories from neurotypical people and people with various mental issues.

I still believe that homeschooling is the best option for those on the autism spectrum because it enables those with autism to learn at their own pace in a safe, comfortable environment. But since not every parent is perfect, I think that homeschooling should only be done by mentally healthy parents free from the influence of patriarchy who truly love and want the best for their children.

Overall, for this “Aspie” being homeschooled is one of the greatest blessings of my life. It’s the patriarchy that did the damage, and I will never stop fighting to end it.