Socialization isn’t a freaking joke

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Michael Scott.

Editorial note: The following is reprinted with permission from Samantha Field’s blog. It was originally published on February 11, 2016.

If you’ve been around homeschooling culture for any length of time, you’re probably familiar with how they tend to make fun of “socialization.” When I was growing up as a homeschooled kid, I had “20 Snappy Comebacks” prepared in case I overheard someone asking “b-but but what about socialization?!” I’d been taught– and was firmly convinced– that when people asked about socialization it sprang from a place of ignorance about homeschooling. When you homeschool, I believed, you’re not just limited to interact with people from your grade level, but with children and adults of all ages. Through church (and, theoretically, co-ops, although I only attended one in 2nd grade), we got all the social interaction we could possibly want.

It’s ironic to me now that while I thought that other people were ignorant if they asked me about socialization (which, honest moment, they never did, probably because of how incredibly isolated I was), the fact of the matter is that most homeschoolers who dismiss socialization as a legitimate question are also being ignorant.

Socialization isn’t just “learning to talk to people like a regular human.” It’s not “having friends.” It’s not “engage in social activities.” Socialization is “the process whereby an individual learns to adjust to a group (or society) and behave in a manner approved by the group (or society).” I’ve talked about my own experience with socialization before, and one thing I can confidently say is that if we’re talking about fundamentalism, then I am socialized extremely well. I know how to walk the walk and talk the talk. I know what the acceptable behaviors and language are. I was taught to be extremely well-suited to that environment.

However, now that I’m not in fundamentalism anymore, I am not well socialized. I struggle understanding what the group parameters are, and one of the biggest struggles I face is that I have no metric whatsoever for analyzing my behavior. Was I polite? No idea. Did I hurt someones’ feelings? Not a clue. Did I do or say something weird or awkward? Can’t say. I’m slowly learning how to operate in casual social settings, but there is always a sliver of me that’s panicking the entire time that I’m going to blow it and expose myself as the weird homeschool kid.

But there’s another aspect to this “socialization” question that I’ve yet to see addressed.

Above I noted that I am extremely well socialized to operate in fundamentalist spaces, so I am intimately familiar with what’s required to achieve that and it bothers me.

Every once in a while, I’ll bump into someone commenting on how “well-behaved your children are!” Sometimes it’s people talking about how polite and happy and well-mannered all the Duggar children appear to be. A few years ago I overheard it at a not-fundamentalist church, and it was directed at a mom in a denim jumper with six kids and– no joke– No Greater Joy sticking out of her diaper bag for some reason. “Well-mannered children” is part and parcel of fundamentalist socialization, and there’s a fairly uniform code for what that means:

  • instant obedience
  • obedience with a “good attitude”
  • joyfulness
  • respectful of elders
  • lack of rebellion (individuation)
  • are faithful, diligent members of the religion

The main problem I have with the above is all those people complimenting fundamentalist parents on “well-mannered” children have no freaking idea what it takes to achieve children who behave like that. Children are supposed to be imaginative and express their identity and be unruly and rambunctious and explore and be curious and filled with wonder and sometimes be grumpy and unhappy and annoying.

The methods used to create children who are always smiling, who always obey instantly, who never go through individuation, who never talk back– they should horrify us because they are nightmarish. In order to achieve this, you have to beat infants. You have to strike your children multiple times a day with a switch or a board or a belt. Age-appropriate exploration must be prevented at all costs– either through things like blanket training or slapping a baby every time they reach for a necklace or your hair. You must subject your infant or toddler to brutal physical punishment every single time they show a disavowed form of curiosity about their environment.

For older children and teenagers, you have to completely disallow any form of individuality. They must agree with everything you teach them. Doubts and questions are forbidden. If they attempt to express their own identity, they must be bullied by other members of the fundamentalist community to immediately stamp it out.

Being socialized as a fundamentalist child means being horribly abused. It means being denied any natural part of growing up. So, yes, fundamentalist homeschool families are socializing their children– socialization, really, is inevitable– it’s just what they’re socializing them to. Fundamentalist homeschoolers are largely incapable of socializing their children to be capable, competent, contributing members of society because socializing them in fundamentalism precludes that.

Remember that next time you hear someone comment how cute and quaint and charming the Duggar family is.

The Battle of Peer Dependency: Part 2

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Dan Slee.

Continued from Part 1

Let’s jump right in, shall we?

“The first step in overcoming peer dependency is determining whether or not a child is peer dependent. The second is accurately assessing the depth of the problem and then taking the proper steps. One approach a parent might take in order to find out if a son or daughter is peer dependent is to tell your child that all outside activities with peers will be suspended for one week. Will your child willingly and joyfully go along with that plan, or will they whine and cry, manipulate and control, and completely make your life miserable until they can do things with their friends? ….ask them, ‘Who has your heart? Who would you say in in control of your life?’ ”

So lemme get this straight: tell a normal kid that they have to cease and desist all the normal stuff they do outside the home (keep in mind we’re talking about homeschoolers who rely on their parents to have an outside social life), then when they freak out like normal kids, give them a triumphant “AHA! You are peer dependent. We must fix this.” Um, no, actually, they’re just normal human beings who like the company of other human beings. How would this mother handle it if someone told her “You won’t be allowed out of your house or to see anyone else but your kids for a week. And tell me now, who has your heart”? Sounds abusive and manipulative, right? Oh, but not when it’s directed at kids. Kids can be treated as non-humans because they’re on the bottom of the Godly hierarchy. Suddenly “Who has your heart?” sounds uber creepy to me. All this emphasis on who owns whom.

“Accurately knowing who has each child’s heart will be to the parent’s advantage….many parents have said that they lost the heart of their child as early as 8 years of age. Whatever the age, it is never too early to win the heart of your child, then purpose and plan to keep it.”

In what other context is this type of control OK?? Place this in the context of a husband toward his wife, and you have the set-up for a textbook emotionally abusive marriage. Nowhere does Sears ever think to ask what the child wants.

What the child wants in this paradigm is completely irrelevant.

“A child having an independent social life is a cultural phenomenon that has become an accepted practice in Christian homes, resulting in the decay and impotency of the modern Christian family. Many young people find their lives shipwrecked because they have placed too much emphasis on friends instead of family.”

Here we go again with the family v. friends false dichotomy.

“The lack of purposeful and meaningful relationship between siblings and parents has come to be accepted as normal. Not only do present day trends of divorce, abandonment, and death add to the breakdown of the family, but the structure and foundation of the family itself is faulty. Families growing up in the same house, but not sharing each other’s lives, have created separation and aloneness, which often times results in suicide, a leading cause of death among teens.”

I don’t even know what to say to that. Well, actually, these days I’d say “citation, please?” But apparently back in the world I grew up in, nobody bothered with such cumbersome things as citations and evidence. People could spout whatever harmful nonsense they wanted to, write a book about it, even! And nobody bothered to say “prove it”. That could’ve saved a lot of people a buttload of trouble. Like the confusing predicament of being a teenager who is told that because you don’t like your siblings and would love to have friends your own age, you’re responsible for the crumbling of the family and the downfall of the world.

Sears talks about how they found other homeschooling friends with the same goals and the same “standards”. How those relationships were “heaven-sent”; how her kids were happy and making friends. But of course, this was just Satan trying to deceive them and bring them down. “My philosophy that my children needed a best friend outside the Lord and our family was the instrument that set them up for failure.” So apparently even other squeaky-clean homeschooling families are a threat. One of her sons become “peer dependent”, and she spent 5 years trying to get his heart back. She even had to battle other Christians who told her that having friends was perfectly healthy. But she knew better. God told her, revealed to her in his Word, how friends are evil.

Here are some more gems that make up this book and its philosophies, all highlighted in orange years ago by my mom. Read and wonder:

“Children have a great capacity to rationalize truth in order to get what they want, when they want it. It is the parent’s responsibility to train their sons and daughters to obey (Eph. 6:1-3) Remember that partial obedience is total disobedience and good motives do not make disobedience right.”

 

“Partial obedience is not obedience” [this is said many times throughout the book]

 

“Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft and stubbornness is as the iniquity and idolatry….in the Hebrew, rebellion is synonymous with bitterness.”

“Rebellion” was defined as anything we wanted and thought that was against our family’s rules and standards. Having my own opinion on anything often got the label “rebellious” tossed my way. Obedience had to be instant and cheerful, as described in Sears’ book, or it was “rebellion”. Rebellion, we were told, was one of the worse sins of them all, often causing a domino effect of other sins to take hold in our lives.

“The good activities that my children were participating in seemed never to be enough. Once the activity was over, and the pleasure had worn off, they were off to the next thing. The pleasures of this world, no matter how innocent, are never satisfying…..This is why peers and their activities become all consuming.”

Keep in mind that activities for homeschoolers usually meant church, AWANA, Bible studies, homeschool co-ops and field trips to museums, and possibly (if we were lucky) going to play as a family at a friends’ house.

“Serving others is one way to fulfill our need for activity; another is sharing the gospel message”.

You don’t need friends, you just need to volunteer more.

“By not understanding the text of 1 Sam. 15:23, I didn’t see that when my children would peck at the direction or rules of the home, they were being stubborn….Parents need to understand that the root cause of peer dependency is ‘…stubbornness is as iniquity as idolatry’ “.

Sears describes here how God revealed to her that the word for “stubbornness” actually meant “pecking away at”. She goes on to describe how a child being stubborn was the same as that child pecking away at the standards of their family. Just like chickens peck at the ground.

“Were their own brothers and sister important to them, and did they desire to be with them, regardless of the activity, circumstances, or what age group was there? I realized in that instance what a tragic mistake I had been making. I had actually trained our encouraged my children to prefer people outside of our family to be their best friends. My heart was broken as I thought about the state of my family, and what I was going to do.”

“If you can’t treat your siblings well and get along with them, you don’t deserve to have friends. You must love family more than friends.” That’s what I was told many times as a child and teen. I was often “grounded” from spending time with the very few friends I had because of arguing with my sister. To this day, my closest friends are most definitely not my family members so I’m not sure how well that philosophy worked out.

“Understanding that God has given each individual in the family a life purpose, these life purposes will complement the purpose of your family….individual life purposes will work together, in the life of the family, through trials, struggles, and suffering, for God to be glorified to a lost and dying world.”

But goddess forbid that anyone has any life purpose that does not fit the cult, I mean, family, and that kids grow up to have their own lives that have nothing to do with the plans of The Family.

“Knowing that peer dependency is a problem for all age groups and understanding its definition is the first key to having a godly family. As parent realize the potential life-long consequences and danger of peer dependency that will be upon the lives of their children, restructuring the family will occur. Only when the family is what God has ordained it to be will we see nations coming to Christ.”

 

“One of the dangers with church youth groups is that the youth minister must have the hearts of the children in order to accomplish his goals. The youth group in itself becomes a family unit with the youth minister and his wife acting as surrogate parents.”

This just screams “isolate and control” to me.

“Young people have been so segregated in our society that few can adequately converse outside their own peer group.”

 

“Family friends add depth to the family structure; however, many times friends draw individual family members away from the family rather than the friend associating with the family, strengthening the whole unit.”

 

“Children don’t always know what they want, nor do they always know what is best for them. That is why God gave them parents, and why He gave parents Himself.”

It’s very convenient for the parents that they are not only accountable only to God, but they are the ones that get to decide what God wants, what God is saying, and what God wants the children to do with their lives. What the children think or want does not matter and is always trumped by what the parents think God is telling them. In this system, children have absolutely no recourse. And the family becomes a little cult.

Then there’s about seven pages on how your family will go to hell and won’t get free unless you, the mother, confess all your sins and your own peer dependency and get yourself right with god, and how if your kids are failing, it’s probably your fault for unconfessed sin.

Then she explains how to “give your children to god” by building an alter in your mind and sacrificing them on it.

That’s right, folks. You must symbolically sacrifice your children to God, or none of this will work. I wish I were making this up.

One of my favorite puke-worthy parts was when she described how her older teenage son wanted to listen to “ungodly music” (which, for a Gothardite, means anything with a “rock beat” or syncopation). She explains how she told him that “God has shown us a better way to live and to experience his presence in our lives. This music will hinder you and our family’s life goals. Therefore, you may choose to listen to it, but if you do, you will also be choosing to move out of our home.” She goes on to say how she stuck to her guns to kick him out over his music choice, even helped him pack. At the last minute, he changed his mind and she praised the Lord for rewarding her for being faithful. Mother of the Year right there.

I could go on and on. But I’m emotionally burning out over here. Because this isn’t just some crazy shit I randomly found and decided to put on the blog so others could gawk at it. It’s personal. It defines much of my teenage years. But I do want to highlight one more quote before I quit:

“One aspect of winning the heart of my child was trying to discern which activities were acceptable and which ones were not…..I tried to think through each activity and discern whether it was right or wrong….this approach caused great offense among fellow Christians because if there wasn’t anything wrong with the activity, the focus changed to the character or spiritual maturity of the other individuals involved. It wasn’t until our family purpose was defined and clarity was given for the direction that God was taking our family that the struggles lessened. I could take each activity or thing in question to the Lord and see if it would accomplish the goals that the Lord had for our family. For example: our family purpose was for each member to delight in each other and in the Lord. Activities that arose which would not accomplish our family purpose would not be attended.”

This explains so much. Why my mom could just say “no, you aren’t going to go do that thing because it doesn’t fit our family values.” When there was nothing wrong with The Thing and it would be fun and everyone else was going. In reality, this gives parents absolute authority to do whatever the hell they want and arbitrarily forbid whatever the hell they want and say it is because God told them to.

And if we questioned them, we were questioning God.

We had no say in the matter. There was no way out for us. We were trapped in this hell. We were powerless children, and to this day I experience panic attacks whenever I see or hear that kind of bondage in parent/child relationships. Anything that makes me feel like a powerless, trapped child at the mercy of unreasonable adults will set off my stress response, even watching a movie with those kinds of themes.

There was a time I wasn’t allowed to have my own friends. They had to be “family friends” and I had to drag my younger siblings along when I wanted to do stuff. My mom was a social person though so thankfully she didn’t do very well at the whole isolate yourself from friends thing. She would’ve withered and died too. But that didn’t stop the blame and manipulation from being thrown around. If I didn’t get along with my sister, our family was at stake. If I questioned the “family standards” I was making everyone miserable and my heart was not right with God. I was told I didn’t need friends, that my siblings were my friends, and if I couldn’t get along with them then I didn’t deserve friends outside the family.

Family was worshipped above all.

Family had to look, sound, feel, and appear a certain way or we were failing to be a testimony. Peers were evil, friends that didn’t share our standards were threats. As I got older, peers who were boys were definitely evil. Things like “emotional fornication” and “purity” and “defrauding” and “giving away your heart” entered into the already convoluted and ridiculously complicated rules for having friends. It was impossible to navigate and it was hell on earth.

People can stop saying we’re exaggerating now.

They can stop telling us “it wasn’t that bad” and “well, that’s crazy, it didn’t happen to me, I can’t imagine that actually happened” and “not all homeschoolers”. Not only did it actually happen, it was taught and promoted by various leaders in our world. Most of my friends report similar experiences. We used to jokingly ask “did our parents have a manual for this crap they taught?” Well, maybe they did. I’m holding this book in my hands right now. A book that my mom highlighted the shit out of. Full of teachings that so many of us heard and had thrown at us and were used to control and manipulate for years. Read these quotes then tell us “it wasn’t that bad”.

The Battle of Peer Dependency

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Dan Slee.

Sometimes when homeschool alumni tell stories about the way things were — the things we were taught, stuff our parents said, and the teachings we practiced — we are not really believed. Our recollections are met with incredulity, doubt, and outright disbelief. Sometimes, our own parents are the ones telling us “that didn’t happen like that, you aren’t remembering correctly, I never said/did/taught/believed those things”. Those presently homeschooling deny that homeschoolers were like that and tell us “well, you were just part of a small group of extremists”.

It’s hard to be the focus of both gaslighting from the inside and mainstream disbelief from the outside.

We start to think maybe we really aren’t remembering correctly.

But then something happens that helps solidify the fact that we aren’t crazy, we aren’t making shit up, and we can trust our memories. That happened to me this week, and in sharing it with my friends, I think I helped them gain that clarity too.

In cleaning my basement this week, I found an old book that belonged to my parents. A book that we bought at an IBLP Basic Seminar in Seattle, WA, around the time I was 13-14. It is called The Battle of Peer Dependency, by Marina Sears. And when I opened that book and started to read the parts my mom highlighted 16 years ago, it was like stepping into a time machine. I was 14-18 again and all the memories, feelings, situations, even smells from that time hit me full force and in color and clarity.

I’m going to share excerpts from this book, along with some very personal and vulnerable memories of how they were used during my teen years.

My reasons are simple: so that those on the “outside” of the Christian homeschool movement can see the type of emotional and spiritual abuse that we thought was normal. And so those on the inside, both past and present, can see that they were and are not alone.

That we really do remember these things correctly. That they were taught and believed. That they were toxic and abusive.

The book opens with a story of the author’s husband dying in a car accident, and the many sufferings that their family went through, all God’s purpose to show them how to be a family. She alludes to how she would need the lessons learned through suffering for the future of trying to hold their family together, a family threatened by the ominous-sounding “peer dependency”. There is a lot in this first chapter about suffering being God’s will to teach needed lessons.

The entire second chapter is the story of Sears’ fear and her desire to please God and trust him, mostly with her children and their hearts. She sets the stage for a “battle of peer dependency” as something big, bad, ugly, and antithesis to a solid family unit.

Peers are the enemy of children’s hearts; children’s attachment to having friends is the enemy of the family.

This she state quite clearly:

“A child having an independent social life is a cultural phenomenon that has become an accepted practice in Christian homes, resulting in the decay and impotency of the modern Christian family.”

The family v. friends battle is the framework for the entire book.

“Once I entered the battle with peer dependency, a new and different kind of fear gripped my heart. Seeing my children being drawn to the things of this world, I feared that they might never let Christ be the Lord of their lives.”

Peers and independent social lives are the enemy of the family. They are even the enemies of your children’s salvation.

“Even more devastating was the idea that they might never trust Christ as Lord of their lives.”

 

“For five years I struggled with peer dependency, not understanding what it was. I thought if Dave [her son] would just have more character or love God and his family more, the struggle would disappear…..suffering works to motivate one to trust the Lord…This is an essential principle for the family who will enter the battle to win back the heart of a son or daughter from his or her peers. The reason this is vital is so parents won’t become weary in the midst of the battle.”

Suffering for Jesus, learning lessons, parental sacrifice, creating “character”, setting life up as a battle between family allegiance and having friends are the themes of this book. The next part goes into “The Fight”. She talks about her “battle” with her kids wanting friends. It is framed as a battle for the hearts of your children.

You can either be a strong family and have your children’s hearts, or you can have friends.

The false dichotomy here is pretty obvious, but let’s look at more of her advice and her story.

“As the years have passed, I know why many parents are broken-hearted after giving their lives to see their children follow the Lord. These young people have grown into adults grieving in spirit for their failures and living with the consequences of poor choices they made as teenagers. Sadly, they grow up, marry, and have children of their own, still locked in peer dependency. Many are not understanding that they have a greater desire to please others or be like others, rather than the individual God has created them to be….This is not the only reason for broken young people and broken homes, but it is something that every family will face in varying degree. Understanding the battle of peer dependency and fighting it according to God’s word will decide the outcome and success in children’s lives….

 

How then, with God as the head of our home, did I lose the heart of one of my children to peer dependency? At first I didn’t even realize what peer dependency meant. In fact, it took me five years to understand the struggle and realize that I was in for the fight of my life….I soon realized the battle of peer dependency was going to cost me my son’s life, and that I needed to understand that it was a life and death battle.”

She goes on (and on and on) dramatically about this “battle” and how peer dependency will cause children to fall away from God, will destroy the family unit, and ultimately the entire nation. The whole chapter reads like a letter of self-inflicted martyrdom by a mother who is whining about how hard she had to fight and what sacrifices she made to keep her family free from the diabolical threat of friends. I’m sure I don’t have to explain why this is utterly ridiculous. I wish I had the words to explain why this sounded so good to many of our parents. I mean, did the homeschooling cult attract control freaks or what?! It would be funny if it didn’t hit such a personal, raw place in my heart. If I didn’t have to explain what these teachings did to so many of us, how they broke us, how we still struggle with healthy peer relationships decades later. If we didn’t have to constantly fight to get people to believe that it really was that bad.

So, what is “peer dependency”? The author explains:

“Webster’s Dictionary defines peer as ‘an equal or member of the nobility’. Dependence is ‘to rely as for support, to place trust, or to be determined’. Therefore, on can define peer dependence as an equal or member of nobility that one can rely upon, places trust in, and will be determined to do so.”

That’s one of the most epic splicing together of definitions that I’ve ever seen. But it’s also a popular method of finding meanings in scripture that Gothard himself uses. Given that this was written by an ATI mom and sold at a Basic Seminar, it’s reasonable to assume she used the same twisted methods of discovering what God has to say as Gothard does. Actually, Gothard’s teachings, catch-phrases, and strange word definitions are prolific throughout this book.

Then we get into the weird hierarchy, “emotions are evil”, and “agreements/strongholds in your heart” teachings that are straight from Gothard:

“When a young person is in a position that they have taken an equal, or someone they think highly of and are determined to trust and rely upon, a parent is in trouble. To place trust in a peer, one must make a choice with their will to believe in that peer. They come to an agreement within their heart that the one whom they trust is worthy of that trust….Throughout the decision process made by the young person, he has involved his mind, will, and emotions. He has processed the peer through his intellect, enjoyed and desired what he as seen, and has made a decision with his will to follow in order to become like his peer. As we continue to define the struggle, there is one more word that must be considered. Through Scripture, one can find the heart defined as the mind, will, and emotions of a person.”

So let’s create a problem, then see the entire world through this problem, write some stuff that sounds a little like legit psychology to those who know nothing about psychology, and then write a book on how you overcame this salvation-threatening problem and saved the souls of your children. Mother as the martyr-savior. This is starting to sound all-too familiar.

“Some may think that being peer dependent is not such a bad thing….however, Scripture is clear that it is a very big deal to God. In fact, if is God’s desire for the father to have his children’s hearts, because in the last days, if they don’t, He will smite the earth with a curse.”

The above quote is really important if you want to understand the undercurrent of the homeschool movement.

Gothard and other homeschool leaders loved the scripture in Malachi 4:6 that said “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” And upon this verse they built their cults. This verse was used to promote everything from Vision Forum’s “Biblical Patriarchy” and Family Integrated Churches to the pet doctrines of homeschooling and was very likely part of the foundation for the entire homeschooling movement in the 80’s and 90’s. Homeschooling was supposed to turn the father’s hearts toward their children and vice versa. We were told that this was the only way to promote God’s Kingdom on earth, that this was God’s will for families, that it would be the only way to have a strong nation. This verse was used to justify all kind of cult-like family practices, including not allowing peer friendships and individual social lives, as you see throughout Sears’ book.

In reality, it was about control.

“Another factor involved when a father does not have his child’s heart is the principle that whoever has the heart of your child controls him.”

That’s about the most honest statement I’ve seen in any of these books on “keeping your child’s heart”.

“Peer dependency is the loss of your child’s heart. Dressing, talking, and having the same morals is just the beginning. When a father has lost the heart of his child, the child is torn between the direction and wishes of his parents and that of his friends. In the beginning, he may still desire to please his parents. As time goes on, however, the family will experience great turmoil as the peer dependent young persona grows deeper into dependency and rebellion. People who are peer dependent will find themselves beginning to lower the standards that their parents have tried to instill in them. Even young people who have grown up in very godly homes will suffer the consequences and bondage of peer dependency.”

Please tell me that others can see what is happening here, what is actually being said. “Peer dependency is the loss of your child’s heart” and your control over him, per this author. This reads like a manual of how to isolate your kids and ensure that they will never be exposed to anything other than your own teachings; that they will never learn to think for themselves; that they will never question you and your rules.

These are instructions on how to control your children and to rid them of free will and ensure they turn out to be the people you decide they will be.

This is the goal, very clearly stated, of the homechooling movement that I and my friends grew up in. We were raised in cults, even those of us who weren’t part of ATI or Vision Forum or other organized groups. Our families became cults and operated at such. Complete with ultimate authoritarian control, emotional abuse, religious manipulation, isolation from outside influences, censorship, physical abuse, and absolutely no accountability to anyone else. Our parents were taught that this was how to have a strong family and this was how to ensure their kids turned into the robots we were meant to be.

The author goes on to use all the right catch-phrases: “they want to be like the world instead of like Christ; a quest for pleasure, materialism, and self-gratification; comfortable with the things of the world; children and young people act differently when they are with their peers than they do with adults; some Christian groups have outward evidence of the Christian life, but they are inwardly peer dependent.” On and on and on she goes, setting up this danger, this battle, this threat to families and children. THINK OF THE CHILDREN.

“The particular child who was deeply involved in peer dependency was in complete turmoil in his soul. He would argue and fight against the direction of our family but be repentant at night over his bad attitude and hurtful actions. [He] was in such turmoil that he made the whole family miserable.” [emphasis mine]

Raise your hand if, like me, you were told that your stubbornness and rebellion was making your entire family miserable. If you were told that “if you would just submit to God’s will for our family and stop questioning and being ornery and rebellious, then we wouldn’t be having so many problems.”

Raise your hand if your parents followed teachings that made you, in all practicality, the scapegoat.

Dysfunctional doesn’t even begin to describe the consequences of being raised with such toxic teachings. Try for a minute to imagine being a 14-yr-old, struggling with suicidal imaginations, thinking everyone hates you, even God, that you are worthless because that’s what your parents and their religion taught you, stuck in the turmoil that is puberty, and being told that your family’s problems are because you are making everyone miserable by not submitting. Because that was my life at 14.

“For 5 years I didn’t understand that the reason he didn’t want to go in the direction that God was pointing our family was because he had decided in his heart that he wanted to go in the direction of his friends. So I approached my child and asked him, ‘Do I have your heart?’ “

A bit of advice: don’t ask your child that. There is no way to ask that without manipulation and heaping guilt on a child’s head. I knew I supposed to say yes, that that was what God wanted for me. I also knew that my heart was not at all safe with my mother, that I needed to protect myself. But when an influential adult comes to you, the child, crying that she doesn’t have your heart, that you don’t trust her, that all she ever wanted was to have your heart and a relationship with you, that this is what God wants and don’t you want what God wants….what the hell are you supposed to say?! I said what I thought I was supposed to. “Yes, of course, Mom.” It was a lie, and I knew it was a lie, but a 14-yr-old doesn’t have the tools to combat religious and emotional manipulation. A 14-yr-old just wants to make it stop.

Next in Part 2, with the problem clearly defined and laid out, we will get to the good part: what to do about it. Spoiler Alert: It’s all terrible advice.

Socialized but Sheltered: Emily DeFreitas’s Story

Socialized but sheltered is the phrase I’d use to describe my state when I entered college.

I knew how to communicate with people. I had enough social skills to get by, but I had been so underexposed to new people and ideas that I would be shocked and confused quite a bit during my first year.

Academically, my transition into college went smoothly. I had gotten a real high school diploma and transcripts through NARHS; I also took college level courses at my local community college as a high school senior. I highly recommend both of those things to anyone homeschooling for high school. Because of them, I had no homeschooling-related issues with the admissions process, and had a pretty good understanding of what a college class was like, having taken a few.

The main things I hadn’t experienced were living away from my parents for an extended period of time and encountering religious and political diversity on a regular basis.

I chose to study creative writing and English at Widener University, a private college near Philadelphia with no religious affiliation and a pretty diverse student body. School was a good hour and a half from home, so I lived on campus for all four years. My transition to life on campus was definitely aided somewhat by my parents. They literally insisted that I stay at school for a full month before even thinking about coming home for a weekend. That set me up for success because I didn’t have the option to chicken out and go home if homesickness decided to rear its ugly head. There was only one instance in which it did, several months into my freshman year, but I’ll get to that later.

While I was homeschooled (for every grade except 9th), most of my friends were Catholic, like me. I met them at church, or through Catholic homeschooling co-ops. My friends who weren’t Catholic were conservative Christians, often also homeschoolers. I was severely underexposed to liberal ideas, so much so that in college when I stated my conservative opinions I was shocked to discover that many of my peers didn’t share those views. I was much more right wing than I thought I was. (I thought of myself as a middle-of-the-road independent at that time because I supported marriage equality.)

In fact, in spite of my own support of marriage equality, I quickly discovered how uncomfortable I was when other people voiced their support of the issue. One student wanted to do a poster about the issue for Constitution Day, and posted it to a message board for a program I was in. I was a bit shocked. Could she do that? Wasn’t a topic like that taboo? If I remember correctly, she wanted to create a display that would start dialogue on the issue, which is a great idea for a college setting. Why was I uncomfortable? It wasn’t that I didn’t want people to agree (or even disagree) with me. The main issue, I soon realized, was that I had never met so many socially liberal people before.

I was uncomfortable because I had no idea what was normal for these people. What were their expectations of me?

Because of the lack of political diversity I had been exposed to, I spent my freshman year pretty much completely unable to figure out when it was socially acceptable to bring up politics. I had never developed the sensibility to choose a different topic even for the sake of a peaceful lunch with my friends. Worse, I was grossly misinformed on several issues, and was often surprised to get into an argument with a peer and have him or her refute my claims easily. The issue that caused me the most social woes was definitely the issue of abortion.

At home, I had been taught that I was part of a “pro-life generation,” meaning that young people were supposedly becoming increasingly pro-life. Having attended the March for Life in Washington D.C. twice, and been president of a pro-life organization during my high school years, abortion was my favorite political issue. I mistakenly thought that making pro-life statements among people I had just met would garner at least partial support from most of my peers. I would bring it up all the time—in the dormitory, or in the dining hall at the tables my friends and I would push together to accommodate everyone we had just met. I would get into loud arguments with people I had only met the day before. I was literally just trying to find a friend with whom I could share a common hatred of what I perceived as baby killing.

Ultimately I found people with a variety of opinions on the issue, and the vast majority of them had much more nuanced thoughts than I had. They were also better informed.

Much like politics, religion was another difficult subject. There were other students who practiced their religions regularly like me, but there were many more who practiced a different religion, or who had one but didn’t practice it at all. Many of my friends identified as Christian but weren’t churchgoers. I met a few open atheists during my freshman year, a few Muslim students, cultural Jews, and some Catholics who were fairly liberal. The idea that there could be so much religious diversity in one place was eye-opening, but also difficult for me at first. I used to walk to the nearby Catholic church alone, before I met another student who was looking for a church buddy. My biggest moment of homesickness was when I was upset that I had no one to go to mass with me. It’s the only time that I cried as a freshman over something that I missed about home. Everything else was so new and exciting that I hardly had time to feel homesick.

I definitely made some social flubs along the way, but the time absolutely flew by once I started really sinking my teeth into classes and extracurricular activities. By my sophomore year I had finally grown accustomed to the fact that the people around me were going to think a thousand different things about the world, and that was OK.

Eventually, instead of looking for people to state my opinions to, I started to look for opinions and ideas I hadn’t heard before. I came into college with my parents’ opinions and religious beliefs, and came out with completely different ones.

Because I had finally been exposed to so much, I knew my ideas were my own. They were informed opinions I could be proud to have, and no, I won’t be bringing them up at lunch on the first day of work.

I know better than that now.

More Guest than Citizen: Jaelyn Bos’s Story

“Be in the world, but not of it.”

This statement summarizes how good Christians are to relate to non-evangelicals, or so I have been told. It also describes my relationship to my peers prior to college.

As a homeschooler (K-12), I was something of an anomaly. My parents are moderately left-leaning in both their politics and their theology, which in Homeschool World makes them flaming liberals.

I had friends prior to college (primarily from a homeschool co-op), but I was also far lonelier than I understood. I worked hard in school, stayed quiet though conversations about Ken Ham and Sarah Palin, and kept my interests to myself. Though in their world, I was definitely not of it. I actually had a great variety of experiences in high school, from volunteering regularly in inner city DC to visiting a development organization in Honduras. Yet, in all these places, I was more guest than citizen, in but not of.

Thankfully, my family expected me to go to college. They supported me completely when I chose to live on-campus at a diverse public university.

My first few weeks at college felt like walking through the wardrobe into Narnia.

I was a little dazed, sure, but mostly I was dazzled but the discovery of a huge new world of ideas and activities and people. I made a friend from Albania, and a friend who was Jewish, and a friend who was bisexual. I discovered terms, like intersectionality, and causes, like transgender rights, that I barely knew existed. I played cards with mixed-gender groups of friends past midnight and nobody cared.

My academic transition was easy thanks to community college classes in high school and parents who made sure I received rigorous, well-rounded education. Socially, I was friendly, but struggled to see myself as part of a group. I still remember my bizarre feeling of surprise when I realized that I was just as capable of gathering my friends for dinner as was anyone else.

As the semester wore on, I carefully practiced being honest about myself. I admitted to my ignorance of pre-2012 pop culture, doubts about my sexuality, and fascination with evolutionary biology, and learned that no quirks are unique to one person. I realized that in being truthful, I could actually affect the opinions of others, and my opinions could evolve as well. I felt heard.

I learned that I could not only be genuine in my community, but also change it.

Joining a service learning program exposed me to concept of civic engagement, and amazing administrators and professors showed me how to take my ideas and run with them. On a more personal level, I sought other students in need of community and tried to be there for them.

I am now beginning my third year of college, double majoring in two sciences and mostly still loving it. My community is not perfect, but it is mine. To all of the homeschoolers facing a transition to college, I would like to give the same advice I gave the freshmen for whom I TA: Try new things, find help when you need it, be kind.

For you in particular, I will add that it is not your job to defend homeschooling. It is your job to find people you trust, and then be honest. Tell the truth about where you’ve been, what you care about, and what you don’t understand. Then listen to the others’ truths and allow them to change you.

Homeschooling taught me adaptability, and critical thinking, though perhaps I would have gained those same traits elsewhere. I do not know what my life would be had I not been homeschooled. I do know this. I am woven tight into the fabric of my community here, and I am not just in it. I am making it.

How I Learned to Pregame (and Other Transitions): Casey’s Story

There are certain things you expect on move-in day: The frantic in-and-out of your new neighbors transferring mountains of luggage from car to dorm room, being forced to repeat your name and hometown fifty times before sunset, excited hellos and heartfelt goodbyes. The faint whir of your pathetically small desk fan, which accomplishes little as the room fills with people and the last of the summer heat sets in. Getting to know your first roommate. Talking nervously, hoping you’ll click. Your parents making friends with her parents. Delaying the tearful moment when you hug your mom and dad and watch them drive away. Then, the moment comes. For every new college student, it comes. You are prepared. It is expected.

Mine was not.

“You don’t have to do this.” I’m not sure what possessed my mother to say these words, though I confess I wasn’t that surprised. Her eyes welled up with tears, and she did not let go of me. “You could come home and try community college. We could pack the car up right now. You don’t have to do this.”

I knew that as far as the infamous “college goodbyes” go, this was a bit on the extreme side, especially as I was positive that she meant it. Even having earned a full scholarship to my college of choice, therein saving us about $70,000 worth of financial burden, I was made aware from the start that if at any point I did not like it, I could drop out and be welcomed home. This, coming from the woman who raised me from infancy and schooled me for all of my life, both comforted me and stung the pride a little.

When I was four years old, all I could talk of was starting school. Having taught myself to read a year prior, I was already drawing my own comic books and writing short narratives to go along with them. I could count pretty high, and I thirsted for more, as much as my little mind could absorb. My parents decided the best option was for my mom to homeschool me, and through all of elementary, middle, and high school, she did – taking a strong role as teacher at first, and then letting me take more initiative as I grew older. She took note of my interests and chose curriculum based on that – for instance, my senior year I had an English textbook centered on The Lord of the Rings. It was a very “personalized” experience, tailored just to my unabashedly nerdy self. My mom put everything she had into properly educating me, to the extent that there was no privacy or separation between us. We were always together.

There was very little that I did without her, and almost nothing I possessed that was entirely my own.

We went to church and to bi-weekly homeschool meetings, from which I gained a total of three friends. Though I never felt unfulfilled in my schooling and excelled at most things I ventured to try, I was devastatingly lonely as a teen. Growing up in the most stereotypical of small, Southern towns, I had next to nothing in common with most of the other kids, who ridiculed my quirky personality and interest in books. My only release was in writing, which I did alone and often. To create brought me joy, and it wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I discovered a means of sharing that creativity with others: theater. And all of a sudden, I knew what my major would be.

It seemed cruel irony that less than a year after meeting the first genuine group of friends I ever had, I would have to leave them behind. That small community theatre was the outlet I desperately needed, and in my seventeen-year-old mind I was leaving the only place I would ever feel accepted. To tell the truth, my mom’s offer was a little bit tempting. Still, beyond a shadow of a doubt I knew my answer.

“I do,” I said, hugging her tightly. “I have to do this.”

So I did.

And it was the absolute time of my life.

The first week was the hardest. We were scheduled from day to night with festive activities to welcome the new freshmen – ice cream socials, mud volleyball, “get-to-know-you” circle games complete with constant regurgitation of everyone’s name and hometown – basically my school’s method of keeping us too busy to miss home. All it really accomplished for me was allowing no time to unpack; though I did make a few good friends fairly quickly, many of whom will probably be my bridesmaids if I ever decide to do the whole marriage thing. Still, when the first weekend came around, I visited home and found that it felt much different than I expected it to. Actually, it felt just like that – a visit.

My mom called to check in with me at least twice a week for a long time, and when my first assignment came around, she was more nervous than I was. “Let me proofread it,” she insisted. So, I put my all into this miniscule, two-page paper for English Comp 1 – the easiest paper no freshmen realize they will ever have to write – and let her have one more say in the quality of my scholastic work. With her approval, I turned it in expecting a C+ or a B at most.

I got an A+.

This baffled me. Yes, I had always made good grades in the past, but those were from my mother. Every mother thinks her kid is the best and the brightest; this was my first experience receiving praise from a teacher who wasn’t obligated to give it. In time, I found that other teachers, as well as peers, found me intelligent and hard-working, an overachiever even. In reality I pushed myself harder at first because I expected to come up short.

With no real world experience with which to compare my level of knowledge, I had no idea I was actually smart until I went to college and realized that I could do this on my own.

I had, in fact, been thoroughly prepared. And on that foundation my confidence started to grow exponentially.

Soon after, I became more integrated into the theatre department and the honors college, and started making a lot of friends in a short span of time. I even caved and pledged a social club, which is my school’s version of a mini-sorority, only smaller, cheaper, and exclusive to the campus. The extent of my book smarts became as apparent as my lack of street smarts. I can still remember my first experience with alcohol (as can my social club sisters, as they like to remind me every chance they get): When asked to “pregame” with them one Friday night, I brought over a curling iron and makeup, thinking that term was synonymous with primping before going out (or as I so eloquently put it, “doing each other’s hair and stuff”). They laughed (with me, not at me, which was nice), shook their heads and handed me my first drink. In hindsight, I would have been an easy one to manipulate, humiliate, take advantage of…any and all of the above. But these friends weren’t like that. It was simple: We had fun together, I cared for them, and they cared for me. On multiple occasions they took care of me. And words could not describe how lucky I felt or how much I appreciated every positive relationship I had with my peers. They also appreciated my incessant Hobbit references, which was a definite plus.

One thing I’ve noticed with homeschoolers is that, once given the option of becoming social, they will remain in their comfortable shell, or they will eagerly break free. My parents had taught me all I needed to know about socializing myself, and I was ready. I knew that I should be quick to show kindness, but slow to trust. To take note of who would lift me up and who would tear me down. To probably wait on the dating thing, but always “protect” myself if I decided to do it anyway. Oh, and to keep a can of wasp spray in my dorm room, because unlike pepper spray, “they won’t see that coming!” With all this in mind – and the wasp spray in its designated spot on my bedside table – I became something of a social butterfly. And as someone who suffers from Social Anxiety, I really surprised myself on that one.

I’d always wanted to branch out and find others that I could feel comfortable with.

And after going without for so long, I doubt that will be something I’ll ever take for granted.

I should establish that my campus is well-known for being extraordinarily friendly and open to all, which is a significant portion of why our alumni base is so active and supportive: For me, and for countless others, this small liberal arts college was not just a place of education but a tight-knit community, even a home. Differences of race, religion, culture, gender identity, and sexual orientation created very few divides – we were all family. And it was incredible.

This may sound like a paradox, but I was raised a Progressive Christian in a very Fundamentalist Christian church. The Fundamentalist faith was what my parents knew and understood, so they took me to church every Sunday, where I would sit silently (like a good female) and agree with about half of what was preached to us. Politically and socially, both mom and dad were quite liberal. They raised me to love and accept everyone equally, yet college gave me my first experience with true diversity. For instance, I had never met a transgender person before, and though I had spent many a Sunday morning listening to the same “we are right, they are wrong” speech behind the same pulpit, I had never experienced real, enlightening discourse regarding religion. Here, I could actually learn from other people with a wide variety of backgrounds.

My own beliefs, both spiritual and political, developed and took concrete form.

Though I started out Progressive, I grew more so, and I held on to my faith with a better understanding of what it should signify: Love. Not judgment, never exclusion. Just love.

With each new year of school I made leaps and bounds in my personal growth, learning so much about myself in such a short span of time that from sophomore to junior to senior year, it was like becoming a whole new person four times. Developing “street smarts,” and with them my own personal tastes and interests. Becoming more cultured through experience and associations. Swearing when angry, and not feeling bad about it. I like to think of it as making up for lost time.

But not all answers would come with ease. As graduation grew closer, I grew more unsure of what I wanted to do after. A general theatre degree carries with it a wider range of possibilities than one might think: Did I want to act, or paint sets? Research plays, or try to publish my own? Following an internship in stage lighting, I found my answer. And that began my first ever mental switch from school world to career world.

As it turned out, pushing myself so hard in classes had caused me to neglect some things that I would really need once school was over. The theatre department saw me as “honors student first, theatre major second,” which I realized was true, and not, in the bigger scheme, a great thing.

I was thankful for my generous scholarship and wanted to prove myself: “Get good grades,” in my homeschooled head, was always going to be the goal.

But what my parents didn’t know to warn me about was that being a successful theatre technician has little to do with grades and everything to do with hands-on experience. My GPA was near perfect, yet I was a senior by the time I had finally declared my emphasis in lighting design. It took nearly all four years to earn the full respect of the other theatre majors, who understood what it took me regrettably longer to grasp: that we were there to pursue a career and one requiring not a 4.0 and honors cords but a remarkable tech portfolio. I had a lot of catching up to do in that respect.

Now that I’ve been out of college for over a year, I do regret that lost time. But, in continuation of the habit, I’ve made up for it as best I can. Once my brain was able to shift from school to career mode, it became my passion. I travel often for work now, something I’ve always dreamed of doing. I go to the mountains, to tropical regions, theme parks, the Big Apple, once a Tony-winning regional theatre, doing what I love every step of the way. I think back on my lonely years in that small town and wonder if I would have the same appreciation for the incredible things I get to see and do had I not been contained there for so long.

Though in a considerable many cases homeschooling can be a terrible idea, I see my personal story as a successful one. Not perfect, by any means, as I was heavily sheltered and limited mostly to my mom’s perspective. Luckily for me, this also meant that I got to learn from a strong, intelligent and open-minded woman whom I will always look up to, and that made all the difference. Though I had a lot still to learn once I got to college, very little of it was learned “the hard way.”

Because on that first move-in day, when I made the decision to stay, the decision to see life as a new adventure came along with it.

I guess I’m kind of like Bilbo Baggins. And college was my Gandalf.

Call for Stories: Tell Us About Your Transition from Homeschool to College!

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

For HA’s next open series, we want to hear from those of you who attended college (whether for one year, four years, or even into a Masters or PhD program!). We want to hear about your experience transitioning from homeschool to college. Was it easy? Difficult? A mixed bag? No matter where on the spectrum from “no problem” to “so many problems,” we would love to feature your personal story.

Topics you could potentially write about include:

  • Experiences with socialization: When you stepped foot onto your college campus, did you realize you were (as many parents argue) well-socialized already? Or did you realize that you were not (and that those many parents misunderstood the meaning of socialization)? What sorts of difficulties (if you did experience difficulties) regarding social interactions and interpersonal communication did you have to deal with?
  • Experiences with diversity: If college was the first time you had significant interaction with people of diverse backgrounds (atheist, non-Christian, Buddhist, gay, lesbian, trans*, people from different cultures or ethnicities than you, etc.), what was that like? Did you have any stereotypes in your mind about those people that were deconstructed?
  • Experiences with academics: If you went to a secular college or a “liberal” Christian college, did you go thinking it would be a battleground for your soul? Was it? Were they any surprises you faced about how the college and its other students treated you?
  • Experience with studies: Were there any topic matters that you excelled at, that you didn’t think you would? Did you realize your homeschooling education was actually pretty well-rounded, or did you realize it was severely lacking in certain areas?
  • Experiences with your parents: Did your parents support your enrollment in college? Did you have to fight with them to be able to go? Were they eager to help you get financial aid? Or did they withhold necessary documents?

Another area you are welcome to submit your thoughts about would be advice you’d give a future homeschool graduate who is heading to college. Potential questions you could answer can include:

  • What words of encouragement would you share with that graduate?
  • What words of caution might you give?
  • Are there any books, articles, or movies you’d suggest that a future homeschooled college student experience before stepping foot on a college campus?
  • If a future homeschooled college student feels uneducated (or miseducated) about important life knowledge (such as sex education, relationship dynamics, pop culture, etc.), what resources would you direct that individual towards?
  • Do you have any suggestions to future homeschooled college students about how to make the transition to college easier?

To contribute your story or thoughts:

Please email your submission (or any questions you have before submitting) to our editorial team at: ha.edteam@gmail.com.

As always, you can contribute anonymously or publicly. Let us know when you email your submission your preference in that regard.

The deadline for submission is Friday, September 18, 2015.

Picking Things Up from the Culture, Homeschool Edition

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on April 12, 2015.

If you’re a regular reader, you may have noticed that, when speaking of my conservative evangelical homeschool upbringing, I frequently say “I was told X” rather than “my parents told me X.” There is a reason for that—sometimes I can’t remember whether my parents actually taught me some specific aspect of purity culture or political conservatism or whether I just picked it up from the Christian homeschool culture around me. After all, I read the homeschool magazines we subscribed to, listened to the speakers at homeschool conventions, and socialized with the other homeschooled children.

My parents removed my siblings and I from public schools in order to remove us from external influences. But they didn’t remove us from external influences entirely, because, short of locking us in our rooms, they couldn’t. What they did was change the set of influences we were exposed to. But in their choice of a new set of influences—that of Christian homeschool culture—we were sometimes exposed to things they may not have agreed with in a way they never never thought about.

For example, when I was a senior in high school a friend of mine tried to talk me out of going to college. She said women were supposed to serve, and that college was entirely hedonistic and self-centered. She told me she planned to spend those years as a mother’s helper in other homeschooling families, before marrying and beginning her own family. I agreed with her premises, and was left unsettled. If my parents hadn’t had such a solidly upper middle class expectation that I would go to college, I might have been swayed.

For all of homeschooling parents’ rhetoric about how “peer dependent” public schooled children are, we homeschooled children could be quite influenced by our homeschooled peers. Part of me finds this ironic. But then, the point was not so much to remove us from peers entirely as to change the set of peers we were around. My parents opted to expose us to Christian homeschooling culture rather than to the culture of the local public schools.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad my parents didn’t subject other Christian homeschooling families to a detailed theological review before allowing me to socialize with their children. I mean yes, they did draw some lines, but they could have drawn those lines much more narrowly. By way of example, I recently came upon an article titled When Catholic Homeschool Kids Get Lonely that really made me cringe. Here’s an excerpt:

It’s easy to think that if Catholic parents put their children in the Catholic Youth Group at the local parish, all will be well and this will solve the ‘loneliness’ or the ‘socialization’ issue, but my husband and I have found that sometimes this can create other problems. Simply put, our experience with the Catholic Youth Group in our particular area has been mostly negative and counterproductive in helping us to raise our daughters for Christ. When we would bring our children to some of the youth activities, we were disheartened by what we experienced and witnessed.

Many of the children who attend these functions also attend the public school. They go to these functions because their parents make them, not because they really want to be there. While there, we would hear them using foul language and witness them picking on other children, bringing that whole “public school mentality/environment” with them into the youth group activities. The parents who were chaperoning these activities couldn’t be everywhere at once, so much of the cursing and mean-spiritedness took place when the chaperones weren’t watching.

Not only this, but my husband and I were appalled at the way in which the girls who attended these functions dressed. We decided not to sign our children up for any more youth group activities in this area.

One of the reasons why I made the decision to homeschool was because I didn’t want my children to be negatively influenced by bad peers. If I keep them out of the public schools for this reason, but then put them around those same children in a youth group activity, what have I accomplished? They’re still around the bad peers.

. . .

If there is a local homeschool support group in your area, this can be a good thing, especially when most of the parents whose children are in these groups are doing what they do for the same reasons as you. However, I do want to offer you a word of caution regarding some of these groups. Not every homeschool support group is Catholic.

If you are raising your children in the Catholic Faith, it is better to be a part of a Catholic homeschool support group than a Protestant one. Experience has taught me over and over again that when Catholics join a Protestant homeschool support group (especially an evangelical one) subtle attempts are made in order to “reach out to” and “save” the Catholic’s soul. Religious tracts are distributed, and invitations are given to attend this church service, that Bible study, this Children’s Kids’ Klub, or that Vacation Bible School.

Because of this, I refuse to allow my children to participate in any of these groups. If a group of kids and parents want to get together for the sake of picnicking and playing ball, that’s one thing. But when one group tries to impose its religious beliefs on another because it does not accept and respect the religious beliefs of others, a line has been crossed.

. . .

If there are no Catholic homeschool support groups in your area, you might consider starting one yourself. Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that in order for it to be successful, it has to be complex, time-consuming, and difficult. Just getting together once a week in a park for a game of kickball with hot chocolate and doughnuts could be a great way to start. Using a church fellowship hall in order to host these meetings is something that a lot of Catholic homeschool support groups pursue.

Although having companions can be fun, nothing can take the place of a close Catholic family.

If a parent chooses to homeschool to remove their children from the influence of public school children, and then chooses to opt out of both church activities and established homeschool groups again because the children involved are deemed bad companions . . . well, let’s just say that if a parent refuses to allow their children to socialize with any children who do not share their beliefs in exactitude, the children will be very lonely indeed.

But because my parents did expose us so fully to Christian homeschooling culture, I’m often unsure what my parents actually believed and what I simply picked up from that culture. Sometimes I know the answer without hesitation, because I remember this comment or that. But other times I don’t. And I find that fascinating.

I Have No Roots

Photo by Lana Hope.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on March 7, 2015.

When I left my fundamentalist upbringing behind, I left it all, all my roots, all my friends, all the things that connected me to the past.

They say people need roots, but I have none.

When I’m lonely, I have no where to turn, except to people of the moment. When people talk of old family Christmas traditions, I have none, or nearly none.

When it’s Christmas break, I don’t fly to my parents because there is no Christmas there. When the semester ends, I go camping, not to visit old friends. When I’m lonely, I write in a foreign language on my FB.

My facebook includes no one I knew before the age of 16, and only one person I knew before the age of 18.  That one person wasn’t from my hometown.

I’m almost 30, and my oldest friendships date back only 10 years.

When I walked away from fundamentalism and the homeschool world, I didn’t just leave my old friends behind. I left behind a whole different set of traditions and norms. I have no roots.

For most of my life, we did not have a Christmas tree, Christmas decorations, and lots of presents. We did not have Easter egg hunts on Easter Sunday or dress up for Halloween.

But we did wisdom searches, and sewed our own matching doll clothes, and cooked meals with our friends. We played outdoors and did research in the library.

We had massive family get togethers with other homeschool families. We had a watermelon party at our house because we had so many watermelons, and I remember times with friends where we dug tiny tunnels and had cricket races through them, and I remember all us kids catching 100 baby frogs at our house.

With our local ATI get together, we went swimming in our ridiculous modest swimsuits in our friends swimming pool, rode their massive zipline, played cricket with all the dads and large numbers of siblings. We did this year after year;.

We went to gatherings at the ALERT Academy, which is associated with Bill Gothard and ATI, and we had a whole different set of traditions, such as singing hymns before our meal.

We had American girls club when we were elementary school, and Proverbs 31 girls group in middle school.

But those traditions, if you can call them traditions, were all put behind me when I left fundamentalism. No one else says to you, “what did you do in your proverbs 31 girls group as a kid?” They say “what was your Christmas traditions” and I shrug my shoulder with nothing to say except “well I did lead the little kids birthday party for Jesus.”

My facebook friends talk about meeting up with an old friend from high school; my friends here at the university talk about their old high school friends. I always say nothing, and then come home and facebook search old friends.

I find their facebook cover photos with their 7 siblings and 15 nieces and nephews. One old friend I recently found had a cover photo were she and her whole family (i.e. parents + siblings + their families) were all wearing T-shirts that said, “Children are an inheritance from the Lord.” The mother had bought these for all of her children and grandchildren, which at this point totals nearly 50. In the comment section of the photo, homeschool mothers said, “arrows for God. Praise the Lord.”

And so I realize it’s better not to even look up people from the past; I don’t need to know what they are doing, because my heart might judge them for not leaving it all behind, when I know in my heart that leaving is so difficult it’s almost not worth it.

When I turned 18 I got my drivers license, and went to my own church and formed my own friends. For the first time in my life, I didn’t have someone overseeing my friendships and picking my friends for me. I’m thankful the last ten years have been different than the first ten years, but I can never go back and have any kind of roots.

Some times I think the hardest part of not having roots is not that I don’t know anyone from high school. I think the hardest part is I have no one who remembers what it was like, what the massive get togethers were like; no one to discuss those ridiculous wisdom searches with and all things fundamentalist and evangelical.

People speak of just cutting off the past, but we never really are separate from it. We uproot the tree, and the tree lays there alone. I am that tree. My roots are no longer dug into the soil, but the soil is still around me. There are many other trees around me, and they still have roots, but I don’t. 

I have no roots.

College After Homeschooling

CC image courtesy of Flickr, BiblioArchives. Image links to source.
CC image courtesy of Flickr, BiblioArchives. Image links to source.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on April 28, 2015.

Most of my readers know that the last four semester I have been in graduate school. I am graduating with my masters degree next month, and so I have been reflecting on the experience lately. Grad school has been surprisingly positive for me. To understand why, we should zoom back ten years ago.

In Fall 2005, I started college at the university that awarded me my honours BA. The experience was overall more negative than positive, so much so that I regretted that I attended college even after I finished my degree with highest honors.

I think there were several reasons undergrad did not resonate well with my spirit.

First, I literally was not prepared to handle relationships. I did not understand that it is okay if I do not get along with some people, so I tried to force people to be my friends. I had almost never in my entire life been alone with any one friend at a time, and I do not mean alone with a guy. I mean alone with anyone. As a kid, we always hanged in small groups of sibling friends. In addition, I dressed weird. I had never had sex education, so did not know basic, basic sex terms and could not follow conversations in the cafeteria. I was using google every, single night to catch up on what was going on. Further, I had been taught that homosexuality was deeply sinful, and that people who had premarital sex were wicked. When I met people who were gay or who had sex, I had no idea how to react.

For the first two years of college, I lived in a fog, with no idea how to integrate myself or handle relationships of any kind.

Things did change, relationship wise, but that change brought a whole new world for me to sort. At some point in college, I decided that I was over the purity culture and courtship culture. But no matter how much I tried, I could never put it past me. I felt guilty for every romance movie my roommate and I watched. Literally, I was on my guilt bed for watching My Fat Greek Wedding because the couple had sex, probably, and because the dresses were so immodest. Also, I felt guilty for watching movies period because basically I never watched any movies as a kid other than Sound of Music and Anne of Green Gables. Further, I felt that I had to hide relationships because only courtship was allowed. By the time I graduated, I was an emotional wreck because I did not know what I believed anymore, and was guilty that I had had a life. I actually went through a period where I would cry myself to sleep because I thought I was wicked, all the while I was cursing courtship and I kissed-kissing-goodbye under my breath. I lived a contradictory life, and it wore down my soul.

Speaking of not knowing what I believed, I spent most of undergrad closed minded and could not listen to what my professors were seeking to show me. It started my freshman year when I took freshman literature and New Testament. We read “A Rose for Emily.” When I mentioned this to my mother, she told another homeschool mom, who then told mom to tell me that I was compromising my faith by reading this literature. At that time, I was a music major, like all good homeschool girls, and I went through weeks being torn asunder because I wanted to change my major to literature but everything in me knew that I would be exposed to so many evil stories (my family did not read literature other than Jane Austin, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien). New Testament was worse. My professor told us that the Bible has errors, he did not believe Moses crossed the red sea, and told me that Job was not a real man.

Looking back, I did not understand that even professors disagree with each other, and that disagreements are okay. One of my professors was a socialist and had us read Marxist philosophy for an entire month of our critical theory course. I complained and was annoyed because I saw her as seeking to make us socialists when in reality she was exposing us to different opinions. Back to the New Testament professor, I was not just closed minded to the idea that the Bible has errors.

I thought that everyone had to agree with me.

There was also a significant amount of deconstructing that occurred throughout my undergrad as slowly the more progressive ideas began to sink in, which again always left me torn. I have mentioned before that one of my professors, who I had nearly every semester for a literature class, quit his tenure job the year that his wife finished her PhD and got her a professorship at a state university in another state.  I was unbelievably impressed. My Greek professor, who I had for four semesters of Koine and Ancient Greek, fully embraced egalitarianism and disagreed with the complementarian interpretations of the Bible. He walked us through several of the chapters in the Bible that are used to hurt women and showed us why they have been misinterpreted or why the manuscripts are unclear and missing words. Further, my undergrad thesis supervisor, who worked closely with me for four semesters as I wrote my thesis, was married to a man who stayed home with their small children while she focused on her career. These kind of encounters may seem minor in the scope of things, but this is what my undergrad was like, being constantly pulled from that little sheltered world of homeschooling and being oriented to a world completely different.

Yet in all this, I did not appreciate college because it was thoroughly ingrained in me that college is stupid, dumbed-down, and a waste of time. A week before I graduated, I told my thesis supervisor that I had learned nothing — and I was in tears over this. Even recently when I was complaining about my undergrad to my grad mate, my friend stopped me and said, “geez, you must have learned something.” When I graduated, I did not want to walk the stage– I only walked because I was getting a special award for my honors thesis and it would be disrespectful to my examiners. And when I graduated, I wanted to burn the thesis because I was ashamed that I had written a liberal  paper. (When I presented my paper in front of interested faculty and students, I even had a disclaimer in there about the content– my professor must have been cringing.)

I should have graduated a feminist and progressive, but I just could not. The guilt overcame whatever freedom I had gained, and my academic knowledge felt such in vain, that the progressive ideas went to the wayside. To be sure, I know that it did my heart good, that it stretched me, and helped me later become who I am today. Still, I could have received it much better.

I say all this because homeschoolers frequently point to public schoolers and say, “See, public schoolers do not want to learn.” I think that statement should be challenged, but even if it were true, I, a homeschool grad, did not want to learn, either. I may have produced the grades, but it was motion for me. I could not receive what I was learning. I did not respect the professors’s knowledge — I was always thinking, “he is a liberal, don’t listen to him.” It took moving overseas and having my entire worldview uprooted before I was ever able to listen and receive contrary ideas.

I see the world differently now, as I will explain in my next post about grad school.