Homeschooled in New Zealand: TheLemur’s Story, Part Three

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Chris Preen.

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

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In this seriesPart One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four

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In any situation, my mum excelled in introducing some socially disruptive element. For example, I participated from ages circa 12 – 14 in speech and drama competitions. All the other competitors were dressed in mufti, but she insisted I wear formal black pants and white shirt.

They were ‘sloppy’, and ‘we are not going to be dragged down to their standards’.

Conforming to a dress code which mum arbitrarily deemed ‘decent’ was far more important than my feeling like a fish out of water. Mum was totally oblivious to that anyway, as, you see, I was not ‘peer dependent’. And because I was not peer dependent, I could only frame my opposition to the clothes in terms of stylistic preference (to no avail, of course). For a competitive class known as ‘reading at sight’, in which each participant expressively read a passage from a book they had not seen before, all involved had to be taken together out of ear shot so no one heard the passage before their turn. For some reason, the demographics favoured girls in speech and drama at a ratio of 5:1. You can imagine my predicament. Firstly, it took me a while even in homeschool situation to leave behind self-consciousness. Second, I related very poorly to socialized school children. They knew how to strike up interactions between each other, so the child with poor social skills is always in an out group among his more gregarious peers. Third, being all dressed up impressed itself as another me vs. them barrier. Lastly, I had no idea at all how to even platonically talk to girls. It turned out I and a rather competitively prominent girl were penultimate and last in the competitor order, in the particular instance I’m channelling. We spent an awkward few minutes alone together. I didn’t know what to say, and given my anti-social body language, nor did she probably. Later, my mum had the nerve to ask what happened. That really pissed me off inside. Why the hell would you ask that, when you should know I have no concept of how to navigate that sort of social terrain? Some voyeuristic desire to know every detail of my inadequacy? Describing my internal state like this seems rather solipsistic. Sometimes I wonder if I have the right to single out events like these after reading through what some of you in America went through.

Naturally, mum found fault with the other families who attended.

Their children performed unbiblical pieces (about witches or wizards, or worse, dictatorial parents). The girls wore ‘disgusting’ clothing. I recall in crystal clear quality after one competitions ended, we went to Subway. Across from where I was sitting, in my line of site, sat the same girl I mentioned earlier. Leaning forward to eat her subway, her top rode up, exposing her lower back. Mum then insisted I swap places with her so my back was to this 14 year old hussy.

This is the kind of sexually repressive culture endemic in fundamentalism, and fundamentalist homeschooling. Teenagers can be granted no sexual agency. It’s not just they abide by the teaching of abstinence before marriage. The unwritten rules consider the idea a post-pubescent male would like to insert (consensually) his organ into the female, and that she would like to receive it, to be thoroughly improper. That would be part of the Marxist plot to destroy families by ‘teaching the kids about sex when they’re young’. The point of allowing someone to be a sexual being relates to socialization, because the repressive approach perpetuates a self-enforcing segregation. If boys and girls wanting to fuck each other silly is ‘dirty’ according to the unwritten norms, then the cognitive dissonance of the unconditioned response (sexual desire) clashing with an internalized mindset that completely gaslights the desire’s legitimacy, demands eschewing any sustained contact with a member of the opposite gender.

So during their sexually formative years, fundamentalist Christian youth subconsciously ascribe each other the role of toxic triggers.

Cultish, homeschooling conventions run by the likes of ACE (Accelerated Christian Education) confirm the behaviour by insisting on the ‘six inch rule’. All male female haptic interaction is sexually fetishized. You can never make a fundamentalist understand an argument, as their dogmatic modernism cannot really grasp post-modern deconstruction. That the statement ‘Sex is God’s gift to married couple, and we see no problem with it in that context’ does not decisively plant them in the garden of healthy sexual attitudes is an anathema to them.

Anyway, handling myself around girls was something I had to consciously learn mechanically at (a secular) university. I’m sure some female readers can attest to their version of that experience too.

Another dysfunction of isolation derives from the concomitant dynamics of habitualized isolation and the perception interactional partners are scarce. By habitualized isolation I mean the point at which the negative interactional outcomes owing to substandard social skills, overcome the desire to socialize.

You learn to do without social interaction, and thus lose any desire for it.

You become, effectively, asocial in a tightening, downward spiral. Only now do I have the objectivity and critical tool kit to see what happened; at the time I drifted aimlessly on a sea of calm, functional depression. It’s like moving in suspended animation. I couldn’t stand being on Facebook and seeing group oriented behaviour. A wall of unmotivated inability stood between me and pro-social activities. Now from time to time, for a variety of reasons, certain people will break through your bubble of isolation. Since the mind perceives them as scarce, you become emotionally fixated on them, a sure recipe to destruct a relationship. You obsess over the slightest signal of non-reciprocation. You need them more than they need you. You feel small, and constantly unwanted. And you must constantly deal with a power imbalance. He who cares least about a relationship controls it. In a way, it’s an objective scarcity too. Few people understand the unique personal histories of homeschoolers.

There’s often an outsized intellect compensating for a bereft emotional state.

Adults laud your academic achievements. Children feel jealous and push you away in spite. You condescendingly look at the ‘ignorant fools’ around you, trying to pretend you’re not envious of their social capital. To this day, I still struggle with these two dynamics. In quiet moments, I feel quite fucked up. Sometimes, a wave of intense loneliness sweeps over me, and in one of them I wrote these two poems/songs:

Lifestream

I feel the reservoir press against my spirit
A weight of water unmarked by morning light
Or cheerful souls drifting on the edge of my ken.
This mortal current sweeps my soul within it
And against the firmament I wage an unceasing fight.
I want to go beyond the 12 mile limit
Join two streams into one
But you are lost and never found
Beyond the horizon to which I tend.
Let me stretch out my hand away from the sirens in my mind
And live in hope I’ll feel your grasp before we sink in sorrowful seas.

Guides

In my sleep I found it
Found the glow that lights our path
Took the meteor to bits with my bare hands
Strew my dreams through the aftermath
[chorus]
Yeah they don’t know what I want to know
They don’t know where I wanna go
down the river in my mind, down the the river in my mind
I’ll flow, I’ll flow, through grains of time
I stretched out my heart
Touched the cheek of the girl next door
Her candle light eyes lit up my face
But I let the fire fall apart
If you want to see me
Before the man comes around
See the shooting stars in the north
Then turn the other way round
[chorus]
Embers scattered in the snow
Red white red white red white glow
Melting heat melting flakes
ceaseless fusion, silent sound
[chorus]

If there’s any good news, it’s that my mother realized her mistake when my brother, around 12 or 13, exhibited all the signs of a nervous breakdown – obsessively checking switches were turned off, checking under beds for interlopers, and general neurotic manifestations. He’s had a vastly more natural social life.

White Supremacist Homeschooling

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Jonny Scaramanga’s blog, Leaving Fundamentalism. It was originally published on August 26 2014, and has been modified for publication on HA.

So here’s the most horrible thing I’ve found in a while: White Pride Homeschooling.

I don’t even want to give their page the extra traffic, so I’m linking to an archived version of their website (from August 2014).

From their website (Warning: you are about to read racist propaganda):

The biggest increase in intermarriage has occurred in recent years, due to the social interaction of children of different races in the school room and subsequently the board room and then bedroom. In the year 2000 – 9 percent of married men and women below age 30 were intermarried, compared with 7 percent of those ages 30 to 44, 5 percent for those ages 45 to 59, and about 3 percent among those age 60 and older. Obviously school busing, the promotion of interracial marriages by “Christian” preachers, visible images in all types of media, and 12 (plus) years of social conditioning in the schools for each and every child has had a devastating effect on the racial integrity of white America.

Gotta love the use of square quotes around “Christian” in the above paragraph, because obviously true Christians are racist Christians.

Yup, this is a Christian organisation. No doubt you are wondering which curriculums they suggest parents can use without polluting the minds of their pure Aryan offspring.

In no particular order:

Bob Jones University Press

Alpha Omega (pretty much a clone of ACE, but reputedly more academically challenging)

CLASS (the Christian Liberty Academy School System, which produces a custom curriculum based on a mixture of texts from publishers including A Beka and Bob Jones)

And, of course, Lighthouse Christian Academy, which is the homeschool wing of Accelerated Christian Education.

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You may be surprised. You should not be.

Now, I am not saying that Accelerated Christian Education is a white supremacist organisation. I’m sure ACE would prefer to distance itself from such racism (Side note: Dear ACE, if you publicly condemn this organisation, I will write one blog post in which I say nothing but nice things about you). But it is telling that the bigots at White Christian Homeschool find ACE’s materials entirely compatible with their aims.

The fact that ACE’s cartoons depict segregated classrooms means that Mrs White Supremacist Homeschool Mom can rest assured that the materials will reinforce what she is already telling her children: White kids should be separated from the other kids. After all, these white supremacists don’t hate black people. They even link to the National Black Home Educators Resource Association, explaining: “As we encourage a Christian lifestyle for all races and do not believe in integrated classrooms – we are providing this link.” See, they’re thoughtful really.

Bob Jones University’s presence in this company is even less of a surprise, given that organisation’s history of white supremacism. It’s not entirely clear when BJU would have abandoned its discriminatory entrance policy if the political climate had not forced it to do so by 1975.

If all this is shocking you, clearly you need to bone up on your history.

Biblical literalism lends itself quite comfortably to racism. “Slaves obey your masters” is a clear-cut instruction. Although my Christian teachers loved to remind me that the British Abolitionist William Wilberforce was a Christian, they tended to gloss over the fact that most of those opposing him were Christians too.

As Mark Noll noted of the US Civil War, and Carolyn Renee Dupont argued about American segregation, racists have always found ammunition in the pages of the Bible. And this is partly because of the way they read it.

Today fundamentalists condemn racism (and they find Bible verses to support that, too). But the way they encourage children to read the Bible has not changed. As a non-believer, of course, I don’t hold the Bible sacred at all, but it seems clear to me that if you’re going to study it, you need to pay attention to the context in which things were written. The Bible is a compilation of books by different authors who made different points, so you cannot conclude “what the Bible says about X” from any single passage.

It’s funny, isn’t it, that Christians suddenly started noticing that the Bible was opposed to racism shortly after it became culturally unacceptable to be racist.

I don’t care whether you can find more verses in the Bible to support racism or to condemn it. All that matters is that it’s possible to support both positions quite well from the text. And this proves that the way ACE (and its ilk) teach children to read the Bible in fact does nothing to prepare them for the real world.

Accelerated Christian Education’s Ugly History of Racism

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About the author: Jonny Scaramanga blogs on Accelerated Christian Education and leaving fundamentalism at his blog, Leaving Fundamentalism. He is building a resource on ACE here, and collects survivor stories from students with experience of ACE. Also by Jonny on HA: “How I (Barely) Survived Home Schooling.”

I remember staring at the text:

Economics is the major reason that apartheid exists. Some people want to abolish apartheid immediately. That action would certainly alter the situation in South Africa, but would not improve it.

It was 1996; I was 11. Nelson Mandela had been president of South Africa for two years, and apartheid had been officially abolished in South Africa for five. I was not exactly well informed about the situation. I knew it was complicated, and that the country was not exactly without problems. But I also knew that apartheid had been an evil thing that had treated black people as less than human. I suspected my book was written by a racist. I didn’t say anything about it to my parents though. That wasn’t how ACE worked. You just got on with it in silence.

ACE (Accelerated Christian Education) was at one time the leading curriculum for Christian day schools and home schools. It’s still big; ACE doesn’t publish numbers of home schoolers using it, but a claimed 6,000 schools worldwide are on the ACE program. I wasn’t the first person to notice that the curriculum had some ugly things to say about apartheid. In 1993, David J. Dent (writing for the New York Times news service) quoted an ACE book that said:

Although apartheid appears to allow the unfair treatment of blacks, the system has worked well in South Africa … Although white businessmen and developers are guilty of some unfair treatment of blacks, they turned South Africa into a modern industrialized nation, which the poor, uneducated blacks couldn’t have accomplished in several more decades. If more blacks were suddenly given control of the nation, its economy and business, as Mandela wished, they could have destroyed what they have waited and worked so hard for.

This quotation came to light when a black student, Priscila Dickerson, complained about it. Her school’s principal claimed that ACE’s racism was part of the reason the school used it. Dent quotes him as saying, “Racism still exists, and that’s one advantage of using a curriculum like this because we can show students that.”

Not long after I finished the lesson on apartheid, I struck up an email friendship with a disgruntled employee of ACE in Texas. I told him I’d noticed one or two things in my books which seemed kinda racist, and asked him what things were like where he worked. “Put it this way,” the ACE employee replied. “The only black guys working here are the janitors.”

In 1998, the book I’d used was finally updated. Now it said, “God’s Word teaches that no people should ever be wrongfully treated because of their race, since all people are created in God’s image.” That’s a lot better. But it also says this:

Apartheid was excused for several decades because of the advanced industrialization of the nation. However, due to the carnal nature of man, apartheid was also used to exploit the nonvoting black majority.

ACE, Social Studies 1086 (1998 revision)

I’ll let you judge whether I’m being biased about this, but I’m still not happy with that wording. The second sentence says apartheid was “used to exploit” black people because of “the carnal nature of man”. To me this sounds like they’re saying apartheid is not intrinsically exploitative; it was just used that way because men are sinful. In a perfect, non-sinful world, it seems to imply, you could have a system of apartheid were people were kept officially separated but not exploited, and this would be fine. That’s no world I want to live in.

In 2009, ACE again hit the headlines for defending apartheid.

Actually, ACE had worked hard to avoid allegations of racism. In his 1980 book Under Tutors and Governors, ACE’s VP Ronald Johnson devoted an entire chapter to denying that the schools were for whites only. According to Paul F. Parsons’ book Inside America’s Christian Schools, by 1987 ACE had a policy of refusing to sell its curriculum to schools with discriminatory admissions policies. There are one or two explicitly anti-racist statements in the curriculum, too. They hailed Martin Luther King as a Christian hero, and praised the Supreme Court decision that outlawed segregation in American schools (although these blips are not enough to stop ACE from being endorsed by white supremacists).

There had always been a suspicion that private Christian schools in America were associated with racism, fuelled by the fact that their explosion in popularity happened shortly after segregation was outlawed in public schools. In ACE’s case, the suspicion was intensified by the fact that ACE’s founder, Donald Howard, had attended Bob Jones University, at that time a notoriously white supremacist institution. BJU’s chancellor had long preached about how God intended for the races to be separate, and BJU did not accept black students until 1971—as Wikipedia notes, this was eight years after the University of South Carolina and Clemson University were integrated by court order—and even then only if those black students were married. In 1970, institutions with racially discriminatory admissions policies were barred from receiving tax exemptions. BJU filed suit to stop the IRS from removing its tax exemption. Ultimately BJU changed its policy and allowed all black students to enroll, just moments before the Supreme Court decision that made it illegal for colleges to discriminate based on race. Still, BJU didn’t allow students of different ethnicities to date until the year 2000.

I can find no record of Donald Howard or anyone else from ACE ever speaking out against BJU’s racism. Instead, Howard wrote (in his 1979 book, Rebirth of Our Nation):

Regardless of the reactions of the media, the Christian school movement is not racist. Schools are opening in white and black communities alike. Schools are segregated, integrated, multiracial, and as cross-sectioned as any program that’s all-American.

So the schools are integrated and segregated, huh? He seems to be saying that the schools can choose whether to be segregated or not. I wonder if he also thought slavery was a states’ rights issue.

It wasn’t until years after I escaped my ACE ordeal that someone pointed out what had been staring me in the face: ACE’s books depict segregated schools. Most ACE books have cartoons set in a fictional city called Highland. There are two Christian schools (and adjoining churches) in Highland: Highland Christian School, and Harmony Christian School. The students and the staff at Highland are all white. The students and staff at Harmony are all black. According to one of ACE’s books, Social Studies 1029 (page 7), “Harmony is a part of the larger community of Highland.” So it’s a ghetto, then.

In the last five years, ACE has been revising its curriculum entirely, and the new editions feature new cartoons. You’d think that in this new era, when even BJU has publicly apologised for its racist past, ACE would redraw the cartoons with integrated communities.

That is not what they’ve done.

Instead, they’ve added a new, third church-school, called Heartsville. The ethnicity of those in Heartsville is best described as “other”: Some appear to be Asian, and some Latino. Rather than abolishing segregation, ACE has reinforced ethnic divides by splitting its fictional universe into “white”, “black”, and “somewhere in between”.

I feel lucky that I noticed ACE’s stance on apartheid was ugly. Because I recognised it was racist, I could choose to reject it, although I worried about other students who might not. I’m much more bothered about the page-and-a-half of casual racism that introduces ACE’s study of Asia, because I only noticed it when I re-read it last year. I never noticed at the time, which means I thought this was OK (or I just didn’t bother reading it, which is completely possible given that you can complete ACE work just by skimming the text to find the missing word to write on the blank):

Michael tried to fight his panic as he raced from place to place, searching vainly for something familiar.

In desperation, Michael watched the people passing him on the street, but their physical appearance provided him no comfort. Their skin was light brown, their hair was dark and straight, and the inner fold of their eyelids made their eyes seem to slant.

If you were suddenly transported to a village like the one in which Michael found himself, how would you react? Far Eastern cultures, languages, and religions seem alien to most Europeans and Americans. Oriental people appear mysterious and inscrutable, and their religions seem strange. Do these people have anything in common with European or American Judeo-Christian heritage and beliefs?

ACE, Social Studies 1106 (Geography), 2002 revision.

People I trusted gave me this as a schoolbook, and none of them ever commented on it to me. Either they too thought it was OK, or they didn’t read it. And whichever one it is, it’s inexcusable coming from people whose job was to teach me.

I don’t think ACE would accept that their books are racist, and I don’t think they intend to be. The newest books have pictures of a more ethnically diverse group of people than the old ones, and I even found two cartoons (TWO!) where black children are pictured in the same classroom as white ones. I don’t think ACE’s authors are hateful; they’re just ignorant. But when education is your business, ignorance is no excuse.

Every year, ACE holds regional and international student conventions. Students from ACE schools and home schools around the world come together to compete in various events, from athletics to preaching. As you’d expect from a fundamentalist organisation, the dress code is very strict.

And it has different acceptable hairstyles for black boys and white boys.

If you’re a white boy, you can have hair any length as long as it is off your collar and above your ears. If you’re black, though, your hair can’t be longer than one inch.

Oh, it doesn’t say this is a racially discriminatory policy. The exact wording is “Extra curly or afro hair is not to exceed one inch in length”. But the fact that this is also going to affect a small minority of white students doesn’t change the fact that this policy discriminates against black boys. While most white boys’ hair is neat and appropriate at three inches, a black boy’s natural hair at the same length is somehow offensive and indecent. And if you turn up with hair that doesn’t fit the dress code, you’ll be turned away: “Those who require a haircut will not be permitted to register until they have located a barber and complied with the Student Convention standards.”

ACE’s ugly history of racism seems to still be alive and well.

Bullied and Bullying: Aaron K Collett’s Story, Part Two

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Aaron K Collett is currently a Communication major, with an emphasis in Digital Film making. Aaron blogs at Bringing Thought to Life.

Part One

Part Two: Bullied and Bullying

Unlike many people coming out of homeschooling, I technically was not isolated – I got to go to a school with other people, I wasn’t stuck at home, and we referred to it in all ways as if it were a real school (spoiler: it kind of wasn’t). But “not technically being isolated” does not equal “had the opportunity for healthy relationships with my peers”.

For one thing, the school was K-12 with 60 students. We were almost literally a one-room schoolhouse. Now, the reasoning is student will learn to interact with people better if they have to interact with all ages. That can be true. It’s also true that it gives bullies a wider range of targets. And Christians are often not good at identifying and mitigating bullying, especially since the idea of God put forth by ACE is the biggest bully of all.

I was bullied pretty much from the time I started at RMCS in 1998 until the time I left in 2004.

It wasn’t the same person the whole time; sometimes it was older students, sometimes it was the teachers. In at least one occasion, to my eternal shame, I was the bully. It wasn’t any one thing – bullies are adaptable like that. But often it was because of my success academically, as far as the other students were concerned.

People lash out when they feel threatened. Because I hadn’t been in the program since elementary school, I was seen as an outsider. Since I worked so well in a self-paced program, I was an outsider that was threatening the status quo – I was better than them at “their” thing.

The teachers did not help, however. In fact, the teachers were a big part of the problem. Once, I reached the end of my patience, and went to the principal to report one particular person who had been terrorizing me particularly badly one week. Her response was to give me a chapter from the Bible to read and take care of it myself***.

Unfortunately, as is all too common, the abused becomes the abuser. Steeped in a culture which portrayed God as a merciless bully and being bullied every day myself, I projected. I became a bully myself. Not all the time, but once is enough. I shamed someone because of their height. The thing people have perhaps the least control over. I found out later she went home sobbing every day. I don’t know if she ever forgave me; I probably never will. But even if she did, I still did that harm. That won’t ever go away.

The curriculum, combined with the culture of abuse and bullying, created an awful high school experience for me.

I begged to go to a public school, or even home-school. I got to be home-schooled for one year, which was spectacular. I still had the curriculum issues (which I wasn’t aware of at the time), but the bullying had stopped. I didn’t have to worry who was going to terrorize me when I got to school in the morning.

I could just get up, have breakfast, and learn on my own, which was all I really wanted to do anyway.

End of series.


*** The passage in question was Matthew 18. Here’s the relevant bit:

 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.  But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’[b] And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”

Those are instructions for adults. Who mostly have the same power level as each other. This particular student had at least two years, 100 lbs, and 12 inches on me. When you tell children to deal with their “problems” that way, you are setting them up to be bullied even more. It was almost criminally irresponsible for the principal of the freaking school to give those instructions to a child being bullied. And that’s even without the implied shaming for “tattling” on another student, or the implied shaming of failing to “turn the other cheek”.

I Was Once Considered A Success Story In The ACE World: Aaron K Collett’s Story, Part One

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Aaron K Collett is currently a Communication major, with an emphasis in Digital Film making. Aaron blogs at Bringing Thought to Life.

Part One: I Was Once Considered A Success Story In The ACE World

My homeschooling story is a bit different than a lot of people’s.

I wasn’t beaten, I wasn’t isolated (technically), in fact, I was only technically home-schooled for one school year. But oh, how I wished I were homeschooled while I was actually in school.

From the fifth grade through high school, excepting my freshman year in home-school, I attended Rocky Mountain Christian School. RMCS was a “private Christian school” – in all respects, though, it was really just a church-school. We used a fairly well-known home-school curriculum (Accelerated Christian Education), so it really was like being homeschooled at a different building.

Well, almost.

Before I came out as an godless apostate heathen atheist, I was considered a success story in the ACE world.

ACE is a self-paced program, which means students sit at a desk and do their work independently, only getting help when and if they need it. While I don’t have a problem with that idea necessarily, it has the same problem lecture-style teaching does: it pigeonholes students into one way of learning. It worked fantastically for me; I “graduated” a year early. Other students were not able to self-learn like I can, and suffered under the non-guided learning style. But the self-paced style was not the largest problem with the curriculum.

I “graduated” in 2004. “Graduated” because while I have a diploma, I learned very little actual things from ACE. As I’ve said before, I was fantastically lucky. My mother had a background in education, and she really was my teacher. She taught me how to write, she taught me how to read, and she taught me how to math and science. And when I got to college, I could do those things fairly well.

Unfortunately, other subjects were…less well-taught.

ACE history books start with Genesis. So do their science books. We learned that evil scientists who hated God were hiding the evidence for a six-day creation 7000 years ago. Ken Ham and Kent Hovind were our heroes. They were standing up to the evil scientist conspiracy.

History was a joke. We were spoon-fed the stories of Genesis as if they were fact. As if Mid-Eastern origin myths were at the same level as modern professional historians and archaeologists. We learned….well, nothing, actually. Pretty much all of my history and all of my science education has happened in college. I can fake it – I’ve taken it upon myself to learn on my own – but I didn’t get the opportunity until I was in my 20s.

But the lackluster schooling was not the worst part of Rocky Mountain Christian School.

To be continued.

Coming Out About My Unbelief to My Sister

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Sheldon, who blogs at Ramblings of Sheldon. It was originally published on November 27, 2013.

As I’ve said before, I’m really growing weary of the charade I have to keep up in order to remain in the atheist closet. I had been talking to my fellow ex-fundamentalist bloggers on Twitter about whether I should come out to my sister, who has always been there for me throughout my life (she even helped to raise me as a young boy, long story there I won’t get into right now.

On Sunday, I was debating whether or not I should come out, but then lost my courage at the last minute. Well, finally, Tuesday night, I finally worked up the courage to finally come out to her.

My sister, in recent years, has gone from the Independent Fundamental Baptist cult to what would be considered more mainstream beliefs in the fundamentalist/evangelical world (beliefs more along the lines of the Southern Baptist denomination).

I’m glad she’s out of the IFB. She fell into that group because of the influence of the IFB ran “school” I went to in my elementary years. She was there too — though, because of the age gap between us, she was in her high school years at the time, and fell prey to them pushing Hyles-Anderson College as a great place to go.

Still, I wish she would give up fundamentalism altogether, especially for the sake of her kids. Right now, she is homeschooling her kids with ACE.

That’s the same awful curriculum I grew up with.

I talk to my nephew and two nieces on the phone, and when I’m visiting her in northern Indiana. It kinds of breaks my heart to see how they just seem more childlike, than other children their age.

They do get to spend time with other children at their church, and with some young neighbors, but still, the isolation inherent in fundamentalist homeschooling is taking its toll. She doesn’t even realize it. She doesn’t realize the effects of that because she wasn’t home schooled herself.

I’m wondering that if in 10-15 years, I’m going to be getting that coming out call from one of her kids. She means well, and isn’t hostile or abusive towards her kids by any means, like our mother was. She just doesn’t know the difference. Really, it’s unfortunate. I wonder how many young fundamentalist mothers like her are out there.

I called her, and I just spilled it to her. I didn’t use the dreaded “A word” (Atheism). I didn’t know if that would distract from the whole conversation. She was surprised as I expected, and she said that it would have “blown her socks off if she was wearing them”.

I started from the beginning, from the nervous breakdown, being told that my depression was “guilt” and not having a “right relationship with god”, the unfortunate falling for that cruel lie, doubling down on Christianity, soaking up as much as I could about the Bible again, studying it and the works of various theologians, and eventually coming to realization that I couldn’t believe in it anymore.

It worried her to some extent, she seems to think that it’s just a time of questioning, despite me repeatedly telling her that it’s been 4 years now since I came to the conclusion that I can no longer believe. She told me to be sure before I eventually have to approach my mom and dad about this, and warned me about how that she is likely going to throw all she has been doing recently for me in my face.

She knows what my mom is like.

My sister had the worst end of the abuse growing up, because she was the only one willing to stand up to my mom.

I just tried to survive as best I could, staying out of her way, avoiding anything I knew would trigger her anger. Though it didn’t often work. She would invent any excuse necessary to take out her anger on us.

My sister doesn’t seem to understand what it going on, that this is not something I came to lightly. But the important thing is, she’s standing behind me. She has made it clear that she will stand behind me, even after this, and won’t let her beliefs get in the way of family.

In some ways, she can see how I reached this point. She said at times that he has questioned everything. She says at times she doesn’t feel as close to God as she used to feel, but she always ended up coming back.

I had told her, looking at it now, when I’m “undercover” in the church  I am in, (the one I am a member of still, and have attended since I was 12), that I hear what people are saying around me, and I can’t understand how I possibly believed it in the first place. She said it was because that was all I ever knew from birth, had I been raised in another nation, the predominant faith there would have been all I knew.

In some ways she gets it, and in some ways she doesn’t. I hope that the more open I become with her, that it will help her gain more of an understanding of why I came to this point, and that it’s who I am now. I told her that I’m growing weary of all this, I can’t keep hiding who I am now, and that I’m not looking forward to dealing with my mom.

It really will show my mom’s character (or more than likely, lack thereof), when I finally come out to her. I could lose the financial help and help with rebuilding my house, and taking care of my dog that she is currently doing, which would be hard to deal with. But I can learn to cope, the rough road ahead will be worth it.

I want to finally be able to live openly — and if that means losing the relationship with my mother, or being forced to cut her out of my life for my own sanity, then that is worth it.

In fact, it sounds horrible, but that’s probably the best outcome in the end, the one that will help me to heal over time.

I wish my mom could be more like my sister, willing to accept me for who I am, even if she doesn’t understand it. In fact, I wish more families, and parents especially, would follow her example.

You don’t have to agree with your family members in order to love them, and if you are putting your faith, your dogma, over love for your family, it’s showing that your religion (or more than likely, your interpretation of it), is more important to you than the people you are supposed to love.

It reveals to me, especially if you are a parent, that you are using your faith as means to control and manipulate people, and that if your children/family members are rejecting that, then they are worthless to you as a human being.

If someone feels this way, then they are not someone I want in my life, and I have no respect for them at all.

The Upside of the Downside of My Homeschooling

seasiaschool

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on August 7, 2013.

I.

Growing up, I had very little concept of “school” in the traditional sense.

While we were not unschoolers or a family who did child-directed learning, we did not even try to bring school home. We were our own breed. In my elementary years we just did the ATI wisdom booklets, checked out tons of random books at the library, and did unit studies that centered on the scripture of the month. For example, if our verse that month was “blessed are the meek,” we studied stories of meekness in history, science, missions, and life. We did not even open up textbooks, other than in math and grammar, until I got older.

Essentially we learned conservative Christianity.

We had little to no testing. But if I made less than 100 on any assignment or test, I simply took it again. Answer keys were our substitute teacher. If I did not understand something, I would open up the teacher’s book and study it. The teachers books stayed in my school box, and I graded all of my own work.

Essentially I learned by cheating.

I taught myself to write towards the end of high school. I printed articles off the internet and copied their styles, their forms, and even rewrote their content.

Essentially I learned to write by plagiarizing.

I learned “culture” by reading the New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy for 30 minutes a day. An outsider of the family suggested this because I was so culturally and socially out of touch with anything outside Christianity and homeschooling.

Essentially I learned cultural and social cues by reading, alone.

My mom said that Saxon was too watered down. Saxon is used in “public school.” Therefore, it was inferior and “too easy.” (Remember, when I was 14, my mom had me in 4th grade spelling. But in math, they wanted it difficult.)

The problem was all the “more advance” curriculum had poor explanations. (My idea of fun is not for teachers to read me problems. *cough* ACE et. al.) So often we spent 3-4 hours a day studying the word problems on our own, trying to figure them out.

Essentially I learned algebra without a teacher.

II.

In college I was shocked at how other students approached learning.

In my math course, when I did not understand how to do an advanced word problem, I just read the chapters on my own, over and over, for two, three, even five hours until it clicked. Then one of my classmates laughed at me and said, “the teacher could have shown you how to do that in two minutes.”

I learned how to write literary research papers by reading the university journal. When I did not understand the critical theory references, I looked it up. I quickly was studying upper-level ideas in the beginning of my college education.

My dorm room was quickly full of library books. Anytime I had to read a work of literature, I’d go and check out all the literary critics and read all their ideas. I was not checking these out to write essays. I was checking them to be my teacher, because I was used to teaching myself everything, and had no concept of discussing ideas with (or listening to) a teacher and other students. Once my teacher said I had plagiarized an idea; I explained the piles of books, and he laughed and said, “Maybe you should quit checking out books and just learn in class.” I was frustrated because I still was not connecting that I could learn by discussing ideas with people. (Even though never did NCFCA debate, this post resonated with me.)

I never let school get in the way of my education.  The classroom never stopped feeling like I was paying someone to tell me what to read. As much as I loved philosophy and literature, the process of school never felt natural.

III.

When I moved to SE Asia, I found people a little bit like me.

I was teaching in an intercity middle school as part of my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) program, and I was given two hints. 1) Don’t expect kids to take tests alone. There is no such thing. Kids take tests in groups of three or more. 2) Play games, games, games. Stay out of the books, and force them to speak English as a game.

Basically what we called cheating and playing, they called education.

School also started when the students got there and cleaned the classrooms, which varied day by day. It almost felt like we were at home.

I taught in a mountain village school one summer. The kids would often beg me to take them swimming in the creek. So we would. Then they would go home and change before going back to school.

On another occasion, I had spent the night with a school teacher. She insisted she take my bags back to my house before school. That turned into an hour sitting around on tree stumps with my friends. I kept shaking my head saying, “but school started at 8:30,” and she said, “the kids are in no hurry for us to get there.” And I thought, man, this lady sounds like my mother when she’d answer the phone first thing in the morning.

IV.

It’s tempting to only focus on the downside of these education techniques. 

It’s tempting to judge people who do not fit into society’s box. I remain frustrated with the education system in SE Asia (at least, the country where I lived) because it is largely anti-intellectual, at least from my white-American-western perspective. However I also learned from the laid back culture, too.

I built relationships with kids, broke down the private-public life dichotomy that we celebrate in America, and learned that life is more than careers and books. Similarly, throughout my homeschool I developed deep perseverance and ownership of my education. If I had not taught myself to write, no one would have, and so I became my own lifesaver.

For all the downsides, there’s an upside, too.

How I (Barely) Survived Home Schooling: Jonny Scaramanga’s Story

How I (Barely) Survived Home Schooling: Jonny Scaramanga’s Story

Jonny Scaramanga blogs on Accelerated Christian Education and leaving fundamentalism at his blog, Leaving Fundamentalism. He is building a resource on ACE here, and collects survivor stories from students with experience of ACE.

"I was a shining light for Jesus. Then, suddenly and brutally, I became suicidal."
“I was a shining light for Jesus. Then, suddenly and brutally, I became suicidal.”

I must admit something: I wasn’t really home schooled. I attended an Accelerated Christian Education school, which is probably the closest thing to home schooling you can get outside of a home, but, officially, I was in a school.

At first, I loved it. When I started at the school, so many of the other children were perfect. The boys held the doors open; they smiled and nodded attentively when the supervisors spoke, and they behaved like good Christians. I was not like them. I spoke back to my mother sometimes, and I swore occasionally. If I held a door at all, it was a casual shove to make sure it didn’t hit the person behind me in the face. I never did the proper stand-beside-the-door-and-salute-everyone door-holding. And I only said please and thank you occasionally, unlike my new schoolmates, who could not ask for anything without saying both. 

They were good Christian boys and girls, and I was determined to be the best. Whenever a supervisor spoke to me, I nodded vigorously and said “Yes, Mrs. Staggs” at regular intervals. At the end of school functions, I often found that my face was hurting from smiling so much.

I became the best Christian boy. My first year ended in triumph at the school awards ceremony as I picked up the certificates for the most work completed and the highest average test score, among other achievements. I was a shining light for Jesus.

Then, suddenly and brutally, I became suicidal. At the time I thought no one knew, because no one offered any help. In hindsight, I think everyone was at least vaguely aware, and absolutely clueless what to do. My report card from my second year actually says, “We wish you could find a way to enjoy this, Jonnie.” 

What had seemed like God’s perfect place for me became a prison. And so I hatched a plan.

As many of you will know, ACE allows you to work at your own speed. If you complete the work fast enough, you can graduate early. I knew I had to get out, because I hated that school so much. So I decided I would complete 100 PACEs (ACE workbooks) in a year (compared with the average 60) and graduate young.

This meant that, in effect, I had to be home schooled through the summer. To make 100 PACEs per year possible, I needed to work through the holidays. 

What followed was probably the worst type of home education imaginable. ACE is “teacherless”, at least in theory. The student just completes the workbooks individually. So my parents left me to get on with my work and went out. I couldn’t face it. The second they went out, I was on the internet. This was in the days before high-speed connections, and even before unlimited internet access. I ran up an bill of £500 ($750) in one month, desperately looking for anything to do except PACEs. My Dad made me pay the bill, but it didn’t change the fact that I would do anything to avoid those PACEs.

Having avoided work all day, I couldn’t socialise in the evenings. I spent a summer in solitary confinement, avoiding PACEs during the day and completing PACEs in the evening. Then when I should have been asleep, I wrote diary entries about how I wished I was dead but didn’t know how to kill myself.

One day, walking through my village with my mum, I passed a boy I used to know. Before my ACE school, we had been friends. He had even come to my house to play. 

“Jonnie!” he cried, obviously pleased to see me.

“Hi,” I replied. Well, I tried to reply. My voice came out as a squeak barely audible even to me. I had lost the ability to talk to anyone I didn’t see regularly. 

“Aren’t you going to say hi?” asked Mum. I hadn’t even managed to make a noise loud enough for her to hear.

When we moved churches, we spent an evening at our new pastor’s house, and I barely managed to utter a word to anyone. Eventually the pastor’s daughter spoke to me one-on-one, and I could just about manage that because she went to an ACE school too (I use the word “school” loosely; there were three children, including her). 

Somehow, I managed my hundred PACEs, but it became obvious that I would need to do the same again next year before I was even close to graduating. I felt so resentful that I was missing out on a good education, even though I had no idea what a good education might be. I just had this vague sense that somewhere out there were real schools, with science labs and libraries and literature, and I wasn’t getting any of that. 

Finally, I had a meltdown at school. Someone said something that triggered me. My vision blurred, and for a few seconds I couldn’t see. Then I started shouting at everyone.

Following this explosion, my parents finally removed me and sent me to a regular school. And, of course, fitting in was murder because I didn’t know how to talk to anyone who wasn’t a super-conservative Christian. But I had escaped. And I changed the way I spelled my name, from “Jonnie” to “Jonny”. It was a tiny thing, but it was my way of saying that I wasn’t the same person I used to be.

Now I think fundamentalist Christian home school curricula are part of the problem. Educating children is difficult. Very few parents are equipped to do it well. An off-the-shelf curriculum gives parents a false confidence that they can provide an education with little effort. In fact, a pre-packaged curriculum for every student is not going to fit any student. Systems like ACE just provide a simplistic answer to a difficult problem. Rather like fundamentalism, in fact. 

Looking Back At My Fundamentalist Homeschooling Past: Sheldon’s Story

The author of this piece writes under the pseudonym Sheldon at his blog, Ramblings of Sheldon. This piece was originally published on Reason Being on December 20, 2012. It is reprinted with Sheldon’s permission. He describes himself as “a former Christian fundamentalist” who “is now a semi-closeted agnostic” that writes about “his fundamentalist past, his beliefs now, and the cult known as the Independent Fundamental Baptist denomination, which his sister was a part of (and he also had some personal experience with).”

Recently, I have begun to start thinking about homeschooling, how I feel about it now, and how it has affected me in my life.

Two things have really gotten me started thinking about this. First, my sister decided to homeschool her children. And second, I read recently an article on the Patheos blog, Love Joy Feminism.

As I have talked about in the past, my sister was once a part of the Independent Fundamental Baptist cult — more specifically, the First Baptist Hammond/Hyles Anderson College complex. This complex was, until this summer, run by the infamous pastor Jack Schaap, who is now awaiting sentencing after a guilty plea on federal sexual abuse charges.

Thankfully, she left that group about 3 or 4 years ago. But she just traded a fundamentalist cult for fundamentalism lite (the Southern Baptist denomination). It’s a vast improvement from where she was, and both she and her kids are happy in this church. But I feel she’s dealing with what Lewis of Commandments of Men, the brilliant anti-cult/anti-fundamentalism blogger, calls the Halfway Houses effect.

Some people, like her, don’t want to give up fundamentalism entirely. They have come from such an extreme cult life background that even other fundamentalist lite groups like the Southern Baptist denomination, etc, feel refreshing. (Which is pretty damn sad when you think about it).

One of the ways she is going through the Halfway Houses effect is the decision to home school. I was just at her house in the Northwest Indiana suburbs of Chicago this past week, and she was showing me the curriculum she was using.

It was the same atrocious Accelerated Christian Education (A.C.E) curriculum we were raised with. I spent my whole school life with it, first in a IFB affiliated private school, then in home school. She spent from about 5th grade to graduation with A.C.E curriculum in that same private school, which is what unfortunately got her introduced to the Independent Fundamental Baptist cult, where she remained until recently.

(If you really want an eye opener, read some of the A.C.E survivor stories at the blog Leaving Fundamentalism, for just how bad A.C.E itself is, and how many of the schools who use it act towards their students).

I knew she had been using the curriculum for a while now, but to actually see those books sitting on her table, it was a mountain of flashbacks, and definitely not in a good way. I thought she would know better, after what she has been through, but I guess it all feels like home to her.

I could go on and on about the problems of fundamentalist home schooling and of the private school culture within those groups, but I think Libby Anne of Love Joy Feminism says it best. Libby Anne was raised up in a home in the Quiverfull movement. Her family’s beliefs were very similar to Independent Fundamental Baptist cult that my sister fell into head first. Like Quiverfull, the IFB also rejects birth control except for in extreme circumstances (such as a future pregnancy putting the wife’s life in danger).

Reading an article from her last week made me think about my current feelings on home schooling.

First of all, do I think home schooling in and of itself is harmful? No.

There are many families who do their best to educate their kids at home while exposing them to the world around them, and encouraging them to keep an open mind. There are even atheist families that home school.

There are many reasonable circumstances that would lead a family to home school their child, from having a child who has a serious physical illness, to having a job that causes a family to move often (such as one parent being a solider). Then there’s always the desire to have one’s children get one on one attention, to help them learn.

However, using homeschooling as a tool to isolate your children from the outside world is wrong. I’ll even go as far as to say it is emotional abuse. Fundamentalist groups deliberately use home schooling this way so that their children are rarely, if ever, exposed to people they don’t agree with politically or religiously, or to people who they feel are “evil” (such as people in the LGBT community).

When someone like this is isolated to such an extent, the basic social skills that most of us learn at a very early age are not developed. I will not say that this was the only cause for the problems that I have now in relating to people. It’s more than likely something I was born with, but this isolation only made far worse.

Not only are social skills impaired, knowing how to deal with normal classroom life is affected, as well as things like changes that come by moving out of home. Libby Anne talks about coming to tears more times than she can remember in her attempts to adjust to living away from home after being in such an isolated environment. At least she had a solid group of people who helped her to work through the stress. In my case, it led to a nervous breakdown.

Simple things that everyone around me knew, such as where the little pop up desk was on the side of the auditorium style seats in most class rooms in that college, (or the fact they even existed), was unfamiliar to me, in so many thousands of ways, and people kept expecting me to know it all, and I didn’t. Just like Libby Anne, I didn’t know how to write a foot note for an academic paper.

All of this, combined with a cultural disconnect from other people, led to a miserable time and downright debilitating depression.  People who have never been through this don’t realize just how much everyday conversation and interactions are based on the culture around us. I love the way Libby Anne talks about this in a post on socialization:

I sometimes wonder if one reason so many home school parents cannot seem to understand the real meaning of the socialization question is that, having been socialized themselves, they cannot imagine what it would be like to not be.

They don’t understand what it feels like to be a foreigner in your own country. They don’t understand what it feels like to not be able to fit in. They don’t understand what it’s like to berobbed of the ability to be normal because they have the ability to be normal. Parents who home school may choose to be different, but their children have no such choice.

When I read this, I reflected on both my family, and all the families that I have encountered that home school, or send their kids to fundamentalist private schools, she’s right. All of them grew up in what could be considered normal families, attending public schools, usually with parents that were either non-Christian or were only casual followers of a religion. What’s even more ironic is that many of them were baby boomers who experienced the decadence of the 1970′s. They have no idea what this kind of isolation does to someone.

This isolation and this culture that is hostile to the outside world and everyone in it will cause two extremes in the people who were raised into it. Either people will be hesitant to leave, because it’s the only life and way of thinking that they know — a perpetual Stockholm syndrome, like my sister is experiencing. Or it will drive people to leave it, like I did.

Most people of younger generations who were raised in this system are fortunately going the same route I did. The hostility towards the outside world is one of the primary reasons why younger generations are leaving fundamentalism at a very fast pace. A 2011 study by Christian polling group Barna researched most of the top reasons listed for young people leaving the churches. They had something to do with their broader rejection of the outside world, and isolation from it (which is the major aim of the fundamentalist home schooling movement). Whether that is their rejection of science, hostility towards outsiders, or hatred of homosexuality, this isolationism is starting to disgust the people raised into it.

I can only hope that this trend continues.

Our Journey to Unschooling: Cindy Foster’s Story

Our Journey to Unschooling: Cindy Foster’s Story

HA note: Cindy’s story was originally published on her blog Baptist Taliban and Beyond. It is reprinted with her permission.

I was expecting my fifth child when I had to make the decision to either send my two school-aged children to school or to home school. They had been attending a tiny A.C.E. school where I worked as a supervisor/monitor two days a week to help pay their tuition, but it was closing, and I would no longer be able to work in another school in exchange for tuition since I would be caring for a newborn. This presented a dilemma.

There was an evangelist who had eight children, seven with which he traveled the country, preaching and singing at revival services and other special meetings. They were a home schooling family who testified of the merits of educating children in this way everywhere they went. Their children, several who were teen-agers, were impressive examples to the effectiveness of this strange, new alternative to conventional schooling. This was my very first exposure to the home schooling concept. It was a strange idea to us, but our life was already venturing a few steps *outside- the-box* of our earlier existence anyway, so this seemed the most valid option.

Neither my husband nor I had much confidence in public school since much of our own school experiences were negative. We could not afford to send the kiddos to a Christian school; public school was out of the question, so home schooling seemed to be the perfect solution. We took the plunge and started the very next semester.

I was charmed by the whole notion of a little one-room school in our home—complete with little school desks, teacher’s desk and school-room ambiance. I determined that I would give my student-children a one-on-one, tutoring-style education which I believed to be the very best method. Full of idealistic zeal and energy, I felt I was embarking on an exciting new adventure—one that included the challenges of a new career as well as the comfort and satisfaction of being at home, nurturing all my little charges to their full potential.

It was a new purpose beyond the youth ministry of the church, beyond just being a wife and mother—one that involved more of an intellectual pursuit. I liked the whole idea of being a ‘home educator’. Besides the many benefits this would provide for my children, it would also give me a greater sense of importance and significance.

And as for the kids?

What was there not to like for them? What kid would rather not have to get up at the crack of dawn, rush to eat, rush to get dressed, spend endless hours listening to boring lectures, do work at school, then come home only to do homework, day after day, month after month, year after year for twelve plus years of their youth?

Certainly not my kids.

Since their dad and I didn’t enjoy those things, they surely wouldn’t either. Surely, they would rather stay up later at night, wake up when they were ready to wake up, take their time getting dressed and eating, finishing all their work early making more time for fun things and not having to put up with bullies, mean teachers and all the rules. Surely, they would love being home schooled!

Well, I doubt they really loved it, but they didn’t seem to mind—at least not until they were older.

At the beginning of her teen years, my oldest began to wish that she, like some of her friends at the church, could go to “real” school. By this time, we were far too inflexible in our beliefs to even consider allowing that. We made it clear, early on, that “school of any kind” was a non-negotiable, so she did the only thing she could do—she complied.

Through all my years of home schooling, I read many books on the subject. As each child grew into their “school” age years it became obvious that my cozy, relaxed-but-efficient “school-at-home” vision was just not materializing. Imagine that!  There were hungry babies, noisy toddlers, a constantly ringing phone, and children who would rather eat worms than fill out workbooks or listen to me read from textbooks. I so wished that I could find some way to make learning as desirable to them as eating or playing.

All the books that I read gave glowing reviews of revolutionary materials and methods which promised to make hungry learners out of even the most disinterested children. So, I tried nearly everything. The girls would work pretty well on their own in the workbooks. But those little boys! There were four of them as well as four quieter, more compliant sisters and they ALL had a dedicated aversion to sitting in a chair for any reason!  I have memories of drilling spelling words and multiplication facts to the beat of bouncing balls, floor surfing, and headstands. Now, imagine trying to chisel “structure” out of that!

Thankfully, I never had to school all eight at the same time. My first two were ready to graduate by the time my last three were old enough to start, but I did have five to teach at the same time and three younger ones who needed attention also. We muddled through, somehow. A relaxed home schooling family we were indeed! ‘Relaxed’ was the only reality for me.

A little over a year after we left the Baptist Taliban, we sold the house that we built and lived in for eighteen years and relocated to another town forty minutes away. Our lives seemed to be spinning out of control, and we were constantly coping with issues resulting from the fall-out of being forced to leave everything and everyone associated with that life behind. Needless to say, that was a difficult time to maintain some semblance of school, but we hobbled along.

None of the five I was trying to teach had temperaments compatible with school-work, so, I was getting a bit disillusioned with the whole “school-at-home” model for educating them. I tried several different approaches—the literature approach (the boys hated reading), the video approach, the hands-on approach, the little of everything approach, hoping something would take hold. I tried sending them to home school co-op classes. I sent one to Christian school (which didn’t work), and even sent one to public school (didn’t work either) relaxing the expectations more and more with each failure.

Finally, I stumbled on the book, “the unschooling handbook-How to Use the Whole World As Your Child’s Classroom,” by Mary Griffith which led to much more research on the subject and eventually renovated my whole pattern of thinking and feeling about everything educational—especially as it pertained to my seemingly UNeducable kids.

Gradually, I felt myself letting go of the school-at-home paradigm and accepting a different set of ideals—ones that would free us all from societal expectations that were not a good fit for us and free us to embrace the intellectual freedom that life-led learning offered. Finally, an approach to learning that we could all be enthusiastic about; especially me! Somehow, they actually liked viewing every aspect of their lives as opportunities to learn!

Truth is, I had no other choice — unless you believe that mother/teachers should adopt the drill sergeant persona during school hours and force the little “maggots” to learn. Call me weak, call me negligent, call me a sissy parent or even a non-parent, but I didn’t want to trade in my nurturing mommy hat for the drill sergeant/teacher uniform no matter how many completed work-sheets that would accomplish.

Giving my younger (by now growing older) kids the responsibility for their own education back to them where it belongs was the best thing I ever did. It is a bit uncomfortable at times as it always is when you operate outside the norms and it may not be evident to outsiders that anything profitable has been gained by this, but my family has noticed very positive results.

They are:

• much improved relationships
• a return of natural curiosity
• livelier conversations
• opportunity for self regulation instead of parental controls
• choices not motivated by resistance to arbitrary rules and pressures to perform
• capacity to think much improved when focus on filling brain with facts for a test is removed
• value as a person not based on how one compares to *the ideal* student or even the *normal* one
• increased opportunities to discover one’s own unique gifts
• increased opportunities to specialize in areas of interest and ability as opposed to acquiring only surface knowledge in many areas
• sense of self respect and image not destroyed by the prejudices of unkind peers

And this….only to name a few.

Now, I am at the end of my 22 year career as home educator. As I look back and consider what I would change since retrospect always reveals what should have and could have been done better, I would do these things differently:

• Allow those who wanted to go to school, to go
• Trust my instincts concerning what is best for my kids instead of conforming to the consensus of my peers
• Trust my kids more to make choices about what they learn
• Spent much more time going, doing and playing with my kids to learn with them instead of trying to teach them from books and schedules
• Expecting them to do right instead of suspecting they are doing wrong
• Looking for the causes for their restlessness instead of making hasty judgments
• Being more available to them to support them mentally and emotionally instead of just physically and spiritually
• Really listening to their complaints and being willing to change what needed to be changed
• Encouraging and supporting their dreams and aspirations, even if different from what I dreamed for them
• Recognizing and respecting their need to try new things
• Allowing them to make mistakes without judging them
• Letting them go when appropriate in order for them to grow

This is not an exhaustive list, but it does summarize the predominate deficiencies.

It has been a long, winding road that led me away from educating to facilitating their learning. I do wish I had taken that route from the beginning, but I am so thankful that it is never too late to change. It has been a source of deep satisfaction to see my resistant-to-book-learning-kids return to the intense curiosity that they were born with so much that they are now seeking out the opportunities to learn themselves.

With that, there is no limit to what they can accomplish.