Awkward But Determined: Darcy’s Story

 

At my homeschool graduation ceremony, I received around a thousand dollars in gifts from friends and family. I decided right then and there that I would spend it on the first month of classes at the community college in the city. I didn’t have a plan, I only knew I had to do something, had to get out of our house, had to fill my time while my boyfriend and I tried to talk my parents into letting us court and marry. (You can read that story here.) I had an idea that I would take all music classes so I could be better educated to teach my piano students. I didn’t know anything about how to fulfill certain credits, or what credits were, how to get a degree, how to plan your college years.

I was completely ignorant about how it worked. But that didn’t stop me. I’ve always been stubborn like that. 

I walked onto campus the first day of school and sat down with an advisor. He was a little baffled about what my plan was and why I’d waited until the first day, but said it wasn’t too late. I handed him my GED and SAT scores (I had taken the COMPASS test just for kicks a few months before). He determined I wanted to be a music major (I didn’t know what that meant but I figured he knew what he was talking about), and signed me up for Theory 101 and several other classes, including some general education classes and an art class that fit an elective credit. I was euphoric. I was going to college!

The next day, I drove the 1 hour drive from our home in the mountains to the college campus in town. I was nervous as hell. A real classroom?! But I put on my confidence face and walked into my first class, an art class. I was amazed at the diversity of people there, and a little scared of them, but determined to be friendly and make friends. I still remember that I was wearing a very long, full blue skirt with a large, collared button-up blouse that was 3 sizes too big. With my long hair in braids, bangs curled to perfection, I was the perfect model of a stereotypical homeschooled girl. And everyone knew it but me.

The teacher was not excited to have a new student that started a day late, and had no supplies. I didn’t know I needed supplies. She gave me a list and I was appalled to find out how much they would cost. But I had a couple hundred left over from paying tuition so I knew I’d be OK. Until I discovered with each class that I’d need textbooks and that textbooks are outrageously expensive. I will never forget standing in the campus bookstore, totally lost, and handing my list to a helpful volunteer who found everything for me. Between the books and my art supplies, my leftover cash was wiped out. I knew my parents could never afford to pay for me, I didn’t know what financial aid was, and I would never be allowed to get a real job to pay for myself. But I was determined to have one great semester and not think too far ahead, just figure it out as I went.

There are so many stories I could tell about those two years.

I could fill pages with memories, some funny, some cringe-worthy, all that point to a spirited young woman who had determination and resilience, but who was thoroughly unprepared to be an adult.

Who didn’t even know what she didn’t know. Who gradually went from a skirted conservative homeschooler full of trepidation and fear of the world, to a person in her own right.

I could tell about how when my art teacher asked what our favorite artists were, everyone said various contemporary artists whom I had never heard of. I blurted out “Thomas Kinkaid”, much to the amusement of several students and the outright disdain of the teacher. Apparently Kinkaid was not considered a real artist in real art circles.

Or the time I finally found out what “gay” and “homosexual” meant after someone told me one of my friends at school was gay and I had to look that up in the dictionary. At 19 years old. I was fascinated and figured he was a cool person so it didn’t matter. He didn’t seem like more of an evil sinner than any other evil sinner. He was an educational friend to have for a girl who had never heard the word “penis” before and had no sex-education. He treated me with friendliness and thought my ignorance was hilarious and endearing.

Then there was the time I explained to one of my instructors that I couldn’t get the scholarship he was offering because I didn’t have a social security number. His reaction told me that this was so far from normal and it was the first time ever that I questioned the weirdness of not having identity. I credit him with helping me go through the grueling process to finally get one.

I cringe at all the times I was asked out on a date but didn’t really know what was happening.

Then there was that logic class that pretty much was the beginning of the end for many of my Fundy homeschool beliefs. Now I know why they say college and education corrupt good Christian kids. Because the majority of everything I learned from the likes of Bill Gothard and Joshua Harris and Ken Ham and our Abeka history books didn’t stand a chance against critical thinking and logic.

Explaining why I had a secret boyfriend but didn’t go on dates was another awkward memory I’d rather forget. Also explaining why he was secret and why I was so worried about my parents when I was an adult, not a child.

I cringe thinking about the clothes I wore that were ill-fitting and “modest” and frumpy. When friends took me shopping and I tried on real clothes that fit me right, I realized I was attractive and an adult and maybe I didn’t have to dress like my parents wanted me to all the time. I bought shorter, more fitted skirts and tall boots and tights and tops that were cute and fit me well. I even bought my first pair of jeans and sometimes changed into them in the car before going in to school because I didn’t want to deal with my parents freaking out over my clothing. I wanted so badly to have some freedom and independence but was still so afraid of what my parents would say, even to the point that I was worried someone who knew them would see me and tell them I was dressing immodestly at school. Eventually I got over that, with much fighting and “rebelling” and standing up for myself. You don’t get over having “obey your parents” drilled into you from birth overnight.

I ended up getting a job as a live-in nanny for the remainder of the two years I was in community college. I moved out of my parent’s home under much protest from them, but determined to find my own way and finish school. Caring for kids was something I knew and did well, and we were happy, my charges, their mom, and I. I paid my way through the next two years of school by nannying. I started buying my own clothing and got a stylish haircut at a salon, and realized I needed car insurance. My employer gave me a cell phone and I was able to talk to my boyfriend whenever I wanted to, which was heavenly.

In those two years, I grew up a little bit. I grew a backbone. I discovered the world was so much bigger and better than I’d ever imagined. 

As my relationship with my parents got worse, I became more confident in who I was and what I wanted in life. It would be another decade before I really broke free from all the crap that was my past, but those two years were a good start.

I look back, and I cringe. About everything. I was so unprepared for the world, for being an adult. I had to figure it all out by myself and it was overwhelming. I understand now the funny looks I would get from my instructors and friends. I knew nothing about financial management, banks, insurance, medical services, dating, sex, rent, bills, taxes or anything else that suddenly I was responsible for. I made a lot of mistakes and didn’t know it til years later. My parents were neither supportive nor a hindrance. I think they thought this was just something I got in my head to do and they didn’t really care. They gave me gas money to get to school until I moved out. They wouldn’t sign the FAFSA so I couldn’t get financial aid once I figured out what that was. They didn’t like me “out from under the umbrella” of their authority where they couldn’t see what I was doing and who I was with. I never really talked about my life in the city with them. I hid much of my self and my new, blossoming thoughts and changing beliefs We fought a lot when I went home on weekends. Our relationship continued to get worse until I got married the end of my 2nd year in school.

They had no idea how to prepare a child to be a functioning adult outside their homeschool bubble, and no idea how to have a relationship with an adult child.

I had no idea that I could be an adult, or what that meant, that I had a right to make my own decisions and plan my own life. It was a gradual dawning and a painful process.

Due to a number of reasons, not the least of which was my ignorance on how degrees worked, I ended those 2 years with 70 credits and no degree. I got married, started having babies, and my husband and I went through a lot in the first 10 years of our marriage. I am now 31 years old, and at 29 with four small children, I made the decision to go back to school. I’ve been taking classes online to finish my BA and have plans to go on to grad school when my youngest starts Kindergarten. I’m now a senior at a state university. I know the ropes this time. I’m doing well. Still pulling great grades and enjoying the learning experience.  I’m planning a career and that makes me happy and gives me hope for the future. I wish I had known more and finished my Bachelor’s before having children, before life got more complicated, but here I am. Hind-sight can’t help me now. There is only the future and it’s a bright one.

My kids like to say fondly that I’m not a real grown-up because I’m still in school. They have no idea the irony of that. Someday, maybe I’ll tell them.

Reflections of a Homeschool Graduate: Part Four

Homeschool

HA Note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kallie Culver’s blog Untold Stories. It was originally published on June 29, 2014 and has been slightly modified for HA.

<Part Three

Homeschooling and the Woman It Is Making…

Many people, upon finding out that I was homeschooled, inevitably ask if I will homeschool my children someday. Growing up, when asked that question, my answer was always yes. My plan was to grow up, go to Pensacola Christian College, get a degree in education, find a husband, get married, and home-school my own children…. or so I thought. As one might surmise, homeschooling for me brings with it very mixed emotions.

It stands as a double-edged sword, acting as both gift and weapon.

Homeschooling gave me the gift of years of wonderful childhood memories spent playing, laughing, swimming, and growing up surrounded by a loving family on a ranch in Texas. It gave me self-discipline, a love for reading and imagination, a love for writing, and an insatiable thirst for traveling. It was never just enough to read about things on a page. Each new book and place I learned about made me want to go and see and do. Because we were homeschooled and my parents loved traveling, I got to visit places like The Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Tetons, Yosemite National Park, Mount Rushmore, ski slopes in Colorado, sandy beaches in Florida, the U.S.S. Alabama, The Vicksburg War Memorial, and so much more. These memories and the life we built as a family, I will forever cherish.

With light however, also comes shadows, and I have seen where even something meant to be good also became a weapon. As a child, it is hard to distinguish what is a healthy fear and what is not. Looking back, I can now see how, as a sensitive child, I gravitated towards fear and allowed it to consume me. Instead of giving me tools to understand my fears, and to reason through which ones were healthy and which were not, the homeschooling environment I was raised in only fueled the fire. Looking back, I see traces of fearful and defensive mindsets everywhere–in my class materials, in the community around me, at home, at church, in the books I read, in the magazines we read, in the conferences we attended, in the conversations I had with peers, etc.

For many parents I knew, whether it was the original reason or not, the decision to homeschool became more about protecting your children from the worldliness and dangers of public school than anything else. The fundamental homeschool networks we encountered and conservative political voices we were inundated with feverishly fed apocalyptic predictions. Whether it was the rapture, the end times, Y2K, fear of bombings in the wake of 9-11, fear of the social work system, fear of liberals, fear of homosexuals, fear of people of other races, fear of men, fear of rape, fear of secular college campuses, fear of psychology, fear of philosophy, fear of the darkness…

Evil was waiting for me everywhere I turned, and so I absorbed terror like a sponge.

Its web only grew stronger and spread further as my environment taught me to be afraid of anyone different, afraid of learning too much, afraid of wanting to much, and afraid of the unknown world outside my small comfort zone. In schooling it made me feel alone and forced to confine my love for learning to what I could teach myself, what was allowed, or what was better for others. The weapon only cut deeper as I believed the lies to discount myself and anyone else I felt unable to compare myself to.

Perhaps, however, its most fatal flaw was that it taught me to know all the answers to the questions of faith before I asked them.

I know that, for some, homeschooling was merely a means of education, and religion was more of a side note. However, for me, homeschooling and fundamental Christianity were inextricably intertwined. I cannot separate one from the other. Both were all I knew and everywhere I turned. I was given the questions anyone might use to doubt either and then given the answers, chapter, line, and verse with which to decry them. If I ever did doubt, I read scripture and prayed to take my thoughts captive unto Christ, for strengthened faith, and for forgiveness for my unbelief. As a result, Belief and Faith became a formula to master and a list to memorize, all the while blinding me to the reality that to actually have faith one must first understand its absence.

To this day the words Rachel Held Evans wrote in her recently re-released book Faith Unraveled haunt me with their accuracy:

“It was within this social context that I and an entire generation of young evangelicals constructed our Christian worldviews. You might say we were born ready with answers. We grew up with a fervent devotion to the inerrancy of the Bible and learned that whatever the question might be, an answer could be found within its pages. We knew what atheists and humanists and Buddhists believed before we actually met any atheists or humanists or Buddhists, and we knew how to effectively discredit their worldview before ever encountering them on our own. To experience the knowledge of Jesus Christ, we didn’t need to be born again; we simply needed to be born. Our parents, our teachers, and our favorite theologians took it from there, providing us with all the answers before we ever had time to really wrestle with the questions.”

(p. 78 in older version, originally titled Evolving in Monkey Town)

In the end, through pervasive fear ordained by Christianity, homeschooling taught me to limit my life to what was safe and comfortable, leaving me unprepared for the harsher realities of life and adulthood. For these reasons, I now know that I will not homeschool my children. I do not say that lightly or vindictively, and I know my experiences and struggles as a young adult have largely produced that decision. Homeschooling afforded me and my family time together, travel opportunities, and a personal love for learning that I will always be grateful for and never deny. However, when I evaluate my homeschooling experience, I have had to allow myself time to be very honest about not only the good, but also the bad.

For years, I often felt pressure to hide my feelings, or to only focus on the good. However, remembering only the good did nothing to address the lack I have struggled with, whether it was in self-confidence, self-discovery, my understanding of others, my education, my socialization skills, or my experience at large. Only by taking the time to truly grieve and to evaluate my experience honestly was I actually able to see beauty beyond the pain. It was easier to have a knee-jerk response of “all homeschooling is evil,” when all I could see and feel around me was my unacknowledged pain. Everything became a reminder of what I was trying to forget and trying to hide. So now I am learning that, by dragging the skeletons out of the closet into the light of day, not only can they be buried in peace, but the sunlight also seems to reveal some hidden treasure buried there, too.

Because of my childhood environment, I have done a lot of my growing backwards.

In today’s society, many often spend their single years finding themselves, finding their individual passions, and pursuing their own interests until they feel ready to enter a serious relationship commitment that entails building your life together and yes, sometimes even having to sacrifice for each other. For me, Rick and I began dating when I was a sophomore in college, and we were married in the summer between my junior and senior years. If I had been the typical college girl, I would have probably had my heart set on a four year university plan, and not interested in a wedding till at least after graduation, but given I was homeschooled, even my college path was far from normal. Instead it involved attending a community college, a private university, and a public university. It entailed taking preparatory classes and taking the ACT and SAT during my freshman year. It meant transferring twice, taking summer classes, and completing courses online in order to complete my degree in the midst of our move to Japan.

Even so, while my college path was abnormal, each year I grew more confident, more independent, and more aware of how much I still had to learn.

My husband has also been a huge support, as he has encouraged me to discover my own dreams alongside his. Instead of discovering ourselves separately as many do in their 20’s, we have been discovering not only how to make marriage work, but also how to grow and celebrate our own individuality at the same time. From the very beginning, he was never interested in me just adopting his dreams and losing myself behind housework, homemaking, having babies, and raising children, as was my first tendency to expect. While these are abilities I have, skills I utilize at times, and things I will pursue more someday in the future — he quickly challenged me to realize that I did not have to hide myself behind them as my only source of meaning and identity.

We have both found what works best for us is to work hard at mutuality in decisions and reciprocating support and interest in each other’s dreams versus mandating his or mine over the other. Yes, moving to Japan meant me giving up the chance for law school immediately following my graduation, and yes, it meant me having to forgo career opportunities at the time. Acknowledging that has been something we have worked to be very honest about in our communication and all the emotions it brought with it. Some days it has been very hard, and I would be lying if I didn’t admit to having felt sorry for myself at one point or another or felt torn on more than one occasion between his dreams and mine. Still, I have someone who acknowledges those feelings and appreciates the depth of my support, and that makes all the difference in the world. He has long believed in me more than I knew how to believe in myself, and it’s just one of the many reasons I love this man as much as I do. When I have felt my lowest and questioned my sanity the greatest in giving as much of myself as I have over the past six years in volunteering for ministries, nonprofit organizations, and our base community here in Japan—often given in addition to a full-time course load or due largely to the absence of gainful employment—he has been my greatest encouragement in reminding me of my value, my passions, my strengths, and what I bring to the table.

When I get fearful about the unknowns of the future, how I will make a career work with the constant moves, what jobs will even be available, how we will work kids into that plan, etc. — he is my anchor that brings me back to reality. With my long-ingrained anxious and fearful tendencies, I struggle with constantly worrying about what is over the horizon. This seasoned military brat I am married to, though, knows that it’s a recipe for misery to waste time worrying about what you don’t know. So, as he constantly reminds me, “you might as well sit back and focus on what matters today.” I am a slow learner, but a grateful one.

I know this may sound strange, but the greatest gift Japan has given me is the time to truly discover myself. In looking back, I would make the same choice again and I would not change these past three years abroad for the world. Living overseas has given me the opportunity to meet people from all kinds of backgrounds and cultures. It has pushed me to learn how to be a capable, independent woman on my own, given how often my husband was either deployed or traveling for work. It has taught me how much I love being an active participant and leader within my community. It has given me time to learn what I wanted to continue to study, and how to be creative in pursuing higher education. It has increased my passions and shown me that more is always possible. It has given me the courage to learn what I truly think and believe, and to find my voice.

It has been a safe haven, providing a space for my faith to fall apart and time for me to search through the rubble for what to rebuild it with.

It has taught me the gift and cost of true friendship that only the fires of distance reveal. Leaving family and friends behind and facing months at a time without your spouse forges friendships of a lifetime in this military community. I also found that some friendships from home bloomed in ways I never dreamed possible, thanks to inventions like Skype, Facetime, and iMessage, while others (to my surprise and grief) slipped away. So, while homeschooling did not give me the space to discover much about myself as an individual, its footprint in my life has pushed me to do just that.

When I was young, I thought I needed to be a mother and a wife before I needed to be a person. I thought I would marry some nice Christian boy who would think just like every other male I grew up knowing. I honestly thought that was all I was allowed to be and never dreamed my life would follow the path it has. Instead of becoming everything homeschooling taught me to be, I have found meaning, identity, and a life far richer beyond its boundaries.

Instead of a Christian college, I went to three secular colleges over the course of finishing my bachelor’s degree. Instead of a degree in Education, I got a degree in Political Science. Instead of a Protestant homeschooler from the country, I married a Catholic boy in the Air Force and have traveled all over the world. Instead of being a homeschooling mother at the young age of 25, I am instead working on my Master’s in Public Administration and a certification in Nonprofit Management, with only my cat and husband to care for. I am not sure yet exactly what my career path will look like, as being a military spouse means being extra creative, but I do know that I will find ways to utilize my education and talents, and to contribute to my community and the world at large.

Instead of being an active member in yet another church, being an active church leader, or being a minister’s wife (all of which seemed highly plausible in high-school) I have now gone through three plus years of my faith falling apart and my participation in church slowly decreasing. In the last year alone, I finally found the courage to be honest about my need to heal, and have spent the larger amount of my Sundays at home resting and feeling safe to have my own time of private reflection. Instead of being 100% certain of my faith and beliefs, I have learned to honestly question. With that, I have also found peace in accepting that I don’t have to know all the answers to hold on to a faith in a love and life source bigger than myself.

Christianity is what I am most familiar with, given my upbringing. It’s a familiar language, and one that I have learned to love for all its strengths and despite its weaknesses, both present and historical. However, in questioning it, I have also discovered respect and beauty in learning about other religions and faith outside my own. Instead of being close-minded, judgmental, and afraid of anyone different than me, I am now learning how embracing diversity and difference makes my life more interesting. Instead of limiting people based on gender or sexual orientation according to the doctrines I was taught but had never examined, I am now a feminist and an LGTB-Affirming Christian.

The ever-pervasive fear I lived with for so long is now a daily, sometimes hourly, sometimes minute-by-minute process to deprogram and unwind. I have learned to treasure activities like running and yoga, as they have taught me to hone my racing thoughts and to simply breathe.

In and out.

One step at a time.

One day at a time.

Until suddenly I look up and around, and I see the woman I am becoming:

A Woman with a voice.

A Woman with hope of a life, filled with passion and purpose, unchartered by fear.

Reflections of a Homeschool Graduate: Part Three

Homeschool

HA Note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kallie Culver’s blog Untold Stories. It was originally published on June 20, 2014 and has been slightly modified for HA.

<Part Two

Homeschooling: The Fall Out

When we first started homeschooling, we utilized a mixture of curriculum, beginning with Christ Centered Curriculum, Christian Liberty, and Saxon Math. In fifth grade, we switched to a new curriculum called Accelerated Christian Education, or A.C.E. By this point, my parents had been researching and were unhappy with the academic quality of the material that we had been studying. Research in the Christian Homeschooling world led them to settle on the A Beka Video curriculum, one that I know many in our circles considered too rigorous and too expensive. My parents settled on doing Program 2. This program entailed your parents doing all the grading, setting any deadlines, determining the calendar, etc., whereas Program 1 entailed sending all reports, grades, quizzes, tests, etc., into Pensacola Christian Academy to be graded and recorded. With Program 1 you were considered a satellite student and thus allowed to travel to Pensacola to graduate at the end of high school if you wanted to participate. We continued to do Program 2, however, until I graduated six years later. Given that the number of children in our family continued to expand, A Beka gave my mom more freedom to focus on the babies and toddlers, and required less hands-on time spent with us older children in school, as we could watch the videos, do the required work, and come to her only when we needed help.

For me, homeschooling was something that I loved and hated. I was a very self- disciplined child and an avid reader, so I loved the challenge academics posed. I loved learning new things. I loved learning to write. I loved every time I aced a quiz or a test. Most of all, though, I loved reading. I can’t even remember when I couldn’t read. I was the kid who would check out 40 books at a time from the library. I would read in the bathtub, outside in a tree, and under my covers with a flashlight late into the night. Every chance I could possibly find, I was probably somewhere with my nose in a book. History was fascinating to me, and I quickly developed an insatiable love for the historical fiction genre in the library. Granted, my choices were greatly censored to safe children’s versions, or Christian versions, but I didn’t care. I read every single book I was allowed to, and then read them again. If, however, I had to list out what hurt me the most and impacted me negatively through homeschooling, it would be a lack of structure, a lack of personal boundaries, a lack of accountability, a lack of educational opportunity, and a very biased education.

Today I want to focus on the first three.

A Lack of Structure: 

I saw how kids who went to school got to have a set schedule every day. They had teachers available whenever they needed help. They got to socialize with friends every day, play sports, and do extra-curricular activities that I could only dream about doing. So many people like to throw out that homeschool kids aren’t socialized. The problem was not that we weren’t socialized – if your basic meaning of the word entails being around children your own age. We had plenty of friends and people of all ages that we interacted with socially on a daily basis. My parents worked hard at that time to maintain a social life for us kids, which then meant monthly outings with other Homeschool families, where we would go bowling, roller-skating, on a picnic, or to a church hosted pot-luck.

Every few months they might arrange a mini-conference, or an art clinic that we would also participate in. We attended weekly piano, voice, ballet, and tap lessons throughout my junior high years, and continued with piano through high school. We also had an in-ground pool, so we had friends coming over to our house all the time. The problem was we only socialized with people exactly like us. The only diversity I ever really encountered growing up were the extended family members and few friends that I knew who went to public school, most of whom also grew up in a small town in Texas, going to church every week, and living the typical Friday Night Lights life. It just so happened that my bubble of a world was even smaller.

In family as large as ours, there is very little room for an “I,” since for things to work, individual needs are frequently sacrificed for what is best for the family. Sports were out of the question, as it meant a minimum of driving an hour one way for practices and two-hours one-way minimum for home games. Packing up the entire family for that kind of rigorous schedule for just one kid was not an option, much less the cost involved. As far as a schedule, given my father was a pastor and operated a Christian counseling ministry out of our home, the only word for describing my family’s lifestyle growing up is flexibility. My father was also a private investor, for additional family income as well as his own personal business pursuits. With a Father who worked from home and a stay-at-home mom there was no schedule to build our lives around. The schedule could change at a moment’s notice, whether it was a sudden family trip, a decision to go spend the day with some of our closest friends, a homeschool group event, a church event, or a trip to the nearest city – the schedule changed frequently.

In order to allow for this kind of lifestyle, we did school on a calendar year, year-round. As long as we finished out the video curriculum by the return deadline at the end of the year period, it didn’t matter as much how strict our schedule was. This also applied in the daily school schedule, since when you have all day to do it and you are at home anyways with that large of a family – interruptions were frequent and easily found. This often drove my list-loving, black/white, rule-follower personality insane. I would create schedules, chore charts, and lists for my mom, thinking that if I created the perfect one the family would all fall into a system where I could feel a sense of stability and control – but they kept failing again and again. This is where my mom would ironically point out how it was probably great training for life as a military spouse in the Air Force, because if it’s one thing you can’t do in the military life with a husband in the flying world, it’s plan too far ahead or plan on a predictable schedule.

Life has taught me there are two sides to every coin. Flexibility and finding the serenity to let go of controlling every detail of our lives is a challenging quality to develop in a healthy way. I am thankful that I learned from a young age to embrace change quickly, even if I didn’t always like it. However, for a child growing up in that atmosphere, I also learned too easily how to sacrifice my own feelings and needs for the greater good, believing that was the only option.

A Lack of Boundaries:

When I talk about a lack of personal boundaries, homeschooling for me and many other kids I knew meant that an individual child’s needs often suffered or went completely unnoticed for the greater needs of the family. I never learned how to say no or to express an opinion without first validating it by either saying “I feel that God is leading me…” or pointing to someone else and attaching my need to theirs. Personal space in a house with that size of family was also a rare luxury. I didn’t even know what it meant to have healthy personal boundaries, or that it was ok to need and want personal space. I have learned the hard way that for a child to have a healthy development into adulthood, they need to begin learning how to establish and articulate their own likes, dislikes, personal preferences, and wishes at home. This means they have to be able to feel safe to express an opinion, draw a boundary line, or even say no. While it may seem best for a young child to be wholeheartedly compliant, never learning boundaries and never learning how to be an individual within the safe confines of a loving and healthy family environment translate into a lot of heartache later on.

In sharing this, it is not my intention to ever minimize the good that I experienced growing up, because I know that my story could be far different. My parents or siblings never abused me physically or sexually. I was a happy child for the most part, who loved my family, God, and life, and saw everything in life with an undeniable optimism. I have read story after story of others like me who endured far worse, and I would never want to portray my experiences as anything else than what they were. My trials and pain came more after I left the home. Those ingrained traits of selflessness, unquestioning submission, and my desperation to please and be liked—turned into seeds for some of my hardest lessons and greatest nightmares as an adult on my own.

Having little individual development as a young adult coupled with self-hatred, insecurity, and a belief that being a girl severely limited my role in society at large meant I left home with no clue as to who I was, what I wanted, how to say no, how to establish healthy boundaries, how to trust my own decision-making abilities, or how to value myself. I was powerless, having been taught to only be a submissive child and female completely dependent on men. I transferred that submission and unhealthy levels of co- dependency to mentors, to church leadership, and to men that would come into my life – never realizing that for years I would be a walking doormat and frozen at any sight of conflict.

Growing up with the belief that for me to want something on my own was wrong meant that (as a young girl) for years all I knew to do was to want what other girls wanted. When my older sister got a horse, I wanted one, too. When my cousin started playing the violin, I wanted to learn, too. When someone did something different then me, lived differently then me, or pursued an interest different then me – it would only cause me to further buy into the lies of comparison. Who I was and what I wanted on my own was not only not allowed, but also never good enough. This is why I easily fell into the traps of first copying, and if that wasn’t allowed, then judging and mocking. It was easier to criticize and set myself up as better than others than to deal with the ache of wanting to know why I couldn’t be like them.

My parents and I have discussed this at length. I know that, as a parent, it would be hard to realize the messages your children are internalizing, especially when they don’t communicate them to you. I know now that the community and the spiritual teachings we fed on at that time played a large role in making me believe I had no right to voice what I was internalizing. I am sure it also played a role in why my parents never thought to question if I was hiding my true feelings. The entire family structure was often a subject of sermons and teachings, and many of these teachings centered around what proper familial roles entailed. It meant a strict patriarchal and complementarian view of marriage, where the man is the leader of the home and all decisions defer to his wishes and judgment. So, as a daughter, I was raised in an environment that taught me that my wishes were secondary. They were to be subordinate to my parent’s wishes, as it was our role to honor and obey our parents unquestioningly. They were secondary because I was female, and daughters and wives did not question what the father or male leader in their life wanted. They were secondary because I believed there was no time or room for individual wishes with a family so large. Lastly, they were secondary because, as a Christian, personal wishes were highly subject to being classified as selfish and self-serving.

In effect, a message that was perhaps at one time or in certain situations begun on some level as basic consideration for others – I internalized as a far more violating message:

Your opinions do not matter.

Your wishes are selfish and wrong.

You are a girl and thus your voice doesn’t count.

In believing these, I began to try to kill my desires and dreams by telling myself things like:

Your love for school and academic achievement is a source of pride, so not getting to pursue education further is the cross you must bear.

You would probably love your friends and activities too much at school, and thus become selfish and too easily influenced by peer pressure to sin – so not getting what you want is God protecting you.

Your family needs you too much at home, so for you to want to leave them and to secretly wish for things like graduation or a prom is selfish, worldly, and wrong.

So the struggle to hide only grew stronger. The web of comparison, lies, and self-hatred spread everywhere. The harmful reality of these messages, doctrine, and beliefs hung my family out to dry a few years later when my sister’s marriage was destroyed. As I have mentioned in previous posts, for my family, choosing to support her divorce meant losing a community and lifetime of friendships. We never realized how debilitating our doctrines and beliefs concerning women were until they left my sister at the mercy of protecting reputation and enduring abuse for the cause of Christ. The mere fact that those who claim to follow Christ can then twist and use Him as a reason to protect abuse in any situation makes my blood boil to this day.

It has been a journey for all of us to process through, grieve, recover, reexamine, change, and move on. It has now been almost eight years since our world fell apart, and I am so grateful that my siblings today are receiving a completely different childhood experience. I know that not every kid or family gets a second chance.

A Lack of Accountability:

As far as a lack of accountability, given how many children there were and how much my mother had to divide her focus between so many children – homeschooling placed a huge responsibility on me as a teenager to be self-disciplined, self-motivated, and studious. If I had wanted to skip subjects I could have. If I had wanted to look up answers I could have. I often graded my own quizzes and tests. By high school, I was largely on my own when it came to my education. Granted, I actually enjoyed school, and I was a Pharisee about following the rules, so the thought of trying to cheat was contemptible. Yet, I know other siblings of mine, and friends in similar situations, who found ways to work that system and missed foundational parts of their secondary education, if they got a high school-level of education at all. I know girls my age that were lucky enough to get to an eighth grade education level, as college was considered unnecessary and a waste of money for girls. I myself only completed pre-algebra, geometry, and a consumer business math elective in my math high-school classes, and so had to retake several preparatory math classes to be able to complete College Algebra once I got to college.

In high school I remember crying after every local high school graduation ceremony I attended because I knew I would never have one. I carried that pain with me through my college years, and the day I walked across a stage to receive my college diploma felt like someone had given me a pair of wings. College for me was a gift I will treasure forever. It sparked a flame, and I am still not done. Now I am in the midst of obtaining my Master’s Degree, and, knowing how much I love school, it probably isn’t the end.

Education is an investment that will never give a bad return. Through college I have found that I thrive in a classroom setting where there are clear expectations, accessible help, accountability, and competition. I wish I’d had that as a child because I know I would have done well.

As an adult, I have developed a love for running. It makes me feel powerful. It helps me de-stress and produces tangible results I can see in increased strength, discipline, and endurance. I have also found a community, inspiration, and well of encouragement in running with other women. Knowing how good it makes me feel has made me wish, on more than one occasion, that I could have discovered it sooner through something like track or cross-country, as a young girl, with other girls my own age.

I know that many parents today, mine included, find it hard to hear voices like mine point out how homeschooling failed us. For those parents who made this decision with the best of intentions and hearts full of love, I know it’s hard to see something you thought would be so good lead to your child’s confusion, heartache, and pain. However, what must be remembered is that it is equally as important for me, and others like me, to be honest about homeschooling’s failings–even if it means being painfully honest.

Consider how you respond.

Do you automatically reach for conversation stoppers? Consider how, if you respond defensively, refuse to listen, or respond with “but it wasn’t all bad” or some version of “don’t write it off altogether” it comes across dismissive and leaves little room for the conversation to go anywhere. Suddenly, the focus is again on the adult child taking care of your needs, your comfort level, your emotional stability, understanding your decisions, or protecting their relationship with you—instead of it being about honestly communicating what they have experienced and how it has affected them.

Love and healthy relationships grow with truth and vulnerability. It’s not easy to listen to where we have failed each other or how we see, interpret, and experience things differently. It takes courage.

Nathan Pyle, when writing about his relationship with his son and what he has learned about parenting, couldn’t have put it in a more beautiful way when he said,

“No parent gets it perfect. For all of our best intentions and best efforts, we will create wounds in our children. We have a better chance of avoiding paying taxes than we do at not creating a wound, or thirty, in our children. It is going to happen. I’m not beating myself up over this. Nor do I think I am overstating my impact as a parent. I’m just being honest about what is so. I need to tell the truth about this so that I can begin the internal work necessary to hear him tell me about his wounds. The key isn’t to try and become the kind of person who doesn’t create wounds, the key is trying to become the kind of person who helps heal wounds – even the ones we inflict.”

Part Four>

Reflections of a Homeschool Graduate: Part One

Homeschool

HA Note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kallie Culver’s blog Untold Stories. It was originally published on June 13, 2014 and has been slightly modified for HA.

Homeschooling: Where I Came From

One of the core reasons for me wanting to start Untold Stories is because of the healing and hope I have found through reading other blogs by homeschool graduates who have had similar experiences and difficulties in growing up, moving into society, and facing the reality of growing up in the conservative Christian homeschool world.

While I realize that many of our experiences differ, common threads reveal themselves in story after story of pain, exclusion, confusion, betrayal, abuse, doubt, faith crises, questioning loyalties, and more.

Growing up all I heard and was surrounded by were glowing reports of how homeschooling was everything God meant education to be. Then when I moved out on my own, I had such a difficult time adjusting to the real world that I spent years feeling like I had been duped and left on my own to figure out how to “de-weird” myself. Finding sites like Homeschoolers Anonymous and Recovering Grace proved to be beacons of hope after years lost in the dark seas of doubt, hating myself and my past, and doing my utmost to hide any signs of it from my peers, while at the same time mask the pain and anger I felt from loved ones still within its circles.

It has taken me a long time, but I am realizing that I can be honest about the confusion, pain, trials, and dangers of the world I grew up in. In doing that, I also don’t have to be ashamed of it anymore or try to paint a rose-colored picture of it. For so long I felt like I had to choose one option or the other. I have found that people put pressure on you from all sides on this subject.

Outsiders grow uncomfortable with your lack of familiarity with pop-culture, or find it wildly funny and strange when you miss an obvious social cue – so easily make you the target of yet another awkward homeschooler joke. Insiders still within the community exude a variety of emotions from growing angry with you for questioning the norms and potentially damaging homeschooling’s reputation, to reminding you that it wasn’t all bad and to not hurt good people by making them feel bad for well-meant efforts, to shunning you altogether. Folks interested in homeschooling want to know if I would recommend it, but then when I hesitate or speak truthfully, they usually don’t want to hear my experiences any more as they assume I am bitter, had an extreme experience, and am not worth hearing out. People who get to know me think it doesn’t bother me when they make fun of my upbringing or my family or immediately assume I won’t understand something. The thing is, while I have learned how to laugh at myself and laugh with others – there is a difference between when you are laughing with people and when you are fake laughing to cover your embarrassment for allowing it to happen yet again.

One of my favorite authors, Brene Brown, wrote “Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be in order to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.”

My journey with Untold Stories is a journey in belonging. It’s about learning to accept myself and all that comes with me from my past to my present. It’s learning to be vulnerable in healthy ways and at the right times with the right people. I have been working on this homeschooling factor for a long time. For years I was an emotional time bomb, just waiting for a person to hit the button, where I would either explode outwardly if I felt safe enough or implode inwardly all the while putting on a good face. For years all I did was assess each situation I found myself in and become the person I needed to be to fit in.

Being Kallie wasn’t an option, because I had believed the lie that being myself wasn’t good enough. A belief like that is so pervasive that even when you start to realize it in one area of your life and attempt to change, there are one hundred other areas in your life where it has spread that you are still oblivious to. I am learning that the process of moving from striving to fit in to acceptance and belonging is a constant cycle of trying, failing, trying again, succeeding, and finding yourself doing it yet again. Because of this process, and because homeschooling was such a huge influence on my life – it is important for me to stand up and take a seat at the table of voices weighing in from personal experience.

I know that many parents out there believe they have a right to stand up and defend their choices. I know that many parents out there today who are considering homeschooling often find it easier to hear from someone who talks about it in glowing terms that ease frustrations, downplay limitations, and contrast negative experiences with a public or private education experience. However, in the end, when making a healthy decision what’s really important is to hear all the facts before making the best decision for you and your family. Parents who have homeschooled can speak from experience on what it’s like to be the parent, but they can not speak from experience as to what it will be like for your child. To know that, you have to speak to those of us who were those children.

I know in my own family this can be an emotional subject, as we have all changed over the years, and processing through the past honestly is never an easy feat. However, for parents all I ask is that you take time to quietly and patiently listen. There is a time and a place for sharing your emotions and reflections, but know that for us, as adults speaking to our parents, attempting to voice the truth of how we felt, knowing how you might question our decisions, and striving to be honest about what it’s been like to live away from home—these are some of the hardest things for us to ever do. Even for those of us who weren’t abused, or for those of us who haven’t already been rejected by parents, the fear of rejection or dismissal claws at us.

The pressure to respect and to never dishonor your parents sits in your stomach like a brick.

Emotions of hatred, anger, and blame that have piled up from every time you were made fun of, misunderstood, felt cheated of a life most other kids had, felt behind in your education, had to add one more thing to your list of stuff you missed out on and are trying to catch up on – all of these feelings and more rise up like bile in your throat. You want to lash out. You want to direct it at someone, and yet you can’t because you look at your parent whom you love so much and whom you also know loves you, and you can’t blame them. So you stuff it down and you blame the system for duping your entire family, rather than honestly admit to being angry at God, the system, and your family. I have had many of these conversations with my own parents. I have handled many of them poorly, as it is often so much easier to redirect emotion and refuse to face what you are actually feeling.

I also know that I have parents who have listened, even when it hurt them. I am blessed in that I have parents who daily live out the reminder to me and my siblings that parenting is never perfect but a process. They have communicated again and again with their words and their actions that what matters most is fighting for relationship, honesty, and vulnerability even when it’s painful. And that means rethinking decisions, agreeing to disagree, or apologizing.

For those of you potentially considering homeschooling, check out resources like Homeschoolers Anonymous. Listen to stories from parents and children who grew up homeschooled. Embrace accountability, structure, high academic standards, and work to make sure that your child is truly getting the best educational opportunity and experience that they need, not what you want or only what is convenient. Make decisions with the question in mind, will my child thrive from this or live to regret my decision for them?

For those of you who meet us homeschool kids, instead of following the crowd in laughing at them or making indirect sarcastic remarks that you know go over their heads—come to their defense. Help them feel more comfortable and take time to try and understand where they are coming from. Just because it seems like they don’t pick up on everything doesn’t mean they are oblivious. I can’t tell you the number of times I have been in a social setting, where even though I may not have understood all the references being made, I knew I was being mocked, made fun of, or was the topic of conversation. Also know that as we grow more comfortable with our past and ourselves, we can also learn to joke about it ourselves and with others. It’s a balancing act really that differs for every person, but honesty, a listening ear, and some quiet observation will go a long way.

So, with this introduction, in the upcoming weeks I am going to be sharing my Home- Schooling Untold Stories. I would love to hear from you all on what your experiences have been, or thoughts you might have on the topic!

Part Two>

Results of HA Basic Survey, Part Five: Fundamentalism as a Factor in Educational Quality, Abuse, and Other Areas

Screen Shot 2013-09-28 at 9.19.55 PM

Results of HA Basic Survey, Part Five: Fundamentalism as a Factor in Educational Quality, Abuse, and Other Areas

Whether or not respondents were homeschooled in a fundamentalist Christian environment made the most dramatic differences in both educational quality and abuse. The results are fascinating. There are also interesting differences between fundamentalist environments and non-fundamentalist environments concerning HSLDA membership, parental education, and the current level of respondent education.

Before continuing, it is important to note once again that this survey is self-selected and should not be construed as representative of anything other than the 242 respondents that took this survey.

Fundamentalism and HSLDA Membership

While the Home School Legal Defense Association claims to defend any and all homeschoolers, it has a reputation as a conservative fundamentalist organization. There is a plethora of documentation concerning HSLDA’s projects that fall outside mere advocacy for the legality of homeschooling. Those projects are traditional, conservative fundamentalist projects, such as opposition to same-sex marriage and UN treaties as well as support for candidates like Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.

Considering that context, it is interesting to note that — for respondents — membership in HSLDA did not rise or fall according to whether a family was fundamentalist or non-fundamentalist.

For respondents who grew up in fundamentalist Christian families, the following was true:

  1. 56.22% said their families were directly members of HSLDA.
  2. 14.05% said their families were indirectly members of HSLDA through dues paid to a homeschool organization.
  3. 29.75% said their families were not members of HSLDA.

For respondents who grew up in non-fundamentalist Christian families, the following was true:

  1. 70.97% said their families were directly members of HSLDA.
  2. 9.68% said their families were indirectly members of HSLDA through dues paid to a homeschool organization.
  3. 19.35% said their families were not members of HSLDA.

In our pool of respondents, therefore, there was not that much of a difference in HSLDA membership (approximately only 5%) between fundamentalist and non-fundamentalist families. Furthermore, the percentage of HSLDA members among non-fundamentalist families was slightly higher. 

Fundamentalism and Parental Education

The level of education achieved by the primary teachers of respondents was slightly higher among non-fundamentalist Christian families compared to fundamentalist ones.

For respondents who grew up in fundamentalist Christian families, the following was true concerning the highest level of education of their primary teacher:

  1. 4.32% had no high school diploma or GED.
  2. 15.14% had a high school diploma or GED.
  3. 23.78% had some college but no degree.
  4. 41.62% had an associates or undergraduate degree.
  5. 15.14% had a graduate degree or higher.

For respondents who grew up in non-fundamentalist Christian families, the following was true concerning the highest level of education of their primary teacher:

  1. 12.12% had a high school diploma or GED.
  2. 21.21% had some college but no degree.
  3. 45.45% had an associates or undergraduate degree.
  4. 21.21% had a graduate degree or higher.

Whether respondents grew up in fundamentalist or non-fundamentalist families, that did not seem to significantly increase the highest level of parental education of the primary teachers.

There are a few differences — for example, all respondents that grew up in non-fundamentalist families had a teacher that at least had a high school diploma or GED (compared to 4.32% without them in fundamentalist families). Also, the level of education did increase slightly: there were more teachers with college or graduate degrees in non-fundamentalist families, but only by a few percentage points.

Fundamentalism and Respondent Education

Whereas the level of parental education did not change much between non-fundamentalist and fundamentalist Christian families, the highest level of education that respondents personally achieved did change in noticeable ways.

For respondents who grew up in fundamentalist Christian families, the following was true concerning the highest level of education they personally achieved:

  1. 4.84% have no high school diploma or GED.
  2. 3.23% have a GED but no high school diploma.
  3. 8.06% have a high school diploma.
  4. 23.66% have some college but no degree (this includes the 2.69%, or “Other,” which fit the “some college” category).
  5. 38.17% have an associates or undergraduate degree.
  6. 18.28% have a masters-level degree.
  7. 3.76% have a PhD-level degree.

For respondents who grew up in non-fundamentalist Christian families, the following was true concerning the highest level of education they personally achieved:

  1. 18.18% have some college but no degree (this includes the 3.03%, or “Other,” which fit the “some college” category).
  2. 54.55% have an associates or undergraduate degree.
  3. 12.12% have a masters-level degree.
  4. 15.15% have a PhD-level degree.

This means that 100% of respondents from non-fundamentalist families have some level of college education, compared to 83.87% of respondents from fundamentalist ones.

Indeed, among respondents from non-fundamentalist families, the first three categories — (1) no high school diploma or GED, (2) GED but no high school diploma, and (3) high school diploma — disappeared. All numbers began with at least “some college.”

This also means that 81.82% of respondents from non-fundamentalist families have a college degree or higher, compared to only 60.21% of respondents from fundamentalist ones.

Fundamentalism and Educational Quality

How respondents rated the quality of their educational experiences  dramatically changed when results were filtered by fundamentalist versus non-fundamentalist environments. Indeed, the changes are striking.

Respondents from fundamentalist Christian families gave their homeschool experiences — in totality — an average score of 2.81, less than the median score of “So-so”:

Filtered by fundamentalist. 2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.
Filtered by fundamentalist. 2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.

Respondents from non-fundamentalist Christian families their homeschool experiences — in totality — an average score of 4.2, higher than the base score for “Adequate.” The visual difference here is striking:

Filtered by non-fundamentalist. 2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.
Filtered by non-fundamentalist. 2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.

This is an increase of almost one and half points between fundamentalist and non-fundamentalist respondent groups. This is one of the most significant increases seen in this survey yet.

Fundamentalism and Abuse

While the difference in educational quality between respondents from fundamentalist families and non-fundamentalist families was striking, the difference in experiences of abuse is even more so. Indeed, the difference in experiences of abuse is the most glaring of all of the results from this survey.

The majority of respondents from fundamentalist Christian families (71.2%) experienced one or more forms of abuse.

The most common forms were emotional abuse (61.41% experienced this), verbal abuse (52.72%), religious abuse (46.74%), and physical abuse (33.70%). This means that the majority of respondents from fundamentalist Christian families experienced emotional and verbal abuse.

Filtered by fundamentalist. 2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.
Filtered by fundamentalist. 2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.

The overwhelming majority of respondents from non-fundamentalist Christian families (93.55%) did not experience abuse. 

Whereas 61.41% of respondents from fundamentalist Christian families experienced emotional abuse, only 6.45% of respondents from non-fundamentalist families did. Whereas 46.74% of respondents from fundamentalist Christian families experienced religious abuse, only 3.23% of respondents from non-fundamentalist families did. Whereas 33.7% of respondents from fundamentalist Christian families experienced physical abuse, only 3.23% of respondents from non-fundamentalist families did.

Filtered by non-fundamentalist. 2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.
Filtered by non-fundamentalist. 2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.

As this is — once again — a self-selected survey, these results do not accurately represent the frequency of educational quality and abuse in fundamentalist or non-fundamentalist Christian homeschool families. The results do suggest, however, that fundamentalism is a highly significant factor in the quality of education and the experiences of abuse for the adult graduates of the Christian homeschool movement that took this survey.

In fact, fundamentalism is the most significant factor thus far.

*****

< Part Four: Parental Education as a Factor | Part Six: HSLDA Membership as a Factor >

2013 HA Basic Survey: Main Page

Results of HA Basic Survey, Part Four: Parental Education as a Factor in Educational Quality, Abuse, and Current Religious Beliefs

Screen Shot 2013-09-28 at 9.19.55 PM

Results of HA Basic Survey, Part Four: Parental Education as a Factor in Educational Quality, Abuse, and Current Religious Beliefs

In every one of the following categories — educational quality, abuse, and current religious beliefs — parental education seemed to correlate to a decrease or increase. As parental education increased, the following consistently occurred: the quality of education improved, abuse decreased, and homeschool experiences were less likely to have influenced respondents’ current religious beliefs. Also, as parental education increased, those who experienced a fundamentalist Christian environment decreased.

Parental Education and Educational Quality

Averaging the scores for all aspects, respondents gave their educational experience a score of 3.06, slightly above the median score category of “So-so.”

When the primary teacher had no high school diploma or GED, respondents’ scores for their educational experience averaged at 2.21.

When the primary teacher had a high school diploma or GED, respondents’ scores for their educational experience averaged at 2.74.

When the primary teacher had some college education but no degree, respondents’ scores for their educational experience averaged at 2.76.

When the primary teacher had an associates or undergraduate degree, respondents’ scores for their educational experience averaged at 3.23.

When the primary teacher had a graduate degree or higher, respondents’ scores for their educational experience averaged at 3.47.

There is a significant decrease in expressed educational quality from respondents whose primary teachers had a graduate degree to those who primary teachers had no degree or diploma whatsoever — a decrease of 1.26 points. Not only that, but perceived educational quality consistently decreased as parental education decreased.

Notable areas in which educational quality dropped significantly are: (1) socialization, dropping from 3.63 (graduate degree or higher) to 2.62 (high school diploma or GED) and ending at 1.78 (no high school diploma or GED); (2) college prep, dropping from 3.51 (graduate degree or higher) to 3.0 (high school diploma or GED) and ending at 2.11 (no high school diploma or GED); and (3) intangibles in general, dropping from 3.66 (graduate degree or higher) to 2.63 (high school diploma or GED) and ending at 1.67 (no high school diploma or GED)

Parental Education and Abuse

The majority of respondents (60.92%) experienced one or more forms of abuse in their homes or homeschooling environments. 

2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.
2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.

When the primary teacher had no high school diploma or GED, the percentage of respondents who experienced abuse was 88.89%.

When the primary teacher had a high school diploma or GED, the percentage of respondents who experienced abuse was 75.53%.

When the primary teacher had some college education but no degree, the percentage of respondents who experienced abuse was 70.37%.

When the primary teacher had an associates or undergraduate degree, the percentage of respondents who experienced abuse was 56.12%.

When the primary teacher had a graduate degree or higher, the percentage of respondents who experienced abuse was 41.46%.

This is a remarkable drop in experiences of abuse from respondents whose primary teachers had graduate degrees or higher to respondents whose primary teachers had no degree or diploma. This is a decrease of 47.43% in experiences of abuse.

Notable areas in which abuse increased significantly as parental education decreased are: (1) physical abuse, increasing from 17.07% (graduate degree or higher) to 35.29% (high school diploma or GED) and ending at 77.78% (no high school diploma or GED); (2) verbal abuse, increasing from 21.95% (graduate degree or higher) to 61.76% (high school diploma or GED) and ending at 88.89% (no high school diploma or GED); and (3) emotional abuse, increasing from 34.15% (graduate degree or higher) to 58.82% (high school diploma or GED) and ending at 88.89% (no high school diploma or GED)

Parental Education and Current Religious Beliefs

The majority of respondents (78.84%) said their homeschool experience was fundamentalist Christian. 

The overwhelming majority of respondents (92.53%) believe that their homeschool experience influenced what they believe today about religion.

When the primary teacher had no high school diploma or GED, the percentage of respondents who said their homeschool experience was fundamentalist Christian was 100%. Also, the percentage of respondents who believe that their homeschool experience influenced what they believe today about religion was 100%.

When the primary teacher had a high school diploma or GED, the percentage of respondents who said their homeschool experience was fundamentalist Christian was 85.29%. Also, the percentage of respondents who believe that their homeschool experience influenced what they believe today about religion was 97.06%.

When the primary teacher had some college education but no degree, the percentage of respondents who said their homeschool experience was fundamentalist Christian was 81.48%. Also, the percentage of respondents who believe that their homeschool experience influenced what they believe today about religion was 94.44%.

When the primary teacher had an associates or undergraduate degree, the percentage of respondents who said their homeschool experience was fundamentalist Christian was 77.44%. Also, the percentage of respondents who believe that their homeschool experience influenced what they believe today about religion was 92.16%.

When the primary teacher had a graduate degree or higher, the percentage of respondents who said their homeschool experience was fundamentalist Christian was 68.3%. Also, the percentage of respondents who believe that their homeschool experience influenced what they believe today about religion was 85.37%.

The strongest sense of correlation between parental education and current religious beliefs concerned those respondents that have turned their backs on Christianity in favor of agnosticism, atheism, or another religion.

Keep in mind here that the primary teachers of the overwhelming majority of respondents were their mothers. Mothers were the primary teachers of 80.91% (195) of the graduates. 

2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.
2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.

When the primary teacher had no high school diploma or GED, the percentage of respondents who turned their backs on Christianity was 88.88%.

When the primary teacher had a high school diploma or GED, the percentage of respondents who turned their backs on Christianity was 44.13%.

When the primary teacher had some college education but no degree, the percentage of respondents who turned their backs on Christianity was 42.59%.

When the primary teacher had an associates or undergraduate degree, the percentage of respondents who turned their backs on Christianity was 33.33%.

When the primary teacher had a graduate degree or higher, the percentage of respondents who turned their backs on Christianity was 14.64%.

(The category descriptions in the pictures above get cut off, so see Part Two for a reminder of what each category is.)

A correlation seems to exist, therefore, between how educated primary teachers — interestingly, mothers for 80.91% of respondents — are and whether respondents retained their Christian beliefs.

*****

< Part Three: Economics as a Factor | Part Five: Fundamentalism as a Factor >

2013 HA Basic Survey: Main Page

Results of HA Basic Survey, Part Three: Economics as a Factor in Educational Quality, Abuse, and Current Religious Beliefs

Screen Shot 2013-09-28 at 9.19.55 PM

Results of HA Basic Survey, Part Three: Economics as a Factor in Educational Quality, Abuse, and Current Religious Beliefs

Economics and Educational Quality

Averaging the scores for all aspects, respondents gave their educational experience a score of 3.06, barely above the median score category of “So-so.”

For the lower class, the average score was 2.71, below “So-so.”

For the middle class, the average score was 3.10, above “So-so” and slightly above the average for all class scores.

For the upper class, the average score was 3.37, well above “So-so.”

Certain aspects of homeschool experiences were significantly different between economic classes. For example, Math was ranked by those in the lower class at 2.83; this significantly increased in the middle class to 3.39, and to 3.89 in the upper class. Similarly, Science was ranked by those in the lower class at 2.48; this significantly increased in the middle class to 2.81, and to 3.39 in the upper class.

Certain aspects of homeschool experiences did not change much regardless of economics. Sex education, for example, stayed within a narrow range between “Inadequate” and “So-so.” The lower class ranked it at 2.02, the middle class at 2.23, and the upper class at 2.5. The same occurred with political diversity: lower class ranked it at 2.05, middle class at 2.36, and upper class at 2.61.

In general, every single aspect of respondents’ experiences seemed to improved as wealth increased.

The only exception to this, interestingly, is socialization.

The lower class ranked socialization at 2.76; this increased to 3.14 in the middle class. But then it decreased to 3.11 in the upper class.

The most telling way in which economics related to educational quality is in the scores for the category Academic Experiences (As A Whole). The lower class rated their homeschool experiences in totality at 2.98, the middle class at 3.44, and the upper class at 3.96. That is an increase in nearly an entire point between the lower class and the upper class, raising the quality of the academic experience from “So-So” to “Adequate.”

Economics and Abuse

In contrast to educational quality, abuse did not seem to necessarily correlate to a decrease or increase in wealth for respondents.

The average for all economic classes for those that experienced abuse in their home or homeschooling environment was 60.92%.

The average for the lower class for those that experienced abuse in their home or homeschooling environment was 73.81%. The average for the middle class for those that experienced abuse in their home or homeschooling environment was 57.49%.The average for the upper class for those that experienced abuse in their home or homeschooling environment was 60.71%.

There was a substantial decrease in abuse (of 16.32%) moving from the lower class to the middle class. That decrease did not continue, however, moving from the middle class to the upper class. Rather, abuse increased (by 3.22%) from the middle class to the upper class. Thus there did not seem to be a direct correlation between wealth and the frequency of abuse in general.

Some specific forms of abuse, however, did seem to correlate with wealth. For example, economic abuse decreased as wealth increased: from the lower class (40.48%) to the middle class (23.95%) to the upper class (17.86%).

Medical abuse also decreased as wealth increased, and in fact was non-existent in the upper class: from the lower class (30.95%) to the middle class (10.78%) to the upper class (0%).

Educational abuse also decreased as wealth increased: from the lower class (40.48%) to the middle class (20.96%) to the upper class (14.29%).

Emotional and verbal abuse were the main categories in which abuse did not consistently decrease as wealth increased. Each decreased from the lower class to the middle class, but then increased from the middle class to the upper class: Emotional abuse went from 66.67% (lower) down to 48.5% (middle) and then up to 53.57%. Verbal abuse went from 59.52% (lower) down to 41.92% (middle) and then up to 42.86% (upper).

Thus while specific forms of abuse did correlate to a decrease or increase in wealth, this fact was not consistent enough to generalize a direct correlation. In fact, several forms of abuse increased in frequency from the middle class to the upper class.

That said, what can be generalized is that abuse was consistently the highest in families in the lower class or below the poverty line.

Filtered by lower class. 2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.
Filtered by lower class. 2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.

Economics and Current Religious Beliefs

78.84% of respondents said their homeschool experience involved fundamentalist Christianity.

This number was highest in the lower class, at 88.1%, dropping to 77.77% in the middle class.

This number was then lowest in the upper class, at 71.42%. So while the overwhelming majority of respondents grew up in fundamentalist Christian environments regardless of economic class, those environments were slightly less fundamentalist as wealth increased.

The most interesting trends, as far as a correlation between economics and current religious beliefs are concerned, is the percentage of respondents who grew up in fundamentalist Christian environments and then left Christianity for agnosticism, atheism, or another religion (cited were Paganism and Satanism).

In the upper class, only 24.99% believed their fundamentalist Christian homeschool experience influenced them towards agnosticism, atheism, or another religion. This increased to 35.08% in the middle class.

In the lower class, 45.24% believed their fundamentalist Christian homeschool experience influenced them towards agnosticism, atheism, or another religion. 

Filtered by lower class. 2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.
Filtered by lower class. 2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.

That is approximately 20% more than those in the upper class (and 10% more than those in the middle class) influenced towards agnosticism, atheism, or another religion.

These findings seem to suggest that, as wealth decreases, fundamentalist Christianity in homeschooling experiences increases — but only slightly so. However, as wealth decreases, the number of respondents — with fundamentalist Christian environments — turning their backs on Christianity significantly increases.

*****

< Part Two: Summary of Findings | Part Four: Parental Education as a Factor >

2013 HA Basic Survey: Main Page

Results of HA Basic Survey, Part Two: Summary of Findings

Screen Shot 2013-09-28 at 9.19.55 PM

Results of HA Basic Survey, Part Two: Summary of Findings

Summary of Educational Findings

Survey respondents were asked to rate the following aspects of their homeschool experience: Math, Science, History, Language Arts, Studying Religions Other Than Your Family’s, Studying Political Beliefs Other Than Your Family’s, Sex Education, Socialization, Life Skills Relevant To All Genders, Job Training/Preparation For The Work Place, College Preparation, Academic Experience (As A Whole), and Intangible Experience (Everything Other Than Academics). Respondents were asked to rate these aspects on a scale from 1 to 5, 1 being “Horrible” and 5 being “Excellent.”

Averaging the scores for all aspects, respondents gave their experience a score of 3.06, barely above the median score category of “So-so.”

2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.
2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.

Respondents consistently and overwhelmingly consider language arts their strong suit. The average score for language arts was 4.22, which makes it the only average score above 4, or “Adequate.”  No score’s average reached past 4.5, putting it in the “Excellent” category.

Respondents consistently and overwhelmingly consider the quality of all other aspects of their home school experience (other than language arts) to be less than “excellent” and also less than “adequate,” averaging around “so-so.” Sex education, world religions, and comparative political science are the weakest points.

There was a tie for the aspect that received the most amount of “Horrible” votes between “Studying Political Beliefs Other Than Your Family’s” and “Sex Education.” 106 of the 242 respondents gave each of these categories a 1.

The aspect that received the most amount of “Excellent” votes was “Language Arts,” with 136 respondents (56.43%) giving it a 5. Coming in second to “Language Arts” was “History,” with 80 respondents (33.47%) giving it a 5.

Among core subjects (math, science, history, and language arts), math had the lowest score, with 2.82. Only 28.22% (68) of respondents considered their math education to be “Adequate,” and only 8.3% (20) considered it “Excellent.”

Summary of Abuse Findings

The majority of respondents (60.92%) experienced one or more forms of abuse in their homes or homeschooling environments. 

2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.
2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.

Emotional abuse was the most common (52.10%), followed by verbal abuse (44.96%); sexual abuse was the least common (5.46%).

Identification abuse was not common (8.82%, or 21 individuals out of 242), though that number ought to be concerning regardless. It means approximately 1 out of every 10 respondents experienced an environment in which their parent(s) did not provide or withheld/destroyed their identification documents (driver’s license, Social Security card, etc.). Similarly, more than 1 out of every 10 respondents (13.03%) were prevented while growing up from seeking medical care or denied medical care by their parent(s).

Approximately 1 out of every 4 respondents experienced the following forms of abuse in their home or homeschooling environment: economic abuse, educational abuse, and physical abuse.

Summary of Findings on the Relationship Between Christian Homeschooling and Current Religious Beliefs

The overwhelming majority of respondents believe that their homeschool experience influenced what they believe today about religion.

2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.
2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.

*****

(Since the above categories are difficult to read, here is a text version:)

Answer Choices
Responses
My homeschooling experience had no influence on what I believe today about religion.
7.47%
18
My homeschooling experience was fundamentalist Christian, and strengthened my religious beliefs in fundamentalist Christianity.
5.81%
14
My homeschooling experience was fundamentalist Christian, and influenced me towards non-fundamentalist Christianity.
37.34%
90
My homeschooling experience was *not* fundamentalist Christian, and influenced me towards fundamentalist Christianity.
0.41%
1
My homeschooling experience was *not* fundamentalist Christian, and strengthened my religious beliefs in non-fundamentalist Christianity.
12.86%
31
My homeschooling experience was *not* fundamentalist Christian, and influenced me to leave Christianity for another religion.
0%
0
My homeschooling experience was *not* fundamentalist Christian, and influenced me to leave religion altogether.
0.41%
1
My homeschooling experience was fundamentalist Christian, and influenced me towards agnosticism.
19.09%
46
My homeschooling experience was fundamentalist Christian, and influenced me towards atheism.
14.94%
36
My homeschooling experience was fundamentalist Christian, and influenced me towards a religion other than Christianity:
1.66%
4

*****

Only 7.47% (18) said their homeschool experience did not influence their current religious beliefs. This means homeschool experiences influenced the current religious beliefs of 92.53% (224) of respondents.

78.84% of respondents had fundamentalist Christian homeschool experiences; 13.68% had non-fundamentalist Christian homeschool experiences.

The plurality (37.34%) of respondents had fundamentalist Christian homeschool experiences, and these experiences influenced them away from fundamentalism towards non-fundamentalist Christianity.

The second most common category (19.09%) was graduates whose fundamentalist Christian homeschool experiences influenced them towards agnosticism.

The highest retention value was within the non-fundamentalist Christian category: 33 respondents had non-fundamentalist Christian homeschool experiences, and among these 33 respondents 31 of them felt that experience strengthened their religious beliefs in non-fundamentalist Christianity.

Only 5.81% (14) of the respondents said they had a fundamentalist Christian homeschool experience that strengthened their own beliefs in fundamentalism.

*****

< Part One: Demographic Considerations | Part Three: Economics as a Factor >

2013 HA Basic Survey: Main Page

Results of HA Basic Survey, Part One: Demographic Considerations

Screen Shot 2013-09-28 at 9.19.55 PM

Results of HA Basic Survey, Part One: Demographic Considerations

Disclaimer About Survey Results

The Homeschoolers Anonymous (HA) Basic Survey was conducted for adult graduates of the Christian homeschool movement. Throughout this survey, “respondents” will signify the 242 individuals from 42 U.S. states and 8 foreign countries that participated in the survey.

These respondents do not necessarily reflect all adult homeschool graduates, nor is it claimed that these 242 individuals are a representative sample. Three important considerations are to be considered:

  1. This survey was conducted for graduates of the Christian homeschool movement specifically.
  2. This survey was open for anyone who desired to participate, thus it is self-selected.
  3. Effort was made to solicit diverse responses from this specific subculture of adult homeschool graduates, whether their experiences were positive or negative. At the same time, the primary methods for promoting the survey came from the social media channels and blog partners of HA.

The survey was designed by HA with the explicit purpose of helping to identify experiential and qualitative patterns as well as learning what the HA community’s needs are.

Geographical Considerations

242 adult graduates of the Christian homeschool movement took the HA Basic Survey.

Those 242 individuals represented 42 U.S. states and 8 foreign countries.

U.S. states represented in this survey include: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The average response per state was 5.45 survey responses.

States with one survey respondent only included: Connecticut, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, and West Virginia.

States with high numbers of survey respondents included: Florida (13 survey respondents), Georgia (13), Oregon (13), Texas (21), Virginia (10), and Washington (14).

California had the highest number of survey respondents for a U.S. state with 42.

Foreign countries represented in this survey included: Canada, Australia, Philippines, Eastern Europe, South Korea, Mexico, England, and Iceland. Canada had the highest number of survey respondents for a foreign country with 4.

HSLDA Considerations

The majority of respondents are from families which were members of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). 

2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.

57.98% (138) of the graduates’ families were directly members of HSLDA.

13.87% (33) of the graduates’ families were indirectly members of HSLDA, through dues paid to a local or state homeschool organization.

28.15% (67) of the graduates’ families were not members of HSLDA.

Economic Considerations

The majority of respondents are from middle class families.

2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.
2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.

70.95% (171) of the graduates’ families were in the middle class (with incomes between $32,500 and $100,000 a year).

17.43% (42) of the graduates’ families were in the lower class or below the poverty line (with incomes lower than $32,500 a year).

11.62% (28) of the graduates’ families were in the upper class (with incomes above $100,000 a year).

Educational Considerations

235 individuals stated the length of their homeschool experience, with a cumulative total of 2641 years. Thus the average length of each individual’s homeschool experience was 11 years.

This means that this survey represents individuals whose primary educational experience from K-12 was almost entirely through homeschooling.

2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.
2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.

The primary teachers of the overwhelming majority of respondents were their mothers. Mothers were the primary teachers of 80.91% (195) of the graduates.

The second most common primary teacher of the graduates (at 13.28%, or 32) was “other” than mother, father, other relative, co-op teacher, or tutor. When asked to specify, the majority of these graduates specified “myself’ or “no one,” with personalized answers such as:

  • “From first grade on, I did everything by myself but my parents would help sometimes if I got stuck.”
  • “I attended classes once a week, but ‘taught myself’ at home otherwise.”
  • “Basics were taught by oldest sister. 6-9 (I took from 13-18 to get through these grades) were done on my own…”
  • “Myself. I also was responsible for teaching my brothers.”
  • “No one. We read our text books alone.”
  • “No real effort was made in my homeschooling. I was run around to activities but other than that largely self taught and given the answer keys to check my own answers after I completed the booklet.”

3.73% (9) of respondents said their primary teacher was both their mother and their father evenly.

1.24% (3) of respondents said their primary teacher was a non-family member such as a teacher at a co-op or a tutor.

0.83% (2) of respondents said their primary teacher was their father.

The highest level of education of the primary teacher of each respondent is most commonly an associates or undergraduate degree.

2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.
2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.

42.50% (102) of the primary teachers had associates or undergraduate degrees. 22.50% (54) had some college education but no degree. 14.17% (34) had a high school diploma or GED. 3.75% (9) had neither a high school diploma nor GED. 17.08% (41) had a graduate degree or higher.

This means 59.58% of the primary teachers had an associates degree or higher.

The highest level of completed education for the plurality of respondents is an associates or undergraduate degree.

2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.
2013 Homeschoolers Anonymous Basic Survey.

The highest level of completed education for 41.08% (99) of adult homeschool graduates is an associates or undergraduate degree; for 17.43% (42), a masters-level degree; for 5.39% (13), a PhD-level degree; for 20.33% (49), some college education, but no college degree; for 6.64% (16), a high school diploma; for 2.90% (7), GED but no high school diploma; and  for 3.73% (9), no GED and no high school diploma.

This means 63.9% of respondents have an associates degree or higher. This is an improvement of exactly 4.32% over the percentage of the graduates’ primary teachers with associates degrees or higher. 

Religious Considerations

The majority of respondents said their homeschool experience was fundamentalist Christian. 

190 individuals, or 78.84%, said their homeschool experience was fundamentalist Christian.

33 individuals, or 13.68%, said their homeschool experience was non-fundamentalist Christian.

18 individuals, or 7.47%, declined to provide information relevant to this question.

*****

< 2013 HA Basic Survey: Main Page | Part Two: Summary of Findings >