Wisdom Homeschooling and Child Abuse: Mahlah’s Story

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

I grew up in Alberta, Canada with a single mom and three siblings. We were low-income and we moved around a lot, from rural Alberta to cities like Calgary.

In highschool, my oldest sister experienced some bullying and so my mom decided to homeschool her. Since my mom worked full time, often two jobs, my sister was expected to keep on top of her studies by herself. In elementary school, my brother and I experienced some minor bullying as well. So my mother pulled us out and homeschooled us as well.

I was only in the first grade.

We were homeschooled through the group Wisdom Homeschooling, a faith-based group whose credentials are not recognized by Canadian Universities and whose credits are not convertible to standard provincial diplomas. Essentially, it sets you up to fail because you are not a holder of any recognized high school diploma when you are 18.

The majority of our school books came from US publishers such as Apologia Educational Ministries, which taught everything from how evolution is a lie to how great manifest destiny is. Often my mother had not ordered all the books we needed, so when I should have started grade 4 math, I started grade 6 instead.

Every year we would have a program facilitator from Wisdom Homeschooling come and do a review to see how we were making progress. It should have been clear that we did not have appropriate school books, that our mother was too absent to properly administer any supervision, and that on any given year myself or my siblings were not doing sufficient work that children in public education would be completing.

By the time I was a teenager I began realizing how dire the situation was.

My two older siblings technically did not graduate, even by Wisdom Homeschooling’s standards. I was very worried. I knew I wanted to go to university, but nothing I had done up until that point would be accepted by any university, except private Christian schools.

Except, I didn’t know that.

My program facilitator told me I could compile a “portfolio” of my work, essentially self-testing that I had completed and kept a record of, some of my art work, a list of books I’d read. Clearly that was a lie. Universities would not accept that.

I wanted to go to public school and finish highschool. I begged to go to public school. But my mother said no.

By 14 I was working full time. I spent more time working than completing my totally useless fundamental Christian studies. I used my money to help pay for groceries and save for university.

Again my facilitator was willfully ignorant of the fact that I was not doing nearly enough work on my school books.

At 16 I called him to ask more questions about university. The conversation took a turn when he asked me about my mother. He asked me if she had been drinking the last time that he had come for his scheduled visit. I said yes.

During that visit, my mother had an outburst at me. She yelled in front of the facilitator and it was extremely awkward. She always yelled at me when she had been drinking.

She had a problem. I wanted to get out so badly.

On the phone with the facilitator, I broke down crying. I told him everything. I told him about the drinking, I told him about the emotional abuse I had been enduring. And my fears for my education. I didn’t want to end up like her. Poor with 4 kids.

I basically asked him for his help. The facilitator told me he can’t confront her, because she will feel attacked and may feel that she should pull us out of homeschooling and put us into public school.

That was his biggest concern. 

That we stayed in homeschooling. 

That we didn’t tarnish the name of Wisdom Homeschooling. 

A year later I moved out. I took American SATs to use as entry into Mount Royal University in Calgary and the process was complicated and daunting.

Homeschooling ruined my life. Even today I am struggling to overcome social anxieties and awkwardness due to lack of socialization.

I have no math skills and I struggle to understand basic science.

When I wanted to join the military, they denied me because I didn’t have a high school diploma, even though I am a university student.

Somehow, I have managed to get control of my life. Today I am working for the government and I am about to graduate from university. I have not spoken to my mother in years.

I did not receive a real education. In the face of flagrant child abuse, I was ignored.

Burn In Case Of Evil: Cain’s Story, Part Four

Burn In Case Of Evil: Cain’s Story, Part Four

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


In this series: Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four


My Home “Education”

A lot of people read this site and remark on how accomplished, out-spoken, and well-educated we all seem.  Many have remarked that it was obviously homeschooling that made us who we are.  The answer to that question is complicated because I am what I am because of, and despite of, homeschooling.  When your entire social life and community K-12 is homeschooled, of course these influences significantly impacted my life.  But much of my adult life has been spent “re-learning” everything (from social skills, to history, to biology, to relationship etiquette).  I was taught about all of these things through homeschooling.  Some subjects I was never taught properly in high school and my insufficiency handicapped my educational opportunities.

My mother was the primary instructor and, bless her heart, she only had a GED and a few college classes.  It’s not that my mother is not smart, or stupid; it’s that she was not qualified to give me a high school education.  I consider most of my educational experiences before 8th or 9th grade to be generally positive.  I excelled in spelling, math, science, and language arts.  I really had an interest in science at an early age – I can remember enjoying earth science, nuclear science, and astronomy/space.  As I entered high school, a few things happened.  First, we got involved in ATI (a homeschooling cult) when I was about 10, but by my high school years the “Wisdom Booklets” became my primary textbooks (other than math).  Second, I became involved in NCFCA/CFC when I was 13 – started debating at 14.  Third, I started liking girls and “rebelling” by falling for them and having innocent phone and text conversations.

We used Saxon math as a supplement to the Wisdom Booklets.  I excelled at geometry, basic algebra, and word problems.  I’ve always enjoyed problem solving.  As I got involved with advanced geometry and algebra II, my mother simply could not keep up.  I would call my older sister, who was pursuing an engineering degree, and she would try to help me through it.  But math-by-phone is no substitute for a math teacher.

I think about 15 or 16, when I got involved heavily in debate, my mom stopped requiring me to do math.  Debate literally took over my life and I spent about 40 hours a week researching, writing speeches, and talking to friends in homeschool debate.  I consider my friends from CFC/NCFCA as the closest thing to a “high school class” because they were the only social group that I interacted with somewhat limited parental oversight.  I excelled at debate and it fed my father’s interest in history and politics.  So for three years all I did was debate, which was vastly superior to Wisdom Booklets.  My education with Wisdom Booklets made me think that AIDS was a gay disease and my sex mis-education was downright reckless.  I “learned” about logarithms intertwined with the tale of Jesus multiplying the loaves and fishes.

When it came time to submit my high school transcript for college (and to apply for state scholarships) my parents sat down at the computer and literally made up my transcript.  Debate-related activities and research were labeled under lots of different titles (American History, Composition, Logic, Civics, Public Speaking, English, etc).  Of course, I got A’s in all of these categories.  Now, my parents had some semblance of ethics and they decided I needed to complete some science courses to qualify for the state’s college entrance requirements.  My science courses in high school were pathetic, with the exception of computers because my dad worked in the industry for his entire adult life.

During most of my junior and senior years, I worked full-time and debated.  There was a long-distance Latin course from PHC, chemistry, and biology course interlaced with working and debate.  I got C’s in all of these classes and I’m pretty sure I had to cheat on two of the finals just to pass.

Technically, I took a chemistry and biology course, but in reality, I learned nothing about those subjects.  My mom wasn’t that knowledgeable in sciences. I used the Apologia biology textbook.  I remember bumbling through the biology book, not understanding anything I was reading.  Mostly because there was no grand narrative, like evolution, to make sense of all the different species.  I excelled in college biology, but not until I understood the topics from an evolutionary perspective.  My chemistry course was me and my homeschooled friend learning from his father, who was a doctor.  The “classes” lasted for maybe a month or two, but then life got busy and I stopped going.  He didn’t really follow-up, for whatever reason, and my parents didn’t seem that interested either.  So I taught myself chemistry?  Nope, I suck at chemistry – on a very basic level.

As a side note, I’m great with computers because of my father, but I never took a programming class beyond Visual Basic.  He tried to teach me about things, but it always seemed like I was missing part of the story – like he wasn’t “dumbing it down” enough.  Looking back, I realize it’s because my father was trying to teach me only the practical applications of computers while never learning the scientific theory.  I know he knows all about it, but I don’t know that he was qualified to teach it to a child.  It’s not like I gained marketable skills from my computer education.

I was also a huge asshole when I began college. I’m sure you know the type: fundamentalist Christian debater.  I had no idea how to navigate relationships with non-homeschooled people and it took a year or two, many broken friendships, and loneliness to find friends.  I was also encouraged through programs like Summit to challenge my “evil, secular humanist” professors in class – to “stand up” for Jesus in the public classroom.  I was prepared to enter an atmosphere that antagonized Christians and Christianity.

College was fantastic, but difficult and filled with substance abuse.  I realized that I had ADD, but self-medicated for sometime with cannabis.  Alcohol and cannabis helped with the anxiety –social, existential, spiritual, school and parent-related – and helped me to socialize with big groups.  I still can’t socialize with big groups of people easily and I lucked into taking a lot of Honors classes with small class sizes.  I almost lost my big scholarship (which required me to keep a 3.5) in my sophomore year because I got terrible grades in science and foreign languages.  I didn’t know how grades or tests worked, let alone how to study.  I excelled in political science and history, so that’s where I stayed.  I didn’t take biology until my senior year.  I finally understood it and, since then, I’ve developed a keen interest in neurobiology, psychopharmacology, psychology, and health care issues.  At this point, I’d love another two or three years of school to get a B.S. and another three to get an M.S., but that part of my life is over now.

I remember a time in middle school when I really wanted to be an engineer and I still think I could have excelled at it, if it wasn’t for my homeschooling.  Yes, I have an MA, but I’m confident I could have a stable, well-paying job in a science-related field.  My liberal arts education came easily to me, but I would have relished the challenge of advanced science and math.  Almost every public school student has a somewhat competent math teacher and most have access to AP calculus.  Yes, debate is a great skill and it has made me successful, but I’ve always been jealous of people who excelled in math or science – like I once did – and moved seamlessly into the job market.

To be continued.