Making My Own Way: Matthew’s Story, Part One

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

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In this series: Part One | Part Two

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I have been reading the posts on Homeschoolers Anonymous with great interest for the past few weeks. After giving it some thought, I decided to share my own experiences. I can identify with much of what has been posted here, even though my story isn’t as traumatic as some of those I’ve read here.

Early Childhood

I was homeschooled from grades K – 8 and in public school for grades 9 – 12. I believe that it was my dad’s idea to send me to high school full-time. I give him credit for this since it left my parents open to criticism from members of the church we attended. Had it been solely up to my mom, I probably would have gone to public school for math and science only and been at home for all other subjects. She typically had her own ways of doing things, and her ways didn’t always line up with conventional wisdom.

My parents started homeschooling me in the early 80’s (I’m 33). If I had to guess, I would say that they were influenced to do this by James Dobson’s Focus on the Family ministry and Mary Pride’s book, The Way Home. Back in the mid-80’s, there weren’t nearly as many groups and organizations for conservative, Christian homeschoolers. However, our family managed to link up with a church that had a few other families that were educating their kids at home, so we would get together with these other families on a weekly basis for a homeschooling coop.

Our curriculum was a hodge-podge of Saxon, Bob Jones, and Abeka. My memory is a little hazy on what curriculums we used for each subject, since my mom typically mixed and matched our text books from year to year. I am certain that my parents’ primary reason for homeschooling my three younger sisters and I was to pass on their religious beliefs. It may have had a little to do with my mom’s belief that she could give us a better education than the local public schools, but the main reasons were definitely religious in nature.

The church we attended started off as a group of charismatic, non-denominational Christians who just loved Jesus. Practically every member was a first generation “believer” and many had really traumatic pasts. There wasn’t too much emphasis on theology or formulating a consistent, Christian worldview, but the members were undoubtedly in love with the Lord. The pastor of this church had a particularly abusive childhood and had accepted Christ in his early 20’s. From there, he just started preaching. I don’t believe that he had a formal education at a seminary, but he was very sincere and spent his life studying the Word.

My early childhood was fairly pleasant. I didn’t mind homeschooling, mainly since I didn’t know any different, and because all my best friends were at church. Things were good up to the age of about 9 or 10. But then, slowly and subtly, the environment at church and at home began to change.

At Church

Our congregation started to get heavily involved in the Pro-Life cause and, in particular, Operation Rescue. We became very active in pickets and protests and even started sitting in front of abortion clinics. For a 10-year-old kid, the scene at these early protests and sit-ins leaves a real impression. On one side, you had the Christians, who were singing praise and worship songs while walking in a slow circle or sitting in front of the clinic. I never witnessed any of them behaving in a confrontational manner (although I did witness how they would go limp when the police would start hauling them into patty wagons).

On the other side were God’s enemies – the feminists, liberals, and atheists. These people would spew all kinds of hate and vulgarities at the Christians. As a kid, the contrast was stark. I couldn’t understand why these people were so angry at the Christians who were just trying to save the babies.

(Getting a little off track here… so back to the story.)

Not too long after getting involved in Operation Rescue, our church split up. About half the members stayed at the original church and the other half planted a new one that began meeting at an elementary school. Soon after the split, a new assistant pastor came on board. The new pastor was staunchly reformed and, within a few years, the church adopted a Reformed, Christian Reconstructionist theology. Christian Reconstructionists are fiercely post-millennial, meaning that they believe Christ will not return until all aspects of culture and government are under his “Lordship.”

What does this look like exactly? The book of Leviticus should give you some idea. The pipe dream of this movement is one where the constitution is replaced by Old Testament case laws. Public executions by stoning, slavery, and extreme patriarchy would be the “norm.” Separation of church and state would become a thing of the past. RJ Rushdooney was the patron saint of this movement.

Once our church adopted this theology, homeschooling became the main method for raising up our nation’s next generation of foot soldiers to usher in a theocratic “utopia.” Suddenly, evangelism was replaced by activism and joy was replaced by anger and paranoia. Rather than serving the community, the members became focused primarily on getting the right candidates elected into office, including a few from within our small church.

For years, my family had been the standard by which other homeschooling families in our community were measured. But then all these new homeschoolers started showing up. These families made my parents look liberal by comparison. They adhered to the courtship model and truly believed that public education was a tool of the devil. I did witness one marriage via courtship between an oldest daughter and one of the men in the church. My parents praised them as a shining example of biblical courtship.

They were divorced within a year.

At Home – Part 1

At about age 10, I started to realize that I was “different.” Kids in the neighborhood started asking me why I didn’t go to school. I’d probably give them some canned answer that my parents told me to recite when asked this question. But it still made me feel like an outsider. It also didn’t help that I had weak hand/eye coordination – I couldn’t hit a baseball! I’m sure if you’re a natural leader and athlete like, say, Tim Tebow, being homeschooled isn’t too bad. But for me, it felt like I was getting a double-whammy.

When you also take into account the fact that I was spending every day, 24/7, with my domineering mother and three younger sisters, well… let’s just say the fact I’m straight makes me living proof that homosexuality is not rooted in one’s upbringing.

Around grade 6, I had some sports-related activities going on at the local Middle School. I got to see kids goofing around, having fun, and just being kids. I was incredibly shy and did not know how to join in, but I really wanted to! I was tired of feeling like an outsider. I wanted to jockey for position in the middle school social hierarchy. I wanted to get teased or get in a fight. I wanted to flirt with girls. I was tired of spending my afternoons and summers cooped up with my mom and sisters. I wanted my own life – one that wouldn’t be under the constant supervision of my parents.

A few days later, I mustered up all the courage I had, and told my parents that I wanted to go to school. I’ll never forget my mom’s response: “NO WAY! OUT OF THE QUESTION! THAT’S FINAL!” I was crushed and cried for a few days. On top of this rejection, her and my dad laid a massive guilt trip on me for even wanting to go to school in the first place. Saying things like, “I can’t believe how ungrateful you are for all the sacrifices we have made so that your mother can stay home with you kids” or explaining to me “how disappointed God must be in me for being so ungrateful.” Then my mom would force out some tears to drive the point home.

Of course, whenever we were around my dad’s work colleagues or anyone else who was skeptical of homeschooling, I was expected to suck it up, be sociable, and tell them how great my homeschooling experience was. And I did… every time.

That rejection and those next two miserable years were the worst of my life. My parents used to be fond of telling us that we “have no idea how good we have it” as kids. But I’ll tell you, nothing I have encountered in adulthood rivaled the misery of 7th and 8th grade. It was like I died a little inside. However, worse than the initial hurt was the fact that the seeds were planted for my distrust and animosity not just of my mom, but of women in general. I really believe that those 13 years spent being micromanaged by a controlling, overbearing mother turned me off to ever wanting to live with a woman full-time again.

To be continued.

Copy Kids—The Immorality of Individuality: Jessica’s Story, Part Three

Copy Kids—The Immorality of Individuality: Jessica’s Story, Part Three

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

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"I didn't know it yet, but it was the first day of the rest of my life."
“I didn’t know it yet, but it was the first day of the rest of my life.”

I got older and middle school went by and it was time for high school.  My freshmen year, I met a new set of friends. They were the goth kids and they were awesome. All fucked up, suicidal, death metal freaks, but they were still christians.

My parents hated these kids.

At one point in time, my mother accused them of turning me into a lesbian because I didn’t have boyfriends. Never mind that I was not allowed to date and every attempt had ended brutally at their hand. It didn’t matter these girls were straight. I was hanging out with these strange girls and they were making me a lesbian.

When that tactic didn’t work, my mother tried to convince me that they were witches. She even had our pastor come visit and lecture me on the “appearance of evil.” They appeared evil. This didn’t work either, I was prepared with verses to counter his. When that failed, my parents decided they were going to put me in a girls’ reform boarding school. They wouldn’t take me. I had bad grades, but I was good kid. I didn’t smoke, I didn’t do drugs, I didn’t drink, I didn’t skip school, I wasn’t having sex. With the exception of my grades, I was a perfect teenager. I never once got in trouble at school.

I did not misbehave until the stress broke me.

The stress of all the pressure and the attempts to separate me from my only friends and still regular beatings with a belt, drove me to self harm. At the age of 15 I started cutting myself. My mother’s tactic for dealing with this was to hypothetically lecture me on how stupid it was to cut yourself, but she never actually acknowledged that I was doing it.

I cut myself for 3 years without anyone ever trying to stop me.

I made a couple more normal friends as well in high school and my senior year, I started attending church with them. It was there, a senior in highschool at the age of 18 that I met my future husband, but I didn’t know it yet. Honestly, the first time I met him, I thought he was giant ass. We had an argument on tithing in youth group. He believed there were legitimate financial reasons for not tithing. I did not

A month later, the church held a camp out. I had to beg and plead at the age of 18 to be allowed to attend a camping trip where boys would be present. Never mind that all of the adults were going too — there would be boys!

On that trip, my mother’s worst nightmare came true. I met a boy. An older boy.

We had our first date, he took me to a movie. I had to be home at 9 pm. She told me that she wouldn’t stop me, but that it was very inappropriate that Brian hadn’t come to ask my father for permission to date me. Before I could see him again, after this date, he would have to come meet my parents. So the next Saturday, I had him over for lunch. I had to show that I could be a good house wife. So I had to top to bottom clean the house and cook the entire meal by myself from scratch.

This wasn’t because of  Brian. He didn’t care.

My parents however, thought this was going to be a traditional Christian courtship and if I didn’t show off my womanly skills, he would find someone else.  Lunch went fine, and my partly tattooed 20 year old boyfriend showed up. Begrudgingly, my parents gave their consent, mostly because I was 18.

Sunday, after church Brian and his family invited me to go play miniature golf. I called my parents to ask permission and they gave it, even though they didn’t sound like they liked the idea. I stayed all day, had a wonderful time and made sure I was home by 9 pm.

When I got home, all hell broke loose. My parents hadn’t told me, but they had wanted to go grocery shopping that evening, but they would not leave the house while I was gone with my boyfriend. I had a 5 minute screaming match at the front door because I was home on time and they never mentioned I needed to be home sooner.

Sobbing, I walked to my bedroom and opened the door.

My bed had flipped upside down.

All of the clothes from my dresser had been pulled out and thrown on the floor the clothes were ripped from my closet and lying on the floor. My beside table drawers had been ripped out and dumped. My room was in shambles.

I turned around, walked out of my room to the kitchen, got a drink of water and my mother came in. She pointed to a pile of clothes on the floor and said, “You need to put these away and clean that awful mess in your room.”

I snapped and started screaming at her at the top of my lungs. My room had been spotless, I wasn’t putting away a damn thing (it may have been the first time I had ever sworn) and she needed to fix what she had done to my room because she had no right.

Then I heard the door knob.

Dad was home, I didn’t know dad was home.

For some perspective. I was 5 ft tall and weighed maybe 120 lbs. My father had almost a foot and more than 100 lbs on me. My stomach sank and I started running for the front door. He caught me and slammed me into the fridge. I pushed him off me and started running the down the hall to my room. He caught me again. I slapped him to try to get him off me. He swung me around and started choking me.

My mother screamed.

He let me go and I locked myself in my room. He told me through the door that I was no longer allowed to leave the house unless it was for school. No church, no extracurriculars, nothing. Then he hid the phones and went to bed. I couldn’t call the police, I couldn’t leave because they had set the alarm and even if I could get out, we lived almost 8 miles out of town and it was cold.  I sat on my bed holding my baseball bat all night waiting for my dad to come after me.

The next morning, after no sleep, I packed the $20 I had to my name and a couple changes of clothes into my backpack and got on the bus. I never went back home. I didn’t know it yet, but it was the first day of the rest of my life. It was only going to get better from here.

After school, my youth pastor picked me up and drove me to a battered woman’s shelter. The next day, the police tried to get my parents to release me the rest of my clothing. They refused and I declined to press charges. Between the church, my boyfriend and the shelter, they replaced everything I owned. I had never had new clothes before. All of my clothes came from goodwill and the dav. They looked awful, they were torn, and I only had two pairs of jeans and a couple shirts anyway. I ended up better off in that respect.

I endured several months of harassment. My parents tried to find the shelter I was staying at. Also had one very failed attempt at family counseling.

I ended up staying at my youth pastor’s house and dropping out of high school.  I couldn’t maintain a full time job, school, and my church duties — and, for the first time, a social life. About a year later, Brian and I  married. Now, almost 10 years later, my husband and I are happy, non-believing parents to three beautiful children.

Over the years, I have tried a couple times to form a relationship with my parents. However, it never worked out and I eventually ended up cutting them out of my life entirely. I am happy, healthy, and I have the family I never thought I could have.

My children are thriving in public school and the difference between them and myself at their age sometimes hits me like a brick wall. They are happy, they aren’t afraid me or my husband and they love it when daddy is home. They have friends and all three are such different people with distinct personalities. The monster in the closet isn’t a demon coming to possess or kill them. And when they do get scared, they come running to mommy instead of freezing in fear unable to move.

They are loved and can be themselves.

I think that is all any child ever really needs.

End of series.

Copy Kids—The Immorality of Individuality: Jessica’s Story, Part Two

Copy Kids—The Immorality of Individuality: Jessica’s Story, Part Two

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

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I showed up for school with my back pack on, my lunch packed, my patent leather white dress shoes and my frilliest pink dress.  I marched straight up to the first girl my age, stuck out my hand and said “Hi, my name is Jessica and I think we’re just going to be the best of friends.” She laughed at me, and walked away talking about me to her friends.

I was completely socially inept.

I had never been around other children. The only other child that I had been around regularly was my older brother, so I acted like my autistic older brother.  Every time I spoke, I would compulsively say what I had just said again under my breath to listen myself say it. Literally every sentence. Until the other children started making fun of me for it, I had never realized that other people didn’t do that.  It took me over two years to break that habit and I still do it in my head to make sure what I just said didn’t sound stupid. No one played with me and no one spoke to me except the teachers.

That was just the social aspect. I was capable of all the grade level work the other children were doing, except the math.

However, I had never been in a class room.

When I did my work at home, I would sit at the table, read my books, do my work sheets or tests and then I was done for the day.  It usually took 2-3 hours. I knew nothing about school. My first day, I got in trouble for answering the questions when the teacher asked them. After a couple questions, I realized that the other children were raising their hands and being called on. However, it was too late. I lost my recess and had to write “I will not speak unless spoken to” 150 times. My hand ached and I didn’t speak in class again for weeks.

After the first 9 weeks, I found out that I was failing school. I aced all of my tests but I wasn’t doing any of the assignments I didn’t have the attention span to pay attention in class. I had never had to pay attention for that long before, so I didn’t hear any of the instructions. I didn’t understand, I was doing everything I was asked at school. As much as I heard before I involuntarily spaced out. What I didn’t realize is that I wasn’t done when the day was over. I was supposed to be doing work at home too. I was beaten  for flunking, but no one told me what I was supposed to do to change it. My mom had checked out of our education as soon as the homeschooling was over.

Finally, after failing my 2nd nine weeks, my teacher started paying attention and realized what was wrong. I didn’t know how to be in school. She kept me in at recess (I didn’t play at recess anyway) every day for a week and taught me how school worked. She explained homework, she moved me to the front row so she could work on keeping my attention. She explained why everything was the way it was and I finally started catching on.

Socially however, was another story. I had no friends. No one would speak to me.

It became even worse after I tried to start a conversation about demons at the lunch table.

My grades came up the first half of the 2nd semester and after that, I could no longer make myself care. I didn’t belong at home, I didn’t belong at school, the kids were afraid of me, my parents hated me. I had no reason to exist. I stopped doing anything that I did not want to do. I was never going to measure up to the expectations of my family or my peers, so trying was useless.

At the end of the year, my teacher informed my parents that I was not ready to progress to middle school and I was held back to repeat my 5th grade year. This of course was an abject failure. I had humiliated my parents.  What would the other people in town think? This was always very important. My mother cared deeply about how she appeared to the other people in our small, entirely too nosy town. I went back to school the next year and did nothing at all. I did what I had to do in class so the teacher wouldn’t yell at me and got beatings at home for the straight D’s and F’s on my report card. I didn’t care. They passed me anyway.

In Middle School, the social aspect of school started to become easier. I made some friends, yes they were the other weird kids, but they were my friends. The age of 12 brought new difficulties with it. I was starting to be interested in boys and this was unacceptable. I was allowed to go to school, but I was not allowed to go to any school social events. Dances were immoral and there was no reason to be pursuing boys until at least the age of 16 if not 18. Sports were a frivolous waste of time, so I did not need to go to those events. Still, they had to let me do something, so middle school began my years of church lock ins and Bible camp.

I will come back to church events.  First I would like to tackle the ideas of privacy and sexuality.  In the sixth grade, I had my first “boyfriend”.  It was completely innocent and consisted note writing, sneaking phone calls and holding hands in the hallway.  It was in stark contrast to what I had been taught.  I was taught that boys were only after sex and that dating was unnecessary and immoral.  So even this completely innocent venture into crush land got me in more trouble than I had been in my entire life.  I had been writing a diary, but I had kept it secret.  I was not allowed to have secrets from my parents.  I accidentally left my diary in room one day and my mother found it.  She went through my room on a near weekly basis.  Something she never did to the boys. I was the one that had to be kept pure. My life went on like this until I left when I was 18.  I would try to have some semblance of self or privacy and it was be swiftly and harshly be stomped out as soon as it was discovered. My thoughts were not my own. I was not allowed to be different, I had to fully give myself to Jesus and my parents.

Church events were the only time I could really be a kid. At the age of 7, I was “saved” at our little baptist church.  However, I didn’t have an emotional coming to Jesus moment. I was sitting in the children’s section. The alter call started and I had never paid attention before. The pastor asked if there was anyone in the room that had never accepted Jesus. I hadn’t done that. So I put up my hand.

Now I have express the sheer lack of emotion in this experience — I had no idea what I was doing. The pastor asked if we had done something and I hadn’t. He was a man and spiritual leader, so I had to do what he said. I would have had the same response if he had asked me if I had brushed my teeth that morning. I went down, I repeated the prayer the lady had me say, and I was done. I did what I was told and then I tried to go sit back down. They wouldn’t let me.

I had to stand in front of the church.

Everyone was cheering, my mom was crying.  I had no idea why. The next Sunday I had to get baptized. At some point in time, I realized that I was supposed to have had an emotional response to this event, so I faked one and played along because for once, people were proud of me.

In middle school, I went to my first church camp. It was wonderful, all the kids were just like me and we got along wonderfully. I didn’t realize until many years later that the reason we got along was because they were all just as socially inept and weird as I was. Still, it was a release. Everything was great, except worship service on the 3rd day.  We had been having Bible studies, music and praise, but they didn’t have the first alter call until day 3.  We had a long lesson on hell and suffering. Then they outlined the steps of salvation. I had an emotional break down along with about 30 other children. I hadn’t been saved, not properly. I was going to burn in hell. I crawled, sobbing down the isle to the front and terrified, I accepted Jesus. Properly this time. I had such a sense of peace.

I was on fire for Jesus for the rest of the week.

Unfortunately, the assurance wore off and a new sense of terror joined the terror I had about demons and the 2 am hour when my father came home from work. I still wasn’t saved. I had doubts and I was told Jesus would take all my doubts away when I became saved. I must broken, why can’t I get properly saved? The scenario of tearfully crawling my way up to the stage repeated its self at nearly every youth event I attended until I stopped attending youth events at 18.

It never worked.

I never felt saved and it was a constant torment.

To be continued.

Copy Kids—The Immorality of Individuality: Jessica’s Story, Part One

Copy Kids—The Immorality of Individuality: Jessica’s Story, Part One

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

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I believe that the greatest source of tension between myself and my mother is that I have deep sense of compassion. I care about the suffering of others, too much in her opinion and it set me apart from her in a serious way. I loved to help people and she always believed that people need to help themselves. A very staunch conservative Republican. I was not her mini-me and she couldn’t stand it. I also didn’t fit her mold in any way. My mother always told me, “I had three kids. I wanted an older boy, then a girl, then another boy. That way you would be in the middle of two protectors, but your older brother can’t protect you and you don’t fit.”

She was right. I did not fit.

My mother did get her wish on the order of the children. I am the middle of three children. My older brother has a mild form of autism known as Aspergers Syndrome. My younger brother was the definition of the baby. My parents made the decision to homeschool after a series of bad experiences with public school. Autism, especially high functioning spectrum disorders, were not at all well understood in the late 80’s and early 90’s. So when my brother, with his severe speech delay (caused by deafness as a toddler) and a complete inability to cope with his peers came to public school, they had no idea what to do with him. The school attempted to diagnose him with a range of disorders from mental retardation (he has a genius intelligence) to epilepsy. This difficulty with public school coupled with their extreme religious right views led them to homeschooling.

It was perfect. My parents could hide away the autistic child that they did not understand and were ashamed of, they could indoctrinate us and they could discipline us without fear of anyone hearing the stories or seeing the bruises.

I believe of the most fundamental problem with religious homeschooling is that in the seclusion provided by homeschooling, abuse can hide and thrive. There does not have to be anyone else around that differ from the views of the parents. How can a child even know they’re being abused if they don’t know that other children aren’t treated that way? It took me years to identify the sources of abuse in my childhood. There are still times when a childhood memory comes to mind, I think it through and realize just exactly how fucked up the situation was.

My three earliest childhood memories go as follows:

Memory number one: I remember myself sitting in a highchair, I couldn’t have been more than two. My mother was chasing my older brother around my highchair with a rolling pin.

Memory number two: I was about four and was sitting playing with dolls in the living room. My oldest brother starts screaming from the bathroom. I walk to the bathroom to find my mother beating my 7 year old brother’s head into the shower wall and there was blood running down his naked body. Then we went to the hospital for stitches. We had to practice saying, “He tripped in the shower.” This was my first introduction to the government.  If we didn’t say what we were told, the government would take us away and put us with awful people that wouldn’t feed us.

Memory number three: I was 5. I do not remember what I was in trouble for, but I remember my mother looking at me and saying, “You give me looks like you want to stab me in my sleep. I’ll get you first.”  I’m sure at some point in time, I played with my parents. We had a swing, I had a bicycle, but I remember almost nothing before around age 10 that wasn’t traumatic.

The curriculum that we used was from Bob Jones University. The famous science textbook page that is floating around the web about the girl with the hair dryer that states we don’t know how electricity works? That was in my elementary “science” book. I will say that my mother did dedicate herself fully to our education, but we inherited her educational weaknesses. She was not at all proficient in even basic math. As her daughter, she was convinced that I shared her lack of math skills. She firmly placed in my head the idea that I was incapable of math. Instead, we focused on reading. The science was young earth creationism and the history, revisionist christian. I knew that the earth was no more than 6000 years old. God created it in six literal days and then flooded the planet.

When I shared my disdain for the idea of killing everyone on earth, I was beaten. God was not to be questioned. This was the academic aspect of my early childhood years.

The theological side was pure right wing extremism and some things that I can’t even give a label to.  I would like it to be noted before this section that I believe my mother suffers from untreated mental illness.  She is a pathological liar and possibly schizophrenic. I will lay out the basic tenants of my religious upbringing.

1) Abortion:

One of the most important lessons that my mother ever tried to teach was about evils of abortion. Alone in the car one day, she told me the story of my twin brother. I could not have been more than five. I learned that my mother had originally been pregnant with twins. After she was several months pregnant, she was in a car accident that killed my brother. At this point, she did not know that she was pregnant with twins. She was informed at the hospital that the fetus was dead and needed to be removed before it caused infection. She refused because she does not believe in abortion under any circumstances. God would deliver the baby when he was ready. A month later, the doctor did another ultrasound and found me. If she had submitted to an abortion I would not be here.  Then, in graphic detail I was told how my brother’s arm was born, then he came out, then me.

I was horrified. I had nightmares for weeks. I cried and cried. I spoke to my brother in prayer for years. Even as a teenager, I would lay in bed at night wondering how my life would have been different if my twin hadn’t died.

This might be one of the most important stories of my entire childhood.

It is completely made up.

At the age of 27, I told this story to a very close friend of mine. He looked at me like I had three heads and called bullshit. I was completely taken aback, highly offended. How could anyone hear one of my most personal, painful secrets and tell me it was crap? I had to prove him wrong. I ran upstairs to get my birth certificate, it would say twin birth and then he would apologize. I had never really read my birth certificate before and it said single birth.  I became instantly nauseous as the details of the story ran through my head. My mother never mentioned that story in front of anyone. We were always alone but we discussed it a lot. I ended up filing for copies of my birth records at the hospital I was born at.

I was a single, uncomplicated delivery. Single.

2)  Obedience to men:

To quote my mother, “You kids are the third most important things in my life:  God, my husband, then you. Remember, I will always choose your father over you.” This was ironic, very ironic. As I’m sure you, the reader, has noticed, I have thus far said very precious little about my father. There really isn’t anything to say. I saw him for roughly one hour a day in my early childhood. The only other times I saw him were on his few days off and vacations. When he was home, it was misery. He hit us; he beat my eldest brother with sticks. We also sometimes saw him at night. If we had misbehaved during the day, my mother would report to him as the head of household.  He would then come home from his second shift job and wake us up for a spanking with a heavy leather mechanic’s belt.  It was rarely more than one child a night, so if you were awakened in the night to the screams of another sibling, you were safe.

Even though my father was rarely present, I was to submit to him in all things. Then one day, he would pass me to my husband and I would submit to him.

Women were created to help men. We were not to question. Honestly, this is all I know about my father. I don’t know what his childhood was like. I don’t know his favorite food, his favorite color. I know that he’s a Republican, that he enjoys camping, and that I was to listen to him second only to god, just like my mother. This was also in my homeschooling curriculum. Most lessons for girls were somehow tied back to obedience of the father and, one day, the husband.

3)  Demons are real:

My mother was in constant fear of demonic influences and witches. Growing up, she would constantly discuss demons and witches. She was very fearful of witches casting spells on items to watch us. Things like MTV and other modern tv and radio could lead demons into us. This was so deeply ingrained from such a young age that I would lay awake at night paralyzed with fear that the scratching sound at my window was a demon. I even had to burn a present given to me by a friend once because my mother believed that my friend had cast a spell on it.  Even today, as an atheist with no supernatural beliefs, I still have to catch myself if something unexplained happens. The anxiety can be literally physically paralyzing and I have to stay constantly aware. I can’t let my self start into my cycle of fear.

At the age of ten, my mother decided that we had surpassed her ability to teach us. This and the strain of my older brothers autism led to the decision to put us in the local public school. I also believe, though I cannot verify this, that we were put in school because we did very poorly on the Iowa Test of Basics Skills that the state had forced my parents to take us to.

I was very excited about the prospect of school. I was going to be around kids of my own age for the first time. I would get to have friends.

Then the first day of school started and I was completely out of my element.

Imagine, if you will, that you are doing an experiment with monkeys. The test is to see how quickly the monkey can adapt and learn. So, you take this test monkey and you put it in the driver’s seat of a running vehicle heading straight for a wall. The purpose is to see if the monkey, having no prior experience with cars, can stop the car before it crashes into the wall and dies.

I was that monkey. I died.

To be continued.

Confessions Of A Homeschooler: Faith’s Story

Confessions Of A Homeschooler: Faith’s Story

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

Being homeschooled is an incredibly unique experience. It feels like you’re part of a giant club that no one else understands unless they also grew up being homeschooled. It’s impossible to explain to “outsiders”, not to mention that I have always felt a tremendous burden to avoid breaking ranks, so to speak, and making any criticism of homeschooling to the uninitiated. To me at least, there always seems to be an unspoken agreement amongst homeschoolers that we might quibble and squabble between ourselves but we present a united front to the public.

I am in my late 20s now so my education started in the early 1990s. Homeschooling was not quite as popular, particularly in the area of the country where we were living, nor were there as many resources available to homeschoolers. I honestly am not 100% sure of what motivated my parents to decide to homeschool (I’m the oldest) but I do know that, initially, their parents, my Grandparents, were relatively skeptical and not quite “on board” with the crazy kids. Between the relatives and the oddity of homeschooling itself, I have always felt a bit like my siblings and I have carried the burden of proof — living, breathing results that the experiment didn’t go horribly wrong (so we all hope!).

I have never felt like I could discuss my conflict, particularly criticism, with my homeschool experience with my other homeschool friends as they all seem quite happy with their education and plan to homeschool their own children. Not my parents because they would take it as a personal attack on their lifestyle. Rarely with my non-homeschool (and let’s just say it…the non-Christian) friends nowadays because, as I said before, the pressure to maintain the united front still has influence on me. Having the opportunity to write this is incredibly liberating.

First, I want to preface my “true confessions of a homeschooler” by saying that, from the bottom of my heart, I am sincerely grateful for my parents and for all the time, money, energy, and love they have invested in me and my siblings. I understand and have always known that they chose to homeschool us with the best of intentions. Their commitment and sacrifice has been tremendous. I want to acknowledge that and say that I love them, respect them, and hope that, in many ways, I can be as incredible a parent someday as they have been.

Throughout elementary and middle school I really enjoyed being homeschooled. To this day, I can honestly say that I sincerely believe that I would not have such strong relationships with my siblings if we had not spent so much time together. It’s a privilege to be able to say that my brothers were my first best friends and that my sisters (10 and 12 years younger than me) are some of my favorite people to call and talk to. I have great memories of “going to school” with my brothers. The moment one of them zoomed his roller chair into the corner of the wall and broke off a big chunk of plaster, which we then proceeded to color in an attempt to hide the damage. Or the moment my Mom drove down the driveway heading to the grocery store, my brothers burst into a loud rendition of “Ninety Nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall.” The opportunity of spending time with extended family, particularly my Great Grandparents, who have since passed away, has given me so many priceless memories. Our ability to vacation was much more flexible, which was really great and we took some exciting trips. The hours and hours we spent playing outdoors when we probably would have been cooped up in a classroom somewhere are fond memories as well. I have such positive reflections on my homeschool experience during elementary/middle school that I am fairly certain that I would like to homeschool my own children at least through elementary.

I can also say that my early education was quite solid. My Mom never really “stuck” with any one curriculum. There was some cherry picking from various publishers but I recall using Saxon Math, Bob Jones, Calvert School, Abeka…the usual that I’m pretty sure most homeschoolers have seen and used.

Once high school hit things got a little more hairy. I am a classic example of the tendency that, at least in the past, homeschoolers have been minimally educated in math and science. My Dad really did his best (math at that level was beyond my Mom) but he was working all day so I definitely wandered through Algebra 2 at my own sweet will. The same with geography and history and basically everything my 10th grade year. I’m pretty sure I learned…just about nothing that year. The one thing I actually remember is writing a paper on Eva Peron. So, I have that in my bank of knowledge! Every year most of my friends would go to the church school (the “umbrella” school for those of you who will recognize that term) for the standardized state testing but since my Dad was a college graduate, he was able to administer the tests himself.

The one time I darkened the doors of a public high school was when I took the SAT. I actually don’t remember much about that experience but I do remember that sometimes we’d go to high school football games because some relatives lived near the high school. I had a great time observing that other species, the public schooler, those heathens!

The best part of high school was taking classes twice a week at the church school and for 11th and 12th grades I took some classes at the local community college. Quite a few of us from the local homeschool community took classes there so we would generally meet up and have lunch together or walk around campus. In general, my teachers were impressed with me. My English teacher told me I was the best student he had that semester (between several classes) and one memory in particular stands out…he asked the class what the Luftwaffe had been. I responded that it had been the Nazi air force during the Second World War. He looked at me and said “How do you know that?!” and I just shrugged and said “I read a lot.” Good times….

But, on a personal level, high school was hell for me in regards to being homeschooled. I had an extremely negative relationship with my parents, particularly my Mom, for various reasons that I won’t detail. But I can tell you that when you don’t get along with your parents whatsoever and you are miserable, that being at home with them 24/7 is not quite the way to deal with that. I struggled with depression and self-injury throughout high school, of course without ever seeing a counselor or getting any sort of professional help.

Being homeschooled throughout that period of time was damaging in the sense that I felt trapped, which did not help my emotional stability whatsoever. I was not involved in any sort of social group, not even a youth group because my parents didn’t approve of youth groups. My Mom was very occupied with my younger siblings so she had little time to talk and never any opportunity to sort out our issues. I certainly won’t blame my struggles on being homeschooled but I am sure, without a doubt, that homeschooling exacerbated them.

To be honest, I have spent the past 9 years struggling with how bitter I am about my high school experience. There are moments that I wish I had been able to go to a prom, that I had been able to wear the “cool” clothes, that I had gone to the mall and movies with friends like “normal” high schoolers (my friends and I did go sometimes but it was always planned in advance and was never a “spur of the moment” event), not to mention that I really, really wish I had dated in high school. I wish that I had gotten some of the “crazy” out of my system in high school and had more freedom to experience the “real world” and meet non-Christians and sort out my own thoughts and beliefs for myself.

This has been pointed out by other bloggers, but it can be frustrating for those of us who are “first generation” homeschoolers because our parents never had the experience of being homeschooled. I understood that my parents had their reasons for choosing to homeschool and they tended to reflect more negatively on their public school upbringing. But I have always thought it ironic that they seemed to believe that being homeschooled was the best thing since sliced bread and couldn’t understand why we could possibly dislike any aspect of our experience but they had no idea what it was actually like. Sometimes I wish that we could have an honest discussion about it so that, someday, they will understand why I won’t homeschool my own children “all the way through.” Perhaps one day we will. Even if we don’t, at least I will get to make those decisions on my own.

The face of homeschooling has significantly changed, so it seems to me. I don’t think my sisters ever had that fear of being taken away by social services (I avidly read the HSLDA magazine and all the horror stories), they have an extensive social life, they have gone to prom, and have a well adjusted, mature relationship with my parents. They are far better educated than I was upon graduation from high school and I am happy for them. Their experience seems to have been tremendously different from mine (from what I observe) and that is encouraging to me. It definitely seems possible to homeschool without some of the negative results that I experienced and I hope that it is an opportunity I can provide for my own children one day, if possible.