Let’s Talk About Tim Tebow For A Minute

Crosspost: Let’s Talk About Tim Tebow For A Minute

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kathryn Brightbill’s blog The Life and Opinions of Kathryn Elizabeth, Person. It was originally published on June 9, 2013.

I don’t know Tim Tebow, never met the guy, though from what I’ve heard from people who knew him at UF, he’s a genuinely good guy. He’s definitely someone I’d rather have representing the University of Florida than some of the other famous alumni. What I can say for certain though, is that Tim Tebow is no saint.

Wait, wait, before you get the angry mob with pitchforks and torches to come after me, hear me out. Tim Tebow is no saint because nobody is. We’re all flawed human beings trying to figure out how to live our lives, and nobody is perfect. Nobody can be perfect. Even if Tebow is the nicest guy to ever walk the planet other than Jesus himself, he’s still not perfect. Perfection is impossible. Not only that, but we don’t all agree on what “perfect” even is. No one can possibly keep everyone happy.

I’ve alluded from time to time about the pressure that comes from being put on a pedestal in the homeschool world. Being a homeschool poster child who everyone in your homeschool community looks up to as an example isn’t exactly what I would call fun. It’s something I hated as a kid, and something that I couldn’t figure out how to escape. I eventually managed to gracefully get down off the pedestal by going away to college and drifting away from the homeschooling world.

Even after having been away from that community for as long as I was though, one of the nagging things in the back of my head as I was mentally preparing myself to come out was the knowledge that there was a non-zero chance that as the story made its way through the homeschool grapevine, people would talk about me in hushed tones and wonder what went wrong. It’s why I’ve referred to myself as a cautionary tale to the homeschool subculture (and also one of the reasons why I said I could never figure out a way to even rebel). All I know is that despite being small potatoes in the homeschool world, the pressure of the pedestal that others placed me on isn’t something I’d wish on others.

So what does this have to do with Tim Tebow? Easy. Tim Tebow is, by orders of magnitude, by far the most famous homeschooler on the planet. He’s been put on a bigger pedestal than any of us ever have been, all because he’s pretty decent at the game of football.

Maybe he likes being on the pedestal, perhaps he sees it as an opportunity to be a witness for God. That’s certainly what any good little evangelical missionary kid homeschooler has heard all of their life. Whatever the case may be though, staying perched on a pedestal as high as the one he’s on for as long as he’s been on it is not something that’s easy to keep up. One misstep and you come crashing down. And as much as the cynical sports and entertainment media love to tear a person down, the church world is even more brutal.

I cringe when I see how the homeschooling and conservative Christian world talk about Tebow. With the way they’ve built him up, he really can’t win. I don’t know how he can possibly be himself when the hopes of every homeschooler, or at least every religious homeschooler, are riding on his shoulders.

Can we please have a moratorium on homeschoolers and Christian culture treating Tim Tebow as a living saint? Let the guy just be another football player for once. Stop treating him as the homeschool poster boy and let him be an actual, real person, flaws and all.

Staying Silent When I Know There Are Problems

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kathryn Brightbill’s blog The Life and Opinions of Kathryn Elizabeth, Person. It was originally published on April 29, 2013 with the title “Heads Up.”

"If I stay silent when I know there are problems, then I’m complicit in the silencing of other homeschool kids’ voices."
“If I stay silent when I know there are problems, then I’m complicit in the silencing of other homeschool kids’ voices.”

You may be asking why, when I’ve already gone on record that my homeschooling experience was largely positive, I’m contributing to a site that chronicles some of the problems that people have had with the homeschool subculture.

The reason is simple. Those of us who were homeschooled have all seen the problems and the abuses. If we’re honest, we know that those problems exist, even if they didn’t exist in our own families. Implicit in the insistence that we weren’t one of those homeschoolers is the acknowledgment that those homeschoolers exist. Those who are telling their stories of how that the subculture hurt them deserve to have those of us who know the truth acknowledge that their stories are real. That we heard the messages from national homeschool leaders as well. That we saw the same things they saw, even if we did not live them.

I could sit here and insist that because my experiences were largely positive that this is proof that homeschooling works and brush aside those stories, but that would be dishonest. Homeschooling can and does work, but it’s also true that well-meaning parents buy into a lot of the craziness because they just want to be the best homeschoolers they can be and they’re being told that this is the right way to do that. If those of us who know better present a vision of homeschooling that is nothing but positivity, we’re doing nothing to warn parents of those traps.

More importantly, in the discussion about homeschooling, those of us who were homeschooled have a right to be heard. Too much of the talk about homeschooling comes from parents, or it comes from kids who are still in the bubble repeating what their parents have told them, while those of us who have graduated and are out in the real world are only given a voice if that voice is repeating the talking points about homeschooling’s wonderfulness. The moment an actual homeschooled kid speaks up about problems, people try to silence it. Homeschool parents insist that, “not all homeschoolers are like that.” Homeschool leaders insist that anyone with a problem was doing it wrong (even though most of the problems come from following their lead). The Christian media that sings the praises of homeschooling and is quick to publish when a homeschool graduate has something good to say, goes silent. The voices of the people who matter most in homeschooling—the kids—aren’t heard. If I stay silent when I know there are problems, then I’m complicit in the silencing of other homeschool kids’ voices.

Not only that, but when I talk about how I had a positive experience and how I consider myself to be a homeschooling success story, it would be lying of me to leave out that as much as I consider myself a success story, I know full well that the homeschool subculture doesn’t see it that way. The way that the conservative homeschooling subculture is sold to parents is that if you do everything right and follow all the steps, your kids will grow up to believe exactly the same things as you do and to continue down that path that you set out. Success is defined in both academic excellence and becoming an ideological and spiritual carbon copy of your parents. That means that as much as I consider myself a success and believe that I am where I am today because of what my parents taught me (and that that’s a good thing), in the homeschool subculture I’m not a success story, I’m a cautionary tale. And that should be evidence enough that there’s something wrong with the subculture.