Becoming A Person I Can Be Proud Of: Sean-Allen Parfitt

positives

Becoming A Person I Can Be Proud Of: Sean-Allen Parfitt

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Sean-Allen Parfitt’s blog Of Pen and Heart. It was originally published on August 23, 2013. This is the third part of Sean-Allen’s three-part series for HA. Read Part One here, and Part Two here.

Two weeks ago I wrote about the way my parents controlled the things we learned when homeschooling us. The picture I painted was not pretty, showing the negative consequences of being taught at home. Last week I shared a different view, sharing the academic advantages I received through my home education,

This week I am again focusing on the positives of homeschooling.

For my family, school time was based on academics. We learned grammar, mathematics, science, and geography, among other subjects. But there was much more than the 3Rs to our education. I learned many life skills that have continued to be relevant beyond scholarly pursuits.

One particular bit of education that’s been useful is how to take care of a home. I was taught from an early age how to do the house chores. I know how to properly wash clothes, clean dishes, sweep, mop, dust, clean the bathroom, and more. Mom was a stickler for detail, and she taught me the precise methods that would result in crisp whites and sparkling glassware. And believe me, there was no room for error. So when I sweep, I move all the furniture.

When I clean the bathroom, I get the dust behind the toilet.

When I was 10 years old, Mom was pregnant with my 4th brother, and she put me in charge of dinners. Thus I became the family cook for 8 years. I learned how to shop for the cheapest, and healthiest, food items. I became expert at crafting meals that were not only nourishing and delicious, but also tastefully presented. I can follow recipes as well as create my own dishes on the fly. I find pleasure in the craft of delighting people’s palates and satiating their appetites.

I also learned how to take care of and fix cars. Dad usually chose to fix our vehicles when he could rather than spend money to have others do it for him. I remember helping my dad change tires, replace a radiator, and bleed brakes. I myself have replaced breaks, replace the exhaust system, and changed my oil. Just this past week one of my tires got a hole in it, so I took off the wheel and put on the new one, using the skills my father taught me. (I have to admit that I prefer taking my car to the garage and spending the money rather than fix the brakes myself. Grease, anyone? Gross.)

Another area in which I was instructed was construction. Again, my father did most of the house renovations and construction throughout my time at home. Form tearing out plaster and lath when I was 6, to installing the lighting in my bedroom at age 24, I learned framing, plumbing, electrical, drywalling, and painting.

I am certain that if the need arose, I could build a house from start to finish.

I was raised to be polite and address folks with respect. Though some people prefer to not be addressed with “yes ma’am” and “yes sir”, I have found that holding doors for others, picking up items they have dropped, saying “please” and “thank you”, and looking into their eyes while firmly shaking their hands goes a long way in building people’s positive impressions.

As the oldest of 8 children, I certainly have a lot of experience with children. I find it natural to “get down on their level” and play with them. I have learned, through teaching my own siblings as a sort of “teacher’s aide”, how to explain complex systems to others in a manner they can understand. Though I do not yet have children of my own, I look forward to the opportunities to share the wisdom and lessons I myself have learned.

I may have faced negative consequences from a tightly-controlled childhood and education, but I have still been successful in my adult life, thanks to the academics and life-skills my parents’ instruction provided.

I am grateful that they cared for me and gave me the tools I needed to become a person I can be proud of.

When Mennonite Stories Are Your Only Literature: Sean-Allen Parfitt’s Story

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Sean-Allen Parfitt is a a gay software engineer, who dabbles in creative writing, music composition, and fashion design. He lives with his boyfriend Paul in Schenectady, NY. Follow Sean-Allen’s blog at Of Pen and Heart, or on Twitter: @AlDoug. The following post was originally published on Of Pen and Heart on August 9, 2013 and is reprinted with the author’s permission.

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HA note: The following is the first of a three-part series by Sean-Allen that we will be posting. This post explores the negative aspects of his homeschooling experiences; the other two posts will explore the positive aspects and will be included in next week’s positives series.

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Recently I wrote about how the church keeps us in, because we don’t know any better. This is a concept I call Control Through Ignorance (CTI). Today I’m going to approach it with more detail from a different perspective: homeschooling.

I am the eldest of 8 children, all who have been or are still being taught at home by my mother.

Our parents decided to teach me at home before I was in first grade, so I never went to public school. Everything I came in contact with was carefully selected for my growth and benefit. There are several areas I would like to address. These are places in my life where my access to outside influence was restricted or completely cut off.

The first area was social interaction. Just about the only friends I had were from our church, and that’s the only time I saw them. I never made any friends who had a radically different upbringing that I did.  I never met Muslims, Jews, Hindus, or atheists. I never went over to my friends’ houses for sleepovers. We were often reminded why certain things my friends did were wrong. We were very much kept in the shelter of our own home and my parent’s rules.

Because of this, we actually learned to believe that almost everyone in the world was wrong about something. We were the only ones who had it all right.

Why would we spend time with people who might influence us to back-slide into some sort of sin?

Another way in which we were tightly controlled was through the prohibition of any kind of entertainment except that which my parents approved. Basically, this meant that we were allowed to read Mennonite stories.

Period.

The end.

Here is a list of story elements which were particularly banned, with examples.

  • Animals that talk/wear clothes
    • Winnie the Pooh
    • The Little Red Hen
  • Any sort of magic
    • Narnia
    • Lord of the Rings
    • Harry Potter
    • Any Fairy Tails
  • Anything violent
    • Oliver Twist
  • Anything non-Christian
    • The Bobbsey Twins
    • Sherlock Holmes
    • Good Night Moon
"the only reading material we had were story books published or sold by the conservative Mennonite publishing house Rod and Staff."
“the only reading material we had were story books published or sold by the conservative Mennonite publishing house Rod and Staff.”

There were a very few exceptions to the last rule, such as Children of the New Forest. Generally, though, the only reading material we had were story books published or sold by the conservative Mennonite publishing house Rod and Staff. I generally enjoyed them, but there was a very religious/indoctrinating theme in many of them.

In the last few years I lived at home, I saw the Mennonite teachings from these books make a serious impact on my mother and brothers.

When we lived in England,we studied British history as part of our home school curriculum. However, the books we used were all published before 1980, because our parents didn’t want us to be influenced by modern thinking and interpretation of the facts of history. Thus, we learned very little about the last few decades of history.

We were not allowed to watch TV or movies, either. We watched a few Christian movies till about 2003, when our TV/VCR broke. If we were at a friend’s house, or at a party with the cousins, we were forbidden to stay in a room with the TV or a movie playing. We were not allowed to play video games, because they supposedly teach violence, besides wasting time. Any time on the computer was closely monitored. When I was 24 and still living at home, I had to have my computer set up on a table in the living area, so that I could not visit any site that was not appropriate for school, work, or little children.

As you can see, we were very much isolated from everything around us. I did occasionally wish I went to school, but mostly because I wanted to play video games. We thought we were right and nobody else, so we even judged other conservative families at church.

Ours was one of the most conservative and uptight families.

I am so glad that I’m out of that now, but I ache for my siblings. They are still stuck in that environment, in which they have no opportunity to learn about who I am, that I’m not an evil person! That’s the hardest thing about this. I didn’t know that I was OK. What if one of my siblings is gay or lesbian? What if one is transgender? What about my siblings who want to go to college, but can’t because Mom won’t let them?

And I can’t go back and show them these things.

Why?

Because I no longer fit into the category of acceptance. Thus I am excluded from my family.

And that really hurts.

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Part Two: Not Well-Rounded, But Excellent >