Reading Voraciously in a Land of Books: DoaHF

positives

Reading Voraciously in a Land of Books: DoaHF

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

As far as the best parts of my homeschooling: I had a very solid education.  My mother had a college degree and she took pride in her work.   Once my father convinced her to homeschool she threw herself in whole-heartedly.  Even in a foreign country she bought or shipped over textbooks and taught us daily with dedication and passion.

I learned to learn and to love learning.

Her approach to certain subjects was different from traditional education, but she required us to complete everything with excellence and had us correct and re-correct our work until we fully understood issues.  She usually helped me with problems on lower grades until she had so many different grades that she couldn’t find the time.

I thrived under her verbal approach to history. Once I learned to read, I began voraciously devour the large stock of tame classics and children’s books that she collected and continued to expand as we got older (she hid some of the other classics like The Good Earth and Dr. Zhivago from me, as well as Rilla of Ingleside, but not Les Miserables or A Tale of Two Cities).

She even included my habit as school credit, giving me special allowance to read more when I wanted to further engross myself in an imaginary book land.

She kept detailed records of our work and made sure that we were competent before moving on.  She gave me a break inbetween Saxon pre-algebra and Algebra 1 to do Abeka Consumer Math because I was struggling with the concepts. She made sure I completed my work and made sure I did not just cheat or guess.  I remember loving school as a pre-teen.  Science was covered by Wyle and while she could not help me much, she spent time with me looking over the answer key and the module in order to find out how they arrived at their answer.

While we never had a positive personal relationship, she encouraged my love for herbs and baking by letting me have seeds and do extensive research into uses and cures and teas.  She also encouraged me to bake bread, pizzas, biscuits and desserts for my 8 siblings and friends and guests.  She coached me past my stages of not-hair-brushing, wearing dirty and/or stained clothing all the time, bed-wetting, and I think she really understood my struggle to be accepted

My father and I were very similar.  He always stood against the tide that shut women up and encouraged us to speak our minds and to think boldly.  He did not believe in women preachers, but he taught us theology and koine and told us not to be intimidated by any hot-shot divinity student who thought they knew the Bible.  He refused us independence and further education like college, but he modeled hard work and dedication every day for us and he truly wanted us to be intelligent and capable of being progeny he could be proud of.

I learned my fierce independence and tenacity from him, as well as my money habits which have stood me well on my own.

My grandparents insisted on being part of our family’s lives no matter how many thousands of miles away we lived.  They made an effort to spend quality time with each of us and I still remember their lessons and examples to this day.

My favorite part of homeschooling in the US was my last three years at home where, even though I had graduated school, I was involved in a homeschooled Square Dance program.  A local caller realized the potential and lack of time constraints that we kids as a group had and he organized us in practice for a local talent competition which we entered each year.

The social scene and the physical activity made a huge difference to my mental health, and I made two very close friends whose friendship I cherished and miss.

For Science in grade school my mother put together elaborate unit studies.  We spent a whole summer learning about the seas in Oceanography.  We then went on to memorize the Animal Kingdom as we studied Horses.  Finally, after learning everything we could about Volcanoes, our whole family went on a week-long trip to see, climb, and learn about one volcano in specific, even speaking with someone who lived through a volcanic eruption.

I am, and always have been the gregarious, outgoing, bubbly one in our family. Even though I went through abuse and trauma, I loved being homeschooled. My brain thrived on the literature-based approach that my mother took.

If I could afford to not work and stay at home, I might homeschool my future children if they wanted me to.  

Even so, I want to teach my children to read voraciously and to love information more than a method of learning. That is a positive one can gain anywhere.

Voices of Sister-Moms: Part Three, Maia’s Story

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HA note: This series is reprinted with permission from Heather Doney’s guest series on her blog, Becoming Worldly. Part Three was originally published on July 5, 2013. “Maia” is a pseudonym chosen by the author. If you have a Quiverfull “sister-Mom” story you would like to share, email Heather at becomingworldly (at) gmail (dot) com.

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Also in this series: Part One: Introduction by Heather Doney | Part Two: DoaHF’s Story | Part Three: Maia’s Story | Part Four: Electra’s Story | Part Five: Samantha Field’s Story | Part Six: Mary’s Story

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Part Three, Maia’s Story

My family started out in a pretty normal way.

But where most families stop creating new children and start raising them, my parents forged ahead having more. I don’t know what came first, but my parents got excited about having a lot of children (being Quiverfull, as the Bible says), homeschooling, and being very literal Christians.

I am child #2, the oldest daughter. My daily activities were pretty normal until I was 8. I was asked to do a few chores but not too many. We were somewhat effectively homeschooled until that point, and my parents were ramping up their enthusiasm for radical religion.

Then came child #6. I was 8 years old. 

It was explained to me by my father that my mother had cervical cancer during the pregnancy and was at risk of losing the baby, and therefore I needed to step up and help. She was born in May. As I understand it was a difficult labor. My father’s way of parenting during my mother’s recovery time was to lock us outside to fend for ourselves except for meals.

This was for about several weeks. It is important to note that this is also when my father stopped working.

He interpreted some of the ATI based teachings to mean that it was improper for him to be under a woman’s authority in a workplace.

When we were allowed back, my life was totally different. Overnight I learned how to cook meals for my family and clean bathrooms, etc, under the tutelage of my father.

That was also the end of effective homeschooling.

Child #7 came when I was 9, and child #8 when I was 11. I was present for both these births, one in the hospital and one at home. In that time my parents fled the province to escape from a CAS investigation. #7 and #8 were mine. #8 was born with the cord wrapped around his neck, and did not breath for almost ten minutes after birth. My father was still in hide-from-CAS mode [HA note: CAS are Children’s Aid Societies, similar to CPS).

So he didn’t seek medical care for him until day 3 when he started having seizures. 

So I learned how to administer medication to a baby. I got them dressed and fed them and loved them and rocked them — knew what they liked and didn’t like, and they called me mom. My parents encouraged all of this — except if they heard the boys call me mom. Then I got in trouble (I didn’t discourage them from saying that, it made me happy).

When I was 13 child #9 came along. By then I was very established as a mini-mom. My parents didn’t work but would frequently leave the house in the morning and come back late at night.

To this day I have no idea where they went.

So I would cook, serve and clean up three meals a day, care for an epileptic toddler, care for a new infant, and teach child #6 and #7 the best I could. When they didn’t leave the house they would often lock themselves up in their bedroom and yell at each other. When child #9 was an infant, my mother went to have gall bladder surgery and then went to recuperate a family member’s home.

There was some help in the house through some of these times, but I was still the trophy oldest daughter.

My father was proud of showing other people how much work I did in the home.

One day a young woman who was over was asked by my father if she also fed meals to her younger siblings when they were infants, and she said no. So I didn’t have to do that when we had company anymore, but still in private. I believe that my mother had a lot of health problems and post-partum depression, and that is part of why so much of daily life fell to me to run.

I wouldn’t even mind it so much if it wasn’t that she completely denies that this took place.

She thinks she was home that whole time and cooking, etc. I know for sure that some of what my parents were doing when away from home revolved around conservative ideology and reading parenting books, because one day they came home with a set of dowel rods in various sizes and tried them out on my younger siblings to see what was the most effective size for spanking each child.

I believe this comes from the Pearl parenting books.

Leaving my siblings when I was 17 to go to school and pursue my own life was the hardest thing I ever did. My three youngest siblings still live with my mom to this day and they have no understanding of the feelings I have about them based on what I did when they were infants/toddlers. I pushed so hard to get them into school, coming over at night to confront my father and pressure my mother into signing so my next youngest siblings could go to school, which she eventually did.

When I moved out, sister-mom duties immediately shifted to Electra, the next girl in the family, who is #4.

(HA note: Tomorrow, we will share the story of Electra, Maia’s sister.)

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To be continued.

Voices of Sister-Moms: Part Two, DoaHF’s Story

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HA note: This series is reprinted with permission from Heather Doney’s guest series on her blog, Becoming Worldly. Part Two was originally published on June 25, 2013. “DoaHF” is a pseudonym chosen by the author. If you have a Quiverfull “sister-Mom” story you would like to share, email Heather at becomingworldly (at) gmail (dot) com.

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Also in this series: Part One: Introduction by Heather Doney | Part Two: DoaHF’s Story | Part Three: Maia’s Story | Part Four: Electra’s Story | Part Five: Samantha Field’s Story | Part Six: Mary’s Story

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Part Two: DoaHF’s Story

I loved kids and I always wanted to help with the babies that my mom kept having.

I was always “too young” to help out with baby #5, and when baby #6 came along she was fussy and stuck to only my mom or my older sister. She hated anyone else who tried to hold or care for her, and my mom still mentions to this day how I ‘reneged’ on my desire to care for babies when #6 came around.

Why does she mention it? Because her next babies were mine.

When the oldest child in our family (a girl) turned 10, she began caring for baby #5. At 12, she took care of baby #6. When I was 10 and a half years old, baby #7 was born.

I was downstairs with everyone else that January day, trying to focus on doing school work when I got called upstairs to take my mother’s blood pressure. My grandmother and my father were the only ones attending the birth. They had covered her lower half with a sheet. My grandmother’s automated blood pressure cuff could not get a bp reading. I had gotten a stethoscope and a sphygmomanometer for Christmas that year and I had learned how to use it at the local hospital where the nurses all thought I was cute.

I took my mom’s blood pressure and I mumbled out some numbers. They didn’t seem right, so I tried again. It just wasnt making sense or working. I got pushed aside as they readied my in-and-out-of-consciousness mother for a trip to the nearest real hospital for an emergency D&C (we lived outside of the United States at this time).

Somewhere along the way it was decided that the oldest girl would stay at home with the 4 kids. #7 was handed to me and I kept close to my dad and my mom on the mattress. Halfway to the main city, the ambulance broke down. A call was dispatched and the ambulance crew from that city had to be woken up and come to pick us up so we could resume our journey. As we waited and my dad haggled with the locals and I tried to keep the curious hands from touching the new baby and lifting sheets and opening the broken down ambulance doors.

At the hospital my mom was rushed to surgery and I remember sitting in a cold air-conditioned room either sleeping or holding baby #7. At one point I sat beside her as she was recovering from anesthesia. She kept asking me the same questions over and over again.

And that is how baby #7 became mine.

During my mom’s convalescence, I was usually called upon to care for her and she seemed to love being in my arms. When it was bedtime I was always handed her because she fell asleep in my arms so fast. At night when my mom would nurse her and couldn’t get her back to sleep she would wake me up to “deal with her.” I learned how to sing softly, rock in the glider rocker, and manage to lay her in bed without waking her very quickly.

Nights that I couldn’t get her to lay down I would hold her for hours, rocking with one foot while I dozed in and out. I had been changing diapers for a couple years already, so I didn’t have to learn anything new in that department, but I learned how to make do on little sleep, or to do things half-asleep.

My mom loves babies.

She kept having them because the old babies grew into “little brats” all too often.

Well, that and she believed she had to be Quiverfull.

Baby #8 was a similar story. She had a much better delivery (still with complications, but not as severe) and after #8 graduated from the swinging cradle in my parents’ room (about 4 months) he slept in my room. I was almost 13 at the time. Every night I would wake up with him and take him to my mom to nurse. I would wait in the hallway (catching sleep where I could) and then take him back to my room to get him to sleep.

I still have a very angry diary entry at 14 where my mom scolded me for “being irresponsible” and letting him cry till his face was bright red about something. She told me I was bad at taking care of him and I stormed off to my room.

I wrote in all capital letters that he was MY BABY and that she had no right to take him from me.

To this day she disputes my claim to both #7 and #8 especially. She says that I overestimated what I did and that I was being dramatic.

Once our family moved back to the US in 2004 I had to do a lot more housekeeping duties than I had otherwise done. The babies were getting bigger and not in diapers any more, so I spent more time cooking and folding laundry than specifically caring for them.

As a girl, I wasn’t allowed to get a job.

But once I got ‘done’ (unofficially) with high school I spent hours in the garden weeding and planting. I turned our hundreds of tomatoes into tomato sauce and I spent almost all day cleaning up after kids. My younger brothers (#s 4 and 5) seemed to alternate hating my guts passionately. I don’t know if it was because they resented the power I held as a second (or third) mom or if they just were reacting to me ordering them around, but without fail once they hit a certain age they fought with me every second they could.

At one point my mom wouldn’t allow us in the same room without a parent.

The younger siblings were still small enough for me to intimidate/control although it fluctuated. Sometimes I was not allowed to spank/slap them, and other times it passed under the radar. Technically I was never allowed to hit them, but other times I was told to administer discipline.

It was severe cognitive dissonance.

My dad would be out working with the boys, my mom would take #6 with her grocery shopping and I would be left with the other 3 or 4. I would be given a list of duties (usually dinner, clean the rooms, vacuum, dishes, and a certain amount of work from the younger kids).

If I didn’t get everything done I was chastised or disciplined.

Technically the younger kids needed to help since they made all the messes, but when I wasnt allowed/supposed to be disciplining them, I was given a toothless command. I felt like for every room I cleaned, they made a mess of two more. They told on me for spanking them or yelling at them, but at the same time I was under a huge amount of pressure.

I resented them and they resented me.

However, I definitely favored my babies. I called them both “my” babies and they sometimes called themselves that. I would try to protect them from some of the mental and spiritual abuse going on, but I felt helpless myself. I tried to take all of their anger and frustrations myself so that they would not have to deal with the repercussions of having the parents see.

Even so, my baby #8 developed severe anger issues.

By age 5 he was having insane tantrums where he would scream at the top of his lungs and writhe about wildly, hitting things and lashing out.

Once my dad tried to spank it out of him.

Only once that I remember. And that night I wanted to die. My little “shun-shine” #7 developed severe self-acceptance issues, always afraid that she was fat and/or ugly. It was a downward spiral.

I left home at age 20 against the wishes of my parents.

I have not seen the kids again, except for the two older boys who are on good terms with me and call me semi-regularly. I see pictures every now and then and I can’t imagine how their lives are now. They are so much bigger. I get to hear them over the phone every now and then. Baby #8 keeps asking me to come home again to visit him for his birthday. I tell him that I want to desperately, but that situations that he cannot understand keep us apart.

I only hope that someday they can forgive me for abandoning them.

I did it to save myself, and in doing so I left them exposed to every horror my parents might bring down upon them. I wish there had been another way.

When people ask me these days if I want to/plan on having kids I usually say: “Once I get over losing the babies I already had.” Most people look at me strangely, but it is the truth. I cannot be a good mother because I am too afraid of losing my kids once they turn 8 or 10. Until I can clear my conscience with how I treated them, I fear I will not be a fit mother to any biological children I might have.

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To be continued.