HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “R” is a pseudonym.
I’ve been following Homeschoolers Anonymous almost from its creation when I first learned about it from Lewis Wells’ blog, CommandmentsofMen. Many of the stories written here have resonated with me, and I’ve shared quite a few on Facebook, especially those regarding HSLDA.
But a comment one of my friends left on one of my Facebook posts got me thinking.
I was homeschooled all the way through high school. When I would ask my parents why I was homeschooled, the answer they gave never involved religious reasons. I was a hyperactive child, and the preschool teacher I would have made it clear that she did not want any parental help with the 15+ little children in her class. Thus my parents decided it was in my best interest for them to teach me at home, at least for the first few years of school to ensure that I had good preparation. I think my parents planned to enroll me in public school at some point, probably once they felt the school subjects were above their reach, but that day never came. I remember asking a couple times throughout my young life when I’d go to public school, and my parents always had a different reason to delay.
To be fair, the quality of education I received was very good.
Both my parents have 4 year degrees; my father even has a science-based PhD from Stanford. I think the real concern for them was choosing a curriculum, building lessons plans, and being responsible for my younger brother’s and my education. I think as the years went by, they became more comfortable with the mechanics of homeschooling.
I’m not sure when it started, but religious fundamentalism started to creep into our house.
I know both my parents were Catholic growing up, but in college they found evangelicalism. Their faith, however, wasn’t rooted in a specific denomination; whenever we’d move to a new city they would find a church that agreed with their dogma. In one state we were Baptist, in another Presbyterian. I think they grappled with how to best instill their values in their children. I can’t recall what age I was, but I remember sitting through one of Bill Gothard’s seminars and also participating in a Growing Kids God’s Way workshop. Naturally, with these influences my parents gravitated towards a very authoritarian style of discipline.
It was several years into college before I could even entertain the thought that I may have been abused as a child.
Because of my parents’ involvement with HSLDA, they had carefully built the following mental roadblocks for me:
- DHS is bad. Completely normal disciplinary actions are considered abuse by them, and if DHS even suspects my brother or I have been abused, they will swoop in, kidnap us, and stick us with a family that doesn’t want or care about us because we’re an inconvenience.
- Psychologists only care about money; they will try to blame every problem on the parents and write scripts for imaginary issues.
But it all worked out.
Random people would always compliment my mother on how well behaved my brother and I were. People that knew us from church or other places were always impressed by how talented we were. I was a national merit scholar, went to university on a full scholarship, majored in engineering, and now work for a global leader in the oil and gas industry. I have a talented wife and a beautiful daughter.
It seems homeschooling did an excellent job.
Except it is a lie, just like the cake.
I mentioned earlier that my parents first decided to homeschool me because of hyperactivity; I was diagnosed with ADHD as a child and took medication for it until I was around 12. My father was an excessive perfectionist, and both parents embraced an authoritarian style of parenting. By the time I got to university, I was struggling with depression and low self-esteem that oftentimes left me paralyzed with feelings of hopelessness and uselessness. While I graduated as an engineer, my grades were far from exemplary, and my current position is the result of years of work and preparation overcoming the hurdles I had graduating from high school.
Because of my lack of freedom growing up, I still have problems deciding what I want, and I am plagued with uncertainty and doubt every time I make a major decision. In short, I could not function in the real world and still have difficulty even today.
So I blamed homeschooling.
But as I began to think about my friend’s comment, I realized something: homeschooling is just a tool, a method of instruction, a means to an end. All the positive homeschooling stories combine with the negative stories to show that.
Like any tool, homeschooling can be misused and abused.
It is important to remember this as we chronicle the stories of our youth: that responsibility does not lie with the method of instruction but with the instructors themselves, whether they be our parents or those our parents look to for guidance.