How I Became a Disillusioned Homeschooler: Elisheba’s Story

Image by R.L. Stollar.

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

Content warning: descriptions of self-injury.

I used to be a good homeschooler.

I used to be a good Christian. I used to be a model daughter. Then something happened. I’m not sure what it was, I’m not even sure how it happened.

When I went to college I was determined not to lose myself to “the world”. I didn’t want to be another statistic for why you shouldn’t send your kids to college. I didn’t want to be written off. I was going to defy the odds.

My first full time semester of college was a blast. Learning with other people and having a social life? Hot damn! Sure my 17 year old sister was taking the same classes as I was and would comment on my new found friendship with a fellow homeschooler who happened to be a guy.

Fast forward six months. I am enjoying college as much as ever and even am proud to say I have a boyfriend. Sure I can’t talk about him around my parents, sure hardly any of my friends know about him but I have a guy. Things are slipping. I am becoming one of those people. One of my friends that my mom used as an example to warn me about. One of those girls who I’d have coffee with to try to encourage her to do the right thing. I wasn’t any different.

Then the depression started to hit.

Not only was I not a good daughter anymore, God had turned His back on me, or so I thought. I spent countless nights on the bathroom floor crying and holding a knife to my arm. Pushing it in just enough to leave an impression but never deep enough to actually cut myself. Even in self harm I failed. I didn’t have the guts to do it. Only to tell my boyfriend that I was losing it and that I was going to do it or that I wanted to die. The only relief I could find was being with my boyfriend, which led to more excuses, less time spent on homework and more lies to my parents and more guilt tripping from my boyfriend because I wouldn’t grow a spine and move out, all of this lead to more feelings of being a failure and depression.

Fast forward another six months. I was finding out that my prince charming (it sounded less worldy and in your face than “boyfriend”) wasn’t all that I thought he was, but I had given him my heart which meant I was never going to get that piece back (Boy Meets Girl, anyone?) and could never give anyone my whole heart so logically, I was stuck with him.

I had made my choice and once again I was not going to be another statistic.

My first college relationship would last. I was going to marry him no matter what, even if that meant moving to Texas to live in a trailer with his grandparents and dropping out of school. No price was to high to pay to not be a statistic. So here I was, my relationship with my parents in shambles. God? Yeah. Not really on good terms with Him. Good homeschooler? Not so much. I hated that I had been subjected to that.

The one thing I had was my best friend. She was honest with me, but somehow not harsh. She got through to me. Literally the only reason I did not move to Texas was because of her. To this day I am so thankful for her influence in my life. She saved me from so much pain and ruined dreams. My boyfriend moved to Texas for school. I wrote letters in class instead of taking notes. My grades continued to be mediocre or worse.

Then my parents gave me an ultimatum, him or them.

Some how, even though my relationship with my parents was totally shattered, I chose them. Even now, I’m still not sure why. But I did. Enter major heartbreak, anger, some more lies, and eventually surrender. I still seriously thought we were together, only now we couldn’t talk, okay, don’t become a statistic. We can still make this last. Until the day of all my finals, a mutual friend texted me and told me that my boyfriend had a new girlfriend and that he was a jackass. I got out of my car, stopped crying, threw up, walked in to take my first final and then repeated until all of my finals were over. So there I stood, still not the good, model daughter that I once was. Not a good christian, in fact I really hated God, that day especially. And now to top it off, I was dumped, damaged goods. It did not help that I was crushing really hard on this catholic guy that I knew even though I was sworn to my first guy. It made the depression and the feelings of guilt worse. Not only could I not make a relationship work and I was used and damaged now, I was emotionally cheating on my guy.

Three strikes and you’re out, right? I had them all.

Now I was trying to rebuild myself. Who was I? I was a broken, used, depressed, put in any similar adjective here, person. How should I redeem myself? How could I get my model status back? Fall in love with somebody else? Sure. Enter catholic guy. The perfect gentlemen. The guy who wasn’t afraid of my parents. The guy who my siblings and mom loved. The guy who knew how to handle almost all situations. The guy who treated me like a lady and made me feel like I was valuable and important. The guy who (though he did and doesn’t know it, helped me rebuild myself). Enter the perfect prince charming. No sneaking around this time, except in my head (Leslie Ludy’s books, anyone?). I was having an emotional love affair and giving more of myself away. More guilt, but no lies and no emotional abuse from this guy so not nearly as much depression. I felt loved and cared for and safe. Life was good. Fast forward. Things are good, in my head at least. Ends up he has a girlfriend and has had one for quite a while. Enter sobbing and telling my story to a guy that I don’t really don’t know (he will be one of my best friends eventually).

Again. I’m used and broken. But were we ever actually dating? This drives me nuts. Then the self loathing. Not only was I a sucker for another guy, he was catholic of all things.

Good homeschooled, christian girls don’t fall for catholic boys.

Good homeschooled, christian girls don’t have a chain of boys period. No good homeschooled, christian boy will ever want me now. Hell. God probably doesn’t want me now.

On the other hand I don’t have as many pieces to pick up this time. My grades are good. I have a supportive, loving group of ladies that I study with that are like second moms to me They get that I’m heart broken, they also get that finals are coming up and I have to study. During these study time we talk about everything. Life. Women’s roles. Religion. I learn that there are different types of christians and I like it. Maybe it’s more important to show people that God loves them than to show them where they’re wrong and how confused they are about God. Maybe God could accept the broken, used, messed up me. Maybe He doesn’t care if I’m the perfect homeschooler, daughter, christian girl that I once was. Isn’t that the gospel anyway? He takes something used and broken and renews it? Life isn’t too bad.

I’m still determined to not become a statistic. I will not lose my faith. I will not become too liberal. I will stay conservative. I will believe in courtship. I will follow my parents and obey them. I will not be crazy. I will only attend our church as it is the best and the right way to worship. I will of course homeschool my future children.

Fast forward. I have a best friend who is an atheist. I have another best friend who is struggling with their faith. I have other best friends that are rock solid in their faith. I’m just me. I don’t want to offend anyone. I’m not sure how to defend my beliefs but I think they are true, maybe. Then I start hard core struggling with my faith. What if there really is no God? What if my whole life has been a lie? What if nothing that I told was important, is important? The depression starts creeping it’s way back. I start cutting for real this time.

Now I’m a homeschooler that cuts. That’s not supposed to happen.

I’m a christian who isn’t sure if their God is real. That’s not right.

And I’m a daughter who isn’t telling her parents any of that.

Say goodbye to any chance of getting the daughter of the year award.

Who do I go to? My friend that was struggling and decided for their sanity that they cannot believe in God anymore. They get my problems. I go to my friend who is an atheist. He listens and tries to help. Several months later, I go to my friends who are rock solid in their faith. They still love me and don’t judge.

Fast forward a bit. I’m here. Now. I am tired of trying not be a statistic. Yes. I still hate the idea of it but people are going to make statistics out of whatever they want and as I learned in my research class, they can make those statistics say whatever the hell they want. Who am I to fight it?

Here I am. A homeschooler, christian, not so model daughter who is wondering if living at home is really biblical, if courtship is biblical, if modesty really matters (how is it all the girl’s responsibility?) basically I’m questioning everything I was ever taught was the correct thing to do.

How did I get here? I’m still not sure but it was through slow disillusionment of my life. I’m never going to fit the mold. I can’t. I’m too broken. Does that bother me? Sometimes. Sometimes it really gets to me. Sometimes I still want to die. Sometimes I’m still so depressed I can barely function. Sometimes I still want to cut. But do those things define me? Not really. Does not fitting the mold ruin my life and my plans? No freaking way. It opens up opportunities for me. It allows me an escape.

I’m starting to realize not fitting the mold may be one of the best things that has ever happened to me. The not ideal, disillusioned homeschooler, christian me.

I Guess It Was Love: Andy’s Story

CC image courtesy of Flickr, John Perivolaris.

Content warning: descriptions of self-injury, homophobia.

All of the strong memories I have of my mother include yelling. When I was eight, I was outside watching our bunny, and got distracted. I couldn’t find him. She screamed at me at the top of her lungs. He was fine, just a hop down the street, but I couldn’t forget her voice screaming my name in absolute fury over two pounds of fur.

When I was 14, I began to discover myself. But this led to a lot of bullying.

My real life friends thought I was a “disgusting homosexual.” My “fake” internet friends thought everything I did was for attention. Maybe it was. It’s not like I got any from anyone else.

We left on a trip to Texas, and I remember very clearly that I propped my only mirror up on a rather unstable surface for the week, thinking it would stay. During that week, my codependent best friend and I had a huge fight. I was heartbroken. When we got home, the mirror had fallen. Shards of glass were all over my carpet. I broke. I scrawled “bitch” into my leg in fire and glass and pain. I did it over and over, until it was deep and bleeding and full of glass pieces I dug out for months. A few days later, I realized it wouldn’t heal right. And so I went running to Mom. I guess I’ve always trusted her a bit more than I realized. I don’t know what I thought she would do, I just needed Mommy. I was broken and desperate.

She screamed at me. She screamed questions, why did I do this to myself, what was wrong with me, what kind of person was I. Didn’t I know I was created in God’s image? Why would I ever do that to myself?

All I remember is screaming.

After that, things only got worse. I tried over and over to kill myself, getting more and more frustrated when it didn’t work. Mom and Dad sent me to a therapist to pray the gay away, and a skin specialist to make the scars fade. Not that I really wanted them to.

Then they found out that I had put off my schoolwork for an entire year. Mom screamed at me.

All of the memories after that involve crying. I cried when I came out to some of my homeschool friends, Mom cried when she found out about my girlfriend. Mom cried when she learned that all of my college papers were signed “Andy.” Mom cried when she found out about my testosterone supplements. I guess I started getting better around then. I got my computer back, I started going to college classes, I got away from the “homeschool bubble” that perpetuated the Christianity around me.

Now I’m very comfortable with myself, and about to go off to college. I’m planning to become financially independent and begin HRT alongside my transgender boyfriend.

She’s probably going to scream at me.

I guess she thinks it’s the loving thing to do.

Notes From a Homeschooler: Michelle Hill’s Story, Part Three


You can follow Michelle Hill at her blog

At best my mother is toxic, at her worst, she’s been emotionally abusive.  I’ve now come to realize that during my childhood, along with self-harm and restrictive eating, I also suffered from depression.

My parents are now more controlling than ever since I’ve moved away to college.

Not in the physical way, but in the worst possible way, though emotional control.  The guilt that they’ve put on me for not going home has led me to tears more times than I can count.  Nothing I do is good enough, and I always wonder “Why? What am I doing that’s so bad?”  I am an A student on scholarship, always find my own employment, never ask for money, just this year I filed my taxes by myself, I’ve also gotten help for my depression against their wishes.

Ah depression, the beginning of the end with my parents.  I saw the school’s counselor last September because something was wrong.  I was always mad at the world for everything, I was having problems adjusting to the new school year, and I had overwhelming anxiety.  I was diagnosed with moderate depression. After some research, I saw that it made sense that I did have depression all along, and I probably had it as a child.  After some research, I decided that I needed a strong emotional support base from family and friends. So I called my mother and told her the news.

 I was met with denial and her making me promise not to see a therapist and especially not to take any medications. 

She said, “Don’t go see those people. They don’t know you like me. Remember that one time you cried about getting a bad grade in government class, and I told you that it was going to be alright?  You’re just having a bad week. You just need to trust yourself.”  From that day on, I started hiding more and more things from them because I knew I wasn’t going to get any support.  I saw a therapist against their wishes; I started taking Prozac on a low dosage, and things started getting better emotionally – just not with my family.

Since then, I’ve had an emotional disconnect with my family.  They no longer feel like immediate family; they are more like the ones that you see once a year and you put on a happy face for.  Thanksgiving break ended with me self-harming myself for the first time in almost four years.  Christmas break ended in tears and me coming back to the dorms because I was happier being myself that with my family.

Before I left, I remember my dad telling/asking me if I was having one big pity party with the impression that my depression was all in my head and made up.

It still hurts today.  Spring break ended with me thinking about cutting them off and never going back again.  Easter weekend ended with a revelation that my parents are controlling and that I now need to look out for my own happiness and stop caring about what they think is best for me.

Now I just worry about my siblings that I left behind.

My little brother has dyslexia, though has never been tested because my mother is worried about the school investigating.  He is years behind and will probably never reach a level high enough to pass a GED let alone going to college.  They talk about him building a house on their property for him to live in and later take care of my parents in their old age.  I wonder if he will ever find a wife. I wonder if he is happy.  As of right now, he only has one friend and only leave the house once or twice a week to go into town with my mom shopping.  My little sister has Down syndrome.  I don’t know how she compares educationally because there’s no way to really compare.  My bright, sweet, little blonde-haired sister has no friends and hardly ever gets out.  She does not even attend a Sunday school.  Her socialization includes watching TV and seeing my brother play with his one friend he sees occasionally.  I wonder how she will turn out and it makes me deeply sad.  She is the only thing that keeps me from cutting off my parents completely.

I feel no love for my parents anymore, but her isolation makes me ache deep inside.

Notes From a Homeschooler: Michelle Hill’s Story, Part Two


HA Note: The following is reprinted with permission from Michelle Hill’s blog Notes From A Homeschooler. It was originally published on January 20, 2015 and has been slightly modified for HA.

<Part One

My Homeschooling Story

I often wonder how homeschooling has shaped me, and who I would be if I didn’t have such an unusual upbringing. My roommate, Natasha, and I are very similar, almost creepy similar, and we’ve often wondered if this was due to us both being home-schooled in a very similar fashion. So in today’s post, I’ll go over my homeschool experience. In a later post, I will break it down and examine how I think it has shaped me. As a disclaimer, I would like to note that every family’s and every individual’s experience is unique and should be considered as that. My experience is unique to me, though you may have noticed homeschoolers, or even yourself, have had some similar experiences.

In my previous post I described the origins my family beginning homeschooling and why my mother had continued to teach us at home. I think that my parents had a different reason for each of their children. My older brother, Mark, was taken out of public school in fifth grade. Like many boys, he was extremely intelligent, but didn’t feel the need to apply himself. He also was falling into the wrong crowd and my mother was worried that he would end up in some sort of trouble.

So she took him out of school to take him away from the negative influences that are so prominent in today’s school system.

Her hopes were that she could get Mark to apply himself to his studies and eventually into a collage of some sort. It ended up well for Mark. He is now 24, has graduated from a tech school with a degree in Heavy-Diesel Mechanics. After a few job switches, he has now found a work place he enjoys where he is the shop foreman for a large trucking company.

My experience was a little bit different from Mark’s. I was taken out of school because I was failing English and writing. My mother was worried that if I stayed in school, I would fall even farther behind than I already was. As a side note, I would like to say that I am now an avid reader, like many homeschoolers, and place well ahead of my peers when it comes to reading comprehension (

Mark’s and my elementary days were dotted with school, playing outside together (we live in the country on 50 acres), and riding on the school bus that my mom drove every school morning and afternoon. I don’t remember much of the school work we did. My mother said I had hated spelling so much that I would cry after every test, so she stopped teaching me spelling. I know that my favorite subject was reading and I would spend hours in my room reading my favorite books at the time, Little House on the Prairie. My parents said I used to talk about her like she was one of my friends. Once a week, we would go to a local co-op of homeschoolers and take extracurricular classes, such as home ec. (Keepers of the Home), art, science experiments, and chess. That was our main form of socialization besides spending time with the other kids who rode on the bus my mom drove.

There was this type of social isolation that comes with homeschooling in a small town.

The town we lived in had one private school for elementary through middle school, and one public school for preschool through high school. My family was the only family in the town who homeschooled, and my parents’ decision to homeschool was frowned upon. One of our neighbors who lived a mile away was a retired school teacher. She would tell my mother that she was worried about our socialization and how we would function after we got out of high school. The point I’m trying to make is that living in a small town and home-schooling in the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE felt more than a little isolating.

Middle school followed the same pattern of elementary school. The difference was that my mother no longer worked for the school and drove the bus, and now my little brother, Jason, had joined us in homeschooling. There was a brief span in 6th grade that I was convinced I would like to go to public school. So my mother enrolled me in the fall and I attended for two months. It was different for me than other school kids because my father was always complaining about the public school; how we wasted time switching from class to class; how they gave us busy work….

He had a very negative view of the school system which affected the way I felt about attending public school.

I would also come home from school to find out all the cool stuff my family was doing without me while I was gone. So when the opportunity came up for me to join a Christian homeschool basketball team, I took it. It was my excuse for giving up on the public school idea.

During 6th grade, I was on the basketball team and had twice a week early morning practices that took an hour to drive to. My brother was also on the boy’s basketball team, so his practices were after mine. I could say that I enjoyed being on the team, but I didn’t really. I enjoyed socializing with the other girls and families, but basketball was not my thing. Not to mention that we only won one game in the entire season. So it wasn’t a surprise to anyone that I didn’t return to basketball the next year.

During 7th and 8th grade, Mark stayed on the basketball team, so we continued the early morning practices twice a week. The founder of the team had also created a separate co-op that had weekly classes taught by certified instructors. We joined the co-op and I spent hours there after my one class, sign language. It was a big day for us because we would drive an hour away to go into the city for co-op classes, basketball practice, Elizabeth’s therapy, and the public library.

Then for the rest of the week, we mostly stayed at home only to emerge to make a trip into town for groceries.

I didn’t go to friends’ houses often because all of my friends lived in the city and it was a big ordeal to have to drive two hours there and back. If I did go, it was normally for an overnight sleepover.

For me, high school was full of turmoil. During my sophomore year, my mother had to pick up a part time job at a group home for residents with intellectual and physical disabilities. My mom started out working weekends, Friday 5pm – Sunday 5pm, and would be away for the entire weekend. Being the oldest daughter, it was up to me to cook dinner for the family because we always ate together at the family dinner table. I also had to make sure the house didn’t fall apart and become a disaster zone. I would spend my weekends washing dishes, mopping, and cleaning the bathroom. My father is not much of the parenting type, so I had to make sure that Elizabeth was taken care of, got baths, and had her teeth brushed before bed. During Winter break of my junior year, my mom’s work was short staffed and had asked her to work during the week in another house. She worked Sunday – Friday, 5pm – 9 am. However, she had already signed up for her weekends, so she also had to work the entire weekend too. For three weeks, I ran the house. I helped make the meal plans, cooked dinners, cleaned, and took care of my younger brother and sister. I didn’t go out very much because there would be nobody to watch Jason who was 10, and Elizabeth who was 5. It was a lonely time for me.

Looking back, I think I had become depressed, but didn’t know that there was a label for what I felt.

I had my times of restricting food, now I know it was because I craved control. I also had a two month time period when I felt so sad, lonely, and forgotten, that I would self-injure myself. It was not a happy time for me.

On top of this was my dad’s wild scheme that we could raise organic, free range chickens and sale the eggs to Whole Foods. Honestly, I try to block out the memories of having to feed and take care over a thousand birds using only manual (unpaid) labor. Not to mention cleaning the eggs every single night which would take hours and hours. I had no free time to visit friends because I had to run house and help with all those God Damn chickens. If you can’t tell, yes, I am very bitter about this, and never want to see another live chicken. Thankfully, after over a year of the chickens, my dad sold them and reduced the number to a more reasonable amount of twenty chickens for Jason to take care of.

Senior year was when I was my happiest during high-school. I had a part time job working at the same place as my mom, only in the money-raising greenhouse portion of it. I worked 4 days a week for roughly 5 – 8 hours a day. Then I would come home and do homework for my online dual credit college classes. I also attended a once a week co-op to learn Chemistry and Spanish. During my second semester as a senior, I took remedial math classes at the local junior college because I had huge holes in my math education. I had failed the placement test for math classes, and needed to get my score up before I would be attending any four year college. (I am glad to say that my math is now average and I can keep up with my peers at college.) For the first time, I had also had an actual boyfriend who I had met at my weekly classes.

I think senior year is the most socialization I ever had.

I had a part time job, dual credit classes, weekly home-school class, and a boyfriend who I could go on dates with. I thought things couldn’t get any better than that.


Hurts Me More Than You: Warbler and Laralyn’s Stories

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 10.15.16 AM


Trigger warning for Hurts Me More Than You series: posts in this series may include detailed descriptions of corporal punishment and physical abuse and violence towards children.


Warbler’s Story

I was a “liar and a thief” growing up. AKA: I would take saltine crackers out of the cabinet and eat them between allowed meals and then I would lie when I was inevitably caught and told to fess up. I got spanked at least once per day for a couple years.

I don’t know were exactly my parents first learned about spanking, but they read and promoted the Pearls out the wazoo.

Over the years they spanked us with hands, paint stirrers, and lastly with 2-by-4s. My mom had a 2×4 custom made with a handle. If we tensed out butts, or put on extra layers we were spanked for avoiding the pain and made to take the layers off and be spanked over underwear. We were usually taken to another (private) room, but our walls were thin and every *thwack* echoed through the house, along with the eventual crying and the “I love you and this hurts me too.” Afterwards we were expected to say in explicit language exactly what we had done wrong, that we were sorry, and that we loved the parent who had just beaten us.

My mother was usually the one to do it, but she would spank us so often that her hands started hurting (blood vessels breaking, etc) that she had the 2×4 made, or she left us to wait in dread for daddy. His hands were tough and he hit hard. The paddle sometimes hit the tail bone as well, and that was the worst.

I usually cried.

As much as I tried I was “weak.” Sometimes if the boys didn’t cry they were spanked till they showed “proper” repentance. If we were stubborn, refused to say we loved them, or did not properly state our transgressions we were spanked again. 5 spanks was the bottom line, then ascending in number by units of 5.

As for me, I never got more than 40 in one sitting (that I remember) because I was (as stated) weak and timid and disliked getting spanked. My older brother was rebellious and would often get spanked for hours. I can still him yelling defiantly over the strikes, refusing to back down even when being punished.

As we got older (teens), our parents decided that spanking was not working and we were given leaf-raking jobs, cleaning jobs, or extra writing assignments. They thought that we were either so bad, or so old that spanking still hadn’t done well, and it was time to try something else. I once heard my mom say something about “decency” having something to do with it, but I have my personal doubts.

Our younger siblings were spanked much less because the “other” punishments on us older ones seemed to be working (or as we got older we didn’t take so much food and hid things better) so they got some similar punishments and spanking was reserved for serious, extra bad transgressions. With the sidelining of the spanking it got worse, though. They were reserved for daddy and he often beat far longer than needed because the younger siblings were not used to being contrite, crying enough to get out of it, and say the right things. I remember the 8th child had a problem at dinner and shouted at my mom or something. My dad had just gotten home from working and it seemed like the height of sin to be making noise and disturbing his dinner. My baby was taken to his room and hit for about 5 minutes long, screaming up until the last minute or so. He was either 4 or 5.

My mom also got more into slapping or hitting as we got older and talked back to her as older teenagers. It was like the ultimate shame because you could never hit back. Those were some of the times that I “saw red…” Brilliant shades of red color everything as you focus in on one person with all the hatred and anger in your tortured soul. Your body shakes and you blink, but still see the color. Nothing else is, or ever was. The only two things in the world are you and the face screaming at you in red waves…. and you wish you had a knife in your hand…. Sometime later you awake from your dissociation, you can’t remember the past 30 minutes, but you feel guilt for your feelings.

After all, you were the one in the wrong. You deserved punishment for your sins…

I don’t know how common spankings are now, as I “ran away” from home 4 years ago. I do know that if my mom had access to plumbing line or glue sticks one or more of us might have fared worse. The wood was solid and “just” bruised.

And we learned how to hide our transgressions in order to avoid it.


Laralyn’s Story

Spanking. Even now I don’t know what to make of the term.

It feels so wrong to apply it to how our parents punished us. I initially assumed I would always spank my own children. After all, it was Biblical and right according to so many Christian parenting books. I didn’t want to have horrible children, so of course I would spank. As my first baby became a toddler, I found I couldn’t stomach the idea. I tried to spank her once and the attempt was half-hearted and I cried because I knew deep down it was horribly wrong. The moments I was tempted to spank were when I was angry or I didn’t know what else to do and that to me said more than any Christian parenting book ever could. I decided then and there that I would never physically punish her or future children in such a way.

I wish I couldn’t feel my stomach turn when I remember my parents disciplining us. The angrier they were, the worse it was. A belt was the most frequent tool and almost all spankings accompanied the remove of clothing below the waist. I still feel humiliation and shame when I remember it. We were spanked for nearly every infraction – my parents knew no other mode of discipline.

However, the moment I remember most vividly is when I was spanked for being afraid of the dark.

I had horrible fears as a child (of hell, of the house burning, of dying) and refused to sleep alone. One night, after repeated attempts to settle me, I was still crying uncontrollably. My parents, frustrated to the point of losing control, marched into the room. My dad ordered me to turn over and with my head buried in the pillow to muffle my crying, he hit me several times across my bottom. He yelled at me to shut up and then they left.

I was still crying. I was still afraid.

I started injuring myself when I was five in response to anger and overwhelming emotions. This behavior continued and worsened into my teens and young adulthood. My parents shamed me and blamed bad influences.

I blame their shaming and willful crushing of spirit.

Melting Memory Masks: Cynthia Jeub’s Story

Screen Shot 2014-10-03 at 2.45.29 PM
Cynthia Jeub. Photo courtesy of

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Cynthia Jeub’s blog It was originally published on October 3, 2014. 

Trigger warnings: child abuse, self-harm

Hey, girl, open the walls, play with your dolls, we’ll be the perfect family. –Melanie Martinez

~eight years ago~

“Mom, dad, I’ve been hurting myself since I was four. I’ve kept it a secret for ten years, and I don’t think anybody else in the world does it. I want to tell you because we’re going to film for TV, and I might lose control in front of the cameras. I don’t want to make our family look bad.”

“Are you still doing it?”

“No. I quit a few years ago.”

“Then your sin is forgiven. We’ll go ahead with the filming. Just don’t tell anyone.”

Picture! Picture! Smile for the picture! Pose with your brother, won’t you be a good sister?

~seven years ago~

“Mommy, stop hitting him! He’s only eleven!”

“Do something, Cynthia! I’m scared…she’s not stopping!”

~a few days later~

“What happened to him? Did he get in a fight with his brother?”

“No. Mom got mad and slapped him. She wouldn’t stop, so I pulled her off of him. He’s wearing makeup so you can’t see the whole bruise and where he was bleeding.”

Everybody thinks that we’re perfect; please don’t let them look through the curtains.

~six years ago~

“I’m going to sit here while the producer interviews you. I’m here to help you remember to say what’s true.”

“Okay, daddy. I trust you.”

Don’t let them see what goes down in the kitchen.

~five years ago~

“Mom, look! I watched ten kids and cooked food and cleaned the house while you were gone!”

“You didn’t do the dishes?! You don’t appreciate that I was gone shopping all day. I do so much work around here, and I can’t be gone for a few hours without coming home to a mess! I need to work in a clean kitchen, and it’s your fault I can’t! I don’t ask for much!”

Places, places, get in your places

~three years ago~

“Is it that cutting thing again? I thought you were over that.”

“I’m scared because I want to kill myself, daddy.”

“Are you sure you’re not just trying to fit in with your college friends, pretending to have problems like theirs?”

No one ever listens, this wallpaper glistens

~two years ago~

“You’re not telling your therapist that you’re having problems with self-harm and depression, are you?”

“No, mom. I’m there because I’m angry with my two older sisters for turning their backs on God and being rebellious, and hurting my parents.”

“Good. I don’t think that’s really something to tell your counselor about.”

Throw on your dress and put on your doll faces.

~one year ago~

“I remember when you were spanked with a belt every day, even though you didn’t do anything wrong most days.”

“So you remember that, too? Weird…I asked mom why they did that, and she said it never happened. I thought there must be something wrong with me.”


~this year~

“Do you remember that one time that mom slapped your face until you had cuts and bruises, and I had to pull her off of you?”

“I know it happened because you and our other siblings were there, but I don’t remember it.”

“You blocked it out?”

“I guess so. Anyway, she said she was so sorry, and it would never happen again.”

“Did it happen again?”

“Yeah, but I was asking for it then. I was a disagreeable boy when I was going through puberty.”

“Don’t you think maybe moms shouldn’t hit their kids over and over until they bruise?”

“Our parents aren’t that bad, Cynthia. You need to stop saying that they’re abusive.”

I see things that nobody else sees.

Part Two >


About the Author


Cynthia Jeub is a blogger at where she writes about insights on epic living. As a writer, she focuses on faith, philosophy, and the importance of storytelling. She’s most well-known for her reality TV appearances with her family of 18 on The Learning Channel and WE-TV. A theatre major at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, she edits for her school’s student newspaper, The Scribe.


HA note: In light of these allegations by Cynthia (one of Chris Jeub’s daughters), the HARO board is uncomfortable with hosting Chris’s post, “Stiff-Necked Legalism.” We have retracted that post and its comments.

Hurts Me More Than You: Traveler’s Story

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 10.15.16 AM


Trigger warning for Hurts Me More Than You series: posts in this series may include detailed descriptions of corporal punishment and physical abuse and violence towards children.

Additional trigger warning for Traveler’s story: descriptions of self-injury.


Traveler’s Story

Here are the lessons I learned from spanking:

1) Suppress your conscience; avoid the consequences of your actions.

When I was very, very young, I unrolled a roll of toilet paper in the bathroom and then left the mess behind when I got distracted by something else. The mess was discovered, and I feared being spanked if I was implicated. Instead of confessing, I asked “what will happen to the person who says they did it?”

“Nothing except they will have to clean it up,” my mother responded.

“Oh, well in that case, I did it,” I said, and gladly cleaned my mess.

With the fear of violence removed, I was happy to answer my own conscience and fix my mistake.

2) You can’t make up for your mistakes; you can only suffer for them.

One morning, I was late starting homeschool because I had gotten distracted during my chores.  It didn’t matter if I was sorry, or if I promised to do better, or if I made my bed on time for the rest of the week, or if I even offered to do other chores to make up for it.  Forgiveness could not be obtained from my mother until she hit me until I cried.  I truly wanted to make my mother happy and to do right by her.  But, a spanking taught me that there was no way to make things right anymore.

The only way for me to be forgiven and returned to my valued place in the family was to submit to physical pain.

3) Violence and humiliation can be deserved.

When my family rejected me as an adult for my sexuality, I began to abuse myself.  I thought of it as a method of atonement. I would beat my shins against a table to raise welts and bruises.  I would scratch at the skin on my stomach, upper thighs, and arms to make myself bleed.

I felt like I deserved to hurt.

I deserved violence.  I deserved humiliation. I deserved emotional abuse.

And why shouldn’t I?  My family had always taught me never to let anyone hurt me.  But yet, they crossed those boundaries repeatedly when I was a child.  I learned that there were situations where violence, humiliation, and a lack of self-respect were deserved.

Is it so hard to imagine that these toxic thoughts could have carried over into my adulthood?

Hurts Me More Than You: Rachel’s Story

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 10.15.16 AM


Trigger warning for Hurts Me More Than You series: posts in this series may include detailed descriptions of corporal punishment and physical abuse and violence towards children.

Additional trigger warning for Rachel’s story: descriptions of self-injury.


Rachel’s Story

Maybe I’m the oddball, but, I was reading some articles on the lifelong effects that spanking children has on their emotional and mental development when it hit me.

Being spanked as a child is a large part of why I started self-harming as a teenager.

Let me unpack this statement a little bit.

From a child, I had been taught through example that physical punishment was the Biblically advocated way of training your children. To be fair, my mother absolutely hated spanking us, and would cry at night because she believed it was wrong, but according to Mike and Debi Pearl, corporal punishment until actual pain was achieved is the only way to properly “train up a child”. And, indeed, Proverbs supports this methodology to a degree. We were spanked for back talking, direct disobedience, rebellion, tattling…and the list goes on. Being spanked teaches a child that physical pain is the only appropriate atonement for his/her misdemeanors. While my parents truly loved us and believed that spanking was the Biblical way to train their children, I have come to question the subconscious impact which this ideology has had on the way I personally relate to punishment.

When I was 15, I reached a particularly low point in my life. My parents had just found out about a young man who I was involved with, and were extremely displeased with the content of some of our conversations (eg. swearing, his expressing a desire to kiss me, etc..) among other things. Feeling that a relationship was not in my best interest at this point, they grounded me for a week and lectured me extensively.

But, for me, this punishment wasn’t enough.

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I had become subconsciously convinced that punishment which did not cause physical pain was not adequate punishment.

Because, after all, a lecture was never good enough when I had sinned as child. Spanking was always in order. Therefore, as soon as I found myself alone in my room, I, almost instinctively, physically lashed out against myself, taking a disposable razor to my wrist until it was dripping blood. I felt instantly better. After which, I cleaned it up, bandaged it, and fell asleep.

Dad commented the next day that I seemed happier. I was even smiling!

It became a vicious cycle. Whereas when I was a child, if I did something wrong, I was immediately spanked and then the incident was forgotten, as I got older the spanking became less frequent, and lectures replaced corporal punishment. What I didn’t realize was that I had unwittingly adopted the notion that physical punishment is the only adequate punishment. So, if I did something wrong, or my parents were displeased with me, hurting myself became second nature.

I cannot tell you how harmful this mentality is.

When Christ died, HE took the physical pain punishment for ALL my sins. Knowing that my parents are displeased, natural consequences, or rebuke, should be punishment enough for me. Of course, there are consequences, but these should be natural consequences. For instance, if you eat twenty pieces of cake, you’re going to make yourself sick. This doesn’t mean that wrong should be condoned. If my brother hits me, he’s going to be told why that’s wrong and if he persists in wrongdoing, should be punished by a timeout or something similar.

Obviously, circumstances are different for every family, but for me, at least, being spanked unwittingly implanted the idea in my head that physical pain is the only valid form of punishment.

I’ve wondered for months why it was that, when I reached that point where my parents were so upset at me, hurting myself was an almost instinctive reaction. I didn’t even think about it. It felt natural. It felt…right. There was no question in my mind that I completely deserved the physical pain for disappointing my parents, allowing myself to have romantic feelings for a boy, and using bad language. I believe a large part of it is that when I was young, I knew I was in the doghouse if I had acted wrongly. Apologizing didn’t fix things. Being lectured didn’t change things. BUT, as soon as I had gotten the appropriate amount of spankings, everything was forgiven and I was reminded again of how loved I was. How does one make the mental transition from “I need to be physically punished for any transgression” to “Now that I’ve reached a certain age, a lecture or being grounded is adequate punishment”?

And for those who argue that Proverbs commands parents to spank their children (Mike and Debi Pearl, I’m looking right at you!), my response is that Proverbs is in the Old Testament, and although I don’t believe we should discount it merely because it happens to be before the birth of Christ, please show me a passage anywhere in the New Testament under the New Covenant which commands spanking children as a form of punishment! The verses in the New Testament on child rearing say to not provoke your children to wrath but rather bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Admonition is NOT the same as spanking.

And, while I’ll readily admit that my ideas on child raising aren’t completely developed yet, I agree far more with those who advocate not spanking your children, or only using spanking as a very last resort, than those who spank their children constantly for any real or imagined misdemeanor.

If I Could Wave a Magic Wand: Arachne’s Story

Screen Shot 2014-01-17 at 11.22.37 AM

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Arachne” is a pseudonym. Arachne blogs at Past, Present, and Future.

A new year is about to start. I am looking forward to it.

This is a new development. I spent years making suicide plans for New Years Eve. The holidays were the worst time of the year for me. That has changed. I survived. I never thought I would, but I did. The hell is over. Gone. Done. I can look forward now and I can be happy. Breathe, even. I guess all the therapy, psychiatric medications, hard decisions, tearful conversations with friends, and general struggles have finally paid off.

I started praying again.

It doesn’t hurt anymore. Of course, my idea of prayer is now very different from what I was raised with. Not so much with the trying to atone for my innumerable sins and the sins of the world. I feel like I have a relationship and connection to Divinity. I am loved and accepted.

I have plenty of anecdotes I could relate. There was the semi-cult at a super traditional Catholic church with a whole gaggle of denim jumper wearing homeschoolers. There was being the eldest child and being female in a strictly patriarchal large family. There was the father who broke the dining table chairs into pieces when he was angry. An emotionally manipulative and unstable mother overwhelmed with the life she believed God commanded her to live. The leather belt they both used. It goes on, but for me, those days are over and those people are no longer in my life. So what comes next?

I don’t know. There’s no plan. It’s terrifying.

If I could wave a magic wand and erase the past, I would.

Trust me. In a heartbeat.  I think about it over and over. What would I have been like if I’d had a decent education? If I hadn’t been abused and controlled by the people who had total power over me, where would I be? Did I ever have a chance at being “normal”? What the fuck is normal? I will never know. At some point, I have to step away and live my life now while accepting who I am and how I was shaped.

There’s only so much I can leave behind, and I’m not saying I’ve moved on. I doubt I ever truly will. I can’t forget my entire childhood. My body is covered in scars from my struggles with self-injury. Depression and anxiety will likely stick with me, even though they are managed now. Catholic guilt fades but doesn’t seem to ever quite go away. There will be many more times when I break down and cry over the past.

All I can do now is figure out how to work with what I have now, and when I take inventory it feels incredible.

I have two wonderful kids who are being raised totally different from how I was, wonderful people in my life, a brain that has some quirky wiring but that still works pretty well, physical health, a spiritual path that has taken me places I never dreamed of going, and so much more.

I have strength. I have freedom.

Don’t let the bastards grind you down.

An Open Letter to My Former Highschool Teachers: By Sarah Henderson

HA note: Sarah Henderson blogs at Feminist in Spite of Them about her journey from Quiverfull to Feminist. The following post was originally published on her blog on October 15, 2013 and is reprinted with her permission.

Dear Teachers,

When I came to the high school at age 17, I had absolutely no idea how to be a student.  

Many of you know by now that I didn’t know what a teacher-student dynamic was. I hope you understand that up to that point I had been around adults who mostly made stuff up as they went along, and expected respect from authority that was derived simply from being bigger and older, not from legitimate accomplishment. To a scared 17 year old, it looked the same at first, because of the authority aspect.

In the three years I went to high school, I learned to respect you for the knowledge and expertise you represent. I think I was supposed to respect you simply for being teachers, adults, and authority figures, but instead I respected the time and effort it took to become teachers, and the skill and patience that kept you there.

I remember sitting in my first class, which was a grade nine math class. That was a difficult thing for me, to enter a class with people three years younger than I was. But to the teacher who taught that class, and the second teacher who took over part way through (this was when the big math shuffle happened), thank you.

Thank you for seeing my anxiety and deciding to explain to the entire class what the 8:25 bell was, even though they clearly knew.

Thank you for for patiently explaining what the relationship between decimals and fractions was. I really didn’t know. To the librarian, thank you for making the library a safe place. I would have been very afraid of that environment and never gone there, especially because some students really avoided it. But you always said hello to me and that made me feel special even though you did that with everyone.

I liked that you knew my name. It made me feel less anonymous and afraid.

To my language teachers, thank you for doing what it took to allow me to have the best swath of language courses that I could in three years. To my drama and music teachers, these classes pulled me out of my shell the most. I learned that for the first time I could be a meaningful part of something significant. You taught me to not be afraid and to simply do, and that putting myself out there was not dangerous. Thank you for recognizing my ability to create, and giving me the chance to do that with costumes.

To my science teachers, thank you for creating a safe environment to learn. It was a bit of a rocky road for me, and a lot of that came out in science classes for some reason, but you were patient and somehow I never failed a science class, for which I am grateful.

To my guidance counselors, thank you for not making me muddle through a grade nine phys. ed. class with 13 and 14 year olds and expose my complete lack of knowledge about various sports. Thank you for taking the time to place me in the appropriate levels of classes and being willing to juggle that for three years. Thank you for the time you spent listening to me and believing me.

Thank you for calling family and children’s services with me.

Thank you for trusting that even though I didn’t always know how to act appropriately, I was learning as quickly as I could, and thank for seeing that I could succeed. Thank you for not punishing me when I engaged in self-injury at school. I didn’t know how inappropriate that was until you told me.

I didn’t actually know that self-injury was a “thing” or a big deal. I had never heard of it

But I had been doing it for a decade by then.

To my principals, thank you for not suspending me or punishing me for mistakes I made, and thank you for trusting that they were legitimate errors and not deliberate. Thank you for making allowances where you did but also for drawing the line where you did. The fact that you did draw some lines and said that there were certain things I did need to do, helped me learn to function more fully in a society with expectations. I learned that there are provisions for when you need them, but I also learned to take responsibility and action when I was able. Thank you for recognizing how challenging school was for me, and thank you for doing it in a way that celebrated success, not difficulty.

To my English teachers, thank you for the impact you have had on my life. From Grade 11 English where you gently explained to me what an essay actually was and how to write one (I really didn’t know), to writer’s craft and children’s literature where I had a chance to be creative, these classes allowed me to feel successful because I was able to achieve decent grades and take pride in what I wrote. You recognized when I was trying hard even if my results were not stellar. You explained to me how to improve when I was not happy with a grade. You suggested books for me to read as you started to learn more about my past. Thank you for being available to me and hearing me. Thank you for supporting me and helping me process through these classes. Thank you for letting me start off doing presentations in private but pushing me to do them to the class when you knew I was ready.

Thank you for teaching me the value of writing. That positive experience is why I am able to use the written word to share my story now.

To all the teachers and other staff at the high school, thank you for encouraging me and helping me learn how to be a student. Thank you for treating me with dignity even when I didn’t act very dignified. Thank you for being willing to overlook my shortcomings in exchange for investing in a brighter future. Thank you for being kind even when I was rude, thank you for knowing when to let things slide and when to push me to do better.

Thank you for being gentle with me when I was going through rougher times, and thank you ever so much for taking it as a given that I would go to university. Once I reached a certain point in high school, it was not really treated by you as optional that I would go, instead it was simply a question of where and what.

I owe a great deal to you.

People do not always get a chance to hear about the positive impact they had with a smile or a short conversation, and this letter is intended to make sure you are aware of that impact.

Thank you.

Sarah Henderson