New Homeschool Parents, Be Wise: Shadowspring’s Thoughts

The following post by Shadowspring was originally published on her blog Love. Liberty. Learning. She describes herself on her blog as, “a home school mom near the end of my career home schooling and looking forward to what life has to offer next. I am a follower of Jesus and a lover of freedom, as it is for freedom that Christ has set me free (Gal 5:1).” This post is reprinted with her permission.

I am so proud of all the home school graduates I have met!

Without exception, they are all strong-willed, courageous people who are finding their own authentic way in life.  I think that no matter the quality of one’s educational experience, or the degree of emotional nurture vs. emotional neglect or abuse even, home schooling in itself transmits these qualities by its very nature.  To home school is to go against the flow of larger society, and children who are home schooled constantly hear that decision praised.  Even the religious home schools (maybe especially the religious home schools?) are continually hearing that going against what is easy and popular when conscience calls you to do so is a good thing, the right thing, the best thing.

So it is no surprise then, that these home school graduates have a strong sense of responsibility to improve the lot of those who come after them. Homeschoolers Anonymous is a web site dedicated to sharing the stories of home school graduates that will not be featured at home school conventions or plastered on the cover of Practical Homeschooling magazine.  (These stories need to be heard, too!) It was created by home school graduates, to help improve the lives of home schooled children who come after them.  Their goal is to improve things by the shining the light on areas that need improvement.  All of the stories shared there are authentic, written by home school graduates themselves.  These stories need to be told, and the home school community needs to listen and learn. 

New home school parents especially, be wise! Take notice!  Don’t just listen to the home school salespeople trying to get you to be just like them.  Do not be foolish, only listening to those whose children are still at home.  They have the option of still believing they are doing everything right and because of that, they can predict how life will turn out for their children.  Those whose children are already grown adults, that’s who you should be seeking out for advice.

You are in a much better position than earlier home school parents, because you have the opportunity to inspect the fruits of the labors of home school parents who came before you.  Make the most of that opportunity!  As scripture counsels (Proverbs 18:17, Luke 14:28-33), get all sides of a story before you decide.  Really investigate what you are trying to accomplish.  Check out what has already been done by other people so you can figure out what you want to do differently and what you want to emulate.

I realize this will be difficult, for many reasons. One is that when a family experiences “failure” — any result that is outside the advertised shiny, bright, happily subservient, doctrinally and sexually pure teenager — that family will disappear from most home school support groups.  Sometimes they are kicked out, but more often they drop out. These parents may feel ashamed that the product of their home school didn’t turn out as advertised.  They may be asked to leave, especially if the results they are experiencing don’t conform to the religious side of expectations.  A poorly educated but morally upright teen/young adult is not nearly so embarrassing to many home school support groups as a teen/young adult who is seen as morally compromised.

On the other hand, they may leave the support group because of disillusionment.  When their marriage is falling apart, their teenager turns up pregnant, or is caught doing drugs, shoplifting, looking at porn, etc. then they may wake up to the fact that they have bought into and been promoting a lie and want no part in it anymore. Or they may be compelled to put their children in public school because of any number of reasons — a severely ill parent, financial constraints that require the home schooling parent to work — and so leave the home school support group.  All home school support groups require that a family be home schooling to belong, so any family that stops home schooling for any reason will not be at support group meetings sharing their stories.  You will have to search them out.

And the final reason that talking to home school graduates, and parents who have graduated all their students, to see where life takes them, is the passage of time.  You won’t hear about gay home schooled Christian teens because they don’t come out to their parents until years have passed since leaving home.  You won’t hear about atheist home schooled graduate of Christian home schools because they don’t leave the faith for years after leaving home.  In fact, you won’t hear about any of the graduates who go off script after leaving home unless their dong so actually involves criminal activity that splashes across the headlines, like the Couty Alexander story in Louisiana.

A summary of the Couty Alexander story: A home school boy dutifully marries the courtship bride his and her parents decided upon. His wife gets pregnant right away because they follow the script and don’t use birth control.  Coudy goes to work, and interacts with people outside of the home school movement for the first time.  He falls in love with a co-worker, quite unexpectedly I am sure.  He has never experienced such strong attractions before, as he was assigned his wife and wasn’t allowed to even date.  He and the co-worker begin a romance.  And somehow, truth always outs.  His young bride finds out about the affair.  Maybe he even told her himself, I don’t know.  As she is packing to leave him, the weight of the shame that will fall on him from his community overwhelms him, and in a panic, he kills his young bride.  That is a direct result of the Christian home school fantasy and the expectations he felt to fulfill them as a star of the movement.  He was never allowed to just be Couty, and figure out who he was at heart and what he wanted.  His life was dedicated to doing what his parents wanted, because somewhere along the line the Christian home school community became confident that what they wanted, God wanted.  It ended in heartache.

All of the Christian home schooled youth want to please God.  Those whose parents and churches claim to speak for God the most adamantly are the ones whose children are at most risk of leaving the faith eventually.  You can not control their environments forever, and eventually they will start to run into the mysteries of life and find the pat answers they were taught are insufficient.  You will read many stories along this vein at Homeschoolers Anonymous but you won’t hear them at your home school support group. They won’t be brought up onto the platform at home school conventions (though some were paraded there back when they were still teens at home) to tell their story today.  They will not be featured in home school magazines.

All of which is a real shame.  The inquiry for truth seems to have been abandoned by the home school movement’s leadership. They believe they know all truth, and so they just dismiss and ignore all reality that exposes their “truth” as a lie.  Instead of being smart enough to listen to the adult children, children raised by all the standards and methods the movement promoted, leadership is just doubling down on the standards and methods that have failed.  They turn deaf ears to anything that doesn’t support what they want to believe.  That isn’t right. Home schooled children deserve better!

Finally, the absolute worst stories out there, the ones we as home schoolers want to ignore and should not, are the stories of child abuse.  Sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, spiritual abuse is happening in the home school community, and the home school community had best address it!  It’s no use trying to explain it away with the True Scotsman defense. Our adult home schooled graduates are well versed in the dynamics of logic and debate.  No, it’s happening.  It happened under our watch, under my watch.  So, what are good home school parents going to do about it?

HSLDA’s response to these stories of neglect and abuse?  Silence. Denial of being in any way responsible for these children.  Not shock, not horror, not remorse.  Instead of leading the charge to put distance between nurturing home schooling families and abusive home schooling families, something that can only happen with transparency and accountability, HSLDA is trying to make it easier for abusive parents to home school. Witness this recent attempt to remove all transparency and accountability from the home school law in Iowa.  The current regulations are not burdensome and they are working well.  Why would HSLDA be working to remove all accountability and transparency from Iowa home school regulations?

That’s a question every home schooling parent, every home school support group leader, every home school support group member, should be asking themselves.  I know I never had anything to hide, and was in fact proud of the education and the home environment I was providing.  If you, home schooling parent, can’t say the same, you shouldn’t be home schooling.  You should make sure your children receive lots of love, good nutrition, emotional nurture and educational opportunity every day.  If you are doing that, and  I believe most home schooling parents are doing just that, then you should be open and transparent to the community in which you live about what goes on behind your closed door.

 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. ~ 1 Peter 2:12

The public needs to be able to see your good deeds.  Being transparent and accountable honors God.  Don’t seek to hide in the darkness of obscurity, be eager to show the world the wonderful work that your home school in accomplishing!  Do it for the children, because Jesus calls us to love children  (all children, not just our own) and treat them with dignity and care.  Read carefully Matthew 18:1-9.

It’s time for the home schooling community to cut out and cast away families that abuse their children!  The only way to do it is to come out in the open and show the world what’s happening in all our home schools.  The righteous will be rewarded, the wicked will be found out, and all of society will be better off for it.

Lead the way, home schooled graduates! Lead the way, new home school parents!  Don’t let the old guard lock you into making the same mistakes they (we) made.  Do it not only for your children, but for all children.  Heads up! You are the new face of home schooling.  Please let it be an open and honest face, publicly displayed, that has nothing to hide and much about which to proudly smile.

Home School Marriages: Shadowspring’s Story, Part One

Shadowspring’s story was originally published on her blog Love. Liberty. Learning. She describes herself on her blog as, “a home school mom near the end of my career home schooling and looking forward to what life has to offer next. I am a follower of Jesus and a lover of freedom, as it is for freedom that Christ has set me free (Gal 5:1).” This story is reprinted with her permission.

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In this series: Part One | Part Two | Part Three

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Today I plan to post about some home school marriage disasters of which I have personal knowledge. As I freely admit, my own home school marriage was in deep trouble, and I fully intend to tell that story. I guess I’ll give a brief synopsis of my story at the end of this little post, just to be fair.

Also before I begin my laundry list of half a dozen bad marriages, let me point out that I know dozens if not hundreds of home school families that have perfectly fine marriages as far as I can tell. No doubt some are even great!

I am not posting any real names. I know that some will accuse me of making these stories up since I will not post any verifying details. That is okay by me, accuse away. I know that these stories are all true, even though I will not reveal the details. Each story represents real flesh and blood people that I have seen.

Please keep in mind that all the names have been changed to protect the identities of those involved, innocent or not. Also each of these families was very active in their church leadership during the time that I knew them. They are all Christians with a capital C.

The Founders were a family that proudly started the first home school support group in their area. To everyone’s shock and dismay, their oldest son secretly married another home school girl as soon as he turned eighteen. So began the unraveling of their whole family.

I remember the Dad telling me puzzled that he did not understand how this could happen. He and his son and discussed it and his son agreed to wait until after college to marry. (Get the feeling Dad did all the talking and none of the listening? I do.)

Shortly after, Dad was arrested for sexual misconduct. Mom divorced dad, and the other children were enrolled in private school. Dad later confessed that there were marriage problems going on for a long time before the divorce.

But all this time the Founders were very involved in what was to become an exclusive Christian home school support group. Their son was prepared academically for any Ivy League school. I don’t think he ever even made it to college, though. Last I heard he was working at an entry level job to support his wife and young child.

The Excluders were a very loud and opinionated family that was largely responsible for that home school support group’s “statement of faith”. Their idea was that we needed to protect our children from associating with other home school children that didn’t share our Christian values. They won that battle, and so the only home school support group in that county became closed to all but Christians.

The father of the Excluders is now a registered sex offender. Seems while he was away on business he would chat online with young ladies in need of “spiritual guidance”. A police officer, posing as a fourteen year old girl, agreed to meet him at his hotel to discuss this all in person. According the the prosecutors and law enforcement, he was guilty of soliciting a minor. His wife did not leave him. They are still married and I think still home schooling. But I don’t for one minute believe that everything is fine in that marriage.

Then there is the Serial Adulterer family and the Refuses Work family. Incidentally, in both of these families, friends of mine, the fathers fancy themselves preachers called by God. And preach they do, every chance they get. Though why anyone wants to hear anything either of them has to say, I could not tell you. They must keep their private lives hidden, or put on an amazing spin to it all.

Mr. Refuses Work is also an adulterer, though not as practiced at it as Mr. Serial Adulterer. Both claim their latest woman are finally God’s true calling for their lives and now their ministries will really take off!

Mr. Refuses Work is now divorced. Believe it or not, his wife put up with him refusing to work for three years. Once he finally returned to work, he met his current girlfriend and left his wife. Yes, after she gave up home schooling and supported the family on her part-time wage for three years! Always the submissive wife, I don’t think she would have ever left him (though she should have years ago!).

Mr. Serial Adulterer’s wife is still praying and trusting God to heal her family, though as her long time friend, I wish she would divorce him and move on with her life. Her children have been in and out of public school/home school as mom has had to work off and on. She is a great teacher and loves to bless her children with the freedom to home school when possible, but Mr. Serial Adulterer is not the most reliable provider.

I promised you half a dozen families but I have deleted at least three of my examples because, even though there was moral failure and broken hearts galore, not every reader understands the connection between teens acting out and the state of their parents’ marriage. I see it clearly, but it would take too much time and a lot of research and footnotes to make the connection plain to all. So I have only chosen to write about the crystal clear home school marriage failures.

Others I have left out because as best as I can tell the people in the marriages appear to be resigned to an unhappy life. I suppose if they are willing to accept a crappy marriage, that is a disaster in itself, since Jesus wanted our joy to be full. But they would claim they are okay, so I won’t post their example.

Which brings me to my story in brief. I was also in leadership in the home school community. My husband has a perfect religious pedigree, though he never fancied himself a preacher or teacher. To the outside world he has always been a great guy, little shy maybe, but a great guy. He was friendly, knew a lot of Bible verses, held to the right doctrine plus he was a great provider.

The hidden reality? My husband was an abusive man. Not only abusive. He has many good qualities. Not always abusive. In the first ten years of our marriage I hardly noticed it at all. Abusive moments were rare and easily excused. It wasn’t until our children were older that he really began to grow cold.

But he had hidden hatred and resentment in his heart that grew to poison our marriage and our family. And there is a reason Jesus told us that hating someone is akin to murdering them. Hatred leads to violence. It is inevitable.

I can’t end this post without letting everyone know that my marriage is healing and growing stronger every day because my husband is healing and growing stronger every day. Once he admitted that he was an abusive man and started getting useful help, things began to turn around.

I’ll save the rest of the story for later.

To be continued.