Why I Am Proud of Myself: Philosophical Perspective’s Thoughts

Why I Am Proud of Myself: Philosophical Perspective’s Thoughts

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Philosophical Perspectives” is the author’s chosen pseudonym.

This is why I’m proud of myself.

This is not an article with arguments or nuanced thoughts, this is a declaration, for those of us who have survived.

I’m 27 years old, and I am so proud of myself.

My mom taught me to read when I was 5, and after that, I was mostly on my own.  Yes, she sought out volunteer experiences and free homeschool clubs for academic enrichment, but I had no formal education until college.

I grew up in a home where neglect was the norm.  My dad left for work in the morning, and my mom didn’t get out of bed until noon. As the oldest of three, it was my job to cook and clean, and make sure my siblings were “doing their school.”  What ability an eight year old has to make a 2 and 5 year old sit down and plow through math textbooks, I’ll never know.

My youngest sibling’s only memory of learning anything in his childhood was me, age 10, teaching him to read.

So, I’m proud of myself, because I was a voracious reader with a huge imagination and an incredible thirst for knowledge. I taught myself history, language arts, math, and science by sitting down and reading text books.

I was my own guidance counselor. As high school loomed, I knew I wanted to go to a “good college”.  So I read all of the rankings, and I figured out what I needed to learn to get where I wanted to go. I mapped out my four years of high school, asking my parents to enroll me in extension programs, community college, and co-ops. I figured out how homework worked, how to take tests, and how to build relationships with teachers so they would write me letters of recommendation.  I made sure I took math and science, because I couldn’t get those at home or through debate. I wrote tons of essays, so that I could write good applications for college. I worked 10 hours a week running a piano studio, so I could have my own spending money. I competed in the NCFCA, and won.  A lot.

I’m proud of myself, because I worked my ass off in high school, doing so much more than any of my peers. I had to figure out the system on my own, with no guidance or advice.

I’m proud of myself, because I had the drive and forethought and organization at seventeen, to call every university I wanted to apply to and ask their admissions counselors what extra information they would want, because I was homeschooled (and remember, this was 10 years ago, before homeschoolers in college was commonplace). I put together compelling and interesting application essays.  I figured out how to communicate the value of my education, by writing my own transcript and calculating my own GPA.  I had something like 10,000 volunteer hours by the time I graduated (for which I give my mom much credit). I applied for a won extremely prestigious scholarships, landing me in the top .01% of graduating high school seniors in the country, and beating out peers from prep schools who had parents, teachers, principals, and advisors prepping and nurturing them. I only had myself.

I got into a top five university, from which I earned a BA and MA in four years, and graduated with honors. I paid my way through college with no financial support from my parents. I now work for a nationally recognized organization, and am leading in their cross-cultural outreach.

I am so damn proud of myself.

Because, despite what the news articles would have you believe, I have not been successful because of my (lack of) education. I am thriving despite my homeschool experience. I have been successful because I have overcome every obstacle thrown in my path. I been smarter and worked harder than the vast majority of my non-homeschooled peers. I am tough, I am resilient, and I have already accomplished so much.

So yes, as I read and write and recall all of the bullshit I’ve lived through and coped with, I need to remember every once in awhile that I am overcoming it, and that is amazing.

I am not a homeschool success story.  I’m my own success story.

*****

Also by Philosophical Perspectives on HA:

How NCFCA Taught Me to Fight Sexism

Of Love and Office Supplies

A Tool In Someone Else’s Culture War

We Need Advocates

Staying Silent When I Know There Are Problems

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kathryn Brightbill’s blog The Life and Opinions of Kathryn Elizabeth, Person. It was originally published on April 29, 2013 with the title “Heads Up.”

"If I stay silent when I know there are problems, then I’m complicit in the silencing of other homeschool kids’ voices."
“If I stay silent when I know there are problems, then I’m complicit in the silencing of other homeschool kids’ voices.”

You may be asking why, when I’ve already gone on record that my homeschooling experience was largely positive, I’m contributing to a site that chronicles some of the problems that people have had with the homeschool subculture.

The reason is simple. Those of us who were homeschooled have all seen the problems and the abuses. If we’re honest, we know that those problems exist, even if they didn’t exist in our own families. Implicit in the insistence that we weren’t one of those homeschoolers is the acknowledgment that those homeschoolers exist. Those who are telling their stories of how that the subculture hurt them deserve to have those of us who know the truth acknowledge that their stories are real. That we heard the messages from national homeschool leaders as well. That we saw the same things they saw, even if we did not live them.

I could sit here and insist that because my experiences were largely positive that this is proof that homeschooling works and brush aside those stories, but that would be dishonest. Homeschooling can and does work, but it’s also true that well-meaning parents buy into a lot of the craziness because they just want to be the best homeschoolers they can be and they’re being told that this is the right way to do that. If those of us who know better present a vision of homeschooling that is nothing but positivity, we’re doing nothing to warn parents of those traps.

More importantly, in the discussion about homeschooling, those of us who were homeschooled have a right to be heard. Too much of the talk about homeschooling comes from parents, or it comes from kids who are still in the bubble repeating what their parents have told them, while those of us who have graduated and are out in the real world are only given a voice if that voice is repeating the talking points about homeschooling’s wonderfulness. The moment an actual homeschooled kid speaks up about problems, people try to silence it. Homeschool parents insist that, “not all homeschoolers are like that.” Homeschool leaders insist that anyone with a problem was doing it wrong (even though most of the problems come from following their lead). The Christian media that sings the praises of homeschooling and is quick to publish when a homeschool graduate has something good to say, goes silent. The voices of the people who matter most in homeschooling—the kids—aren’t heard. If I stay silent when I know there are problems, then I’m complicit in the silencing of other homeschool kids’ voices.

Not only that, but when I talk about how I had a positive experience and how I consider myself to be a homeschooling success story, it would be lying of me to leave out that as much as I consider myself a success story, I know full well that the homeschool subculture doesn’t see it that way. The way that the conservative homeschooling subculture is sold to parents is that if you do everything right and follow all the steps, your kids will grow up to believe exactly the same things as you do and to continue down that path that you set out. Success is defined in both academic excellence and becoming an ideological and spiritual carbon copy of your parents. That means that as much as I consider myself a success and believe that I am where I am today because of what my parents taught me (and that that’s a good thing), in the homeschool subculture I’m not a success story, I’m a cautionary tale. And that should be evidence enough that there’s something wrong with the subculture.