My mother and I continued fighting over school– some weeks, on a daily basis. Part of this was due to the fact that I’ve always been ferociously independent. I’m what my husband calls a “dirty rotten little rule follower,” but part of what that means to me is that I like to be left alone. You can trust me to do what I’m supposed to be doing (most of the time), and I intensely dislike being monitored. That came to the forefront, and something my mother and I struggled with all through 7th grade was my insistence that I can do this by myself. She was also dealing with my younger sister hitting 4th grade, and this is when my homeschooling experience radically changed– and when, in my impression, many homeschoolers make the same transition.
Junior high or early high school is when homeschoolers start teaching themselves.
Granted, this is not always true, but in my experience, it almost always is. There are as many reasons for this as there are homeschoolers– some of us come from huge families, and it’s impossible for parents to give older children the attention they need. Sometimes it’s because of situations like mine, when we start feeling that we can handle it without our parents. I think my reaction is a natural part of child development– I was, after all, 13 in 7th grade. However, in homeschooling culture, rebellion is not permitted to exist, and the natural independence that children start exerting around 13 is conflated with rebellion. For many of us, our teenage years were incredibly stifling– although many of us didn’t recognize it at the time. I certainly didn’t. I was extraordinarily proud of how I wasn’t going to be “one ofthose teenagers” who “think they know better than their parents.”
The only way my “teenager” stage was allowed to come out was in this way– in taking over my education.
I started doing all of the work by myself and occasionally going to my mother with questions. This is enough of a pattern in homeschooling that some of the major homeschooling curricula distributors have created entire programs around it.
In 8th grade, we started using the A Beka Video school, although we chose not to use them for accreditation. It was insanely expensive and my parents could barely afford it, but it seemed to suit what I needed, and it had an incredibly good reputation among homeschoolers. At first it was amazing, and I ate the whole thing up. Toward the end of the year, though, the program was brutal and exhausting. The videos are not set up for homeschooling the way we were doing it. In order to really make the videos work, a teacher needed to be there with you– doing the reviews, checking homework, administering quizzes– or you’re just going to be sitting in front of a TV for six hours.
Eventually, I grew incredibly bored with the videos.
When I started fast-forwarding through all of the homework checks and the quiz grading on the tapes as well as the classroom work sessions, I realized that there was rarely anything on the tapes that was actually teaching me anything.
I stopped watching any of the videos for English and math, preferring to do the work on my own, and only watched the lecture portions of history and Bible (which, anyone remember Mr. McBride’s history classes? The day I met him I told him that I would save the best lessons and watch them during sleep overs. Seriously. We did that.). In short, by the spring quarter, the videos turned out to be a gigantic waste of money for us.
It also convinced me that I would absolutely hate school– that, along with taking the 7th grade standardized test, which I got extremely good marks on. My reading ability tested out of the park, and everything else was well above average. Those, combined, fed into what I believed about homeschooling compared to public schooling– homeschoolers are smarter, better educated, and more free-thinking than public school students. Public education can only result in stifling a child’s creativity, destroy their intellect beyond repair, and give them nothing more than socialist indoctrination.
So, we turned to Alpha Omega Switched on Schoolhouse for 9th grade. That turned out to be a disaster. The science for that year was physical science of some stripe, and they were trying to teach me how to convert units– except the units in the homework problems frequently weren’t measuring the same things– seriously, you can’t convert a unit of force into a unit of volume. I was so confused I asked my mother to look at it– she rolled her eyes and we stopped using the program in the middle of the year. My mother purchased other textbooks and I spent the rest of 9th grade playing catch-up.
Every single time I left the house I had to be ready to mount a defense for homeschooling.
All of that convinced me more than it convinced anyone else. It wasn’t that homeschooling and public education have different strengths, different weaknesses. Homeschooling had to be better in every conceivable way.
Since my original post I have come to the realization that I have just scratched the surface on everything that I have to tell about homeschooling. One of the problems I have with home education is that there is hardly any regulation. During the time I was homeschooled, K-12, I never once had to take the SAT or ACT or any other sort of evaluation test.
As long as it looked like I was studying I was pretty much left alone. The only subjects my mother was constantly involved in were; math, spelling and english. Occasionally she would check my work in the other subjects, but for the most part I was left to fend for myself and once I reached the age of 15 any involvement from her pretty much came to a stop.
I often hear the argument that not all parents homeschool are like this and that my mom was doing it wrong. While that may be the case, I don’t think that this should be lightly brushed off. We are talking about the education of children here! It is my belief that whichever route you choose, it’s very important that your children receive the best possible education. Be involved, be a part of their lives, listen, be aware of what they are learning about and learn with them!
With the lax requirements in place for homeschooling it only flings open the door for cases such as mine to happen. So much for homeschooling being better than public school (for those who don’t know me, that was sarcasm)!
I know my story is not the only one, my brother & sister and close friends have also experienced the same lack of education and preparedness to function in the real world because of being homeschooled. However, I’m not here to tell their story for them, I’m here to tell mine.
My first full time job experience happened when I was 21 at a call center. Yes I’d had jobs previously, but they were just odd jobs and the people I worked for I already knew from either homeschool group, church or 4-H. So I was always within that bubble my mother had me living in.
While working at the call center I got to know people who *gasp* went to public school, it was then that I started to realize that there were holes in my education. I didn’t know any math beyond the basic add and subtract. I could barely multiply or divide. Forget fractions and algebra.
I also realized that I was spelling a lot more words wrong than what I originally thought I was. It’s pretty bad (not to mention embarrassing) when your manager brings back your vacation time off request (written in clear handwriting) and asks you to tell what words you meant to put down. I found myself sticking out a lot in all the wrong ways, and my judgmental attitude towards people who were different than me didn’t help with that at all!
I had never been around so many people from so many different backgrounds before, it was quite an eye opener and culture shock for me! I still remember the first time I heard someone swear. If I didn’t agree with something someone said or did I made sure to let them know that it offended me. If I knew someone was a Christian and I heard them say something that I didn’t believe a Christian should say I made sure to let them know how wrong they were.
Looking back, I was quite obnoxious and judgmental towards my coworkers at that job. It is no small wonder that barely any of them talk to me anymore and I can’t say that I blame them!
I am so thankful that I have learned since then and now at my current job I am known among my coworkers for being helpful and a team player. I no longer allow my homeschooling experience to define me, in fact I hardly ever bring it up. I don’t feel as though I should have to defend my education (or lack thereof) to anyone.
It is my desire that people know and define me by who I really am, and not as some “failed product of home education.”
I hope that by sharing my experiences I can somehow prevent them from happening to someone else. I remember how hard it was for me to adjust to being outside of the homeschooling bubble and in some ways, eight years later I am still adjusting.
If anyone is reading this and is going through that rough transition period from the bubble to the real world, just know that you aren’t the only one who has traveled that path. It may be rough now, but in the end you will be stronger and wiser for it!
HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Rebecca” is a pseudonym.
Trigger warnings: abuse and mentions of suicidal thoughts and self-harm.
My homeschooling story has similar themes to many of the others on Homeschoolers Anonymous: religious indoctrination, abusive dynamics, and educational neglect. Overall I feel like homeschooling inadequately prepared me for adulthood.
I was fourth in a family of six kids and I was homeschooled for every grade except kindergarten. We used the Christian Liberty Academy Satellite Schools curriculum for most of my education but had changed to Switched-On Schoolhouse (Alpha and Omega) for the later grades. I had a couple of friends and acquaintances in the local homeschool group, I attended church, and sometimes took community classes such as gymnastics and swimming. Still, my primary friends were my siblings.
Our family was not impoverished but we were lower class. Having enough money was a continual concern and a source of household stress. My parents spent a lot of time working to make ends meet and maybe it was because of this that they didn’t really interact with me much or supervise my education closely. The usual routine was that I would wake up, do the assignments in my workbooks by myself, and spend the rest of the day left to my own devices. Most days I only needed help for spelling tests. Despite the religious slant to the books, I did learn a lot from them and I’m glad that at least I had the basics of spelling, math, history, and so on drilled into me.
The teen years were when I started running into educational problems. I had done all right in math so far–I needed help sometimes, but I could do the workbooks more or less on my own– until I hit Algebra 1 and I could no longer make sense of it without help. I had Saxon Math, which had been working for me until that point, but it was just not clicking anymore. Unfortunately my mom was burnt out by all the working and homeschooling and she didn’t prioritize my education very highly.
By that point I was perhaps several grades behind in assorted other subjects. I wasn’t doing that badly at most of them but I had been lazy about finishing the work on a schedule, my parents never put the heat on me to learn, and gradually I stopped bothering with the schoolwork.
My formal learning ended with a whimper. There was no graduation or diploma, we just gave up. As far as I can remember, I never got past the equivalent of Junior year. I am not sure though, since I was often clueless as to what grade I was supposed to be in.
My parents were converted to Christianity at the time of the hippie-led Jesus Movement, and they brought their relatively relaxed approach to life to our upbringing. Unlike many Christian homeschool families, we were not an authoritarian household. Since we were fundamentalist/evangelical Christians, there were definitely lots of little red flags you had to look out for (Harry Potter? Bad. Secular music? Bad. Spaghetti strap tank tops? Bad), but for the most part our parents let us have freedom. I was allowed to dress in punk clothing. We could listen to any style of music as long as it was Christian. We could be friends with whoever we wanted. Our parents tended to trust our judgment in these things even during the dreaded teen years. I’m glad that we were allowed to be individuals, and that the homeschooling gave us lots of free time to play and read.
The problem was that this undisciplined parenting approach was at times neglectful, not only for my education but also my physical and mental health. I think I was undernourished as a little girl. I had chronic stomach pains that went unaddressed, and my parents were aware of my continual depression but didn’t do anything about it. My older siblings were the ones who most often paid attention to me, comforted me when my stomach hurt, and tried to help me cheer up. When they got jobs, they were the ones buying half my meals and I finally caught up to a normal weight level.
There was a pressing problem with my mother.
She had major personal/mental health problems that did not get treated adequately. Sometimes she would go into fits of rage and terrorize me and my siblings, or threaten to kill herself or my dad. When she was at her best, she was a laughing, curious person who loved to explore the world with her kids. When she was at her worst, I thought of ways to run away from home or kill myself to escape from her. Sometimes I did run away from home and self-harm. Rarely, the abuse was physical, but she only needed to sigh rudely for my heart to start pounding. I wish she had gotten help for her problems, and I wish she had not taken them out on us.
It has taken me a long time to realize how fucked up it was.
My major issue with my homeschooling experience is the fact that it didn’t seem to be progressing towards anything. My parents didn’t seem to realize that they were supposed to raise us to become adults, not just Christians. Instead my life seemed to exist in a warped kind of Never-Never Land in which I was rocketing towards adulthood equipped with only a child’s skill set.
I knew little or nothing about household maintenance, how to hold onto a job, how to work hard or make myself useful, fix a car or drive one, how to handle a romantic relationship, take public transport, talk to adults, or how to get a scholarship or apply to a college or even exactly what college was. It’s tough to raise kids on a shoestring budget, but there was no reason my parents shouldn’t have taught me this kind of stuff or helped me see a life beyond the four walls of our house. I was told on one occasion by my parents that they didn’t care what my future ended up looking like as long as I was Christian. That was the only time they gave me any guidance about my future. (I am now an atheist, incidentally.)
When I was a little girl I would talk about all the things I would grow up to be, but that stopped before long. There was a misogynist stigma in our family that women who had careers were evil (a job to make ends meet was one thing, but being a Career Woman was another). I did not have a good experience with the food-service job I briefly held when I was 14 and I have not been able to handle even entry-level jobs since. I get severe anxiety. In my teenaged years, I was aware of no way out of my parents’ house except to get married to someone with a job.
College was not on the table, since there was just no way for 6 kids from a low-class family to make it unless we paid for it ourselves (which only one of my siblings has managed to accomplish so far). There was also a sort of contempt for higher learning that I picked up on. Part of me wonders if this I-don’t-need-no-fancy-education attitude was based on a sense of inadequacy, like if it was out of our reach, we would pretend we were too good for it. When my friends graduated they all went on to college to broaden their horizons, leaving me in a small town with nobody to hang out with. I deeply resented and envied them because I was acutely aware that my life was going nowhere. I feel like if I had been public schooled, there is a chance that a teacher or counselor might have been able to help me see a bigger picture of my life. Instead the only option I thought I had was getting married. At 20, that’s what I did, and I moved out.
To this day, I still feel as if I’m 10 years behind my peers.
I’m 27 and only now exploring college options and figuring out how to get a diploma equivalent, which is something most other people are starting to look at when they’re still teenagers. I think this experience is familiar to some homeschoolers as well as some people who grew up disadvantaged, and I was both. My future is in my own hands now, and my success or failure depends on me, but I don’t believe I was given the best possible shot at life. I feel inadequate when people ask where I went to college, or what my career is.
The truth is, I don’t know how to explain that I was set up to have no future.
If you set out to educate 6 kids at home, you have to follow through all the way to adulthood with each and every one of them. You have to admit when you’re in over your head and put the kids first and not your ideology. I wish my parents had done that.
Now it’s up to me to pick up the pieces and make my life into something worthwhile.
I recently came across a blog called Homeschoolers Anonymous, it caught my eye since I was homeschooled for several years and never set foot in a public school.
As I started reading the blog, I found myself relating to things that were being said there more and more. And when I read the “About” section on their website, that is when I knew I had finally found a place that understood me and the struggles I have gone through to get where I am today, and wouldn’t just dismiss my misgivings about homeschooling telling me “Oh, not all homeschoolers are like that! You just weren’t homeschooled the right way!”
My mother homeschooled my brother, sister and I from K-12 grades. I’m not sure on her exact reasoning for homeschooling us since she was never homeschooled herself and also was a private school teacher for several years. I suspect she would have preferred to have us in a private school, however, living in a very, very very rural area of the state that wasn’t possible nor cost effective. So that left her with homeschooling or having her kids attend *dramatic gasp* public school.
The subject of our education was something that my mom and dad never could seem to agree on. My mom wanted to continue homeschooling us, while my dad wanted us to attend public school once we were older. This topic continued to be something that they both strongly disagreed on even after they divorced. My mom got custody of the three of us kids and we would see our dad every other weekend.
She continued to homeschool us and our curricula consisted of books she would find for us at yard sales and at the library, she also enrolled all of us in 4-H and told us that it was part of our schooling. Once I was in my 3rd or 4th year of high school she bought a computer program called Switched On Schoolhouse.
Once a week we would go to a homeschool co-op, once I was in high school it lost it’s appeal for me because everything was geared towards the younger kids and I was the only one in high school. It was very lonely and also frustrating at times because there were classes in the co-op that I wanted to take (such as the one where you were taught how to change the oil and other basic things on your car) but was told that those were only available for the boys. They had something called Contenders of the Faith (for the boys) and Keepers of the Home (for the girls), I don’t have much experience with either of those programs since they were (as I’ve said before) geared towards the younger kids.
There are times that I have huge doubts as to how intelligent I really am. At home my mother primarily focused on my brother and his education, while my sister and I got the leftovers. It was very tiresome to always hear all the time about how “smart” and “brilliant” my brother was, how well he always did on his schoolwork and how creative he was.
I suppose you must be wondering if my mother ever tried to pass a specific social, political and religious ideology on to us kids. Short answer, yes. She only ever had either conservative talk show, or the Christian music station playing on the radio. I grew up listening to Rush Limbaugh. She also made sure that we were very involved with the church we went to (even though it was a 45 minute drive one way) and was always volunteering us for things, while at the same time not letting us choose what we really wanted to do if it didn’t match her high ideals for us.
Being the oldest I was the first one to graduate of the three of us (even though my brother had skipped a grade or two). Two weeks after graduation I was taking college classes online, even though I had informed my mother that I didn’t want to start college right after high school. I wanted to take a year off and get a job (still hadn’t had a real job at that point, nor was I even driving on my own), work in an inner city church as a volunteer. I wanted to experience the world like I never had before being confined either to the secluded farm, homeschool group, 4-H or church. I didn’t even know what I wanted to go to college for, so it made sense in my 18 year old mind to not go to college until I knew what it was that I wanted to do. And I knew that when I did go to college I would want to stay in a dorm and not take classes online.
Of course that wasn’t good enough for my mom, who took it upon herself to enroll me in an online university to take classes to get an associates degree in business administration. It was her plan for me to eventually turn the farm into a “ranch for disadvantaged youth” and that’s why I had to take these courses.
After trying my very best in the first semester I came to her in tears wanting to drop out. I had toughed it out for a semester and that was enough to reinforce my belief that business administration wasn’t for me. I tried to tell her all of this, but instead got to hear a lecture about how she didn’t raise any quitters. I told her that I would rather have a job, and she told me that in order to have a job that didn’t involve “flipping burgers” that I would have to go to college. Disagreeing with my mother is near impossible if you want to be vocal about your differing opinion, she is very dead set on being right all the time so I learned at a young age to keep my different opinions to myself and to let her have her say no matter what.
I took online classes for eight more months before the university kicked me out because my grades had plummeted so low. It was a great relief for me even though my mother was constantly chewing me out about being a failure because now I could finally get a job.
Overall I would describe my homeschooling experience as negative. Now that I am close to 30 years old and about to have a child of my own, I know that I would not want my daughter to go through what I went through. I don’t want her to be as ill-prepared when it comes to functioning in the real world as I was. I understand parents wanting to protect their kids from all the bad stuff that goes on in the world…however, you have to have balance and know that eventually you will need to teach and equip them how to handle different situations that they will face once they get out on their own.
After all, doesn’t every parent (no matter what their religious or political standings) want their child to be an independent and self-reliant adult in the real world?
Fundamentalist Homeschooling Is A Poison: Isaiah’s Story
HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Isaiah” is a pseudonym.
I have mixed feelings about homeschooling, to say the least. While I find many, if not most, of the common criticisms of homeschooling to have some kind of validity, I still feel myself cringe when homeschoolers are caricatured as deranged fundamentalists since I know from experience that there is more to the story. My experience with homeschooling consists of extremely varied highs and lows — the highs of a dedicated and capable parent as a teacher, an education that fit with my self-motivated personality, and freedom from rigid schedules; and the lows of religious indoctrination and the personal struggles caused by living in an insular environment. If the good side of my homeschooling experience was very good — and it was — the bad side was very bad, and I still feel its effects to this day.
I was homeschooled for my entire lower-level education — kindergarten through high school — and in that time I knew homeschoolers from all sides of the social spectrum. I knew unschoolers, conservative Christians, liberal Christians, vaguely religious people, non-religious people, and even a Wiccan at one point (though I didn’t know what “Wiccan” meant until some time later). I knew people — or more accurately, the children of people — with a fairly wide range of beliefs and philosophies which had led them to homeschool, rather than just the evangelical families so well-represented in cultural tropes about homeschoolers.
But in spite of the diversity I was exposed to, my experiences have led me to be very suspicious of homeschooling in general, for a simple reason: in the homeschooling movement, the most extreme voices are the majority. There is a reason why the archetype of homeschoolers as fanatical morons is so popular. For every parent who chooses to homeschool for health reasons, extenuating circumstances, or educational philosophy (ie, that of unschooling), it seems like there are ten who homeschool because they are part of the fundamentalist or Quiverfull movements. Knowing what I know now about the history of homeschooling, this makes sense. After all, the Quiverfull movement openly says its goal is to produce large broods of future homeschoolers who will repeat the process over and over until they outnumber everyone else, and while the majority of Christian homeschoolers tend to be less brazen, they often only believe in milder versions of the same philosophies touted by Michael Farris and the other leaders of the Fundamentalist/Quiverfull movement.
Fundamentalist homeschooling is a poison. I say this from experience. It spreads like a virus, and not just among the conservative Christians who form its natural hosts. There are people of milder faith who get progressively sucked into more and more conservative elements of the homeschooling movement. Sometimes, through ignorance of fundamentalism’s real motives and philisophical underpinnings, a person can be lulled to sleep by the superficially attractive images of evangelical rhetoric and never notice the bigotry and delusion lurking right below the surface. I’ve seen it happen to people, and my mother was one of them.
As is probably typical for non-fundamentalists, many things contributed to my mother’s decision to homeschool me. Essentially, she believed — not without reason — that the public schools I would go to were dirty, violent, overcrowded, had poor curricula and bad funding. We couldn’t afford a private school, so she as a stay-at-home parent began to consider homeschooling.
By the time I had reached four my mother decided not to enroll me in preschool or kindergarten, and for the next three years did a wonderful job both educating me and socializing me with other children and adults. Even though I was an only child, I had a healthy and very normal social life, and was able to be educated above my age group, starting grade one at five years old. These were some of the best years of my childhood, and I still believe to this day that with sufficiently intelligent, caring and involved parents, early life education does not require formal schooling of any kind (although I see nothing wrong a with a good formal early education either).
After this successful start, when I had turned about seven, we decided to continue homeschooling through grade school. This marked the beginning of our brush with the conservative homeschooling movement. The HSLDA, which previously had been only an abstract form of social insurance to us, began to be a resource for our studies, and its sister organizations were used to help choose my formal curriculum. We spent a while before the start of my third grade school year deliberating on what system offered the best education, and ultimately decided on a hybrid approach. Other than the notoriously dry Saxon math textbooks, we chose a fundamentalist Christian curriculum called LIFEPAC and its digital equivalent, Switched-On Schoolhouse. This might seem incongruous, since we weren’t fundamentalists, but my mother was a religious conservative in the sense that she had a very hard time criticizing anyone who claimed to represent Christianity, and always gave religious individuals and organizations a great deal of respect even when her values were utterly opposed to their beliefs. She never looked beyond the very thin religiously moderate veneers that the HSLDA and other conservative Christian organizations put up, and so she assumed the curriculum was merely a good Christian education, and nothing more.
If the thought had ever crossed her mind that the curriculum I used for ten years would progressively harm me intellectually, psychologically and spritually, she would have thrown it back on the shelf in an instant. But as it turned out, this curriculum would prove to be the central destructive influence of homeschooling on my life. It was from these textbooks and lessons that I was poisoned by fundamentalism, and they are largely responsible for the part of my homeschooling experience which stunted my development and left me struggling with extreme self-doubt, self-hatred and depression as years went by.
The lesson plan started off innocuously — even with a bible study textbook as one of the main subjects (right next to science, history, and English), the first few grades were of decent quality and generally avoided controversial material. Thanks to excellent teaching I excelled consistently in my studies and everything seemed to be going well. But as the years went by, little oddities started to present themselves when I studied my textbooks or took lessons on the family computer. Starting around the sixth grade — once biology and astronomy became serious subjects — science seemed to take a strange path, and as grades progressed upwards the tone of the text became more and more defensive, with the writers eventually resorting to actually mocking biology and astronomy (evolution and the big bang were the biggest targets) rather than merely promoting creationism. The extreme immaturity of using mockery in a textbook apparently never occured to the writers of the lesson plan.
History not only consisted of the standard American whitewashing, which strains a person’s grip on historical facts badly enough, but also a Biblically literalist whitewashing, an almost colonial view of non-Europeans, and to top it off, no acknowledgement that anything over six thousand years old could exist at all. It is not an exagerration to say that everything I actually know about history I learned outside of that curriculum, and that beyond certain parts about Rome, colonial Britain and early America, I have had to erase and relearn much of what I was taught to get an accurate picture of the world. As with the science curriculum, history lessons progressed in their deviance from standard textbooks over time, in this case by including slightly more biblical content in each grade level, marked as “history” right next to the founding of Rome or the pyramids of Egypt. Bible study, needless to say, was extremely focused on inculcating the “right” beliefs into students as quickly as possible and didn’t pull its ideological punches as much as the other subjects did. Although it did review the whole Bible (starting at about the 6th grade) it only did so in a literalist context, progressing in nastiness and pushiness by grade. All this time I had continued to use Saxon’s math textbooks — which I loathed, but did seem to work — and occasionally found myself welcoming their dry dullness near the end of the school day.
Saxon didn’t preach — it merely made you fall asleep.
The curriculum as a whole struck very softly with indoctrination, couching it in well-written and produced textbooks as well as computer applications that included media and games. The packaging was, as a whole, fairly slick, and if you weren’t looking it was easy to miss the poison that peppered the whole thing.
In addition to the other beliefs I described, all the subjects I studied promoted complementarian sexism, sexual abstinence, chastity, Edwardian/Victorian style gender roles, human exceptionalism, and of course Biblical Literalism, though they all did so in different ways. What strikes me now is how subtle some of this propaganda could be — it was even present in English class, not only in the books on the required reading list but occasionally written bluntly between otherwise unrelated text in the middle of a lesson. Now and then harsh Bible quotes would appear beside inspiring ones, as if in warning, and heaven, hell, angels and satan were all real characters in the context of the textbooks.
Before I make this look too bad, though, I have to say that I didn’t even notice much of this until the last years of my education, although I always noticed, ignored and then tried to forget all kinds of little doubts I had about what I was learning. I read voraciously, including many science and history books that contradicted what I was taught, but until I became an older teenager I never really paid much attention to the contradictions, and through some kind of doublethink held that both ideas could be true. My mother remained an excellent teacher, I continued to hold a healthy social life, and I was otherwise quite whole as a person. Because fundamentalism only came from one part of my life and it was not promoted — though it was also never criticized — by my family, I had a lot more intellectual freedom than do most of the children who use this kind of curriculum. While some problems were simmering within me, my middle school life was overall a good experience even with my inane curriculum.
Personal issues during my high school years finally drove me to look back on, question and eventually discard the philosophy I was taught. A move to a faraway state had left my social life in tatters and it never recovered for the rest of my teenage years, I was forced to realize my own sexuality (both the existence of a sexual instinct itself, and that I was bisexual), I learned enough about real science and history to know that my education had not given me the whole truth, and I began to realize the terrible cruelty and undesirability of the world that fundamentalism sets out before people. All the little doubts and moral outrages I had repressed over the years came flooding back piece by piece, and after a long and hard struggle that included four years of constant depression I left both the fundamentalist part of my education and religion in general, becoming a happier and better person for it.
Only a couple of years after that last break from fundamentalism, my feelings on homeschooling remain mixed because my experience was mixed, and while the high points were great, the low points could be awful and intolerable. My mother’s dedication and inherently tolerant and empathetic nature gave me not only a good basic education, but a diverse and varied social life, ethical feelings I could seperate easily from religion, and intellectual freedoms that most homeschooled children never enjoy. But my curriculum, much of the media I watched or listened to, and the culture I grew up in contained no voices arguing actively against fundamentalism. Because of this, I became a host to the virus of religious paranoia and self-hatred, which I only recently managed to shake off enough to do things like write this essay. I was taught a much more warped perspective of history than even the average American middle-schooler, and my knowledge of useful science was very small until I studied real science for enough time to fix what my curriculum had broken. My relative intellectual freedom as a young child had left me well-prepared for this and I have managed to “catch up” without much fuss, but not everyone gets that opportunity.
Ultimately, I can’t say what my views are on what should or shouldn’t be legal in homeschooling. No matter what, I believe that there must be a strict basic code of regulations on homeschooling to prevent indoctrination and abuse, but I also understand the position of Germany and Scandanavia when they choose to simply ban it outright except in exceptional circumstances. I have met a few secular homeschoolers, unschoolers and other non-fundamentalist homeschoolers who have done well with their children’s education and have nothing to do with religion, let alone religious indoctrination. But the poison of religious fundamentalism is very potent, and the potential for even non-religious abuse within homeschooling is still high, regulated or not. I was a very loved and nurtured child in a relatively liberal household, and yet I suffered at least some of what children in deeply authoritarian Christian homes do.
I can’t imagine what I would be right now if I had grown up in a family of true fundamentalists, Quiverfull members, or right-wing evangelicals.