Tuesday, May 22, 2012

More thoughts on Home Schooling

This is the very last week of my last year of home schooling.  All that's left is to prep my son for his final shot at the SATs.  I am so proud of him.  He is doing extremely well in his dual-enrolled classes and is well-liked at work.  I love the passion in his heart for justice and love.  He has taught me so much in the past few years about what it really means to be a good person.  <3 <3 <3

I love being a parent, and I loved home schooling.  However, like all human endeavors, home schooling is full of dangers and pit falls that can snag unprepared parents and ruin the lovely life they had planned.  Libby Anne, a home schooled graduate from a Christian home schooling family, has initiated a forum series where she is giving eight graduates of Christian home schools an opportunity to answer questions about their experience.  These Christian home school families adhered to the Quiverfull philosophy.  You can find her blog series here: Raised Quiverfull

This is a wonderful opportunity for other home schooled parents, and those considering home schooling, to see how home schooled graduates feel about their experience.  It's a rare gift, and I for one find it fascinating.  I hope it is widely read.

Here are some of my thoughts after reading the responses to Home Schooling Q.2:

1) No matter how good the intentions of the teaching home school parent at the start, multiple pregnancies and more children mean that the quality of home education will suffer.  In fact, it sounds like the end of academic challenge, at least for the oldest students.  It seems that Sierra, who had no other siblings, got the best education as far as time and attention from the adult in her life. Libby's education sounds more like our family's, with the exception being that while my teens also studied more independently as time went on, when they did, it was not because I was too busy to help.  It was because they didn't want my help!

2) What religious home schooling parents crow about as "socialization" does not appear to be about meeting student's social needs at all.  It's mostly about meeting mom's social needs and reinforcing the family rules (spoken and unspoken) by bringing in other families with very similar rules to underline the boundaries in black ink.

3)  Peer pressure is a horrible foundation for choosing how to raise your children.  I figuratively threw up a little in my mouth when I read the words "Keepers at Home".  Poor Melissa!  I am so sorry.  My heart broke a little as I read Lisa's story too, about how all of her social needs were to be met within the family, and she was not encouraged to dream beyond her mom's dream.  No SATs!  That is just SO WRONG.   All this happens, this religious one-upmanship, because your PARENTS are PEER DEPENDENT! That is the biggest irony of all.  These home schooling parents are all trying to outdo one another in religiosity because the approval of their peer groups is more important to them than the mental/emotional/social/physical well-being of their children.  They sacrifice their children’s lives on the altar of peer approval. 

I was sorely tempted to go there myself.  Who doesn’t want approval and acceptance?  But there were too many things I refused to bend on.  I saw no need for home school specific sports groups, unless it was just for more exercise and fun in addition to the community league sports.  My daughter is so low social needs that I was always pushing her to get out and meet people.  I encouraged her to try Girl Scouts for a year before she was willing to check it out. 

Our Girl Scout troop was all home schooled, but at least it WAS Girl Scouts, not the hideous brainwashing of Keepers at Home.  All I could think about as I looked over that web site, was how heartbroken those girls will be if they don’t marry or can’t have kids.  I thought about the two old women who lived next door to us in our tiny Great Plains town when I was a child.  Beulah spent her whole life caring for her mother.  She was in her sixties, her mom was in her nineties, when the mother died.  Beulah decided to travel for the first time in her life.  Finally, she had the chance to live!  Beulah went to see her brother in far off California.  While there, she became ill.  She discovered she had cancer and died within a year.  When I saw the web site for Keepers at Home, I wondered how many Beulah’s were being asked to give up their whole lives to meet their parents’ needs.  I determined I would not support that cruelty!  I had no kind words for Keepers at Home. 

4) Latebloomer, thanks for sharing your experience at not really knowing anyone at your high school graduation. The truth is that as people grow, they change and develop new interests (they should anyway) and old friendships don't always fit.  So if you have no opportunity to make new friendships, you will become more and more isolated through the years.  That’s why it’s important to join youth groups, clubs, study groups, work part-time, join a sports league, etc.  It’s important for all teens, not just home schooled teens!  If public school is hell for your teen (and it is for some) then work hard to help them find other groups that do accept them. 

That is why when my daughter wanted to go to youth group, I was thrilled.  She needed to get out and expand her social network.  Now as a young adult, she gets what I meant when I told her that, in order to have a good life, a person needs several circles of friends based on different activities and interests.  That way if a friendship goes south, you aren’t devastated.  The BFF of Lifetime movies is fun while it lasts, but in real life, it is EXTREMELY RARE that people can be each other’s only friend for a whole lifetime.  People are too complex for that.

5) Fear is crippling and contagious.  Even as my daughter was attending youth group, I was always choking back my fear.  I had a critical eye towards all the youth my daughter hung out with, and I evaluated their families with suspicion.  Why?   Well, because even though I wasn’t as crazy religious as the Keepers at Home crowd, I was still an evangelical Christian.  Fear was preached to me from the pulpit, from the radio, it came in the mail as requests for money to fight the culture wars, it was shared on the Christian forums I would visit online.  It’s only now, when I am no longer going to church at all, that I can see how all-pervasive fear was in my life. 

I think one of the last Christian books I bought was “And the Bride Wore White” by the Ludys.  I didn’t even read it for myself, I just gave it to my daughter.  I told her that I wasn’t going to read it, as I didn’t want to nag her about anything contained in the book, but that I trusted the Holy Spirit to guide her into what was right.  That was in 2008.  I was only beginning to understand how totally screwed up our family life really was, although I did not yet realize how much of that had to do with religion.  That was my last half-hearted attempt at controlling who my daughter was and what she would choose for her life.  

Fear is crippling and contagious without having anything to do with religion, either.  I do know secular home schooled moms who have shared with me that fear was a big part of other home school support groups: fear of public school, fear of non-organic produce, fear of the medical professions, and the most damaging fear of all:  Fear of abandonment.

I have met home schooled parents who seemed determined to keep their children at home as adults because they (the parents) had some serious abandonment issues.  I am related to one such family.  They brought their children home in late high school, sent them to non-accredited colleges, arranged their marriages and made sure they were all anti-birth control.  Those children, now adults and parents of QF families themselves, have no job prospects and no place they could ever survive financially other than working for dad's "ministry" and living on the grounds.  

On the secular side, many of my son's peers are quite worried about a girl who has dropped off the social radar completely.  Her single mom  was already always at the girl's side, and limited her social activities so she could pile on her own expectations: the girl will be a published author, no college necessary.  The main source of this family's fear is green: raw vegan diet is the only safe way to eat.  The young lady's facebook account is shut down, she won't return calls and no one has seen her for months. Religion may be a big fear producer, but the fear itself is the real danger.  

There you have it, whether you wanted it or not: my thoughts after reading Libby Anne's latest Raised Quiverfull post.  I hope you will all choose to live courageously, love freely, and balance all the bad news the world throws at you with things that make you smile and give you hope.  Oh, and say a prayer for the missing home schooled teen.  Someone must be in contact with her somewhere; pray that person will become the friend she needs to break free of the fear (and mom's control, though it is presumptious of me to write because I am only relating what I have heard from the teens, not personal experience).

Peace and good will, SS


  1. I think you hit the nail there at the end that too much homeschooling is about fear. I know families who isolated their children through homeschooling for fear-based ideologies, both Christian and non-christian. I saw families whose children were afraid to drink water from the coolers at the charter school (in the DESERT) because their parents had made them so afraid of phlalates and other water-born plastic derivatives, and those children made my own children afraid to drink the water their bodies needed. I've seen families who don't feed their dreadfully underweight and under-tall children sufficient fats and proteins because they are afraid of the consequences to the planet from animal husbandry. I know families who vetted their kids' friends for common ideology who were violently opposed to Christianity. I knew families who rejected those friends' invitations to their houses because the friends used the wrong kind of crayons or they had plastic tea sets.

    And I used to be a fear-based homeschooler. I never limited my kids' friends but I certainly set out to be the one with all the right accoutrements and philosophies: we never had plastic toys or synthetic fibers in our clothes, we provided ingredients lists for every item of food served to our guests and always provided a vegan or nut-free alternative (as needed). I bought the right kind of crayons and we read the right early readers and I told the right fairy tales. I learned how to knit, for God sake, so that I could add that to our curriculum for the brain benefits that were supposed to accrue.

    When I got too sick to keep up these standards and mainstream stuff began to creep into our house, I realized my kids were just fine (a little traumatized from Mom being sick but not from having Barbies or eating Lucky Charms). But we are subjected to the gasps of shock and the shunning from Christians and hippies alike for selling out to Modern Culture. But even though I have a kid in public high school, I am still excluded from said Modern Culture. We don't fit into anyone's dogma box. Which I guess is a good thing.

  2. Aw! You deserve a big hug fro breaking free of all that fear. And applause! =D

    I hope that when you are well and can get out and be more involved in the community without it exhausting you, that you will find you are welcome and accepted in the world. The hidden disabled have their own unique disadvantages, and being too sick to get out and rub elbows is one of the worst.

    I am so grateful you have an online community in which to share your thoughts and experiences. You are always welcome with me, CH! Your online friendship is a bright spot in my world.

    Peace to you, SS

  3. Congratulations on getting to the end!