Homeschooling parents sometimes react badly to stories like mine. It’s generally the ones who see themselves as fighting an uphill battle with society, surrounded by enemies, feeling personally threatened when any problem within a homeschooling environment is openly discussed. I guess it should not be surprising, but I am often a bit shocked by how nasty and devoid of empathy things can get when people feel defensive. How did I become some “opponent” getting yelled at for being honest about how it really was for me and what I think the problems really are??
The people who do this often fall into a predictable pattern of trying to silence, drown out, invalidate, or scare away all potentially negative reviews, positioning themselves as a long-suffering yet expert victim trying to set the story straight, then beginning to (often viciously) attack and attempt to eviscerate the whistleblower’s credibility.
I find that kind of behavior pretty messed up to say the least, so I figured I’d just write down my responses to the 12 most common reasons why my story and my homeschool experience apparently don’t matter. The next time someone says one of these, instead of re-explaining myself, I’ll just send them a link.
1.) “You were not really homeschooled. Don’t generalize about your dysfunctional family experience.”
I may have been the only one to learn to read in that place, but we were registered as a private school with the state. We belonged to a CHEF homeschoolers group, signed a statement of faith, paid dues to HSLDA. Also, there are over 30 “survivor blogs” right here talking about pretty much the same thing. I don’t need to generalize. This is a bona fide pattern.
2.) “Plenty public school children get abused and get terrible educations.”
Because bad things happening in one place obviously makes it ok for them to happen in another…
3.) “There are crazies out there, but real homeschooling is always a good thing”
Homeschooling is very diverse, so there are many real kinds and more than a few fake ones. If by “real” you mean “most prevalent,” then no, I think it’s often a bad thing. Homeschooling was started with good intentions to liberate kids from rote learning but now the “culture war” crazies pretty much run the place. You people who are not trying to indoctrinate your kids are outnumbered.
4.) “Hey, I’m not hurting anyone over here and that other stuff is not my problem”
Here’s where I quote Edmund Burke and say “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
5.) “I know plenty conservative Christian homeschooling families who are happy/well-adjusted/successful”
I too know some who I imagine genuinely are and plenty who I thought were and later learned were just playing the part like my family was. It’s hard to tell the difference. When kids get punished every time they disobey or display a “bad attitude” they learn to give “correct” answers, think “correct” answers, and even instinctively smile when sad or disappointed. Sometimes you can only tell something is wrong by their overenthusiasm and the weird hungry look in their eyes.
6.) “You just have an axe to grind”
I used an axe once in a rather unsuccessful attempt to chop wood. I have never sharpened one. I am a fan of peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness, burying the hatchet, solving the problems. I do not want anyone’s head on a platter.
7.) “You are not a parent so don’t tell me how to be a parent”
By age 12 I’d bandaged up more skinned knees, cleaned more snotty noses, rocked and patted more hiccuping infants, and cleaned more poopy toddler butts than plenty of grown folk. I may not have popped out any offspring of my own just yet but I can give you tried and true pottytraining tips, recipes for picky eaters, and bedtime reading suggestions too.
8.) “As a parent I alone will decide what is best for my children”
My Grandad once said “children don’t come into this world to you, they come into it through you.” I will always be grateful that he stepped in where it was “not his place” simply because my siblings and I mattered to him.
In societies where we are “our brother’s keeper” (i.e kindly say something or help the vulnerable when we see someone headed in a dangerous direction), we have stronger communities and happier people. When there are no safeguards for when people (parents included) make bad decisions or struggle (and everyone does), that’s when things can get real bad. Please don’t push things in that direction because you are scared people might misunderstand and judge. Telling everyone to butt out might not hurt your family but it contributes to a standard that hurts others.
9.) “You’ve never been a homeschooling parent yourself, so what do you know?”
I almost want to say “well, you went to public or private school, so what do you know?,” but that would be acting like experiencing homeschooling from the parental side means nothing, which is untrue and would be just like saying that experiencing it from the kid side doesn’t count. Fact is the first generation of homeschooled kids are now in their late 20’s and early 30’s. You now have “consumer reviews.” Ignoring those and just going with the recommendations of other first-time homeschooling parents means you are missing out on valuable info and your kids may one day be giving less than stellar reviews themselves.
10.) “You are obviously not a Christian or you’d understand”
Why do you have to be a “bible-believing Christian” to have a problem with the legalistic sickness and power-drunk behavior that stems from the so-called Christian homeschooling leadership and infects vulnerable families like it did my own? It looks nothing like love and everything like fear and controlling behavior. If God is love than devout Christians should have a bigger problem with this stuff than I do.
11.) “Shh! The government will persecute us and take our kids”
There were a few truancy prosecutions in the late 70’s. Acting like that’s still reality is HSLDA fearmongering and hype to keep themselves in business. Unless you get caught actually running a homeschool meth lab project or something, nobody’s taking your kids.
12.) “All the stats/facts/studies say homeschooling is the best option”
By this I assume you are referring to studies on homeschooling done by NHERI, a “research institute” run by Brian Ray. A study where an author self-quotes without caveats using data funneled in by an advocacy group (HSLDA) and with an only 23% survey response rate may convince most journalists for now, but once an alternative story comes out (and it is) that stuff just won’t hold water. Even if they were solid stats (and they aren’t), generalizing a self-selected sample (the “prep school” equivalent of the homeschooling crop) to the general public school environment (where low-performing students can’t opt out) is comparing apples to oranges.
Because of all the work the HSLDA has done convincing lawmakers to deregulate homeschooling, we just don’t have much real data on the lower-end homeschoolers aside from case studies and personal accounts. Not collecting information on these kids has only made them invisible, not nonexistent.
My life is pretty good today. I don’t need to harp on the past. The reason I speak out is to use my experience to shed light on a problem. It is for friends who grew up like I did and didn’t get the opportunities I did. It is knowing little children are living today the way I did then. We need to listen to one another, brainstorm, form coalitions to make homeschooling better, to make education and society in general better, to raise our children in the best and most informed way possible, because that’s ultimately the goal, isn’t it? So please don’t yell at me or get defensive when I tell you about my homeschooling experience. Hear what I’ve got to say, ask me questions, and share your (hopefully much better) homeschooling stories. I’d love to hear them.
I’m enjoying reading your blog. As I said on an earlier posting, I am sorry for the horrible experience you had. I can’t even fathom what your parents were thinking.
I am surprised at the statement of: “Homeschooling was started with good intentions to liberate kids from rote learning but now the “culture war” crazies pretty much run the place. You people who are not trying to indoctrinate your kids are outnumbered.”
Yes, there are crazies out there – no dispute. But to assume that the majority (if I’m reading your statement correctly) are crazies, or that the majority are trying to indoctrinate their kids…I must simply disagree, based on my experience. Families across every denomination, in various school districts, would need to be interviewed to get a true picture of why homeschooling is desired. Faith may be a part of it for many families — but not ‘the’ deciding factor. It certainly wasn’t for us.
While I am a Christian, I chose to homeschool my kids because a) I totally disagree with teaching them to learn how to pass a test. I want them to learn how to LEARN, for the simple love of learning, so they do it for the rest of their life as I like to do. b) our school district is very large — 600 per graduating class; I knew every single one of my classmates from K-12 for the most part, and my kids will never have that experience here. c) Newton CT!
And this is only three of my reasons. I don’t want my kids to have to deal with idiotic bullying. Or the drama that goes on in groups of girls. I want them to learn at their own pace, and learn through hands-on experiences rather than sitting in a desk reading a blackboard.
So my faith is important to me, and I want to pass that along to my children. But it probably provided 2% of the reason I decided to homeschool. I suspect I’m not the minority, either, because numerous parents here in the state’s capital homeschool — and I’m not hearing faith as a top reason. It’s the state of our schools today — parents who homeschool typically feel we can do better for our kids.
Thanks for listening 🙂
I appreciate your kind post and I can see how you, as a responsible homeschooler, could take issue with my assertion that the crazies outnumber the responsible ones. First, I am not meaning to insult what you’re doing.
I realize crazies is kind of a flippant word to use (sometimes I can be a bit flippant) but what I mean when I say that is fundamentalists. I am not at all opposed to quality homeschooling from a traditional Christian viewpoint or basis, and I think it makes sense that Christian homeschoolers would see their homeschool as being Christian since most people who use their faith as a guide for their life also use it as a guide when homeschooling.
Thing is, there’s the “inclusive” homeschoolers groups where you often have co-op style learning, and sort of a live and let live attitude (you can be Christian, Muslim, atheist, etc. and you are able to join. Faith isn’t the main thing.) and there’s the “exclusive” groups where you have sign a statement of faith to become a member. Many of the latter pay dues to the HSLDA, which has Quiverfull/Christian Patriarchy values and political stances. Because the “exclusive” homeschoolers create more hierarchical (if still very libertarian and decentralized) structures, while the more inclusive homeschoolers generally don’t, the HSLDA is the most powerful homeschooling advocacy org our nation has and it is quite politically involved.
People who are in one type of homeschooling environment are also generally rather removed from the other kind. As an example, in this talk by Astra Taylor she mentions her experience coming into contact with the fundamentalist homeschoolers once (and I have a blog post in the works about the talk she gave). http://youtu.be/axoJSMwoXn4
I think people who aren’t involved with the fundamentalist side of homeschooling generally don’t realize how comparatively large or pervasive it is (even though homeschooling as a whole is only about 4% of the school age population) or how much it influences the homeschooling world and even our nation at large outside of homeschooling.
I honestly didn’t used to think that this outnumbering by “crazies” was the case myself, but the more research I did the more this was the conclusion I came to.
I would be interested to hear your thoughts and if you interpret the available data differently. Here’s links to a couple reports I read (I have more if you want them):
Milton Gaither, who blogs about homeschooling research, recently co-authored a paper you can download here: http://www.othereducation.stir.ac.uk/index.php/OE/article/view/10/35
In this paper (p. 10) they said:
“Although the NHES survey doesn’t ask about religious affiliation, most researchers surmise that conservative Christians comprise the largest subset of U.S. homeschoolers (Hanna, 2011; Mayberry, 1988; McDannell, 1995; Stevens, 2001). Whether this percentage is two- thirds, one-half, or less is a matter of speculation. What is beyond dispute, however, is the dominant profile of Christian homeschool advocacy groups, particularly the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). Their influence in politics and policy often lends the impression among outsiders that homeschoolers are primarily conservative Christians, despite the longtime presence of secular homeschooling, and the more recent emergence of homeschool networks for a wide range of religious traditions.”
Anyway, I am open to discussing stuff like this and posting about disagreements or differing viewpoints, so thanks for sharing your perspective and your reasons for homeschooling and I look forward to talking more about it. 🙂
Interesting link, Heather. I think secular homeschoolers are around, but they are a minority voice. In my town of about 50,000, we had two homeschool groups. One group you had to get your pastor to sign on a yearly basis (that even excluded Christians who didn’t attend church). There were well over 100 families involved by the time I was in high school, and has doubled today. The other group, which allowed anyone, was super, super small. The Christian conservative group had coop, sports, choir, activities. Who was the biggest voice in our community? There’s simply no way around it. The conservative homeschoolers had the voice, and I think just about everyone had membership in HSLDA. I’d say among those in the conservative group, most were legalistic when it came to emotional purity, modesty, and women’s roles. Everyone was not as extreme as our family, but was there an evangelical, conservative crazy going around? oh definitely.
Its worth pointing out that a legalist will never admit he is a legalist. So they aren’t going to recognize this even if we point it out.
Thank you for this. Like Lori, I’m a homeschooling mom who also happens to be Christian, and who is homeschooling for reasons primarily unrelated to my faith. While I went through public K-12, my husband and his six siblings were homeschooled ‘illegally’ by their mother (officially they were truants) in the late 70s and 80s, and would have been helped greatly by some oversight and intervention. As a result we’re extremely attentive to our children’s progress, as we are homeschooling because we feel we can do better than the local school system. We are constantly testing that, and if we ever fail that test then our kids will be enrolled in traditional school (we’ll consider public vs. private if and when we have to) so fast their heads will spin!
I’m particularly grateful to your grandfather’s quote in #8. While I’m sensitive to parents’ rights issues, I think there needs to be a balance, and I think his words nail it.
So your husband was one of the originals then… Yeah, I think the whole truancy thing in the late 70’s and early 80’s colored a lot of homeschoolers’ perceptions on the legal aspects but time has passed and the situation is quite different now and in my opinion ripe for another phase of reform. We’ve got the protections for homeschooling parents and now we need them for kids.
I think it is great that you use outside metrics to test the effectiveness of your homeschooling system. If I ever homeschool my own kids in the future (I see it as a possible option) I imagine I would do the same.
I’m glad you liked my Grandad’s quote and I too thought he got the balance right. I’d written in another post (Homeschool to Public School) about him being a homeschooling grandfather to me with his catch-up tutoring and how close it brought both of us. This week is the one year anniversary of his passing and not a day goes by that I don’t miss him.
I’m also a first generation homeschooler, I had a very successful homeschooling experience. Two of my siblings have terminal degrees in their fields, one sibling is working on his PhD at a top program in his field, and after dabbling in different things, I’m halfway through getting my JD from a top tier law school. In other words, nobody could possibly claim that I have an unreasonable axe to grind against homeschooling–I, and my family, are about as much of a homeschool success story as you can get. Which is why I think that most people shouldn’t be doing it.
Most homeschool families don’t have a parent with two masters degrees, including one in education, or a parent who studied in Europe, or any of the other academic advantages I had growing up. My successful homeschool friends all come from families with parents who were far better educated than the average who knew what it took to produce academically successful children. I’ve seen too many kids whose parents didn’t prepare them well for life because their parents didn’t have the tools to prepare their kids and thus relied on “professional homeschoolers” to provide materials and tell them what to teach their kids, without the knowledge to realize they were being given bad advice. And when that advice includes relying solely on fundamentalist textbook companies who don’t teach real science and barely teach math, while teaching a view of American history filtered through a lens of southern racism, you end up with kids woefully unprepared for life outside the bubble.
I see your point about having highly educated parents homeschooling resulting in highly educated kids, but looking at it from a broader perspective, I’ve got to say I don’t agree with your conclusion. I think that the parents who make good homeschoolers are those who are dedicated, committed, and willing to do the research. Usually their kids would also do well in public school because the parents are enthusiastic and involved.
Sometimes people who did not attend college have what it takes. I just think there should be protections for kids so if it doesn’t go well they’re not stuck. I also don’t believe you should be homeschooling if you don’t have at least a HS diploma or GED.
Also, there is a layer of privilege that exists whether you homeschool, private school, or public school. For instance, if you’d have gone to public school your parents would probably have lived near a good district and still been involved parents. You would quite likely still be getting a JD or something similar today.
In high-poverty schools having the child’s love of learning killed in a rote authoritarian atmosphere is a risk that a lot of parents, no matter what their own educational background looks like, are aware of and understandably want to prevent. The “school to prison pipeline” is reality in a lot of areas.
I am a proponent of parental choice (at a sensible level) and feel that many quality education options are hard to reach or cost prohibitive for the poor, so if they want to try and do homeschooling to help their kid, they should. It shouldn’t be some elite thing outside of their sphere. They can’t do it alone though. They need considerable support and guidance and a lot don’t get it because, as you said, it’s often hard to differentiate between the ideological and agenda-driven resources and the ones focused on educational excellence.
Love this. Every point was well made.
“Your not a parent” is a pretty lame excuse for dodging the point. You know what its like to be an older sibling with a lot of younger kids to take care of and yet still have school work to do (or not do as may have been the case for you). Most of these parents who came from small families and went to school do not have a clue. You are more in a position to speak than them.
On the statistics, it is apples and oranges. Most homeschoolers they poll aren’t the non-schooled, but of those who were homeschooled, most come from parents who have educated backgrounds of some sort, and most are at least approaching middle class if not middle class. Public school has the middle class plus those who live in slum neighborhoods plus ethnic minorities plus single families,….you could go on down the list. Sadly, public school is not equal. Some schools are better than others, and kids who come from educated families are more likely to be put in AP classes than those from poor neighborhoods. If we are going to poll homeschoolers from educated families, then we need to compare them with public schoolers from the same type of families.
I also don’t think that just because there is holes in the education system is reason to ignore the holes in the home school system. We need to bridge the gab, and come together to bring all kids a good education, regardless of their background.
I actually got the idea for this post from a certain rather combative commenter on your blog not too long ago. I generally assume people in a discussion can bring something worthwhile to the table that I can learn from, but when someone just wants to smash you flat and talk over and down to you, it’s different.
I totally agree about how the homeschool to public school comparisons are faulty. I think some ppl don’t care about much besides headlines so they don’t look too deep into those stats, others really want it to tell this narrow story, and some just generally trust researchers or don’t know enough about statistics to notice the holes in it.
I think we need a coalition of homeschoolers for responsible home education, where people who care and know about homeschooling can advocate for the protections kids need so homeschooled children are homeschooled, not “non-schooled.”
yes, he said you had an ax to grind, LOL.
a coalition would rock. I sense that second generation homeschool parents would be much more open for this!
I homeschooled my children for several years before putting them in school. My oldest didn’t like school and homeschooled herself for her high school years and my third child had some difficulties adjusting to school life but I’m glad I put them in school and they are successful similarly to Kathryn’s family but I think that is because I put them in school rather than because of the years of homeschooling.
Thank you and thank those others who are ginning up the courage to look fundie homeschooling in the face and sharing their perspective. This is sorely needed.
Thank you opinemine. I’m glad your kids are doing well and you were able to be flexible and make the changes they needed to be successful. I think when homeschooling is seen as one of a range of available options it can be used in a quality way.
Your comment about making the switch to public school brings up another topic I want to address more in the future and that’s short-term homeschooling and the often rocky transitions between homeschool and public school. I figure homeschooled kids who go to public school could do so without the intense initial culture shock I had (or the one depicted in the movie “Mean Girls.”) Maybe some sort of special orientation, a “buddy system” and tutoring in study skills or any subjects the kid may need extra help in?
A friend of mine, now a 9th grade math teacher, recently told me a story of a kid getting pretty much just thrown into his public school class. He asked the shy boy what math he was working on and the response was “fractions, sir.” Ooh boy… I know what it’s like to be that kid, getting a shock to the system on multiple levels, and the feeling ain’t pretty…
“Fact is the first generation of homeschooled kids are now in their late 20′s and early 30′s. You now have “consumer reviews.” ”
So, so true! I am one of that first generation. I am very invested in our children’s education, but (or therefore?) I have no intention of homeschooling them. Even my sister who is homeschooling her kids is doing it VERY differently from the way we experienced it in the ’80s.
We got in on the ground floor of the SAHD concepts–taking responsibility for our younger siblings, minimum support for high school, college not an option, etc. etc. Now that I’m in my mid-thirties, old enough to have teens of my own (although I don’t), I think my perspective (as well as those of other SAHDs) merits attention.
But maybe most convincing is my own mother’s take. Although her belief system is otherwise relatively unchanged, my sister told me that Mom has been using my situation as a morality tale for younger mothers whom she now sees as putting too much responsibility on their kids. In other words, my Mom–who is as conservative as she ever was–now regrets buying into the SAHD, mini-mom model. She believes it ultimately pushed me away.
As satisfying as it is for me to feel that my Mom now has some understanding of where I am coming from, I regret that she takes all the blame. The truth is that my Dad was actually the one pushing my sister and me to be SAHDs–and he has certainly not changed his mind about it. In his view, I still owe him an apology for depriving him of my free labor when I moved out at 21.
Yeah, my Mom, who is still ideologically attached, also came to understand that a few things were bad. She put too much on us older girls; she couldn’t handle all the babies, my Dad’s home business, and homeschooling altogether; and she is now against corporal punishment. She still believes in male headship, just not under the particular male who used to be her husband.
She knows I have some ambivalence about parenthood but feels that I should just “get over it” because my sister next in age has kids already, and in her words I am “in direct rebellion to God and motherhood.” I try to keep a sense of humor about it, so I just told her I wanted a t-shirt printed with that slogan.
My Dad cycles in and out of various layers of denial and is still prone to being manipulative and controlling, so we don’t talk. He has apologized for how things went down and then later spoke of those same things as being in a positive or “not so bad” light. It’s weird. I imagine its hard for him too, knowing he did those things.
Both parents stopped demanding work from me after I went “on protest” in my teens, but they still demand some sort of respect that I have never had for them and they seem to feel they have been wrongly deprived of. It’s not that I’m disrespectful, just that this respect went to other people such as grandparents, teachers, mentors, etc.
I think that’s one reason it’s so good to get these “consumer reviews” – some homeschooling parents might truly have regrets but minimize and deny it to themselves and others in order to save face, or perhaps they genuinely just don’t understand what it’s like to walk in our shoes.
Love you t-shirt comment! I may be a mother, but I want one too! 🙂
You can be a mom and still be in rebellion to that sort of “motherhood.” Ha ha, I can just imagine the confused looks a shirt like that would get from people. I might need to do it for real…
I want one too.
I wonder somewhat if we need, not just stories like yours, but stories from those of us who were not so far onto the spectrum. I was well-educated, enough to get into the honors program at a decent college and hold my own as a very smart student, when I had struggled to handle public school. I was one of the combination intelligent/disabled students that the public school system simply had no place for. I was also heavily indoctrinated into very conservative beliefs, in a way that ultimately left me vulnerable to an abusive man who took advantage of my beliefs on modesty and submission. And I remember a constant environment of suspicion that I was being rebellious and manipulative, though I was rarely guilty of the crime. Which would have been better? I really don’t know.
It’s worth talking about, I think. Could public schools be better fitted to accommodate students like me? Could homeschooling be overhauled so that children like me get more access to different ideas, and aren’t so vulnerable to such teaching? Which should we do?
I think about these things too and ultimately it brings me back to thoughts of children’s rights. If children are taught that they have a right to form an opinion, to say yes and no, to have respect and bodily integrity, that they aren’t just empty vessels to be filled with “knowledge” but people in their own right, then I imagine both homeschooling and public schools would look different. They would be more inclusive, less authoritarian, more flexible to diversity. I think we can’t come up with the best systems, ones that would encourage full development to potential, as long as we look at kids like they’re “almost people” and put hierarchy above humanity.
I know this is a few months late, but I stumbled upon your blog today from a Slate article and I had to comment. Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this. I needed to read something like this to confirm that what I thought about the way I was educated wasn’t wrong. I was homeschooled, and while my parents weren’t Christian, the same kinds of insularity and dysfunction were present, and were made much worse by homeschooling. Though I ended up getting into a good college and my life turned out fine, I view what my parents did as a form of educational neglect at best, and abuse at worst. Like you, I’m not strictly anti-homeschooling, but I know that the bad homeschoolers outnumber the good.
Thank you again.
Yes! I totally agree with you. I was also homeschooled K – 12, and I really believe that bad homeschoolers outnumber the good ones significantly.
I’m sorry that you had a bad experience with your own family. Some families are dysfunctional. Some families have beliefs and ideas that you disagree with. Some children decide that they disagree with their family’s values. That is true. However, I feel that your blog is not actually about homeschooling. It is actually about whether or not a parent has a right to raise his or her child(ren) as he or she sees fit. It seems that your answer to that question is, “NO.” That is a problem. Abuse and neglect are wrong in any circumstance, although if you look at statistics of child abuse and neglect, you will find that abuse and neglect is GROSSLY under-represented among homeschooling families, when compared to publicly schooled families. (In 2011, 1,570 children died of child abuse, and if 3% of kids live in homeschool families, you would expect to see around 50 dead kids per year in homeschool families, more than that if “quiverful” families have more kids than average) Would you then conclude that public school “has a problem?” Who would you elect to govern the family? Whose values and whose child rearing beliefs should rule? Who governs, and to what ends? Or as Socrates would say to Meno, what is virtue, anyway? Who do you trust to impose it on another human being? Should society impose common values on children by force or compulsion?
As you contemplate the answers to those questions, I would propose an answer. YOU, the parent, have the right to raise your children as you see fit, period. There is no family that does not have issues. I went to public school, raised by a schizophrenic mother, living below the poverty line, and horrible anger and fights and constant fear. Oh well, I guess that was the problem with my “public school” right? You grow out of the family that creates you. If you don’t like it, raise your own children differently. That ought to be your right. What you are doing is taking a marginalized group of people and demonizing them, making them more vulnerable to losing their human rights. That is not a good outcome.
I agree with neoplatonist. People put way too much trust in governments. It is an inevitable tendency for governments to abuse control once you hand it over to them.
Also, there seems to be an attitude on this thread that people who homeschool in order to give their children a Christian education are doing it for an illegitimate reason. I couldn’t disagree more.
That being said, I think that Christian homeschoolers could (and should) be much more pro-active in reaching out to other homeschoolers as they network, warning them about aberrant lifestyles (such as the patriarchy/quiverfull movements) and the damage they can do, bringing all their influence to bear against these warped ideas. My heart aches when I hear stories of abuse or neglect in any family, regardless of their educational choices. I do have to disagree with you, Andrew, when you say “I know that the bad homeschoolers outnumber the good.” My guess is that your family’s natural tendency to associate with other likeminded families gave you the impression that most homeschoolers are like what you observed. My observations are completely the opposite – and I know many, many homeschooling families.
I’ll share my story as and example. I homeschooled my daughter (who is now 25) but instead of discouraging her from going to college, I put pressure on her to study college prep courses in high school until I realized this was causing her undue stress when it came to math and allowed her to drop out of geometry. I apologized and reassured her that I would be behind her in the goals that she chose for her education and that it was between her and God what she decided to pursue. I encouraged her to proceed according to her own faith, talents and desires. I did share with her that I thought it in her best interests to become skilled at something she could do to support herself, or to earn extra income as a wife and mother if she chose, but that if she didn’t want a college degree it was okay with me. (That was hard.) She spent several years after high school becoming very good at cooking, housekeeping and sewing, which she loves, as well as acting in and sewing costumes for community theater, working at a tea shop, and doing a bit of traveling. During this time she also read a great deal and fell in love with English literature and decided to go pursue a degree. She is now in her final year earning her bachelor’s in English with the University of London. She’s been to England twice and spent two months there this year. Her home education experience revolved very much around the Bible and Christianity (while being academically sound) and she wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Another example: My brother and his wife are also Christian homeschoolers. They have five children. My sister-in-law works as an education specialist with the local public charter school. Their oldest, a son, attended public high school so that he could play football. He graduated with greater than a 4.0, and with college credit through AP courses. He’s majoring in biology. Their second, a daughter, is in her freshman year of college on a swimming scholarship and is living in the dorms. She also attended public high school and excelled academically. Their third child, a son, attended public high school for three weeks and decided it wasn’t for him so he’s back homeschooling, pursuing his considerable talents in the field of IT.
Another example: A mom at my church has a daughter who is a sophomore in high school. The daughter has asked her mother if she could be homeschooled due to the bullying and relationship drama she has experienced at the local public high school. (This is a nice suburban town not known for violence.) This mom and her parents have a wonderful, close, trusting relationship and the daughter is looking forward to being homeschooled.
I and many of the other homeschooling families I know are serious (dare I use the word “fundamental” – gasp!) Christians. Yet multitudes of us are not part of the partriarchy/quiverfull movement. We are not dominionists, and in fact oppose dominionism. Many of us send our daughters to college if they want to go. We feel it’s none of our business how many children someone wants to have. We are NOT legalistic. In fact, those who say they’re Christians and are characterized by legalism (the teaching that God accepts us on the basis of works) are not true fundamentalists. True fundamentalists hold to the “fundamentals” of the Bible, one of them being the true gospel of Christ, which is also called the gospel of GRACE, which means that we’re saved by grace, we live be grace, and we treat others with grace. This is what Christian homeschoolers need to preach to each other
I’m sorry if I seemed to stray too much off topic. I want to be clear that I think these experiences of abuse and neglect in the homeschooling world SHOULD be discussed by homeschoolers. I believe Christian homeschoolers, especially, have a responsibility to expose and renounce these movements and the aberrant theologies behind them – publicly – in every forum available to us. At the same time, I want to caution against handing undue control over to government authorities. Authoritarianism is dangerous wherever it rears its ugly head, whether in families or in governments. Once you hand control of your life to your government, though, it’s usually impossible to get it back.
When I say I’m intelligent, I’m not bragging; I just have an IQ of over 150. But it was never enough for my parents. I was 4 the first time I remember my father hitting me with a belt. It was a regular thing through my childhood. I was 11 when they pulled me and my sister out of our fundamentalist Christian school to homeschool us. When I was 18, my parents refused to release my transcripts to the college I wanted to attend, even though my test scores would have given me a full ride, so I missed out on that opportunity. I’m 28 now, and I’ve scrambled my way up, teaching myself the math I missed in high school in order to build my own foundation for college. (These things happen when you don’t have a single teacher in high school who holds a college degree.) I’ve fought my way back from the abuse, from the eating disorder my parents encouraged, and from the trauma of walking away from fundamentalist Christianity. I still can’t wear leather belts, because the sound of taking them off gives me panic attacks, but I have my own business, have become fluent in a second language and am working on a third, and will be finishing my bachelor’s degree in 2016, at which point I hope to have the resources to go for a master’s. And it will be a cold day in hell before I homeschool a child of mine.
Thank you for this. I am a parent of 4, bonus mom to 3 more and will be home schooling my gal going into second grade due to a variety of reasons including a desire to learn away from school on her part. My other children have gone to public school and my youngest will start public school kindergarten next year. I think education decisions should be made and regularly evaluated based on the needs of each individual child.
I have been doing a lot of research from the perspective of a home schooling mother and from the perspective of children who have had the experience of alternate forms of education and I have to say that I have learned more from the people who have experienced it first hand than I ever could have from the mothers who home school and I am so grateful to all of you who are willing to share your experiences.
I also want to agree with you about feeling like I am in the overwhelming minority coming from a secular ( not against religion, more agnostic, and just not really participating in any sort of organized religion) perspective. My children have many public school friends and opportunities to socialize with them daily. Our neighborhood is very secure and the kids run around with their friends until darkness forces them in, hahaha…. but I really wanted them to be able to be a part of a home school group so that they could get to know other children that are having a similar school experience. We are welcome and allowed into our local home school group but it is made clear that the majority are home schooling for religious reasons and I am nervous about that. I hope that it is inclusive but that hasn’t been my experience with Christians in our area.