So I’ve been working on a few projects lately, and one of them is a new thing started by a journalist, R.L. Stollar, and a few of his former homeschool friends. My posts on homeschooling will now be being cross-posted onto the Homeschoolers Anonymous site. One thing Homeschoolers Anonymous is doing is collecting stories. If you want to write down your homeschooling story and send it in, it can be published (anonymously of course) or with your real name (heatherjanes was my Dad’s nickname for me. I finally just took a deep breath and went “real name!”) or if writing isn’t your thing, R.L. or one of his compatriots can interview you and put your story together from an interview.
First off, I wanted to say that I think this project is important. It simply needs doing, badly. Secondly, I want to say that this project is hard. Hard to read, hard to take part in, and for some who haven’t had direct experience with the issue, probably hard to believe. Telling your own story is generally hard, no matter what it is. Heck, even knowing what your story is is hard sometimes. I first realized that this was my story only a couple years ago. I was almost 30. (Wait a second, Quiverfull is a thing? My parents didn’t just make up their own religion? What are all these stories of people like me doing here? There are people like me?) I can’t tell you how mind blowing it all was, but mindfuck would actually be the word I would best use to describe it (if I wasn’t trying to keep profanity under control, that is). Anyway, so I will be participating in the Homeschoolers Anonymous project and here is the press release R.L. wrote, so you can get a better idea of what this project is about and whether it is something you want to read (or write for) too:
A group of former homeschoolers are joining together to bring awareness to and healing from different forms of abuse in extreme homeschooling subcultures. The organization, Homeschoolers Anonymous (HA), is being coordinated by former homeschoolers across the United States, including California, Louisiana, Oregon, and Washington.
According to recent surveys, approximately 2 million children are taught at home in the United States. The total number of home-educated kids doubled between 1999 and 2007. While some are being homeschooled in non-Christian families, the National Home Education Research Institute claims almost three-quarters of those 2 million children have conservative Christian parents who aim to pass on their moral and religious values to their kids through home education. This makes religion the primary motivating factor behind this form of education.
HA’s creator is R.L. Stollar, who was homeschooled from K-12 and currently resides in Eugene, Oregon. He has a Master of Arts in Eastern philosophy and religion and is a freelance writer. Stollar says he came up with the idea for HA after realizing that many of his homeschooled peers suffered from some of the same emotional, mental, and physical problems that he does. Stollar says,
“I started talking last August to someone I knew in junior high and high school about some of the issues we both struggle with today. And it was interesting to see these similarities and that we both attributed them to the same things from our backgrounds.”
Stollar realized that many of his peers had stories like this. He decided to created Homeschoolers Anonymous to bring awareness to these stories and to inspire others to speak out. He intends for HA to give others courage:
“I think, for a lot of us, we are afraid to say what we feel, to say we have changed. A lot of us perceived the message of our world as ‘shut up, get in line, and prepare to take back the culture.’ That makes us, even as adults, timid and maybe even scared of community backlash if we were to say, ‘You know, I’m a different person now. I grew up, I’m an adult, and I have my own life.'”
Stollar connected with old friends on Facebook and made new ones. He found a community of people who shared the same vision. One of those people is Nicholas Ducote, who grew up in a family immersed in Bill Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute (ATI). He has his Master of Arts in History from Louisiana Tech University and is currently working on a book about lumber development in North Louisiana.
Ducote considers his upbringing to be a form of fanaticism. To him, fanaticism is any manifestation of an ideology that knows no compromise and uses children as vehicles of ideological advancement. Ducote says,
“The quaint, happy, innocent life of a child can quickly be replaced by the stark absolutes of fanaticism. Muslim, Christian, and Jew are one in the same monster. Their fanatics take different names, they act in different ways, but they are all the same.”
Stollar, Ducote, and team of others are eager to see the launch of their vision. Homeschoolers Anonymous has partnered with a number of well-known bloggers to help bring greater visibility to their stories of abuse and healing. These blog partners include Libby Anne’s Love Joy Feminism, Heather Doney’s Becoming Worldly, Vyckie Garrison’s No Longer Quivering, and Julie Anne Smith’s Spiritual Sounding Board.
About the blog partners, Stollar says,
“I’m really excited to be partnering with these individuals and groups who write about, among other things, their homeschooling experiences. Honestly, they’ve directly inspired [HA] because of what they do. They’ve really paved the way to speaking out about abuse within certain cultures.”
One of the blog partners, Julie Anne Smith, is a homeschooling parent herself. Smith has over 20 years of experience homeschooling her children. She believes HA will help both current and former homeschool kids, even other parents:
“Homeschool students and their parents have become part of a unique culture yielding a mixed bag of results. The first crop of homeschooled students are now adults, establishing their own lives and families. It’s important to take an honest look at homeschool history by reading personal stories — describing the joys and even disappointments of those who paved the homeschool trail.”
While HA hopes to talking candidly about abuse within homeschooling and provide methods of healing from that abuse, the group is careful to point out they do not oppose homeschooling itself. Stollar notes that,
“This isn’t anti-homeschool in any way. At the end of the day, this isn’t even about conservative politics or Christianity. It is more about anywhere and everywhere that communities and adults use religious or political ideology to deny children their humanity and freedom to be for the sake of advancing that ideology. That’s a cult mentality. And wherever that mentality exists, you create emotional, mental, physical, and even sexual abuse and trauma for children. We want to be a strong voice in opposition to that mentality through our life stories, through education and information.”
Official website: http://homeschoolersanonymous.wordpress.com
Media contact: R.L. Stollar.
This is interesting, and very exciting. I am reminded though of the gentleman who founded “Fundamentalists Anonymous” back in the early 80s. This was before people understood the cult aspects of the Fundy movement in general, and how the religious right churches also brainwashed their members to further their ideology. Anyway, this guy goes on National TV and soon his two phone lines are ringing off the hook from people all over the country calling for support, helping to have their experience explained. This guy was the first one to talk about the “Fundamentalist Mentality”, he was trying to explain how anti-democracy it was and all that. Not long after he explains what exactly happens to people in these churches on National TV, this guy, I should google his name, I’m too lazy, I think it was Richard Yao or something like that, anyway he disappears and so does the heart of his operation. This was before the Internet got going so it was easier to ruin new movements, stamp them out.
I only say this to you because I think there might be some opposition to HA, and you guys might want to prepare yourselves for it. Anything this important and useful will threaten a lot of people. From what I’ve heard, homeschooling has become big business and it’s also very much backed by the extreme religious right.
Nice to see you posting again…
Yes, architect, I agree with you and we have talked about this a lot. It’ll be like kicking a hornet’s nest I imagine. Speaking truth to power and all that. Also, I think that when you start something like this you are now responsible to people who depend on you, so you need to keep sustainability in mind. It’s a shame about the guy you were talking about. Perhaps he did not have enough support or the things he had being said to him were too triggering or frightening. I think that it is good that this is being founded by multiple people rather than just one guy.
Also, for me personally, somehow I had the guts to try and fight this stuff in my own home, on threat of violence, when I was just a girl. I imagine whatever naysayers decide to bring that it will never be as scary as it was back then. I’m telling the truth and no matter what kind of character assassination or threats somebody comes up with, I will continue to do so. I am rather contrary, don’t do well with authoritarian scare tactics, and am not easy to silence if/when they are used. Worst comes to worst, perhaps I’ll need to create a Tumblr of the hate mail I get. 🙂
R.L. Stollar is one of my friends from my homeschooling. He is a nice guy. Sorry for the off topic, just wanted to say it.
Ha ha, that’s awesome. 🙂 Off topic nothin’ – homeschooling’s a small world!
He is a nice guy, Revenwyn, I agree. Heatherjanes, nice to “partner” with you in this project. This is much needed and I have a hunch it could be pretty big. I don’t know if that makes me sad or glad – I guess mixed. I’m glad there’s a place, sorry that there needs to be a place.