The following are a list of things that range from impolite to incredibly disrespectful that I have heard since I started speaking out about this issue. I’m (unfortunately) not making any of these up and I’ve actually had every single one of them either said to me or seen them said to others. If you don’t want to be a jerk, please don’t say any of the following:
1.) Tell me how good of a homeschooling experience you or someone you know had and imply that it cancels out mine.
2.) Say that obviously it was just a parenting problem, not a homeschooling problem at all.
3.) Say that obviously it was a religious fundamentalism problem/bible-based cult problem, not a homeschooling problem at all.
4.) Say that I am not describing real homeschooling so I should not be talking about my experience like it was homeschooling at all.
5.) Say that I need to be careful, that openly speaking about this will help enemies of homeschooling (nosy neighbors/government/the minions of the Antichrist) have the political cover to mess up or destroy homeschooling for the good homeschoolers.
6.) Say that obviously because I am standing here today with a job/degree/spouse/all four limbs that the homeschooling I got really wasn’t too bad and therefore we all should keep calm and carry on.
7.) Say that my parents only homeschooled because it was a problem with the school district and obviously any public school in my area/state/nation/world would have been worse.
8.) Say that maybe my homeschooling experience was even secretly good and I likely don’t know enough about what I’d be comparing it to, with public school being so awful and all.
9.) Say that you/your kid/someone you know had a much worse experience in public school/government school/a hole in the ground and so I should quit bellyaching and overdramatizing my homeschooling experience and instead just be grateful it wasn’t as bad of a story as the one you just told.
10.) Say that what happened to me was so uncommonly rare that it’s not something we need to be generally concerned about.
11.) Say that you are sure that it was that my parents were uneducated/rural/brainwashed/obviously raised wrong and that’s why they did what they did, even though you know nothing about my parents’ background.
12.) Say it is obvious that I am so hurt/broken/angry/bitter/emotional/weird/vengeful that I have lost track of reality, don’t know what I’m talking about on any of this, and no one should listen.
13.) Say that I need to just let the past be the past, understand that parents make mistakes/are not perfect, then go forgive mine (immediately assuming that I haven’t), and stop disrespecting them by talking about this issue.
14.). Say that the way life works is that your parents can raise you however they want/force you to be the person they ask/mess you up for the first 18 years of your life and then it will be your turn when you have your own kids.
Religion & Politics –
15.) Say that if my parents were real Christians that this never would have happened.
16.) Say that this is obviously a problem with Christianity itself and all homeschoolers should respond by being secular/atheist/Buddhist/some other faith.
17.) Say that you seriously doubt (or had it laid upon your heart by Jesus himself) that it is in God’s will/my best interest/society’s interest for me to be talking/thinking/spreading lies like this and you will pray/worry/be quite concerned for me.
18.) Ask me if I am aware that when I talk about my story it is mainly going to be helping people who hate homeschoolers/Christians/parents/Americans/suburban white people unfairly stereotype/hurt/oppress all of your group because people will mistakenly think you are like me and my family and obviously you are nothing like us at all.
19.) Accuse me of being put up to this by teachers unions/liberal brainwashing/feminism/Satan and not having actual good reasons for how I characterize a problem I lived through and/or am studying.
20.) Accuse me of being anti-homeschooling, anti-Christian, and anti-family all in one fell swoop because I said what happened to me should not happen to other kids.
Now that I’ve listed all the rude, insensitive, selfish, and potentially threatening things I can think of that you should not be saying to people who have shared their horrible (or even just a little bit bad bordering on mediocre) homeschooling experience (I’m sure I left some out, so please feel free to include them in the comments), here are eight examples of something that might be a good idea to say:
1.) Thank you for sharing your story.
2.) I am trying to understand where/when/how this occurred. Can I ask you? How did X, Y, or Z happen/come to be/take place?
3.) What helped you get out/get better?
4.) What do you think could have made this situation better/not happen at all?
5.) What do you think someone like me might do or keep in mind to prevent this from happening to others?
6.) What do you like to do today, now that you’ve left that environment?
7.) Can I share what you said with my friend/relative/pastor/neighbor/blog readers/Facebook?
8.). I wish you well and hope that tomorrow/this week/life/the future will be good for you.
Also, even if this stuff is foreign to you and you really have no idea (or maybe don’t care) what it is like to walk in the shoes of someone who has had this kind of homeschooling experience, please try for a moment to imagine how it would make you feel and what it might lead you to do and then have compassion. Personally, I love to argue and I have a lot of “fight” in me, but for many people who are sharing their story, just finding the words and the strength to do so is incredibly hard and people should not, under any circumstances, be pushing someone who’s telling a survivor story to defend themselves or expect them to deal with the kind of obnoxious behavior I listed above. Thank you.
What about “How do you think these abuses can be avoided? What elements of homeschooling can safely be retained?”
Well, there never is a perfect situation with imperfect ppl. We all have seen plenty messed up situations/things come out of public school and any other situation. Just try to help the hurting wherever you meet them rather than throw stones at a certain way of doing things. I was educated in both situations, enjoyed them both, and have since taught in a formal and homeschooling setting. There are successes and failures either way. Just try to help each one rather than inflict your own pain off onto someone else.
Congratulations on completely missing the point of this post and saying exactly what it says not to say. How insensitive.
Thank you for this. People always look at me strangely when I compare certain types of homeschooling to abuse; they usually like to roll out the laundry list of responses you just described here. I think denying your children a proper education in the name of religion is one of the worst things a parent can do to their child.
I read your list of comments and can certainly understand why you do not want to hear them. There are a couple, though, that I am confused about. Perhaps it is because I do not know your personal story. I hope that asking about them is OK.
I am looking at the top list…numbers 2 and 3. Again, I cannot say that I know your particular situation. I do know of other situations where the problem really wasn’t home schooling. It was bad parenting, whether by ignorance or just being mean or…
I also know of situations where, again, the problem was not home schooling, but it was a religious system that taught unbiblical (although they used scriptures out of context to support their teachings) things about the roles of women, men, wives, husbands and children, in addition to those teachings supporting a power trip.
So, please help me to understand. Are you saying that home schooling itself was a (or the) problem in your story? Are you saying that it was not a problem of bad parenting or a “religious fundamentalism problem/bible-based cult problem”?
I read several of your posts and definitely see the abuse. How can one miss it? But I know many home schooling families who do not espouse many of those things. We do not isolate our children or keep them from exploring. We do not try to maintain a tight control over them. We do not beat them and hit them.
I am aware of the quiverful and patriarchal/patriocentric movements. My husband and I looked into them years ago and decided that they clearly do not understand the realities and contexts of the scriptures they are greatly misusing. And we see abuses inherent in those movements, even if the intent is not to abuse.
Can you please help me to understand what YOU mean by those statements, since, obviously, I am going to read them through the filter of my own experiences and the experiences of those I know.
Thank you. 🙂
Glad you asked and glad you are finding this thought-provoking. 🙂
The reason for those two is that some people are quick to say that homeschooling has absolutely nothing to do with abuse and so I should not even bring it up, when in fact it does matter and did have a big impact because it helped foster the isolation. Of course homeschooling itself isn’t the reason these things happened. It was a factor though and while homeschooling does not have to be extreme, often it is used as a tool by certain fringe segments of society, so homeschooling culture can sometimes carry these fringe ideas along to unsuspecting people like my parents. Some subcultures and sub-movements within homeschooling distinctly do seem to perpetuate abuse or at least a very domineering perspective on children and their roles and that was the type that my family got caught up in.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. I do see how home schooling can greatly facilitate a controlling environment. I try to be very careful how I word things when exposing problems. Yes, pastors can be abusive, but it is the pastors or the particular church system, not Christianity that is the problem. In the same way, it is the people and their particular beliefs and ideologies that are the problem, not home schooling. I try to be careful not to give any ammunition for the anti-home schoolers (or anti-Christians) and keep the focus on the abuse…not the homeschooling…in the same way that I try to keep the focus on the abuse in churches…not on religion. I hope that makes sense.
I think the key thing is for home schoolers to hold their own accountable wherever possible and it is the same thing in the “Church”. Sadly, the two often go hand in hand…the controlling church and the controlling home schooler. Leaders need to stop covering for their own and the same with home schoolers. I believe that when home schoolers hold other home schoolers accountable, it helps to give credibility to home schooling. It does not have to mean reporting, but it can mean sitting down with those parents and telling that what they are doing is wrong and giving them a chance to fix it.
There are no easy answers, but I agree that the abuse must stop and one key step is to tell about it…which you are doing. You go, girl!
Oh, and I definitely do NOT minimize your experiences! They were horrible…just to be clear on that.
SO late to this party, but I need to shout a hearty “PREACH” at you for this.