Becoming Worldly

Thoughts of a former Quiverfull daughter who left the fundamentalist homeschooling lifestyle, got an education, and learned a different definition of "worldly."

About Me

I am the eldest in a family of 10 children, more daughters than sons, now ranging in age from 10-30. I was homeschooled until the age of 13 by evangelical Christian parents whose beliefs and lifestyle can be best described as Quiverfull/patriarchal (although those weren’t the words we’d use to label ourselves). We lived in poverty in south Louisiana and there was considerable abuse and neglect in our crowded home, including poor hygiene, occasional food insecurity, a lack of medical care, and almost no formal education. We were physically disciplined in an often violent and unpredictable manner, generally with a belt or a wooden stick, for disobedience and mistakes. We were also socially isolated and told demons and the devil were lurking behind the actions of unbelievers, both strangers and our neighbors and relatives, waiting to pounce. Somehow I found the strength and desperation to rebel and seek outside help.

Due to an intervention by both sets of grandparents, my siblings and I were hurriedly “caught up” as much as possible, given a few basic resources and “normal” experiences, then sent to public school in 1998. I went into 9th grade at a medium-sized public high school and after overcoming some bullying and culture shock, found a profound appreciation for education and people in general.

My siblings and I have succeeded beyond all expectations (except for my Grandad’s, which were always exceedingly high and laid out with military precision), and have gone on to live pretty “normal” lives, with school, working, obtaining college degrees, finding love and marriage, and parenting little ones without the use of “whippings.”

I tried to forget the past, went to college in New Orleans, graduated with honors and a double major in political science and English, and later got scholarships to attend a top 10 graduate school in my field. So not too long ago I moved 1,500 miles away, far up into “Yankee country,” to obtain a masters of public policy degree and study poverty alleviation at a very liberal, historically Jewish school. I loved school but started getting nightmares, flashbacks, and insomnia, ultimately realizing I had to deal with what happened as a child in order to be okay today. I also did a couple grad school research papers on homeschooling, which made me realize that my experience is unfortunately not uncommon at all in the conservative Christian homeschooling world, and some aspects of it are even encouraged by movement leaders as part of a supposedly “Godly” lifestyle. I recently wrote a book about my experiences and am in the process of trying to get that published.

I am a bit of a news junkie, an avid reader, a fan of silly sarcasm, house parties, craft projects, and trying new recipes. I am also passionate about human rights, the wellbeing of children, lifelong learning, and encouraging the homeschooling communities and the entities that regulate them (or should, anyway) to do more to facilitate healthy child development and prevent abuse and neglect.

This blog will mainly be about the Quiverfull lifestyle, homeschooling culture and politics, child welfare, PTSD, education, poverty, big families, gender issues, and maybe a few bits of south Louisiana or New England culture and a recipe or craft project or two thrown in, just for fun.

19 thoughts on “About Me

    1. Hi Betty,

      No worries, I am new to the blogging world but I didn’t think it was rude and I’m fine with you reblogging my stuff. I just want to help get the word out about this lifestyle and the issues associated with it, so am perfectly fine with people who feel similarly or like my writing passing it on to others. Happy New Year to you too! šŸ™‚

  1. Your family circumstances are similar to ours except I am the mom instead of one of the daughters in the family. I have had to go to my children on many occasions to apologize and we have done a lot of growing and healing. We, too, are doing extremely well and it amazes me how very well our youngest are doing, the ones with no memory of or wasn’t born during our time in a patriarchal system.
    I hope to get to know you better through your writing.

  2. My parents belonged to the World Wide Church of God – I now recognize as a cult! I was raised in the cult & continued to attend as an adult. I had no reason to question the fear used as a means of intimidation – submission – complete/unquestioning obedience – that was how I was raised – both by the church and as a family member. As a result of being reared in a cult – with a father who was a paranoid schizophrenic – who raped – sexually abused – physically beat me with a 2-sided leather strap that was stitched together to retain the wide, flat metal piece contained inside & the “church” said “we all make mistakes…..we must foregive” – leaving me in that environment — that’s a true cult! I experienced nearly every means of being abused and find myself every day working very hard to have a full, happy, at-peace-life, filled with good people – but it’s still a struggle at age 56.

  3. I enjoy reading your blog. You are an amazing and courageous young woman. I do have a question. I’m wondering if your issues are more from poverty, neglect, and abuse than being educated at home? I do not want to minimize in anyway the pain you’ve experienced. Poverty, spiritual abuse, neglect, physical abuse seems to leave the same wounds you describe no matter where the education has taken place. I don’t see how exposing a “cult” like spiritual upbringing, poverty, and abuse has to make homeschooling look negative? I personally do not home school my children but know many who do and none of them are doing it in these ways. I think the average American who knows little about homeschooling assumes all homeschoolers are as you describe and experienced but I have to say I think your experience and the Quiverfull Americans are the exception not the rule.

    1. Hi LynetteC,

      Thank you and I’m glad you’re enjoying my blog. I actually recently wrote a post addressing that exact issue you brought up. For a number of years I too thought it was the poverty and dysfunctional family environment that resulted in the experiences I had but when I started to do research a couple years ago a pattern emerged. It implicated the homeschooling structures as set up by the current homeschooling leadership as very much helping to set such a tone in my family and others. This is the post where I make a case for why these issues are connected:
      https://becomingworldly.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/connecting-homeschooling-and-religious-abuse/

  4. Can you send me an email so I can ask you some questions? We homeschool but to be honest with you I have not researched it too much, my wife does much of the schooling. We are listening to Doug Phillips right now on CD but he seems a little off to me, thats why I googled this and came up with your website. What do I need to know about him?

  5. My life didn’t quite follow extremes as yours, but I hold many similar scars from homeschooling in the South (in our case it was Southerners taking potshots at my “Yankee” mother.My father was emotionally absent in many ways.) My mother carried the burdens of four women plus some. I fully support your argument with Mercy Pride. I admire both sides’ civility, but have to say her naivety about abusive relationships worries me.

  6. I am in love with your honesty and strength and very impressed that you majored in English but then that is why your writing is stellar! i loved your last letter. I am wondering what ever happened. Perhaps as I follow you I will find out. If only we could learn how to live life without so many wounds but maybe the hard knocks should come with some kind of degree… ya think?! šŸ˜‰
    xoxo
    K

    1. Aww, thank you for your kind words Keri. I got an English degree because reading and writing were things I always loved from a young age, and sometimes I do feel a bit overexposed, but I like to think that it’s worth it if other people can feel not alone and it can help with connecting words, a narrative to describe what I have come to realize is in many ways a collective experience.

      Yeah, if there were a trophy or medal for this stuff though I’m not sure I’d want it. After all, I never signed up to play such a twisted game.

      As far as my last letter, the relationship formally ended and we are trying to remain friends, since we still care about each other but such transitions are inherently difficult I think.

  7. Hello Heather. I have been trying to find someone who knows how bad the state of Texas education law on homeschooling is. I am NOT in anyway against homeschooling, but when a parent pulls their child from school and signs that they are going to privately homeschool the child and are lying, there should be some punishment. My son is now 18 and has an 8th grade education. My ex was able to pull my son out of 9th grade during our divorce and I had legal custody of my son. My ex was protecting himself as he was in trouble twice with the district truancy courts and fined. So he pulled my son out of school and let him sleep all day and play games all night. I hired 3 attorneys and no one would do anything about it. My ex kept me from my son and even went as far as getting a restraining order which was a total falsehood. This is how our family courts are being ran. I went to the school and they said my (ex) husband had the right to homeschool and they couldn’t intrude. I went to state representatives and they said that there was no way my husband could do this, but found out there is no way the state could touch him. I went to the school truancy judge who told me that my ex had stated he would homeschool my son and even though he knew he probably wouldn’t there was nothing he could do.He also said there are 100s of children like my son, who are pulled from school and not being educated, but again he could not do anything about it. I went to the school district and they listened to my story but showed no interest in helping me.They just told me my ex was allowed to homeschool my son. I called CPS about my son being neglected as far as he was 15 and having ringworm often,he and his father were fighting physically and he had ran away from the home, he was pale and underweight, he was taken off his ADD and antidepressant medications and taken out of mental therapy and is very depressed as he has been pulled out of school and wouldn’t this be considered to be educational neglect? They did do a welfare check on my son and found him to be alright, but said they didn’t like seeing my son not in school but there was nothing they could do about him not attending school. That the state doesn’t allow this to be considered neglect. I contacted a children’s advocacy group and they said the school should have caught the second time my ex tried to enroll my son into the same grade (9th) as he left a year before to be privately homeschooled and then signed him out again to be privately homeschooled when he started failing to show up for school. I decided after having 3 attorneys who took my money and didn’t care enough to help my son that I would take my ex to court myself. I spent a day at the courthouse copying the paperwork necessary to go to court on my son’s behalf. I didn’t have him served correctly. I was determined and went through the process again. This time the judge told me I didn’t have the correct paperwork coincide with what I was asking for. I told him I just wanted my son in school and that he had not been in school at that time in 3 years. The judge just said file the paper work and good luck with that. So that was my last option and the Family Court failed to do anything about my son’s education. To date my son is 18 and has an 8th grade education. He rarely leaves the house, is depressed, doesn’t want to go anywhere with me, has no driver’s license, and has no intentions of getting his license or a GED. He is not motivated. He has not matured physically as he still looks like a 14 year old child and is mentally broken. He was a well rounded, fun loving 14 year old child before my ex filed for divorce and his life was turned upside down. Seeing his mother assaulted by his father (father arrested, booked and fined), he was assaulted by his father, to the point he ran away. his mother having to leave the home due to domestic violence and losing her home and to date is homeless and living in and out of strangers homes. . I have done everything and spent all that I had on trying to help my son and got absolutely no help. I feel like I let him down and I don’t know what else to do or where to turn. Thank you for posting your article from October 26, 2012 I am hoping to change this unethical Dallas Family Law and the fraudulent education done by so many not really homeschooling their children but hiding behind the word. God Bless.
    .

  8. Wow–Thank you for writing this blog. I have been reading for 2 hours and I am just reeling from how excellent it is. Not only is this simply cathartic to me emotionally, your content choices are relevant and effectively communicated.
    Eshet Chayil! This means “woman of valor.” It’s a Hebrew compliment (not necessarily of religious connotation) and you definitely fit the description.
    Looking forward to future writings– Rachel C.

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