Thursday, December 26, 2013

Introduction: This Is Who I Used To Be (and other stories under the bed and in the back of the cutlery drawer)~

I've come to the decision to try and find the words to explain the way I was homeschooled. Many people in my life have been asking me to relay my "story", but I've discovered it is the most complicated topic for me to try and explain---to recreate, really---for someone else to wrap their head around. Oh, it makes sense in bits and pieces. In tiny tales. In a Big Picture Perspective. But for some reason, when I try to sit down and conjure up the images to then lay them back down again in writing, words fail me. They've been failing me for years now. I've realized it's because the scar is so freshly healed over. I still scratch at it. It itches. It often tears open. It's there for others to see and discuss and gawk at. I try to hide it, I really do. But I can't. Just as I often wear my heart on my sleeve, this scar is there for all to see. It is what has made me feel eternally awkward and out of the loop my entire life.

If you research the history of the homeschooling movement, it started out with some wonderful ideas based on valid concerns. However, it was basically co-opted by the Christian Right and ever since then, while there are certainly well-balanced, healthy, joyful families homeschooling their children, 75% of homeschooling is done for and by fundamentalist Christian belief systems. These systems are truly based on structural violence. They inhibit the natural process by which children can grow into independent adults. They are, by specific design, meant to brainwash, coerce, shame, and control a person's behavior far beyond their upbringing in order to affect and conform their future adult life into the very model by which they were raised.
My personal homeschooling experience was centered around my adoptive mother's unnatural obsession with abortion. She herself was never able to have a child---but nature was cruel enough to allow her to get pregnant, miscarry every time, and then keep trying. And, as a conservative Catholic with a staunch belief that all things birth control and family planning are "mortal sins", she continued to do just that. Over and over and over again, she allowed herself to go through the disappointing process of attempting to carry fetuses that were never viable past the 12th week, no matter how many physicians compassionately told her that she was merely harming her own mental well-being by doing so. She was still getting pregnant well into her 40's when I was a teenager. But these two people had adopted 4 children, all under the age of 5, within a couple of years, myself included. It was their duty in their mind, no doubt, to fulfill The Church's teaching to "be fruitful and multiply" and certainly for my adoptive mother, to fulfill her "womanly duty" of raising children in God's Holiest of Churches---the Roman Catholic one. The real issue arises here in that it wasn't so much that she chose adoption to create a family, or that she wasn't able to carry a fetus to term. It was the dangerous cocktail of her own shame-induced religious beliefs about women's roles and god's plans and the legalization of abortion in 1973 and her complete and utterly misinformed worldview. This shaped her into an angry, volatile, depressive who was unable to focus on the family she'd created and the needs of those children (particularly my 3 adoptive brothers), but rather upon her own "unmet" needs and desires. She became a religious fanatic of the most indisputable kind and focused our childhood upon attending anti-abortion protests (being arrested herself countless times), homing pro-life cult leaders and their mentally unstable followers in our house, and trucking us to and from Mass and Confession and long Holy Hours spent in lonely churches repenting of god-knows-what. I grew up scrupulous, a neurotic. I don't put that lightly. I still carry with me some of the strange tendencies similar to OCD, but am thankful to have somehow overcome most of it by way of moving away, traveling, making many different kinds of friends, doing things that challenge me, reading the great philosophers, and of course, staying as far away from Fundamentalist Christianity in all its branches as possible.

Please be kind and compassionate as you read my following weeks' work. It is a very emotionally draining process to write about. I do not need your judgment. I do not need your advice. I am quite a happy, healthy, well-balanced and articulate person. I am writing this to eliminate the shame in those of us who were the pioneers of the religious homeschooling movement that erupted in the 1980's and to rewrite the story that so many of our parents try to tell. I'm also being a resource to Homeschoolers Anonymous, a support organization that reaches out to those recovering from mentally, physically, and emotionally abusive homeschooling experiences.


  1. Kudos on your bravery and the hard work you did to write about some very difficult stuff. I look forward to reading more.