I Was An Abusive Homeschooling Mother: Brook L.’s Story

I Was An Abusive Homeschooling Mother: Brook L.’s Story

Trigger warning: this story contains a detailed description of physical abuse.

I was an abusive homeschooling mother.

I can’t change that fact by writing about it.

I’m hoping to raise awareness about the higher potential for abuse in a family that homeschooling makes possible and the dangers of the Pearl child raising methods by speaking out about it, as one who has first hand experience. And partly I’m speaking up because I am still trying to recover a sense of myself in the aftermath, which is still unfolding in our lives like a years-long train wreck from which we can’t escape.

My husband and I were fervent Pearl followers, which is strange considering that he was a non-believer.  However he used other arguments to come to the same conclusions.  After a devoutly religious friend sent us some No Greater Joy newsletters we ended up buying and reading, and re-reading, almost all of Michael Pearl’s books concerning child raising.  We also bought his book To Train Up a Child by the box load and gave it away to people at every opportunity.

I was a young and uncertain college student when I met my husband to be. He was 16 years older and had been living alone for many years.  He was set in his ways and could be described, by a generous description, as eccentric. At first it seemed we both wanted the same kind of life: that of being semi-self-sufficient on a small farm.  He had the land and skills to make that life possible.

Most pertinent to this story, he has the soul of a lawyer.  He loves argument more than anything in the world, and spends much of his time devoted to it’s study and practice.  Esoteric disputation, definitions, shades of meaning, debate techniques, and hard-core allegiance to “principles” over relationships is what made it so easy for him to adopt the Pearl techniques, blowing away any objections I, or my mother, might put forth.

I must accept blame however.  I must make clear that I chose, in the face of conflict with my husband, to submit myself to his will in all things.  I made that choice.  No one else made it for me.  I felt that it was a good choice at the time, for I could not stand up to him in argument, and I could not stand conflict.  I wanted to have a real home for the kids, with a real dad, like I never had as a girl.  As time went on I was baptized and accepted that being a submissive wife was my calling from God, as preached by Debi Pearl.  I was determined to make it work and keep my husband happy at whatever the cost.

It turned out that the cost was very, very high.  Accepting his will in everything meant living without electricity or running water while living in a small decrepit single wide trailer, having a baby every two years, not going to the dentist ever or doctor regularly, wearing dresses, not wearing make up, not cutting my hair, doing all the cooking,gardening, food preservation, never buying anything, not celebrating any holidays or birthdays, not leaving the house without permission, and forbidding my mother to come visit on any occasion whatsoever.  I essentially lost contact with the outside world and became completely consumed with the vast number of everyday chores that were my duty.

For the children it meant that they had no birth certificates, no social security number, no vaccinations, and no friends.  It meant being spanked regularly, without mercy, until their “wills were broken”, as the Pearls’ say.  To do anything less would have been to allow “evil” to flourish in their very souls, and what a bad parent one would be then.  When the children got older, it meant they were “homeschooled”, which also became my job.

I loved my children.  Being a housewife with kids on a farm had been my ambition since I was a little girl.  I was never spanked as a child.  I never thought that was a good idea.  Our family’s exposure to the Pearls’ child raising ideas came along when our first child was two years old.  I was appalled.  But my husband, devouring the Pearl’s books, found many arguments to use on me.  Eventually I simply came to the point I always came to with him.  I gave up and let him have his way.

According to the Pearl philosophy however, I could not choose to be an innocent bystander.  No, it would not do to let dad do all the spanking.  The children would notice.  Mom must also do her part so that the children would know there was in essence, no escape.  I too must hit my children with sticks for the slightest disobedience or even tardiness of obedience.

And hit them I did.  The change in parenting hit my poor two year old daughter like a brick wall.  The first spanking was at least an hour long.  She, of course, did not ‘submit’ at all, never having experienced anything like it.

I believe the first command I gave her was over something relatively minor.  The second was to stop crying after her first spanking.  Of course she wasn’t going to stop.  According to the Pearls’, to stop crying was a command I was supposed to be able to give and get obedience.  I am here to tell you, it takes a long time to spank a child until they stop crying.  Their bottom gets red, welts start appearing.  You take breaks and waste your breath on endless explanations between the hitting about how you are not going to stop until they obey.  Eventually, they start trying to hold their breath while they sob, making a sort of hiccuping gasp with moans and gurgling in between, while the demanding parent tried to decide what point really constitutes “stopped crying”.

It is a horrendous thing to witness, to perpetrate.  It makes my blood boil to think of it now.  It was completely mentally and physically and emotionally exhausting at the time.  Both myself and my now ex-husband deserve jail time for what we did.  We really do.  But that really would not take the past back.

The beatings (can I now call them what they really were?) continued almost everyday.  The Pearls’ say that you should be able to spank less and less.  That the children will come to joy and peace and trust through this method, over time.  But this much awaited magic never happened.  Our oldest two children as time went on, became angrier and angrier.  According to the books, this was because I was not being diligent enough in my applying of discipline.  So, we spanked more and more as time went on.

More and more beatings.

More and more screaming.

The oldest girl got spanked over school lessons too, the few we had time to fit in.  It was especially bad in areas of math and Spanish.  Dad would butt into our lessons, and ask her if she understood what he was telling her.  If she said yes she did, but then she could not demonstrate understanding, she was spanked for “lying”, for saying she understood when in fact she had not.  Of course, she wanted to stay out of trouble and was trying to say what she thought he wanted to hear but became trapped in a no-win situation. She was also spanked for not being able to correctly pronounce Spanish words, he said she was simply “not trying”.

To this day, our girl cannot learn math or Spanish due to her emotional block to those subjects which were the setting for some of her worst tortures.

Our second child, a boy, was not so much under my attention where school was concerned.  His dad toted him around with him all the time.  This meant that instead of learning to read and write, he was standing around most of the time with nothing to do, no one to talk to, with frequently not enough warm clothes on and nothing to eat or drink.  His only task was to stay quiet and out of the way.  He had night time sleep walking episodes which involved peeing on the floor, for which he was severely whipped with the belt.

I could go on about the abuses that myself and their dad handed out to them, but it becomes tedious.

Occasionally we would go out as a family.  When in public we were always praised for the good behavior of our children. They were very quiet. They did not make scenes. What good children we had. It makes me sick!  My ex-husband points to these praises as evidence of how righteous our treatment of the kids was back then.  Our friends and neighbors never saw the terror our children were experiencing.

Five years ago I left that whole situation.  I moved into a modern house in a town.  I put the kids in school.  I got them birth certificates, social security numbers and vaccinations.  I stopped hitting them.

He fought me on all these things.  However, he too was forced to stop hitting his children.  He was also forced to put in running water and a septic tank.  After significant and extremely drawn out legal machinations, the oldest two children were given the choice to visit him or not.  They never want to see him, or talk to him, and now live with me full time.  He insists that I am the one who alienated them from him by telling them lies about him.  He cannot forgive me for “taking away his authority”.  He makes no effort whatsoever to contact the older two and seems to have completely given up an them.

When they first went to school, the oldest girl was put in seventh grade, according to her age, the boy in fifth.  Our youngest was two at the time, so she did not go to school.  However our other three children also entered school according to their ages: kindergarten, first grade, and third.  It was a stressful time for all concerned.

The oldest girl spent her first year in school crying because she did not know what to do.  She also got pneumonia and had to be hospitalized.  She repeated seventh grade the next year.  She will probably never be able to do math.  She displays PTSD like symptoms, with constant anxiety, rage, and feelings of low self-worth.  She threatens to commit suicide and goes to therapy regularly.

Despite not being able to read, write or do math when our oldest son first arrived in fifth grade, he was barely promoted to sixth the next year.  Now he has almost caught up to his grade level in his academic subjects, though his hand writing is still horrible and his reading is still slow.  He has anger issues on occasion and can be a bit of a bully.  He is aware of this and really wants to do better.  He spurns his father, yet suffers from a lack of a father.  He is in boy scouts.

In contrast, the younger four kids are making straight ‘A’s and winning writing, art and science awards.  They excel in everything they try.  They do not suffer from low self esteem.  They have friends.

Yet their father still wants to homeschool them, and has told them that homeschooling is better than public schooling, based on the results of studies.  He has got some of the kids convinced that they want to be homeschooled by him by using his powerful arguments.  He and I are going to go to court soon regarding this issue.

He is a member of HSLDA.  I was interested to read from the site of Homeschoolers Anonymous the transcripts of speeches given by [former HSLDA attorney] Doug Phillips at the 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit.  His vision of having CPS abolished, and homeschooling girls to be housewives instead of considering having a career is truly terrifying, and made me realize that this whole thing is of a scope that goes far beyond my family.  I had previously thought we were strange exceptions.

What happened to me and my children could happen to anyone who becomes isolated and vulnerable, and if homeschooling is allowed to occur with such little oversight.  Unfortunately abusive parents will exploit that opportunity for everything it is worth.

Abusive parents, like me.

52 responses to “I Was An Abusive Homeschooling Mother: Brook L.’s Story

  1. this is very hard to read. i’m so sorry you did that. i’m so sorry to your children, i’m so sorry for the teachings… i’m glad you left before your children were harmed more.
    i wish i could burn every one of michael pearl’s books, but that wouldn’t help, really. it wouldn’t change the desire for control and certainty of outcomes in some parents :/

  2. This is very disturbing. Bravo to you for coming forward and telling your story. I’m sure it took a lot of strength to get out of that situation and change your ways.

  3. Oh, wow. I would like to connect with you. We went to Pearl seminars. I have a similar story on my blog about my participation in abuse because of the patriarchal home environment. Your story needs to be told. There are a lot of “us” out there. Thank you for sharing it.

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  5. I understand your story better than most, as you have essentially described my own. I feel your pain, your guilt, your regrets. I hope that you, too, are getting counseling. Unfortunately, the wounds your older children endured will continue breaking open long after you all think they are healed. My oldest daughter and I are still working out how to have a good relationship with one another, because every time we try to spend time together on a daily basis, something I say or do will trigger her again. All I can offer you are some huge hugs, and the hope that with God, all things are possible.

  6. Oh, this is one of the hardest posts on here to read. I wept for you all. I have so much survivors guilt. I got out easy. But yet, you have gotten out and are transparent. There’s always hope.

  7. Thank you for sharing your story. It is an incredibly courageous thing to face our regrets.

    I work as a trauma therapist and incorporate the work of Somatic Experiencing into my treatment of people with backgrounds such as yours and your children. I highly recommend this approach for the healing of the physical effects of trauma, as well as the emotional.

    I’ll post a link to a provider directory~ Of course, as with any therapy, the practitioner is more important than the method, so I recommend an initial interview and asking the question, “From my gut, do I feel comfortable talking with this person?”

    Best wishes with your recovery, and your new life~~

    http://traumahealing.com/somatic-experiencing/practitioner-directory.html

    -nancy

  8. I’m so glad you have left the Pearls horrors and your children are doing better. Evil (yes evil) people like the Pearls should be jailed for brain washing so many sad and lonely minds. I hope you are in therapy too. Hugs and prayers on the journey you have taken. I think it’s wonderful you found the strength to go.

    ~Honey

  9. This sounds so so much like what I had growing up, like the story my Mom would write if she wasn’t still ideologically attached. I did develop PTSD and I struggled with math and foreign language when I started public school in 9th grade. I just want to say how much I respect you getting out and also writing about it here. I know you didn’t dwell on your pain and fear in this post but I know it was there. It had to be so scary to leave, to do all these things you’d been taught were “bad” but were necessary to have any semblance of a decent life. My Mom didn’t leave my Dad until she was 20 years and 9 kids in. Thankfully my younger siblings have a different life today too. Hopefully others will read this, see themselves in it, and know what you did to get your family away from that mess can be done. Thank you for being brave.

  10. Congratulations for the strength to finally leave. Imagine the guilt if you had stayed and rediscovered the moral world later. If I had a manic wand the pearls would be in jail for encouraging and supporting violent assaults. My second wish would be for all those damaged, parents and children to get emotional redress. Finally surely one of these families should be able to sue these evil people? What they are promoting is criminal assault and what they cause is long term disability occasionally death.

  11. Your story is…so troubling to read. Thank you for sharing it in order to bring more awareness to the kind of situations that homeschooling can allow to occur so easily. I don’t know if it helps, but, although the past happened, you ended up being very strong and advocating for yourself and your children in the end. I was never physically abused (just emotionally and spiritually), but, as a former homeschooled kid, my mother never has gained the strength to advocate for her kids and figure out how to get “unbrainwashed” as it sounds like you have done.

  12. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It obviously took a lot of courage. I’m a single mother and I homeschool my child. I only wish these stories didn’t always make homeschooling seem so awful. I’ve never read a book by the Pearls and don’t plan on it. We live in Los Angeles, have lots of friends from all walks of life, and when I mention the idea of public school, it is my daughter who protests. I don’t want her to go back to public school, but its hard to find work from home and keep us afloat. If anything, my daughter is ahead of the game, not behind. Still, I personally come from a background of a great deal of physical and emotional “discipline.” We were the ones so “well behaved” (scared to death). We went to private schools, and some years public schools, and no one knew. I know my Dad has a good deal of remorse although I didn’t see it until my twenties. He has repented and his faith and hope are in Christ. I was the angry, rebellious one for so long. God saved me in spite of myself. We all have every reason to keep looking at the finished work of Jesus on our behalf. Not only because He paid for our sins, but for the sins of those who sinned against us. He is so amazing! So, its not the style of schooling, but we’re sinners in desperate need of God’s grace. The enemy wants us to keep looking back but we know we are to “press on” with our eyes on Him, our gracious, merciful, redeeming God. All that said, (please excuse no paragraphs here) but I admire very much the courage it took to leave your environment and get your children to safety. Clearly your heart is to share with others who feel they are alone in this and I hope and pray anyone reading this will have their eyes opened and/or find the courage to get out of the system. My cousin is deeply engrained in the VF philosophy, has isolated her children, hurt her family, and I can clearly see that she is suffering. I hope and pray she will actually get on a computer one day and read your story. God bless you. Caron

  13. Thank you for your bravery in sharing your story. If you ever feel like telling more of the story, I think some of the “getting out” details could be helpful to others. My journey just to getting paperwork documentation for my kids has been long (and is not over), and I was really surprised to see someone writing about living like we did. I know my kids are not the only un-vaccinated, un-documented kids, but people make me feel like we are such an anomaly that they don’t know how to handle us. (It works as long as you don’t try to join modern society.) I’m just curious if it was difficult for you to get the paperwork, and how much you had to force his hand in order to get “normal” documentation for your kids. My husband tells me I need to stop being angry or impatient about things, but it is very hard to not feel frustrated about all of the wasted time and energy because of living a non-traditional life.

    • The worst thing to get document-wise was a passport for my oldest girl. So far, she is the only one of my children who has one. It almost did not happen and she was scheduled to leave the country on a school trip. I finally remembered there had been a newspaper announcement about her birth, and that was allowed as evidence of her existence.

      Due to the requirements involved, which are increased for delayed birth certificate holders, I really do not believe my oldest son will ever be able to obtain a passport. He lacks the three pieces of evidence required. I only have two.

      The process for the birth certificates and social security cards was tedious and long. We had to go visit the social security office in person.

      I feel for you. There probably are not that many undocumented kids around.

  14. The Pearls are evil personified. They are what Jesus died on the cross to save us from and they pretend to tout Christian teachings when what they are teaching is brutialization of the most helpless. Our family belonged to a church system that was bad but not quite as bad as the Pearls but we rejected the first time obedience and hyperspanking but not before we were guilty of excess ourselves. I am glad this is coming to the open air and I am glad that some of us are being treated more tenderly than we deserve.

    How many times were our motherly instincts trampled under the boot of patriarchal superiority?

    • To me that is the heart of the Pearl deception- I was told not to trust myself, but to trust my husband instead. That God would lead me through him.

      They paint a picture of your heart’s desire: that of a happy, loving family… and tell you that you must over-ride your natural reactions and impulses to achieve it.

      And it worked, I did ignore my own feelings, for years! …Until I finally could not ignore them any longer… I woke out of a nice dream into a real-life nightmare, and had to face what I had really been doing to my kids.

  15. Congrats on getting out.

    I have personally had the greatest success in treating PTSD utilizing EMDR therapy with a trained and experienced license clinical social worker. You may be able to find a suitable practitioner in your area at this link, http://www.emdr.org. It is the only therapy I know of that actually cures (removes the biophysical results of trauma to the brain) PTSD. You owe to yourself and your family to check it out.

    Peace and good will, SS

  16. Wow, I wish I could just shake the hand of each and every one of you who has taken the time to reply to this article. Writing it and making it public has taken more of a toll on me than I anticipated.

    When I wrote it, I was thinking, what if there are other people out there who are in the same situation, who might read it someday, due to the wonders of the internet, and what if it helps them in someway, won’t that make it worthwhile? But there is another side of me that would just like to forget, and escape the shame of what I did by hiding.

    It is both comforting and disturbing to hear from people who know all to well what I and my family have gone through. I did leave out an awful lot of the story in the interest of brevity.

    Actually I would really like to hug each of you. Because what happened is so sad. And it can’t be undone. Because you are still compassionate to me, when I was such a monster. Because you have done it too, or know someone who has. Because there is nothing anyone can really do to prevent it from happening again to someone. Because my ex says that I made it all up and am delusional, and there are many who cannot understand, or feel threatened or disgusted by me.

    It’s really very overwhelming.

    • Brooke, I met you when you were a lovely young girl in Galveston. I worked with your mother for a while, and my uncle accompanied her to West Virginia once. I was very concerned when Vaughn told me about your life in Marlinton, which is my birthplace. I wondered how you were going to adjust to such a primitive lifestyle. I grew up poor without utilities many times–oil lamps, outdoor toilet, etc.but it was a matter of necessity at the time, not choice. I was an abused wife in my first marriage and had to flee from the abuse, but I had no children to see abused. However, I had an abusive dad and I remember the terror when he was angry and hitting my mom. As I read your blog, I could feel some of the emotions you went through. I am a Christian and I wonder how this very dark experience affected your spiritual life. I am glad you are free from this oppression, and I pray for healing for you and your children.

    • I thank God for that CPS worker that probed into your case. That they had the determination to investigate what was going on and to get to the bottom of it until it was exposed, otherwise what might you and your children be going through right now. The world needs more determined social workers and CPS workers who truly won’t stop until they find the truth for the children. I hope you and your children are doing well and that you will continue to turn to God for your hope and determination to help your children regain the sort of normal life style that they should have had all along.

  17. Thank you for sharing this important story. While what you did is terrible and cannot be undone, your brave decision to turn away and refuse to continue doing it has saved your younger children and will at least help your older two. Admitting that you were wrong is one of the hardest things a person can do. Forgiveness comes slowly from other people and from yourself, but God forgave you as soon as you changed your path and will help you move forward.

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  19. Omg Brook, a story that needed to be told. I witnessed an action of John’s that made me question his parenting. What he said is not what he did. I once was subject to abuse as where my children, spending several years in court, several years in therepy. My oldest will not speak to me, my second will, but our relationship is clouded by his father and distance, my daughter and I are very close. Children decide for themself as they age. May your road be brighter, each turn you make will always bring a new challenge , you are a strong, intellegent woman with a mother who has wisdom and love. Continue your path, please take with you, our sisterhood of abused women do stick together

  20. Congrats on getting out and on your bravery to write this article. It was very hard to read, but I am very happy you and the kids are out of that horrible situation. The Peals are evil people!!! I was in an abusive relationship for 8 years, it had nothing to do with the Pearl teachings but I can relate. Keep healing and smiling and may god bless you. You are a very strong woman.

  21. Brooke you are a very strong lady to have been able to overcome what you have and be a better person for it. I admire you for having the courage to leave the situation you were in for you and your children. Thank you for sharing your story.

  22. Brooke, this story must have been extremely difficult to write and took an emotional toll on you. It is sad to realize that I probably lived no more than 10 miles away and was oblivious to what was going on. Thank you for opening my eyes and more importantly thank you for your courage and determination to get out of the situation and make a better life for your children but also for you.

  23. I can’t imagine how difficult it was to write this article. The admission of your part in this behavior is admirable. Best wishes to your older children in overcoming the challenges they are having. I have seen the younger kids art work and it’s amazing. Good luck Brooke, you have courage and that’s admirable too.

  24. Brooke, I have watched those kids grow over the years, and they have turned into some of the sharpest, and most polite children in the County. My only regret is not being able to represent you, pro bono, in your Family Court case. I’m proud of you for finding the courage to tell your story. You and the kids will be just fine. You have found your inner strength, and while I mean no disrespect and certainly don’t attempt to diminish the seriousness of the events you describe, but, kids are amazing in their ability to bounce back from bad situations. .

  25. As one who had contact with you and worried about emotional abuse I had no idea of the intensity of the corporal stuff. Your Mom would call me and I’d say she will leave when she’s ready and not much to do before that. Glad you found yourself again. Forget the guilt and put it into constructive actions like you have been doing. Peace Sister

  26. Brooke, several years ago your family to a place where I was working. I noticed your older daughter rubbing her arm and saw that her sweater sleeve was too short and was worn in places. Looking closer I saw briuses on her arm and wrist. I was going to call CPS about it but my boss at the time said I must be mistaken and wouldn’t let me. I am so sorry I didn’t follow through now. Good luck with the rest of your life and if I can help in any way please call me. On another note, is there anyone who was there soon after or during the birth of your son? If so a sworn affidavite could help with the birth certificate for him.

  27. Your honesty and courage will help your children heal. You did the right thing by telling your story to help others, and I admire you for that. It was disturbing to read this as I remember you on the Robert Hunsucker walks and wanting to reach out to you. I know you still have a difficult journey, my thoughts are with you.

  28. Thank you for sharing your story. Like everyone else, I admire your courage in facing your faults, errors, and weaknesses as a parent. One day you may even forgive yourself. You have helped so many through your honesty and sincerity. God bless you and thank you for sharing your pain. Your kids will recover and the healing has already begun.

  29. Good day. I am laying here in bed & I want to die. The only rhing that keeps me from killing myself is I dont want to add that to the bitter legacy I have already left them.
    I was an abusive mother. I have 3 sons. My youngest is fortunate in that by the time he was growing up I had started to change, so he does not seem to remember anything bad happening. I wish I could say the same for his brothers.
    I suffered from depression as a young mother, by the time my youngest son was 3 months I had attempted to kill myself twice. Haunted my a childhood where I was molested by my godfather my children paid the price.
    I was extremely strict, besting my boys for the least infraction. I also received compliments about how well mannered & behaved my kids were. Back then I also took it as a sign that I was doing the right thing. Now I understand they were terrified.
    The beating I remember giving my oldest son that is imprinted on my brain fore ver was one time we went to a birthday party for an older aunt. Near the end of the event my son had the nerve (sarcasm) to call himself having a good time with his cousins running around the tables & through/in between family members. I let him but when we got out side in the car I pummelled him right there in front of the place we were having the party. My son was maybe 9yrs old.
    But, the reason I want to die is even worse than that. My middle son at 6yrs old did something I didnt approve of. What I did next changed our lives forever, in my opinion.
    I hit my baby repeatedly with a metal broom. To the point where the broom was bent. To this day, almost 10yrs later I still wake up to the sounds of him begging me to stop. I killed my son mentally that day. That is what I know now.
    Eventually, it got to the point where protective services got involved when my older tried to kill himself, started drinking and just acting out in high school.
    By then I had actually stopped the physical abuse, but still mentally I was a yeller & it took me long time to stop that so I was still abusive, in my opinion.
    I want to die. I hate myself so much for the things I did.
    I see how my youngest is doing well in school- has always made the honor roll and pretty much is a great kid. He doesnt remember the fear but I wonder if my middle & oldest son dont wake up re-living their half of the nightmare and I hate myself even more.
    I have never spoken to anyone about these incidents b/c Im so ashamed. Im willing to accept that forgiveness is not ever going to happen for me, mostly b/c I wont allow it. I dont believe I deserve it, so it’s ok.
    I dont know how to deal with the pain. I would kill myself but I know it would just mess them up even more mentally (or maybe they would say thanks) The last time I laid a hand on any of my kids was probably the year of that beating with the broom.
    10yrs almost I have lived with this monster in my head. I think about people who want children & how I almost killed my beautiful gifts. I didnt deserve the beautiful kids that I was blessed with and I destroyed all their beauty. I took their joy, I stole their innocence & their happiness.
    Now, my boys are 19, 15 & 14. I am still depressed. I dont know how to fix this mess I made. I see cerrain things they do now and feel its connected to the trauma I put them through.
    I dont even care about my pain. I just keep thinking that if I feel this way, how must they feel when things trigger memories of their life with Mother Dearest. I would take all of their pain & bad memories into myself if I could God knows. But short of that I dont know how else to help them heal.
    My middle son pulls his hair out when he gets stressed, he has been to counseling for a while but I know he is still mentally detached. How could someone not be?

    I just want to know if there is anything I can do to fix this ugly mess.

    I dont know the Pearls. I was raised very strictly though & so I felt that was what I was suppose to do. I know there are those who will read this and hate me and I dont care, b/c I hate myself. But, I just wish I help my kids to heal & live decent lives.
    To this day at 42 I am haunted. Haunted by the things that my godfather did to me, haunted by the things I did to my kids. I just dont want them to be 42 and still have to wake up remembering the things I did to them.
    Im sorry to burden your page with this but when I searched the web this was the closest connection I could find. As a mother now I feel passive- aggresive in that I hesitate to even discipline my kids now. I dont know if I still have the right. But, yesterday we (my middle son & I) had a huge argument. And by the time we were done I was a raving, s reaming lunatic and now I am afraid that all the work that I was putting in to strive to help us get better just went down the drain & Im tired.
    Im tured of being an awful, evil mother. Im tired of figbting this demon in my head, Im tired of the guilt I feel. Im tired of keeping myself alive. I just dont want my kids to think well if mom can kill herself so can we.
    I totally wrote this entire letter b/c I needed to say it somewhere. Maybe someone will put me out of my miseey & that would be better b/c at least it wouldnt be suicide. I find myself entertaining this idea now more & more.

    But mostly I would hope that maybe a child who has survived something like this will see this letter & respond telling me how they managed to get over the abuse their parents put them through. Then maybe I could help my own kids a little better.
    Thank you for sharing a part of your life. Our situations are different but you are the only person I have who has “outted” themself as an abuser and I just want you to know I appreciate this.

    • Hi Kat,
      Sometimes you have to forgive yourself. Hurt people hurt people. You were hurt and you hurt others. Now you know that but the guilt is killing you. In fact, your thoughts of suicide show that the guilt and depression could potentially kill you.

      You are right that the best thing you can do for your sons is learn a different way of interacting but it sounds like that might seem so overwhelming to you that you don’t know where to start. Thing is, you have something special, a powerful tool – the desire to make a change. You care. You want to learn to do better and just need to have access to the right resources.

      I think one thing that people don’t realize is that doing abusive things is traumatizing to the person doing them too and you explained in detail what that side of it is like. I often think of beating up on my younger siblings and still feel awful about it. Thing is, I have put effort into learning how to be different, into not repeating what I know, and it has helped a lot.

      Your sons are older so you probably don’t need the kinds of gentle parenting resources that are used with younger kids, but instead individual and family counseling where you can all process what happened and what would be good going forward. I know that counseling can sometimes be hard to get and pay for (depending on insurance coverage) but if you don’t have insurance there are places that do it on a sliding fee scale, so calling around in your area you can probably find a place. It is hard to fight the shame and go in in person but it gets better, it helps, and it would be a good investment in the future of your family.

      Your kids may not be able to forgive everything you did or have the kind of relationship you might have if you’d never have done these things but I imagine that they want to forgive you and have a good relationship with you. Kids generally want to forgive parents, want to have relationships with parents. I know I do and if I thought my Dad was wanting to make changes I’d give him another chance. It’s natural to want that and it’s why so many do forgive parents who have done much worse things than you have done. So you are not unlovable, unforgivable, or past hope.

      You say you want to be there for your boys but in order to be there for them you need to be there for yourself. Maybe you don’t know how to do that because people weren’t there to show you how, but I figure the best start would be by making that counseling appointment and perhaps getting on antidepressants for a time to help with the wanting to die feeling. Then slowly process the guilt and begin to build anew. You might see it as too big of a disaster right now but fact is beautiful things come out of disasters all the time.

      You have not ruined everything. You are not unredeemable. You do not deserve to die. You can overcome this hardship and have a good life. If my Dad had what you have – the will to recognize what he did and to change – that would mean the world to me.

      • Heather, you are so on the money here with your comments. I will keep this family n my thoughts as they work to heal. All is not lost. And anyone who sees the error of their previous behavior IS deserving of forgiveness.

        Dear Kat, your children love you and you are still leading them. Keep working towards healing. You MUST forgive yourself. If you had known better wouldn’t you have done better?

        Now you do. Move forward. This is your past and some of the damages can be repaired. What can’t will not matter in the end. Let the future be better. Don’t quit on you or your children now!

    • Hi Kat:

      Your story resembles some of mine, abusive childhood, bad parenting, (stuff that I have even published on my own blog) as I have come to grips with the environment in which I lived for the last 20+ yrs.

      My heart really goes out to you. I’m not going to say anything about the abuse. I think the mental punishment we inflict upon ourselves can be so overwhelming and certainly lead to deep depression. You’ve been doing that for years and now it’s time to shift directions for your sake and the sake of your precious boys.

      I can sense your strong and overwhelming feelings of pain and sadness right now and that must be such a difficult place. If I were right there with you right now, I would tell you that for you to have come to this place of honesty with yourself and your children is a very powerful thing. It shows that you are on the path to healing. It may not seem like much, but I think it is absolutely huge. You are no longer living in denial or hiding.

      I also would highly recommend that you get counseling for yourself and your boys. You have some really difficult childhood issues that likely contributed to how you treated your sons and how you perceive yourself.

      Kat, you mentioned wanting to die. I do not want to dismiss that. That shows such a deep level of pain. If you need help, call 911. Go get help. There is no shame in that. Sometimes that is our mind crying out, “I need help!” Years ago when I was dealing with some of my abuse issues, it got pretty intense and I started feeling like I wanted to die rather than feel the pain. I went inpatient for a time and it was helpful. It removed me from my everyday responsibilities so I could get the help I needed. I came out a much more healthy individual.

      I am also an abuse survivor who followed bad parenting teachings and have so many regrets. I want you to know that there can be healing of relationships. With honesty and tears and a whole lot of love, we are a work in progress and things are going so much better.

      Please take whatever you have left within you and fight to live in honesty and openness with yourself and your sons. Show them that you are not the same person (maybe you can use your comment as a springboard for discussion).

      One of the most common things I have heard from young adults since connecting with young adult “Homeschool Kids” is, “I wish my parents would be as honest as you have been with your kids. I can’t have a relationship with my parents because they are living in denial.” All of this tells me is that even despite an abusive childhood, it seems that so many young adults would like to have an honest relationship with their parents if only their parents would own up to their junk. I think you are there and you can do this.

      What a wonderful gift it would be to give ourselves and our kids a fresh new start with that honesty and vulnerability. My thoughts are with you, Kat. Feel free to contact me if you like, spiritualsb @ gmail.com

    • Kat,
      I want to echo what both Heather and Julie Anne have said so eloquently. I work as a counselor with survivors of abuse of many kinds and have seen incredible healing happen when people begin to take steps toward honesty. It sounds like you have begun that journey, and while it is difficult one, it is so worth it. You are so worth it. And of course so are your boys.

      I highly recommend a particular kind of therapy for survivors of abuse, physical or sexual. There are various kinds of “somatic” therapy. These approaches involve helping to discharge the physiological effects of the trauma response in the body, and integrating the experience in the body, mind and emotions. I’ll link below to two websites where you can search practitioner directories and find this kind of help in your area.

      Best wishes on your healing,
      -nancy

      “Somatic experiencing”
      http://www.traumahealing.com/somatic-experiencing/practitioner-directory.html

      “Sensorimotor Psychotherapy”
      http://www.sensorimotorpsychotherapy.org/referral.html

  30. Thank ladies for your kind words, they do give me some hope. Nancy, I will definitely by checking those links you shared.
    I just need to know they will be ok. My oldest seems to be on the right track again, ironically enough I am now (before finding this page) considering homeschooling for my middle son. I spoke with his dad about it & also with him and he really wants to do it. We actually had one of our longest conversations tonight talking about what it would mean. For his dad & I we feel that he suffers from low-self esteem (gee, I wonder why?) and that if he could be allowed to learn w/o comparing himself to others he would have a better school experience. Abuse is not an issue now, I just still am haunted by then Andi that is what tears me up inside.
    As for me, it will take me some more time to even consider sharing this with a stranger (or even a friend). I did end up telling his dad what I did (we are divorced but we have a good relationship where our children are concerned) he was never the disciplinarian I was. I dont know if he’s ever hit them to my knowledge. We discussed it and the consequences of it (this was 2 days ago when I first wrote). He is disappointed but also suggested I should probably look into counseling for myself as well.
    It.s just going to take me a second. It took me 10yrs to even get it out on here & to tell him. I dont see how anyone could hear me say these things and not hate me so I just need more time. I think I was hoping by telling their dad that he would hate me (he is not happy about it but he doesnt hate me-at least openly.) He went so far as to say that I was being a lil selfish if I just was going to punish myself for the rest of my life b/c that.s going to affect my relationship with them if I cant get this right in myself. I was not expecting that and I have to think about that b/c it makes sense.
    Its them visual/audio I cant shake, even today it just will come out of nowhere and it literally stops me, the memory of that moment. Anyways, I wont dwell here on that again and will absolutely follow the links. But, thank you for allowing me a place to get it off my chest for the first time in my life. I appreciate that so much.
    I wish you all the best and pray none of us ever give up striving to be better today than we were yesterday. I hope one day to be aboe to come back and update you all with a greatwr testimony than this. Take care everyone & thanks again. (please forgive my typos, Im on my phone and the buttons are so small)

    Kat…

    • There is no way a shrink will hate you for what you’ve done. They do not judge. They help people. It is their job. They’ve heard it all before, I promise you. Over and over. Your story is terrible but sadly it’s not uncommon. What is uncommon is that you stopped, and that you want to get better so desperately. Who wouldn’t like you, that you’ve been able to do that, against considerable odds? Shrinks understand the cycle of abuse through generations. They are trained to help. Talking to a stranger about it is a lot easier than talking to someone who knows you – look at how you can write about it on the internet. Aren’t we strangers? And if you don’t like one shrink, find one you do like. That’s the beauty of therapy – no judgement, and you get to pick who you feel most comfortable with.
      And if you won’t do it for yourself, do it for your kids. You owe it to them to get as healthy as you can so you can help them get healthy too. I had an abusive mom. She refuses to get help. I don’t talk to her anymore, or rely on her for anything. She’s too sick to help me, and any contact is painful. If she even tried to turn that around, I’d welcome her back. I need a mom. But as long as she’s sick like this, she can’t be one. Don’t be like my mom. Get better. Show your kids how it’s done. Show them how a responsible caring adult behaves. You can do that now for them. Model what you want them to be able to do for themselves if they are in trouble in their lives. Give them hope about their own pain. You can do it. No one is more motivated or devoted than you are. You’ve already begun to heal. Get all the way, show your kids there is happiness and goodness in this world by getting there yourself.

    • Hey Kat,

      I know you wrote this a month ago or so, but you’d asked for stories of children who got out of situations ok…I have a blog… hopethroughtherain.blogspot.mx …which documents hope through my life, as a child, growing up. I expressed my pain through self injury, among other things, but I am so thankful to be able to say that I am so much better now. How? A long series of things, from counseling, to recovery groups, to inpatient services…also learning to take care of myself through eating well, exercising and sleeping appropriately…but most of all, when hope just flies straight out of my mind, which it still does periodically, there’s one thing that keeps me going…it may sound cliche, but over the last 7 years of recovery, it’s what I’ve been learning…God is God and that changes everything. He sees, He knows, He understands…I can’t write anything here about it without it sounding churchy and cliche…but it’s true. And as for my mom…did she hurt me, yes…but through years of fighting to forgive and love her, I finally am able to. Is our relationship awesome? no. But I’m so thankful now. I just got married, and God really brought so much healing between us through that…
      All of that to say, Kat, from the kid perspective, there is also hope…please take a look at my blog if you want…it’s written for people exactly like you. There’s hope…keep looking for it.
      Hugs,
      Hopeful

  31. Hi Kat, I can feel for you, more than I can tell. Personally I would say that in your heart you are repenting, ask God, tell Him you are sorry and pray with the knowledge that He is more merciful than all and ask Him what path you should take ask him to soften your children’s hearts and to make their life good and to fix and erase the abuse. Many prophets (Noah and Jacob for example) who were sent by God to be an example to us (i.e. upright men) still had some “bad apple” children and many “bad” people still have very good children. If you accept that you are not the sole cause of your children’s fate and future, I believe you can truly rely on God, and really feel peace and closure; I did bad things, I have repented, I ask God to give me better actions and a good future as well as my children.

    For the kids, a few sessions of therapy or just yourself where you can “come out” and be honest and say something like “Hey I did some bad things in the past, many, for example I hit you with a broom , I did this and that . You were very hurt at the time and it was completely unacceptable what was done to you. I am very sorry. Then let them speak. Maybe ask them: Would you like to talk about it or ask any questions? Speak only what you need at this point or leave it silence. Don’t over burden them yet with having to make you feel better or choose your life direction. Then the next week or 2 be very careful to any openness they show about talking about it, be there to answer their questions, and be ready for some rage to show or anger and just try to let it bounce off of you. They need to feel a little “free” before they can truly confront their deepest pain. After 10-14 days, try to talk to each child individually and tell them this message: “I hurt you and your brothers. Too much. For that I will always be sorry. (Empathize their pain without talking about yourself too much or your feelings too much, this is all about them). Right now, I know I will never do this again to you or your brothers (this is your promise and commitment). I have prayed to God and asked forgiveness. I am not asking that you forgive me or that you be happy with me (remove their guilt and their responsibility by taking responsibility for your own feelings and emotions: you are leaning on God and not your kids to feel better).. I do want us to be family. I do want us to talk about how our relationship can forward. I would like to know how you would like us to be together, what kind of ways we can be together, how do you see my mother role and your son role as well as my mother role toward your siblings? (state your goals clearly and positively while leaving lots of room for your children to express themselves, you are the mom you have the duty to lead the family and express your goals).

    Really try not to put the question as a burden on the child: i,e, I have been feeling so down these last years, how can I be a better mom to you or I’ve been feeling so depressed about the past, how can we move forward together? It’s very important not to mention your pain at this point or your suffering, this is so that your child has the emotional and mental freedom to think about the relationship he is emotionally able to have with you without also him having to think about your pain/ your issues. He needs to be thinking about his needs and how to express these without being busy thinking about how is mom feeling etc.

    Go from there. Maybe read more on trauma in children and therapies that work. I do believe that a 3rd party may help the child (i.e. let them have other healthy relationships with adults) but also you can help so much by being there. After all, the worst thing after an abusive parent is a parent who is physically present but doesn’t even care enough to hit their child (i.e. completely ignoring a child or emotionally blocking them to make yourself feel better hurts a child in such a desperate way). You see this with young children who prefer a spanking over being ignored and they will insist on irritating behavior as long as they know you will look at them which = love them to the child.

    So while respecting your own inner limit (i.e. start small) try to let yourself be emotionally connected to them just 2-3 mins a day, there is a blog, http://www.ahaparenting.com that has some good ideas on connecting with teens etc. If your goal is clear your kids will eventually follow God willing. Also, be a mom, don’t lower your position just because of the past. You may choose that you no longer want to harshly discpline them however that shouldn’t mean you won’t tell them when they are late coming home or are speaking to you innapropriately, remember ever time you ignore these behaviors that = you don’t love them. Ignoring= no love. Also telling them rude= no love. If you tell them appropriately they will know you love them (even if they hate what you say, i.e. come home early they will get 2 messages: 1st message: Mom wants me home early=that sucks, 2nd message:mom actually told me to come home early which means she knew I was going out which means she is paying attention to me which means she loves me). So essentially your teen will think Mom sucks and Mom loves me :) but keep those Mom loves me messages long enough and God willing YOUR KID WILL GET THE MESSAGE: MOM LOVES ME.

  32. I just want to say that I consider you mothers as victims-and ultimately-survivors yourselves, of either bad influences or ideas or emotions. Please accept forgiveness and help wherever you can find it. You deserve it.

  33. I, too, was an abusive homeschool mom as I read books by the Ezzos, Pearls. etc. I was advised by my “Vision Forum” friends to be this kind of mom. When I bought Love and Logic, I was reprimanded and encouraged to throw it away….which I did. Having come out of that patriarchal, tyrannical environment, I am a happier Mommy. I am still a Christian and still a homeschooler but prefer books like Danny’s Silk’s Loving Our Kids on Purpose and Parenting Wild Things by Jessica Bowman. I was fortunate enough to be delivered from my patriarchal system and am prayerful that other Christian moms find a way to connect more with their kids instead of attempting to always lay down “the law.”

    The Pearls, et al like to blame anything and everything besides their materials for the abusive spirit with which they are used, and I agree to an extent. But on the other hand, those who attempt to tell others “what God wants them to do” with their kids, ought to tread lightly and humbly.

  34. Read your story yesterday. Still feel shaky from it today. It doesn’t read like an internet hoax but I hope it is one. Even if it isn’t real your story is another million people’s real stories. You recognize your appalling behavior, you are trying to set things right, you are sorry. All of that is to your credit. I was only a nanny, not a mother so there are things I do not understand. It sounds like you think you should not have “understood” those things either. I remembered kids I played with once or twice growing up who fit this profile and I suspect the worst. Completely nauseating.

  35. My family never followed the Pearls and were disgusted with them, and puzzled at why people who claimed to hold the Bible as their authority could follow teachings that were so unbiblical. I have done a considerable amount of research on the Pearls (and recently on Vision Forum), and though this story is shocking, sadly it is not as surprising as one might hope. :-( Things I’ve read by the Pearls have been extremely disturbing and some of the behavior of some of their own children is bizarre. My mom in hearing about some of the things their own child(ren) have said concluded that something was seriously wrong – and my mom is a pretty ordinary mother in many respects.

    Sadly, there are a lot of people out there who have had bad experiences in homeschooling, in particular where it is heavily influenced by patriarchy and people like the Pearls, Phillips, Prides, etc. My family, by the grace of God, managed to avoid that, and we had friends that did also. Though there was some influence, we never “fell into line” with the planned programs. I feel like we were really outside the box in more ways than I appreciated at the time. Maybe it’s because my own grandmother homeschooled her kids in the early grades back in the day when a lot of these “experts” were still weeing in their diapers and Rushdoony was just getting started in his career. So, we came from a very different background.

    I just want to remind folks – we didn’t all have horrendous homeschooling experiences. I’m grieved in my heart if you did, but please don’t assume that everyone or even most have had bad experiences because you did. I’m sorry now that I assumed that most people had good experiences because I did. I think there is still a lot of learning that needs to be done in many directions on this subject and I hope that we can avoid being polarized by people who have different experiences and views from our own.

    Micah 6:8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

    • That is a very fair and balanced point. It is nice to hear that there are many who have had positive home-schooling experiences and important to remember. It is not the practice itself which is objectionable, but rather the method in which it is executed.

      I just hate to hear the pain from mothers who ignored or squashed their own instincts and now regret it with such vehemence. It is important for mothers who are questioning these practices to hear from those who want change and wish they could undo some of the damage done.

  36. I’m surprised to see so many mothers with regrets on here. For what it’s worth I think that if you can acknowledge your actions, be sorry for the pain you’ve caused and ask your children’s forgiveness, then you are probably at heart good people who were led astray by ideology and circumstances. We’ve all done something we’re ashamed of, as long as we can acknowledge those things and learn from them, it’s ok.

  37. I can only imagine that emotional pain you and your children are going through. That you are aware and regretful of your actions is in keeping with God’s idea of forgiveness. We homeschool, more due to my husband’s work schedule (gone for months at a time), than for religious or disciplinary reasons. I hear arguments from well-meaning friends and acquaintances of the rise of abuse among the homeschooling community, but I was unaware as to it’s scope. We are part of a larger community that I will continue to reach out to and keep an ear to the ground of other families that may be experiencing abuse as yours has (for you, too, were abuse, my dear).

    You have my thoughts and prayers for future safety and love and stability with your family.

  38. I have been estranged from my abusive homeschooling fundamentalist family since I was 15 years old. I’m 24 now and though I have built a life I am proud of and benefited greatly from therapy, I will never forget my childhood and the horrific torture I endured at the hands of my mother.

    I’m not proud of this, but I was sure I’d hate you when I read the title of this entry. I was certain there was nothing you could say that would ever change the image I have of abusive homeschooling moms.

    This was hard to read and I did it with tears, painfully aware of what your children must have faced. And surprisingly, I found my heart softened toward you.

    You’re correct – you can’t change it now. But you did what I think I’ll always wish my mother could have had the goddamn strength to do: love me.

    Telling your story was brave and it is important. Thank you. You helped me find a sliver of forgiveness for my own mother. I sincerely hope you have forgiven yourself. I will never be judge or jury, but you should know from someone very similar to your victims that you deserve that. You’re working out your redemption. I wish you peace.

  39. I despise the Pearls’ writings, and I am so very sorry for what you’ve been through. I was blessed to not meet and marry my husband until late 20s. First baby is still young, and we have re-thought even the discipline we received as children, which was nothing like what the Pearls recommend.

    May I add, for new parents who are weighing so many issues, that exercising vaccine choice does not, in and of itself, constitute abuse? For most parents I know who do so, it is a very active decision based on much thought and what they feel is best for their children’s health, not on hiding from the government or society. And yes, kids can go to school if their parents exercise choice. I would love to connect with anyone searching, regarding this.

    Praying you all will know the God of mercy and comfort who heals through Jesus Christ, who was bruised for our iniquities. Truly, Creation groans and travails in pain, but He is our redeemer and HEALER. Praying He will do a work of healing in those still dealing with PTSD and similar.

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