New Homeschool Parents, Be Wise: Shadowspring’s Thoughts
The following post by Shadowspring was originally published on her blog Love. Liberty. Learning. She describes herself on her blog as, “a home school mom near the end of my career home schooling and looking forward to what life has to offer next. I am a follower of Jesus and a lover of freedom, as it is for freedom that Christ has set me free (Gal 5:1).” This post is reprinted with her permission.
I am so proud of all the home school graduates I have met!
Without exception, they are all strong-willed, courageous people who are finding their own authentic way in life. I think that no matter the quality of one’s educational experience, or the degree of emotional nurture vs. emotional neglect or abuse even, home schooling in itself transmits these qualities by its very nature. To home school is to go against the flow of larger society, and children who are home schooled constantly hear that decision praised. Even the religious home schools (maybe especially the religious home schools?) are continually hearing that going against what is easy and popular when conscience calls you to do so is a good thing, the right thing, the best thing.
So it is no surprise then, that these home school graduates have a strong sense of responsibility to improve the lot of those who come after them. Homeschoolers Anonymous is a web site dedicated to sharing the stories of home school graduates that will not be featured at home school conventions or plastered on the cover of Practical Homeschooling magazine. (These stories need to be heard, too!) It was created by home school graduates, to help improve the lives of home schooled children who come after them. Their goal is to improve things by the shining the light on areas that need improvement. All of the stories shared there are authentic, written by home school graduates themselves. These stories need to be told, and the home school community needs to listen and learn.
New home school parents especially, be wise! Take notice! Don’t just listen to the home school salespeople trying to get you to be just like them. Do not be foolish, only listening to those whose children are still at home. They have the option of still believing they are doing everything right and because of that, they can predict how life will turn out for their children. Those whose children are already grown adults, that’s who you should be seeking out for advice.
You are in a much better position than earlier home school parents, because you have the opportunity to inspect the fruits of the labors of home school parents who came before you. Make the most of that opportunity! As scripture counsels (Proverbs 18:17, Luke 14:28-33), get all sides of a story before you decide. Really investigate what you are trying to accomplish. Check out what has already been done by other people so you can figure out what you want to do differently and what you want to emulate.
I realize this will be difficult, for many reasons. One is that when a family experiences “failure” — any result that is outside the advertised shiny, bright, happily subservient, doctrinally and sexually pure teenager — that family will disappear from most home school support groups. Sometimes they are kicked out, but more often they drop out. These parents may feel ashamed that the product of their home school didn’t turn out as advertised. They may be asked to leave, especially if the results they are experiencing don’t conform to the religious side of expectations. A poorly educated but morally upright teen/young adult is not nearly so embarrassing to many home school support groups as a teen/young adult who is seen as morally compromised.
On the other hand, they may leave the support group because of disillusionment. When their marriage is falling apart, their teenager turns up pregnant, or is caught doing drugs, shoplifting, looking at porn, etc. then they may wake up to the fact that they have bought into and been promoting a lie and want no part in it anymore. Or they may be compelled to put their children in public school because of any number of reasons — a severely ill parent, financial constraints that require the home schooling parent to work — and so leave the home school support group. All home school support groups require that a family be home schooling to belong, so any family that stops home schooling for any reason will not be at support group meetings sharing their stories. You will have to search them out.
And the final reason that talking to home school graduates, and parents who have graduated all their students, to see where life takes them, is the passage of time. You won’t hear about gay home schooled Christian teens because they don’t come out to their parents until years have passed since leaving home. You won’t hear about atheist home schooled graduate of Christian home schools because they don’t leave the faith for years after leaving home. In fact, you won’t hear about any of the graduates who go off script after leaving home unless their dong so actually involves criminal activity that splashes across the headlines, like the Couty Alexander story in Louisiana.
A summary of the Couty Alexander story: A home school boy dutifully marries the courtship bride his and her parents decided upon. His wife gets pregnant right away because they follow the script and don’t use birth control. Coudy goes to work, and interacts with people outside of the home school movement for the first time. He falls in love with a co-worker, quite unexpectedly I am sure. He has never experienced such strong attractions before, as he was assigned his wife and wasn’t allowed to even date. He and the co-worker begin a romance. And somehow, truth always outs. His young bride finds out about the affair. Maybe he even told her himself, I don’t know. As she is packing to leave him, the weight of the shame that will fall on him from his community overwhelms him, and in a panic, he kills his young bride. That is a direct result of the Christian home school fantasy and the expectations he felt to fulfill them as a star of the movement. He was never allowed to just be Couty, and figure out who he was at heart and what he wanted. His life was dedicated to doing what his parents wanted, because somewhere along the line the Christian home school community became confident that what they wanted, God wanted. It ended in heartache.
All of the Christian home schooled youth want to please God. Those whose parents and churches claim to speak for God the most adamantly are the ones whose children are at most risk of leaving the faith eventually. You can not control their environments forever, and eventually they will start to run into the mysteries of life and find the pat answers they were taught are insufficient. You will read many stories along this vein at Homeschoolers Anonymous but you won’t hear them at your home school support group. They won’t be brought up onto the platform at home school conventions (though some were paraded there back when they were still teens at home) to tell their story today. They will not be featured in home school magazines.
All of which is a real shame. The inquiry for truth seems to have been abandoned by the home school movement’s leadership. They believe they know all truth, and so they just dismiss and ignore all reality that exposes their “truth” as a lie. Instead of being smart enough to listen to the adult children, children raised by all the standards and methods the movement promoted, leadership is just doubling down on the standards and methods that have failed. They turn deaf ears to anything that doesn’t support what they want to believe. That isn’t right. Home schooled children deserve better!
Finally, the absolute worst stories out there, the ones we as home schoolers want to ignore and should not, are the stories of child abuse. Sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, spiritual abuse is happening in the home school community, and the home school community had best address it! It’s no use trying to explain it away with the True Scotsman defense. Our adult home schooled graduates are well versed in the dynamics of logic and debate. No, it’s happening. It happened under our watch, under my watch. So, what are good home school parents going to do about it?
HSLDA’s response to these stories of neglect and abuse? Silence. Denial of being in any way responsible for these children. Not shock, not horror, not remorse. Instead of leading the charge to put distance between nurturing home schooling families and abusive home schooling families, something that can only happen with transparency and accountability, HSLDA is trying to make it easier for abusive parents to home school. Witness this recent attempt to remove all transparency and accountability from the home school law in Iowa. The current regulations are not burdensome and they are working well. Why would HSLDA be working to remove all accountability and transparency from Iowa home school regulations?
That’s a question every home schooling parent, every home school support group leader, every home school support group member, should be asking themselves. I know I never had anything to hide, and was in fact proud of the education and the home environment I was providing. If you, home schooling parent, can’t say the same, you shouldn’t be home schooling. You should make sure your children receive lots of love, good nutrition, emotional nurture and educational opportunity every day. If you are doing that, and I believe most home schooling parents are doing just that, then you should be open and transparent to the community in which you live about what goes on behind your closed door.
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. ~ 1 Peter 2:12
The public needs to be able to see your good deeds. Being transparent and accountable honors God. Don’t seek to hide in the darkness of obscurity, be eager to show the world the wonderful work that your home school in accomplishing! Do it for the children, because Jesus calls us to love children (all children, not just our own) and treat them with dignity and care. Read carefully Matthew 18:1-9.
It’s time for the home schooling community to cut out and cast away families that abuse their children! The only way to do it is to come out in the open and show the world what’s happening in all our home schools. The righteous will be rewarded, the wicked will be found out, and all of society will be better off for it.
Lead the way, home schooled graduates! Lead the way, new home school parents! Don’t let the old guard lock you into making the same mistakes they (we) made. Do it not only for your children, but for all children. Heads up! You are the new face of home schooling. Please let it be an open and honest face, publicly displayed, that has nothing to hide and much about which to proudly smile.