The Benjamin Buttons of Homeschooling

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Brian Cook.

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Homeschool kids and alumni live in a strange time paradox.

As infants, we were “vipers in diapers.” Even though we couldn’t speak or walk, we were spanked because somehow we had the cognitive ability and will to rail against God, just like any other adult. Yet even though we had the power to determine our eternal destiny, we were nothing but property of our parents, void of any rights (other than the right to eternally damn ourselves, of course).

As children, we were raised under the banner of exceptionalism. We were always ready to defend our parents’ educational choices, always ready to proclaim the benefits of homeschooling, and always paraded around in little suits and dresses as if we were mini-senators and presidents-in-training. Those of us who participated in homeschool speech and debate had one Bible verse drilled into our heads over and over: 1 Timothy 4:12. “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”

We took this message to heart. We wrote it in our diaries; we typed it on our Xangas; we opened every speech and debate conference with it.

We lived our lives in such a way that our youth seemed meaningless. We took to State Capitols; we rallied for pro-life bills right alongside our parents and other adult peers; we have even testified on legislative floors. As long as we walked the paths our parents desired for us, our youth had no meaning. We were treated as adults, as fully human beings who understand the biblical worldview and had the power to proclaim it to all the nations.

But then we actually grew up. We become real adults. And we began to think for ourselves. We began to speak for ourselves. We began to disagree with those who raised us.

Then we, now actually adults, began to be treated as children.

Suddenly time reversed and we were told, “Wait until you’re older. Then you’ll agree with us again.”

So we waited. We became older. We still had disagreements. Then we were told, “Wait until you have children. Then you’ll agree with us again.”

So some of us waited. Some of us had children. We still had disagreements. Then those some of us were told, “Wait until your children reach school age. Then you’ll agree with us again.”

Some some of us waited. Some of us put our children in public school or private school or even homeschool. We still had disagreements. Then those some of us were once again told, “Wait until your children become teenagers. Then you’ll agree with us again.”

We are stuck in a perpetual state of childhood. Whereas we had to spend our actual childhood acting like adults and being paraded around as mature, we now spend our actual adulthood being rejected as immature children who are simply bitter at our parents.

It’s a lose-lose for us homeschool alumni.

We’re like Benjamin Buttons, starting our lives as mini-adults only to grow down into large children.


  • This is so heartbreaking. I need to hear this as a homeschooling parent: to give my kids radical permission to question my methods and choose differently.

    • I’m not sure I’d call it radical, more like common sense. I guess I mean that if you believe your children are equal in value to you (their intellect, emotions, sexuality, personality, etc is all equal in value to yours/your community), then it only follows that they deserve the same respect as you. So honoring their perspectives is common sense (& enlightening).

  • This is very powerful. And heartbreaking. I know personally this is true.

  • This is a powerful post. And always reminds me that whenever my husband and I do have kids, we can choose to be different. We can dare to dream big and allow our children to dream big also, not confining them to stereotypes, but rather helping them be free!

  • Wow! I thought I was the only one!! Thank you for posting.

  • It’s almost like (some) parents who homeschool become ultra-controlling. Through the years they take on so much of the responsibility over their children that they cannot let go.

    • Not to mention that there are some parents who homeschool because they’re already controlling.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        “It’s not so much that ‘power corrupts’ as power attracts the already-corrupt and easily corrupted.”
        — Frank Herbert, author of Dune

  • We were treated as adults, as fully human beings who understand the biblical worldview and had the power to proclaim it to all the nations.

    Well, gurgle haw-haw, nice try…. We were not treated as adults! How many fucking adults would our parents treat with disdain to their faces? How many adults would our parents routinely shame and blame and physically insult and harm! This is bullshit. We were treated like dogs and beasts in need of training. We were yelled and told we were stupid. We were fucked around routinely because GOD! You were a puppet-thing to be dressed and learn tricks, not some adult at all at all… Why would you use such a dodge? Your parents fucked you, asshole, and you still protect them with your intellectual dodges. Your youth was stolen from you and your childhood too. Fuck them and fuck you if you want to protect them from the truth. This is not some game. There are people reading this blog who are being abused today and don’t have your freedom to play with words. Quit protecting abusers. You are not treated like a child just beginning with your maturation! You are a dog, a disobedient dog and your loving parents pray for you to come back into the kennel/fold.
    You viper. You useless dog who cannot even be trained. You devil. (Your childhood is gone forever. Your youth was ruined by them. Your adulthood is encumbered. And you say they treated you like an ADULT. Holy brain-rape.

    • I think you misread that sentence. I was saying we were *forced* to act as if we were adults while we were but children. So yes, our childhood was indeed robbed. That’s my point. I’m saying we weren’t allowed to be children when we were children and not that we’re adults we’re not allowed to be adults.

      • Having reread your words, I think you are being very very generous to your handlers. I carry a good deal of growl in me regarding the mistreatment of children by believers (and others) who act as if children are evil-born that must be harmed to teach them, corrected in their error, whacked for God. The whole punishment paradigm that reigns among cultic families and is justified by the black book, horrifies me. Such abuse. So when I read you saying that you were treated like an adult as a child, I have to disagree. NO parent who hits children, shames and blames and mistreats them as the excessively religious most often do, would ever try that same bullying and harm on ANY adult. They do it exclusively to their dogs and their children. There is an important point here regarding outright disdain for innocence that is roundly denied by Christians. They claim that their corrections are necessary and ordained by God. I say they enjoy harming others and woo-woo excuses assist them in their sick ways with children. The very idea, the very concept that a loving adult could shame or hit a child for a good reason is utter mockery of true, human love.
        When Lee writes of Alec Bings in The Phantom Toll Booth, (I have not read it) I am reminded of the effects of dissociation among abused people, the survival mode that kicks in during active abuse where the body just kind absents itself and the child might float away to observe what is happening in horrible reality, as if from a distance. I know somebody who used to do that when her father abused her. When his hands began to abuse, she would leave, float up into a corner of the room and watch what he did to her from there. She was not treated as an adult. This kind of parent does not abuse adults, would never have the guts to attempt this kind of thing on somebody who could protect themselves. They find innocent children to harm…

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        I think you misread that sentence. I was saying we were *forced* to act as if we were adults while we were but children.

        I experienced something similar but for a completely-different reason (Cold War Kid Genius). With my IQ running around 160 and possible Aspergers, at age 8-10 my intellect was the equal of an adult’s and I related to adults better than kids anywhere near my own age. In a way, my IQ “forced” me to act as if I was an adult.

        You were a puppet-thing to be dressed and learn tricks, not some adult at all at all…

        However, the adults only saw that intellect, that Giant Brain in a Jar. NOBODY NOTICED THERE WAS A KID — A CONFUSED, OUT-TO-SEA KID CONNECTED TO THAT GIANT BRAIN. As a result, I got one of the side effects BAD — as my intellect raced ahead of my chronological age, the rest of my personality and social development lagged behind. (This is a normal side effect of growing up a Kid Genius, but the above lack of support for anything other than my intellect/IQ made it worse.) My emotional/personality development has consistently been that of a neurotypical between 1/2 and 1/3 my actual age.

        Though I was raised about as far from Christianese Homeschool Culture as it was possible to be, since discovering HSA and other Spiritual Abuse blogs I have noticed I show many of the same symptoms as those who were immersed in it and got out. Different causes, similar damage.

    • Yes! These parents have a sadomasochistic pornographic fetish with causing children physical and emotional pain. And they want to encourage other sexually sadistic Christians to hurt their children too.

      We are born and raised in physical and emotional terrorism by or scum bag parents, oh how they love the bible.

      They are bad parents and bad people.

      • I would be happy to read your words regarding this kind of upbringing/training. You are clearly enabled to speak to the issue. They are bad parents, to say the least and are bad people too!

  • What you wrote reminds me of a character in “The Phantom Toll Booth”, Alec Bings. He’s a little boy who floats above the ground because he has not grown down to it yet. In his family, everyone’s head stays at exactly the same height their entire lives and their legs grow down until they touch the earth.

  • Pingback: Bad organizations dehumanize people. Sometimes good ones do too.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    We are stuck in a perpetual state of childhood. Whereas we had to spend our actual childhood acting like adults and being paraded around as mature, we now spend our actual adulthood being rejected as immature children…

    Like some sort of funhouse-mirror version of Michael Jackson without the fame and bling.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy, I think you are very much informed in your writing. It is true that the homeschooling aspect is ‘flavor’ of abuse and that the same emotional torture occurs in various and sundry ways. I am sorry your childhood was not respected and you surely know that this happened because the childhoods of your parentals were damaged long before you were a twinkle in somebody’s eye. I think that Arthur Janov’s work in helping harmed people free themselves of lifelong harm points in the right direction. he advocates client directed feeling therapy that allows the reliving/refeeling of essential experiences, and thereby allows them to come to fruition and pass on so that we can live less encumbered. This is not allopathy but the treatment of source pain, source harm. Have you looked at Janov at all? I would imagine that your intellect side is very much opposed to feeling therapy but the problem you express has to do with basic bonding, connection, a very emotional issue. If you had not been precocious would your parentals have been warmer and more open to the whole child you were? (Just questions, no answer required unless you want…)

  • Eleanor Skelton

    Mmmmmm. I feel this way often when talking to my parents. Stripped of my adulthood and “immature” purely by nature of disagreement.

    • I feel that way as well, but in my case since I am unwilling to agree the conversation stops, and I am told to stop acting like a child, which as a kid I got less of because I agreed many times with her ideas of every thing from God to politics. My opinion mattered more as a child then now, and it took me a while to figure out why.

  • Thank you for this post – I read the title of it, and thought to myself “this is me…. I feel like a Benjamin Button…” But I am so grateful for the ability and freedom to act younger as I want. I bask each day in the freedom of being able to lay in bed all morning if I want, or to have a long hot shower without someone else in the room, of being able to read what I want and listen to music on any radio station. I would rather she tells me I can’t understand and know the truth is that she is unwilling to see rather than agree with her and be blind again.

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