How I “survived” my religious homeschooling upbringing

Guest post by Hayley
Storm Brewing

I have tattoos, I work in a library, I’m liberal, pro-choice, and try to eat local … and when I tell people I was homeschooled, I tend to get raised eyebrows. When I go on to say (if I’m feeling like starting a longer conversation, anyway!) that I was homeschooled religiously, the raised eyebrow tends to tell me they’re conjuring up images of me in a denim dress (the official homeschool mom uniform), probably mingling with my imaginary 17 brothers and sisters, straining to escape my homeschooled prison. Or, you know, something like that.

That’s the response I get now. The response I got when I was a kid was “What’s 8 times 7?”

Parents, the first thing I’m going to tell you is that if you’re homeschooling, or thinking about homeschooling a) it’s pretty awesome if done “right,” b) “right” is different for everyone, although some states have stricter guidelines about what qualifies as “right,” and c) your kid is going to be quizzed on their multiplication tables by strangers a LOT! My parents, before they were homeschooling parents, like to tell my brothers (two of them, not 17) and I of the time THEY were the ones quizzing some homeschooled kids they knew on their multiplication tables, because they felt it was their duty to make sure those kids-not-in-school-oh-my were getting a proper education. It’s pretty common. Get used to it.

Yeah… a lot of homeschooling curriculum is religious.

Being homeschooled in a religious environment had its pros and cons. I was part of that culture, so for me, my experience wasn’t as an outsider, but I don’t ever, ever, ever remember being taught to hate or fear any group, or that women should be subservient to men, or anything like what might be portrayed on certain TV shows about homeschoolers.

I thought people with different colored hair were the coolest people on the planet. Don’t let a group that bills itself as Christian keep you away right from the start. A lot of homeschooling groups are religious, but always be willing to give them a try. You can always pick and choose what your child is involved with.

I enjoyed my homeschooling upbringing, but I say it with a grin because truth be told: it wasn’t an ordeal.

That said, be prepared for lessons to be very overtly religious if the co-op you’re interested in bills itself as religious. Probably. I mean, if they say they’re Christian, they probably aren’t going to not mention it during meetings. Some of it might jive just fine with you, some of it might not. Check it out.

I enjoyed my homeschooling upbringing. It was really good for me. I’m not religious anymore, but my homeschooling upbringing wasn’t what drove me away. I’m still in contact with some people from those circles because they are amazing, intelligent, thoughtful people. Just like friends you have, I’m sure. I like to say I “survived” my religious upbringing, but I say it with a grin because truth be told: it wasn’t an ordeal.

Get ready to hear “your kid will be a hermit!” a whole lot.

People WILL tell you your child will be an unsocialized hermit. I PROMISE YOU. You will get judged, and your child will be judged, and people will be very up-front (dare I say, rude?) about asking you how you dare to lock up your child and not let them see the light of day. You will need to figure out how to answer these questions.

I like to regale people all the time of my weekly middle school schedule: swim class on Mondays, drama Tuesdays, creative writing Wednesdays, public speaking Thursdays, choir (Messiah For Young Voices) Fridays. Your child will NOT be a hermit if you find a network of like-minded people! I was a social butterfly growing up, and I socialized in activities with people in different peer/age groups on a regular basis outside of my neighborhood sphere AND got to hang out with the other kids in the neighborhood. I was anything but a hermit.

… When I started going to public school, I was the Hermione of the class …

One of the best things about growing up as a homeschooler was being able to take field trips ALL THE TIME. Our homeschool co-op took trips bi-weekly at least. We went to really cool places driving all over Pennsylvania in our silver Volkswagon bus and we got to go in small groups, so we got lots of individual attention, and having your mom there is good sometimes because they’re going to force you to ask questions! I think this was really good for me –- although I will say when I started going to public school, I was the Hermione of the class because I had grown up just assuming EVERYBODY was required to ask questions and answer them in class.

Trust me: homeschooling really is awesome, even though I ended up in public school.

Why did I start going to public school if homeschooling was the bee’s knees? There is one thing you should note: different places have different homeschooling cultures. I was homeschooled initially in a Philadelphia suburb. The homeschooling network was deep and wide. Then we moved to a rural southern area, and the homeschooling network was small and insular, and the homeschooling laws were also much more lax than they were in PA, so we were suddenly in a different “brand” of homeschooling and we simply didn’t fit in (suddenly, we were even more offbeat than before).

Look into the homeschooling culture of your area and see if there are groups that fit your wants. There ended up not being a good culture that fit *us* in that area… so I decided to go to public school. Sometimes, you do have to look at things and make the decision for whether you should continue or begin at all, given the location circumstances. And there’s my final piece of advice: if your child wants to quit homeschooling, hear them out. Sometimes, it’s just not right.

Comments on How I “survived” my religious homeschooling upbringing

  1. Heya! I was homeschooled in a Christian setting too … just wanted to wave and say hi! I ‘survived’ too, but I owe it to a mom who’s intelligent and not a herd-follower. Nor did she wear denim jumpers, tho many of my friends’ moms did!

    • I’m a super religious home-school “survivor” too and I would NEVER home-school my own kids after that experience. While I was a social person, home-schooling made me feel socially awkward, especially when interaction with my regular-school peers. But I never felt like my parents really explained to me WHY they chose to homeschool (other than that we lived in kind of a bad neighborhood and our school district was a little crappy), and our field trips were pretty minimal. I basically felt like I got cheated out of the normal kid experience.

      • I am a Homeschool “survivor”, and while I’ve seen Homeschooling rock, my experience did not. It left me deeply scarred. It was a very bad experience that left me afraid of religion and estranged from my family. There are still basic things (like most Biology and most History) that I’m having to go back and re-teach myself. I’ve learned later in life that I have several significant learning “difficulties” that were never addressed properly, I was just disciplined for being lazy. My parents were *those* parents.

        It’s been *years* of struggle trying to come to terms with the basic life challenges that a very poor Homeschool upbringing left me unprepared for. I still suffer a lot of social anxiety on an almost daily basis.

        That said, one of my dearest friends is an Elder in my church, and she Homeschools her daughters. It’s amazing, really, to see them, to see “family” (and church/community) done right (and by right I mean with love and support instead of judgment and fear).

        I respect her and her Husband so much for how they’re raising their family. Their girls are simply amazing (they love Jesus, but hey, guess what? They love pretty much everyone else too. Except bad guys). I’ve never once heard any of them use the derogatory terms I was raised with. And they’re so clever!

        Okay, maybe I’m gushing. Anyway..

        Because of what I’ve been blessed with the past 7 years of my life since I moved out of my parents house, I firmly believe that Homeschooling can be done and can be done well. My Husband and I plan on teaching any future little ones at home for a few years.

        For us, it’s a longer time when Mom and Dad are your full-time teachers and it can (I believe often does) give a child awesome one on one attention when learning the basics (reading, writing, arithmetic). The one good thing I will say about being Homeschooled is that I learned how to read really young and was considered and “advanced” reader all the way through High School.

        This post is a great guideline, thank you for writing it.

        • I was unschooled! My parents were (are) frick’n awesome. We had two rules: one hour of reading anything you want, and one hour/lesson of math.

          We completely avoided the uber-religious homeschooling groups and tended to gravitate towards the secular ones. My parents were very understanding and very into auto-didactism. They supplied us with so many college and high-school textbooks, we had experiments and field trips. I remember that the early days involved a fetal pig in formaldehyde in the laundry room hanging out above the washing machine. Eventually, my dad was asking us how long it had to be there before we did anything with it. My dad, being the computer nerd, provided us with computer programs and programming tools. He still does, and 3 out of 4(+1) kids are in college now. I adored it! There were lonely times, but those were when we lived in the middle of no-where BC, Canada. We travelled a lot, and have unschooled in Hawai’i (where we started), Texas, British Columbia, Washington, Arizona, and now Nevada. I was selected for two ‘high-school’ scholarships – one for an orchestral camp in Canada playing the bassoon, and one representing Canadian high-schoolers at a private school in MG, Brazil.

          My siblings have been involved in public schools on and off during their high-school years. My littlest sister took a theatre class, and is the youngest prop master for their theatre. My brother has been on football, baseball, and ski teams for quite some time. My other sister was involved with choir and ballet. My husband, the fifth child, was heavily involved with the Dallas unschoolers when he lived with his family. He participated in Youth and Government, and other various organizations. All of us started college/university at a young age (14-15 ish).

          There aren’t enough words to describe how much I love unschooling. I’m an Electrical Engineer/Applied Mathematics major, and my husband is a Mechanical Engineer/English major. All of my siblings are working on getting into the sciences. Math definitely was not our strong suit, but we persevered and we know how to teach ourselves anything.

          I’ve never felt socially inept; I just feel that most people don’t function/think on the same plane that I do. I’m an INTJ on the Myers-Briggs personality test, and that definitely shows in my social interactions. I feel that people lean naturally towards knowing how to interact with others, but if they are among those with the heavily anti-social inner leanings, they will flail about in any situation in their upbringing.

          My husband and I both plan on unschooling our children. We want to make different mistakes than our parents. (New ones! Proving that we learned from theirs. :D)

          If anyone has any inquiries or worries, please contact me! I will try my best to get back to you, but I’m currently in the middle of midterms so it may not be immediate.

          ETA: My parents were terrified at first, but very happy with their decision.

          • I love reading your experience about unschooling. I was thinking about doing this for my children. How did you learn about history and science? Field trips are awesome and I reading can

  2. I too was homeschooled (in western Pennsylvania), and I don’t exaggerate when I say it saved my life due to the bullying I was undergoing in first public then private school.

    And yes, I got quizzed on multiplication tables and ribbed about socialization all. The. Time.

    • I always wanted them to quiz me on ANYTHING ELSE. Math was my really, really hard subject (and I wasn’t allowed to move forward with lessons until I perfected the one I was one…so there were times I spent *days* on a single Saxon Math page…ugh) for me…why couldn’t they have quizzed me on reciting the presidents in order, or sentence diagramming, or ANYTHING?! 😛 I always felt dumb when I got quizzed on those tables…

  3. Thank you for this – we don’t yet have kids, but I have been kicking around the idea of homeschooling for quite a while. The overwhelming response I get is: “But your kid won’t know how to socialize/will be super weird/won’t develop social skills/will be limited as to what you can teach them.” I’ve pointed out time and time again that there are homeschooling co-ops that work together to provide well-rounded and social experiences, but apparently I “don’t know what I’m talking about.”
    Thank you for posting this and giving me some hope that it *is* possible to homeschool and raise a well-educated, articulate, social kid who doesn’t end up totally awkward and socially isolated.
    I’m aware that it will take discipline and organization, but that (for me!) is part of the appeal. Besides, I like field trips to the science centre and the Devonian Gardens as much as the next kid! 🙂
    Awesome post!

    • I was home schooled (un-schooling variety), and I socialized *much* more as a homeschooler than as the poor kid in the AP classes. In my public school, I was essentially mute all day every day. Once I left, I didn’t feel like I’d be judged for asking and answering questions (or for being poor), and I spent time with people I had things in common with besides our ages. This was all in the early-ish days of home school, and the opportunities to work with other homeschoolers didn’t exist in our area.

      I went on to get an MA in education and taught special education prior to having a baby. We do not currently plan to home school her, but I’m glad it’s an option if we decide to go that route.

  4. I grew up homeschooled, too (of the “unschooling” variety – very Teenage Liberation Handbook inspired), and LOVED it. Minnesota has a great program called PSEO (Post-Secondary Enrollment Options) and because I was homeschooled, I took two years of college courses 100% free. It was awesome. Of course, that was after traveling all over the US and Canada (and England/Scotland/Ireland) mostly on my own in my early teens… visiting people, seeing the sights, exploring.

    Can’t say enough good things about my experiences growing up in that wonderful environment, but I agree – it’s NOT for everyone. You need to be pretty self-motivated (and as a parent, you need to trust your child to be self-motivated) and that’s just not something everyone is happy doing.

    Thanks for the terrific post!

    • Fiona, I’d love to hear more about your experience! Would you consider submitting a post about it? I’m very seriously considering home-schooling/unschooling, and while it’s pretty easy to find information on parents doing it, it’s harder to find perspectives from kids educated that way… the bulk of personal testimony stuff tends to come from kids home-schooled for religious reasons. At least that I’ve been able to find, anyway.

      • This is a tiny snippet of experience, but I was homeschooled 3rd through 12th, and loved it. My parents had joint custody an hour away from each other, so my mom and stepmom co-taught, but between the flexibility and the field trips, it was awesome. Plus, I’m not a super social person, so it was nice to focus on school and what I wanted instead of having lots of social pressures. Yes, there was a religious element to the homeschooling, but never a prominent one, and I ended up with a great education. (Also, consider teaching your kids Latin. I loved my first year, hated my second, and since then, it’s come in so handy with words I don’t know! But then, I also went on to be an English major…)

  5. I was homeschooled in a religious environment as well, until my mom was diagnosed with a terminal illness and I was forced to go to school in 8th grade.

    Often I will playfully rag on my father for his and my mother’s decision to homeschool me, but to be honest, I credit my “offbeat” attitude to it. My niece and nephew attend public school and I am shocked at the things they tell me they are exposed to (and I’m sure there are worse things they don’t tell me about). Sure, I was a little socially awkward when I started school, but I adapted quickly and I still retained my rock solid self esteem and I’ll always march to the beat of my own drum. 😉

    That being said… there were some CRAZIES that were in the same homeschooling group as me (like the girl who is my age – 21 – but got married at 16 to the joyous approval of her parents and has popped out 4 kids since then!) Oh, and the mother of my ex-childhood-best-friend who made us stop hanging out because she was concerned about a lesbian dynamic between us (we were six).

    Homeschooling definitely gets a negative reputation, and it’s not hard to see why… but my mother did it right. When I finally attended a “real school,” I was so far advanced that I didn’t really have to put in any solid effort until… well… college!

    That being said, I don’t think it’s for everybody. I’ve always been a bit of a loner (I prefer it that way) and intrinsically motivated as far as academics go. I think a parent will know the right decision to make in regards to their own child.

  6. I was homeschooled, and my Mother’s religion was never brought into it, but because of the flexable schedule we did do more religious activity and when going on religious trips she took time to include school work in it. That being said I was raised Wiccan by a high priestess so our outings were to places like Mt. Raineer for circle where I also learned about Eco-biology during the day and such. My mom has a very strong belief that religious learning has an important place, but that place is not in school. When she was “teacher” she taught completely unbiased, but when she was “mom” she was my crazy tree-hugging Wiccan mom.

  7. I can definitely see how religious homeschooling was a great experience for you.

    But –

    I cannot say it was a good experience for me and my friends. For many of us it led to lifetime problems – socially and definitely, mentally. Educationally I learnt well, but then I also learnt well at a standard school.

    My problem is that while the ‘idea’ of homeschooling is great, the reality is much, much more different when you have one or both parents whom are abusive individuals, or even more simply, whom are doing homeschooling to suit their own agenda (as a way of protecting the child from outside influences). Then it rapidly becomes a more scary, dangerous thing.

    It is great for you that this didn’t happen. But for a lot of us, it did. And there is a lot of us – growing in numbers, unfortunately, as children age out of the homeschooling world in greater numbers (due to fundamentalist cults such as quiverfull).

    For many of us, the worse part was that when we were being abused, we had no one to go to. Homeschooling is great, but that is it’s biggest failing – the fact it can, and does, become so insular and withdrawn from the outside world, that if something does happen, there is no one to tell.


    • You bring up a good topic.

      I guess my main question is, how related is homeschooling to an abusive childhood? It’s one thing if the homeschooling community at large is a willful player in it (and I’m sure some are, I have no doubt), but if a parent is abusive, will they be just as abusive regardless of the schooling situation? I can see how homeschooling in some instances can be an enabler for less scrutinized behavior, but on the other hand, I feel like homeschooling is less to blame than the at-large community values of those more “cultish” sects of religion.

      I had friends who were in more “cultish” sects of Christianity than I grew up in, and it did harm them, definitely, so I’m familiar with that. But some were homeschooled, some weren’t, and I have a difficult time pinning the blame on the homeschooling community for the harm done.

      I’m just going from personal experience here (’tis all I have), but my friends who have since escaped the more cultish sects that they grew up in…weren’t harmed by the schooling environment, but rather the ideas that were drilled into their heads. And those ideas would have been drilled regardless of schooling (not all of them were even homeschooled).

      • I can only speak for myself in regards to the questions you asked – so.

        In my circumstances, my father would have been abusive regardless. But it wasn’t my father driving the homeschooling idea, it was my mother – and she did it to protect us from outside influences. Undoubtedly, her reasoning was driven by the fundamentalist community/belief system we were involved in, but also by the the educational material we used which backed that up(Rod & Staff).

        Like I said, I can see how homeschooling can be great – but my bigger point is that it can, (and is) being used for some unhealthy stuff. It can (and does) isolate abused children, destroying their voice. If it is based on an unhealthy system, it will be unhealthy as well. Do I think homeschooling needs to be more tightly regulated and that homeschooling kids need to have better access to support services (around abuse), and to be made aware of them to begin with, the way standard school children are? Hell yes, particularly fundamentalist ones!

        • I absolutely agree about regulating. It was really weird to move from a super-regulated state to a very non-regulated one, and I have to say, I really felt like as *tedious* as the regulations were for the first state, I can see the benefit they would have for kids who are in bad situations. If you have to be interviewed personally for several days in a row by someone from the school board every year in addition to basic portfolio work, I feel like there was a greater chance for someone to see if abuse was going on, etc.

          Obviously it’s still more isolating than being with a teacher every day, but the regulations in place really did, I think, help to keep an eye on parents. I’m sure areas with high concentrations of fundamentalist homeschooling would balk at tougher schooling laws, but I agree, it would be great.

        • This, exactly this. I guess I posted too soon (replying to the first or second comment) but my parents were physically and emotionally abusive. I believed for a very long time that I was Homeschooled because I was too stupid for “real” school (um, no. I have OCD and serious issues with numbers).

          I thought (and still do sometimes think) that I was the bad guy. I didn’t even realize until I was 20 that “spanking” a 16 year old until they’re screaming ( all?) is NOT OKAY.

          I had no voice. I gave lots of outward signs of an abused child, but everyone just thought I was “bad” and told me so.

          A lot of this, I think, comes to the church you’re in. Churches are groups of people. Some rock, some suck, some aren’t sure what they are, some just want the joy of saying “This is my group, I am in it!”.

          I’m so sorry, Jo, that you had to live through that. You deserved better.

          • I really enjoy these perspectives on Abuse and homeschooling. I have a bit of a different perspective because I was homeschooled in the ideal sense, and my husband attended conventional school but was horribly abused by his father and step-mother. No one noticed, not even his mother who had visitation, or the police that would bring him home after he ran away.
            While I am sure homeschooling can compound the isolating effects of child abuse, it is not inherantly isolating. Child abuse is, and that isolation is often unavoidable, regardless of how much contact a child has with outside influences

  8. Wow, homeschoolers come out of the woodwork! Thanks for sharing your story. I was home schooled until middle school because of my mother’s religious values and my fiance was home schooled from fifth grade through high school because his health prevented him from attending school regularly. My fiance belonged to a secular home school group in South Carolina. My family belonged to a religious group in Maryland. Between the two of us, I know many people who are now adults who grew up being home schooled, and there are many good and many bad examples from each group. The home school experience cannot be generalized, because many families teach their children at home for a whole spectrum of reasons. As an adult, I am no longer religious and some of the things I was taught seem ridiculous, but I didn’t suffer because of it.

    One of our friends was secularly home schooled because his mother is and always has been extremely protective of him (edited to add: there’s a definite element of mental illness on his mother’s part, she has some issues with genuine anti-society paranoia). He was spoiled, never pushed to do things he didn’t want to do or wasn’t interested in, and told at every opportunity that he was perfect. As a result, his education and his socialization have really suffered well into his adult life. Religious or secular, home schooling *for the purpose of sheltering your child from the world* can be very detrimental. Home schooling because your beliefs and values or your child’s needs are at odds with the available school offerings can be very successful.

  9. i admire anyone that can be organized enough to home school! i can barely get my kids on the bus and out the door in the morning with all the right papers in the right back packs and what not… to home school would be a disaster for me.

  10. YAY another ex-homeschooler like me! I was going to write a similer post but you beat me to the punch which I am all good with 😛

    Great article!

  11. It’s funny, because today I blogged about being a public school mom. I read a lot of blogs and several of them are written by homeschooling moms. Lately, I’ve felt a little uncomfortable with the way it is sometimes assumed that public schooling parents are somehow less involved in their kids’ lives than homeschoolers. Especially when it comes to out of school type education. I KNOW that not all homeschoolers think they are the only ones that know their way to the library, but some of them do imply it.

    Today (or yesterday) the Pioneer Woman posted something about going to the library and said that “as homeschooling parents, we know the benefits of the library” or something similar and for some reason I felt inclined to defend public school moms like me. Moms that send their kids to school and also teach them stuff at home.

    • Some people believe homeschooling is the Best Schooling Option Period. Some folks believe the secret to success lies in highly-ranked private schools with lots of resources. Others that public school is the best preparation for adult living.

      Different schooling environments work for different kids. If your kids are thriving in public school, then that’s the place for them to be. Rock on, Mama. This years-ago homeschooler supports you 100%.

    • In her defense, at least when I grew up, our local library let our homeschool group use their meeting room weekly for drama club, public speaking club, and lots of other clubs. So homeschoolers do often utilize the library on a SUPER regular basis.

      Or she might have been elevating herself a bit more than necessary. In which case, unfair. 🙁 It’s frustrating when anybody things they’re better than another group of actually-very-similar people just because they’re doing something a little different.

  12. Very cool! I have no interest in homeschooling not because I have anything against it, but because I don’t have the willpower to wash my dishes every day — I don’t have the the kind of necessary regimentation for homeschooling. 😀

    I don’t ever, ever, ever remember being taught to hate or fear any group, or that women should be subservient to men, or anything like what might be portrayed on certain TV shows about homeschoolers.

    I lovelovelove hearing other people say this about their Christian upbringings — I figure the more it gets said, the less power the stereotype gets. 😀

    • “I lovelovelove hearing other people say this about their Christian upbringings — I figure the more it gets said, the less power the stereotype gets.”

      Right on! I was raised in a very progressive Christian church (gay and lesbian families were part of our congregation openly) and it continues to shape my faith life and values.

  13. Very interesting… I have a new baby and have quite a strong inclination to homeschool. Not at all for religious reasons, but because my partner and I both struggled in public school with bullying and the generally toxic social environment that schools can produce, particularly for slightly odd, intelligent, sensitive kids like us. I have 2 degrees and my partner is a writer and musician so I feel we could do an excellent job of educating our children in the lovely little Aussie city we live in. I know I would get serious opposition from my family. My only problem is that I can’t work and be a full-time teacher at the same time… and I’m sure I’ll need to work at least part time in the next 15 years! My next best option is the local Steiner school. Any Steiner schooled kids like to write a piece on their experiences???
    My experience with (non-religious) homeschooled kids I’ve met is that they are intelligent, unconventional and confident… all the things I hope my children will be 🙂

    • The working aspect is definitely difficult. My dad was (and still is) a teacher (private school, then public school), and my mom worked a hospital night shift in a sleep apnea lab, so she would leave us the work we could do ourselves for the mornings, and then afternoons she would teach us directly.

    • I too would be interested in anyone coming from a Steiner/Waldorf perspective as a now-adult. I work in a school that is heavily influenced by Waldorf (as well as Enki and Montessouri) ideals and I find myself at odds with much of it, while also deeply appreciating other points. I’ve considered that if I eventually choose to have children, I might homeschool them, using much the same model my school uses now.

      I would choose to homeschool my children for much the same reasons- my husband and I were both victims of extreme bullying and essentially ‘fell through the cracks’, where our needs were being either ignored (at worst) or we just unable to be met (at best) by our teachers. I’m not against public schools, and experienced a lot of good as well as bad, but the opportunity to provide MORE is tempting.

      • I attended a Waldorf school from kindergarten through 6th grade. It was wonderful for me, until it wasnt and my family switched gears. I went on to a private school, graduated at the top of my class, and attended an Ivy League college for undergrad and grad degrees. The nurturing and unique environment offered by my Waldorf school continues to inform my personal and professional lives. Some of my former Waldorf schoolmates were academically successful while others were less so but there are two common threads among us as adults that are undeniably Steiner: strength of character and genuine concern for the world and its beings. I can’t say the same for my schoolmates at the fancy private middle/high school nor my Ivory tower university (though my friends from the latter are some of the most exceptional people I’ve had the fortune to know). Waldorf isn’t right for everyone, and there are strong and weak Waldorf schools and teachers and class years. The most important thing is this: choose the right environment for your child, not for you (for my dad Waldorf was terribly airy-fairy but he saw how perfect it was for me).

    • I was a Steiner kid very briefly!

      I have some issues with their early education policies. The school I went to wouldn’t allow parents to teach their children to read before the age of 7.

      But for higher education, like High school? It’s FANTASTIC. One of the things I loved about it was Morning Lesson. Every morning for an hour and a half we had one class. The subject would change every month or so. My favorite was our Theater History ML class. We made books of each one, in our own handwriting, with illustrations done by us. I learned more by making those main lesson books than I did at any other point in my secondary education.

  14. Cool! My cousin’s kids are homeschooled (she’s an engineer) and they are the smartest kids I have ever met. It’s almost frightening, but they are incredibly social, very bright, and have gotten to experience so much!

  15. I was sooo worried when I read the title of your article that it would paint religious homeschoolers in a bad light, but you did an amazingly unbiased account! Loved it!

  16. When people find out that I was homeschooled, they always look at me and say “but your so normal!” It’s sort of shocking to me. I understand to some extent where they are coming from. I met a lot of kids in our homeschool group who had NO IDEA how to socialize. It happens. That doesn’t mean we were all like that. As a matter of fact, many of us are pretty well-adjusted adults. I think homeschooling saved me as a person.
    I was only home for two years, but it was during 7th and 8th grade, which are, in my opinion, some of your most formative. It’s also a time where you get peer-pressured the most to be someone specific. I didn’t have that. I was totally free to be whoever I wanted. There was no one to tell me that the way I dressed was wrong, or the books I read were dumb. My mom was pretty open-minded though, so I know for some people it wasn’t like that.
    The other question I always get is “so you could go to school in your pajamas?” Umm, no. My mom made us get dressed.

    • I have been seriously considering (With the support of my husband) taking the kids out of middle school… either do a “around the world” trip if we have the money or at least homeschool. I find grades 7-9 toxic, but especially grade 7 and 8. I say that as a teacher… I would NOT want my children in that environment. I also say it as someone who hated middle school haha!

      • I love that I missed out on it. My husband talks about things that went on and it makes me cringe. I feel so thankful that I had those two years to decide who I wanted to be, all on my own.

  17. Great article! I too was homeschooled, 2nd through 12th grades. Also in a very religious setting. I came out of the experience with nothing but positive things to say about it. There were times during my teenage years when I wondered if I was missing out on something; more friends, fun parties, etc. As an adult I’ve come to realize how pointless those wishes were, and that even had I had the opportunity to do those sorts of things I would not have fit in or had any more friends. I am, by nature, someone who only needs and wants just a few really good friends. My life as a teenager would only have been miserable if I’d been in a regular school situation. I also have several siblings (ok, only 4, not 17) who have turned into amazing adults with incredible social skills and intelligence.

    I have also decided to homschool my own kids. I currently have a 1st grader and 2 pre-schoolers. I will say that this was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make and that I continue to make. I can’t imagine having my kids be gone for 6 hours of the day (although half my days I go to bed in tears because it is definitely not easy!).

    My reasons for homeschooling are quite different than my parents were. I’m always worried that they won’t get the attention they need in a class full of kids, or that they’ll be bullied by others. My 5 year old has symptoms of ADHD that can be handled without issue at home, but would cause problems in a school setting. I like not having to worry about the boys getting teased if they show up to school wearing nail polish or their sisters poncho. They are free to do and be who they are without the peer pressure to conform.

    I really appreciated reading another homeschooler’s story, it’s always nice to hear of others who enjoyed the experience.

  18. I was homeschooled too – but nonreligiously. Also had a positive experience. 🙂 Good community really is key.

    Along with being quizzed on multiplication, dead presidents, etc, and being told I would be an anti-social hermit (despite going on trips with other homeschoolers constantly), another Homeschooler Bingo Item was always: what, you’re too good for public school?

    I loved being homeschooled. It was perfect for me. But I am a HUGE supporter of state-funded public schools. I think public schools are completely awesome. I also think the rainbow of private schooling options are awesome. “Which method of schooling is right for my child?” is a really important question — which is why I’m so glad there are a lot of options.

    For what it’s worth, I made friends everywhere – super religious fundy kids (I knew girls that never in their life wore pants), public school kids, private school kids, hippie unschoolers who never wore shoes, etc. I had a great childhood.

    Thanks for posting this. It’s always nice to see a positive portrayal of something that was so important to my growth.

  19. I was homeschooled in a super religious environment. I have 9 younger siblings and we were definitely the denim jumper type of homeschoolers, though my parents have relaxed a lot of the rules since I moved out. If I could go back in time I would convince myself to run away. I was abused physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I had severe mental illness that for a very long time I couldn’t get treatment for. I have terrible social anxiety and just stepping into a church makes me panic. I was surrounded by misogyny and guilt was hammered into me.

    I can’t tell you how incredibly trapped I felt. Was every day horrible? No. And I’m sure I would have been abused no matter what but the fact that I could never get away made the effects of the abuse that much more intense. My parents were there all the time so there was that much more opportunity for them to abuse me and my siblings.

    I’m doing better now. I will likely always be dealing with the depression and anxiety and PTSD. I seem to have moved on from the bulimia and the self-injury, but my two adult sisters have had severe problems with addiction and the brothers who are next in the family line seem to be going down the same path.

    I’m happy for others who have had better experiences, but the common stereotype is not just a stereotype. Some of us have lived it. Unfortunately homeschooling can be a way for parents to get away with abuse and for that reason as well as making sure kids get an adequate education(which I didn’t) I 1000000% believe that homeschooling should be more regulated than it is. Someone has to look out for the kids with bad parents. They can’t protect themselves.

    • Exactly this!! I sat here nodding my head to everything you said.

      The word trapped describes how I felt too. Trapped.

      Like I said, I have felt like this conversation has definitely been skewed towards the “oh homeschooling is great” perspective, without adequate notice of what I, Tats and others are saying. Yes, we know it can be great. But for us (and others) it wasn’t. It greatly upsets me when pro-homeschoolers try to tell me that my abuse wasn’t linked to homeschooling. I am here to tell you that it was. That is not to say that I don’t recognize outside factors (community etc) or that public schools have their faults – I do understand that, truly! But – homeschooling left me, and many other girls (and guys) totally isolated – and without any hope of escape. It wasn’t until I went to public school that I found my voice and reported the bastard. But it took me years longer than it should have!

      So if you are considering homeschooling, I have this advice. Make yourself accountable (to the wider community and your child). Make yourself aware of what is going on in your home (my mother did not know about my abuse when it was occurring). Make yourself available to your child and keep open communication lines – and teach them what to do if someone was to abuse them – make it a topic that can be discussed without judgement. Also don’t become too pressing with your own ideals – I know many parents on both ends of the spectrum whom do this, and it disturbs me greatly. (Basically, if you starting editing kid’s books to suit your ideals, you’re heading into danger territory!)


      • One of the biggest problems, to me, is that so many homeschoolers get extremely defensive. So even if a child can sense something is wrong, to tell an “outsider” would be “betraying” the family and homeschooling.

        I know the abuse I experienced wasn’t as bad as what others went through. I still feel like a liar calling it abuse. But at the same time I know people who absolutely were abused and would never say they were. Its unfortunate but when someone says they were homeschooled religiously and never had a bad experience I don’t necessarily believe them.

        • Totally agree with you here as well!! (I don’t know you from somewhere else do I? NLQ?)

          I completely understand what you mean by your statement:

          “I know the abuse I experienced wasn’t as bad as what others went through.”

          I feel the same thing – particularly when I compare my story to other homeschooling girls that I knew. I knew girls that were held nearing moving electric saws and raped. I knew girls whom were starved (without food and drink) for something as simple as not feeding the chickens. All were spanked to a degree that I would now consider abusive. I am yet to hear of another to community whom has the same degree/amount of abuse as the religious, fundamentalist, homeschooling community has. Children have died (Lydia Schatz among others).

          Like I said, done right, it can be ok. But to me, there needs to tighter regulations. And most importantly it needs to be done for the right reasons.


          • I do read NLQ but I’ve never posted there. I can only read so much of it before it starts triggering some bad memories. I wasn’t even raised in a Quiverfull environment, we were Catholic, but there’s a lot of shared experiences. I laughed a bit when I saw you mention Rod and Staff because we did use some of their textbooks in the early grades though we were enrolled in Seton Home Study.

            I honestly believe homeschooling can be good for some families, but I think that you have to put so much work into it that its that much easier to do a bad job especially if it is a large family. It wasn’t all bad for me. I learned to not let others opinions stop me from doing what I felt was right. That is the most valuable lesson I learned from homeschooling, but there were other ways I could have learned it. I also think the stress that homeschooling parents are often under(since homeschooling is so much work and they tend not to have many breaks from their children) contributes to them abusing their children.

            Two more problems I see with homeschooling: I do not think that a parent or even two parents can give their child everything he or she needs. The parents have to seek outside aid if they are going to fill in the inevitable gaps. 2nd problem that ties into the first problem is that a parent may not recognize signs of a learning disability or similar problem and then the child suffers needlessly due to not getting the help he or she needs. These are separate but related and common problems that pop up especially when a homeschooling family is too isolated.

            *sigh* There are just so many pitfalls. You have to be an extraordinary parent to succeed at homeschooling and unfortunately I’ve met very very few of them.

      • I apologize that I seem to have skewed things in the pro-perspective without taking into account the abusive situations that do occur, and I’m sorry that I caused you upset.

        My defense is simply that the religious communities I grew up in weren’t fundamentalist in nature (I had friends who were — but in their particular situations, the schooling truly wasn’t a big factor). Religious homeschooled /= fundie religiousness, and the fundie side tends to be the side that’s linked more to abuse, from what I’ve seen/read.

        It’s easy for me to get defensive on the pro-side because as a commenter pointed out, they have a difficult time believing that someone who was homeschooled religiously wasn’t abused. This is exactly what I encounter a lot, and it’s frustrating to try to explain to people that no, my parents were not abusive in any way. (I’m not trying to be callous here, by the way. Do I sound callous?)

        I’m in no way trying to dismiss that abuse occurs, or that sometimes yes, the homeschooling is a main factor. However, I can only write a personal experience…based on my personal experience. The few friends I had who *were* in abusive homeschooling situations were few, and they weren’t in my direct networks, and the vast majority of contacts and experiences were super positive, contrary to what I encounter on a daily basis of people assuming the opposite. So, that’s my experience.

        Again, I apologize if it seems I’m brushing abuse under the rug — it’s not my intent, but it’s simply not my direct experience.

        I think ultimately just as in a lot of situations in life, there are many people who have great experiences, and just as many who don’t (even looking at the comments here, that’s noticeable). Again, not trying to invalidate anybody’s experience, but ultimately, perhaps the best anybody can say is “sometimes good, sometimes horrific”? 🙁

        • No, you don’t sound callous! And I do understand your frustration!

          Honestly, I do recognize that there is a time and place for homeschooling – and I know that it can be healthy, done the right way, for the right reasons.

          And if you had met me when I was being homeschooled, you would have probably thought me one of your “super positive” contacts. My abuse was hidden well, as was the abuse experienced by my friends. Everyone was shocked when I ‘came out’ and for a few years I just wasn’t believed – our family was that ‘perfect’. As of only a few years ago, I could have written your article – or, if I read it, agreed with every word.

          I agree, it does vary on the spectrum. And like I said, I do understand homeschooling can be a positive thing. I am just tired of the pro-homeschooling group sweeping cases of horrific abuse, and even deaths under the carpet – or at best trying not to link them to homeschooling itself, preferring to blame everything else. The facts are, that homeschooling can, and does, play a part in helping shut down abused children’s voices. Yes, abuse happens everywhere, it is isolation factor that homeschooling brings, is the most worrying part of it for me.


          • My family looks really really good on the surface, too. My parents are very respected both in their community and in the homeschooling community. In particular people go on about how sweet my mother is and call her superwoman. You just don’t see the reality unless you’re living it. There’s a huge focus on maintaining a good public image.

  20. I was homeschooled, religious family, very active in the community and with friends, sports, music, etc- and I can tell you, I travel the country speaking to large and small groups of people and there is nothing “not socialized” about it! 🙂 Homeschooling is just like everything else- you can do it well or not well. There are bad public/private/homeschools, and there are good public/private/homeschools. For each person giving a positive or negative opinion of homeschooling, there is another with a positive or negative opinion of public or private schools.

    I believe each family should have the choice to educate their children in whatever setting is best- and that they should recognize that it might even vary by child. For example, one child might thrive in the independent environment of homeschooling, another might achieve better results in traditional public, and another might be at their best in a private school. Learning is the goal, regardless of the process. For me, and for my family, homeschooling was a great choice.

  21. From my experiences and observation as a homeschool graduate, I think homeschooling, like any other choice in raising children, can be either helpful or harmful depending on the motivation and execution. Dysfunctional homeschool parents use it to hide their kids from the world. Functional homeschool parents use it to open the world to their kids.

  22. My fiance’s step-mom home schools his younger siblings (at this point there are 5 still being home schooled and one other that graduated a few years ago) and they do base it around religion, didn’t teach evolutionary theories, but all the kids are fluent in Spanish (we live in Maine, so there aren’t any Spanish speaking communities here), and are more informed on current events than most adults I know. The children are well spoken and caring. They are by no means anti-social.

    The only part I don’t care for is that they are the “do what the man says” types. Bills Dad told them no TV, Radio or Internet for 2 weeks and they just did it, because he’s the Dad. Including his wife, what he says goes. Their daughters will go to college for the sole purpose of finding a husband, and will grow up to be housewives…not stay at home moms, but housewives. Cooking, cleaning, serving their husbands.

    Bills 16 year old sister learned how to play piano from a friend and within a year taught herself how to play flute, harp, banjo, guitar and organ. She is incredibly talented and could probably be in an orchestra, but won’t because her goal ends with being a wife someday. It makes me sad that she has all this potential that will never be used.

    • Don’t be too discouraged. Just because they are being raised a certain way doesn’t mean they will follow through with it as adults. Their upbringing may handicap them some but they will still be able to choose a different life when they grow up.

  23. Did I write this post? Seriously, this is almost exactly my experience! We were homeschooled, but well educated and i was involved in ballet, swim team, piano classes, and acted in plays at the local theater.

    When I did eventually start public school, I was YEARS ahead of everyone else, which was really the main thing that isolated me from my peers, not my inability to interact socially. There were religious undertones to a lot of the lessons taught by my mother, but the religious undertones I encountered in high school science classes were equally as bad.

    I’d like to think that it was the great head-start given to me by my mother that has helped me do so well and think intellectually and for myself, a main reason why I am no longer religious, so really the homeschooling enabled me in ways that I regret were not shared by my peers.

  24. Going to public school doesn’t mean the teachers will necessarily do anything about abuse, especially in certain enviromments. I went to school a few times with a black eye and bruises around my neck from being choked by my mother, and was only asked once about it, and nothing was done. I was in an accelerated program, within a predominately black, poor neighborhood school. I think the bruises were considered normal for the neighborhood. Besides that, I actually had a great experience in school (well, heck, it was better than home!), but I think intellectually I would have been better off in an “unschooling” environment.

    I have a good friend who homeschools her two sons, despite having a full-time job (her mother takes care of them during the day, and does drills with them). Her sons are two of the sweetest, most engaging young men I’ve ever met. They are rather sheltered in my opinion, but it is refreshing to see a 14 year old and a 12 year old who don’t know the ins and outs of reality TV and popular music! Since I don’t own a TV or listen to the radio, it puts us all on a more even level!

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