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. I was homeschooled too, and though I wasn’t Christian pretty much all my friends were. I think I ended up with kind of a slanted view of the world by default, since my friends had very particular views about things like premarital sex and homosexuality that I simply adopted, but overall my experience was awesome too. I lived in Western PA but I wonder if we ever met… my parents used to travel all over the state serving homeschoolers…

  2. Love your post!!
    I was homeschooled, raised in a Christian/Messianic home, am the oldest of 8. While I was younger, we were very conservative (and while I won’t be that way with my own children, it certainly didn’t hurt me in the least, but rather gave me the opportunity to understand and appreciate everyones individual choices on raising a family), and over the years, were not so conservative.
    I LOVED it!! My mom actually did the “unschooling” thing – we had to do an hour of math, an hour of science, and one other subject of our choosing (we could even study outside if we chose to). After that, we did what are considered “extra curricular” activities. I learned how to sew, knit, crochet, cook, bake…we always had shelves and shelves of books at our “disposal” for learning anything we wanted. We frequented the library, and had lots of social interaction. We always had animals around (hobby farm style), and often had a garden. My homeschooling/un-schooling experience rocked!!
    I now have a tattoo and piercings (the only on in my family), and have come to a “religious” place of my own. But I still have a great relationship with my family!!

  3. This is so interesting to read! I’m not a mom yet, and I wasn’t homeschooled, but I am FASCINATED by alternative means of education. When I look back at my own childhood years, and even into middle and high school, I would have benefited SO much from doing something other than the 8 – 3 classroom shuffle. Of course, who knows how this will change once I actually have kids who are school-aged, but it’s great to read about others’ positive experiences!

  4. I really loved this post! I am considering homeschooling for my son who we suspect is on the autism spectrum, mainly due to the limited resources in the rural community we live in. My mother serves on the school board (and as I mentioned in a response above, raised us in a progressive Christian church) and while I am very pro-public education, I know it is not for every child. Some school systems are great and offer great support for students with special needs, and some do not. We have started him in our church’s preschool program but will be moving him to Head Start next year, and from there we will discern whether public school will be a good option for him or whether we can provide better opportunities for him on our own.

  5. I was also religiously homeschooled starting at 13. I ended up not speaking to anyone my own age until I was 17 and it was pretty sad. When I got my first job I was so reserved and scared of people everyone thought I was mute. But that’s just my experience. I have talked to my mom and we are not against homeschooling, we just didn’t do it right. I should have had outlets to meet people my age.

  6. I am just like you except i hate it and im currently a junior in high school and i dont get along with my parents. Though i work in a library! ha!

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