Burn In Case Of Evil: Cain’s Story, Part Four

Burn In Case Of Evil: Cain’s Story, Part Four

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Cain” is a pseudonym.

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In this seriesPart One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four

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My Home “Education”

A lot of people read this site and remark on how accomplished, out-spoken, and well-educated we all seem.  Many have remarked that it was obviously homeschooling that made us who we are.  The answer to that question is complicated because I am what I am because of, and despite of, homeschooling.  When your entire social life and community K-12 is homeschooled, of course these influences significantly impacted my life.  But much of my adult life has been spent “re-learning” everything (from social skills, to history, to biology, to relationship etiquette).  I was taught about all of these things through homeschooling.  Some subjects I was never taught properly in high school and my insufficiency handicapped my educational opportunities.

My mother was the primary instructor and, bless her heart, she only had a GED and a few college classes.  It’s not that my mother is not smart, or stupid; it’s that she was not qualified to give me a high school education.  I consider most of my educational experiences before 8th or 9th grade to be generally positive.  I excelled in spelling, math, science, and language arts.  I really had an interest in science at an early age – I can remember enjoying earth science, nuclear science, and astronomy/space.  As I entered high school, a few things happened.  First, we got involved in ATI (a homeschooling cult) when I was about 10, but by my high school years the “Wisdom Booklets” became my primary textbooks (other than math).  Second, I became involved in NCFCA/CFC when I was 13 – started debating at 14.  Third, I started liking girls and “rebelling” by falling for them and having innocent phone and text conversations.

We used Saxon math as a supplement to the Wisdom Booklets.  I excelled at geometry, basic algebra, and word problems.  I’ve always enjoyed problem solving.  As I got involved with advanced geometry and algebra II, my mother simply could not keep up.  I would call my older sister, who was pursuing an engineering degree, and she would try to help me through it.  But math-by-phone is no substitute for a math teacher.

I think about 15 or 16, when I got involved heavily in debate, my mom stopped requiring me to do math.  Debate literally took over my life and I spent about 40 hours a week researching, writing speeches, and talking to friends in homeschool debate.  I consider my friends from CFC/NCFCA as the closest thing to a “high school class” because they were the only social group that I interacted with somewhat limited parental oversight.  I excelled at debate and it fed my father’s interest in history and politics.  So for three years all I did was debate, which was vastly superior to Wisdom Booklets.  My education with Wisdom Booklets made me think that AIDS was a gay disease and my sex mis-education was downright reckless.  I “learned” about logarithms intertwined with the tale of Jesus multiplying the loaves and fishes.

When it came time to submit my high school transcript for college (and to apply for state scholarships) my parents sat down at the computer and literally made up my transcript.  Debate-related activities and research were labeled under lots of different titles (American History, Composition, Logic, Civics, Public Speaking, English, etc).  Of course, I got A’s in all of these categories.  Now, my parents had some semblance of ethics and they decided I needed to complete some science courses to qualify for the state’s college entrance requirements.  My science courses in high school were pathetic, with the exception of computers because my dad worked in the industry for his entire adult life.

During most of my junior and senior years, I worked full-time and debated.  There was a long-distance Latin course from PHC, chemistry, and biology course interlaced with working and debate.  I got C’s in all of these classes and I’m pretty sure I had to cheat on two of the finals just to pass.

Technically, I took a chemistry and biology course, but in reality, I learned nothing about those subjects.  My mom wasn’t that knowledgeable in sciences. I used the Apologia biology textbook.  I remember bumbling through the biology book, not understanding anything I was reading.  Mostly because there was no grand narrative, like evolution, to make sense of all the different species.  I excelled in college biology, but not until I understood the topics from an evolutionary perspective.  My chemistry course was me and my homeschooled friend learning from his father, who was a doctor.  The “classes” lasted for maybe a month or two, but then life got busy and I stopped going.  He didn’t really follow-up, for whatever reason, and my parents didn’t seem that interested either.  So I taught myself chemistry?  Nope, I suck at chemistry – on a very basic level.

As a side note, I’m great with computers because of my father, but I never took a programming class beyond Visual Basic.  He tried to teach me about things, but it always seemed like I was missing part of the story – like he wasn’t “dumbing it down” enough.  Looking back, I realize it’s because my father was trying to teach me only the practical applications of computers while never learning the scientific theory.  I know he knows all about it, but I don’t know that he was qualified to teach it to a child.  It’s not like I gained marketable skills from my computer education.

I was also a huge asshole when I began college. I’m sure you know the type: fundamentalist Christian debater.  I had no idea how to navigate relationships with non-homeschooled people and it took a year or two, many broken friendships, and loneliness to find friends.  I was also encouraged through programs like Summit to challenge my “evil, secular humanist” professors in class – to “stand up” for Jesus in the public classroom.  I was prepared to enter an atmosphere that antagonized Christians and Christianity.

College was fantastic, but difficult and filled with substance abuse.  I realized that I had ADD, but self-medicated for sometime with cannabis.  Alcohol and cannabis helped with the anxiety –social, existential, spiritual, school and parent-related – and helped me to socialize with big groups.  I still can’t socialize with big groups of people easily and I lucked into taking a lot of Honors classes with small class sizes.  I almost lost my big scholarship (which required me to keep a 3.5) in my sophomore year because I got terrible grades in science and foreign languages.  I didn’t know how grades or tests worked, let alone how to study.  I excelled in political science and history, so that’s where I stayed.  I didn’t take biology until my senior year.  I finally understood it and, since then, I’ve developed a keen interest in neurobiology, psychopharmacology, psychology, and health care issues.  At this point, I’d love another two or three years of school to get a B.S. and another three to get an M.S., but that part of my life is over now.

I remember a time in middle school when I really wanted to be an engineer and I still think I could have excelled at it, if it wasn’t for my homeschooling.  Yes, I have an MA, but I’m confident I could have a stable, well-paying job in a science-related field.  My liberal arts education came easily to me, but I would have relished the challenge of advanced science and math.  Almost every public school student has a somewhat competent math teacher and most have access to AP calculus.  Yes, debate is a great skill and it has made me successful, but I’ve always been jealous of people who excelled in math or science – like I once did – and moved seamlessly into the job market.

To be continued.

14 comments

  • Pingback: Burn In Case Of Evil: Cain’s Story, Part One | H • A

  • Pingback: Burn In Case Of Evil: Cain’s Story, Part Two | H • A

  • Pingback: Burn In Case Of Evil: Cain’s Story, Part Three | H • A

  • My parents used to get mad at me for pointing out the errors in the Wisdom books. For example, it said that “And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain” was a metaphor. I knew it was not and had this huge argument with my father. I showed him what it means in the dictionary. In the end, I pretended to agree with him because I knew it was pointless to argue. That was when I stopped believing anything my father said. I had a similure experience in college, only worse. The only subjects I actually knew in college was how to read really well, college algebra (from Saxon math) and that was it. Oh, I had the basics in history from homeschool co-ops, but those classes were stupid. I could have passed them in third grade. Besides, none of the history was even in my college classes! I thought Literature would be easy. Nope! I never even HEARD of any of the stories they assumed I knew. I had a false confidence in myself as well because I had never been challenged in school. I also loved Science and math and I am quite sure if it weren’t for homeschooling, I would have been a doctor or Scientist. .

  • My dad had been a math teacher for a number of years, so I got a good solid math foundation and ended up doing a STEM major in college. My dad used to tell people that math was a weakness that homeschoolers needed to be aware of and compensate for, but unfortunately it seems like a lot of the homeschool “experts” write off the importance of math and science. I don’t know how many times I’ve read self-proclaimed experts who tell parents that they don’t need to worry about math and science because their kids can just take it in college–never mind that if you don’t even have a math foundation to begin with you’re pretty much screwed.

    I actually have a lot of homeschool friends who ended up in STEM fields, but they’re mostly the ones whose parents had strong backgrounds in STEM fields themselves. It’s definitely a problem when a kid’s entire future hinges on what academic background their parents have.

    • I’m finding this discussion really helpful, thanks, because I hope to unschool (not quite the same as “homeschool”) my kids and this has been a concern for me. On the one hand I understand why they write off math and science–because students destined for STEM fields are a minority and for those who go into the humanities like me, algebra and trig are things we’ll never, ever revisit. BUT as you all are pointing out, that’s a big problem for kids whose abilities and interests lie in that area but who aren’t given a solid foundation. I feel like my husband (who studied engineering though he doesn’t work in that field) can give the kids a fairly solid foundation, but I also think it’s incumbent on us (and any homeschool parent) to watch where each kid’s gifts and interests lie, and if there are things they have the potential to learn that we can’t teach them, to find someone who can. Whether that’s tutoring or (ha) public school. (As for us, we want our kids to have the choice to go if they decide they want to, anyway.)

      • Heather, I think what I would add to this is that even a particular kid’s gifts and interests *seem* to lie in the humanities, a solid math and science foundation is still important.

        I was absolutely convinced in high school that I’d never use math again–I was going to go off to college, major in history, go to law school, and all I wanted was enough math to CLEP college algebra. Then I got to college, discovered I liked computer science and really hate writing research papers, and changed directions completely. One of the reasons I was able to do that was because I had a solid math background. I ended up deciding I like studying computer science more than doing it and after a circuitous path I wound up in law school after all, but the STEM background gave me more options than the average law student–patent law is one of the areas that’s still hiring and you have to have a STEM background that most law students don’t have.

        Or, to make a long story short, having solid math and science understanding helps keep options open–options that a kid may not have even considered before college.

  • I LOVE this post! We literally sat down and made up my transcript after the fact too. I had straights in college, but I avoided science (took one chemistry course). In other words, I just took courses I was good at. Relationally college was so super tough. I had no idea how to just suck it up and work, nor howo to work in a group.

  • My parents completely made up my transcript too.

  • I am finishing up 10 years of homeschooling this year. One of the best things that happened was my daughter deciding to go to the public high school this year (for 10th grade). While I think she thinks positively on her homeschool years, I realized this year that I am just not able to teach high school level math and science. While I can “do it,” I just don’t know how to teach it. Her going to high school has been a freeing experience for her – she is meeting wonderful friends, doing well in school and getting involved in theatre – as well as a freeing experience for me by being able to admit that there are classes that I just can’t teach.

    My son will start an online public school this coming fall for 7th grade. He has said that he wants to attend the public high school, so I want to make sure he is ready for it. He is a very different student than his sister, and he needs to have another teacher to be accountable to.

    All this being said, I think that homeschooling has been good for our family. Would I do things differently? Yes. There are certain curriculums that I would not use again. In the end, it’s about my kids receiving the best education available to them. And, as a parent, if I’m not able to teach them specific subjects at a higher level, I need to be willing to admit that and make changes when necessary.

    I will continue to read all of the stories posted on HA. Please know that you have at least one middle-of-the-road Christian homeschool parent who supports all of you and wishes you the best in your life to come. I am encouraged by those of you who have been able to rise above your younger years to search out a fulfilling life. And, my heart aches for those of you still struggling to heal from years gone wrong.

  • I’d like to second Kathi’s support, but not as a Christian of any stripe: I’ve been a Secular Humanist for decades now and want to invite the more curious (and braver) of your readers to explore this philosophy. It relies entirely on the Laws of Physics (the material world) for understanding. It also teaches that if the human race is to solve our immense and numerous problems, we must do it ourselves: No demigod on a white horse will appear in the sky to judge us. We must judge ourselves, personally and collectively, and decide how our species’ cultures should evolve. It’s an exciting journey, and I invite you all to investigate it.

    • I am personally very influenced by Secular Humanism, the bane of the Religious Right. A modern humanist I really enjoy reading is Robert Wright – he’s written Nonzero and the Evolution of God. It’s the best example of a sort of humanist ethic based purely on game theory and evolutionary principles.

    • George Kastanza

      The laws of physics can’t explain everything – not even close (I have some knowledge of the matter since I’ve taught physics at the university level). As a result, secular humanists must rely on faith for their beliefs the same as people who believe in God rely on faith for their beliefs.

  • Omg. I just read your four posts and it’s insane how similar your life has been to mine. My parents kept me prisoner for various periods of time too when they’d find out I’d done something like talking to boys on AIM when I wasn’t allowed to. I would go crazy in my mind – so lonely and unhappy at home – and didnt know what to do with my emotions (which would hopelessly drive me to suicidal thinking as well). I described how I’ve felt emotionally (since childhood) to a counselor about a year ago and she helped me to understand that I’ve had mild-moderate depression for basically my whole life. I knew I felt shitty a lot but didnt realize I was actually clinically depressed (thanks, homeschool brain-washing!). I’ve been taking medication the past year and it’s literally changed my life. I’m pretty much happy now unless I have contact with my parents, which I’m thankfully now able to “bounce-back” from much more quickly than before medication.

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