In a Closed and Sometimes Tightly Knit Sphere

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Caleigh Royer’s blog, Profligate TruthIt was originally published on October 18, 2013 with the title “Are Homeschoolers Socially Adept?”

I am at a point in my healing where memories aren’t as painful anymore. I have enough safeguards up to protect me from the pain, even though I can still feel the anguish from that memory especially if it is a difficult one. 

But my heart isn’t being neatly sliced by every memory anymore, which is a relief and shows the progress I’ve made.

Of late, my mind has drifted, curiously at first, back to my first memories of being homeschooled. It is with an odd sense of seeing something for the first time as I cautiously navigate memories which potentially hold mines and booby traps to trip me up. The big memories, the ones which hold the most potent abuse from my dad, are carefully tucked away as I chip at them slowly. But I am now dealing with the memories like helping mom move a massive computer desk across a precarious corner of the stairs as she reorganized rooms, meaning I was getting my own room for the first time.

She rearranged like crazy every so often.

Those days of major rearranging were days when all schooling stopped and all of us caught the giddy excitement of seeing the rooms being transformed.

I am being gently reminded of fuzzy memories of first learning to read and suddenly taking off with my avid love of reading. I was 5 or 6 when I first learned the beautiful art of understanding the funny little black shapes that danced across many pages. I being reminded of the pride I felt at being 10 years old and being able to read college level books and “understanding” them, whatever that really meant.

All mixed through these memories is a significant strain of sadness.

It is something I cannot avoid, it is something so strongly woven through my life’s story that it is a permanent part. As my memories go from those earlier memories to ones where I was being forced in an adult role, I feel the shift in the memories. Those memories are no longer slightly nostalgic, no longer reminding me of the days of exciting new discoveries. They are memories more strongly tinged with sadness and the weight of responsibility I carried proudly even though it nearly destroyed me.

I watch a proud little girl completely unaware and unable to relate to her peers, but eager to please authority figures and eager to be the authority figure to those younger than her. It is through viewing the kaleidoscope of these memories that I pick up on a familiar and explanatory strain of something a lot of homeschoolers I know have faced.

I have long struggled with being able to relate to those who are truly my peers.

It has been a struggle of unknown origins, or at least I had no idea where this struggle had really started. It wasn’t until I started following conversations in a group I am a part of on Facebook that I figured it out. I grew up being taught to impress the authority figures in my life, whether those be my parents or the adults in other families. I grew up being given heavy responsibility with being an authority over my younger siblings and being someone they should look up to. Being the oldest put me in that position. It also put me in a position of having inappropriate responsibilities of helping raise siblings, taking care of the kids, the cooking, the laundry, the cleaning. I took these responsibilities with pride. I was proud of how “mature” I was, and how so many people thought I was so much older (like years  upon years older) than I really was.

I saw the other girls my age and the oldest of their families almost as competition. Was I working as hard as them? Did I have as much responsibility as them?

Were they in authority over me or was I in authority over them?

Being homeschooled meant I was in a closed and sometimes tightly knit sphere. In those spheres, I was either sucking up to an authority figure, or I was the authority figure. There was no middle ground, I was never allowed to be a child. It was impress the adults or keep the little kids in line. I viewed the public schoolers as immature, incapable of handling the responsibility I so proudly and gravely carried. I saw them having “fun,” and thought they were such losers. I apologize now if I have ever offended anyone through this mindset when I was younger! I was never taught to relate to my peers. My peers were simply another name for fellow butt-kissers and authority makers. The kids my age were in the same position I was in, kiss up to the adults, or take charge of the littles. I was taught to be the best, not to relate.

I grew up being told and believing homeschoolers were the better socialized group over public schooled kids. I would scoff and laugh if anyone ever challenged that idea. “Of course we’re socialized!” I would haughtily answer anyone who questioned the socializing of homeschoolers. I knew what I was talking about, I was very well socialized, I could talk for hours with the adults.

Socialized meant I could talk and interact well with the adults I found myself face to face with. 

Socialized meant that I was more mature than someone who wasn’t homeschooled and had a better grasp on what it meant to be an adult. (I was about 13 at the time I started thinking like this.)

Little did I know how wrong I was.

I had no idea just how un-socialized I was until I got out of highschool. I had no freakin’ clue how to interact with someone my own age. I only knew how to be on the defensive and to try to not let them put themselves into authority over me. It confused me so much to realize how happy, content, and in love with their lives these “public schoolers” were. They had a healthy appreciation for their childhood and saw the responsibilities I so proudly bore as strange, concerning, and upsetting

I am just now starting to get references to various pop culture quotes and whatnot as we hang out with friends who grew up totally differently than me or Phil. I am realizing I tried to grow up too quickly, and succeeded in doing so, because that was expected of me. This goes back to my post last week about parenting. I never got to be a happy go-lucky child. I had to put on my big girl pants when I should have still been blissfully unaware of the weight of life.

Phil and I won’t be homeschooling our children unless one of them specifically needs it. 

I don’t want my children to be contained or taught that they are above the kids who aren’t homeschooled.

I want them to have normal childhoods and I want to encourage the grand exploration of finding brand new experiences and things. Homeschooling left a bitter taste in my mouth and I haven’t even touched on everything here. While I do believe there are people who have quite successfully homeschooled “normal” healthy children, I never experienced that. I barely made it out of highschool. I taught myself for most of my homeschooled life, and am lacking skills or classes I should have be taught a long time ago. I don’t like admitting this, it’s embarrassing to me. I haven’t taken more steps towards college because I don’t want to find out just how bad my homeschooling was.

So have patience with me and others of us who were homeschooled as we continue trying to ease into culture and societies that are still foreign in some ways to us.

I’m learning to not take myself so seriously and to relax and enjoy the diversity of those around me. I learning to love the differences I bring to conversations and to greatly appreciate the differences others add to the mix. No one is an authority figure to me anymore, nor do I feel like I have to be in authority over anyone anymore.

I can be me and I’m quite happy with that.

11 comments

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    I knew what I was talking about, I was very well socialized, I could talk for hours with the adults.

    Socialized meant I could talk and interact well with the adults I found myself face to face with.

    Cayleigh, I went through something similar as a Kid Genius in the Sixties. And paid the price.

    Because all the adults could see of me was my I.Q., just as all they could see of you was the Christian Culture Warrior Debater and Responsible Godly Homeschool Daughter. Just the part you were trained in at the expense of the other parts of your personality and development. I was the Giant Brain in a Jar, you were the Showpiece for Christianese Homeschooling.

    Because there’s some kind of Law of Conservation of Neurological Energy. As fast as my IQ outpaced my age, my emotional and personality development lagged behind. Even more so when your interactions are only with adults, cultivating and exercising only that Intellect; that just supercharges the emotional/social retardation beyond the usual “growing up Martian”. Compared to the way my brain worked, almost all of the other kids were borderline mentally retarded. Just as to you in the Christianese Homeschool Bubble, they were the Other, the Hell-bound Heathen you could not risk contamination from.

    At age 20 I had an emotional/personality age of around six. How did you stack up?

    • Thanks for the comment(s)! I actually was in a fairly normal range for my age and still am, of sorts, emotionally an with my personality. I’ve always had a “strong” personality, but because of the abuse my dad put me and my family through, I was emotionally repressed because I didn’t want to feel the pain. I feel a lot more healthy emotionally now, and just in a lot more healthy place all together.

  • Good post! You can do it. I grew up in public school, but at times I am socially awkward. I would like to share a couple books that have helped me. Maybe they will help you too. “Who Moved my Cheese” and “How to Win Friends and Influence People” Blessings on your recovery and success!

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    I am realizing I tried to grow up too quickly, and succeeded in doing so, because that was expected of me.

    More accurately, Cayleigh, PARTS of you grew up too quickly while other parts were left behind to atrophy. In one respect, you had it worse than I did — you were cut off completely from mainstream pop culture; I was not and kept up a familiarity with it, though a lot of it seemed (and still seems) foolish to me.

    I ended up gravitating to various forms of SF fandom, where I found others as geeky as myself and was able to find some acceptance among them.

  • Wow. This describes my upbringing really well.

    I’m now thirty-two years old and I became an atheist this year. I am just now starting to be able to identify for myself what happened to me when I was growing up. I was the oldest of four and I’m now realizing that I was never allowed to just be a kid. I was treated like a mini adult and expected to be a constant example to my siblings and everyone we knew. That tremendous weight led to me becoming secretly suicidal in high school, and then again in college.

    I still don’t know how to be in a relationship with another human being as JUST a human being and not a teacher/example/authority figure/expert on something. I’m slowly figuring that out and it’s excruciating to watch other people just be friends with one another while I still can’t figure out how to do that.

    It’s been really painful to realize how immature I am in some areas when my entire identity has always revolved around being the extraordinarily mature one in a group. It’s a very sad, unfulfilling way to live and I have a lot of work ahead of me to undo all of the damage my parents did in the interest of “protecting” me.

    Now that I’m out of christianity (I’m sorry, but I refuse to capitalize that word), I finally feel free to be a whole person. I get to decide what my life will be about now. My relationships with my family members are strained but, then again, they always have been. I hate the loss of respect I have endured more than anything. Suddenly my opinion no longer counts to them.

    It’s awful.

  • @Jen, it will get better. Your comment gives me so many feels, Including the becoming atheist part, and while my family has been quite accepting I’ve lost so many close relationships because of my loss of faith. It really does make you a nonperson to some people. I’m slowly starting to figure out my social skills and how to just have fun with people without trying to teach them or be subservient to them and it’s pretty awesome. Best wishes to you, you’ll get there!

  • All the H.A.posts and comments inspire hope in me: Human nature can be stifled for only so long before it breaks out, insisting on freedom. This fascinating world is ours to discover on our personal life-long journey. Go for it!

    • The beauty of humanity was lost on me as a fundie child. I would always see the worst in people. Now, as a secular humanist, I am constantly amazed by the inherent goodness of people. Teaching debate to Afghans, Jordanians, and American fundies is surprisingly similar.

  • Jane, A Female Deer

    I hope you are going to college if that is what you want!! Don’t let your past hold you back. I taught myself in high school as well. Actually, I didn’t do math for about four years.. before I desperately tried to teach myself algebra because I realized I would be going to college soon. When I started college, I was horribly behind and really intimidated because I had never been in a classroom before. I didn’t know grammar, history, basic geography, or anything beyond simple algebra and bits and pieces of more complicated math that I was able to teach myself from a textbook. The wonderful thing about college was that I started at a community college with beginning classes in all of those subjects.. and the teachers taught everything fresh, so even though I was behind and learning everything for the first time, I was able to make it and succeed in college. You seem strong and intelligent, and I believe in you 🙂 many children get poor educations in public school, and there are programs available to help you get up to speed. It was also a really great opportunity for me to practice and develop my social skills. You can do it!

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