Prison: Leah’s Story
HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Leah” is a pseudonym.
I would sit and stare out my bedroom window for 20 or 30 minutes? Maybe it was an hour? Time seemed irrelevant, and I certainly wasn’t going anywhere. My home was literally my prison. I had less privacy and freedom than most inmates in any state penitentiary, and unlike many inmates in a normal prison, I was unable to take classes to better myself for when I “got out”.
I was home schooled K-12…
… well, sort of.
I don’t remember my mom actually teaching me anything after the 6th grade. My brother “dropped out” when he was in 10th grade (and by dropped out I mean my mom didn’t know how to teach him algebra so they both just gave up, and he got a job as a waiter in a restaurant). After that my mom pretty much gave up on my sister’s and my education. I think part of it was because she didn’t think (as females) that we really needed an education. I begged her to let me go to school. It was all I had wanted from the time I knew what school was, but she refused.
I on the other hand, refused to go down without a fight, so I taught myself through high school. I made my own schedule according to what I imagined they did in “real” schools and I stuck to it, day in and day out. I would wake up every morning at 6am, get dressed and hit the books. It was difficult, not only because I had no idea what I was doing, but also because my mom and stepdad split up when I was 15. My mom took some odd jobs cleaning and watching kids (and by my mom I mean she accepted and took credit for the jobs but my sister and I did an equal share of the work). She then took a job making sermon recordings at the church, and so the nanny job fell completely to me. I, however, received no compensation for this, of course. I also felt responsible for my younger sister, and tried to teach her what I could.
I had no contact with the outside world, other than church on Sundays. We were never involved with any other home school groups, not even with the other families who home schooled in our church. I felt so terribly alone. I was very depressed and developed an eating disorder, both of which went completely unnoticed by my mom.
I wish I could say that as soon as I turned 18 and walked out the door I was free, but sadly, I cannot. The most agonizing aspect of my experience is that my mind became my prison. I left so inadequate because my education didn’t feel “real”. It felt like I was lying to the world. It didn’t matter that I did well on my SAT’s, or that I made good grades in college (when I finally got up the courage to go, with no help or guidance whatsoever from my parents).
I was utterly terrified of the great big world I knew was out there, but wanted desperately to be a part of it.
I started college when I was 21 and worked my way through, first through community college and then on to a 4 year college where I graduated with a BS. I met and married my husband while I was in school and I now have a 15 month old boy, whom I will not be homeschooling.
I still sometimes struggle with a feeling of inadequacy and like I am somehow missing something that other people are not, but I am very glad that I didn’t give up on myself, even when it seemed like everyone else had. I strongly believe that there should be better rules in place for parents who wish to home school. Some parents are not qualified to be teachers, and they are doing their children a great disservice by not just admitting to this fact. It can often become a form of abuse, and should be regulated like everything else.