Prison: Leah’s Story

window

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.

8 comments

  • Thank you for writing this. I used to stare out my bedroom window, too. It took me a long time to get adjusted to “time” as a more normal concept. Congratulations on getting out and moving on — and being the better mother to your son that you never had for yourself.

  • So many familiar scenes in this story-

    Staring dully out the window, while months slipped by.

    Contact with other humans is mainly at Church, on Sundays (where you painfully discover anew just how little you can relate to the dreaded “public schooler”)

    Depression going unnoticed by the mom (or triggered by her periodic rages?)

    Eating disorders (5 girls in my family and I think we’ve all been there.. perhaps some of us are there still)

    But MOST of all: the Mom using her daughters to run a free daycare.. and then taking full credit for all of their work.

    I really admire your stamina to keep getting up at 6 and pound away at the books. My sister and I more or less taught ourselves. Everybody in my family who really learned something basically had to do it on their own. Some of us were more able to handle that than others… which is so very sad.

  • I agree completely: home schooling needs regulation. We need a leader who will rise up and undo damage done by Michael Farris and his HSLDA.

  • Now you’ve done it Sheila! Battle bugles are sounding in the fortress of Not-All-Homeschoolers-Are-Like-That.

    Well, here’s something pre-emptive you can use to stave them off:

    “The NAHALT fallacy: The erroneous view that abuse must be experienced universally before it can be taken seriously.”

  • Lol @ Hattie. They aren’t all like that, but there does need to be some level of – oversight, I would say, rather than regulation. I believe in minimal government, but not anarchy. Most Fundamentalist homeschoolers seem to believe in owning the government for themselves.

    Thankyou for your story, Leah. You are an amazing and driven person. I’m sure you will be an inspiration to your son.

  • I am so thankful you all share and write here. I am currently a home school mom – well some are home schooled and some at public school. I never felt the need for homeschooling to be regulated until I started reading your stories. I have also been able to make so many adjustments to our home and school and social style. And have been able to think through the other side of what I am presented by the “homeschooling giants”

    I am really glad you were so strong and perhaps stubborn in the best ways! Blessings!

  • How well I know the feelings of inadequacy based off the intellectual inferiority of those who were responsible for my education. My step-mom would sit us down in front of a TV with a stack of tapes from BJU to study geometry. I was a Lone Ranger struggling through any mathematically related subject in “high school”. Why? Because she was admittedly unequal to the task she had undertaken. My father was equally incapable, but heaven forbid someone should mention any type of exterior education or express frustration at the learning impediment. That would be outside the divine will of God, and broaching on rebellion.

    I’m very glad you learned from the mistakes you had to undergo what to avoid with your child. He will certainly be the better for it. I hope I will be able to do the same if I ever have any.

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