40 Ways to Help Homeschool Kids in Bad Situations, Part Two

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HA note: For this two-part post, we asked members of the Homeschoolers Anonymous community the following question: If you grew up in a bad or less-than-ideal family and/or homeschooling environment, what are things that people around you (other family, friends, community members, etc.) could have done to help you and make your life better, more tolerable, etc.? We edited and compiled everyone’s answers into a list of 40 suggestions and will present those suggestions in 2 sets of 20. Each set is a group post compiled from various people’s answers.

< Part One

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21. Remember to distinguish between the children and their parents.

If you homeschool for non-religious reasons, strive to distinguish between religious homeschooling parents and religiously homeschooled kids, rather than negatively lumping them all together as “religious homeschoolers.” With your own kids, try not to model contempt for those religious homeschoolers, especially not the kids, even if they proselytize or repeat views with which you strongly disagree.

22. Create opportunities for the children and their families to broaden their horizons.

Keep your own children safe and socialized with diverse peers, but when possible, consider organizing pluralist homeschool events at which religious homeschooling families will feel welcome. These can broaden the horizons of all kids involved and help break down the “us-and-them” of religious vs. secular homeschooling.

23. Challenge them.

Disagree with them in a kind way. Most these kids are parroting the same rhetoric they’ve heard for years. Say it’s not a sin to be gay, that atheists have the same capacity for morality, that liberal Christianity has a solid theological basis, that you don’t believe in a young earth and don’t think it’s necessary to maintaining faith. They’ll probably disagree with you, but it opens you up as someone who they might be able to ask questions they don’t already know the right answers for. It gives them permission to consider alternative view points, just knowing that someone they respect can have good reasons to think in a different way than the conservative noise machine. Speak Christianeese if you can, but let them know that you can have conversations where the bible is not the only authority. Tell them about the way other countries work ± it challenges our extremist rhetoric when other places make things like healthcare work.

24. If they have mental health struggles, encourage them to get help.

Let them know anxiety and depression have real causes, they are not sent by god or caused by the devil. If they struggle with those things, let them know they can ask for help from someone who won’t try to exorcise them.

25. Encourage them, period. Let them know it gets better.

I wish someone had told me that I would be able to make it on my own both mentally and physically because I was strong and capable. Give them hope that there is life beyond the prison they are in and that with enough determination and planning you are fully capable of escaping. Let them know that the life they have outside of their parents’ home is so much more beautiful and amazing than they can imagine and that although the road is hard it is worth every effort it takes to get there so don’t stop trying.

26. When appropriate and welcomed, show them safe physical affection.

If they aren’t uncomfortable with it (always ask first) give them hugs and pats on the back and warmth. My family was not a touchy family, more about rules and basic provision than affection or pleasure. I hug my mother perhaps three times a year, tops, and this has been the case since late elementary school when she stopped forcing me. I probably have an inclination to physical affection naturally, but this affection desert I grew up in definitely starved me painfully. It was awkward at first when I got to the age where friends started hugging me (when I got out of the conservative circle the first few times) but as soon as I acclimated my heart started opening up a bit, because of the affection suddenly available to me.

27. Encourage them to accept and love their bodies.

Everyone here has such amazing, positive suggestions and mine is going to sound really lame but here it is: Tell her she’s pretty and give her a reason that’s nothing to do with her home schooled outfit. When I was in the hospital having my appendix out at age 11, right before I went under, the doctor said “You have such gorgeous brown eyes. You’re going to drive the boys wild one day.” Throughout my years of homeschool depression, house church, frumpiness, everything, I clung to that doctor’s words like a teeny-tiny lifeline.

28. Teach them about consent.

It would be really helpful if you discussed things like consent and that it really is ok if you say no… and also how to contact a domestic violence center.

29. Only teach them about consent (and other such things) when they’re comfortable with it.

If they’re getting married or in a relationship, it’s ok to discuss sex/relationship related things. But if they’re creeped out or obviously feeling like you shared too much information, please stop for the time being.

30. Help them realize public school isn’t the Anti-Christ.

As a public school teacher, I try to talk to some of the folks about the cool, fun, educational, and wholesome projects and activities my students are doing at school or how advanced their learning is. I also try to give examples of how Christian kids in my public school are able to share their faith.

31. Counter-act the demands of exceptionalism.

Let them know it’s okay not to focus on “being a leader” or “changing the world” or “being a light.” You can just be you, have fun, play or read or watch TV all day, and you haven’t wasted one second.

32. Teach how to establish boundaries.

Encourage them to be careful of mentors who try to treat you like their child. We have broken relationships with our parents, so we crave these bonds, but it’s often the first red flag for someone who will try to control and spiritually abuse you. Get comfortable with being treated like an equal, it’s something you need to expect in relationships or you will get walked all over. You’re not better than anyone else, but neither is anyone else better than you.

33. Respect their boundaries.

If a child (teen, young adult) who is still living at home after their homeschooling career tells you “I really can’t talk about that” or “I am uncomfortable discussing that”, please for the love of all that is holy, drop it. Bring it up sometime later, but not the same day/week/month. There is a reason they asked you not to discuss it.

34. If they’re high schoolers, give them information about what they will need to finish.

If they’re high schoolers, give them information (or just implied indicators phrased as questions like “so have your parents written up your transcript yet?” if you’re being subtle) about what they will need to finish, have documented, etc. to go on to college or a particular career. Their parents might not know or care about this, or they might be actively obstructing it. There’s no way for the teen to know this if their social / internet / library access is censored. But they’re still the ones who will pay the consequences later in life.

35. Help them with resources to succeed.

Help or show them how to find the right resources and make good choices in housing, employment, and whatever else might be necessary to get out.

36. Help them prepare for the work place.

If you have a lucrative skill/trade, or one that looks great on resumes, offer to tutor them in it. (Example: Any computer skills, handcrafting items, foreign languages, etc.) Things like that will help them get out living on their own and buy them (literally) time to catch up on school if they need to, or earn money, before pursuing higher education on their own. Pitch it to the parents as extracurricular, and better yet as free. Lesson time would also give you time to connect with them, invest in them, and encourage them emotionally.

Also, teach them about finances: I wish someone had taught me how to work and save, instead of isolating me from money so that I didn’t learn to manage it.

37. Help them get breaks from their family.

If you have offered for them to stay over, find a reason like dog/cat/baby/house sitting. Let them know they can use your internet, cable and peruse your books. Offer food they can eat (if there are dietary restrictions, be mindful of those) and understand if their parents freak out and don’t let them do it. Start challenging those parents but maintain your relationship with the (teen/adult) child. Odds are, they’re stuck at home “care-giving” and have no outlet, especially if they are not working, but also if they are.

38. Stand up for them against their family.

One thing I wish someone had done was stand up for me. My dad used to grab me and spank me — hard — as a joke for “things he didn’t catch me at.” He still did this when I was a fairly old teenager. He sometimes did it in front of friends of his for a laugh and not once did anyone not laugh. Not once did anyone stand up for me. I wish they had. I regard those people as unsafe people now.

39. If you’re going to help them in a drastic way, actually be prepared.

If you offer a way out, be sure you have all the ducks in a row, because they likely have very little resources at their fingertips and cannot truly function as an adult “outside”. Think of them as being raised in “The Village” and finally being outside for the first time. They are going to need a safety net.

40. Don’t give up on them.

Stick around. If you sense that anything might be wrong, stick around and find out what it is and what you can do. Even if the family situation makes you uncomfortable, even if the parents hate you and creep you out.

Stay in the child’s life.

It will take a long time for them to come to trust you, but once they do you can be an invaluable lifeline. Let them know that they can always come to you. If anything really concerning comes to light, call CPS. If nothing happens, call CPS again. I had someone in my life who was an “outsider” and for the most part a stranger, but she instantly grasped that our family was messed up and could see how unhappy I was. The four most important things she did for me were: 1.) Offer me a free place to live (I was 18 so that was an option). 2.) Convince my mom that I needed to see a therapist. 3.) Tell me over and over and over again that I was pretty and talented and could do anything I wanted. 4.) Listen.

As I grew to trust her I poured out my whole story for the first time, and she listened and offered genuine sympathy. She also let me know that yes, my mom really was abusive and that my situation was not normal. She affirmed and validated all my feelings.

Don’t give up.

20 comments

  • Pingback: 40 Ways to Help Homeschool Kids in Bad Situations, Part One | H . A

  • I enjoyed all 40 things. I am a homeschooling mom. Most homeschool and families I know I see no problems. But there are a couple. This are helpful hint. What is hard is often these families are so closed off that some of these things are impossible, But having 40 things to try is great!

    • Heidi, as a homeschooling mom yourself, you have a rare opportunity to help the children you do see who are in families like the ones you’re reading about. My parents would listen more to another homeschooler, and allow them more access to me as an older child, than they would have from a typical mainstream adult. Just doing the positive suggestions in these 40 without the more aggressive ones can make a bigger impact than you think. I was homeschooled in an extreme religious environment. I don’t hate homeschooling in general, and am homeschooling my own children for the early years, but I know the pitfalls and warning signs. I’d advise anyone who wants to homeschool to follow blogs like this one. It may keep them from doing these things to their own children.

  • Rebekah Maciorowski

    Growing up as a homeschooled child, I dreamed about an outsider doing any/if not all of those 40 things. You guys are right on target.

    • I think these things are so hard. I have a couple kids I worry about. But if I say or do to much I know the door will be slammed. I have already watched it be slammed on others. IT is hard to know what to do.

      • It’s similar in public school. Almost every time I have called CPS for a child, that is the last time I see the him or her. Parents who behave like this will change their child’s school the next day to avoid having to change (and to keep their kids away from a trusted adult.) Parents who mistreat their kids push back, deny, or respond with anger when people intervene. I know it can be uncomfortable, but as adults, we shouldn’t turn a blind eye to child who needs help.

      • Heidi, just by being someone in the childrens’ circle who SEES them, you will give them something. I was helped by those whose very eyes told me they saw my sorrow–it helped me feel less invisible, and gave me hope that someone out there might care that I was hurting. Even the little things can let children know that you are a safe person, and when they’re older and have more range, they might feel safe seeking you out. You don’t have to “do too much” to catch their attention–if the parents shut other people out and you manage to just BE THERE, you’re still a resource the children are aware of.

  • So many wonderful points! You can tell that these are coming from real homeschoolers from extreme homeschoolers.

  • Good thoughts and much appreciated. I would gently remind you that not all ex-homeschoolers support the gay platform. (Sometimes the articles on this website seem to take that for granted.) Personal, I would instead tell the sheltered homeschool kids that we can love and befriend gay people whether or not we agree with everything they do.

  • I agree with Caelie. The issue that most isolates me from this sight is my biblical interpretation of the GLBT issues. Loving/befriending/accepting children with these tendencies doesn’t mean we have to say that certain sexual behavior is not sinful. I think HA would be invited to speak at conventions, etc. if they pushed this issue less. These are wonderful points, otherwise, and I am trying to practice them with the families I know. Thanks for sharing.

    • I respectfully must disagree. As a LGBTQIA+ individual, the lack of respect shown by saying that my gender and sexual identity are sinful does nothing to make me feel loved or accepted, and are hurtful and harmful in the long run. I was raised with that doctrine of “love the sinner hate the sin” and it is only mildly less harmful than outright hate. my gender identity and sexual identity are a part of me, and you cannot love parts of me and hate other parts. Also, I would feel very unwelcomed if HA placed such importance on speaking at certain conventions that are unfriendly to me and mine that they would not advocate and speak for these issues that me and other queer people face. Though they might reach a larger audience, it would be at the expense of being a safe place for their queer audience.

      • This is not said in angry at all, I am just respectfully sharing my thoughts on your response.

        Here is the thing, I can be friends with people I disagree with. I am friends with many people of whom I think how they act are sinful. We can still be friends and respectfully disagree. So demanding people accept you you are hook, line, and sinker is really unrealistic. I have friends of many different faiths. We deeply disagree about issues of life and we still love each other. Many of my relatives struggle with alcohol and drugs. I love them deeply. My brother is in prison for life, because of the number of children he molested. I have a relationship with him and I love him. I think what he did (and would do again if he ever got out) is disgusting. Yet, I he is my brother.

        You do not have to agree with someone 100% to have deep love for them. I do believe that homosexuality is a sin. I have homosexual friends and it does pain them that I think this. It pains me that they have chosen to life their lives like this. They are pained that I chose to look at homosexuality as a sin. Yet, I deeply respect them as people and they respect me.

        If one cannot except the limits of another belief system, that is sad. You are saying the only way you can accept others is if they say there is nothing wrong with LGBTQ. Many people are unable to do that because of religious convictions and believes about how people are made.

        The LGBTQ community is the community that is stepping outside what has been acceptable for most of human history. It is wrong to demand that everyone changes, because you believe you were born a certain way.

        You have the freedom to live as you choose. But so do I. You have the freedom to believe what you want, but so do I. Neither of us have the right to feel comfortable and accepted where ever we go.

        The way we think and believe, no matter what it is, will always put us out with some groups. In public high school I was often mocked for being a Christian. Teachers and administration would openly mock Christian beliefs and principles. There were kids who turn away from Christ to avoid being made fun of. I did not.

        You get to choose what you want to be. You get to choose how to think. You get to choose how you will treat others. But you do not get to choose how others treat you or what they will think about you. This is a life principle that applies to everyone – regardless of sexual orientation.

  • I think it definitely helps when you have an established connection with the child or the parent. A lot of acquaintances told my family and me that not letting me go to college was a big mistake, but I automatically jumped into defensive mode. I had been defending their choices since I was little so it was second nature to me.

    But when a youth leader shared the same concerns, it meant more to me because she had earned my trust. She could see how desperate I really was to leave when no one else could. Even I didn’t realize the full extent until she challenged me, because I was trying to numb my feelings and thought I didn’t have options. She gave me courage.

  • I have a 26 year old woman in my life now who is the victim of useless home schooling. One of the ways I help her is getting her work with my friends: all single, successful women. I encourage them to share with her the common mistakes and faux pas we all have made. Because of the isolation of her upbringing, she has very little idea of how to work in groups or take and follow instructions. I worry about her physical and mental health because her mother likes to self diagnose but won’t let anna see a real doctor.

    • Nmgirl.. thanks for helping your friend out.

      It might take time. Ten years ago my mother strongly disagreed that I needed medication, so I didn’t take it.

      Just a couple weeks ago I trashed her advice, saw a doctor, was prescribed medicine, and.. the sky has stubbornly refused to cave in.

      What I mean is that if there’s hope for me, a former pretty-dang-brainwashed homeschooler- there is also hope for your friend. I would say 2 key things would be: getting her to be TRULY independent from her mother (I mean financially, housing-wise, socially, everything), and, perhaps, some helpful blog-reading. : )

      I will say that my mental independence wasn’t achieved until years after I was physically free. The chain seems to fall off piece by piece. Good for you for hacking at that chain though.

      Actually, the best thing you could do for her, is probably what you are already doing- being that one genuine friend she has in the world.

      Because, I guarantee you, that controlling mother is in no way a friend.

      And you know what’s funny about the truth? It tends to just.. pop out. Sooner or later.

  • I remember how shocked and flattered I was when one evening at an ‘outsider’ self help study that my mom took me to, not one, but at least half a dozen complete strangers that commented on how beautiful I was! I was completely blown away. No one had ever really called me beautiful, and I always thought that I was ugly. It wasn’t really my mom’s fault (she is my best friend and an amazing mom), but the fault of the culture she came from. It was considered prideful to compliment your kids on their looks, or their achievements. She loved me very, very much, but it had never occurred to her that I needed to be told that, because she had never been told that as a child, she was taught it was humble to see herself as ugly.

  • Here’s the full solution: Outlaw homeschooling and imprison all the adults who force-fed it on their brood. This “movement” is as legitimate as the “anti-vaccination” movement. . .and as harmful. For every decent child that comes from the Quiverful and Homeschool movement, there are thousands that end up destroyed by this abomination before God.

  • I know it sounds a little extreme, but I actually totally agree with AA’s comment. I was homeschooled from day 1, and the fact of the matter is that although other families and people saw how unhappy I was…No one did anything to help. I realize as an adult that it would have been extremely awkward for them to try to do anything, but the fact of the matter is no one stopped the dysfunction. There may be good homeschooling parents, but my parents acted really similarly to how they did. Nice, friendly, social to an extent etc. ANYONE can pretend to be decent. If I’d gone to PS, then at least I would’ve been more aware of how important it was to get a license/ID, and the highschool graduation requirements…I think homeschooling should be illegal too, and shouldn’t be encouraged at all. It’s just WAY TOO EASY and effortless for parents to use against their kids.

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