It’s Not Just the Religious Homeschoolers: Alianne’s Story

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Lee Haywood. Image links to source.

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Lee Haywood. Image links to source.

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

We’re both in our twenties now, but my brother and I were homeschooled from elementary school through high school graduation. To put it simply, the entire experience was an absolute nightmare. However, it didn’t appear that way to other people nor did it appear like that on the surface of the image our mother and father tried to present to everyone.

When I was a child, people would comment on my writing or math skills and would give credit to homeschooling or my parents who happily bragged about it. But the reality was that my mother taught me absolutely nothing. She wasn’t even remotely skilled in either math or essay writing. I taught myself how to be very skilled with math and writing techniques, without any help from my parents whatsoever.

In my older brother’s case, the “education” he received was also absolutely zero and he didn’t fare as well as I did. Our parents rarely tried to help him, and hardly mentioned him or any skills he had to anyone, let alone bragged.

Our mother and father epitomized the braggadocio of homeschool parenting:

Always mention the “good” side that’s beneficial to them, and lie and stretch the truth of anything negative that would prove the opposite of the image they’re trying to present to everyone as truth.

Now that we’re older and we’re more capable of understanding what our mother and father really did to us, we’ve both realized that many of the common phrases and rationalizations that homeschoolers use simply aren’t true. To keep it simple, I’ll only post the main three misconceptions we came to realize:

1. Socialization:

Homeschool parents will use the excuses that their children are socialized because they join groups, have many activities, even have friends from public school, etc. However, parents will often neglect to mention the fact that in many families these activities only happen occasionally or just a few times per week. Many children don’t have any real interaction on a daily basis with other children and are only allowed to interact at the parent’s convenience, not in the way what the children really need.

My main point aside from that, though, is that many children are not being socialized properly or learning how to deal with regular social situations, or aka the “real” world. For example, the majority of the people my brother and I grew up around (we lived in a middle class, nice neighborhood, not a terrible one) had addictions, and were dangerous people who had many issues (although neither of us really recognized that until we were in our teens). Being surrounded by dangerous and unsafe people all day isn’t what I would call a safe, healthy, or normal environment for a child to grow up in, let alone the “real” world. Public school may be bad in some instances, but at least the kids will be surrounded mostly by other children (and also, not all public schools are huge terrible places of bullying or drugs/alcohol/sex, now that I’ve heard the stories of people who actually went to public school, I understand that) and not grown adult men and women coming off drug and alcohol highs first thing in the morning.

2. The parents know their children better than anyone:

No, many parents think they do, but they certainly don’t, and neither did our parents. I had anxiety issues and anxiety attacks all throughout my childhood, and was very shy until my late teens. In my brother’s case, although he was very social, he was bullied in elementary school, and had been a target for other children since the day he started. However, once we both reached late teens/adulthood, our issues went away for the most part. Why? Because we were away from our parents’ influence for longer periods of time than before, so their own anxiety and emotional issues no longer had any effect on us. We were both able to act normally for the first time in our lives.

So while our parents would have said that they knew we both had different issues and that’s why we had to stay at home, our issues came directly from being around them. So their decision to homeschool the two of us did absolutely nothing to benefit our lives. We honestly would have been far better off in public school and with two working parents.

In other words,  forcing the child to become the main focus of the parents doesn’t necessarily help them to grow.

It may temporarily stop the problems and it may even help their education to an extent, but it won’t really help the child to deal with situations on their own terms. How can you have your own terms, when the belief system you have and everything surrounding you is dominated by your mother and father?

To be fair, I’m aware of the fact that public school can have the same negative effects on children. However, I’ve met plenty of people who went to public school and who aren’t monsters, drug/alcohol addicts or terrible people by default. Public school doesn’t force every child on the planet to have issues and problems. There are many kids who go to regular school and turn out perfectly fine, don’t have bullying issues, are extremely intelligent, very self-motivated, etc.

I realize people use those same justifications to homeschool, but what I’m trying to say is this: When a child goes off by themselves and isn’t surrounded by the parents’ influences all the time, they will be exposed to different points of view, not just their parents’ main dominating viewpoint. They’ll also have the opportunity to develop their own selves when they are away from their parents. Thus they have the opportunity to choose by themselves to not do dangerous and unhealthy things. By finally being away from our mother and father, my brother and I were able to make safe and healthy choices and set boundaries with other people by ourselves, finally, and for the first time in our entire lives.

Also, I’ve read horror stories online about children who want nothing more than to be homeschooled because the bullying is so severe. Some of their stories actually sounded very similar to what my brother went through. I’ve also seen firsthand the emotional and physical effects of what he endured from other kids. So I’m not naive regarding what can happen to children in public school systems, or dismissive of what happened to my brother in the slightest. However, I’ve also talked with him about it, and as a grown man in his twenties he completely agrees with me that the homeschooling was a horrible idea that helped neither of us. It was all for our parents’ emotional benefit.

Furthermore, as an adult he’s now perfectly able to stand up for himself and will tell people exactly how he feels about something, even if it’s rude, might incite people, etc. He’s able to do so because as he got older he handled people by himself, without our parents influencing everything 24/7 and learned how to deal with it. Our mother and father were both very weak people emotionally, and that definitely rubbed off on both me and my brother.

3. Homeschooled children are almost always better, more educated, and amazing awesome kids — especially compared to public school children:

No, that’s not even remotely true. There are sites and forums where you can read many of the stories from homeschooled kids who had miserable and dysfunctional childhoods. And to make it clear, I’m not just referring to the religious families. My family was semi-Christian and semi-New Age. My brother and I had never attended a church or sermon a day in our lives. My parents never forced religion on us in the slightest manner.

Also, most of the Homeschool/Unschool blogs you see on the internet are written and promoted by the parents. There aren’t very many positive blogs written by the children, because whether anyone wants to admit it or not, the majority of homeschooled kids aren’t happy or well adjusted in society, so they can’t write something that isn’t true. Yes, I have read stories from graduated homeschooled kids who say they were happy the entire time they were homeschooled. Yes, they might honestly have been.

However, to have the audacity to deny and pretend that there aren’t many, many homeschooled children living and interacting in dysfunctional families is absolutely ridiculous.

Of course, you could say the same for public school, but at least in that situation the children can actually get away from their households. Contrary to popular belief, they aren’t always places where the families get along wonderfully well, or the children are always happy to be around them. Homeschooling may seem to work very well for a young child, but I’ve never in my life met a homeschooled teen who was happy. Some of them would put on a facade and pretend they were, but once I got to know them… Well, I’ll just say drugs/alcohol/having sex at a young age/depression isn’t only for public school kids, not even remotely.

The parents might not be aware, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

Many of the blogging parents will exaggerate how awesome the homeschooling is and leave out all of the negative effects, or how the children really feel about everything. In our case, my brother and I were miserable 24/7, but our mother and father never mentioned that to anyone. We didn’t mention it, because we were afraid at how angry our parents would have been if we told the truth about how we really felt. Also, we felt very isolated; we interacted with public school kids too, but for the most part we knew that anything we said would eventually get back to our parents. Having a close knit community, or living where your parents schedule everything doesn’t exactly give a good opportunity to be honest about anything. And for the record, our parents weren’t extremists who did the forms of abuse found in many of the stories on Homeschoolers Anonymous. For the most part, they acted fairly normally and mainly just had social anxiety issues.

Yet my brother and I weren’t more educated in the slightest. The only reason I was able to even graduate highschool was because I used an online school program. My brother wasn’t able to get past highschool level, and so he suffered a lot academically as well. One thing I can’t stand more than anything else I see parents write on the homeschooling blogs, is how homeschooling takes so much effort. That’s not true in every case, and it’s certainly not true by default of being a homeschooling parent.

Both of our parents didn’t put in much effort at all for our education. Our father put in absolutely zero of any kind of effort, and left everything to our mother. She stayed at home, and I can honestly say that she would spend 8-10 hrs of her day watching television, and taught us absolutely nothing. Also, there are many other homeschooled kids with similar stories, who suffered a lot academically due to being homeschooled/unschooled.

On the other hand, I have read stories of successful unschool graduates who made it through college. So, I’m not denying the fact that it can be done. However, my point is that if a child can survive being homeschooled/unschooled and still make out okay, and doesn’t have any severe issues to deal with, then public school would be effortless for them, and in my opinion that’s where they should stay.

Finally, I understand that public school doesn’t work for children with special needs, or who have more extreme issues to deal with. However, I absolutely believe that (aside from children in very complicated situations), homeschooling should only be used very temporarily, and not ever seen as a permanent solution. You can solve some issues with homeschooling, but that doesn’t mean you should just stick to it for the rest of the child’s life. Whatever issues the children have will need to be dealt with eventually.

Hiding them from the world and people for the rest of their childhood doesn’t solve or fix anything.

Public school may not be seen as the “right” environment, but it’s the main environment the majority of people grew up in. So if they haven’t dealt with their issues, when they finally reach the adult world people will still be acting and functioning the same way they were before, so trying to pretend that doesn’t have any impact later on isn’t realistic. Most importantly, it keeps the children away from other opportunities and situations that could have actually been good, and far better than the homeschooling.

10 comments

  • I am sorry you parents did a bad job home educating you.

    I have actually meet lots of teens that do love home schooling and teens in public school that wish their parents would home school them.

    I am sorry you felt you had to lie. Many others don’t feel they need to lie.

    My daughter went to public school for 6th grade last year. She liked it for a few months. But really wanted to stay home this year. She is doing fine. We give her the choice. Our 2nd grade daughter is in public school this year and it is kind of the same thing. She liked it at first and now doesn’t.

    I think it may matter more on if your parents are paying attention to your schooling or not more then how you are educated.

    I would say that I get concerned over my kids loneliness. It makes me sad. And it seems that the home school world often denies that this loneliness exists.

    Yet, when I mentioned me going back to work and putting the one I home school in public school they were really upset about that. I don’t know lots of troubled families inside and outside of home schooling.

    I just wish people would be authentic, And you seem very authentic.

    • Please don’t come onto these articles and comment with the “not all homeschoolers” argument. We all know that not all homeschoolers are evil. It’s dismissive and very frustrating.

      • It may be frustrating. It is not dismissive.

        The article states that all home school teens are unhappy – it is simply not true. I am really sorry she was unhappy. I believes that there are many home schoolers that are unhappy. And many public school kids that are unhappy. Many public school kids learn nothing too – for various reasons.

        I am not being dismissive at all though. I think what happened was awful. I think whenever and where ever it happens it is awful. And I think former home schoolers school speak out to help kids stuck in t he situation. And help current home schoolers to not repeat the mistakes.

        My point of the whole post is whatever you do be real – be authentic.

  • The whole “homeschooled kids are always better” thing is so ridiculous because how a homeschooled kid turns out depends on the ability, time, resources, and willingness of the parent.

    My mom has said before that if our family had the money, she would’ve liked to homeschool us. I am very glad she didn’t, for a number of reasons.

    Regarding the socialization thing… The issue with that is, a lot of parents don’t realize how important socialization is, or how important certain types of socialization are. It’s why homeschooling advocates often brush off concerns about the matter. A few hours a week in structured activities is a specific type of socialization and kids might need more, and something different. Thanks to the modern helicopter parenting trend, a lot of researchers have been looking into how it affects kids, and all that jazz. Child psychologists and the like have expressed concern over kids not having much unsupervised playtime. Apparently unsupervised play helps kids develop certain social skills, like compromise. With adults hovering over everything, they lose out on that.

  • I was a homeschool mom with 2 daughters. As my girls hit junior high and high school, my husband and I looked at them and started to re-adjust their schooling. They had always been involved in drama and church activities, but we enrolled my oldest in community college for music, then English, math, and electives. Each year she did more outside school and less home school. It was a gradual process that worked pretty well, and she is now an elementary school teacher, newly graduated. As new charter schools in the area have opened, my husband says that one of them would have been his choice for her if we did it all again.

    My youngest daughter loved hair, so we enrolled her in a 2 year cosmetology program through our local high school district. She graduated and is now a licensed cosmetologist and a freshman at the same community college her sister attended, trying to decide whether physics, mathematics, or structural engineering is a better degree path. Cosmetology school helped her focus her skills and learn how to work with classmates and clients and having more than 1 teacher.
    If we did it all over again, I’d have let her take more dance classes and less Latin.

    As a parent, I have been saddened to hear about homeschooled kids who weren’t encouraged to blossom as they got older. Were you allowed to discuss educational options with your parents? Did you have an after school job? Were you involved in any extra-curricular activities? We felt these were necessary stepping stones for our kids. We also found that being able to drive on their own gave my girls a lot of freedom in choosing activities and socializing in their junior and senior years of high school.

    Reading through the stories on this site has helped me look at homeschooling through my daughters’ eyes. At times it was more lonely than public school, at times it was too rigorous, at times not rigorous enough. Opening things up from junior high onward seemed the way to go, and was something we saw a lot of families do.

  • I hear you! I was homeschooled, and have seen the mixed bag you describe. It was good for some, and NOT good for others.

    I currently work in a public school in special education, and I have one comment about your statement at the end about public school not working for kids with special needs. I have observed the absolute opposite. Homeschooling can be okay for a student who is normal, who can learn in different situations, and can adjust for any shortcomings in their parents. But for kids who have learning disabilities, or other exceptional needs, it is so much more important to get good instruction and have a teacher who knows what to do! Of all of my adult friends who were homeschooled, the ones with learning challenges are the ones who needed to NOT be homeschooled the most! Most of them were able to manage eventually, but there are still struggles, and in most of those cases it would have been better to at least partner with the school district to make sure that the kid was leaning and growing and getting what they needed.

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  • I had learning disabilities and didn’t get the help in public school in the 1960’s and early 1970’s my problem is still not fully understood from taking Iq tests as an adult. My mother encouraged me to learn to read and have interest, the school system didn’t. However, in Jr High I become real interest in Roman History because I read a small paragrah on Julius Caesar in 7th grade history class. I found out I have average verbal skills and above average general knowledge since I read about different things. I have low visual-spatial reasoning that why I can’t do geometry and higher math. In the case of kids with ADHD, Aspergers, Dyslexia or nonverbal learning disabilities or something else both the home and the school system need to worked with such people. As mention it took me to adulthood to catched up on reading, arithmetic and writing skills.

  • Another thing that makes education complex is the slow learner or borderline category. People from 75 to 89 IQ, can have average verbal skills or poor visual-spatial skills or high visual-spatiial skills and the public schools will not give extra help now for those scoring from the 75 to 89 range since their IQ is too high for mildly retarded or too low for learning disabilities.

  • I absolutely agree with your point about children having the opportunity to make good decisions and set boundaries for themselves. I’ve seen so many examples, both homeschooled and public schooled, of children whose parents were extremely controlling. And almost always, when these children finally grew and were able to break free of their parents’ control, they had absolutely no experience of making decisions for themselves, or resisting peer pressure and, as a result, things went very poorly. The worst example was a tiny homeschool/church school in my neighbourhood. The children were all isolated from anyone outside the church, and their lives were tightly controlled. Up until high school. Homeschooling regulations changed, and the church was unable to meet the minimum standard, so the students went to public high school. And they went wild. It was like they felt the need to get 16 years worth of rebellion out in a few months. They had absolutely no ability to make good decisions for themselves. They all became drug addicts, and many remain so to this day. The whole thing was so sad.

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