Reflections of a Homeschool Graduate: Part One
Homeschooling: Where I Came From
One of the core reasons for me wanting to start Untold Stories is because of the healing and hope I have found through reading other blogs by homeschool graduates who have had similar experiences and difficulties in growing up, moving into society, and facing the reality of growing up in the conservative Christian homeschool world.
While I realize that many of our experiences differ, common threads reveal themselves in story after story of pain, exclusion, confusion, betrayal, abuse, doubt, faith crises, questioning loyalties, and more.
Growing up all I heard and was surrounded by were glowing reports of how homeschooling was everything God meant education to be. Then when I moved out on my own, I had such a difficult time adjusting to the real world that I spent years feeling like I had been duped and left on my own to figure out how to “de-weird” myself. Finding sites like Homeschoolers Anonymous and Recovering Grace proved to be beacons of hope after years lost in the dark seas of doubt, hating myself and my past, and doing my utmost to hide any signs of it from my peers, while at the same time mask the pain and anger I felt from loved ones still within its circles.
It has taken me a long time, but I am realizing that I can be honest about the confusion, pain, trials, and dangers of the world I grew up in. In doing that, I also don’t have to be ashamed of it anymore or try to paint a rose-colored picture of it. For so long I felt like I had to choose one option or the other. I have found that people put pressure on you from all sides on this subject.
Outsiders grow uncomfortable with your lack of familiarity with pop-culture, or find it wildly funny and strange when you miss an obvious social cue – so easily make you the target of yet another awkward homeschooler joke. Insiders still within the community exude a variety of emotions from growing angry with you for questioning the norms and potentially damaging homeschooling’s reputation, to reminding you that it wasn’t all bad and to not hurt good people by making them feel bad for well-meant efforts, to shunning you altogether. Folks interested in homeschooling want to know if I would recommend it, but then when I hesitate or speak truthfully, they usually don’t want to hear my experiences any more as they assume I am bitter, had an extreme experience, and am not worth hearing out. People who get to know me think it doesn’t bother me when they make fun of my upbringing or my family or immediately assume I won’t understand something. The thing is, while I have learned how to laugh at myself and laugh with others – there is a difference between when you are laughing with people and when you are fake laughing to cover your embarrassment for allowing it to happen yet again.
One of my favorite authors, Brene Brown, wrote “Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be in order to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.”
My journey with Untold Stories is a journey in belonging. It’s about learning to accept myself and all that comes with me from my past to my present. It’s learning to be vulnerable in healthy ways and at the right times with the right people. I have been working on this homeschooling factor for a long time. For years I was an emotional time bomb, just waiting for a person to hit the button, where I would either explode outwardly if I felt safe enough or implode inwardly all the while putting on a good face. For years all I did was assess each situation I found myself in and become the person I needed to be to fit in.
Being Kallie wasn’t an option, because I had believed the lie that being myself wasn’t good enough. A belief like that is so pervasive that even when you start to realize it in one area of your life and attempt to change, there are one hundred other areas in your life where it has spread that you are still oblivious to. I am learning that the process of moving from striving to fit in to acceptance and belonging is a constant cycle of trying, failing, trying again, succeeding, and finding yourself doing it yet again. Because of this process, and because homeschooling was such a huge influence on my life – it is important for me to stand up and take a seat at the table of voices weighing in from personal experience.
I know that many parents out there believe they have a right to stand up and defend their choices. I know that many parents out there today who are considering homeschooling often find it easier to hear from someone who talks about it in glowing terms that ease frustrations, downplay limitations, and contrast negative experiences with a public or private education experience. However, in the end, when making a healthy decision what’s really important is to hear all the facts before making the best decision for you and your family. Parents who have homeschooled can speak from experience on what it’s like to be the parent, but they can not speak from experience as to what it will be like for your child. To know that, you have to speak to those of us who were those children.
I know in my own family this can be an emotional subject, as we have all changed over the years, and processing through the past honestly is never an easy feat. However, for parents all I ask is that you take time to quietly and patiently listen. There is a time and a place for sharing your emotions and reflections, but know that for us, as adults speaking to our parents, attempting to voice the truth of how we felt, knowing how you might question our decisions, and striving to be honest about what it’s been like to live away from home—these are some of the hardest things for us to ever do. Even for those of us who weren’t abused, or for those of us who haven’t already been rejected by parents, the fear of rejection or dismissal claws at us.
The pressure to respect and to never dishonor your parents sits in your stomach like a brick.
Emotions of hatred, anger, and blame that have piled up from every time you were made fun of, misunderstood, felt cheated of a life most other kids had, felt behind in your education, had to add one more thing to your list of stuff you missed out on and are trying to catch up on – all of these feelings and more rise up like bile in your throat. You want to lash out. You want to direct it at someone, and yet you can’t because you look at your parent whom you love so much and whom you also know loves you, and you can’t blame them. So you stuff it down and you blame the system for duping your entire family, rather than honestly admit to being angry at God, the system, and your family. I have had many of these conversations with my own parents. I have handled many of them poorly, as it is often so much easier to redirect emotion and refuse to face what you are actually feeling.
I also know that I have parents who have listened, even when it hurt them. I am blessed in that I have parents who daily live out the reminder to me and my siblings that parenting is never perfect but a process. They have communicated again and again with their words and their actions that what matters most is fighting for relationship, honesty, and vulnerability even when it’s painful. And that means rethinking decisions, agreeing to disagree, or apologizing.
For those of you potentially considering homeschooling, check out resources like Homeschoolers Anonymous. Listen to stories from parents and children who grew up homeschooled. Embrace accountability, structure, high academic standards, and work to make sure that your child is truly getting the best educational opportunity and experience that they need, not what you want or only what is convenient. Make decisions with the question in mind, will my child thrive from this or live to regret my decision for them?
For those of you who meet us homeschool kids, instead of following the crowd in laughing at them or making indirect sarcastic remarks that you know go over their heads—come to their defense. Help them feel more comfortable and take time to try and understand where they are coming from. Just because it seems like they don’t pick up on everything doesn’t mean they are oblivious. I can’t tell you the number of times I have been in a social setting, where even though I may not have understood all the references being made, I knew I was being mocked, made fun of, or was the topic of conversation. Also know that as we grow more comfortable with our past and ourselves, we can also learn to joke about it ourselves and with others. It’s a balancing act really that differs for every person, but honesty, a listening ear, and some quiet observation will go a long way.
So, with this introduction, in the upcoming weeks I am going to be sharing my Home- Schooling Untold Stories. I would love to hear from you all on what your experiences have been, or thoughts you might have on the topic!