College After Homeschooling

CC image courtesy of Flickr, BiblioArchives. Image links to source.

CC image courtesy of Flickr, BiblioArchives. Image links to source.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on April 28, 2015.

Most of my readers know that the last four semester I have been in graduate school. I am graduating with my masters degree next month, and so I have been reflecting on the experience lately. Grad school has been surprisingly positive for me. To understand why, we should zoom back ten years ago.

In Fall 2005, I started college at the university that awarded me my honours BA. The experience was overall more negative than positive, so much so that I regretted that I attended college even after I finished my degree with highest honors.

I think there were several reasons undergrad did not resonate well with my spirit.

First, I literally was not prepared to handle relationships. I did not understand that it is okay if I do not get along with some people, so I tried to force people to be my friends. I had almost never in my entire life been alone with any one friend at a time, and I do not mean alone with a guy. I mean alone with anyone. As a kid, we always hanged in small groups of sibling friends. In addition, I dressed weird. I had never had sex education, so did not know basic, basic sex terms and could not follow conversations in the cafeteria. I was using google every, single night to catch up on what was going on. Further, I had been taught that homosexuality was deeply sinful, and that people who had premarital sex were wicked. When I met people who were gay or who had sex, I had no idea how to react.

For the first two years of college, I lived in a fog, with no idea how to integrate myself or handle relationships of any kind.

Things did change, relationship wise, but that change brought a whole new world for me to sort. At some point in college, I decided that I was over the purity culture and courtship culture. But no matter how much I tried, I could never put it past me. I felt guilty for every romance movie my roommate and I watched. Literally, I was on my guilt bed for watching My Fat Greek Wedding because the couple had sex, probably, and because the dresses were so immodest. Also, I felt guilty for watching movies period because basically I never watched any movies as a kid other than Sound of Music and Anne of Green Gables. Further, I felt that I had to hide relationships because only courtship was allowed. By the time I graduated, I was an emotional wreck because I did not know what I believed anymore, and was guilty that I had had a life. I actually went through a period where I would cry myself to sleep because I thought I was wicked, all the while I was cursing courtship and I kissed-kissing-goodbye under my breath. I lived a contradictory life, and it wore down my soul.

Speaking of not knowing what I believed, I spent most of undergrad closed minded and could not listen to what my professors were seeking to show me. It started my freshman year when I took freshman literature and New Testament. We read “A Rose for Emily.” When I mentioned this to my mother, she told another homeschool mom, who then told mom to tell me that I was compromising my faith by reading this literature. At that time, I was a music major, like all good homeschool girls, and I went through weeks being torn asunder because I wanted to change my major to literature but everything in me knew that I would be exposed to so many evil stories (my family did not read literature other than Jane Austin, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien). New Testament was worse. My professor told us that the Bible has errors, he did not believe Moses crossed the red sea, and told me that Job was not a real man.

Looking back, I did not understand that even professors disagree with each other, and that disagreements are okay. One of my professors was a socialist and had us read Marxist philosophy for an entire month of our critical theory course. I complained and was annoyed because I saw her as seeking to make us socialists when in reality she was exposing us to different opinions. Back to the New Testament professor, I was not just closed minded to the idea that the Bible has errors.

I thought that everyone had to agree with me.

There was also a significant amount of deconstructing that occurred throughout my undergrad as slowly the more progressive ideas began to sink in, which again always left me torn. I have mentioned before that one of my professors, who I had nearly every semester for a literature class, quit his tenure job the year that his wife finished her PhD and got her a professorship at a state university in another state.  I was unbelievably impressed. My Greek professor, who I had for four semesters of Koine and Ancient Greek, fully embraced egalitarianism and disagreed with the complementarian interpretations of the Bible. He walked us through several of the chapters in the Bible that are used to hurt women and showed us why they have been misinterpreted or why the manuscripts are unclear and missing words. Further, my undergrad thesis supervisor, who worked closely with me for four semesters as I wrote my thesis, was married to a man who stayed home with their small children while she focused on her career. These kind of encounters may seem minor in the scope of things, but this is what my undergrad was like, being constantly pulled from that little sheltered world of homeschooling and being oriented to a world completely different.

Yet in all this, I did not appreciate college because it was thoroughly ingrained in me that college is stupid, dumbed-down, and a waste of time. A week before I graduated, I told my thesis supervisor that I had learned nothing — and I was in tears over this. Even recently when I was complaining about my undergrad to my grad mate, my friend stopped me and said, “geez, you must have learned something.” When I graduated, I did not want to walk the stage– I only walked because I was getting a special award for my honors thesis and it would be disrespectful to my examiners. And when I graduated, I wanted to burn the thesis because I was ashamed that I had written a liberal  paper. (When I presented my paper in front of interested faculty and students, I even had a disclaimer in there about the content– my professor must have been cringing.)

I should have graduated a feminist and progressive, but I just could not. The guilt overcame whatever freedom I had gained, and my academic knowledge felt such in vain, that the progressive ideas went to the wayside. To be sure, I know that it did my heart good, that it stretched me, and helped me later become who I am today. Still, I could have received it much better.

I say all this because homeschoolers frequently point to public schoolers and say, “See, public schoolers do not want to learn.” I think that statement should be challenged, but even if it were true, I, a homeschool grad, did not want to learn, either. I may have produced the grades, but it was motion for me. I could not receive what I was learning. I did not respect the professors’s knowledge — I was always thinking, “he is a liberal, don’t listen to him.” It took moving overseas and having my entire worldview uprooted before I was ever able to listen and receive contrary ideas.

I see the world differently now, as I will explain in my next post about grad school.

5 comments

  • I feel like you’re lumping all homeschoolers into one group here. You were a religious homeschooler. There are many that are not. This needs to be clarified in the article, that you are specifically talking about your “type” of homeschooling.

    • The majority of homeschoolers homeschool for religious purposes, so don’t act like the writer has dropped a major surprise on us readers.

      Not only that, but the “not all homeschoolers” attitude is extremely harmful, because it denies people the ability to recognize major problems within the community that happen frequently enough to be a concern.This denial means that we can say “that’s not my homeschooling, I don’t have to deal with that problem.” It’s a dangerous mindset to have, and silences the voices of homeschoolers like the writer by basically taking the attitude of “You were a freak of nature. Real homeschoolers don’t do that.” This attitude makes it impossible to address underlying problems within an already marginalized community.

      Also, the effects of the above story can filter in even if one isn’t a religious homeschooler. I was homeschooled because the nearby school system was awful, not because my parents were “religious” homeschoolers and yet, I still managed to pick up a majority of the ideology that the writer talks about, and struggled much the same way she did in my first two years of college.

  • Eleanor Skelton

    ❤ I spent my first 3 years of undergrad exactly like this. Rote memory only, don't actually consider the ideas, professors are well meaning but misguided liberals.

    Then I read Harry Potter and my parents told me to transfer to Bob Jones or else. I chose or else. 😛 And am SO glad I did.

    • Eleanor Skelton: I’m also glad you did. You’ve broken free from the (usually) Christian homeschooling cult. I’m 72, attended public schools all my life, and never had to endure the Christian bullying that goes on for so many homeschoolers. Charter (aka Christian) schools, which force all Americans to support religious indoctrination, didn’t even exist then, thank goodness. Just follow your conscience with the Golden Rule as your guild, and you can enjoy the life’s adventures without religion’s artificial guilt. BTW, Harry Potter is so beloved by children and adults not only because of Rowling’s incredible creative gifts but also because its values are humanist. Check out “Free Inquiry,” a humanist magazine that will encourage you in your independent life. You’re not alone.

  • Pingback: 12 May Religion and Atheism News Digest | Evangelically Atheist

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