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Sunday, July 13, 2014

I Was Not Supposed to Happen


My most popular post ever, the one on courtship and emotional purity, is making the rounds again, as it does every few months. And with it come the loads of ridiculous assumptions, explaining, excuses, and outright dismissal of everything from my character to my experience to my beliefs. This isn't anything new. It's been happening since I started telling my story. It happens to all of my friends from Homeschool Land who also tell their stories. It's woefully predictable.

"She wasn't really raised Biblically."

"He isn't a good example of proper homeschooling."

"She's bitter. " (Because obviously being bitter means you're making stuff up. Or something.)

"His parents obviously didn't do it right."

"She's not indicative of all homeschoolers."

"He obviously courted in a legalistic way, but that's not the right way, the way we will do it."

"The experience she writes about is extremism and not the Godly way of raising kids/homeschooling/courtship/whatever."

And after every dismissal, an explanation of why they're different, they're doing it right, they know better. Their kids will turn out as promised. They have it all planned.

But what these people that comment on our blogs fail to understand is that my parents had it all planned too. They did everything "right". They read the right books and followed the right teachings that explained how to raise their kids in such a way as to ensure they will grow up to be Godly offspring. People who are the exemptions. People who are whole and full of light and unstained by the world. The next generation of movers and shakers. People who are super Christians.

Had these people who so easily dismiss us met my family 15 years ago, they would've wanted to BE us. We were the perfect family. We dressed right, acted right, said all the right things. People used to ask my parents to help their family look like ours; to help them make their kids as good as we were. They called us "godly", "a refreshment", "a good example", and so much more. These people who now turn up their noses in disbelief at me now would've been our best friends back in the day.

I think that these people, who are overwhelmingly current homeschooling parents, have to have some way of making sense of the phenomenon of the so-called Homeschooled Apostates. They have to find some reason why what they follow and believe to be "God's Plan" didn't work. They encounter people like me and have no idea what to do with us.

Because I was not supposed to happen.

We were not supposed to happen. Every last one of us who was raised in a culture that promised abundant life and Godly children and have now since rejected all or part of our upbringings were not supposed to happen. Sites like Homeschooler's Anonymous, with it's stories of horrific abuse, neglect, and everyday pain were not supposed to happen. We shouldn't exist and our stories weren't supposed to sound the way they do. Not according to all the promises made to our parents, made by our leaders and the authors of the books and the speakers at the homeschool conventions. Yet, here we are.

We who have grown up, evaluated, rejected, and chosen a different path for us and our children....we are threats. Our very existence is a threat to the happy little paradigm that is the conservative homeschool movement. We are realities that threaten to unravel the idealistic fabric of their worldview. They have no idea what to do with us.

So they dismiss us. They make excuses. They say "well your parents did it wrong, but we're doing it right!" as we watch them practice the exact same things that damaged and hurt and broke us. We're desperately waving red warning flags only to be completely disregarded, blamed, and even attacked. Our lives and real stories are no match for the rosy promises of the perfect life, couched in beautiful scripture and Christian idealism. Instead of critically thinking through anything we have to say, evaluating and considering the experiences of countless numbers of people, instead of re-evaluating their own choices and philosophies, against all reason and logic they dismiss us. Pretend we aren't how we say we are. Convince themselves and others that we and our parents aren't like them; we did it all wrong and the formula isn't broken, we're the ones who are broken.  Even after the formula keeps producing the same result, they cannot let go of it.

But we aren't going away. We happened, we exist, we aren't abnormalities.....we're just people. People who all lived similar lives in a movement our parents all followed for very similar reasons. Every day there are voices added to ours. When I first started blogging, there were very few people telling the story of the homeschool alumni. We had only begun to grow up and process our lives and many of us thought we were alone in this. In the last 5 years, that number has grown exponentially and I predict will continue to do so.

Homeschooling parents today have two choices: ignore the now thousands of warning voices of experience, or carefully listen, reconsider and change direction. I often wonder how many children of the people who dismiss us will end up on our blogs or with blogs of their own that are just like mine. Parents, don't fool yourselves. You aren't "doing it right" any more than our parents were "doing it right" when you're doing the exact same things they did and following the exact same teachings. Your children are not more special than we were. They're people with free will who will grow up to make their own choices, either because of you or in spite of you.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

If the Shoe Doesn't Fit....

So here's the deal, and I'm just gonna lay it out for you.

When I and my friends discuss "the homeschool culture" or the "homeschool movement", when we tell stories about growing up in that culture and its effects, we are not talking about all people who educate at home.

We are talking about a very specific religious sub-culture, with specific teachings, whose purpose was to create an entire culture based on certain principles that were purposefully counter-cultural. It doesn't matter than many of us experienced differences within this culture, some on very extreme ends of a spectrum. When we say "courtship", or "umbrella of authority", or "modesty", everyone who grew up in the culture knows what we're talking about.  

So can we please just stop with the comments about how not all homeschoolers are "like that"? We get it. We're not saying all home educators are the same. We're not dissing homeschooling. We're not saying "if you homeschool, you fit the shoe we're throwing". Just stop already. If the shoe doesn't fit, quit complaining to us about how the shoe we're describing doesn't fit you and maybe realize we're not talking about your foot. If you can't relate, it's probably because you didn't grow up in the homeschooling culture and you're not part of it now. That's perfectly OK. Matter of fact, it's wonderful!

What gets tiring are the comments that decry how unfair we are to all homeschoolers. Those are major facepalm moments for me and my friends. We wonder if you even read what we wrote or care to understand it. Why you feel the need to defend yourself when *we're not even talking about you*. (The people who just have to comment about how they're not even religious but they're homeschoolers and nothing like what we describe really make me want to bang my head on my computer.) This seems like it should be self-explanatory but apparently not.

When I write about my experiences, when Libby Anne writes about a specific sub-culture and how unsafe it is for women, when anyone on Homeschoolers Anonymous writes just about anything, someone (or several someones) just have to cry foul about how unfair we're being even though we're not talking about them or about home educators everywhere. I would completely understand the outcry if we were going around writing about how horrible homeschooling is and how terrible are the people that home educate and how all homeschooling should be banned because homeschooling = BAD. But, we're not.

So, for the record, we know that "not all homeschoolers" are "like that". The culture we grew up in that is still alive and well IS "like that". If you're not "like that", we're not talking about you. OK? OK. Good talk.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Letter to Our Parents

Dear parents,

I'm in several online groups consisting of thousands of the homeschool alumni of my generation, the "Joshua Generation", the products of the Christian homeschooling pioneers. And one major theme going on in our conversations right now is an overwhelming frustration that we cannot talk to our parents. We cannot be real with you. We want a relationship but don't know how to get past the mental and emotional walls you have put up to protect yourself, the denial that your choices for us caused pain. Your disapproval of our choices and rejection of how you raised us is thick enough to be cut with a knife, and weighs very heavy on our shoulders. Can we just for a moment sit here together, walls and guards down, and be honest with each other? There's so much we want to say to you, to help you understand. So much WE want to understand. So this is my attempt to give voice to so many, including myself.

Unless you're never on the internet, I'm sure you know by now that your kids' generation isn't turning out how you'd hoped and planned. How you were assured we would if you only followed the rules. Dissatisfaction, pain, anger, and disillusionment are plastered all over the internet by your children and their cohorts. Story after story written by the adult alumni of the homeschool movement, honest and real and painful. Stories of dysfunction and inability to cope in the real world because of the choices you made for them. Stories of pain suffered, feelings of betrayal, and honest, raw emotions that are probably hard for you to see and hear. Words like "spiritual abuse" everywhere, directed at you and the people you trusted to teach your children how to be godly. "Survivor blogs" are popping up, being written by your adult offspring. That's gotta hurt. We are walking away from so much that you held dear. We are raising our own kids so differently than you raised us. Even the leaders you followed have turned out to be frauds.

I've seen your reactions. Denial. Anger. Verbal lashings. Tears. Disbelief. Shunning. Excuses and justifications. Feelings of betrayal. Guilt. So much pain.

"How dare they!"
"We were just doing what we thought was best."
"We only wanted to protect you."
"We were trying to follow God the best way we knew how."
"We gave you the best we could and you repay us by rejecting it all and plastering your discontent all over the internet?!"
"You are dishonoring us by focusing on the bad!"
"You're just bitter and need to move on."
"We loved you and this is how you repay us?"
"It wasn't that bad."

I understand the sheer amount of unexpected consequences and the reactions of your children must be overwhelming. You didn't expect this. You did everything "right" and followed the people who had all the answers, who made promises about how your family would turn out if you did what they told you was "God's will". And when it didn't work, those teachers and their followers blamed you and your "rebellious" children. "You must not have followed the rules correctly." The broken relationships are like a knife in your heart.

Our rejection of your ways is not personal. It's not a "reaction", as we have been accused of ad nauseam. Many of us were taught to "stand alone", to figure out what was right and then go do it regardless of what everyone else was doing. Well....that's what we're doing. We have weighed the teachings of our past and found them wanting. We have chosen different paths for our own families, much like you did for yours. We have taken what was good and thrown out what was not, some of us throwing out everything because, honestly, there wasn't much good left to hold on to. Many of us are lost and dysfunctional, trying to put together pieces of a puzzle, trying to live in a world we were not prepared for because we were told we weren't part of it. Many of you have taken this as ungratefulness toward what you did for us, but this is not about you. This is about us....our lives, our choices, our own children who we must now make choices for. Can you please stop making this about our rejection of you and instead see it as our embracing of our own lives? We are your children yet we are not children anymore, many of us older than you were when you set out to raise your family the way you saw fit. We want to have relationship with you, but not as your children. As your equals. As friends. As fellow human beings. Please stop treating us as rebellious children. Think back to when you chose differently than your parents and remember what that was like before you treat us with the same disdain and disappointment.

For those of you invalidating our stories, saying "it wasn't that bad", can I ask you to take a step back for a moment? To gain a broader perspective? Because what may have been only a small part of your life, was our ENTIRE lives. You were adults when you chose to attend that Basic Seminar, when you picked up your first courtship books, when you decided to promote the modesty culture, when you chose to become part of a patriarchal system, when you made the choice to spend your kids' childhoods sheltered from the world in your own little reality and the culture you created. But us? We were born into it. We were raised our whole lives immersed in it. We spent the most formative years of our cognitive and emotional development in an alternate religious culture ruled by fear, shame, legalism, and authoritarianism. We had no choice. We knew nothing else. We had no other experience and knowledge and discernment to ground us like you did, to give us perspective, to compare anything to. For you, this was 10-20 years of your life. For us, it was our whole lives. It was all we knew. Our entire lives have been built upon a time period that was just a small part of your own life. So, yes, it was "that bad". Our experiences were nothing like yours and you'll have to see them through our eyes if you want to understand.

You had a different life before this, and a different one after. This homeschooling movement and the resulting culture is all we know. It made us who we are, for better or for worse. Our stories cannot be separated from it. We are the products of that movement. You were the facilitators who got to choose what affected you and what didn't. We didn't have the capacity as children to even begin to make that choice. What you only observed and instigated and perpetuated, we lived, felt, internalized, and became. 

You keep telling us we're overreacting. You're offended because we "don't appreciate" what you did for us. But this is not about you. How we tell our stories and work through the consequences of your choices for us is not about you. It's about us. Our lives. Our hearts, souls, minds, marriages, relationships, spiritual journeys, and futures. The things we write about how teachings like emotional purity, the umbrella of authority, modesty, and courtship affected us, how they hurt us, messed us up, how we're working through the messages we received and internalize....these things are not about you. We aren't telling our stories to "dishonor" you. We're telling them because truth sets free and light banishes darkness. Because wounds fester in silence and heal in openness. We can love you, forgive you, and have a relationship with you and still tell our stories. We HAVE to tell them and tell them truthfully. Because sometimes it's the only way to wade through the muck and the crap and the dysfunction that you inflicted on us and we are leaving behind.

Some of you have regrets. You look back and say "What were we thinking?!" You know you made mistakes, big ones, and you know it hurt us, hurt our relationship with you. Some of you are watching your children struggle to overcome the consequences of your choices for them and hurt for them and are angry at yourself. Can you please just say it? Be as open and honest as we are. You know what I don't hear in the reactions of our parents that I listed above? "We are so sorry." Why is that so difficult to say? I know it's scary to think that the choices you made damaged your children. I'm a parent. I have the same fears that my choices will hurt my kids. But as a parent, I cannot imagine NOT telling them "I'm sorry" when they come to me and lay bare their souls, and explain how I've hurt them and how they're healing. Yes, it hurts. But I guarantee that holding it inside and bearing that burden alone will hurt you and your children far more than being honest with them about your regret.

So many of us get it. We get that you were duped. That you were victims of spiritual abuse yourself, who went on to unwittingly inflict that abuse on your kids. Give us a chance to express that. To openly forgive and to honestly work through the anger and the pain with you. Many of us have forgiven you, but we cannot talk about it with you because you refuse to go there. It's easier for you to just deny the past, our pain, and your part in it. Keep that up, and the denial and facade will eat out your soul til there's nothing left, while we move on with our lives without you. We want to have a real relationship with you, to repair what was broken, but you are holding so tightly to your elephants in the room, and we have to stay on the surface and walk on eggshells around you, playing your game of pretending that everything was peachy, trying to live well in the present while denying the past. Meanwhile we are frustrated and wonder how much longer we can keep up your charade. Please stop. As scary as it is to face pain you caused, it's much worse to pretend it never happened. So many of us are ready to start building a real relationship with you, to include you in this conversation. But it's your move. I can't promise it'll be easy or good, that' everything will turn out the way it is supposed to, but it will be worth it, for yourself and for your family. Honest and human is the only way to live.

I asked some of my friends...your children who are now grown...what they would say to their parents if they could. I'd like to end with their words. Listen to their hearts.

"Can you please stop focusing on the extremely few truly good things there were about the way you raised me and just admit, "I was wrong" with no conditions, qualifiers, buts or brakes? Can you please just admit that you were far too strict on standards which had nothing to do with my relationship with God and only hurt my relationships with others, without inserting qualifiers about how your extremism was justified because 'there was so much evil in the world?"

"The scars from our past are not the fruit of bitterness, but part of the healing process for us. It would help if you acknowledged our feelings and apologized for the pain you caused us instead of passing the blame to us. We don't demand any retribution for the hurt in the past, but for our relationship to be fully whole we need to be able to talk through what happened without being made out to be the bad guys."

"If what you did was perfectly right, why did you change with my younger siblings? And if you were wrong... why don't you acknowledge it??"

"You rejected how you were brought up, how is it wrong of me to do the same?"

"I know you've changed, I know you're trying to love us as best you can. But can you stop pretending the past was perfect? Can you please just say 'our choices hurt you and we're sorry'? I've forgiven you. But I'm tired of playing your charade, walking on eggshells, pretending that I wasn't hurt that I'm not still trying to wade through the mess of my past. Can we just talk about it, really, truly, honestly? You want me to 'move on' and I will, with or without you. I'd prefer with you. But we have to go back in order to go forward."

"You disagree with some of my life choices, but I disagree with some of your life choices as well. That is just everyday life: there are very few people with whom you will ever truly agree 100%. We're both mature adults and need to learn to respect one another's choices and learn to have a relationship despite our differences."

"I would like for my Mom to stop whitewashing the past. Instead I'd like her to acknowledge that she and my dad were controlling and manipulative, that they were abusive and authoritarian, that they didn't trust me (instead treating me as guilty until proven innocent) and they demanded things from me (like my heart) that was not theirs to demand. A lot of what I'd like to hear them say could be summed up as "I'm sorry". That would go a long, long way for me. But they can't even say that, not without 60,000 disclaimers like "We were doing our best" and "We were following God", or worse "YOU DID x, y, z". If they could ever acknowledge that they did something wrong without attempting to share blame with me... I'd really, really like that."

"There are parts of me I hide from you because even though you say you love me, I know they would break your heart and make you want to scream. I know because you've told me how you felt about my siblings. Since I can't share these vital parts of myself without disappointing you, I feel like an adult relationship between us is impossible."

"Please don't write off my opposition to Christian patriarchy as 'an ax to grind' and attribute all my adult decisions to a reactionary attitude or desire to flip off people who haven't been a part of my life for years. I make decisions based on what's best for my mental health. And you have to admit, I'm a lot more balanced and cool-headed than you were at my age. Did you get involved in the fringe movements you did as a reaction against your parents? If you did, please consider that I've learned from your mistakes and am not repeating them."

"Why do you act like I've turned my back on my upbringing and my faith, just because I don't agree completely with you? I still love you very much, and it kills me to avoid so many topics with you because you get upset and sad if I'm not parroting you perfectly. You made completely different life choices from your parents and yet you still love and respect them. Why can't you see that I'm in exactly the same place?"

"Even if you don't see anything as wrong in the way you raised me or treated me, please recognize and acknowledge I had a very different experience than you perceive. Acknowledge that I was hurt, deeply, and don't invalidate my childhood."

"I feel like I don't need any retribution for the pain of the past, but it would really help to have our feelings acknowledged. That would make a huge difference in moving forward."



Please, let us have these difficult, but so necessary, conversations with you.



Thursday, April 17, 2014

And So I Choose Freedom to Love


You say being your brand of Christian (which, of course, is the True Christian™) is so much better and fulfilling and joyful and free. But I'm not so sure.

Your christianity says "Women submit to men and must be under their authority and have restrictions on what they can do for God and humans, roles they must fulfill, and anything outside these roles is sin and less-than." 
But without your christianity, I am equal with my husband and have no restrictions on how I can serve God and others. I and my daughters are free to follow our hearts and dreams and be who we want to be, who we were called and created to be.

Your christianity says "Men must be assertive, leaders, and fit into this box in order to be acceptable as men". 
But without your christianity, my husband and sons are free to be whomever they want, and to live their lives without restraints, and to love without boundaries, and to be feeling human beings, and to not worry about being labeled as "not man enough".

Your christianity says "Children must be smacked in the name of God or they will turn into perverts; they were born wicked and it must be trained out of them".
But without your christianity, I am free to treat my children as people, with rights, desires, and minds; free to see them as innocent and beautiful and to treat them with respect and grace and The Golden Rule.

Your christianity says "There are restrictions on gender display and anyone outside that is unacceptable, an outcast, a second-class citizen, an abomination."
But without your christianity, I am free to express my gender however I want and free to love and fully accept people who also do so.

Your christianity says "There are tons of rules and restrictions and laws on how you are to think and act and if you fail those, you are in sin and must repent and if you don't repent, you'll go to hell". 
But without your christianity, I am free to live and love and laugh and dance, and to only make sure to treat others how I want to be treated, to respect, love, and honor myself and everyone else.

Your christianity says "Those who don't follow our rules are excluded".
But without your christianity, I am free to include anyone.

Your christianity says "If your child is gay or transgender, they are an abomination and a sinner".
But without your christianity, I am free to love and accept my child exactly as they are.

Your christianity says "Morality trumps love".
But without your christianity, love IS morality, and love trumps all.

Your christianity says "Everything that goes against what our Bible says cannot be true and must not be considered; you must close your mind to every other idea; they are works of Satan to deceive."
But without your christianity, I am free to think critically, to consider all ideas and evidence, to open my mind to all kinds of incredible possibilities, scientific discoveries, historical perspectives, and interesting philosophies, without feeling threatened by them. To see God as so much bigger than the boxes we put Him in, and His creation as "very good".

Your christianity says "Everyone who disagrees is going to hell".
But without your christianity, people are free to be tolerant and kind, even in disagreement, and live not out of fear of punishment, but out of love of people and life.

Your christianity says "Fear and suspect everything from 'The World' " and makes everyone your enemy until proven otherwise, until they join your club and agree with your religion.
But without your christianity, I am free to live with wisdom and discernment, without fear and suspicion, proving what is good and throwing out what is not.

Tell me again why I would want to give up a full life of freedom and love and acceptance and inclusion? Tell me again how your "christian" life is better than my "heathen" one, how your restrictive relationships are better than my inclusive ones? How is anything you are teaching Good News for me? How is the picture you're painting attractive in the least and why would I want anything to do with it? Because, Hell? Is that all you got? It's not really enough for me anymore.

A kingdom ruled by money and fame, kept intact by control and by keeping many of it's citizens at second-class status, shunning people declared not good enough for any number of arbitrary reasons. Top-down power and corruption everywhere. Fighting over everything. Don't question, just obey. Patriarchy. Abuse covered up, victims ignored or blamed. Fear used to control and manipulate. Oppression. Power-hungry leaders lining their pockets with money of the poor. People told to conform to the status quo or leave. "The least of these" squashed, dismissed, or used as pawns in political games. The strong preying on the weak and shooting their wounded. Intolerance and bashing, all disguised as "love" but looks nothing like any love I've ever wanted. Persecution complex. War against those different. People declaring they are special and better than and set apart yet acting worse than the people they think are not as good as they are.

These are what I see when I look at the Church in America. This is what drowns out the people who are still trying to actually follow Jesus. So much ugliness, I am ashamed to call myself Christian. I can't do it anymore. I refuse to associate myself with that label. It is no longer my identity. It only brings up ugliness in the minds of the culture around us (and in my own mind), not love or peace or humanness. Everything is so backwards of what it is supposed to be, what it once was. I am heartbroken and angry and so very done. I love Jesus, and I try to love people. But I cannot in good conscience call myself Christian any more. I'll just be over here, living, trying to love others though imperfectly, but with inclusion and tolerance. Trying to wade through the mess that is my spiritual journey, authentically and with honesty. Trying to raise children who will not perpetuate such pain, who will make the world better, who will fight for the weak and downtrodden, instead of self-righteously stomping them into the ground like my generation has done. Please, don't try to "convert" me. Don't offer empty cliches, I've heard them all before. I used to use them myself. Don't quote Bible verses at me, I can out-quote you and I flat-out don't care. I want nothing to do with American Christianity, though I love so many of you still a part of it and that won't change one bit. I understand why you stay, you beautiful people with hearts of gold. But I cannot stay where I am not welcome, and the people I love are not welcome because we do not fit into neatly labeled boxes. I hope you can understand that too.

I choose love, joy, peace, kindness, honesty, justice, mercy, redemption, equality, and inclusion. It's all I can do anymore. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

I am Your Parent, The Psycho

This meme has been popular around Facebook lately. I'm sure you've all seen it:




It disgusted me, so I wrote my own version that displayed the kind of healthy relationship I want to have with my children, and my friend Joanna made this with it:




I like my version better.

Monday, March 3, 2014

On Homeschoolers, Stories, and Dismissal

I'm not gonna lie, this is going to be harsh. I'm angry and frustrated and exasperated, and this post is the result of that. So don't come on to my comments and tell me how angry and emotional I am, Captain Obvious.

I was homeschooled. (I know, duh, right?) Most of my friends past and present were all homeschooled. Thanks to the internet, I have made connections with thousands of homeschoolers from all over the U.S. and Canada and a few other countries, some of whom I knew once in a former life, some I've never met though our stories sound the same. They are my cohort, they get me, we all grew up in this weird sub-culture that was varied yet similar. We are adults with careers, families, and lives. We have stories and we're telling them. Those of us who were lucky are standing in solidarity with those that were not. We are trying to get people to understand something complex and difficult, something most of us have had to wrestle with for years. To understand what went wrong when so many just wanted better for their families.

But many people aren't listening. Worse, they are trying to completely invalidate our stories.

People in our generation that either weren't homeschooled or they were homeschooled well, without all the crap that so many of us experienced aren't taking us seriously. People in our parent's generation treat us like children to be disregarded, discredited, and outright denied our stories and pain.

"Well, you're just bitter."
"You just want to rebel against your parents and God." (side note: how old do I have to be before I'm not "rebelling against my parents" anymore? And what happens if my parents now agree with me?)
"You don't have a spirit of gratefulness for everything your parents sacrificed for you."
"You should be honoring your parents not speaking badly about them!"
"Most homeschoolers aren't like that."
"Don't go from one extreme to another."
"Your abuse has nothing to do with homeschooling."
"How dare you link homeschooling with abuse!"

If you want examples of this, just go browse through the comments on posts on Homeschoolers Anonymous. The outrage and disbelief and dismissal is thick enough to slice with a knife. People comment in indignation on HA's Facebook page about the content of the articles printed there. "How dare you misrepresent homeschooling like this?!" (Because people telling their true life stories are obviously diabolically "misrepresenting" homeschooling.) These people don't care about the very real faces behind those stories. They only care that the image of Almightly Homeschooling is preserved intact while the inside rots in darkness and filth and brokenness because, oh, we don't want to talk about those things.....we only want to see the nice, pretty stuff. Nothing bad ever happens in Homeschool Land! Well fuck that shit. That's the 
attitude that CREATED these stories and these broken lives and we are all so over it. 

If you weren't homeschooled, don't tell me my experiences aren't valid. You have no idea what you're talking about any more than I would have any idea about things like prom, sports teams, or high school cliques. Don't tell my friends that the abuse they suffered had nothing to do with homeschooling. You don't know that. You have no idea the complexity that is abuse in homeschooling families. And if you're from my generation and are enthusiastically homeschooling your own kids, then it's even more crucial that you listen to people that grew up homeschooled. I don't see why you wouldn't want to. We lived the way you've chosen for your kids. We can tell you what we liked and didn't like, what worked for us and what didn't, which roads led to a cliff and how to avoid those. We're like this totally awesome resource that you can utilize yet the main reaction we seem to get from you these days is disdain and dismissal. You might want to rethink that. I pay rapt attention to people who were public-schooled so I know the pros and cons and what to watch out for with my own children. It's just common sense.

If you're a former homeschooling parent from our parents' generation, don't sit on your high horse and condemn your children for telling their stories. Don't deny their pain because you're too much of a coward to look into your own life and see how you caused it. Don't tell them not to speak badly of you when you acted badly toward them. Shut up about how much you sacrificed for them when they're bravely trying to explain that you hurt them. Just fucking listen for a change.  "But we were good parents!" you say. No, no you weren't. If you're telling your adult children to stop talking, that "it wasn't that bad" and denying their pain, you're shitty parents. I can't even imagine defending myself if one of my kids told me I hurt them. But then, I'm under no illusion that I'm better than they are or that my reputation matters more than their pain. Stop treating them as errant children. They are the age you were when you decided to homeschool them.

An entire generation of homeschoolers have grow up and they are telling their stories, the good, bad, and ugly. Most of us have lived our whole lives under crushing standards, expectations, and facades, and we are done. So done pretending. There a lot of successes and a shitload of failures that came from the conservative homeschooling movement and we will talk about all of them. Because information is power, empowering the next generation to help avoid the awful parts of ours. They NEED to know what went wrong, from the perspective of the guinea pigs. We alone can tell that part of the story, paint that part of the picture, speak from the very darkest places in our hearts about the parts that went so desperately, terribly wrong. What do people think? That we share the worst parts of our stories to billions of strangers on the internet for the heck of it? We share because WE FREAKIN' CARE. We care that others not go through what we did. We care and desperately want to save others from needless pain. This isn't some joyride we all decided to take part of. This shit hurts, and the derision we experience from family and friends is daunting, but staying silent while others suffer is a far worse pain than honestly exposing our own wounds.

Don't come on here and tell me how sorry you are that I had such a bad experience but I can't judge all homeschoolers by my terrible experience and blah blah blah. I didn't have a terrible experience. I was one of the lucky ones. My parents actually gave me a great education and loved us and didn't physcially abuse us, even as they were victims themselves of a spiritually abusive system that judged them as harshly as it judged us. Was I scarred from shit in my past directly related to homeschooling? Yes I was. And that's MY story, much of which I've told on this very blog. But I have sat and listened to hundreds of the stories of my friends who were not so lucky. I have held them as they cried and tried to put the broken pieces of their lives back together. I have written the stories of my friends as tears poured out of my eyes and onto my keyboard. I have heard unspeakable things that NEED to be spoken but no one knows how because they are too hard to face, because no one believed them, because people like you silenced them. I started college last year at 29 years old because my desire to help people heal from abuse is so great I decided to become a therapist so I could really help for the rest of my life.

I am so sick and tired of people trying to silence me and my friends. So let's get one thing straight: We will not be silenced any more. We aren't going away. We've discovered the power of large groups of pissed off people that have a lot in common, that have been silenced and controlled too long. We've found that it only takes one brave person to speak up to allow everyone else to be brave. You can discredit our stories all you like, ignore the frantic warning signs we are holding right in front of your noses, and keep on perpetuating mistakes on your own children. And when they grow up and write blogs like this and this and these, you will only have yourself and your pride to blame. We'll just be here to hug the survivors and give them a place to talk and an understanding ear to listen, and to keep on fighting for people as we've been doing all along.

Monday, December 2, 2013

I Was That Parent

Libby Anne, of Love, Joy, Feminism, has been writing a review of Micheal Pearl's book, To Train Up A Child. Today she got to the chapter on "The Rod". And my heart broke all over again. Those words from that chapter...they are like a knife in my heart. I want to forget I ever read them. I want to forget I ever followed them. This is my story, one I haven't shared in all it's details to many people. One I am ashamed of, that makes me angry at myself, at the Pearls, at spiritual abuse and how it invades and takes over every aspect of your life til life itself is choked out.

I was one of those parents convinced by this book that if I didn't spank my child, I didn't love them. I was convinced that I was just emotional and needed to "toughen up" (something Micheal says to mothers throughout the book), that this was what my kids needed to turn into good people.  That if I didn't follow Pearl's advice, my kids would be delinquent perverts. That if I didn't "win" every battle, we'd all lose. But the fact was, we all lost anyway.

I had my first two babies in one year, 11 months apart. Both high-needs, one later diagnosed with ASD. Before I had them, I had read everything the Pearls ever wrote. It made perfect sense to my teenage mind and I was determined to raise my kids this way and reap the promised benefits. Then I actually had kids. And it all went downhill from there. I started to lose my resolve to spank/swat into submission for every infraction when my oldest was around  9-11 months.  She was so young and stubborn and, try as a may, I couldn't completely turn off my conscience. I started to become sporadic with my punishment since it seemed all we did was battle with our baby, and started picking my battles because it didn't seem like I ever won and we were exhausted and I just flat-out didn't think I'd have to spank so much before I had her. The Pearls and others say that if you train early and consistently, then your child will be sweet and submissive at an early age, but it didn't seem to be working. I thought maybe I wasn't doing enough "training sessions" like they say to. I felt so guilty for co-sleeping just so we could sleep and baby-wearing so I could get things done (as opposed to "blanket training" which just seemed pointless to me). I just knew that I was setting us all up for failure for letting my baby control me and not training her better when she was young. But I excused myself because I was pregnant and sick and tired. My resolve was renewed when my 2nd baby was 6-12 months old and I remember with heart broken how I spanked her for not eating her food, thinking I had to or she would be spoiled and I would prove that I'm a wimp and hate my children. (When she was later diagnosed with ASD and SPD, I realized that texture mattered to her and there was no way she would eat certain foods. She is 6 1/2 and still extremely picky, something I came to understand as normal for a child like her, for most kids actually.) I remember not feeding my baby, like they said to, because she wouldn't eat what was offered to her, supposedly teaching her I was in control of her food and pickiness wasn't allowed. Thankfully, mother's intuition kicked in after her 3rd missed meal and I caved and fed her, somehow knowing she would starve herself before she ate something she didn't like. Again, feeling guilty and like a failure. Conflicted because part of me even then was thinking "fuck this shit" as part of me still hung onto it as "God's best way".

Somewhere after that time, around the time my 2nd daughter was 2 1/2 and diagnosed with autism, I gave up. I stopped pouring over the Pearl's books, trying to figure out what I was supposed to do. I started researching childhood development and working with therapists and behavior specialists for my daughter. A whole new world opened up to me as a parent. I began to work *with* my children's development instead of against it. And I was appalled I had ever thought the Pearls knew what they were talking about. Everything they advise goes against all common sense and science and child psychology and understanding of childhood development. I was appalled I had been so ignorant, had ever done such things to my children in the name of love, in the name of following God, in the name of good intentions. All the good intentions in the world cannot erase my guilt for those few years. Guilt that has since turned into righteous anger. I went from feeling guilty that I didn't follow their advice to feeling heartbroken that I ever tried.

Much research and a lot of experience later, I am now a complete believer in positive, respectful parenting and a die-hard attachment parent. It's my natural parenting style that I had stifled because I read in those books that it was wrong and worldly and my kids would end up in hell if I followed anything else. Well, if this is hell, bring it. Our family is so much more peaceful and I actually like my kids, and I am free to be the parent I want to be and they are free to be children. Where there was once expectations of perfection and antagonism, there is now only love, grace, mercy, and unfinished parents and children who are walking this journey together, on the same team. And we are all so much happier for it. I'm so glad we gave up on "the only perfect way to raise kids" before they were old enough for much damage to be done. We haven't spanked our children in years, one has never been and never will be, though we were still hanging onto spanking in the back of our heads as something we might use in drastic situations while finding other means to communicate with our kids. About a year ago, we consciously swore off ever hitting our children again. I fully believe that parenting can be done with respect, that children are people too, and that spanking is very damaging, no matter how you do it or how much you love your kids. There are much better ways to raise good people.

And, can I be brutally honest here? Fuck Micheal Pearl and his stupid, destructive books. I despise them with all that is within me. I will not stop speaking out against their damaging advice, telling my story, hoping that other parents and children might be spared. Children have died because their parents followed these methods. And it's not hard at all for me to see why. It could've been my own story. Thank God I couldn't quite stifle my conscience and instinct and natural love enough to follow their advice perfectly for very long.

People who were not raised as I have asked with disdain how anyone could follow such abusive methods. They shake their heads at the horrible parents that would ever practice such things. And I try to explain the ideas of spiritual abuse, brainwashing, and toxic faith in a system that teaches "do what we say, or your kids will go to hell". The control by fear. I cannot justify blindly following someone out of fear, and even now I only blame myself for choosing to follow a method that hurts, but I do understand. I understand that parents who love their kids and have the best intentions can do the worst things and follow bad advice. I understand that many parents think they are loving their children while abusing them. I do not justify them or me, but I get it. I hurt for them. I am angry on their behalf, on my behalf, and for our children.

Libby Anne's conclusion of the matter hit me like a ton of bricks:

"This is toxic. This is how Michael convinces otherwise gentle and loving parents to beat their children with plumbing supply line. I really don’t know what else to say here except that this section is so toxic it takes my breath away. What Michael is doing is telling parents to turn off their consciences and their natural human love for their children, because beat their children they must. We like to think of child abuse as something that is only done by angry, hateful parents. Sadly, because of books like this, that is not true. "

She couldn't have been more agonizingly correct.