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Thursday, July 28, 2016

As A Homeschooler...

I've been watching my kids learn about their world and their place in it. Answering their questions about current events like the marriage equality ruling and "Mom, why would anyone think that's bad?" Talking about American racial tensions and what Black Lives Matter means and how we got here. About why a woman being the presidential nominee is so phenomenal and what it means for our culture. Listening to them talk derisively about Donald Trump and how they're scared for their friends from other countries and "Mom, how could anyone vote for stupid a racist?" Explaining why the man in the museum was being rude and loudly proclaiming that everything there was wrong because his god says so. Me, struggling to explain complex cultural issues to grade school children in ways that honor the complexity and don't create dogma in their heads.

And I remember......

As a homeschooler, I was taught that the Civil War should instead be called "the War for Southern Independence". Or sometimes "Lincoln's War". Occasionally, "the War Between the States". The south was right in succeeding, after all, from the overstepping tyranny that was Lincoln's America. Slavery had nothing to do with it and most slaves were happy with their owners, even though I was taught that obviously slavery was not desirable and we were glad it didn't exist anymore.

As a homeschooler, the only thing I was taught about the Civil Rights movement was that Martin Luther King Jr. was an adulterer and a liberal who stirred up division and not a Christian. My birthday often fell on his day on the calendar, and I remember asking who he was and receiving the above answer. In my child-mind, he was not a good man and "we don't celebrate that day". I didn't know about segregation and Jim Crow until I was an adult.

As a homeschooler, I read biographies of the great Southern leaders, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. I read how they were good slave owners who treated their slaves well, how they fought against the evil that was President Lincoln who wanted to take away the state's rights to rule themselves. How the War for Southern Independence had nothing to do with slavery and only godless liberals say it does. Even as an newly-made adult I boasted about being a Southern sympathizer. I was taught they were the heroes for standing up for what they believed in. I read "The Real Lincoln" and learned that President Lincoln was a liberal liar and an evil man that was out to destroy America and family values.

As a homeschooler, I was not taught about the Suffragette movement. I only learned that women couldn't vote, but then they could because some women protested. Also that feminism was bad and once women could vote, feminism took over and destroyed the nation. My A Beka history book glossed over the entire thing, painting the Suffragettes as rebellious women who might have done some good but really should have let God work it out while they stayed home in their place. I didn't know who Susan B. Anthony was until I was a mother of 2.

As a homeschooler, I was taught that history was "His-Story" and only to be viewed through the lens of what God was doing with the nations of earth, else we wouldn't understand it. Strangely, he mostly only did things with the nation of Israel, the countries of Europe, and the U.S.A. I guess the rest of the world didn't matter so much to God. We were taught that America was God's shining light on a hill to the world and He had a special plan for us in His Story. Manifest Destiny was the name of the game, for God's will, Amen.

As a homeschooler, I learned nothing of the history of Africa, Asia, Indonesia, Australia, or South America. I knew nothing of them or their culture or their people. Beyond being told they were dark places of ungodly people who needed us white Americans and Europeans to take the gospel to them and save them from hell.

As a homeschooler, I learned nothing of current events. I grew up in the 80's and 90's and knew nothing about anything that happened during that time, even in my own country. I knew nothing of pop culture. I learned about the Victorians, the pioneers, the Scandinavian immigrants, the plantations of the South, and the Revolutionists of 1776. I knew nothing about what was going on outside my own door, in what is now my history. I am learning it after the fact.

As a homeschooler, I was taught that science was deceptive. That we were enlightened and knew what was really going on in the world, how the world really came to be. We couldn't believe the "evolutionists" and all new scientific discoveries that did not fit Young Earth Creationism and Flood Geology were wrong. I was taught that the earth was 6,000-8,000 years old, that carbon dating was inaccurate, that fossils were made by Noah's flood, that dinosaurs were on the Ark then died because of the harsh post-flood world, that there was a canopy of water above the earth that made the entire earth a greenhouse and came crashing down at the Flood and we didn't have poles before the flood. That there are still dinosaurs in remote areas of Africa and Loch Ness today, thus disproving evolution. And that anyone that says otherwise were deceived by Satan. Everything had to be filtered through the lens of the Bible or it was discarded. I didn't understand evolutionary biology until I was 28. I never knew what plate tectonics were until I was 30. I knew nothing about rock formation, biology, astronomy, hydrology, climatology, or any other -ology until I was a grown woman with 4 kids and hungry to understand the world I lived in.

As a homeschooler, we were taught that the world needed us to show them the truth about Creationism. We were drilled on how to argue with "evolutionists", point by point. How doing so would be showing them God and the light of the gospel and would save them. Now when young Creationists to that to me, I cringe. I was them once. They have no idea.

As a homeschooler, our "social studies" books were from Rod and Staff, a conservative Mennonite curriculum company. All the women in the pictures wore head coverings and long dresses and were homemakers. Everything was American-and-European-centric. There wasn't much social studies going on in those books, other than the study of the Christian culture that we were being raised in.

As a homeschooler, I was not taught any sex ed. At 13 my mom told me the basics of how babies were made. I was horrified. I was told only married people can do this and if you do it outside of marriage it's No Good Very Bad and could result in diseases and pregnancy. Then they started pushing the courtship books and tapes. I was taught that dating was worldly and that we were not to be friends with boys because boys and girls can't be friends. That having a crush on a boy was emotional fornication and would take a little piece of my heart that I would never get back. At 14, I solemnly promised to commit to courtship and the authority of my parents to oversee it, thus ensuring my purity and the protection of my heart. I never heard or knew words like "penis" or "vagina" until I was 18 and in community college. I knew nothing at all about sex until I started experimenting with my boyfriend as an adult and getting advice from my friends in school and looking up books myself. I didn't know what homosexuality was until I was 19 and someone told me a friend was "gay" and I looked it up in the dictionary.

As a homeschooler, I was taught things like "character". Character mattered more than anything else. You could be intelligent but have no good character traits and that made your intelligence nothing. Who cares if you can read and write well if you're not nice to your siblings? Character included obedience to authority, cheerfulness, joyfulness, attentiveness, submission (if you were a woman), peacefulness, all the fruits of the spirit translated in such a way to create a power dynamic of happy, obedience children with parents ruling over them benevolently. 

As a homeschooler, I was taught strict gender roles. I sat through women's Bible studies where they argued whether a woman could work outside the home. I was taught that working was OK in some instances, but being a wife/mother/homemaker was God's best plan for women. That we had to submit to our husband's desires in this. That as a woman, I needed to learn skill like cooking, cleaning, sewing, and childcare to prepare me for my life's calling.

As a homeschooler, I was taught that we were the salt and light of the world. That we were the cream of the crop, smarter, kinder, more godly, more pure, better in every way than our public schooled peers. That the world would see us and glorify our Father in heaven. That the world was a dark place and we were to be in it but not of it. That meant dressing differently, smiling and being joyful (because the world was sad and we were to be different), talking differently, choosing different activities that reflected Christ, knowing our Bibles well, and being obedient to parents. Our long, shapeless skirts and long hair and submissive attitudes were a light to a world that didn't know what purity was. We were pure. It was our badge of honor. We were not to spoil that.

As a homeschooler, my world was small and scared and black and white. Nothing came into my world that didn't fit the worldview of the ones in charge. Everything outside was a threat. Friends were a threat. Books were a threat and heavily censored. TV was a threat. Current events were a threat. Shopping in certain sections of the store was a threat. The world was out to destroy us and we must stay pure, in knowledge and action. Renewed by the transforming of our minds, away from the thinking of the world.

We were The Village, and there were monsters in the woods. No one bothered to tell us the monsters weren't real. Even fake monsters serve their purpose. The difference was that the creators of those monsters actually believed in them.

I come jolting back to reality with yet another question from a searching mind. Where my kids aren't being raised in The Village, but in the world. In it AND of it and proudly. And they will understand it and learn to navigate it and make it their own. Even as their mother still quietly struggles and remembers.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Of Libraries, Flashbacks, and Alternate Realities

I will probably never be free from the memories. No situation or activity is safe from the flashbacks, the comparisons, and the wonder that things were ever so dysfunctional for child-me and that they're so normal for my own kids.

Yesterday we went to the library for a presentation on Mt. Everest. The local university took an expedition to the top in 2012, and they put together a great video presentation for kids on geology, culture, and the amazing feat of scaling the world's tallest mountain.

In the middle of it, somewhere between talking about tectonic activity creating the Himalayans and the sacred ceremony and prayer flags the monks performed for the climbers, I had one of those weird disconnecting flashbacks that happen every so often. Like I'm suddenly an observer of an activity I remember taking part in in the past, and the one I'm taking part in in the present, watching from the outside.

I suddenly remembered being a child and going to presentations at the library. Or the IMAX. Or the Science Center in Seattle. Or a museum. We often went to such educational things. My mom thought we would learn best by experience and exposed us to more than a few really cool educational experiences.

I remembered being uncomfortable as a child every time something science-y was brought up. The words "millions of years ago" would produce an instant disconnect in my young mind. We were trained to hear those words and disregard them from a very young age. We'd usually get a talk in the car on the way home about how "the world" thinks that the earth is millions of years, but we know better and Everest has marine fossils on the top of it because of the Flood, not because of tectonic uplift (which we were told was made up by "evolutionists" who deny the Bible). Geology talks were a waste of our time and I learned to shut them out, as if the words themselves had power to deceive and I needed to be on the alert. 

"Multi-culturalism" was always portrayed as a bad thing. Or joked about as ridiculous. I can't remember anytime in my childhood those words were spoken of in a positive way. Adding other religions and their practices to the conversation only made the speaker more our enemy. As a child, talks of prayer flags and Tibetan monks offering sacrifices to the mountain was very uncomfortable. Not just while sitting there, but also nervously anticipating the talk my parent(s) would give later about how we don't accept that and how wrong it was and how I needed to be sure to respond correctly so they knew I didn't believe a word of it.

And I came back out of those flashbacks as I sat there, an adult, in our library, listening to the person teaching my kids about tectonic activity, geology, and Buddhist ceremonies and so many emotions flooded over me.

Relief. Because my children will never know what it's like to be so foreign to the world they live in. They sat there, soaking up the information, never once worrying that they were being deceived by Satan and the world, never worrying I was going to lecture them about the truth, never scared that they have questions they're not supposed to ask, never feeling like an outsider with an alternate narrative of reality, unable to engage in their world because they're not a part of it.

Frustration. Because child Darcy deserved better. Because I'm 32 years old, in charge of my own life, yet the scars of my past will always be there, showing up in the strangest, most unexpected places. The childhood that formed me, formed me thoroughly and I cannot shake it because it is who I am. Frustration because there are children still being raised with this kind of psychological and spiritual abuse who will one day be adults unable to attend a kid's library presentation without their past smacking them in the face.

Hopelessness. Because my parents will never understand the depth and severity of what they did. The consequences of the choices they made. What was a phase for them was my entire childhood, my most formative years spent in one of the most toxic environments on earth. The lasting effects indelibly imprinted on every cell in my body. They call me bitter and unforgiving. They excuse themselves with "we had good intentions". They say I'm making a big deal out of nothing and need to move on. But they don't sit in a library and have flashbacks. The fact they can call all of this, all of what made me, all of what I deal with on a daily basis because of their choices "nothing" says a lot. I think we will never be able to connect because of this. Even outsiders don't understand. The only ones that get it are the ones like me. The walking broken, the walking lost, the homeschooled impostors who struggle to find normalcy and belonging and peace.

And yet, also hope. Happiness. Thankfulness. Amazement. Because my kids are being raised so.....normal. They'll have a solid foundation from which to choose whatever life they want. If they want to be weird and different in any way, they will be able to freely choose that. They'll know what it's like to be part of the community and world that they live in. To not be an outsider because they're supposed to reject everything about "the world" and own a different reality. To not have a different history, science, and social narrative than everyone else around them and the insecurity that comes with it.

I hope they someday sit in a library with their kids and only remember with fondness the awesome time they had learning about Mt. Everest.