My First Time With Shakespeare

Guest post by Anaïs Chartschenko, who was home schooled using Accelerated Christian Education.
There are days when the enormity of my own ignorance staggers me. I mispronounce a word which is caught by my conversation partner and the rest of the day idiot rings in my head. Sometimes I torture myself by reading author bios, skimming to the part where they list their degrees. Recently I was asked on twitter what I majored in college.

Nothing. I know college is not the only place people gain knowledge, but when I step back once more it is where did you go to high school? When is your reunion? Nowhere. Nothing.

Every once in a while, a young actress or athlete will win an award. The media is ablaze with the fact that they were homeschooled. Memes pop up on my social media about how much better it is to be homeschooled. Just look at what so and so accomplished at age 15!  They always leave out the part where the celebrity was educated by actual teachers. All homeschool is not equal.

The Flower portrait of William Shakespeare. Artist Unknown. Public domain.
The Flower portrait of William Shakespeare. Artist Unknown. Public domain.

In my experience with the fundamentalist homeschool community, the number one goal was repression of knowledge. My homeschool curriculum, Accelerated Christian Education, was designed for children to work alone, in silence. No teacher required because there is nothing to learn beyond the lessons harped on during the frequent church services.

At the time, I worried about being able to get into college because ACE is unaccredited. I was told by church members that god had other plans for me. I didn’t have other plans, though! I had been homeschooled, in church schools and public school by the time high school (with ACE) rolled around. I had a certain amount of pride in my intellect, as only a young person can have. I wasn’t the pretty one, I wasn’t the athletic one, but I was smart.

Too bad smart is the worst thing a girl can be in the fundamentalist community. Polite, obedient, modest… those were the words drilled into me. That was what I needed to learn so that I could marry a righteous man and follow his holy guidance.

Education suppression is having your religious curriculum censored even further by a big black marker on all the lines that disagree with your parent’s religion. It is a curriculum that is unaccredited. It is being taught lies instead of basic science. It is getting straight A’s in the curriculum and then having your parent alter your grades lower because they worry if someone comes to check up on them-say a social worker- no one will believe that you were capable of straight A’s (even though to my knowledge, a social worker never came to check on our progress).

It is a government that allows parents near unchecked control of a child’s education so they can exercise their religious freedom. With the religious freedom, they work hard to make certain their children are unprepared for the world outside. It keeps the church community strong, because it limits options.

I found Shakespeare this month. I had heard the name, of course, and I even watched a movie adaptation of Midsummer Night’s Dream. But I definitely did not read him in high school.  I never read him. Whenever he would come up in conversation, I would claim not to like Romeo and Juliet because I heard they die. I had been repeating that bit of tripe since I was a teen trying to hide my own lack of knowledge. I’ve spent time trying to fill in more obvious gaps, like watching The Simpsons. It turns out that without basic shared small talk, it is difficult to develop friendships that can eventually go deeper.

It started with a novel starring Shakespeare and Marlowe (another author I was not familiar with). It was an unabashedly fun adventure book, full of spies and witches and the crafting of Macbeth. But the best part was the footnotes. So many footnotes. I found myself laying the book across my lap googling different things. It was like having an adventure written into an adventure book. I fired up my kindle and downloaded Shakespeare and Marlowe. I plan on reading them both, and then rereading the novel (License to Quill by Jacopo della Quercia) with my new knowledge.

In one of the post homeschool groups I am part of, someone asked how long we would be mourning our childhoods. Every day we can find more evidence of what we have lost, and sometimes the gap between where we are and where we want to be seems so large. I think there is no way to make what has already happened right.

But we can work one layer at a time, catching ourselves in our cover ups of ignorance. Instead of mourning that ignorance, we can choose to get Shakespeare or a book of forbidden science, or take a deep breath and go on a date. We can choose to be a little more honest with ourselves, and the world.

I make mistakes all the time. I try to hold myself accountable, a little more each year, for what I expect of myself. Yes, it is a terrible thing to have adults undermine your curiosity.  It is terrible to be told your curiosity is actually a manifestation of sin. But each year that I am an adult, I owe it to myself to strip away layers of ignorance and the shame that I felt went with it.

There is wonder in being able to experience something for the first time. Most people lose that as children, I hear. I refuse to lose my wonder. I just read a passage Shakespeare wrote for the first time this month, after all.

It was wonderful.

Previously by Anaïs Chartschenko on Leaving Fundamentalism:

Anaïs has three books out, all currently available free on Kindle or for not much money in paperback. Read them!

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