I was “homeschooled” (and I’m not sure I am comfortable calling it that) for absolutely non-ideological reasons, and in fact, there was only ever a brief time during my schooling in which I was not enrolled in public school, at the very end, a few weeks before I took my GED.
I was born with a severe immune disease, and along with making me extremely prone to infection, it also causes me to have seizures, narcolepsy, fainting spells, asthma, and circulatory problems, all of which grow worse when my body is run down. This made just getting to school, a building with two thousand people and all of their pathogens, a real challenge for me, and in my freshman year of high school, my family and I convinced the school district to send a teacher home to teach me, as part of a program usually used for students with less chronic illnesses, like pneumonia. I was enrolled in six periods of classes, and the teachers from those classes would send me assignments through the home hospital teacher, so the academics of my schooling were identical to the ones at the local high school, aside from the fact that I was allowed to pace myself. Also, every year, I did attempt to go back to attending school, and every year I lasted a couple of months before admitting that no, I wasn’t magically better this year.
We knew that the home hospital program existed, because my elementary school had begged us to take advantage of a similar system when I was in kindergarten, because they were unable to handle my “strange behavior” which would much later be diagnosed as seizures. My seizures aren’t what most people think of as seizures. During them, I lose all awareness of myself, and run around, glaze-eyed and utterly non responsive for up to several hours, looking for a place to hide, attacking anyone who physically tries to stop me. They happened at least once a week before I was diagnosed and received treatment, and sometimes, they happened several times a day, almost always at school. Before I was diagnosed, the school and my teachers assumed it was some kind of emotional problem, and the other students were terrified of me. Even once I had a diagnosis, the teacher and principal I had at the time both refused to believe they were anything other than a brat’s tantrums. As I stopped having them, they encouraged the other students to bully me mercilessly as punishment, and I eventually had to hange schools because of the abuse.
Although we moved to another state when I was in middle school, the social anxiety, low self esteem, and poor grasp of social cues the earlier bullying, and falling prey to my first of two stalkers, had left me with, marked me out as easy prey for more bullies and another stalker, right up until I withdrew from high school. My bisexuality having somehow become common knowledge to the student body didn’t help matters. For years, my family and I had battled bullies and an administration dead set against helping me end the torment I was enduring. I had switched schools, moved, and done everything I could to blend in and keep my head down, and I was out of options and out of hope.
I remember this tremendous sense of relief at the idea of leaving school, and once I had, I felt truly safe for the first time in years. For the first time, my illness presented the solution. I really was too sick to go to school. The bullies and my stalkers hadn’t driven me out, I could leave school guilt free. Learning at home for me was an overwhelmingly positive experience, giving me space to breathe, heal, and gather my strength. I had become so used to living in fear that I didn’t realize how afraid I had been until I wasn’t any longer. Later I would be diagnosed with PTSD, most likely from the two stalkers, and it took me years to be able to admit to myself that I wasn’t just weak, or a wimp, or an overdramatic teenage girl, that school for me was bad, it was ugly, and it was bad, and escaping it was a Good Thing.
And it was medically necessary. Given how vital the chance to lick my wounds and put myself back together was, it’s sometimes hard to remember the real reason I left high school was that I kept ending up in the hospital.
I don’t fit in well in the pro-homeschooling camp, because I don’t think it’s the best thing ever and everybody should do it. In my case, it was a last resort, but most students aren’t as horrifically unlucky as I was. It’s more that I believe in everyone’s right to protect themselves and to leave abuse. For me, that meant learning at home. I’m grateful for it.
Homeschooling has become a very polarized subject. It is my hope that the Homeschool Reflections series, made up of stories of actual homeschool experiences, both positive and some negative, may cut through some of the hyperbole. I have asked the respondents in this series to be analytical and to discuss both the pros and cons of their experiences, but I have not censored what they have written. My posting these stories should not be construed as endorsement the opinions expressed therein. What you read in this series will vary, but it is my hope that each installment will be thought provoking and have something positive to offer to the discussion.