Homeschool Reflection: Home because of Sickness

A guest post by Attackfish

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. 

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Kelly

    I can’t believe how unfortunate you are. It disappoinrs me severely that your teacher and principal were so unhelpful. As someone who wants to be a teacher, I hope I can prevent these things in the future.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Sadly, I am not actually surprised that the teacher and principal were so horrible. There are way too many people like this working in schools who just don’t want to deal with kids who are “different” and/or have special needs and they just really have it out for them. Not all the bullies are kids.

      • attackfish

        A year or so back, I looked up the teacher and principal who had been worst to me, and found out that the teacher is now an elementary school principal herself, and the principal is now a principal of a public pre-K, both of which make me feel physically sick when I think about it.

    • attackfish

      I wish you well, and I hope that you are able to prevent this from happening to another kid like me. While I had some horrible teachers and principals, I have also had some wonderful ones, and they often made all the difference in the world.

  • http://alasandras.blogspot.com/ Alasandra Alawine

    This isn’t actually an example of homeschooling. The author herself states that she was being taught by a PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHER, and that it was part of a HOME HOSPITAL PROGRAM OPERATED BY THE PUBLIC SCHOOL.

    • Noelle

      Making it a completely different example of how some people are taught at home. No need to all-caps it. The point is to get as many different perspectives as possible.

    • Uly

      And? Is there some law that homeschooling can only be done by non-teachers? What if her parents had hired a tutor? What if her parents had been public school teachers before pulling her out and choosing to follow the standard curriculum?

    • ildi

      I had a bit of the same reaction at first (without all the caps) to the earlier post on homeschooling where the student was taking courses at the local college/community college.

      • http://Love,Joy,Feminisim Northstar

        My daughter. :-)
        She’s only 16, and the 2 classes only take up so much time during the week, and she homeschools – intensely!- the rest of the time. If she went to college full time and didn’t do any homeschool, I wouldn’t consider her homeschooled any more.

    • attackfish

      You notice my quotation marks? Since conversations about homeschooling usually talk about socialization and student isolation as well as academia, other forms of learning at home are perfectly relevant to that part of the discussion, thank you so much.

  • Noelle

    Attackfish, if you don’t mind me asking, how are you doing now?

    • attackfish

      Pretty well, thank you for asking. I’m finishing up my Bachelor’s in Political Science and dipping my toes into the job market.

  • saraquill

    Big hugs. I empathize with having an emotionally damaging school experience, bullies that include teachers and students, and adults who think you’re lying about being disabled. It sucks and I’m glad you’re past it.

    • attackfish

      Thank you.

  • http://Love,Joy,Feminism Northstar

    Homeschooling is simply schooling at home whether one uses a boxed curriculum from Bob Jones, one from public school, a custom one, or just running around outside burning ants with a magnifying glass and calling it “nature studies.” There are no absolute definitions other than being home, that I know of. Attackfish’s story is exactly an example of how *real people* homeschool and the benefits thereof, instead of the stereotype of some homogenous lump of evolution-hating evangelicals. This is why maintaining the freedom to homeschool as we see fit is so important. In Attackfish’s case, a public school curriculum was perfectly fine; in another case, (such as my dyslexic dd’s ) it would be completely inappropriate, and no one would know or care more about that than me.
    Thank you, Attackfish, for your story.

  • http://theclapp.org/mt-blog/ Larry Clapp

    Thank you, Attackfish, for your story. It was touching and heartbreaking, and I bet it was hard to write.

    Thank you, Libby Anne, for this series. It has changed my opinion on homeschooling. For the better, might I add. :)

  • Tyro

    School administrations like those you mentioned should be held criminally liable for the abuse they foster. In Loco Parentis should go both ways – neglect & abuse should be prosecuted!

    • attackfish

      Oh, I agree. I wish it were easier to bring abuse charges against teachers and administrations that allow and propagate this kind of cruelty against their students. Maybe then they would think twice about deciding they just don’t care enough to protect a child.

  • smrnda

    The worst thing is that I don’t think that teachers and administrator’s like the ones you encountered are really that rare; I can think back to numerous teachers that I had in public school who behaved in an utterly unprofessional manner and who disregarded the special needs of students. In particularly, I recall a music teacher who failed a special ed kid because he could sing, but couldn’t read sheet music properly.

    I mean, we need so many teachers that, given such a huge number of people who will be teachers, there will be some real insensitive jerks, and the worst thing is that when you’re a kid, you can’t really fight back because the odds are against you.

    • smrnda

      Meant to write “aren’t really that rare”

      • attackfish

        No, they really aren’t.

  • CP

    I hate to appear insensitive, but your auto immune disease appears more neurologic in origin… how odd. Either way, I’m glad you found an acceptable alternative.

    • attackfish

      I have an auto immune disease that triggers neurological responses, so the origin is auto immune, but the effects are neurological. It also triggers other responses, including lung and circulatory problems, and my inability to fight off infections properly, but the neurological effects, are the most disabling, and also the ones that made getting a diagnosis most difficult.

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