A Few Leave . . . but Others Stay

I recently read a post by Lana that made me think about everyone I left behind when I left my conservative evangelical patriarchal homeschool upbringing.

With all the [ex] conservative homeschooler blogs out there nowadays, people may be under the impression that homeschool fundamentalism has virtually disappeared among homeschool alumni. To be sure, this Christian movement among homeschool graduates is dying a very slow and painful death. But it is so far from over, and I have so many friends still trapped in the ideology that I constantly feel the tension with old friends and old hangouts.

I don’t spend as much time in my old hangouts as Lana, so I don’t feel quite as much of the tension that she feels, but I’d like to echo what she says about not assuming that the thriving ex-conservative-homeschooler blogosphere means there’s some sort of mass exodus going on. Sure, there’s an exodus . . . but in my experience most stay.

Out of the half dozen girls I was closest to in high school, only one has left. You know her as Kate. Two others are still living at home, under the authority of their father, having never left home even as they are now in their mid- to late twenties. One married young, going straight from her father’s home to her husband’s and has begun to fill her husband’s quiver with arrows. The final two left home with their fathers’ blessings and attended college in traditionally feminine pursuits, only to return home to live once again under their fathers’ authority afterwards. Both were Gothard girls; one now attends Vision Forum conferences with her family.

When I widen the net to the dozen or so girls I knew as acquaintances and saw only from time to time, the numbers don’t get any better. Of the four girls who were in a Gothard Bible study with me, only one has questioned and left. Others I don’t know about—they just drifted away after I left. Two girls I knew are divorced, having married early to men who turned out to be abusive. Others, I really can’t say. When I widen the net still further, to the teens I participated in debate with or saw at homeschool camps, I can point to a few more. One girl I met at a homeschool camp left home and would up pregnant. Things were hard with her family for a time, but she made it through and questioned some things along the way. Another girl I met at a homeschool camp also questioned and left. One guy I knew through debate turned out to be gay. He came out and headed for the big city. But of the dozens and dozens others I knew through these venues? I have very little idea.

Of the guys, it’s really hard to say, and for a very interesting reason. It’s easy to tell when a girl leaves. There are angry sparks and an extremely visible rift is torn. When a guy leaves? In my experience, the process is generally not quite so fraught with trouble, and is sometimes invisible on the outside. No one is going to be telling that guy that he is supposed to submit to his father, or that it’s his role to follow, or that he shouldn’t be pursuing a career. The family expects him to go off on his way and forge his own way, even if they also expect him to maintain a specific ideological viewpoint. When a guy leaves, 4 times out of 5, it just looks like he’s doing what he’s supposed to do—leaving home, going to college, getting a job, and starting his own life. When a girl does those things, she’s often seen as stepping outside of the box she was supposed to contentedly inhabit.

There really isn’t any way to get at exact numbers, but Lana is right. We left plenty of people behind when they didn’t walk the same path we did, and some of them are now repeating our parents’ patterns.

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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.


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