It was a small popup camping trailer. I’ve having trouble describing it now because I’m having trouble remembering it. I was seven—or maybe eight. We were fairly new to homeschooling and my mom was still getting to know the other homeschool moms in our community. We were over to the Hulls’ house for a visit. I don’t remember how many kids they had, but it was a lot. There were two girls, and then a boy my age, and then three or or younger children. At the time, there were five kids in my own family.
Anyway, we were all sent outside to play, and the Hull kids offered to show us the inside of the popup camper. There’s nothing little children like better than jumping on a bed, and the inside of that camper was covered in cushiony bed-like material. We had an absolute blast. I think at one point we had the entire camping trailer swaying! My memory’s not perfect, but I’m pretty sure the Hull children were bouncing right along side us, and I don’t remember having been forbidden to play in the camper or even getting in trouble afterwards.
What I didn’t learn until much later was that the Hull family shunned my family because of that. They never again got together with us, and Mrs. Hull said bad things about our family to several other homeschooling families in the area. Apparently, according to her, we children were out of control, and were too rowdy and loud to be good influences on her children. We weren’t quiet and docile enough for her likings. This went on for years and years, and much later—when I was in college—Mrs. Hull felt bad about what she had done and apologized for it to my mother.
Were we loud? I’m sure we were. Were we rowdy? Well yes! We were kids! Again, my memory is fuzzy, but I don’t remember being told not to play in the camper and I don’t even remember getting in trouble. Growing up, in my own home, we were frequently allowed to be loud and noisy. We were generally simply sent outside, where we explored the cornfields and ditches with abandon. While my parents expected immediate obedience, they also expected us to be full of energy—and we were. But in Mrs. Hull’s eyes, that made us a bad influence.
Part of the reason families like the Hulls, who homeschool for religious reasons, choose to homeschool is so that they can remove their children from children they consider “bad influences.” When a child goes to public school, the parent cannot decide with whom they do and do not have contact. Further, the parent cannot cut their children off from their friends very effectively. This may be a problem if the child is genuinely falling into dangerous company, but it is frequently a positive thing—it means that children are exposed to a wider circle of influences, beliefs, and ideas than may be present in their parents’ more ideologically limited circle.
In the end, homeschooling allows parents like the Hulls to have complete control over whom their children come in contact with—and whom they do not come in contact with. And in this case, that meant my family was out. And to think, it all started with a camping trailer.