I heard the stories so many times as I was growing up, the reasons for my parents’ decision to pull me out of public school halfway through first grade and start to homeschool me. I heard how I cried every day when my mom dropped me off at school. I heard how I was bored in class because I had learned to read at age 3, long before going to kindergarten. I heard how my teacher was wasting classroom time on political issues by having the class write a letter about saving some whales. I heard how the teacher hurt my feelings badly by insulting my quiet speaking voice during a presentation. I heard how I had the problem boy as my seatmate because I was the best behaved student. I never thought to question my mom’s narrative; school was certainly a terrible place for me, based on her stories.
As a former elementary school teacher, my mom knew that she could give me a more personalized education than I would get in a classroom of 30 other students. While helping me get ahead academically, she would also be able to protect me from worldly and liberal influences. The temporary sacrifice would certainly produce rich rewards for our family, she believed, so she steeled her will against criticism and dove in the the relatively new homeschooling movement in Northern California.
These days, I am often amazed at adults who remember what grade they were in for important world events, or who say things like “This was my favorite song in 6th grade!” As a homeschooled student, I have almost no time markers on my memories. Everything is a blur. However, it seems like homeschooling went fairly well for my family throughout elementary school. We were part of a homeschool group that had weekly park days and occasional field trips to factories, restaurants, and government offices. My younger brother and I were very independent in our learning, with high reading comprehension, so we could complete our assignments each day with very little input from my mom. Although there was almost no regulation of homeschooling in CA at the time, my mom still made sure that we covered the same general topics as our public school counterparts in each grade, except of course that our education was exclusively from a Christian perspective.
Years of countering criticism of homeschooling, years of being surrounded by other like-minded Christian homeschoolers….the effects on my family were detrimental. We lost the ability to objectively evaluate whether homeschooling was still working for our family. Things were obviously falling apart as my brother and I reached our teen years and as my younger sister reached school age, but no one could acknowledge it. By then, our identity as homeschoolers was inseparable from our spiritual, political, and family identity. Failure was not an option.
Desperate to achieve the Christian homeschooled family ideal, my family was drawn into the dangerous personality cult of Reb Bradley and began attending his homeschooling church, Hope Chapel. Each member of our family has suffered as a result of the messages and culture of Hope Chapel. Our weaknesses were exacerbated by the well-intentioned “support” we received there.
For me personally, the last 10 years have been an intense journey, a re-working of my entire worldview, in an attempt to become a healthier and happier person. I’ve been working hard to weed out the deeply-rooted ideas that were planted by the homeschooling community and Hope Chapel, and I’ve seen the positive effects on my life as I have done so.
Upcoming posts will cover my personal growth in each of the areas where I was damaged:
Fear of sexuality
Warped view of humanity
Restrictive view of gender roles in marriage and society
Discuss this post on the NLQ forum. Comments are also open below.
Latebloomer is on a journey away from the ideals she was raised with in the conservative homeschooling culture. Becoming a wife and mother has promoted her to re-evaluate her childhood experiences in an effort to avoid repeating those mistakes. Her blog Past Tense Present Progressive is her place for sorting through her thoughts.
NLQ Recommended Reading …
‘Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich
‘Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland
‘Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce