by Heather Doney cross posted from her blog Becoming Worldly
Note: I meant to post this post a while ago but didn’t (thinking I might dial down the snark), so it’s a slight bit out of date, still full of snark, and I think still relevant. Also, Becoming Worldly got linked in this post on how Long Lives Made Humans Human at Slate magazine today (Yay! So cool!) so I figured since the link was directly about fundamentalist homeschooling that I’d put up something I was sure was on topic for curious Slate link-clickers to see. So thanks for stopping by, Slate readers!
Anyway, if you’ve read the article in the Washington Post about Josh Powell and the HSLDA response to it you probably already can guess what I’m about to pull out the scathing sarcasm and rant about. If you haven’t, go read both. The WaPo article is well done and you’ll find yourself rooting for Josh to succeed in getting his siblings an actual education and wondering what on earth his parents are thinking.
The HSLDA response to the WaPo article is, well, a frigging joke. Except they’re serious. Yeah, it’s got a big heaping scoop of what Libby Anne points out is known in the debate world as a tu quoque fallacy and I’ve decided to call Farris Logic(TM) melting all over it. Libby Anne already covered why the HSLDA response is so obnoxious and wrong (in case you want to see it explicated) but I wanted to go ahead and use my own homeschool experience, with Farris Logic(TM) applied to it, to highlight how utterly %#*@ing rude and out of touch it is to try to say homeschooling was responsible for where someone like Josh Powell is or where I am today.
First off, homeschooling leaders would like to claim me as a success today (just on the education metrics, of course), since I graduated with honors and a double major as an undergrad and today have a masters degree from Brandeis’ Heller School (#9 program in my field – W00t!). My lack of allegiance to the “correct” side of the culture wars may be a mark against me but for the intents and purposes of basic “success metrics” I am highly educated, intellectually capable, can walk down the street without attracting stares (hey, that one took practice!), and know what most widely-used English words mean and how to spell them. Nobody can say I am a backwoods ignoramus or something equally mean (people who live in the woods have feelings too, you know), but the truth is I almost was left toothless and uneducated and I know it.
So, because of that, homeschooling cannot claim me (Michael Farris and/or HSLDA minions, if you’re reading this, take note – for real, write it down or something: “Heather Doney cannot have her formal education be attributed to Christian homeschooling”). That’s right. When my Grandad (a 3 war veteran Navy Commander and not a practicing Christian, for what it’s worth) intervened to help me I didn’t know how to tell time on a clock with hands or who our country’s first president was or what months came before others, not to mention much about math and science. I also didn’t have anyone telling me to brush my teeth or why, much less responsible parents to take me to the dentist (finding out I had 7 cavities at my first appointment at age 17 and thankfully having had zero since). The only thing I really got was reading, lots and lots and lots of reading, because Grandad sent me boxes of classic literature. But that was my choice, my escape. Nobody made me do it. Nobody in that home encouraged me to do it. In fact, when I got engrossed in my books and forgot to wash the dishes on time, my Dad often hit with my own book, called me lazy, and sent me into the kitchen.
My younger siblings didn’t even get that. I was the only one who learned how to read in our “homeschool.” My sister next in age finally learned how to read at age 12 when she got remedial tutoring at Sylvan Learning Center. Any guesses who paid for it and took her there? Yup. Grandad.
Today you’d never imagine my siblings and I were ever where we used to be. I guess we’re pretty resilient kids and we got the quality help we needed in the nick of time. Today my 9 younger siblings not only “pass for normal” but most get annoyed and roll their eyes at me if I even bring up the topic of homeschooling or home churching. It’s like those 1980′s haircuts people had and then later deny. “Heavens no, I don’t have pictures from those years. I’m not sure where they went. So…how ’bout them Saints?”
But according to Farris Logic(TM) it was apparently this quintessential homeschooling experience that us kids were so ashamed of that we went incognito about it for years (yeah, I did too) that actually got us where we are today. I suppose the fact that us older ones all have or are pursuing higher education and my 20 year old and 18 year old sisters are both in college today, doing well, is also attributable to homeschooling, right? But wait, those last two weren’t homeschooled. They were the first to go to public school the whole way…so maybe it’s the residual trickle-down effect of homeschooling that has made them grow up to be just as smart and beautiful and successful and amazing (and…sorry, proud big sister getting carried away here) as the rest of us? Is it still homeschooling that I need to give due credit to?
Well, after keeping an eye on what Farris says, I think the answer is obviously yes and I have also come up with the tried and true formula we all need for giving credit where credit is due. First you thank God, then you thank your parents, and then you thank Farris. Then rinse and repeat, making sure to thank Farris twice the second time around (preferably with a “praise The Lord” or two thrown in) – because obviously if it wasn’t for you paying him, and him doing all this extra work with your dues money, innocent homeschoolers everywhere would have the government battering down their doors and snatching their kids away in about five seconds flat.
So, above anything, homeschool kids need to remember to be obedient and grateful (or else). After all, according to Farris Logic(TM), it was surely the utter lack of math I got in a purported homeschooling environment that was really the trick that ultimately helped me. Needless to say, if the neighbor boy hadn’t found out I couldn’t do multiplication at age 12 and said “ha ha, you’re gonna spend your life flipping burgers!,” all would have been lost. Because if I hadn’t had such a terribly obvious lack of math that even a public schooled neighborhood kid (who I was afterwards forbidden to play with) could notice, I’d never be where I am today!
Because my homeschool story, with Farris Logic(TM) goggles firmly on (rose-colored, of course) obviously went like this:
I realized with horror (using my obviously superior homeschool kid reasoning skills) that this neighbor kid had a point. I decided I had to do something, so (using the legendary homeschool kid proactivity and comfort with adults), I hid behind the couch, called my grandparents, and begged for public school (highlighting my amazing homeschool kid reasoning and deduction skills to figure out what I needed and then the obviously superior levels of homeschool kid self-esteem to make key educational requests). Of course, if my grandparents had been listening to the advice of Farris’ close friend and associate, the late HSLDA executive director Chris Klicka, they’d have known that “if children had rights they could refuse to be homeschooled,” and that Klicka had worked very hard to ensure they don’t have rights, meaning homeschooling is an offer kids can’t refuse, but we can’t expect grandparents to know everything. So my grandparents, ignorant of both Farris Logic(TM) and Klicka advice, and in thrall to my irresistible homeschool kid precociousness and oratory skill, listened and decided to help me achieve my request. Needless to say, I’m glad they did. It was all part of what I can only assume was His plan because just about everything is, aside from girls wearing two piece swimsuits (which everyone in their right mind knows is a diabolical sex plot of Satan incarnate).
Anyway, while I still struggle with certain types of math and big time math test anxiety to this day (only 7% of test takers scored lower than me on the GRE math section when I took it in 2009), luckily I can read and write and pound out an essay with my eyes practically closed. According to Farris Logic(TM) this means that homeschooling did its job well. I am not only able to do the things I am passionate about, but I was able to use the flexibility of my education to tailor it towards my strengths and not focus on things that didn’t capture my attention or matter in the long run (like the Pythagorean theorem, for example).
Thankfully (by the power of homeschooling) I was able to further my education, filling in gaps along the way (only because my love of learning had not been crushed by evil secular institutions), believing in lifelong learning like a good homeschool kid and not letting little things like developing delayed-onset PTSD from all the
beatings and threats spankings in childhood or the struggles of getting married too young and before finding myself stand in the way of things that mattered.
Actually…now that I think about it, I did not succeed in regards to this last thing because, according to Farris Logic(TM), women should marry young and then procreate quickly and often so they don’t “find themselves” in anything but a maternity dress.
Still, when I really give it some Farris-inspired thought, I see that despite a few hiccups I’m not doing half bad (after all, everyone knows that all public schooled children have it much much worse) and I obviously owe all of my successes to the people who made it possible for the kind of homeschooling I had to become a reality. I mean hey, I might not be gorgeous enough to get slut-shamed on the HSLDA Facebook page by outraged sub-Christians searching for pictures of me in my bikini. I might not be ambitious enough to pretend to be a prostitute so Planned Parenthood can get shut down and I can help all the unborn babies live and be born to all those poor and unwed mothers who I am sure will miraculously then cherish them or find the perfect adoptive parents. I am certainly I’m not as brave (or nearly as good at modeling stunning hair and eyeliner) as these former homeschool girls who have a BBC documentary coming out about them, chronicling their travels across the world while battling Harry Potter witchcraft spells using their pastor’s line of exquisitely carved demon-thwarting crosses (for sale!).
But I am a humble and realistic homeschool girl. I knew all along that we can’t all all be Tim Tebow or homeschooled Christian Miss America, and become famous for using well-placed eye makeup to help preach the gospel to the masses of people unholy enough to still own a television. We can’t all be reality tv stars or executive directors of anti-gay hate groups and I know I’m honestly not doing half bad and that I should be thankful and remember what I am sure Farris knows not just in his head, with his brain’s superior logic and all, but also in his heart to be wholly true – and that is that devout Christian parents always want and know what is best for their children and mine were no different. While you can often pick these parents out of a crowd by their huge families and their propensity for denim skirts, they are ultimately not known not by their words or the size of their family van, but by actions – specifically (and this is key) their membership in a homeschool group that requires signing a statement of faith and mandates that dues be paid to HSLDA. The kind of people that agree to such a thing are obviously exemplary parents, and because my parents met that criteria they are obviously exemplary parents too. They did the right thing by purchasing HSLDA membership – not only did they align themselves with the best of the best, but they ensured that other likeminded families could also have the “human right” (yeah, it went from parental right to fundamental right to human right in the last few years) to homeschool and to train their children up right.
So everyone should just quit their bellyaching, quit all the hate-blogging and the griping to the Washington Post and NPR and the Daily Beast, put on their nicest modest outfit and their best Leave it To Beaver smile (or the homeschool equivalent, since everyone in their right mind knows that Leave it To Beaver is an unwholesome, ungodly show that is not allowed), smile big for Farris and Mom and Dad, and then say in unison “Thanks Mom and Dad and Mr. Farris! I owe this all to you, to homeschooling, and to the HSLDA for protecting us as we do the right thing!”
So yeah, here’s to you Mr. Farris, for helping clear the way for the excellent deregulated laws that helped my parents homeschool me so well, for your gracious introduction to the wonderful concept of Farris Logic(TM), for all you’ve done for kids like Josh Powell, me, the Gravalles kids, the Carrolls kids, and all these other homeschool kids too. I now see that despite what I might have mistakenly thought in the past, I truly owe all that is good in my life (and obviously none of the bad) to the kind of “bible believing Christian” homeschooling experience that only HSLDA dues money can buy. Please carry on the excellent work.
Comments open below
Heather Doney blogs at https://becomingworldly.wordpress.com/
Heather was raised Fundamentalist Evangelical in South Louisiana until she was 13. At that tender age she was introduced to the world at large and starting her journey away from home schooling environment.
Her blog is primarily about Quiverfull lifestyle, homeschooling culture and politics, child welfare, PTSD, education, poverty, big families, gender issues, and maybe a few bits of south Louisiana or New England culture and a recipe or craft project or two thrown in, just for fun.
She is a member of NLQ’s The Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network
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