by Suzanne Titkemeyer
This is one of those sad stories where a child of a prominent homeschooling family leaves the family suddenly with a horrifying twist. Alecia Pennington left her family of origin last year when she turned 18, escaping like many homeschooled young people with the help of her grandparents. A typical tale being repeated all over the homeschooling world, parents not realizing that there were things about their lifestyle that were harming their child, child leaving and parents expressing shock and surprise, swearing they thought everything was going all swimmingly right up until the adult child leaves.
There are a couple things that makes this tale different and increasingly horrible. First, the mother that was left behind happens to be Lisa Pennington, homeschooling blogger with tons of followers. She speaks at homeschooling conferences, touts various parenting and homeschooling tips and products as well as video blogs and Instagrams. She styles herself as someone to look up to, admire and emulate in the stay at home mom/homeschooling world. Here’s what she had to say on her blog when Alecia left her home:
We have spent the past 11 days trying to make head or tails out of what happened. Why did she leave? How can we help her? What will happen next?
We got no real answers. Only more confusion as some of the circumstances unfolded. We discovered that my parents had been planning this with her without telling us (as you can imagine, an additional part of my grief is not only the loss of my daughter but the total end of the relationship with my parents). We also learned that she has been telling exaggerated stories about what is going on inside our home to a godless woman who has been giving her foolish counsel and encouraging her to deceive us and get out.
These decisions our daughter has made are unimaginable to me and completely out of character from the girl I know.
Believe me, James and I are all too aware that we are not innocent in this. We played a part in this problem. We made mistakes and we have apologized to her, genuinely repented and are asking the Holy Spirit to guide us through this. It feels impossible to think rationally so we have sought counsel from men who give us Scripture to build us up. We are taking each step carefully and trying to hold on to the One who knows us better than we know ourselves. I don’t want to paint myself as perfect here. I am as imperfect as I can imagine anyone being.
We did have a meeting with our daughter about a week after she left and it became obvious when we agreed to give her everything she was asking for that she did not intend to come home. She had sent us a list of things she wanted to change at home, but because we agreed to all of the changes and she still won’t come home….it seems there must be something deeper there that she isn’t telling us.
Blaming others? Check. Claiming the daughter is saying and doing things out of character from the child they raised? Check. Claiming to have apologized and offering to make changes while still blaming the adult child? Check and check. Very typical reactions to almost everyone I’ve seen in the world of Evangelical Fundamentalism when one of the children attains adulthood and decides that enough is enough and they must flee in order to have a life.
Here’s where everything takes a very toxic and unusual turn courtesy of her parents. Since Alecia was home-birthed, home-schooled, home-medical treated, home-everything because her parents, like many others in that life style, there are no official records to indicate she actually exists as an American citizen. Nothing. This prevents her from doing any of the things that she escaped her family to do, such as, get a drivers license, open a bank account, travel, go to college, hold a job, etc… Without a legitimate government id in the USA you’re pretty much a non-person.
No social security numbers leads me to wonder if the Pennington parents have ever bothered to do anything normal, legal and legally proscribed by federal law, such as pay taxes. You cannot file a tax return without having social security numbers for your children.
If anyone has ideas as to how Alecia can get a birth certificate or other forms of government id please email Alecia at firstname.lastname@example.org
James and Lisa Pennington – Do the right thing and help your child! This isn’t a religious issue, it’s not political or social, it’s simply the right thing to do.
Homeschoolers Anonymous has written an excellent more detailed account of this story – When Your Very Identity is Held Hostage: Alecia Pennington and Identification Abuse