June 14, 2017

Guest post by Anaïs Chartschenko, who was home schooled using Accelerated Christian Education.
There are days when the enormity of my own ignorance staggers me. I mispronounce a word which is caught by my conversation partner and the rest of the day idiot rings in my head. Sometimes I torture myself by reading author bios, skimming to the part where they list their degrees. Recently I was asked on twitter what I majored in college.

Nothing. I know college is not the only place people gain knowledge, but when I step back once more it is where did you go to high school? When is your reunion? Nowhere. Nothing.

Every once in a while, a young actress or athlete will win an award. The media is ablaze with the fact that they were homeschooled. Memes pop up on my social media about how much better it is to be homeschooled. Just look at what so and so accomplished at age 15!  They always leave out the part where the celebrity was educated by actual teachers. All homeschool is not equal.

The Flower portrait of William Shakespeare. Artist Unknown. Public domain.
The Flower portrait of William Shakespeare. Artist Unknown. Public domain.

In my experience with the fundamentalist homeschool community, the number one goal was repression of knowledge. My homeschool curriculum, Accelerated Christian Education, was designed for children to work alone, in silence. No teacher required because there is nothing to learn beyond the lessons harped on during the frequent church services.

At the time, I worried about being able to get into college because ACE is unaccredited. I was told by church members that god had other plans for me. I didn’t have other plans, though! I had been homeschooled, in church schools and public school by the time high school (with ACE) rolled around. I had a certain amount of pride in my intellect, as only a young person can have. I wasn’t the pretty one, I wasn’t the athletic one, but I was smart.

Too bad smart is the worst thing a girl can be in the fundamentalist community. Polite, obedient, modest… those were the words drilled into me. That was what I needed to learn so that I could marry a righteous man and follow his holy guidance.

Education suppression is having your religious curriculum censored even further by a big black marker on all the lines that disagree with your parent’s religion. It is a curriculum that is unaccredited. It is being taught lies instead of basic science. It is getting straight A’s in the curriculum and then having your parent alter your grades lower because they worry if someone comes to check up on them-say a social worker- no one will believe that you were capable of straight A’s (even though to my knowledge, a social worker never came to check on our progress).

It is a government that allows parents near unchecked control of a child’s education so they can exercise their religious freedom. With the religious freedom, they work hard to make certain their children are unprepared for the world outside. It keeps the church community strong, because it limits options.

I found Shakespeare this month. I had heard the name, of course, and I even watched a movie adaptation of Midsummer Night’s Dream. But I definitely did not read him in high school.  I never read him. Whenever he would come up in conversation, I would claim not to like Romeo and Juliet because I heard they die. I had been repeating that bit of tripe since I was a teen trying to hide my own lack of knowledge. I’ve spent time trying to fill in more obvious gaps, like watching The Simpsons. It turns out that without basic shared small talk, it is difficult to develop friendships that can eventually go deeper.

It started with a novel starring Shakespeare and Marlowe (another author I was not familiar with). It was an unabashedly fun adventure book, full of spies and witches and the crafting of Macbeth. But the best part was the footnotes. So many footnotes. I found myself laying the book across my lap googling different things. It was like having an adventure written into an adventure book. I fired up my kindle and downloaded Shakespeare and Marlowe. I plan on reading them both, and then rereading the novel (License to Quill by Jacopo della Quercia) with my new knowledge.

In one of the post homeschool groups I am part of, someone asked how long we would be mourning our childhoods. Every day we can find more evidence of what we have lost, and sometimes the gap between where we are and where we want to be seems so large. I think there is no way to make what has already happened right.

But we can work one layer at a time, catching ourselves in our cover ups of ignorance. Instead of mourning that ignorance, we can choose to get Shakespeare or a book of forbidden science, or take a deep breath and go on a date. We can choose to be a little more honest with ourselves, and the world.

I make mistakes all the time. I try to hold myself accountable, a little more each year, for what I expect of myself. Yes, it is a terrible thing to have adults undermine your curiosity.  It is terrible to be told your curiosity is actually a manifestation of sin. But each year that I am an adult, I owe it to myself to strip away layers of ignorance and the shame that I felt went with it.

There is wonder in being able to experience something for the first time. Most people lose that as children, I hear. I refuse to lose my wonder. I just read a passage Shakespeare wrote for the first time this month, after all.

It was wonderful.

Previously by Anaïs Chartschenko on Leaving Fundamentalism:

Anaïs has three books out, all currently available free on Kindle or for not much money in paperback. Read them!

June 30, 2014

The world has learned that ACE schools teach that evolution is a lie, wives must submit to their husbands, being gay is a sin, and abortion is murder. But for some ACE graduates, that might not be the most damaging thing.

During the Newsnight investigation into Accelerated Christian Education, Anjana Ahuja noticed that many ACE schools were claiming that you could get into university with their (unaccredited) qualification, the ICCE (International Certificate of Christian Education). So she contacted some of the universities alleged to have accepted the ICCE for university entrance, and of those who replied, none of them said they accepted the ICCE.

Imperial College London: Does not recognise the ICCE. (Image credit: Man Vyi, via Wikimedia Commons.)

So can you get into university with an ACE education? Despite claims that more than 50 UK universities have accepted ICCE graduates, this is obviously still a controversial question among parents at ACE schools. The ICCE board is at pains to insist you can, and many ACE schools’ websites describe it as a “university entrance qualification”. Actually, it’s not as easy as they make out. If students have been accepted, often it’s because the universities made an exception to their usual policy, or because the students had additional, recognised qualifications, and it was these that gave them access to higher education.

The reality of the situation is that UK students leave ACE school with no officially recognised qualification whatsoever.

Here’s Anjana with the full story:


April 22, 2014

I spent the weekend before last at QEDCon, a convention for people who like science and don’t like pseudoscience. While I was mainly there to speak on a panel, I also ended up winning an award after you, the readers of Leaving Fundamentalism, had managed to get this blog shortlisted. This was the Ockham Award for Best Blog, sponsored by The Skeptic.

Here I am receiving the award from Nate Phelps (Thanks to zooterkin for the photo). Nate is an escapee from Westboro Baptist Church, the notorious cult. Of which more in a moment.


The eagle-eyed among you will notice that the usually-professional Richard Wiseman had in fact furnished me with the wrong award, but I was too busy being pleased to win to notice this:

And then someone pointed it out, which led to this:


January 20, 2014

Every now and then I get an email from someone who is currently in Accelerated Christian Education and hating it. In some ways, these emails are tragic. I think it always sucks when children are given a deficient education, but it’s worse when there’s an alternative available and it’s against the child’s express wishes. In other ways, they’re kind of awesome. It gives me hope that the ACE indoctrination program isn’t working, and it means these students won’t have so much unlearning to do later in life.

Tyler Stoltzfus is the most articulate of the students I know combating the system from within. This is his story.

Tyler Stoltzfus
Tyler Stoltzfus (photo credit: Michael’s Portraits)


January 6, 2014

Happy new year everyone. I hope December treated you well and you’re ready for another year of fighting the hydra that is Christian fundamentalism. I told you that this year I wanted to co-operate more with sympathetic Christians, so here’s a statement of intent: a guest post from a priest. To the kind of fundamentalists who think that baptism by sprinkling is a damnable heresy, this won’t make much difference. But to parents who are on the fence about whether to choose Accelerated Christian Education (ACE), or to those who believe that this website is simply a crusade to destroy religious freedom, I hope this will make you think twice.

Today’s post is by the Reverend Oliver Harrison, vicar at Holy Trinity Wilnecote, an Anglican church. Oliver enjoys shaving and dislikes ACE. Say hi everyone.

Oliver Harrison


November 25, 2013

I am proud to present this post by Anaïs Chartschenko. If you are likely to be triggered, be warned that this piece refers to rape.

Anaïs Chartschenko
Anaïs Chartschenko

Every time I apply for a job I have a pang of fear. Some jobs want to check your references. I am not afraid because I have a criminal history. I am afraid because my whole high school experience was a fraud. You see, I was home schooled. At first, I had big, thick text books with spines that smelled nice. I didn’t mind this as much, even though I was mostly left to my own devices to do my school work. I wanted to be smart. Discipline was not an issue. I wanted to go to college. I now see my naivety. I should have paid more attention when church members kindly informed me that college wasn’t for me or that god had other plans…

Before long, my mother had switched the whole curriculum up. I now was to do ACE which came in shockingly simplistic booklets, called PACEs. I was told it was much better, and I could work at my own pace. PACEs, get it? So for three years I stared at the PACEs, carefully filling in bubbles with my number two pencil. I can’t explain the boredom. I can’t explain the anger I felt with every depiction of a submissive woman making dinner. The curriculum featured multiple choice questions with only one right answer. There was no critical thinking involved.  (more…)

November 12, 2013

I have a new favourite blog: Anaïs Chartschenko’s Whisper Collector. Like just about everything I recommend, it’s not fun reading, but she’s a belting writer and her story needs to be heard. She’s a former ACE home schooler and a rape survivor (although, as her blog shows, she is absolutely not a victim). I repost this with her permission.

English: Here is a half eaten donut from dunki...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I walked into the youth chapel at the church. Something was different: there was a box of donuts on a folding table in the center of the room. All of us descended on it eagerly. There were some kids who had such strict parents that they did not get to eat sugar. They were the most deflated. I stared into the box, taking in donut after donut- glazed, creme filled, maple bar- all varieties with one common theme. A big bite had been taken from each one. Dejected, we slumped in our chairs. No one was willing to risk eating a communal donut. We had all been warned about the dangers of sharing food a million times over. We did not want herpes from a donut, no sir. We were adept at going with out. We had already gone without dancing (the prom), learning science, eating meat, reading novels, watching movies, or any of the long list of things that were not allowed. (more…)

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