Thursday, May 29, 2014

What “Old Guard” Homeschooling Parents Must Realize: First Generation Homeschoolers Must See, Hear and Speak No Evil (Part VI)

Dangerdust @ Twitter and Etsy
First Generation homeschoolers (the "Old Guard") must hear and cooperate with their Second Generation Adult children (SGA) or they will destroy what they intended and fought to create. Regretfully, they may also destroy relationships with their SGAs in the process of resisting perspective and truth.

Part VI in a Series
  • Part I   (Sarah Hunt on homeschooling problems)
  • Part II  (Scapegoating the SGA in Sex Scandals)
  • Part III (Homeschool Apostates and HARO)
  • Part IV (Accommodating Perspective of the SGA)
  • Part V  (Becoming a Safe Person for the SGA)

The previous post discussed ways in which homeschooling parents can work to build relationships of trust with their adult children, the SGAs who have exited homeschooling and hope to improve outcomes for those who follow after them. While this post ends by pointing to helpful strategies, it also carries messages that the Old Guard has been reluctant to hear.

The Old Guard's Fear

I have learned over time that parents in homeschooling feel convicted by the voices of any criticism, particularly from adults who now openly discuss the negative elements of their own histories as homeschooled children. I knew that some parents feel terribly threatened by any criticism of any homeschooler, but I also hoped that those who resisted the message of the disenfranchised SGA were just more rare examples of fringe ideologues.

I'm afraid that I'm no longer that optimistic. This trend highlighted for me how, for some parents, homeschooling becomes a significant source of self-gratification that seems to displace the best interests of homeschooled children.

I'm of the opinion that if Christians homeschoolers show themselves to be reasonably above reproach, it greatly reduces the potential that non-Christians or people hostile to Christianity will impose their own restrictions. What would be the ideal first step in the right direction? I'm reminded of Tullian Tchividjian's recent comment concerning what he believed was a more appropriate pastoral response to documented abuse of children within Sovereign Grace Ministries:
"Why doesn't someone just come and out say 'I didn't abuse children but to the degree that it happened under my watch I'm sick to my stomach and I will apologize and I will do everything and anything I can do to cooperate with the investigation and serve the victims and their families.' Period.”

I understand the efforts of Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out (HARO) through their Homeschoolers Anonymous blog as the something much akin to Tchividjian's response. They don't wish to eradicate homeschooling but rather seek to improve it. Yet when Joyce's Homeschool Apostate article went to press, I noted blogosphere comments like this one:

Why should it matter whether HARO has homeschoolers on its board at all? They organized because so many individual SGAs had no voice, and they were marginalized within the larger world of Christian homeschooling. We even saw this in Sarah Hunt's interview on Al Jazeera. Why would this group of educated, professional adults be denied a place at the table of the discussion of homeschooling? Why would the Old Guard not see them as one of their most vital resources that they could use to improve the system? Why would they not deserve 50% of the voice in the discussion because of their firsthand experience with the results of homeschooling? I became even less optimistic about this hope when I learned that the invitation to HARO to present at a homeschooling convention had been rescinded. The Old Guard will not give a platform to what they view as dissent. They see, hear, and speak no evil about homeschooling – even if it is true information that would add to their wisdom.

The message for the Old Guard? 

You must get over your fear.
You've must embrace the alumni
and their messages.

Things You Shouldn't Say!

Despite her many expressions of honest empathy and compassion concerning the First Generation parents who chose homeschooling for virtuous reasons, many still resist Heather Doney's message.

I'm grateful that Heather has allowed me to cross post what she has written concerning the ways in which many marginalize and dismiss the concerns about the horror stories of homeschool alumni. I only wish to add a few items to her list. My additions aren't necessarily things that shouldn't be said to an alumnus/alumnae, but they are not helpful and serve only as irrelevant red herring obfuscation.
  • “Homeschooled kids get a better education in homeschooling per the statistics, and that should compensate or cancel out any of the problems, including the serious and fatal ones”
    • (That applies only to those who do actually get a good education.)
  • “They didn't end up like a student at Columbine.
  • “I know about some of those 'apostates,' and their parents want to reconcile, but the kids won't.”
    • (If they won't, it's very likely because their parents will only receive them if they admit to and repent of their “sins” against them and homeschooling.)
  • “I know about some of those 'apostates,' and they're not telling the truth.”
  • “Have you read what they write? They are crazy.” “They're mentally ill.”


by Heather Doney
at Becoming Worldly

Thoughts of a former Quiverfull daughter
who left the fundamentalist homeschooling lifestyle, got an education,
and learned a different definition of "worldly."

The following are a list of things that range from impolite to incredibly disrespectful that I have heard since I started speaking out about this issue. I’m (unfortunately) not making any of these up and I’ve actually had every single one of them either said to me or seen them said to others. If you don’t want to be a jerk, please don’t say any of the following:

Homeschooling -

1.) Tell me how good of a homeschooling experience you or someone you know had and imply that it cancels out mine.

2.) Say that obviously it was just a parenting problem, not a homeschooling problem at all.

3.) Say that obviously it was a religious fundamentalism problem/bible-based cult problem, not a homeschooling problem at all.

4.) Say that I am not describing real homeschooling so I should not be talking about my experience like it was homeschooling at all.

5.) Say that I need to be careful, that openly speaking about this will help enemies of homeschooling (nosy neighbors/government/the minions of the Antichrist) have the political cover to mess up or destroy homeschooling for the good homeschoolers.

6.) Say that obviously because I am standing here today with a job/degree/spouse/all four limbs that the homeschooling I got really wasn’t too bad and therefore we all should keep calm and carry on.

7.) Say that my parents only homeschooled because it was a problem with the school district and obviously any public school in my area/state/nation/world would have been worse.

8.) Say that maybe my homeschooling experience was even secretly good and I likely don’t know enough about what I’d be comparing it to, with public school being so awful and all.

9.) Say that you/your kid/someone you know had a much worse experience in public school/government school/a hole in the ground and so I should quit bellyaching and overdramatizing my homeschooling experience and instead just be grateful it wasn’t as bad of a story as the one you just told.

Abuse -

10.) Say that what happened to me was so uncommonly rare that it’s not something we need to be generally concerned about.

11.) Say that you are sure that it was that my parents were uneducated/rural/brainwashed/obviously raised wrong and that’s why they did what they did, even though you know nothing about my parents’ background.

12.) Say it is obvious that I am so hurt/broken/angry/bitter/emotional/weird/vengeful that I have lost track of reality, don’t know what I’m talking about on any of this, and no one should listen.

13.) Say that I need to just let the past be the past, understand that parents make mistakes/are not perfect, then go forgive mine (immediately assuming that I haven’t), and stop disrespecting them by talking about this issue.

14.). Say that the way life works is that your parents can raise you however they want/force you to be the person they ask/mess you up for the first 18 years of your life and then it will be your turn when you have your own kids.

Religion & Politics -

15.) Say that if my parents were real Christians that this never would have happened.

16.) Say that this is obviously a problem with Christianity itself and all homeschoolers should respond by being secular/atheist/Buddhist/some other faith.

17.) Say that you seriously doubt (or had it laid upon your heart by Jesus himself) that it is in God’s will/my best interest/society’s interest for me to be talking/thinking/spreading lies like this and you will pray/worry/be quite concerned for me.

18.) Ask me if I am aware that when I talk about my story it is mainly going to be helping people who hate homeschoolers/Christians/parents/Americans/suburban white people unfairly stereotype/hurt/oppress all of your group because people will mistakenly think you are like me and my family and obviously you are nothing like us at all.

19.) Accuse me of being put up to this by teachers unions/liberal brainwashing/feminism/Satan and not having actual good reasons for how I characterize a problem I lived through and/or am studying.

20.) Accuse me of being anti-homeschooling, anti-Christian, and anti-family all in one fell swoop because I said what happened to me should not happen to other kids.

[Good Things to Say]

Now that I’ve listed all the rude, insensitive, selfish, and potentially threatening things I can think of that you should not be saying to people who have shared their horrible (or even just a little bit bad bordering on mediocre) homeschooling experience (I’m sure I left some out, so please feel free to include them in the comments), here are eight examples of something that might be a good idea to say:

1.) Thank you for sharing your story.

2.) I am trying to understand where/when/how this occurred. Can I ask you? How did X, Y, or Z happen/come to be/take place?

3.) What helped you get out/get better?

4.) What do you think could have made this situation better/not happen at all?

5.) What do you think someone like me might do or keep in mind to prevent this from happening to others?

6.) What do you like to do today, now that you’ve left that environment?

7.) Can I share what you said with my friend/relative/pastor/neighbor/blog readers/Facebook?

8.). I wish you well and hope that tomorrow/this week/life/the future will be good for you.

Also, even if this stuff is foreign to you and you really have no idea (or maybe don’t care) what it is like to walk in the shoes of someone who has had this kind of homeschooling experience, please try for a moment to imagine how it would make you feel and what it might lead you to do and then have compassion. Personally, I love to argue and I have a lot of “fight” in me, but for many people who are sharing their story, just finding the words and the strength to do so is incredibly hard and people should not, under any circumstances, be pushing someone who’s telling a survivor story to defend themselves or expect them to deal with the kind of obnoxious behavior I listed above. Thank you.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

For more information about the SGA and the bounded choice to which all people in a “totalist institution” suffer, read more about it in the series at Spiritual Sounding Board.
  • Part II discusses bounded choice faced by all in a totalist group.
  • Part III explores the additional constraints and limitations that the SGA faces when seeking to free themselves from both difficult situations and from a high demand group itself.
  • When available, Part IV in the series will explore the specific constraints of SGAs within the Quiverfull/Patriarchy Movement.