Homeschooling — Where I Come From…

Posted By Kallie C on Jun 13, 2014 | 5 comments


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One of the core reasons for me wanting to start Untold Stories is because of the healing and hope I have found through reading other blogs by homeschool graduates, who have had similar experiences and difficulties in growing up, moving into society, and facing the reality of growing up in the conservative Christian homeschool world. While I realize that many of our experiences differ, common threads reveal themselves in story after story of pain, exclusion, confusion, betrayal, abuse, doubt, faith crises, questioning loyalties, and more.

Growing up all I heard and was surrounded by were glowing reports of how homeschooling was everything God meant education to be.

Then when I moved out on my own, I had such a difficult time adjusting to the real world that I spent years feeling like I had been duped and left on my own to figure out how to “de-weird” myself. Finding sites like Homeschoolers Anonymous and Recovering Grace proved to be beacons of hope after years lost in the dark seas of doubt, hating myself and my past, and doing my utmost to hide any signs of it from my peers, while at the same time mask the pain and anger I felt from loved ones still within its circles.

It has taken me a long time, but I am realizing that I can be honest about the confusion, pain, trials, and dangers of the world I grew up in. In doing that, I also don’t have to be ashamed of it anymore or try to paint a rose-colored picture of it. For so long I felt like I had to choose one option or the other.

 

I have found that people put pressure on you from all sides on this subject.

Outsiders grow uncomfortable with your lack of familiarity with pop-culture, or find it wildly funny and strange when you miss an obvious social cue – so easily make you the target of yet another awkward homeschooler joke. Insiders still within the community exude a variety of emotions from growing angry with you for questioning the norms and potentially damaging its reputation, to reminding you that it wasn’t all bad and to not hurt good people by making them feel bad for well-meant efforts, to shunning you altogether. Folks interested in homeschooling want to know if I would recommend it, but then when I hesitate or speak truthfully usually don’t want to hear my experiences any more as they assume I am bitter, had an extreme experience, and am not worth hearing out. People who get to know me think it doesn’t bother me when they make fun of my upbringing or my family or immediately assume I won’t understand something. The thing is, while I have learned how to laugh at myself and laugh with others – there is a difference from when you are laughing with people and when you are fake laughing to cover your embarrassment for allowing it to happen yet again.

 

One of my favorite authors Brene Brown wrote,

Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be in order to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.

 

My journey with Untold Stories is a journey in belonging. It’s about learning to accept myself, and all that comes with me from my past to my present. Its learning to be vulnerable in healthy ways, and at the right times with the right people. I have been working on this homeschooling factor for a long time. For years I was an emotional time bomb, just waiting for a person to hit the button, where I would either explode outwardly if I felt safe enough or implode inwardly all the while putting on a good face.

 

For years all I did was assess each situation I found myself in and become the person I needed to be to fit in.

 

Being Kallie wasn’t an option, because I had believed the lie that being myself wasn’t good enough. A belief like that is so pervasive that even when you start to realize it in one area of your life and attempt to change, there are one hundred other areas in your life where it has spread that you are still oblivious to. I am learning that the process of moving from striving to fit in to acceptance and belonging is a constant cycle of trying, failing, trying again, succeeding, and finding yourself doing it yet again.

 

Because of this process, and because homeschooling was such a huge influence on my life – it is important for me to stand up and take a seat at the table of voices weighing in from personal experience.

 

I know that many parents out there believe they have a right to stand up and defend their choices. I know that many parents out there today considering homeschooling often find it easier to hear from someone who talks about it in glowing terms that ease frustrations, limitations, and negative experiences with a public or private education experience. However in the end, when making a healthy decision what’s really important is to hear all the facts before making the best decision for you and your family.

Parents who have homeschooled can speak from experience on what its like to be the parent, but they can not speak from experience as to what it will be like for your child.

To know that you have to speak to those of us, who were those children.

 

I know in my own family this can be an emotional subject, as we have all changed over the years and processing through the past honestly is never an easy feat. However, for parents all I ask is that you take time to quietly and patiently listen. There is a time and a place for sharing your emotions and reflections, but know that as an adult speaking to your parents attempting to voice the truth of how you felt, how you might question their decision, and to be honest about what its been like to live away from home is one of the hardest things for us to ever do. Even for those of us who weren’t abused, or for those of us who haven’t already been rejected by parents, the fear of rejection or dismissal claws at you. The pressure to respect and to never dishonor your parents sits in your stomach like a brick. Emotions of hatred, anger, and blame that have piled up from every time you were made fun of, misunderstood, felt cheated of a life most other kids had, felt behind in your education, had to add one more thing to your list of stuff you missed out on and are trying to catch up on – all of these feelings and more rise up like bile in your throat. You want to lash out. You want to direct it at someone, and yet you can’t because you look at your parent whom you love so much and you also know loves you and you can’t blame them. So you stuff it down and you blame the system for duping your entire family, rather than honestly admit to being angry at God, the system, and your family. I have had many of these conversations with my own parents. I have handled many of them poorly, as it is often so much easier to redirect emotion and refuse to face what you are actually feeling. I also know that I have parents who have listened, even when it hurt them. I am blessed in that I have parents who daily live out the reminder to me and my siblings that parenting is never perfect but a process. They have communicated again and again with their words and their actions that what matters most is fighting for relationship, honesty, and vulnerability even when its painful, means rethinking decisions, agreeing to disagree, or apologizing.

 

For those of you potentially considering homeschooling. Check out resources like Homeschoolers Annonymous. Listen to stories from parents and children who grew up homeschooled. Embrace accountability, structure, high academic standards, and work to make sure that your child is truly getting the best educational opportunity and experience that they need, not what you want or only what is convenient. Make decisions with the question in mind, will my child thrive from this or live to regret my decision for them?

 

For those of you who meet us homeschool kids, instead of following the crowd in laughing at them or making indirect sarcastic remarks that you know go over their head – come to their defense. Help them feel more comfortable and take time to try and understand where they are coming from. Just because it seems like they don’t pick up on everything, doesn’t mean they are oblivious. I can’t tell you the number of times I have been in a social setting, where even though I may not have understood all the references being made I knew I was being mocked, made fun of, or was the topic of conversation. Also know that as we grow more comfortable with our past and ourselves, we can also learn to joke about it ourselves and with others. It’s a balancing act really that differs for every person, but honesty, a listening ear, and some quiet observation will go a long ways.

 

So, with this introduction, in the upcoming weeks I am going to be sharing my Home-Schooling Untold Stories.

I would love to hear from you all on what your experiences have been, or thoughts you might have on the topic!

If you were homeschooled:

–       What advice do you have to share for parents, friends, or prospective homeschoolers?

–       What were some positive experiences you had?

–       What were some negative experiences you had?

If you are a parent, who has homeschooled a child who is now out of the home:

–       How have you handled their transition to adulthood?

–       How do you have those hard conversations?

–       Do you have any regrets or advice – (positive or negative) to share from the parental perspective?

If you are a parent homeschooling now or parents considering it as an educational option:

–       What resources have you found to help with accountability, structure, stability, and academic quality?

–       How do you communicate and ensure that your child is getting the best education they need to thrive?

–       Do you consider your child’s wishes and feelings in the decision to homeschool?

 

Until next time,

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(Part 2)

 

  • ryamom

    I hated it when people asked me “so how do you like homeschool?” Like I had a choice in the matter. I know they didn’t mean anything by it but it was a constant reminder that I was being “set apart” from other kids.

    • Tracy,

      I know how you feel. I still feel that way when people ask me how I liked it growing up. I’m always like, well I never knew anything different and wasn’t allowed a choice in the matter, so there is not really a way to fairly compare it to something else.

  • Ren

    I’m a parent just finishing our 3rd year of homeschooling my oldest, who is now 10. In answer to your questions:

    – What resources have you found to help with accountability, structure, stability, and academic quality?

    Very little.

    Our only option for accountability was through the school district – which we didn’t want. We left the school system on purpose. We didn’t really didn’t want to have to continue checking boxes for them. We didn’t fit their boxes well enough to bother if we didn’t have to.

    We created structure that worked for us and were very grateful for it.

    Academic accountability in our state is in the form of unreported end of year testing. We did it. Of course, it didn’t reflect anything we were actually spending time on, but the tests were easy for him to do well on.
    .
    I kept my eye on the state education’s standards and made sure we were either meeting or exceeding those. At least the ones that made sense for us. (Exceptions included that we used a chronological timeline for history and parts of our literature so we ignored the state list in those areas.) I chose an eclectic blend of materials based on what I thought would meet my child’s academic needs the best. I used a lot of online resources. Mostly I used my own mind and my own relationship with my child. We are very capable.

    – How do you communicate and ensure that your child is getting the best education they need to thrive?

    Since I was only homeschooling one of our 3 children it was easy to keep discussing what was working and what wasn’t. We pulled him from public school because he wasn’t thriving in that school environment, so for the first two years it was easy for him to ‘thrive’ at home. Mostly. We had some challenges… but nothing is perfect. This last year has been harder, though. He’s reaching an age/stage where he really needs more varied environments and relationships than he has needed in the past. It was a hard year not being able to put pieces together for a more socially engaged year (co-ops, “playdates”, etc. just nothing seemed to click for schedules/academics! less than ideal!) He’s back in public school next year. He’s ready. And assessments helped be placed in academically appropriate classes for middle school, which was such a relief. His elementary school did not even try to help meet his needs and he was just falling apart under their “care”.

    – Do you consider your child’s wishes and feelings in the decision to homeschool?

    Of course! It’s their life. We are their parents, so the responsibility is ours and, thus, the decisions. But, obviously, they affect our children and they need to have a voice in their own life! We do see more of the full picture – things like our children’s core personalities and habits (they are exploring, but we have known them since birth and know them well), our family resources, my own abilities and limitations, what is and isn’t available in our local school system, etc, etc… The children mostly just see what they are experiencing on a day to day basis. So, yes! We care very much about their wishes and feelings. But they don’t drive the bus. Not yet. They’re still very young. Well… the 10 year isn’t ‘very young’ anymore… but he has been for most of our homeschooling. Our younger boys both say they want to homeschool, but they don’t. Their personalities would just not do well with me. I don’t give grades, one boy thrives on gold stars. The other is extremely social, and would go crazy at home with me all day. Who would he charm with his adorable grin? And their academic needs are not ‘average’, but they are workable within a classroom system. They just say they want to home school because they want the time with me. But if it ever became a true need, we would do it.

    I know you didn’t ask this, but I want to share it: As a religious person who chose to homeschool their child, the hardest things I ran into were actually social issues for me. And, of course, those trickle down to my kids. As conservative as I am (and I really am pretty conservative) and as important as my relationship with God is to me (and it is, very) I still didn’t fit in with the homeschooling moms in our area. They were not the most extreme of patriarchy, but I was much too liberal for them. So – group schooling parents thought I was a fringe religious homeschooler and homeschooling parents thought I was a wayward christian who wasn’t living up to God’s standards. (We live in a small town – the homeschool game is small here.) It was extremely isolating for me as an adult. When I first started out there was no way for me to have know that was the direction it would go. If I was giving advice to people thinking about homeschooling I would tell them two things about making the decision that I wish someone had told me. I would tell them:

    1) You ARE going to need time away from your kids. When you are a homeschooling mom, going to Target on Saturday by yourself does not cut it. You will need educational planning time, personal sanity time, and other times as well. Do you have the resources to make that happen? Do you need someone else to do the dusting so you can do the English teaching? Work it out ahead of time if AT ALL possible. At the very least, it sets the family expectations up for success. Your child is not going to thrive if you are drowning.

    2) Look very closely at the resources available to you in your area. Don’t just see that they exist. See what they look like, how much do they cost, who are the people you will interact with. If there were 2 private schools you wouldn’t think “oh great! private schools! we’ve got options!” You would think, “I need to check those out and make sure one of them works for us before we commit to that community for our kids.” Do the same – visit the co-op, visit the support groups, meet the people, see if class options are actual classes that your children need. It doesn’t matter if the local co-op has 55 classes if their schedule doesn’t jive with yours and none of them are age appropriate for YOUR CHILD. Be specific in your decision making process.

    There. A couple of tips from a successful, but exhausted homeschool mom who is a little wiser than when she started. Hope that fits into your questioning and helps…

    • Ren.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to respond so in depth to my questions. It is so refreshing to read and hear from a homeschooling mom who cares about her children’s education to put the hard work into it that you seem to do. I know it is not easy and takes a lot of time and patience. I love that you all are taking into consideration what each child needs, and realizing that even that can change from year to year. I also love to hear that you keep an eye on state standards and try to match or exceed them. I am always grateful to know that there can and are parents out there homeschooling in a way that is helpful and beneficial for their children.

      I think the difference largely from the experiences I had differ greatly in the parent’s motives and reasons for homeschooling. My mother, older sister, and I were just discussing this the other day. For my parents what first began as a practical necessity due to the job my father took, when I was in early elementary school — turned into a religious mantra, a form of escapism, and a form of parenting and education steeped in religious doctrine that was largely motivated by fear. Now they are taking a very different approach with my younger siblings, and I believe it is working much better.

      What we all largely learned was that if you are homeschooling your kid out of fear that they will be unable to handle relationships, the normal peer pressures of life growing up in this world, and to protect them at all costs from ever being hurt — not only is it a recipe for failure, its a recipe for crippling them to be able to transition to life as a young adult on their own out in society. We have learned the hard way that even when we hunkered down and lived in a bubble protecting ourselves from everything and everyone we feared, the worst still happened. People are still people no matter where you hide, and living in fear is no way to really live.

      Children are going to encounter difficulty in life whether its in relationships, academics, communication, etc. Through our first round with homeschooling, and through the difficulties the older kids in my family have had in adjusting to society as adults who spent far more time homeschooling — we are now seeing where it is possible to teach your child instead to believe in themselves, to have a safe place to communicate honestly, to make mistakes and know they are unconditionally loved, to encounter people different from then themselves and to learn from them versus criticize or judge them. Its a long journey and easy to go from one extreme to another, and we all see the issue a little differently — but thats life and family I guess. 🙂

      Thank you again for sharing your thoughts!

  • Ren

    btw, I am so sorry that your homeschooling experience made you feel like an outsider when you got out on your own. It makes me so sad. I know some of that is just normal growing up – if you’re the biker’s kid you don’t know all the Justin Bieber songs, if you’re the country boy you don’t know all the underground stuff… I mean, people are different and we all don’t fit in lots of places… But what you’re describing feels different than that and very challenging. I’m glad you are finding your way through it and appreciate you sharing your stories. They help me see some of the people around me more clearly than I could before. Best Wishes

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