Guard Your Heart, Part Two

This is part two in a two part series. It was originally written as part of the Homeschoolers Anonymous series, “Homeschoolers Are Out.” In this series: Part One | Part Two ***** Sometimes the hardest person to come out to is yourself. After spending a few years post-college working as a wedding and gift registry consultant (turns out I liked studying computer science a lot more than doing it), I decided a change of course was in order, packed up everything and moved to Vietnam to teach for a year. I had a wonderful time and learned a lot about myself and also learned tons from the very talented and accomplished Vietnamese faculty at the university where I taught. Coming back to the US sent me into a tailspin of reverse culture shock and I spent a long few months feeling like I didn’t know which end was up or what ground was solid. During that time I found myself questioning all sorts of things as I tried to figure out what to do with myself and which direction was forward. It was during that time that I began to realize that it wasn’t just that I had been really good at guarding my heart, and that it wasn’t just that I hadn’t found the right guy, it’s that I never was attracted to guys in the first place. When you’re the model homeschool child, “gay” is something that happens to other people. As a kid it was those people I’d see on TV marching, or who my parents’ religious right friends would rail against, but it’s certainly not the sort of thing that a good little homeschooled church kid would consider to have anything to do with themselves. And it’s most definitely not the sort of thing that even crossed my mind as something to consider as[…]

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Guard Your Heart, Part One

This is part one in a two part series, Part Two is here. It was originally written as part of the Homeschoolers Anonymous series, “Homeschoolers Are Out.” *** It turns out that it’s easy to guard your heart when you’re not attracted to someone, but I’m getting ahead of myself here. To begin this story, we need to go back in time, back to when I was a homeschool kid growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Despite my parents running the private school for homeschoolers, and my mom finding herself spending far more time on the phone giving advice to new homeschoolers than she would have liked, and that one time that they wound up helping to put together a state-wide homeschool convention (something they vowed never to do again), my family wasn’t nearly as connected to the homeschooling subculture as many people. There really wasn’t that much of a homeschooling subculture when my parents started homeschooling, since back in the mid ‘80s there weren’t many homeschoolers. Most of the national opportunities like debate weren’t around until I was done, or nearly done, with high school. Also, my mom didn’t particularly like hanging out with other homeschool moms and talking about each other’s children, and (with the exception of the aforementioned convention) avoided homeschool conventions like the plague. The parade of supermoms in denim jumpers and white sneakers who sewed all their own clothing, baked all their bread, and still found time to design grade-appropriate unit studies made her feel inadequate—after all, she didn’t do a single unit study in 18 years of homeschooling, hated denim jumpers, and especially wasn’t going to be sewing the aforementioned jumpers. That’s not to say I didn’t have more than my fair share of homeschooled friends, but they were mostly ones I knew from non-homeschool[…]

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The one thing you should never ask a homeschool kid

The local paper does stories on all of the high school graduations, and where the stories for the other school graduations follow the same formula–mention something from the speaker, go with a few quotes from graduates about going out into the world, the homeschool support group graduation story includes quotes from kids talking up homeschooling as a concept. Don’t ask that question of kids. Seriously, just don’t. No kid should be put in the position of defending and explaining their education to adults. Aside from the fact that in 2013 it’s not like homeschooling is something nobody’s heard of, that’s just not something you should put on a kid. It’s too much pressure and it makes the kid feel even more like an outsider, an “other,” and not part of mainstream culture. Even if a kid had an absolutely wonderful experience, homeschool apologetic isn’t something a kid should be expected to do. Parents, don’t ask this of your kids. Random strangers, don’t put a kid on the spot and start asking questions. It’s not fair to the kid. I had to put up with random strangers asking me questions about homeschooling since I was six. Six. Let that sink in for a second. How in the world would anyone think that’s remotely something that you should put on a six year old? I can’t even count how many times I was wandering around the public library minding my own business looking for interesting books when I’d be stopped by a stranger asking me, “why aren’t you in school?” Now, granted, back in the ‘80s, homeschooling was a novelty, but still. It would have been one thing if it had ended with me responding, “I’m homeschooled,” but nope, the next question was, “Is it legal?” Seriously, people would ask a little elementary[…]

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Pawns in the culture war

This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes – Morpheus, The Matrix In the few days since I wrote my post about what I strongly suspect is HSLDA’s litigation strategy to make homeschooling a fundamental right with no restrictions, not even for abusers, people have been doing some digging and have found information that quite frankly, is incredibly disturbing. In a nutshell, in 2009 an all male group of homeschool leaders met for a summit at one of Bill Gothard’s ATI training centers to discuss the future of homeschooling. Included among the big names present were Doug Phillips of Vision Forum (and former HSLDA attorney), Brian Ray of NHERI, and Christopher Klicka of HSLDA. Among the topics discussed was a call to abolish child protective services and plans were outlined about how they would go about instituting a Christian theocracy with homeschoolers paving the way. Heather at Becoming Worldly and R.L. Stollar at Homeschooler’s Anonymous both have extremely long and extremely informative posts laying out what exactly happened at the summit, I think it’s important to go read both posts. While I’ve long suspected that there was an agenda based on the bits and pieces of memories I have from things I read and heard from various homeschooling leaders over the years, seeing the road map laid out was chilling. I’ve snarked about the irony of HSLDA setting me on the path to where I am today by getting me interested in law, I’ve imagined how different my life would have been if I’d been accepted to[…]

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Of fundamental rights, HSLDA, and homeschooling

I wasn’t planning on writing more about HSLDA but I was talking to my mom today about HSLDA’s refusal to do anything about child abuse and how it made absolutely zero sense to defend abusers. As I moved on to talking about how I feel that they’re using the Romeike family as pawns in their effort to establish homeschooling as a fundamental right, something dawned on me. Notice that phrase “fundamental right”? It’s a phrase they’ve been throwing around an awful lot when talking about the Romeike case. In law, “fundamental right” has a very specific meaning. It refers to those rights that are basic, foundational rights–things like life, liberty, freedom of association, freedom of movement, freedom of religion, the right to marry, and the right to due process. Under US constitutional law, fundamental rights automatically trigger strict scrutiny. That is, for any law restricting a fundamental right to pass constitutional muster, it must be narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling government interest and must be the least restrictive means of achieving that end. Strict scrutiny is a standard that very few laws can meet. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve heard professors describe strict scrutiny as, “strict in theory, fatal in fact.” If you can get the courts to find something to be a fundamental right, you’re pretty much home free. Very few regulations of fundamental rights can survive the strict scrutiny analysis. So, how does this apply to homeschooling? Right now, homeschooling is protected under parental rights to direct the education of their children. Religious freedom comes into play to some extent (especially if you’re Amish–the courts don’t like to mess with the Amish), but with parental rights it’s still a balancing of the right of the parent with the right of the child and the interest of the[…]

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HSLDA and child abuse

I’ve made no secret that I don’t exactly have the most positive opinion about the Homeschool Legal Defense Association’s brand of religious fundamentalism but I never thought that HSLDA was covering for and protecting child abuse. For all of their scare tactics, and for as much as I think that a legal defense organization is unnecessary in a post-Tim Tebow world, I always assumed that the training-up-the-next-generation-of-culture-warriors aside, it really was just about keeping homeschooling legal. That if they were representing a family, it was because the family was wrongly accused. I found out recently that I was completely wrong. HSLDA is pursuing a course of action that is helping to protect child abusers while doing nothing to protect kids. Blogger Libby Anne at Love, Joy, Feminism, herself a K-12 homeschool graduate, has a series of posts exploring HSLDA and child abuse. It’s a long read but I encourage you to take your time to go read it all, it’s an informative series and it opened my eyes as to just how out there HSLDA really is on this. Seriously, go read it, I’ll wait until you get back. Have you read everything? Good, let’s continue. On Tuesday, HSLDA posted an indirect response to Libby Anne’s series by way of a message posted on their facebook page. Their response is basically a bunch of buzzwords and denials that doesn’t address any of the actual allegations. Libby Anne responds here. I had no idea about what HSLDA was really up to and my memories are filtered through the eyes of a homeschool kid reading the Court Report. I rather suspect that this is news to some of the people reading this as well. It makes me mad because this organization that I thought was there to protect homeschooling has ended up protecting[…]

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Heads up

Sometime in the next week or so some of what I’ve written here, as well as some new material, will be posted on the Homeschoolers Anonymous blog. You may be asking why, when I’ve already gone on record that my homeschooling experience was largely positive, I’m contributing to a site that chronicles some of the problems that people have had with the homeschool subculture. The reason is simple. Those of us who were homeschooled have all seen the problems and the abuses. If we’re honest, we know that those problems exist, even if they didn’t exist in our own families. Implicit in the insistence that we weren’t one of those homeschoolers is the acknowledgment that those homeschoolers exist. Those who are telling their stories of how that the subculture hurt them deserve to have those of us who know the truth acknowledge that their stories are real. That we heard the messages from national homeschool leaders as well. That we saw the same things they saw, even if we did not live them.   I could sit here and insist that because my experiences were largely positive that this is proof that homeschooling works and brush aside those stories, but that would be dishonest. Homeschooling can and does work, but it’s also true that well-meaning parents buy into a lot of the craziness because they just want to be the best homeschoolers they can be and they’re being told that this is the right way to do that. If those of us who know better present a vision of homeschooling that is nothing but positivity, we’re doing nothing to warn parents of those traps. More importantly, in the discussion about homeschooling, those of us who were homeschooled have a right to be heard. Too much of the talk about homeschooling comes from parents, or it comes[…]

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Irony

The Daily Beast has a story about homeschooled kids who have grown up and are blogging about their negative experiences. I didn’t have the kind of negative experiences that those kids had, although I’ve definitely seen the kinds of problems that the article discusses. I think most of us who have grown up in homeschool circles have seen the problems and have stories we could tell–stories like the time I overheard moms at homeschool skate talking about how they weren’t going to teach their daughters algebra because they didn’t need math to be a stay at home wife and mother. What jumped out at me though, was this quote from the article: Now the first wave of kids raised in these homes has reached adulthood. Many were trained to be activists, to argue, to question the verities of the dominant culture. Debating skill is hugely important in many homeschool circles, because it’s seen as a crucial tool of Christian apologetics. (Patrick Henry, the Virginia college for homeschoolers that Farris founded, has a moot-court team that has twice defeated Oxford’s Balliol College.) The movement’s leaders never intended, though, for students to turn their prowess against the culture they were raised in. “Michael Farris, his whole idea was creating this cultural army. The finishing point of everything was supposed to be debate,” says Stollar, 28.  I’ve written before about how I’d applied to do the HSLDA intern program after high school, and how in retrospect I’m glad I didn’t get it. The above quote rings so true to me because the great irony of the fundamentalist homeschool world is that they told us we were the activists who were going to change the country–that was a common theme in World Mag articles about homeschooling, and definitely so in the HSLDA newsletter–and well,[…]

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Musings from a parallel universe

Earlier today I posted a link on facebook about how Michael Farris of Patrick Henry College threatened to sue the the people behind the Queer at Patrick Henry College blog for copyright infringement for using the name “Patrick Henry College”. [Here’s where we pause for a moment while I say, COPYRIGHT LAW DOES NOT WORK LIKE THAT!!!!!!!111ONE!!!!!!!eleventy!!!!! phew, deep breath, now that’s out of my system we can go on]. Apparently somebody pointed out to Michael Farris that copyright law does not work like that, because he promptly withdrew the threat. Anyway, Mike Farris landing in the news got me thinking about something I hadn’t thought about in a long time. Before he went and started a college that would let fundy homeschool parents feel safe about sending their kids off to a school that would keep the kids sheltered from the outside world, his claim to fame was starting the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). Back in the day when homeschooling was new, it may have been useful since nobody really had heard of homeschooling and school systems didn’t know what to do with homeschoolers, though I’m pretty skeptical that it’s actually still necessary in an era when ESPN is constantly bowing down and kissing Tim Tebow’s feet (Gator Nation, represent). Back when I was in high school, HSLDA started an internship for recent high school graduates, and, since I wanted to be a lawyer and all (and being a good homeschooler), I applied for the internship my senior year of high school. I wasn’t accepted to their intern program, which I was really disappointed about at the time, since that was part of my plan to build connections to get to my eventual career goal of working for a big name right wing organization. The Patrick Henry College story got[…]

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You can never get home again

I went to a homeschool graduation tonight; someone I babysat for many years from the time she was a baby was graduating, which makes me feel incredibly old, though that is somewhat beside the point. Perhaps it was because it was the graduation put on by the homeschool support group that I never much cared to be involved with back when I was in high school, but despite having gone to a dozen or more of those events over the years, it felt odd. It’s a world where I no longer belong. That’s not to say anything about homeschooling itself, just that it’s like visiting a place that you once knew like the back of your hand and finding that while it may have stayed the same, you’re not the same person you used to be and it doesn’t fit anymore.

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