Wednesday, 17 December 2014

The Impact of Parental Values and Opinions on Educational Outcomes: My Perspective

The impact of attitudes towards education, especially higher education, and its impact on adult life, has recently come up in discussion in the home school survivor community. We all have different experiences and heard variations of different messages while growing up in homeschooling families. Here is my experience:

My parents didn't place much value on education. We were homeschooled in a way, meaning we were at home and some effort was made to buy books and teach lessons. But the underlying organization and structure wasn't there, and they didn't have the motivation or follow through to make it happen. We received a relatively decent education in the first few grades, I assume; we learned to read and do basic math in those years. But no one received any education past about grade 6-8, depending on the subject. 

They taught that you didn't need college or university to succeed in life. They said that because we were homeschooled, we were special, and people would understand that and recognize the extraordinary intelligence we were gifted with

Friday, 3 October 2014

Socialization and Psychological Maltreatment: Isolating Children and Teenagers

This post deals with parents isolating and controlling their children’s social interactions; of course my parents and many other homeschooling parents have engaged in many other forms of control, but this is one that people don't seem to realize is a problem. Below, I give some examples of social isolation and control in my own life, and then reference work from Roberta Hibbard, Jane Barlow, and Harriet MacMillan to show how social isolation can be a serious problem for children who are subjected to it.

    As I have said in previous posts, many of the people who were involved with my family over the years still don't really get what the problem was. They will admit that my parents were a bit overprotective. Depending on the day they might even admit that my parents were controlling. But they always cycle back to trying to convince me that my parents were just doing their best, just trying to keep us safe. Then sometimes the same people concede that not everything was perfect but assure me that my father has changed. I don't spend much time around people who think they are in a position to re-write my history for me.

    Once when I was about 15, I was something like friends with the neighbour girl. She was about 2 years older than me, and very conservative (more so than we were, in some ways - they attended a very conservative Mennonite church). Her parents and my parents ran in the same circles and spent time together talking about fundamentalism

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Navigating the Justice System Part III: As a Young Adult

Please see also Navigating the Justice System Part 1: Alone at Age 9 and Navigating the Justice System: When my Parents Went to Court

When I was about 17, I moved out. Once it was truly clear to me that what happened in my home was abusive and not normal I decided to try to end the abuse for everyone. I started making regular calls to Children's Aid on my father. I had to get help making these calls because Children's Aid did not take my calls seriously because I was perceived as a disgruntled daughter (I was a disgruntled daughter, I suppose - but it didn't negate what I had to say). There had already been multiple closed investigations on my family, and my parents presented as godly people who were just doing the best they could do with very little money and terribly rebellious children (although the social workers were always impressed with our obedience). I had help from guidance counsellors at my high school, and from the family I was staying with.

This process exacted a steep personal cost. I had to relive what had happened constantly, and I worried that if this bid for freedom

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

How I Was Almost Rescued from Abuse

A few months I wrote a post called Navigating the Justice System Part 1: Alone at 9 Years Old. This post is the story of what it was like for me to experience a Children's Aid investigation and a court case, from my perspective as a child. It skips pretty quickly over what the social workers were like and what they did, and I didn't talk very much about the involvement of other agencies and groups.

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is an organization that advocates for homeschooled children. Their mission is "to raise awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, provide public policy guidance, and advocate for responsible home education practices". Their vision is "for homeschooling to be a child-centered educational option, used only lovingly prepare young people for an open future".

The CRHE has started a blog on their website, and with some collaboration from CRHE personnel, I have written a piece that has been posted on their blog, called How I was Almost Rescued from Abuse. In this post I elaborate on what the social workers were like, and I provide a more thorough explanation of the rationale behind the court cases and what the goals were. Rather than posting the text here, I encourage you to click on the link in this paragraph and visit the CRHE to read the post.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

The Cupcake Piñata

I want to share a very simple little story about something that was a precious moment for me.

When I was a child, we didn't really have birthday parties, although my mother did make an effort most years to cook a favourite meal for the birthday child. When I was really young, we did have a party or two with a few friends invited and a special meal, but eventually as we became more isolated by the homeschooling, there weren't really friends to invite, and there was no money for extras like birthday meals when my father was just not working. So in my last few years before I left home, all our birthdays were barely noticed, much less celebrated, except by my mom quietly making a preferred meal from pre-set options and often no cake, or a very plain one with no icing. Birthdays could be a cause for concern for us, since we also were fair game to be confronted about whether we had matured into more godly children in the past year or not, and there was no safe way to answer that question. We were also sometimes taunted by the chance of a birthday party or a coveted gift if we behaved well enough. This was never really a possibility, and we would always lose that privilege no matter how good we were, since the money literally did not exist for it.

I became a little resentful about birthdays and birthday parties as I became an adult, because not only were birthdays not special, they represented a loss. I had been to a few normal birthday parties as a child and just couldn't be happy for those kids when I would never get that myself. Seeing someone have a nice birthday party became a difficult thing for me. I explained this my non-fundamentalist husband, who along with millions of North American children, apparently had birthday parties. He was a little surprised by this, and decided to do something about it.

My husband threw me a kid's party for my 24th birthday, because I never got one. He invited friends over, and ordered a very pink cake that said happy birthday on it. He stuck a ton of candles in it and lit them all. He set up our kitchen and living room with pink and white streamers all over, and blew up balloons and hung them from ribbons all over the downstairs area of our house. He made some kind of supper, I can't even remember what it was, the party was so exciting. And the best part of my party was the cupcake piñata. It was huge, at least two feet in diameter. It had a colourful "wrapper" base, and "icing" on top covered in sprinkles. He filled it with candy rockets and jolly ranchers and suckers and Hershey's chocolates and little plastic dinosaurs. We hung it in the doorway between the dining room and the living room and he videotaped us hitting it until it cracked open, and then we had little goodie bags and gathered up all the loot.

I didn't really eat a lot of the smashed piñata candy, but being given that experience at 24 years old was such a healing day for me. I still don't like it that I missed that part of childhood, but I am not hurt by that any more because the thing that I had lost was given to me. He gave me a piñata for my birthday last year too, I am coming up on my 26th birthday this year. Who knows, maybe I will get another one.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Navigating the Justice System Part II: When my Parents Went to Court

See also: Navigating the Justice System Part I

This part of Navigating the Justice System deals with a time in my life when my parents went to court and I didn't, but I am including it in the middle of a three part series since it hinges them together. Here is what happened when my parents went to court:

    When I was about 11, we were living in Ontario, where we had moved to get away from the court proceedings in Nova Scotia. However, my parents had been ordered to appear back in court in Nova Scotia. We had been going a conservative church in Ontario, for about a few months to a year. My parents talked to some of their friends in the church, and the decision was made to "farm out" the kids to various families

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Navigating the Justice System Part I: Alone at 9 Years Old

Trigger Warning: please click away from this page if you will be triggered by content that deals with child maltreatment and its consequences.

If this is the first Feminist in Spite of Them post you have read, please consider reading this either before or after.

When I was about 9, my parents were investigated by Children's Aid. Social workers came out to talk to us. They met with us and found out that my parents spanked as punishment - which made sense since my parents had posted "The 21 Rules of This House" next to the dining room table. They came back a few times and spoke to each of us children. My parents homeschooled and they questioned whether we were getting an adequate education

Saturday, 11 January 2014

A Call for Inclusion in the Survivor Community

There has been a bit of a ripple this weekend regarding a post that was published on Homeschoolers Anonymous. This post is written by someone who was homeschooled in a positive way, and has attained a higher level of education. He gave some recommendations for how survivors should be writing their stories. His main points are not false, he gives a solid explanation of the difference between narratives, philosophical statements, and empirical evidence. From a casual reading, his content is solid. However he goes on to explain that these claims need to be kept separate, or the movement will suffer.

We need to recognize

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Two Messages that Children Internalize that Contribute to Bullying in Patriarchal Church and Homeschool Groups

Homeschooled children sometimes experience bullying from peers. Part of this stems from the messages that children absorb about themselves.

1. Children respond to the tiered authority by owning the message that they are the not as good as other people and exist to serve people who appear to be more powerful than they are;

2. Children respond to the opposite message that they are the best and brightest and most privileged and enact that power on others. 

I have mentioned the issue of bullying in homeschool groups in passing in a previous post, but bullying in homeschooling families and homeschool groups is a serious issue. In a well-meaning homeschooling family from a conservative background, there are several patterns, such as adherence to patriarchal family systems and the sense of responsibility held by the parents to teach their children to succeed in life and grow up to be adults with the same mindset and goals as the parents. There is also often a commitment to having a large family. This creates