Hope M.: “I don’t even know how many people knew we existed”

“There were certainly several years in which we didn’t take any sort of test. There was no way for me, as a child, to connect with anyone outside of my household. There was no way for anyone to even see that I existed.”

I am the middle child out of five sisters (I’m smack in the middle). My sisters and I were all homeschooled all the way through school, never once attending any other sort of public or private school. While homeschooling can be a great experience, the lack of oversight creates a breeding ground for abusers to trap their children in a hostile environment. 

My father and mother emotionally and mentally abused me for years, resulting in me now having PTSD, depression, and anxiety. I have found out that my father sexually abused at least one of my sisters, and my oldest sister physically abused me from the time she was in middle school through when she was in college. I didn’t know of any way to tell anyone, and to be honest, I don’t think I even knew that it wasn’t “normal” or “okay.” 

We never took part in a homeschool co-op or anything like that. We were barely allowed to leave the house. I don’t even know how many people knew we existed, since we were never allowed to make friends at a park, or go anywhere by ourselves, or ever, ever speak to an adult who wasn’t our parent. Thankfully, I was able to make some friends through a library book club as a teenager (which I am still unsure of why my parents let me attend, but very glad that I did). But even though I could be out of my parents’ sight, I didn’t feel like I could tell anyone about the abuse happening behind the scenes. I was terrified that things at home would get even worse if my parents found out that I had anyone, and I also doubted that anyone would believe me, since my father somehow could convince anyone that he was a stand-up guy. 

As I drew closer to the end of high school, my parents essentially gave up on overseeing any of my education. For years I had simply been given textbooks and told to teach myself through them, but when my parents stopped checking them, I just stopped using them. I spent half of 11th grade reading novels that I hid under the edge of the table if my mother happened to walk by. While I am forever grateful that my Language Arts curriculum was intensive yet easy for me to do on my own, I am still stunted by my lack of math and science education. In high school, I only took one math “class”: Algebra 1. I didn’t even finish the book. It was too difficult for me to follow on my own, and my parents refused to help. So I just never finished. I also never took biology or chemistry, and my “science” books literally mostly talked about how climate change isn’t real. 

I was really looking forward to “graduating” and getting out of that house, and my parents let me go visit some colleges, although they tried very hard to convince me not to go. I was also, thankfully, able to convince them to let me take the ACT. However, to apply to college, I needed a transcript. My father drew one up for me… And it was wildly inaccurate. I guess I was a star student who got A’s in everything, despite never doing some subjects. They said that I had taken 2 years of Japanese, even though I’d only studied it for a few months. They said that I got A’s in Algebra 1 and Algebra 2, and that I had taken completely different science “courses.” Despite feeling wrong about submitting that “transcript,” I used it to apply for college, and I was accepted. Though I then did very well in college (graduating magna cum laude), I spent much of college stressed that the administration would somehow find out how much of a lie that transcript was. 

That brings me to today. Today, I am a happy 24-year-old, married to a wonderful spouse, have a great job, and am working on a master’s degree. However, many others were not so lucky. I know that there are thousands of others who were homeschooled and were not able to get out of their terrible situations, and that those who did survive abusive homeschooling situations may not have found it so easy to adapt to the “real world.” I know that my older sisters certainly are not well-adjusted. 

Homeschooling can be great. Many of my friends in college were homeschooled, albeit in far better home situations with caring, loving, education-supporting parents. And as I stated before, my Language Arts curriculum put me well above my peers in English college classes. I am considering homeschooling my future kiddos. But if I do, it will look far different than my own situation. 

I was homeschooled in Minnesota for the entirety of my childhood education. Minnesota’s laws are extremely lax regarding homeschooling. My parents simply had to tell the state that we had taken a standardized test (no scores necessary). There were certainly several years in which we didn’t take any sort of test. There was no way for me, as a child, to connect with anyone outside of my household. There was no way for anyone to even see that I existed. I was completely isolated from the outside world, and no one ever checked in to see if we were okay. If someone had been able to check in on me as a child, I would not have endured over a decade of abuse. My sister may not have been sexually abused. I would not feel ashamed for lying on my high school transcript, and I would have perhaps discovered a love for science or math. There are so many “what ifs.” 

I do believe that most parents should be able to homeschool. I do believe that parents and children should have freedom of choice of curriculum. And I firmly believe that students and their home situations should be assessed by trained professionals in order to spot potential abuse and stop abuse before it gets worse. Homeschooling will not be stifled by more oversight, and it is sorely needed to protect vulnerable children.

Hope M. was homeschooled in Minnesota from the early 2000s to the mid-2010s. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Community Voices page.

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