Rebecca A.: “I feel I have been denied the opportunity to live up to my potential”

“My days revolved around taking care of my siblings and our home. Our mother would leave her bedroom periodically to yell at us for being too noisy and messy. I spent most of my teenage years being overwhelmed and depressed.”

I attended Christian (Protestant) schools through most of my education, having been homeschooled in 4th grade. When I entered 7th grade in 1988, the school I was attending closed a few months into the school year and there was no choice but to attend public school. I had been so sheltered that this new reality was a literal hell for me, especially considering that I was not allowed to acclimate—let alone assimilate. I was bullied and physically assaulted to the point where I refused to go anymore. My parents decided to homeschool us (myself and two siblings). This time it was much different.

In 4th grade, my parents had been involved in a correspondence group that sent curriculum, lesson plans, teaching guides, etc. This time money was tight, and my parents fought with the local school board for the right to borrow textbooks for us to use under a provision of the Homeschool Act passed the year before. It was early 1989, and I was 13.

My father was working a full-time job, as well as being a full-time pastor of a tiny church. My mother had checked out, both physically and mentally, the previous year, following the birth of my youngest sibling. She would wake us up around 7am each morning, tell us what Bible verses to read, and go back to bed. We waited until all was quiet and then also went back to sleep until the baby would wake us up.

Taking care of the baby was my primary responsibility. After everyone was fed for the morning, I would try to direct my siblings in schoolwork, but I was 13. Not only did my siblings recognize that I held no authority over them, but at 13 I knew nothing about lesson planning or even where to begin. They at least had workbooks they could slog their way through. I had actual textbooks and no idea what to do with them. I would read and answer questions at the end of chapters. But I wasn’t so much being homeschooled as I was attempting to self-educate.

There are some subjects that are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to teach yourself—particularly math and science. I struggled with algebra. When the higher math textbooks arrived, I had no idea what to do. When I approached my parents for help, they both answered that they had gone to a vocational high school school and had taken business math. This meant I was basically on my own to figure out algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus. I failed miserably. I basically bluffed/cheated my way through. (These were the days before the internet—so no help there.)

The only subject area in which my parents were proactive was science. They did not want us learning anything about the theory of evolution. Not that they supplemented the stuff we couldn’t read with anything else. They were also adamant that religious studies were the most important.

There were no outside groups to be involved with—we were very isolated. There was one other homeschooling family in our area, and periodically we would get together to play and that was considered our physical education. Being in my early teens, I had no interest in playing with little kids, and spent the time acting as babysitter more often than not.

I graduated in 1992, having “skipped” two grades (7th and 12th). I received a diploma from a homeschooling group located a few hours away. Unbeknownst to me, they were not state accredited at the time so my diploma meant nothing. I only learned this when I attempted to enter nursing school and was told that I’d need to get my GED to attend.

Oversight would have been great. I needed help and guidance and there was no one there for me. I’m still bitter about the experience. I feel like I could’ve learned so much more in a structured setting with knowledgeable people to direct and assist me.

When I attended college, I failed the math portion of the entrance exam, which meant extra classes just to get me caught up to my peers. When I took college biology, I was at a complete loss—while my classmates were basically taking a refresher course, I was learning the subject for the first time. And I hate to break it to my parents, but the “theory” of evolution actually makes a lot of sense. It’s so much more complicated than the “man came from monkeys” line I was fed my entire childhood.

As part of oversight, I would like to see school districts become more cooperative and involved with their homeschooling families. After my parents asserted their right to borrow textbooks from the local school district (as provided under the Homeschool Act passed in 1988), our district lent us outdated textbooks in terrible condition—missing pages and moldy from water damage. I believe this was done out of spite against my parents, but it hurt me, not them. I particularly remember one geometry textbook that was signed and dated by students in the 1960s.

No one knew how and if we were being educated. I don’t think anyone cared. There was absolutely no outside interference or support. There was minimal adult supervision. My days revolved around taking care of my siblings and our home. Our mother would leave her bedroom periodically to yell at us for being too noisy and messy. I spent most of my teenage years being overwhelmed and depressed.

My lack of a decent education has been a stumbling block on so many levels. And that doesn’t even include the social aspect. I feel like I have been denied the opportunity to live up to my potential. Honestly, it makes me angry.

Had someone stepped in and done a basic evaluation of our education and curriculum and provided some sort of guidance, there may have been a world of difference for me. I’ve always been told how smart I am, but most days I feel like an idiot because I’m constantly learning new things that everyone else seems to already know.

Rebecca A. was homeschooled in Pennsylvania from 1985-1986 (4th grade) and from 1989-1992 (8th grade through graduation). For additional thoughts and experiences of homeschooled alumni, see our Testimonials page.

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