“The cognitive dissonance grew so intolerable that it took me down a road that led me to throw away many of the beliefs I grew up having.”
I am 25 years old and I am the middle child of five. We were all homeschooled from a very early age up to adulthood. My family moved to Connecticut when I was young. My father made sure we went to a state with little homeschooling legislation. When my mother got arrested for assaulting our neighbor, they decided that the best course of action was to move to another state with little legislation – Texas. Then more recently when they ran out of money, they sold the house and moved to another “great” state for homeschooling – Missouri. There, my oldest sister still lives with and financially supports my able-bodied parents and two younger siblings. She is in her 30s and has never dated.
The second oldest, like me, has moved out and done well starting her own life, but still wrestles with the trauma of our upbringing. She still has nightmares and has to fight the urge toward self harm when she remembers the things that happened. My parents would sit her in a chair for hours and scream at her in an attempt to “exorcise her demons”. She has ADHD and bipolar disorder and thus didn’t always behave or respond to orders the way my parents wanted her to. She was reprimanded for going on her own to get that diagnosis because my mother believes psychiatry is all lies, and that she just needs to pray harder to solve her problems.
My younger brother I believe has undiagnosed autism. Growing up, they always said he’s just “slow” as it took him a long time to learn to read. My grandfather has tried to help him with things on a few occasions, to have him visit and learn a trade such as carpentry. My mother got into hysterics at this idea. She thought he was trying to steal my brother away. She always talked about her father like he is this great villain, but looking back, I honestly can’t see a thing that he did wrong. He just disagreed with the way we were raised, and he asked too many questions.
My younger brother and sister still live at home with my parents, and I occasionally talk to them. I want to be a good influence for my siblings, but I know they are still under my parents’ thumb and have little autonomy. I wonder how they will fare when they have to get a job and go into society. I have looked into Child Protective Services and they said that unless physical abuse is apparent, the state won’t do anything. I looked into what legislation exists to address the educational neglect but there are no regulations for that. There are no standardized tests, no level of education expected of children of any age. My siblings are severely behind in reading, math, and basic social skills. They are now grown up into adulthood and are going to have to make up for all the lost time on their own.
I had a panic moment when I turned 18. I was still living at home and I felt like I didn’t learn anything, and I needed to figure out what I was going to do with my life. My father told us not to go to college unless we knew exactly what we were going to do since it’s a waste of money. So, I started working and waited 2 years to take my GED since I didn’t feel like I had learned enough. We did not have any transcripts or diplomas, so the only evidence that I learned anything, aside from a few “books read” lists, was that GED. I was getting tired of living in the house and giving my whole foodservice paycheck to my parents, who refused to get a job, so I started getting a little sassy. It was around this point that in a fit of rage, my mother called me a b****, struck me with a glass bottle, then broke the bottle and threatened to stab me with it. All the while my father was quivering in the corner. My older sister jumped in and disarmed my mother. I left the house, slept in my car in a Walmart parking lot, and didn’t even think to call the police. Shortly after, I was so desperate to move out that I found someone looking for roommates on Craigslist. Since then, I have gotten a good apartment, job, and boyfriend and am about to finish my degree. But I still feel weird around people since I was kept inside the house most of my life. I wonder often if I am doing/saying things wrong, and I’ve definitely missed out on a lot of culture. It has been fun to find new friends and catch up on those things.
When asked, my parents would say the main reason they decided to homeschool is because public schools do not provide an adequate education, but the real reason is that they didn’t teach the kinds of things my parents wanted us to learn. The homeschooling was religiously motivated. My parents have an interesting view of the world. You could say we were Evangelical Christians, but really, I think that my parents have created their own denomination since they disagreed with nearly everyone else and amalgamated a combination of beliefs that no other church could match. We had tried going to churches but always left a few months in as everyone was either “too worldly” or “too religious”. My father told us that we weren’t isolated, we were “protected”.
Some of the main tenets of my families’ beliefs:
- My mother is spiritually gifted as she can feel and hear the demons and angels and powers and principalities around us, acting in and through people every day. Whenever my siblings and I would get into arguments she would describe it as “your demons fighting with their demons”. I think it is very likely she has a form of schizophrenia.
- The government is in a New World Order conspiracy, that we are living in the End Times, and that the 5 of us kids are going to grow up to perform miracles, healing the sick and casting out demons as predicted in the Bible. My father ascribes to a lot of internet conspiracy theories. My mother liked to think she was Sarah Connor from the Terminator series, raising her children to be the savior during the apocalypse.
- Education and socializing (or what my father described as BS-ing / A**-Kissing) are not necessary. What is important is that our hearts are kept pure and that we are being prepared for the End Times.
- As well as your other Classic Homeschooling Themes: don’t have sex until you are married, don’t consume any media that has witchcraft in it (Harry Potter, Pokémon for some reason, etc.), don’t associate with people who do any of the above things, just a general dislike of “the culture”. Science is full of lies; evolution/global warming are hoaxes.
That last bit was the one that made me question things the most since I have always been a lover of science. The cognitive dissonance grew so intolerable that it took me down a road that led me to throw away many of the beliefs I grew up having. This was very uncomfortable for me as I felt I had no grounding. No friends, no family, no place to go. I felt so alone, so helpless. Nobody could help me except myself. So, I waited, and I did help myself. But now my siblings are still in that house and I feel there is nothing I can do.
I support oversight of homeschooling because my own experiences taught me that when someone is homeschooled, there is nobody who can save children from the whims and beliefs of their parents. Because of the current laws, a parent can say they are homeschooling and be free to brainwash, neglect or abuse their children, under absolutely no scrutiny from the government. I’ve seen family members wish they could help and have absolutely no influence. I myself wish I could help my siblings but I know that whatever I tell them will be twisted by my mother, who is skilled at making other people out to be the villain. All the while she has gotten away with being abusive with no repercussions. Me and my siblings have had our youth, money, and futures taken away from us by our selfish parents. This could have been avoided if homeschooling oversight could provide a little more accountability for our parents.
Amber Moore was homeschooled in Connecticut and Texas beginning in the early 2000s. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Community Voices page.