I hesitate to share this.
In my original series about my oldest son’s lost faith, I didn’t share much about the environment that my kids grew up in. However, I did recently share that my deconversion played a role in the end of my marriage.
Looking back, it’s now a queer thought for me, but for roughly 20 years I was a Christian fundamentalist, pro-homeschooling father. I also felt favorable to the quiverfull (Psalm 127) ideology for a short period of time which, if you’re not familiar with it, the quiverfull movement promotes giving up on birth control and allowing God to bless you with as many children as God sees fit. But after 5 kids, my faith ran out of gas and logical thought took over.
The various Christian labels from above now embarrass me except for the label of ‘father’. I’m proud of all of my kids. But I’m truly sorry for what they went through and for what they endured while growing up, which includes indoctrination and far too much sheltering.
My ex-wife and I raised 5 children. Our homeschool journey started when our oldest son was 6 and we discovered that he was having significant struggles in school. He was diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), which came about after having a teacher at our private Christian school tell us that our son was “the worst student she had ever had“. If you’re a parent, you can understand how much that hurt to hear.
As a result of his diagnosis, we started the common treatment at that time, which in the 1990’s was Ritalin, the “miracle ADHD drug”. Ritalin did work surprisingly well to calm our oldest son’s brain down for better concentration, but the side effects were heart breaking and frustrating. When he got home from school each day, the Ritalin had worn off and he would frequently turn into a puddle of tears over trivial matters. His appetite was also very suppressed. We couldn’t get him to eat anything until about 8 pm when it was close to bedtime. At that point, he was famished but dinner had long since been put away. As parents, it was heart breaking to see our oldest son come crashing down, reduced to tears, “thanks” to a drug we were giving him.
This wasn’t working. So after much contemplation, my wife decided that homeschooling was the solution. She had a bachelors degree and a mild love for education, and my job in IT was going pretty well. So I focused on earning a good income and working many long hours so that she could stay at home. Thus began a journey that had both positive and negative consequences – – for the children and our marriage.
Since the kids were home and together so much, they were pretty close with each other and usually played well. Most also inherited a love for reading that their mother nurtured. Unfortunately, all of them were typically 2 or 3 years behind their friends in terms of grade level (by age), and that was one of the negative results.
If someone were to ask me today if homeschooling was a good idea, I would tell them “no“, unless the circumstances were truly severe to warrant that strategy. Mothers typically assume the role of homeschool teacher, and I truly admire any parent who can effectively handle the very difficult task of homeschooling plus everything else. The personal energy requirement for it all is incredibly steep, to put it mildly.
As a parent in the homeschool movement, it became my impression that a majority pursue it for religious reasons. Now in hindsight, I believe that religion and homeschooling together creates a far more unhealthy environment for kids than does homeschooling, for non-religious reasons, alone.
In later years, my wife and I were routinely in strong disagreement about homeschooling. It became a very touchy topic between us, because I felt that our children were not receiving an adequate education. I felt that a good public school could provide a more extensive education along with an environment that gave far better opportunities for building social skills. Unfortunately, our kids were getting intentionally isolated and sheltered, largely fueled by religious paranoia.
My wife held very conservative beliefs and strong fears about many things, and those beliefs compelled her to homeschool. In her mind, all public schools were utterly evil and God-less, and our children would be severely and eternally harmed if they were put into public schools.
Unfortunately, my wife’s identity was completely wrapped up in being the stay-at-home mom and teacher, and any discussions we had on the topic would naturally feel like a direct attack on her as a person. I tried hard to not come across in that way. I felt it was a superhuman undertaking — an impossible job — but in the end, I suspect that reasoning on my part perhaps motivated her stubborn nature even more to stay the course.
As I shared before, our marriage eventually ended but homeschooling wasn’t the cause. However, I can’t help but have disdain for homeschooling nowadays. I am hopeful that my kids will ultimately survive and overcome the environment that I helped raise them in. I am hopeful they will one day, forgive us for what they went through.