Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Homeschool Graduates, Adult Adoptees and Nothing About Japan At All

I read a lot of blogs, on all sorts of divergent topics from dogs to vegetarian cooking to adoption to home schooling to Atheism and back again via academia and anime. Usually there is little relationship between anything I read. Lately, however, I have been noticing the same thing happening in two areas: blogs by home school graduates and blogs by adults who were adopted as children. Both groups are now, as adults, casting an often critical eye on their childhood experiences and making suggestions for how parents can prevent making the same mistakes with their children. Both groups are constantly being criticised by home schooling parents and adoptive parents for being “too negative”, “anti-“, in some cases having their stories challenged or dismissed altogether and of course, the classic “your parents just did it wrong, the system is fine!” / “Your experience was an aberration, the VAST MAJORITY [citation needed] had wonderful experiences and you should shut up and stop ruining it for everyone.”
From the comments thread of Homeschooling on the Open Seas
I find this baffling. Before going into adoption I wanted to be prepared. Part of that preparation was reading what adult adoptees, particularly transracial adoptees, have to say about their experiences. I read a lot of blogs by adoptive parents, too, but I place a higher value on what people who experienced being adopted, as opposed to adopting, have to say. One reason for this is how frustrating I have found it when my parents try to “correct”my statements about home schooling. They weren’t home schooled, I was. Being home schooling parents does not qualify you to talk about the experience of being home schooled. I say “baffling” but I guess it isn’t, really. Both adoptive parents and home schooling parents are making decisions they believe are in their children’s best interests, sometimes at great personal cost. I remember a home schooled friend’s mother talking about breaking down in tears when they made the decision to home school because she really, really didn’t want to but felt that she had to do it for the kids. I understand that it must hurt to receive not gratitude but criticism. When it isn’t just within the family, though, I really don’t get it. Every single time someone who was home schooled writes about how they struggled with social issues a dozen rabid home schoolers pop into the comments section and demand clarification: “Not all home schooled kids are poorly socialized! Not all schooled kids are well socialized!” Of course, this is true, and I have never seen anyone claim otherwise. On the other hand, how many home schoolers bother to clarify statements like “schools crush creativity and individuality” or this:

Image taken from When Homeschooling Gets Crunchy
And, in anticipation of the criticism I will get for pointing this out… no, this is not an anti-home schooling post. I don’t think all home schoolers are rabid, just the ones who stalk home school graduates. This is about parents silencing their adult children’s voices, whether it is an adult who was home schooled as a child being harassed by parents who are currently home schooling, or adoptive parents dismissing the pain expressed by an adult who was adopted as a child. First hand experiences matter, it is the reason blogs are so important to me as a source of information. If you are an adoptive parent, you have firsthand experience of being an adoptive parent but not of being an adoptee. If you are home schooling your children but were not yourself home schooled, please don’t tell us what home schooling is like. 

If you have no idea what I am talking about but are interested, here is some further reading:

Omitting the voices of adoptees of color and only asking white adoptive parents to recount their experiences of transracial adoption is a subtlety of structural racism.
Under Much Grace
I became acutely aware of the First and Second Generation Adult within or post-homeschooling when working with Hillary McFarland in the preparation of Quivering Daughters. SGAs, the “quivering daughters” themselves, loved the drafts. Their First Generation mother pioneers hated it far more often than not – and I had not anticipated the reaction at all.

 Family Ties
Adult adoptees have so much wisdom to offer because they know how it feels to grow up being adopted.  It is way past time for the industry, the media and legislators to acknowledge their voices without insulting their motives.
Darcy's Heart-Stirrings
For those of you invalidating our stories, saying "it wasn't that bad", can I ask you to take a step back for a moment? To gain a broader perspective? Because what may have been only a small part of your life, was our ENTIRE lives. You were adults when you chose to attend that Basic Seminar, when you picked up your first courtship books, when you decided to promote the modesty culture, when you chose to become part of a patriarchal system, when you made the choice to spend your kids' childhoods sheltered from the world in your own little reality and the culture you created. But us? We were born into it. We were raised our whole lives immersed in it. We spent the most formative years of our cognitive and emotional development in an alternate religious culture ruled by fear, shame, legalism, and authoritarianism. We had no choice. We knew nothing else. We had no other experience and knowledge and discernment to ground us like you did, to give us perspective, to compare anything to. For you, this was 10-20 years of your life. For us, it was our whole lives. It was all we knew. Our entire lives have been built upon a time period that was just a small part of your own life. So, yes, it was "that bad". Our experiences were nothing like yours and you'll have to see them through our eyes if you want to understand.
Gazillion Voices
 What do I want to write and talk about? I want to write about the number of adoptees who struggle with suicide and suicidal ideation because they lack a continuity with the past and because their attempts at continuity are denied by agencies that withhold birth family information, about the number of adult adoptees who are divorced because their identities are so wildly in flux it is hard for a partner to keep up, about adoptees who perform childhood even as adults. I want to write about loss; about issues with body image because for our whole lives, our faces did not reflect our immediate families or societal images of beauty; about attachment issues; about not eating or overeating as a representation of nurture; about substance abuse. I want to write about the structural inequalities on a global, political and economic scale that fully manifest when an adoptee attempts to hold the poverty of their birth parents alongside the privileges of their adoptive parents, and especially, when that adoptee tries to love them both.
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  1. Thank you for this Sophelia, you've given me much to think about (along with lots of links to rabbit trail on). I think I would be very prone to do this and I will try consider my son's opinions on his homeschooling experience more carefully in the future. We have the problem lately of him being excessively negative towards schools and find ourselves in the odd position of defending other parents' decision to send their kids to school. But I think he is likely to change his mind many times as he grapples with the implications our decisions have had on his life, as I've had to struggle with my parents' decisions.

    As homeschooling parents, what we find frustrating in conversations with with non-homeschoolers or people looking into it are the frequently repeated fears or misconceptions. We try to be patient with them (my wife more successfully then I), but we do find ourselves expressing our frustrations within our family circle perhaps a little too openly. Of course this is likely to rub off on our son. Just the other day a new "inquirer" to our local homeschool group was asking about "socialization" concerns. This is, of course, a continual complaint and I can rant about it with the best of them, and my wife and I spent a good 5 minutes commiserating on how tired we are of hearing about it. Our son was within earshot of course. We'll need to better consider the impact of such outbursts on his sense of emotional freedom.

    For the record, we have a huge homeschool group here at the Yokosuka Navy base, the Kanto Plains Home Schoolers, with so many classes/activities that I tease my wife about having a "little red schoolhouse" thing going on. "I thought we were supposed to be homeschooling..." Anyway, socialization (at least for us) has not been a problem, and we think we'll stick around here at least until our son is old enough to decide for himself what he wants to do next before we disappear into deepest darkest Japan...

    1. I'm very glad you didn't take this as an anti-home schooling post, thank you for reading carefully! There is absolutely no reason why home schooling done mindfully cannot provide as good or better socialization than schooling. However, there are a few common mistakes that the parents of my generation of home schoolers made, like assuming that being "polite" or well mannered to adults indicated a well-socialized child, or providing lots of opportunities for interaction with other kids but only within the same like-minded community or subculture. If you are talking to you son about why other people make different choices I personally think that it wonderful. I do understand how annoying it can get having to answer the same questions over and over, but maybe you can think of it as an opportunity to provoke thought about what socialization means? Just sending a child to school every day does not in and of itself mean the child is being well socialized, and when schooling parents question home schoolers about socialization perhaps they may reflect on their own practices as well.
      In my case, I hated being home schooled and begged passionately and for years to be schooled. I tried to secretly enroll myself in school once when I was 12! I also knew how important home schooling was to my parents, though, and I defended home schooling at every opportunity including TV and newspaper interviews, despite hating it myself. It was a confusing position to be in but perhaps unique to how high profile my family was.

  2. YES! Thank you so much for this articulate post Sophelia.

  3. Interesting post. As a homeschooling mom who wants to do it all the way through, i shudder to think what torture it'd be for my children AND myself to force them to be hs after they repeatedly said they didn't want to (which my six year old says every time he hears of a field trip from his P.S. friends or i make him do schoolwork in the house. According to him, school should only be done in the park following a picnic lunch). I do think there will be a difference between the HS children from your generation and the ones from my kids' generation. There are so many more opportunities available now than there were even ten years ago.

    But even then, having a normal religious home and one of those super strict religious homes makes a world of difference. I should know, i was raised in a Hispanic Pentecostal environment where womwn couldn't wear pants, jewelry of any kind, trim their hair without pastoral permission, dye their hair, and everything you/anyone else does to you will cause you to lose your salvation and go to hell. I'd have horrible vivid nightmares for as far back as i can remember about being left behind with the antichrist. Thank God that hasn't stopped me from forming a relationship with Him as an adult, but i can only imagine how much worse for me things would've been had I've been homeschooled in that environment. I wouldn't wish that on my greatest enemy. We give our kids choices in what activities they do and as they get older will give them a bigger say in their education. Even though my motto will still be "homeschool or bust," this post has certainly opened my eyes to the folly of not allowing older children/teens a bigger input in how and where they are educated. I already believed everything you said about adoption, i just hadnt seen HS put next to it and compared like that. It opens the eyes.

    1. Although they are different issue, the similarity in language is really striking. "Your parents just didn't do it right, don't rock the boat" seems to be the most common response to both groups. If your son wants to go to school, why don't you let him try it? If he doesn't like it, you can remind him of that when he is complaining at home. If he does like it, perhaps it would be better for him. There seem to be particular sorts of people who thrive in the home school environment, and others really don't. I didn't. I would have thrived at school. On the other hand, my brother and sister had a terrible time at school when they tried it and definitely benefited from home schooling.

  4. As both an adult adoptee and a former homeschooled kid, thanks so much for writing this article!

  5. Thank you for capturing the complexity and essence of this issue. I am so excited to see homeschooled adults starting to talk about the experience. As a homeschooled boy I didn't like the homeschool community around me and isolated myself. I had no idea how to find a larger community, and no hope I could fit in if I did. I talked about how great homeschooling was with adults, but had no comparison. I was terrified by my parents stories of bad experiences in public schools. I was so terrified in fact that even when it was clear homeschooling wasn't working for me, and I was given a choice, I chose to stay home.

    1. Oh yes, the fear! What I constantly heard was 'If you say anything negative social workers will take you away and you'll never see us again...'
      Thank you for your comment.


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