Recognizing and Supporting Isolated Fundamentalist Homeschool Kids

I took a social media break last month. I still blogged and kept in touch with a few friends, but I stopped reading my Facebook and Twitter feeds all the time.

That’s not what my breaks used to look like. My social media breaks used to be the way that I covered for my parents isolating me from my friends while I was in college.

I joined Facebook on January 30, 2010 during my freshman year. This was my first status.

joining facebook

Last year when I posted this Timehop, my friend Poet commented, “Gotta love the virtuous disclaimer.” This was my freshman year of college, but I was living at home and attending my family’s church.

I’d also joined CleanPlace, a writers’ forum for Christian teens, in October 2009. I made a couple of friends back in my fundamentalist high school youth group, but because my dad said you don’t need friends, you have your siblings, I didn’t make childhood friends like people who went to public school did. Most deep friendships I formed in college. But during my first two years, I didn’t connect well with my peers. I was too different from them, but I loved talking to my professors after class. Also, my dad told me to come back home right after class was over. I had to beg permission to attend club meetings.

All of my CleanPlace friends were online. We’d meet up a few times a year for mini-moots or annual Moots, but most conversations took place on the forum or Google chat.Β I kept in touch with two friends from my Victors in Christ youth group back in Dallas through emails and the occasional phone call.

My dad believed at the time that Facebook was evil. Literally. I wrote in my journal in June 2011 that my dad told me the internet was a tool of Satan.journal 6-19-2011-1 journal 6-19-2011-2

He also said that I’d become a porn addict like one of my older cousins if I didn’t learn to control myself. He didn’t understand that the internet was my only way to find community.

So when my parents took away my laptop and cellphone, I’d post statuses like this. Remember, I was not a teenager. I was in my early 20s.

social media break 2011

My dad came up to my room one night and told me how dangerous having a Facebook account was, that he’d heard that Obama and the FBI were using the facial recognition software to track criminals, and I could be falsely charged with a crime.

I told him I’d give up Facebook for a while and study harder for my classes.

This wasn’t the first time they’d interfered. My parents bought my first laptop in 2007, and I was allowed to get an email account and surf the internet with parental controls. I was 17. A few months later, I was allowed to instant message with my two penpals, which was so much faster than writing snail mail. We’d been writing 20 page novels to each other once a month.

When we had a fight over a miscommunication, my mom took my laptop away, logged into my email, and blocked them from instant messenger. A few weeks later, I got a ‘have a nice life’ letter from the older sister. Losing those friendships was incredibly painful, and I was very lonely.

They’d done it before. I knew they had the potential do it again, and I could lose everything.

So when my dad confiscated my laptop in the summer of 2011, I caved in and posted another status.

social media june 2011social media break june 2011

The June 11 post about cutting off all forms of electronic communication prompted a classmate to call my cellphone and my parents’ house one evening three or four times until I answered. She knew something was wrong.

I tried to tell her this was my choice, but she asked me if my parents influenced me. I tried to cover for them, I said they prompted me, but it was also my decision and I was trying to appease my dad.

This would be a recurring theme. Six months later, I was doing it again.

social media break 2012

After the January 2012 post, I had this email exchange with a friend.


 

From: S
Date: Sun, Jan 22, 2012 at 8:26 PM
To: me

So what happened, with your family meeting and all? Does it have something to do with your internet break? Well I have been praying for you! Love you!

~S


From: me
Date: Mon, Jan 23, 2012 at 11:31 PM
To: S

Hey, hope you got to see the contract [see: previous post and PDFΒ here] I sent you. πŸ™‚ I’m really happy about how it means I won’t be micromanaged by my dad so much, and the chores get divided up between all of us kids so no one person gets stuck doing everything (like often happened to me and my mom), because each of my siblings have a contract, too.

I do wish other things were clarified on the contract…like hanging out with friends, going places with friends, books, using the library, internet and phone use…etc. Grr. But maybe it will come with time. And my parents have been using the parental controls package on my cellphone to block any friend of mine that my dad thinks might be “rebellious” (i.e., friends who tell me I should move out). So…watch out if something happens that suddenly you can’t call me on my cellphone. But email is fine right now (I changed all the passwords on my email accounts just to be safe).

My internet break is mostly because my computer keeps getting confiscated and so I never know when I may or may not have access to the net. Eeep. And due to working all the time and homework all the time. :6:

Thanks so much for praying! *hugs* Sorry to dump on you so much of late. I guess a lot of emotionally charged things have been happening to me lately. 😳

How have you been lately, though? πŸ™‚

– Eleanor

-What Love is-
“[Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” – I Cor. 13:7 (NKJV)
“The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” – John 10:11b (NIV)
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” – I John 3:16a (NIV)


From: S
Date: Tue, Jan 24, 2012 at 12:01 PM
To: me

I did read the contract and it seems reasonable to ask you to do chores and homework and the like, but I don’t like the wording of it. It doesn’t seem to go with what your counselor said about “shoulds” and “musts” and the tone still seems rather controlling. But I really do hope it works for you and I’m really glad you are happy about it. πŸ™‚

What did your parents think of the counselor?

[irrelevant paragraph with mutual friends and church news]

Don’t worry about dumping on me! I understand and I know you would do the same for me! That’s what friends are for. πŸ™‚ Love you and am praying for you. :))

~S


 

I needed these people on the outside who smelled that something was off. I needed friends to check on me because I didn’t know how to ask for help on my own yet. I will always be grateful how they supported me during that time.

If you know a homeschool kid and you are concerned for their well being, there are a few things you should know.

  1. We won’t tell you right away if something is wrong. We still think it’s our fault. We will say that we have been a bad child and deserve this treatment.
  2. We make heroic efforts to defend the family’s reputation and not make our parents look bad.
  3. We’ve been taught to be afraid of outside resources like CPS and counselors.
  4. We think you are probably corrupted by a worldly perspective, and so we won’t automatically trust you if you tell us we’re being mistreated. (We were also told that our evil and corrupt government didn’t understand God’s plan for child discipline.) You’ll have to be patient with us. This takes time.
  5. We’re intelligent and resourceful. Being there to support us and listen to what we’re thinking is huge. We’ll probably ask for your advice later. Encourage, but don’t push. Trust us to know when it’s time to find our freedom.

Here’s more helpful resources:

http://www.datingabusestopshere.com/news/warning-signs-isolation

http://www.americanhumane.org/children/stop-child-abuse/fact-sheets/emotional-abuse.html

http://www.responsiblehomeschooling.org/child-wellbeing/warning-signs

http://www.responsiblehomeschooling.org/policy-issues/abuse-and-neglect/abuse-in-homeschooling-environments

http://homeschoolersanonymous.org/2014/12/09/freeing-self-deceived-fundamentalists

http://homeschoolersanonymous.org/2014/06/17/talking-to-kids-about-social-services-part-i

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s