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Life in a Homeschool — Part One


Guest post by Ian

It‘s been several years since I wrote my original Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) series. I had wanted to finish out my experience memoirs, but the homeschooling portion of my ACE experience still hit a lot of nerves in my life. There were a lot of flux and upheaval going on throughout my homeschool years. Dad started believing in Calvinism (or Sovereign Grace), we changed churches, we were put out of a church, my parents split up for a while and other generally disrupting things happened in my life.

Some of these things are still raw, even 30 years later. I have thought about writing this off and on for a while, but could never do it. Then Bruce had a post where someone looked at, but didn‘t read, my ACE experiences. Please see Fundamentalist Man Strains at the Gnats and Swallows a Camel.) I re-read what I had written and decided I needed to finish the story.

As you read this, remember that it is my story and my experience. People may have had similar experiences, but no two people process things the same.

It may be helpful to go back and read about my ACE school experiences before starting into this. I‘ll break this up into two parts, to make it easier to read. I want to say thanks to everyone who has read my story, and to Bruce for making this platform available.

In my 10th grade year, 1987-88, Mom and Dad began to homeschool my brother and me. My brother has severe dyslexia and my parents felt that homeschooling, using ACE, would be best for him. Also, my dad had started becoming more and more separated from the world and he didn‘t want the worldly influences in the Christian schools affecting us.

Between my 9th and 10th grade years, we began attending a different church. Due to Dad‘s belief in separation, there were a lot of tensions in the church we had been attending. We visited an IFB/Missionary Baptist church, and found a new church home. This church had a school, so
my parents ordered our school supplies through them and began schooling us at home.

The first year, my parents tried to make it like a traditional school. We had to get up, dress in ACE uniforms, say the Pledges of Allegiance, do devotions, say prayers, we used flags to ask for help, and referred to our mom as Mrs. XXXXX. If we didn‘t finish our work in time, we had homework slips. We got demerits and detentions. It was truly like school, except for we were there 24/7. We lived in a small apartment, so there was no escape from school.

That first year was tough. I hated it. | resented it. Already, my whole life was different. My dad was to the right of anyone we knew. Everything was wicked and evil. Now, we were homeschooling, which was something even more unusual. I got into a lot of trouble that first year. Scoring violations were my biggest issue. I just didn‘t care, I hated being home with my
parents all day long, I was upset that we had to act like this was a real school, and l was always in trouble because of my attitude.

Even simple things were an issue. I took a typing course. I wanted to do it on a computer since that was the wave of the future. No way. I had to use an old portable typewriter that weighed a ton and was a pain in the ass to use. l was taking typing and, by God, l was going to learn on a typewriter. I learned how to type, but hated every minute of it.

Because we did devotions every morning, l was constantly getting dumped on. My dad would go through a book of the Bible in devotions and pick out things that my brother and I had done wrong. Calvinism is nothing if not oppressive. We would read a Bible story, and it seemed like it always translated into how I could do things better. We were constantly being told that we weren‘t good enough and that we needed to live up to the Christian ideals. We should be proud to be peculiar. We should be happy to suffer for being different.

Here‘s one example of what was going on at the time. I had a decent GI Joe collection. Something happened, and my mom told me that I should get rid of them, in order to further my Christian growth. In one of the few times I talked back to her, told her that the GI Joes were all I had, meaning something for fun. She countered with something to the effect of, “All you have? Well, Jesus gave up all he had to save you. You can‘t give up some toys for him?” I can still feel the raw emotion of that all of these years later.

What does that have to do with homeschool, you ask? It is to show you how homeschool, church, and life were wrapped tightly together. Homeschool was a nightmare.

We were made to memorize huge portions of the Bible. Dad had my brother and me stand up in front of the church and recite the entirety of John 14, 15 and 16. l was expected to do this perfectly. It made my dad proud, but did nothing for me. I can still quote Romans13:1-7, but haven‘t looked at it for years.

I‘m dyslexic, but nothing like my brother. I never even knew it until probably 10 years ago. The math lessons I had to do were greatly hindered by my dyslexia. Anyone who has done high school math using ACE will know what a nightmare it is. l was doing Algebra but had no clue of what I was doing. My mom didn‘t know it either. So, she would argue with me about how problems should be solved. We would look at the score keys and try to figure it out from there. This was 1988, so there was no Google. Interspersed with the Algebra were pages of long division and multiplication, to hone our basic skills. I struggled through 11 Algebra PACEs, only to be given a huge, horrible surprise. The last PACE was a review of everything I had done. I didn‘t remember more than half. I was yelled at because I should have remembered everything; Mom didn‘t remember any of it, though; funny. I had nights where I wanted to cry.

Added to the horrible math was learning “Christianized” history. Very small subjects were covered. We were required to memorize speeches and writings. We were given no context as to why the Magna Carta was important, except for some Christian rubbish. The French Revolution
was basically just rebellious people who didn‘t realize that God put rulers in place for a reason.

Non-Christian explorers were minimized, but we knew all about the godly interests of Christopher Columbus and the fact that he wanted to bring Christianity to the heathens.

Science was no better. No context for anything. This made learning a miserable experience.

My brother and l were sometimes able to tag along with the church‘s school on field trips. Not too often, though — wouldn‘t want to catch any worldliness.

Mom did help out in the church school for a couple of weeks and it was a great break from the horrible routine. It was nice to get up and actually go to school. We had fun at break times. It was like a vacation. But that came to an end and we had to go back to reality.

That first year of ACE homeschool was brutal. Homeschool can be a good thing, but it has to be done properly. By trying too hard to make a schooling environment, my parents just created a negative learning environment.

My parents and l have talked about this, and have made peace with everything. I didn‘t want to leave the impression that I‘m carrying around anger and hatred towards them.

My brother did well, though. The extra attention he was given helped him in reading and comprehension, and he finally started reading at his grade level.

I‘ll stop here for now. That year stands on its own. My last two years were better.


  1. Avatar
    Brian Vanderlip

    Ian, You are extremely gentle. You were trapped in a gulag. It was a horrible crime to subject you and your brother to such abuse. All in the name of love, yep, and sweet baby Jesus who had to be tortured and die because of your evil love of G.I. Joe.
    I am happy you have been able to share some of your pain with your parents. It breaks my heart that this kind of abuse still goes on. Thank-you for exposing it.

  2. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    Ian, gentle people become the victims of brutality, whether the brutalizer intentionally brutalizes the gentle person or merely conveys that emotional violence in the name of “God” or some other myth. That you described your experience so eloquently is a testament to your intelligence and resilience.

  3. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    The first man I dated after starting my gender affirmation process had just returned to college after a long hiatus. One day, he sheepishly said, “I have a confession.”


    Long pause.

    “You slept with somebody else?””

    No response.

    “You tested positive?” (I was thinking of HIV.)

    Again, no response.

    “You killed someone?” Another pause. “If you did, buy us two one-way tickets and I’ll pack our bags.”

    Finally, he shook his head.

    “So tell me, what?”

    “I-I am dyslexic.”

    “I suspected that from reading your papers. But why is it such a big confession.”

    He explained that his schools–all of them religious, in various shades of Christianity–made him feel shame over the difficulties he had in school. Some teachers just called him “lazy;” others said that it was a test of his and his family’s faith. One teacher even told him he was being punished for the sins of his parents, who were separated and addicted to various substances.

    “I thought you would judge me.”


    “Well, you write and teach English. I felt really ashamed.”

    I put my arm around him. “Why should you feel shame. You didn’t do anything to make yourself dyslexic.”

    “Well, they always made me feel shame.”

    Mind you, this was decades after those awful experiences in his Christian schools.

  4. Avatar
    Ian for a long time

    I never felt any shame because I didn’t know I had dyslexia. We knew my brother did because of the mixed up letters- the classic symptoms. I only found out in my 40’s.

    I read extremely well and have excellent retention, so there was no reason to suspect I had dyslexia. This was in the long ago times of the 80’s. Dyslexia was pretty new to most people.

    I don’t feel any shame now. It has explained why big columns of numbers have always been my nemesis. It has explained why I get left and right mixed up. It has explained a lot of things. It has actually made me feel better, because I have an explanation for why things that should be simple are hard for me.

    I have seen signs that say “Dyslexia is my superpower”. I don’t agree with that at all. It isn’t a power, it is a hinderance. But, it is also an explanation, which then gives you knowledge, allowing you to make adjustments and live with the issue instead of being defeated by it.

    I do feel bad for those who were shamed because of their dyslexia. I’ve read stories that people have written about their experiences, and could never understand why teachers and parents felt the need to make them feel stupid. Especially since dyslexia is a known issue, and has been for a long time.

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Bruce Gerencser