What The Lack Of School Taught Me
Unschooling, the term for self-directed learning. Mom had an undiagnosed illness but wouldn’t go to doctors, and she was constantly exhausted; she had no education herself, and therefore this was the easiest way. Throwing us back into the Public School System was not an option. Our parents feared outside influences so much they selected friends within their community and most times, no friends at all. Yeah, we’ve heard of Henry Ford and his Grade 9 education, but for most of us, it takes years of academic success to reach our goals. I’ve hardly seen a classroom.
My only memory of a real school was in Kindergarten: an infidel teacher pointing her stick at a row of felt letters on a board and then - whisked away to a Horse Farm in the Middle of Nowhere.
I read books out of curiosity. And I had no schedule. I’d often stay up till 4 a.m. writing stories, and Mom supported it. She encouraged my dream though she wouldn’t dare think then I’d be writing about her. Back then, it was about castles and talking animals.
In Grade 7, I hit a wall. Whenever I’d try to teach myself math equations, a mental block hindered me from going further. I can’t remember if it was the coincidence of a bloody fight breaking out in the home or if it was because I had a learning disorder. Or PTSD, even then. It required focus. (You have no idea how much determination it takes to write this blog!) So I gave up in Grade 7. Since Mom offered me Answer Keys, it was as simple as copying the answers and lying about the fact that I did not read or understand it. Such dishonesty allotted hours of adventure outside with my baby brother in the forest, and it helped, running away from the violence that happened inside. Maybe once I’ve shared my story, I can fully heal, and be able to do the things that my trauma has made impossible.
And this time, there’s no lie. My truth is my power.
On a side note, she aggressively taught my younger brother to the point where he had no playtime and she beat him endlessly with a belt. I’m not sure why. I suppose a female’s education wasn’t nearly as important as her male counterpart, or she had favorites.
A Teenager and Adult With No Education
The second oldest in my family, my sister Josephine, was the first sibling to go to college at age 39. She now works in a preschool. My very youngest brother went to Public School after my parents split in later years, and now it seems he doesn’t strictly follow the Message. From what I heard, he received honors. He’s very smart. I taught him to read when he was 3 and raised him til 5, yet I’ve barely seen him at all him since. He called me Mom. He’s 23 now. I think losing him was one of the most painful experiences involving my family but I won’t get into that, seeing as it doesn’t fit this subject. My two older brothers had no education. They were lucky, offered jobs in their teens by two of our friendly neighbors. One owns a very successful business now because of his beginner’s luck which expanded into a hands-on skillset high in demand.
Then there’s me. I ran away. I jumped from place to place and initially starved. One time I hid in a bush at a park, watching a family devour an entire watermelon, slicing it up into giant chunks while they chittered around a picnic table. I wanted to ask for a bite, but I was too proud. I hadn’t eaten in 3 days. Sometimes, I ended up back home. Malachi (not his real name) laughed at me and told me I’d never succeed. He called me poor. He called me a Slut. Dog Meat, for wearing mascara. Soon enough, I’d realize that authentic ‘sluts’ made money. They didn’t starve. They could have nice clothes, a roof over their head, a safe place with no one else to bother them. I considered trying out pornography since it seems that’s all I was good for anyway. Sex. That’s where my story differs from most girls who escaped a cult.
I dived from one extreme to the next.
I lied to my sister and told her I was engaged and studying accounting in college. I knew it was silly to lie, but the pain of being told I was nothing, just a lowly poor suffering nobody hurt me so deeply I needed to live in the make-belief world where I was loved and everything was perfect. My family would later use this against me, but she forgives it. We have a very open, honest and accepting friendship now. She’s still in the Message.
What else can I say? Unschooling taught me to survive without an education, despite it being legal. One thing that for sure wasn’t legal was what we went through in that house.
I wouldn’t call myself a bag of bricks. I know things. Ha! I’m not completely clueless. But it took years to get there. Reading the news, self-help books, memoirs, and living were part of it. I didn’t even understand slang words when I first left and you can imagine how many times people called me a ditz and eventually a dumb blonde when I dyed my hair. I was a social disaster.
I learned street smarts, one of the most crucial aspects of education you can never learn from a scholarship. I learned that being a girl could be both terrifying and easy. Terrifying because it’s a man’s world where women are abused, raped, killed; and easy when you use your sex appeal to get ahead. I learned about myself, who I am as a person. I was many people before I got here, trying to figure it out.
I know who I am now. I care. I have a heart. I don’t hate men, but I used to be jaded. Now I despise the failed system. And I want to change the world, just a tiny speck of it.
I realize what I've told you sounds awful on a resume. But I am working towards a new me. I want to ace that GED. I want to drive again, even though I get intense panic attacks just thinking about it, remembering that a family member threatened to 'run me off the road' for exposing him. In time, I will get there. But I need tools, and for me that's therapy; weekly sessions, and publishing my book. I trust that my story is compelling enough without a degree to flash at you. And there's so much for all of us to learn from it.