Ten years ago today, I started a project that would change my life forever: Homeschoolers Anonymous (HA).
I was 28 years old and trying to survive in rainy Eugene, Oregon. A part-time writer and a part-time bartender, I was living paycheck to paycheck and drinking away my evenings to cope with untreated depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and PTSD. I had no experience with running non-profit or advocacy organizations. I was neither a trauma therapist nor a child protection professional. I just knew something was wrong about how I was raised in evangelical homeschooling, but I didn’t grasp how far down the rabbit hole would go. I had recently reconnected with old friends from homeschooling, and I was seeing patterns in our lives. Those patterns, and the stories behind them, desperately needed to be made public. Too many homeschool alumni were suffering.
So, on March 17, 2013, my friends and I formally unveiled the Homeschoolers Anonymous blog. Our original press release for HA, sent out on March 16, declared, “A group of former homeschoolers are joining together to bring awareness to, and healing from, different forms of abuse in extreme homeschooling subcultures.” We started with around a dozen personal stories and a handful of blog partners, but in mere months, we had published over 200 stories from survivors around the world. Eventually we branched out from individual stories, publishing both in-depth, investigative reports about the history, leaders, beliefs, and practices of the modern homeschooling movement as well as original pieces of journalism on contemporary issues and controversies within the movement.
So many people collectively dedicated thousands of hours volunteering for HA: receiving, reading, and responding to survivors’ emails and stories, editing and preparing those stories for publication, disseminating our many post and articles on multiple and diverse social media platforms, navigating potential and actual defamation lawsuits due to our publicizing of abuse allegations, vetting new members for and moderating HA’s private Facebook group, connecting alumni with housing, job opportunities, college scholarships, mental health professionals, legal representation, and other resources, and so much more. Our volunteers worked tirelessly in their advocacy for fellow homeschool alumni and future homeschooled children.
Leading Homeschoolers Anonymous was the honor of a lifetime. It was also an intense experience. There were breathtaking highs and devastating lows. In our five years of existence, HA and our stories received millions of views, garnering international media coverage and profiles in respected academic texts on homeschooling and American evangelicalism. We broke numerous news stories of great significance and had multiple articles go viral. We conducted research, created resources and curricula, and crowdfunded for many community members in need. We forced homeschooling parents and leaders to reckon for the first time with the consequences of their parental rights absolutism: widespread child abuse and neglect. We drove that conversation and ultimately it was pressure from the HA community’s #HSLDAMustAct campaign that made the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) start talking about child protection in homeschooling communities. We became so effective, in fact, that more than one homeschool leader pronounced us “the greatest threat to homeschooling freedoms.”
During HA’s five short years, we expanded from a private Facebook group with a few dozen people that I knew very well from a homeschool debate league to a national 501c3 non-profit organization and a movement consisting of thousands of people, many of whom were traumatized abuse survivors. Leading any group of traumatized abuse survivors can be difficult, but this was before Facebook even had basic moderation tools for their private groups. Nearly every day there was a new conflict in our private group, and we ultimately decided that creating an online safe space with the tools we had at the time was impossible.
Homeschoolers Anonymous did not end how I would have wished. HA did not, sadly, end because we ran out of stories to tell or because the homeschool movement listened to our stories and changed its ways. The project ended in a messy way that hurt many people. But I was exhausted and no longer capable of shepherding more abuse survivors and their stories.
The homeschool survivor community has only grown exponentially since the end of Homeschoolers Anonymous, with communities like the Homeschool Recovery Reddit having over 17,000 members. This is proof that the problems HA illuminated are far from over. Rather, the problems continue to haunt the next generation of homeschooled children, growing—in my perspective—even larger and more threatening than when we were young. Christofascism is expanding, not just in the United States but also globally—and rapidly so.
While the HA blog is now archived, the work we did—shining a light on child abuse and neglect in homeschooling and advocating for the rights of homeschooled children—is far from over. (Our Facebook page remains active, but is independent now and no longer under the purview of an organization.) It continues through other organizations like the Coalition for Responsible Home Education. It continues through alumni activists like Jessica Dulaney, Heather King, and Artemis Stardust. It continues every time a homeschool alum speaks up and says, “This is my truth, and I am neither alone nor crazy.” It continues every time one homeschool alum gifts $100 to a new alum who recently escaped an abusive home and is in need. HA was many things—a blog, a non-profit organization, a scholarship fund, an “ex patrio sphere,” a Facebook page and group, and more—but ultimately it was community. A community of misfits and outcasts—or apostates, as we were called—trying our best to make a better future for our younger siblings and the next generation. We did that imperfectly, but we did it with all our hearts.
I am so proud of the work that we did through Homeschoolers Anonymous. I am so glad to have met many of you, now dear friends, through the HA community. And I have so much hope, still, that we can make a better future for homeschooled children if we would only just listen to homeschool alumni and take their stories seriously.
Here’s to ten more years of fighting and speaking the truth. Here’s to us homeschool apostates.
And here’s to Homeschoolers Anonymous. May our stories rest in power.