I remember feeling like like a tv camera was following me around as a child. That somehow I was on a show that people would watch me perform and I could never hide from the eyes. (This was way before reality programming became popular.)
My actions and attitudes were being continually monitored and weighed. I constantly received signals from all sorts of authority figures: parents, neighbors, teachers, church leaders, peers, siblings. Most of those signals told me that I must change, I must be better, I must be good, I must be what they wanted or I would be punished or shunned.
I was not always this way. I recall being a vibrant, charismatic child, hair all in ringlets, mellifluous laugh, no cares in the world and no self-abasing thoughts; I would latch onto adults I admired with a love that was blind to color, size or sex. I was charming and I knew it. Two of my nicknames were "sunshine" and "bubbles."
But a change came over me, early on, after I began school.
It wasn't an immediate change. I was still the happy, playful, carefree innocent through the first few grades. By all outward appearances everything was fine.
But life slowly pecked away at my joy, day upon day, year upon year.
Maybe it started with the day I was playing outdoors and practicing my newly acquired reading skills on the words I saw painted on the crumbling brick exterior of the school building. Words that made adults blush and got me quickly hushed. I hadn't known they were bad; I only thought that I was being smart for knowing how to read them.
It continued with the lining up, the never being picked first, the clothes that were never up with the styles, the ridicule from others who were better than me, the passionately disapproving teachers who saw my embellishment to stories as outright defiant falsehoods.
The bathroom accidents.
The chalkboard I wasn't supposed to leave wet fingerprints on. (Only God knows why; how does THAT hurt anything?)
Then, being pulled aside in the 5th grade by a tight-lipped adult so she could inform me that my dress was too short and I was being immodest (read: offensive.)
The shaming. Oh, the shaming. It crumpled my soul. It shrunk me into this tiny little box. I fought bravely but I finally succumbed to being ordinary crap; just one more unimportant piece of an authority's jigsaw.
An authority that had no trouble trying to force the wrong shapes into the wrong places, (figuratively, I had better add for clarification.)
Very well, I would adjust. I couldn't please everyone but I guessed I would have to try anyway. But I would be infinitely angry about it. Oh, trust me!
The only relief I knew was to retreat inwardly; pull into a shell which I have yet to conquer. Occasionally I would burst forth, nostrils flaring, shouting others away from my necessary space. There were only two people I could let in: my big sister, and my one faithful friend. Both of whom felt the same social sting as I; the sting that got us shunned for being weird or loud or smart or for pointing out b.s.
Here's the thing. On the scale of personalities, I used to be an extrovert in every sense of the word. I thrived on interaction!
Now that I could only be myself in safe zones, the pendulum had swung.
It has remained to this day.
I feel safer behind this screen, writing about life. But in the real world, I struggle to keep eye contact. I find even the best of social interaction exhausting, occasionally terrifying.
Because life still looks a lot like elementary school.
Sometimes I wonder if things would have been different if my parents had known about homeschooling in those days.
Sometimes I wonder if I will be an introvert for the rest of my life?
But I'll be damned if I allow this part of my history to repeat itself for the beautiful souls entrusted to my care.
Does any of this resonate? Can you understand now why I am so passionate about home education? I can't help but wonder how many children are like I was, suffering in silence and escaping our notice. I hope you will consider my story with an open, gracious heart.