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Raised Under A Rock

Last updated on January 31, 2023

My entire life had been lived under-a-rock and/or outside-the-box. I guess I shouldn’t be too terribly surprised that it took me till my mid-40’s to get past living-in-poverty.

I didn’t go to elementary school at all. I was given workbooks from K-Mart when I begged to learn how to read. At the same time I was read-to constantly. I am a product of my parents combined 3 masters degrees, my sisters attending 4-year colleges and complete neglect all at the same time!

As I’ve mentioned, we didn’t have TV or any modern entertainment—but my mom

listened to NPR in the car constantly and we attended many symphony concerts throughout my childhood.

No fiction, no Disney, no cartoons were ever allowed and yet biographies, science and eventually, in later years, self-help books by the bucket load and reel-to-reel movies of National Geographic-type documentaries were consumed constantly from our local library.

All these restrictions and I haven’t mentioned our many dietary rules yet. To this day my mom takes great pride in never having knowingly eaten meat and never tasting a drop of alcohol. When I was 13 and the conversation with friends moved into “what types of food is your favorite” I had no idea what they meant. Italian? Chinese? What is that?

Back to schooling… In 6th grade I completed about half of a math curriculum book. And less than that of an English curriculum book. That was the extent of my formal “homeschooling.” Turns out that I was unschooled before it was ever a thing. Finally I was enrolled in 7th grade well after the beginning of the year.

Not only was I the new kid at a smallish church school where 90% of the class had been together since kindergarten but I’d come in very late AND was completely clueless. I didn’t even have a pencil or notebook paper on my first day. Instead of buying me supplies my mom had taken me to Kmart the evening before where she’d spent hours freaking out about buying me school clothes.

By the next school year our lives had gone newly topsy turvy. My mom had moved us twice. A teen girls counseling group she enrolled me in dissolved into a teacher sex abuse scandal where I was the only child witness and as a result my mom pulled me from the school and placed me in another… now I was on a real “middle school” church school setting and completely out of my depth.

I floundered. Miserably. I hated every moment as the instant outcast and then lived up to my first-impression. I had terrible dandruff that year too. When I first saw The Breakfast club years later I was shocked into tears to watch Ally shake snow-dandruff from her head onto the desk. I did the exact same thing many times during that miserable year.

Of course, I complained very carefully to my mom though. I hated that school. But I would do anything to not be taken out of school altogether. I begged and begged and begged to return to my previous school.

Finally I was allowed to return when the teacher in question was relieved of his position. But by then the damage had deepened inside me. I was thrilled to be back with a couple friends I’d made the previous year. And on edge, walking on eggshells, at the same time, unsure what my mom might decide next.

Over the next 2 years I’d attend 5 more church schools including 3 boarding schools, one cult-boarding school, the local SDA high school in 3 different states. (Just now I had to re-count three times. That’s a crazy number of schools!)

Eventually I dropped out when I insisted on staying-away from my mom and joined my first-husbands family before we were even engaged. My mom refused to sign the paperwork required for me to go back to high school unless I returned to her care and that was no longer an option for me after her escalating insanity. Staying away from her meant staying away from any formal high school and that was a price I was willing to pay.

It would be years before I attempted to return to classes. I do remember feeling both terribly uneducated and unprepared for the real world and at the same time deeply offended at how few remedial classes it took to catch-me-up after I got my GED.

All that to say. Purely academically speaking, an elementary, middle-school and high-school education are easy to obtain. The deeper question is: how off-grid do we want our kids to be forced to live when we don’t assist them to participate in the world as it is?

I’ve maintained that despite all calls for us to be “in the world but not off the world” raising children to be counter-culture misfits is abusive. At least, it was a big part of the trauma that continued happening to me long after I left home at 16.

Outlining my own insane history around education (oh yes, have ya’ll read the memoir Education???? Talk about deeply relating to another’s journey!) when memes trigger such strolls down memory lane help me choose forgiveness for myself. In this frame it is a miracle I have learned enough functioning to complete a college degree and create a successful career as a nurse—especially considering the ongoing drama and trauma my life was from then on.

Glory to God my story is not over.

I choose grace.

-Elise Photini-

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