Sierra S.: “My mom … was obviously overwhelmed”

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“If there had been more oversight, my mom may have been able to get more motivated to get organized and give me and my sisters the education we needed. My sisters and I would not be in the very difficult place we are right now because of being under educated.”

My parents decided to homeschool me and my 2 younger sisters because they believed it was the will of god. California law only requires parents to notify state or local officials of the intent to homeschool. No testing or further assessment is required.

I believe my parents’ decision to homeschool was motivated by fear that my sisters and I would be exposed to the world too soon. My parents were very big on letting their kids be kids, which is good—except we were never challenged and we weren’t ready for adulthood. I do believe my parents had good intentions with sheltering us, and they’ll say to this day they don’t regret their decision to homeschool. However, I regret being homeschooled immensely.

I was about 10 or 11 when my mom started homeschooling me and my sisters, and it actually started out okay. My mom started out excited and organized; however, she quickly ended up becoming neglectful. I was a month from being 12 when my life-long sick brother died. We were all grieving. My mom would spend hours at a time in her room and sometimes all day. My sisters and I pretty much did whatever we wanted all day.

My mom had severe anxiety. Her motivation to educate us went in cycles; she would try to get organized and would talk about her plan for the school year, but she never followed through. She was obviously overwhelmed. Not only were there were 3 of us in different grades, but my sister is dyslexic. The pressure of having to juggle all of our educations must have been extreme. I also think my mother expected us to be more motivated and teach ourselves. But how many kids want to do school/homework over playing and talking?

When I was 13, my family and I moved to Florida. Florida law requires assessment with some exceptions. My mom said she put me and my sisters in an umbrella school, which is basically homeschooling through a private school. I actually recently asked my mom what umbrella school we were in, but she doesn’t remember.

Through all the curriculum we started, I don’t think we ever finished one. As a teen, I remember reading through almost my whole psychology book and trying to teach myself multiplication a few times. That’s how often I did school. My self-esteem was very low. Many times I felt too stupid to even try and I felt like my parents didn’t care anyway.

As a teenager I was depressed. Doing nothing day after day, having nowhere to go, and having no real direction in life only made me feel more hopeless.  I had a lot of goals for adulthood about future careers and college, so I’d often feel depressed about being nowhere near my goals, and many times I would try to talk to my parents about feeling stupid and under-educated. They would just blame me for not doing my school work and, more times than not, my mom would say “Well, sorry I’m such a bad mom.” Then I would have to spend the rest of the conversation reassuring her that she was a good mom. My intention was never to make her feel like a bad mom. I needed someone to push me and believe in me. To this day I still feel like my parents gave up on their children because they didn’t believe in us.

Sometimes when I would get worried about not being ready for college, my mom would tell me that I was on a “different path.” I guess it was supposed to make me feel special, but I wanted to be ready for college. I wanted to choose my own path.

When I was 18, and my church friends graduated, my mom threw me a graduation party, which made me feel guilty because I know I had hardly done any school since 4th grade and I was not even close to where I needed to be. I expressed feeling guilty to my mom about having a party when I’m not really graduated, and getting gifts and money from my friends and family. She replied, “But you do have a diploma.” For a second, I got my hopes up and said, “Really?? Where is it?” Then she got mad at me because I couldn’t just take her word for it. I never saw a diploma. But what was worse is I felt like everyone at the party knew I wasn’t really graduated. Like everyone could see right through.

Not only do I not have a diploma, I don’t have any records of anything about my homeschooling. I don’t know how my mom did it. She managed to get us through our teenage years without having us analyzed by a teacher or tested. I even contacted someone at the Florida Department of Education to see if they would have any record of what umbrella school I was in, but they couldn’t help me. So, basically I have zero proof that I was homeschooled.

When I was 18, I got a job as a preschool teacher aide/afternoon teacher specifically so I could afford getting a high school education. With the money I earned, I signed up for a school that could get me a diploma in 6 months or less, which I would find out too late that it was a scam. The very little work the school sent me was very easy. Then I got the diploma, I cried tears of joy. It took me several months to realize I’d been scammed. I should have known because I didn’t learn anything from that school.

I’ve let go of a lot of bitterness against my parents, although I’ll admit that once in a while it still hurts a little. I love them and I understand that my mom and dad were grieving and my mom had severe anxiety. The thing is, they had 3 kids that they neglected in a big way.

Today my education is my own responsibility. I’m 23 and I have to learn elementary math, just so that I can qualify for high school. Not being properly educated (yet) makes being successful much harder, but I can’t let what someone else did to me in the past determine what I do now. As easy as it would be, I can’t spend my life playing the blame game. I am determined to succeed in my goals.

If there had been more oversight, my mom may have been able to get more motivated to get organized and give me and my sisters the education we needed. My sisters and I would not be in the very difficult place we are right now because of being under educated. More oversight would’ve helped not only educationally but also, in my family’s case, emotionally. I believe having motivation to get out of bed and a daily goal of doing school would’ve given my mom, my sisters, and I more purpose.


Sierra S. was homeschooled in California and Florida, 2002-2009, grades 4 to 12. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Testimonials page.

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