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Home-Schooled Sex Ed


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Jan 13, 2024
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Did you ever wonder how homeschooled kids get sex ed? I guess, in school, it’s a specific class you take, probably a unit in health class. In our family, it’s just been an ongoing thing. Especially today, in light of some things that have transpired in my kids’ lives. Today’s post is an open letter to them. I’m sharing it publicly, because sex abuse is everywhere, and I’m just hoping it might spur some honest questions and discussion in your own homes.

Dear Saoirse and Ula;

A few nights ago, you climbed into bed with me, as you have done since you were small children, to tell me about your days, to ask me questions about growing up, to simply be close. I suppose, at 18 and 14, you are supposed to be too old for this.

You are never too old for this.

Especially on this night, both your eyes wet with tears and wide with confusion.

Sexual abuse has come into your lives.

You are not victims, nor are you perpetrators.

But in this instance, you know both. They are friends. Peers. And to your surprise and shock, you care for both individuals involved. You want to hate, and you cannot find it. It would all be so much easier if you could do that.

Instead, you are flummoxed by your fear, your sadness, and your confusion.

And you want words from me, your mother…words of comfort, clear-headed direction, sensible opinions that you could adopt.

As much as I want to find these words for you, I have none. Words of comfort belittle the crime. Clear-headed direction would be ignorant advice. Sensible opinions would ring hollow.

I only lie on my pillow, my arms around you both, my shoulders growing damp from your tears, praying to every spirit for the wisdom to take you through these moments, to give you the words that will carry your forward with confidence, strength and kindness, but that will also spin a spell of protection around you both, sparing all of us from any deeper wounds surrounding your developing sexuality.

No such words come to me.

“How do we protect ourselves?…How have we managed to remain so sheltered?” Saoirse asks.

Again, I have no answer in the moment.

But today, in this letter, I will try my best to answer you.

Your father and I truly did want to shelter you both from every pain imaginable — from domestic violence, manipulation, coercion, sexual abuse.

We raised you in a home where we never denied our love for you, nor for each other (especially that time you walked in on us…Eeeegads! That was embarrassing).

We raised you among friends, neighbors and customers who cared for you as though you were their own.

And if surrounding you with loving, caring people is sheltering, then so be it. You have been sheltered.

But your dad and I would argue that you haven’t been sheltered. You have never asked a question that wasn’t answered. From the time you were little, I’ve talked about sex with you, about its role in a loving partnership, about the importance of not letting anyone touch you or come close to you if you are in the slightest bit unsure. We’ve talked about menstrual cycles and fertility, hormones and urges, about confusion and communication. You’ve witnessed the rams on the ewes, the roosters on hens; helped with artificial insemination, and delivered countless baby animals into the world. You’ve dealt with castrations, prolapses and the complications of birth. You’ve helped dust pollen on flowers, witnessed dragonflies defend their mating territories, and listened to the calls of chickadees as they try to woo a partner. You’ve sat with us beside Rossman Pond as the geese have paired off, then joined us to count the goslings.

You have been raised to understand sexuality as a natural part of life You have been raised to expect humans to be kind.

My dear girls, you have not been sheltered about sexuality and love. To the contrary, you have been taught, day in and day out, what it is supposed to be.

…Which is why you are so quick to identify when something is wrong. And why you lie here on this bed, tears pouring down your faces, for the pain that your friends are going through. You recognize their suffering.

And in that recognition, you come to me to talk…As you’ve done in the past. You may not know the exact terminology to describe the abuse your friends have endured, but your intuition, your deeper understanding about sexuality and love, has kicked in. You’ve always found me on this bed at the end of each day, told your stories, and asked your questions. And in your openness, Dad and I have been able to help you. You haven’t been sheltered. You have chosen to remain unsheltered by gifting us with your trust.

But as each day passes, I am keenly aware of your increasing independence. You can drive yourselves where you want to go. You are entitled to your secrets. And I grow increasingly aware of the limits to my parenting. There are those who you will meet in this world who’s experience with sexuality and power is different from your own.

Have we taught you enough? I’m forever fearing that we haven’t. I so desperately want to set you loose on this world equipped with every bit of strength, knowledge and skill to thwart any attacker, see through any manipulation, and avoid every possible mistake, to be free of pain and suffering.

But I can’t. To be alive is to be vulnerable. There are no secret weapons or magic words of protection that I can offer. Except this:

We love you.

No matter what.

Shit happens. You should try to avoid it when you can. But it’s not always possible.

And that’s where the love of your family kicks in. It will follow you on your adventures, it will hold you in your pain, it will push you to stand up and try again.

Call that “sheltered,” if you like. I prefer to think of it as being fortified. And when you extend that love out into the world, even at the risk of getting hurt, the fortress grows stronger.

Love, Mom

Have you enjoyed the podcast this year? I hope so. If you’re like me, you’re forever on a quest to live more deeply, make time for what matters and still keep the bills paid. For me, that quest for deep living means my 2021 podcasting season will soon be wrapping up for the year. I require down time where I live more quietly so that I can tap into my creativity, rest, focus on homeschooling, do a few virtual appearances at some of the winter farming conferences, and work on other writing projects. So if you’re worried about missing these podcasts through the winter remember there are over 50 back episodes you can check out, as well as about a decade worth of blog post essays here on this website. You can also follow our daily fall & winter adventures @sapbushshannon and @sapbushhollow farm on IG, or @ Shannon Hayes or Sap Bush Hollow Farm on FB. If you DID enjoy this season, please consider hopping over to my Patreon page and tossing a few coins my way, or making a one-time donation using the link at the right. Those funds help to keep the fires burning through the winter, til we’re back for another season in the spring!

This podcast happens with the support of my patrons on Patreon. And this week I’d like to send a shout out to my patrons KS & Laura Stephens.

Thank you, folks! I couldn’t do it without you!
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