Tara Westover published her memoir “Educated” in 2018. The book describes her unconventional path to higher education and her unique and often traumatic upbringing. The book has been very successful and received many wonderful reviews from high profile people such as Bill Gates and former President Obama.
My friends who had read the book recommended that I read it stating the similarities to my life. I had added it to my list of books to read at some point. In March the book club that I sporadically participate in choose Tara’s book.
I recently finished reading the book, it is very moving, well written and at times hard to read due to the nature of the content. There are some strong parallels to my life in her book.
Y2K, my mom, and her husband also got sucked into the hysteria of Y2K. This is how they moved from southern CA to the mountains of Virginia. This is a book in and of its self.
Neglect, when I look back at my childhood I am amazed at how I lived to adulthood. I also experienced medical neglect. I was not taken for treatment from physical abuse. I do remember going to the ER because I had shoved something in my nose and once for a flea infestation that we all had. Routine medical and dental care were not part of my childhood after the age of 5. We had a family physician named Gary that my mother seemed to very be fond of. I remember that some of our friends saw him as well. I saw him for the last time at the age of 15 after I had been married for a few months. I found sex to be painful and my “husband” thought that there was something wrong with me. I cannot tell you how awkward that visit was and the struggle in that doctor’s voice as he explained that having sex when you don’t really want to and are not aroused can be painful. He didn’t call it rape, but I am sure that appointment was not an easy one for him. He also tested me for STDs which I didn’t really know much about either. I was immunized, though according to my mom I had dangerous reactions to them. My mother has also told me that she had German measles when she was pregnant with me and this resulted in not needing that vaccine. I didn’t have my shot record as an adult and had a blood test done when I was older and pregnant. It came back that I was missing antibodies. They gave me the MMR vaccine and I followed through for the series at 23 years old. This came up again for my senior internship at school, again since I didn’t have a viable shot record that made sense. I had a blood test and again it showed no antibodies for measles. After repeating this again in 2015 when I began working in a hospital, I did there series of vaccines, again and again, no antibodies. My body doesn’t convert the measles vaccine.
The main similarity of Tara’s book is the unconventional path to higher education. I believe I went to public school from Kindergarten to sometime in 1st grade. Then I returned to public school in the 4th grade. I did not receive any homeschooling in between. I possibly attended public school for some of the 5th grade in California. We moved to Ohio in May of either 1990 or 1991. I attended a private Christian school in Ohio for either 5th or 6th grade. This Christian school was the last school I attended. I was ” homeschooled” after leaving the Christian school. Again it was sporadic and traumatic. I remember my mother screaming at me and hitting me because of my poor handwriting. I spent long days doing the housework, cooking and caring for my younger sister. By the time it came to school work I was totally exhausted. My mother used ACE Christian home school curriculum. I had workbooks that I would try to work through, but if I couldn’t teach myself the material I would just remain stuck. My mom couldn’t afford to order the whole program so I got bits and pieces and often had an extended absence of school work. I would take yearly aptitude tests that showed that I was at grade level for everything.
I wasn’t in my mothers home for a period of time. I lived with a friend in a foster care situation. While I was there my mom moved from Ohio back to California. She refused to sign over legal guardianship to my foster parent and this prevented her from enrolling me in school. In the fall of 1994 at the age of 14, I got on a plane and returned to my mothers care in Southern CA with the promise that she would enroll me in school. She didn’t. She ordered more of the self-paced workbooks again at the 6th-grade level.
Instead of school, I went to work with my stepfather who was a truck driver. My stepfather hauled cars. I would take those 6th-grade workbooks that I couldn’t advance beyond with me in his truck. I would try to work on them in the back of a moving truck in between helping him load and deliver cars. I began to hate these workbooks and felt like they were an obstacle to achieving real education. I spent long days fetching cars from auto auction lots and loading them onto the truck. I was covered in grease and grime every day when When I finally made it home late at night and would often just go to bed filthy.
That following spring I was forced to get married. I enrolled in the GED program in town and began working on my high school diploma. I would walk 2 miles each way to get to classes. There was a teacher there that worked with me and was excited to have a student that wanted to be there and learn. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be long before I had to abandon working on my high school diploma for full-time work to support myself.
As a side note: my “husband” had to sign me up for the GED program and he also had to sign my work permit so that I could work at a local fast food restaurant at the age of 15.
At the age of 29 after the birth of my fourth child, I made a commitment to myself that I would get my GED so that I could obtain adequate employment and make enough money to support myself and my children. I contacted an agency in town that thankfully had GED classes and childcare. If they didn’t have free childcare I could not have been able to afford to go. I went for about a month to classes there and they paid for me to take the GED exam. The GED at this time had 5 parts to it, reading, math, an essay, social studies, and science. If you didn’t pass all sections at once you had a year to complete and pass the remaining sections. I did not expect to pass the math portion but ended up passing all of it. I didn’t stop at with my GED, over the course of the next 9 years, I would go all the way to a Masters degree.
If I had the opportunity to speak with the author Educated we would have many similarities that we could discuss! I hope that she has found peace and healing form her experiences and is surrounded, as I am by a loving family of choice.