A comment left over at the Homeschoolers Anonymous Facebook Group sparked something for me – the myth that we can separate the religious influence of homeschooling from most of the general homeschool population. Here’s a criticism left on the page:
Is it really necessary to smear the practice of homeschooling with the behaviors of the conservative christians?
While you may not realize it, there are real people who feel homeschooling is appropriate for their children because they believe it provides a better education. This is very different from the religious who want to “protect” their children from the real world and have a freer rein to indoctrinate them with their beliefs.
His comment is really nothing new. People often insist that even among Christian homeschoolers that there was a clear divide between those homeschooling for educational reasons and those homeschooling for religious reasons. In fact, that was the initial criticism I got for the content on my blog. “But Lana, your perspective of homeschooling is too narrow. Only a few Christian homeschoolers are legalistic like your parents were.”
Okay, perhaps today there is a distinction. In the 90s, I never saw it in our group.
Let me illustrate with this diagram. Most people think it goes like this. Christians homeschooling for educational reasons on one side, and Christian homeschooling for religious reasons on the others:
But the thing is — going back to what I remember of homeschooling in the 90s — almost without exception (albeit some exceptions existed), most people hanged out in the pink. They were both educational homeschoolers and religious homeschooler. And the thing was, there was no clear line between educational homeschoolers and religious homeschoolers.
You couldn’t walk into our homeschool group, and take half the people and put them on one side, and the other half and put them on the other. They were both. Sure, not everyone was that legalistic, and not everyone was quiverfull or into Christian Patriarchy, but almost without exception, we were all under the religious movement’s influence. For those of us Christians who were in homeschooling for the long haul, it wasn’t a question of whether or not we were “religious” homeschoolers: it was a question of whether we were knee-deep, or just a little into the religious homeschooling movement. Did the influence come to our toes, our hips, or our shoulder? That was the question.
For example, because of the influence of Joshua Harris, almost all homeschool parents did not allow their kids to date. Nevertheless, there were a few families in our group who did allow dating.
Family integrated churches and home churches were popular in homeschooling, but some homeschoolers went to megachurches. Nevertheless, the mega-church homeschool family still likely did not do youth group, or if they did, likely did not date.
On the modesty note, most homeschoolers emphasized modesty. Some made their girls wear dresses only. Others, like us, just wore them a whole whole bunch. Others never bought the dresses bit or the homeschool look, but they were still very modest. I remember, about five years ago, the gossip of the homeschool group was a homeschool girl who wore a dress with a spaghetti strap to the homeschool dance. Her dress had a high neck line — we could see nothing — yet it was the talk of the group. Clearly, everyone was under some sort of modesty spell – it was just a matter of how much.
The same went for curriculum. Everyone did not use Bob Jones, ATI, or A.C.E., but especially back in the 90s, it would have been hard to find curriculum that had no bias leanings to the Christian Right and Young Earth Creationism.
Perhaps the most pressure came from parenting itself. Even if a family did allow dating and had liberal textboook and weren’t quiverfull, for example, it was hard to be immune to the social pressure of how Christian girls and boys should look and act. This really isn’t a surprise; public school kids have peer pressure, too. But there was a stigma that good Christian homeschool girls must have manners, say Mrs. and Mr. Last Name (by the 2000s, I heard more young children address my parents with their first name), smile, act cheerful, be obedient, be respectful, and socialize well with adults. There was much more than this, of course, but it was all so superficial and based on appearances while often using spanking and other techniques to get the children in line. Again, not everyone spanked, but they were still likely under the appearance influence.
Think about it. A progressive Christian homeschooler socializes with other homeschoolers. As soon as the child says “crap,” the other mothers will jump on the progessive mother to tell their kids not to say that word. The pressure to act like a homeschool kid is very, very real. (I’m sure today homeschool kids say crap, but back in the day, we did not, at least in front of other moms.) I did not learn the F word until college (kind of good, though). No one leaked the word out to me because everyone was that “godly.” Everyone just kinda talked and acted alike in public (in private, another world often existed).
And that brings me back to my story. Try to cut out the “movement” from my homeschooling experience, and quite frankly, there is nothing much left. Because no matter how many positive aspects of homeschooling I can create in my mind, all of them are infiltrated somehow with legalism and religion. Libby Anne mentioned this with the idea of freedom. See, for me, there is no doubt that I had a lot of academic freedom, particularly during my high school years. But I was not free to go hang out with friends. And that’s how homeschooling was for me. I had one sweet fruit in one hand, and had a bitter one in the other. And some of my friends had more sweet ones than others, but we had bitter fruits, or at least bitter bites.
And that’s why we homeschool alumni are speaking up. We’ve seen that the influence from HSLDA and others did infiltrate the Joshua Generation (what they called us) like they wanted. We want our voices to be heard before its repeated to the third and fourth generation.
Because homeschooling can be better.