I Remember ATIA: Lana Hope’s Thoughts, Part Two

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on January 25, 2013.

< Part One

I remember ATIA: Advance Training Institute of America  — now called ATI, or Advance Training Institute.

I remember our first taste of the legalism.

We went to a local IBLP (Institute of Basic Life Principles) conference that had a Children’s Institute program. I, age 6, and my younger sister, age 5, showed up in pants. That was the last night we showed up in pants.

Soon after we applied to join their homeschool program called ATI ran by Bill Gothard. We learned that we could not watch TV to be in the program. One of our friends was blunt that they did watch TV, and they were not accepted.

The next summer when I was 7, we went to our first ATI conference in Knoxville, Tennessee. This movement was not small. And it attempted to brainwash an entire generation. We sang songs such as The Umbrella Song that you can listen to on youtube. It’s a cute little song about staying underneath our umbrella of authority. The song seems harmless (after all, kids need to obey their parents, right?), but keep in mind, that was the watered down children’s version of authoritarian headship that was stressed over and over in the Christiany Patriarchy movement. See Gothard’s personal webpage on the umbrella.

At the ATI conference, we had to wear blue skirts and white shirts; my little sister was so skinny and so tiny at age 6, that the blue jean skirt would actually fall off at times. Also, in the summer heat, the churchy white shirts made for a lot of sweat.

We would line up in alphabetical order each morning, and then were taken off in school buses (of all irony) to our appropriate groups. Girls went to one building, and did girl crafts and had girl lessons. Boys went to a different building and did cool activities like rock climb.

My friend and I were both tomboys and wanted badly to rock climb. So my friend suggested that we all put a pair of pants into our bags (not tell our parents about it) and ask our leaders if we could join up with the boys. That backfired. Our cell group leader reported our request, and a man took us all outside on a bench and told us we were not boys, and we needed to be thankful that they were teaching us to sew. Then he said if we even mentioned what the boys were doing, or even looked at the boys, he would call our fathers.

A piece of me died that day.

And the now famous Duggar family was at that conference. I remember meeting them.

One night at a local Children’s Institute we studied attentiveness, learned the attentive song, listened attentive stories, and then at the end had to promise that we would always be attentive. There were 100 kids or more there, and we were supposed to put our right hand in the air and promise. I knew I was dingy, I knew I would fail.

My elementary education was not normal to say the least. We went through what we called wisdom booklets, an all encompassing one-age fits all homeschool curriculum. I studied the Bible, memorized character traits and Matthew 5-7, studied Greek and law, and read missionary stories.

Weird, I know.

When my family left ATI when I was in 10th grade, I had lost a whole year of high school credits because I had never studied select courses other than math and grammar. (I don’t think this was a huge problem because my family was naturally curious and read a lot, but it would have been a problem if we had not.)

At home, Bill Gothard gave us rules to set ourselves apart though not all families listened. No TV. No pork. No rock or even contemporary Christian music. (We were told a beat would bring in demonic influence.) No pants for girls.No going to the movie theater (might ruin our witness, all about the outside).

I remember when my friend threw away Rebecca Saint James CD she received for her birthday because any drum beat is evil.

Adults had rules too. My mother was forbidden to work outside the home, and if she had a home business, she had to submit her schedule to ATI (my mom runs a business today). Sexual intercourse on the Sabbath, during a woman’s cycle, and 40 days after giving birth was strictly warned against.

Bill Gothard told parents that Cabbage Patch dolls could bring demons into the house, and trolls were evil. For my 7th birthday, I had a troll party. I loved them that much, and my sister’s doll was her life. But our dolls and trolls went in the garbage, a regret my father will probably take to his death bed.

We had local ATI get togethers, which were mostly Quiverfull families. We wore weird swimsuits (see mine below), played games, mostly fun times.

And then there was the teen programs at different places, called EXCEL for girls. We went to a mini EXCEL camp, were told to put our heads down when the boys went by, etc. The girls didn’t listen, but smiled and pretended like they did when the adults were around. I hated the hypocrisy. My mother mentioned to our group leader that her daughters had come home upset. Then the leader met with us (when she was in our area) and quizzed us about what happened. My gut literally hurt over the whole thing, and I still don’t know why she cared a hoot.

ATI is a legalistic program that encourages people to fake it on the outside.

Thankfully my family got out. And I did get a college education that Gothard warned against.

So that, my friends, is my memory of the homeschool world of ATI. Fun?

14 thoughts on “I Remember ATIA: Lana Hope’s Thoughts, Part Two

  1. Headless Unicorn Guy December 18, 2013 / 3:41 pm

    No TV. No pork. No rock or even contemporary Christian music. (We were told a beat would bring in demonic influence.) No pants for girls.No going to the movie theater (might ruin our witness, all about the outside).

    No Pork?
    ATI kept Kosher/Halal?

    Radio preacher J Vernon Magee had a name for Christians like this: “Second-hand Jews”. The “Council of Jerusalem” in the First Century (AKA the knock-down-drag-out described in the Book of Acts) was all about “Do the Goyim have to be circumcised and keep Torah (i.e. become Jews first) in order to be Christian?” That was settled over 1900 years ago!


  2. Lana December 19, 2013 / 12:36 am

    Not sure. I thought it had to do with OT law, but I still remember the first time I had pork when I was 18.


    • nickducote December 19, 2013 / 9:01 am

      Did you know other ATI families that followed the pork restriction? I knew maybe one or two but it wasn’t widespread in my experience. I definitely remember Gothard talking about it, but I don’t remember specifics.


      • Lana December 19, 2013 / 9:20 am

        Yes, the people I knew followed it. I don’t now if that was five people or ten. Too far back. But that was one of the easy rules.


      • Susan December 21, 2013 / 7:51 am

        My dad still refuses to eat pork. My mom doesn’t care but since she works (yeah, great ATI family, right?) and is lazy, my dad does all the cooking, & he never serves pork.

        I remember a Wisdom Booklet article about pork. Supposedly its fat is mixed in throughout the meat, rather than in a big chunk at the edge like beef, which you can then cut off. I don’t remember all the other stuff that was bad about pork. The point they made was that God was protecting the Israelites from disease by instructing them not to eat pork, therefore, we should also not eat pork because it’s not good for us!

        That reminds me, I need to buy a ham at the grocery store today, to have for Christmas dinner! I’m hungry for pork chops, too. 🙂


      • sheila0405 December 21, 2013 / 9:50 pm

        Just curious–your mom works, but she’s lazy? How’s that?


    • Foo Quuxman December 19, 2013 / 8:59 am

      If you want to know more I would recommend the site recoveringgrace.org


  3. sheila0405 December 19, 2013 / 4:16 am

    Sounds like Gothard is ignoring NT teachings about our freedom from the Law. Your family lived a legalistic OT life. Glad you made it out.


    • nickducote December 19, 2013 / 8:59 am

      Gothard didn’t ignore any parts of the bible, he merely gave creative answers and interpretations. Gothard is such a typical cult leader, in that he has all these “special insights” into parts of the bible that may be traditionally interpreted a completely different way. But he always backed his interpretations up with pseudo-exegesis and lots of discussion about Greek and Hebrew root words.

      And was also plenty to be legalistic about in the NT. It was not strictly an Old Testament cult. I remember hearing things about pork, as Lana described. But I think that was one area where being Southern Baptist balanced us out. While I don’t doubt the pork thing came from ATI/Gothard, it was not something that I saw often. Maybe one or two families. Lana, did you know more families like that in your area or was your family alone? Also, have you tried bacon? It’s the most magical of pork products.


      • Headless Unicorn Guy January 7, 2014 / 9:29 am

        “Special insights”…
        As in Speshul Sekrit Knowledge known only to a Privileged Few?
        That is the textbook definition of Gnosticism (“Those who KNOW things”) and Occultism (“Hidden/Secret”).


  4. missprisskm December 20, 2013 / 10:29 pm

    man…I was 13 when my parents got into all that, so I never went to the CI’s, but I taught them. Go you for getting free!!!


  5. ruthtillman April 13, 2014 / 7:30 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. I was brought up in a church that was heavily Gothard-influenced + was homeschooled. I’m quite grateful to my college professor Anglican-but-attending-a-nondenominational-church-with-my-dad mother, however, because I feel like she was an important force which kept me away from ATI and some of the worst stuff. I still carry a lot of the little things and ticks–I have a mental tick against letting my husband get the car door for me because of stories about how to TRAIN your husband to open car doors for you, etc. But I avoided learning about a lot of this until I was older. 10 years past high school, I’ve been trying to learn more about precisely what was going on behind the scenes. So thank you very much for sharing that and I’m sorry.


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