Israel Wayne, homeschool graduate, speaker, writer and father, recently published an article on the Shift in the Homeschool Movement.
He has divided the homeschool movement as follows: the hipster generation of the 70s, the fundamentalist movement of the 80s and early 90s, and then Calvinist/Reformed/Reconstruction movement from the 90s until the new present, new GenY homeschool mothers. I am sure that he is aware that these overlap, so the distinction here is fine.
As a homeschool graduate and Millennial hipster, I thought I’d offer a few quotes, then some thoughts.
Because of the staunch Biblical literalism and theological dogmatism entrenched in the movement, and traditional views on marriage and child-training, the Christian homeschooling movement has not been a welcoming place for a lot of people who do not hold to conservative views such as:
- Courtship/Betrothal as a paradigm for approaching marriage
- Young Earth Creationism
- Spanking as a method of child discipline
- Complementarian views of marriage
- Modest dress (which is, of course, defined differently by different people)
- Traditional roles of men/women
- Family-Integrated Church
- Large families as an ideal
- Daughters staying at home until married
- and much more.
To many Christians (let alone non-Christians!) who are entering the homeschooling community, many of these ideas seem like they were deposited here by aliens from another planet! No one (or almost no one) in their churches adhere to these views, and yet, in some circles of homeschooling, these were strongly held convictions that dominated the cultural landscape.
In September of 2013, Michael Farris, founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) spoke to state convention coordinators and other national homeschooling leaders, at the annual leadership conference they sponsor. He warned against the dangers of the excesses of extreme child discipline and a low view of women that has taken hold in some corners of the homeschooling community. He warned that unless homeschooling leaders actively speak against abusive and unGodly approaches to child discipline and unBiblical views of Patriarchal authority (that demean and devalue women), we risk losing our very legal freedom to homeschool.
Mr. Farris has sounded a much-needed warning. My concern, however, is that when we over-react and swing to the other ditch, we end up teaching only love, grace and mercy (with no boundaries for children). By rejecting “Patriarchy” (abusive or domineering tendencies of men towards their wives and families), we may revert to the Feminism of the 1960′s, and all the problems that came with it, that led many women to react 180 degrees in the other direction by staying home and homeschooling their children. By rejecting rigid step-by-step rules about issues like strict clothing mandates and courtship procedures, we may revert back to the kind of sexual permissiveness that led to the legalism in the first place.
Do we really want to go back to families where mom is trying to pull that whole family uphill all by herself, while dad is off playing golf, letting mom run the family all by herself? Do want three-year-olds who rule the parents with an iron fist and parents who jump at their every demand? Do we really want teens who are groping their girlfriends in the back seat of a car because we don’t want to impose a legalistic standard on them? Do we really want to encourage the kind of American narcissism that says children are a nuisance and O.8 children is the goal, because we want to avoid the imbalance of policing bedrooms and imposing doctrines not clearly spelled out in Scripture?
If we ever forget that the homeschooling movement is NOT about academics at the end of the day (they are a means, not an end), then Jesus will abandon us to our own devices. The homeschooling movement must NOT become ultimately about methods and tools (curriculum). It must be about Jesus, and His Lordship over our families.
Israel says several times that the homeschool movement is changing. Once it was just this really conservative, fundamental haven. Now it’s much different. I do not know the 20s something homeschool moms. My experience is that the late 30s somethings may have changed textbooks (or not used textbooks) and traded in the jumpers for pants, but many have still maintained more conservative stance than I am comfortable with. In other words, I’m not convinced the conservative movement is going anywhere, just taking new shape and new form.
I do think the homeschool graduates are starting to speak up. But then there are other groups like Homeschool Alumni where many graduates are going through strict courtships and staying under their father’s authority. In my own circle I know few people who have questioned the whole movement, I know some who slowly backed into more evangelical backgrounds, and others who never left. I knew two girls who had finally determined to leave their father’s home, but then they met guys and it never happened. But one of them was the saddest story. She wrote out her story called “homeschool girl dilemma,” and proceeded to say that she was sad that she never found out what it was like to live on her own and that her father’s authority was being transfered to her husband (her words, not mine).
It’s stories like this that make me realize how slow the change in the homeschooling movement really is.
Secondly, I am glad that Michael Farris at least partially spoke up. It amazes me that people continue to think that our choices are spanking verses uncontrolled children, or courtship verses sleeping around, or patriarchalism verses passive fathers. The discipline I went through as a child was horrifying, and I saw many of my peers have it much worse. One of my friends (older than me) was kicked out of the home when she was 16. I thought she was horrible. Then we ended up at the same university, and I discovered that she was freakin’ awesome and still quite conservative (she had not run away with any boys or anything of the sort). All she had wanted was to breathe – get to wear pants. This sort of thing. I’ve also personally met a lot of great Dads who were not homeschool dads, and conversely met a lot of passive dads who were homeschool dads. Some of our undergrad professors who were not complementarian were also very active in their children’s lives. I would see them at church or the we’d have a day at the lake altogether with the students in our major or various other activities.
This, of course, does not mean I agree with every choice that every parent in the world makes. But I no longer see this as black and white either.
Thirdly, the fact that homeschooling was seen as a Christian method is, in my opinion, what went wrong with baby boomer homeschool parents. It started out as an education model, but when it became about religion and the preservation of a Joshua generation, it went sore. I think any Christian will teach from a Christian worldview – or they should. But I think that should be a natural flow, not something forced.
I think philosophy makes a great example. Philosophy is a fairly non-religious subject outside the literature of the Christian era. Whether in the analytical tradition (Russell, Quine) or the continental tradition (Nietzsche, Heidegger), a student is not likely to encounter many theists. The exceptions are theists like Alvin Plantinga who still use the analytical tradition (logic, analytical epistemology) to back up their claims rather than the Bible. But I find philosophy very compatible for a person of faith. My naturalist professor loves to sit down and list all these philosophical problems – in ethics, in epistemology, and so forth. These are not even problems in Christianity (I am not saying theists has no philosophical problems to work out; just these atheist problems are not always problems for theists. It depends.) I believe that if a Christian studies philosophy, they are significantly more likely to become more convinced that a God necessarily exists than if they say, read the Old Testement torah. Yet Christians think they should censor subjects like philosophy. (Kevin Swanson’s book Apostate is an example of a homeschool leader begging parents to censor their kids books; in two weeks, I’ll pick up reviewing all the chapters.)
The Christian homeschool movement, because it was all about religion and not academics, became about censoring certain information and stuffing Christ into other information.
As I mention in philosophy, it’s quite natural to me that a Christian will find God in philosophy. Of course, they will also be forced to ask hard questions, and the homeschool leaders seemed to fear those questions.
I am not saying we have to expose a 5-year-old to as much as a university student, but I think that the faith of the parents should flow naturally enough that it does not merit books, conventions, and seminars about how to raise the next generation. This fear is a “big deal” that is largely a concern we made up. I say largely. The Bible does say to study the Bible and worship him. It does not say to do nothing. But the formula is exhausting and leaves no room for children to come to their own conclusions about God, faith, and the world.
Yes, kids should get to form their own conclusions.
Read the rest of the article and let me know your thoughts, please.