Our Top 21 Most Viewed Posts of 2015

As 2015 comes to a close, we want to look back and remember the 21 posts that received the most attention on HA this year. So here they are, our top 21 most viewed posts of 2015!

21. How Many More Dead Kids? — 5,578 views

20. Alecia Pennington, “The Girl Who Doesn’t Exist,” Can Now Prove She Does — 5,655 views

19. Today I’m Proud of Joshua Harris — 5,790 views

18. 3 Things You Should Know Before Writing About Josh Duggar — 6,636 views

17. Why Dan Savage’s Call to Redefine “Duggar” Will Only Further Hurt Josh Duggar’s Victims — 7,259 views

16. Technically, Nicole Naugler Is Not a Homeschool Mom — 8,320 views

15. “Worse Than Any House I Saw on My Little Island”: A Homeschooled MK’s Thoughts on the Naugler Family — 8,854 views

14. The Child as Viper: How Voddie Baucham’s Theology of Children Promotes Abuse — 9,162 views

13. Josh Duggar Checks Into Treatment Center After Porn Star Details “Very Traumatic” and “Terrifying” Sexual Encounter — 10,940 views

12. Bill Gothard Unveils “New Statement” Then Promptly Deletes It — 10,962 views

11. The Jamin C. Wight Story: The Other Child Molester in Doug Wilson’s Closet — 13,348 views

10. Josh Duggar and Josh Komisarjevsky: A Tale of Two Joshes — 13,457 views

9. Joe Naugler’s Oldest Son Alleges Physical, Sexual Abuse; Children Not Returned — 16,979 views

8. An Open Letter to Anna Duggar — 21,427 views

7. James Dobson on Domestic Violence: Women “Deliberately Bait” Their Husbands — 22,899 views

6. James and Lisa Pennington Respond to Identification Abuse Claims — 27,158 views

5. When Your Very Identity is Held Hostage: Alecia Pennington and Identification Abuse — 28,579 views

4. Gothard’s ATI and the Duggar Family’s Secrets — 52,411 views

3. Blanket Training is About Adults, Not Children — 56,695 views

2. A Brief Word of Caution Regarding Joe and Nicole Naugler, The “Off-Grid” Homeschooling Family — 83,758 views

And the most viewed HA post of 2015 was…

1. A Former Off-Grid, Homeschooled Child’s Thoughts on the Naugler Family — 98,257 views

Happy holidays and thanks to everyone for supporting HA in 2015! We look forward to continuing our work in 2016.

The Uncomfortable Origin of HSLDA’s “Parental Rights”

The following is an excerpt from R.L. Stollar’s “Children as Divine Rental Property: An Exposition on HSLDA’s Philosophy of Parental Rights.” You can read the paper in full here.

HSLDA’s concept of children as divine rental property forms the basis for HSLDA’s understanding of parental rights as expressed through common law. HSLDA attempts to ground many of its arguments for religious liberty and homeschooling on a Western concept of common law, especially as expressed by English jurist William Blackstone in his work, Commentaries on the Laws of England. In The Right Choice: Home Schooling, the late Chris Klicka wrote, “One of the most influential common law sources on which the founders of our country relied was Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries. Blackstone recognized that the most important duty of parents to their children is that of giving them an education.”[i]

Blackstone’s advocacy of parental rights, Klicka argued, became the cornerstone of an Oklahoma Supreme Court Case that Klicka considered key: “Building on this traditional liberty of parents as enunciated by Blackstone, the Oklahoma Supreme Court in School Board Dist. No. 18 v. Thompson secured the right of parents to control the education of their children.”[ii] This was key to Klicka because he and HSLDA desired to return to a previous era where “parental liberty historically was held to be virtually absolute,”[iii] and the Thompson case argued that, “In this empire [the United States], parents rule supreme during the minority of their children”[iv] [emphasis added by Klicka].

Because Klicka considered this court case to be of such significance, it is worth reviewing what aspects of the case Klicka neglected to mention. It is true that in 1909 the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled in School Board Dist. No. 18 v. Thompson that, “In this empire parents rule supreme during the minority of their children.” However, the Thompson case also situates this parental supremacy in only one figure: the family patriarch. The case declared that, “The father was vested with supreme control over the child.” In terms of legal rights, “A mother, as such, is entitled to no power.”[v]

What the Thompson case declared — that the family patriarch has supreme power over his children (and the mother or wife has no legal power whatsoever) — is exactly what one should expect to find in traditional Western common law. Traditional Western common law is specifically grounded in the property-rights paradigm descended from classical Roman patriarchy. It goes back to the Roman legal concept of patria potestas (Latin for “power of the father”). Patria potestas meant that the male head of a household, otherwise known as the pater familias (father of the family), “not only…had control over the persons of his children, amounting even to a right to inflict capital punishment, but that he alone had any rights in private law.”[vi] The pater familias’s power went beyond his children: “The pater familias could do as he pleased with his family members: from dictating the conditions of marriage and divorce to disposing of his wife, children, and slaves through adoption, sale, or death.”[vii]

Under such a paradigm, rights are distributed according to property. Since adult Roman men (the family patriarchs) were the only ones allowed to have property, they were also the only ones allowed to have legal rights. Children, women, and slaves had no legal rights. They were all considered property under traditional Western common law — even to the point that they could be bought and sold: “In early law the paterfamilias could sell children into slavery… [The paterfamilias] had available to him the standard proprietary remedies of an owner. Thus, if a child was kidnapped, it was regard as ‘stolen’ which enabled the paterfamilias to recover it through a vindicatio and to sue for damages under the action for theft.”[viii] Similarly, “in controlling his wife, a man was simply exercising control over his own person or property.”[ix]

This is the tradition to which Klicka appealed and to which HSLDA continues to appeal.[x]

A primary reason for such appeals is that the United States Constitution does not explicitly mention the rights of parents. Thus HSLDA appeals to the tradition of common law to deduce the rights of parents from “the laws of nature” found in Western Civilization, in other words, property rights. Chris Klicka and fellow former HSLDA attorney Doug Phillips made this very argument in a 1997 article for Educational Leadership. In their section “Roots in Common Law,” Klicka and Phillips say, “The United States Constitution does not explicitly mention parental rights. Like other legal principles at the time of the nation’s founding, the right of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children was an implicit and necessary assumption of society. That parents had a God-given duty as well as right to make all decisions with respect to the future of their unemancipated children was part of the higher law that the Declaration of Independence termed ‘the laws of nature and of nature’s God.’” They say these “laws of nature and of nature’s God” were enshrined in Western common law: “For more than a thousand years, the doctrine of parental rights had been a bedrock principle of the Western legal tradition, expressed throughout the ‘common law.’”[xi]

HSLDA founder Michael Farris explicitly ties this concept of Western common law to HSLDA’s advocacy of conservative Christianity and his organization’s understanding of what conservative Christianity teaches about parental rights. Farris says, “Our nation was founded upon the traditions of Western Civilization. This civilization was founded on the principles of the Word of God. God gives children to parents—not to the state, and not to doctors.”[xii]

To Farris and HSLDA, therefore, any threat to traditional Western common law or Western civilization could be perceived as a threat to homeschooling. One sees this fear directly in the rationale HSLDA has given for making opposition to same-sex marriage part of its homeschool advocacy. On their (now-removed) web page entitled “Why HSLDA is Fighting Against Same-Sex Marriage,” HSLDA states that, “Parental rights are a recognized constitutional right despite the fact that they are not explicitly stated in the Constitution. It is a fair question to ask: if they are implied rights rather than explicit rights, what is the source of parental rights?…Parental rights are based on ‘western civilization concepts of the family.’ When those concepts are no longer the legal definition of the family in this nation, then the foundation upon which parental rights are based is completely removed…Therefore, HSLDA will continue to fight against same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage attacks the traditions of the family in western civilization. This is an attack on parental rights.”[xiii] HSLDA takes this “attack on parental rights” so seriously that it has supported a constitutional amendment to ban not only same-sex marriage, but also civil unions for same-sex partners by means of “the Institution of Marriage Amendment” [xiv] (web page also now removed).

The problem with grounding parental rights in common law (on the one hand) and then denying children should be treated as parental property (on the other hand) is that, as we just saw, common law is a property-based system. These “traditional rights” of parents come from a tradition wherein the male patriarch of a household rules supreme. The patriarch is the sole recipient of legal rights. This tradition continued even through 1909 in the Oklahoma Supreme Court case Thompson that Chris Klicka eagerly cited. In that case we see the vestiges of the tradition: the father alone has supremacy over everyone; the mother has no legal supremacy; the children have no rights until maturity; slaves have no rights whatsoever. Thus HSLDA is holding a logically tenuous position by trying to claim that, because of the Western common law tradition, parents should have sole legal authority over their children and yet children should not be considered those parents’ property.

This not only creates a legal Twilight Zone. It also means that granting anyone other than the father of a household any rights would (as it has) upset the entire tradition.

Click here to read the rest of “Children as Divine Rental Property: An Exposition on HSLDA’s Philosophy of Parental Rights.”

Sources

[i] Chris Klicka, The Right Choice: Home Schooling, Noble Publishing Associations, 4th printing and revised edition, 1995, p. 339.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Ibid, p. 338.

[iv] SCHOOL BD. DIST. NO 18 GARVIN COUNTY v. THOMPSON, 1909.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Encyclopedia Britannica, “Patria potestas,” link, accessed on December 3, 2015.

[vii] A. Javier Treviño, The Sociology of Law: Classical and Contemporary Perspectives, Transaction Publishers, 2001, p. 21.

[viii] Paul du Plessis, Borkowski’s Textbook on Roman Law, Oxford University Press, 2010, p. 112-113.

[ix] James G. Dwyer, Religious Schools V. Children’s Rights, Cornell University Press, 1998, p. 72.

[x] See, for example, Michael Farris, “Parental Rights: Why Now is the Time to Act,” Court Report, Marcy/April 2006, link, accessed on December 3, 2015: “The legal principle used in Pierce was first announced in Meyer v. Nebraska. The Court announced that ‘those privileges long recognized at common law as essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men’ were protected under the Due Process Clause…If implicit rights are tied to history, then there is a solid basis for determining what was a recognized right at a particular point in time.”

[xi] Christopher J. Klicka and Douglas W. Phillips, “Why Parental Rights Laws Are Necessary,” Educational Leadership, November 1997, Volume 55, Number 3, link, accessed on December 3, 2015.

[xii] Michael Farris, “Who Makes the Really Tough Decisions: Parents? Or Doctors?”, HSLDA, November 29, 2011, link, accessed on December 3, 2015.

[xiii] HSLDA, “Why HSLDA is Fighting Against Same-Sex Marriage,” link, accessed on December 12, 2014. Archived as PDF here.

[xiv] Michael Farris, “Questions and Answers Regarding a Constitutional Amendment on Same-Sex Marriage,” HSLDA, April 15, 2004, link, accessed on December 12, 2014. Archived as a PDF here.

The “Real Men” of Evangelical Christianity

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Jeremy Brooks.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog, Love, Joy, Feminism. It was originally published on November 18, 2015.

I’ve run across a number of memes about what “real men” do. The most frequent seems to be that real men “protect” women rather than abusing them. This meme has bugged me because I’d rather have a man’s respect than his protection. On a whim, I went to google, typed in “real men,” and started scrolling through images. I found quite a number of these “real men” memes that were Christian-themed (most were probably created by evangelicals), and found myself cringing on a variety of levels.

If you’re like me, your social media feeds are probably filled with discussions of ISIS and refugees and epic battles between conservative friends and progressive friends. So today, let me offer you a break, such as it is. Let’s look at some of the “real men” memes I found, and I’ll take this opportunity to discuss some of the problematic aspects in evangelicals’ approach to male-female relationships. Let’s get started!

And why do men need to lead women anywhere, pray tell? I think this is the biggest problem I have with Christian “real man” memes—they all focus on male leadership. They don’t treat women as people. Instead, women become objects to be protected, or cared for, or led here or there. What about “real men listen to women”? What about “real men respect women’s ability to make up their own minds”? I could have stopped at “real men respect women,” but in Christian meme world that actually means “real men don’t have sex with women before they marry them,” not “real men listen to women and accept their decisions about their bodies and lives.”

The problem with this meme is related to the problem with all of the memes about fathers and daughters. Men are supposed to be overly protective of their daughters, and controlling of their daughters, and possessive of their daughters—or so the memes suggest. It’s as though their daughters are objects to be locked up or put on a shelf for looking at only. When was the last time you saw a meme where a father said he wanted his daughter’s suiters to treat her with respect and let her make her own decisions and choices? That’s right, never.

And so here this meme is, suggesting that a “real man” should treat his wife or girlfriend the way he would would want another man to treat his daughter. Given the way we talk about fathers and daughters in our society, this is extremely infantilizing. Respect for women as people disappears, swallowed up by a respect for women that is defined by their relationship to men.

I appreciate the assertion that woman was created from man’s side “to be equal,” but nothing in the rest of the meme reflects this focus on equality. Instead there’s a focus on women’s tears, because we all know women are delicate flowers who cry at the drop of a hat. And then there is a focus on women being created under man’s arm, “to be protected.” Well guess what? A protector/protected relationship is not equality. Why not “a real man gives women the tools they need to protect themselves”? After all, if a woman must rely on a man for protection, who will protect her from that man?

Let’s talk about the stereotype of women crying easily for a moment. One thing I’ve noticed is that sometimes women cry when they want to be heard but aren’t being listened to. Sometimes women cry to get the attention of a man in their life because saying “this matters to me, please listen and take me seriously” isn’t enough. As a general rule, men don’t tend to take women as seriously as they do other men. But when tears come—then they listen. Then they realize shit, this is serious, she really means this!

I’m not saying that all women do this (they don’t) or that this is what is happening every time a woman cries (it isn’t). What I’m saying is that I’ve noticed a pattern where men refuse to pay attention to what a woman is saying until she cries, and then all of a sudden they realize it’s important. But no, this meme can’t be imposed upon to include any realization of this pattern. It’s all “be careful when you make a woman cry because God counts her tears” rather than “a real man listens to a woman and doesn’t drive her to tears by refusing to take her concerns seriously.”

Again with the protectors rhetoric—and again I say, why not equip women to protect themselves? If a woman must always have a protector, she is vulnerable to abuse by that protector. If a woman is equipped to protect herself, she will not have to depend on a fallible male to protect her. Seeing women as beings that need protection gets in the way of seeing women as equals. Instead we are weaker vessels that need male protection—and, presumably, male leadership, because we apparently aren’t capable of looking after ourselves.

Note too the use of the phrase “our women.” In this context, it denotes ownership.

Christian memes about “real men” often repeat traditional societal assumptions about male/female relationships, such as the assumption that a man will pay for a woman’s dinner on a date. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t recall seeing that in the Bible, so it’s worth noting that they’re pulling things from cultural norms that date back to the Victorian Era and treating them as a sort of gospel truth. Either way, the wording in this meme—”pay for you,” rather than the less confusing “pay for your food” or “provide for you”—is creepy.

While praying for a woman doesn’t have the same problematic aspects as the “protector” rhetoric, I’m curious about what rhetoric is to be engaged in these prayers. There’s a difference between “please help Wendy today as she undergoes her performance review at work” and “please help Wendy see that, as a woman, she needs to submit to my leadership” or “please make Wendy realize that she shouldn’t have stood up to me today.” There’s an assumption in these memes that prayer is always good, and a lack of understanding that there are certain sorts of prayer that can make a situation worse.

Here again we see the repetition of traditional patriarchal gender norms—men are supposed to open doors and pay for their dates’ food. Note also the last line, where men are presented as guides. Why does a woman need a guide, exactly? It is true that relationship partners influence each other—as do individuals in other relationships—but I’m uncomfortable with the one-way nature of the phrase as used here and the centering of the idea of guiding, which suspects that one party must lead and the other will naturally follow. Women aren’t treated as independent entities who chose their own direction in these memes.

I could go on, but the memes have started to become repetitive. The same focus on protection and opening doors marches from meme to meme. In each meme, a focus on respect—true respect, not simple sexual abstinence—is glaringly absent. And this isn’t only an evangelical thing—secular memes about “real men” also tend to focus on protection and lack any mention of respect. And that, quite frankly, is tragically sad.

But let’s not leave off on a downer! Let me leave you with this:

Note: This is all without even getting into what “real men” means. What’s the alternative, “fake men”? Speaking of “real men” also ties into ideas of masculinity. Why not focus on how “people” should treat each other—i.e. with compassion, respect, understanding—rater than what “real men” should or should not do? 

Why HSLDA Finds the Proverbial Village Threatening

The following is an excerpt from R.L. Stollar’s “Children as Divine Rental Property: An Exposition on HSLDA’s Philosophy of Parental Rights.” You can read the paper in full here.

Who do children belong to? This is a much-debated question. The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) insists that parents have the “sole authority” to “carefully craft” their children’s lives and minds, while denying those children any rights of their own. HSLDA thus finds other answers to that question threatening: such as children belonging to themselves, the government, or the community. These other answers redistribute rights away from parents and towards non-parental units. But one particular answer — Hillary Rodham Clinton’s “it takes a village” answer — has received a disproportionate amount of attention from the organization.

HSLDA employees seem inexplicably obsessed with Hillary Rodham Clinton and her advocacy for children’s rights. The late Chris Klicka said Clinton had “declared war on parents’ rights in America”[i] because of her support of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. HSLDA founder Michael Farris made one of the villains in his fictional book Forbid Them Not a character named “Helene Rodman,” whom he describes as “the first female president of the United States” with a “perfectly plastic smile,” a “feminist agenda,” and a desire to attack “home schooling.”[ii] Farris has freely admitted that Rodman is based on Clinton.[iii] In Forbid Them Not‘s alternate universe, “Rodman” (or Clinton) takes advantage of “a landslide election, which swept a Democratic majority into both houses of Congress” and immediately signs the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Naturally, all hell breaks loose and a Farris-esque hero named Cooper Stone (a lawyer who moved from Washington State to Loudon County, Virginia,[iv] just like Farris) must swoop in and save the day.

Other HSLDA employees have also obsessed with Clinton,[v] in particular her book It Takes a Village that called for “comprehensive early education programs for disadvantaged children and their families.”[vi] The “it takes a village” concept has long been a target of conservative Christians (beyond just HSLDA) — which is odd, because the concept is nothing new nor did it begin with Clinton. The “Children belong to their community” answer to the question “To whom do children belong?” dates back millennia. It is neither Clintonian nor Marxist — nor anything else modern, for that matter. Yet conservative Christians today (including HSLDA) fixate on Clinton as the arch-nemesis of their own values who threatens to bring Big Brother into families’ living rooms and bedrooms.

The most explicit articulation of this sentiment comes from Michael Farris’s 1999 presentation before the Howard Center for Family, Religion, & Society’s World Congress of Families in Geneva, Switzerland.[vii] Farris says “it takes a village” advocates (whom Farris equivocates with child welfare workers) use terrorist-like tactics: “Those who believe that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ are willing to use coercion, threats, raw police power, and intimidation to enforce their agenda.  Parents who raise children in a manner that the village doesn’t like have learned to fear the knock on the door lest they hear the dreaded words, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help raise your children.’”

Farris relates international children’s rights efforts to these terrorist-like tactics. He specifically calls out a number of children’s rights as negative, such as: (1) “the right of the child to express his/or her opinion” concerning the child’s own education; (2) the right of a child to not be physically hit by parents; and (3) the right of “children, particularly adolescents, to pursue, medical or legal counseling without parental consent”. Children should not have these rights, Farris makes clear. And if children are granted them, Farris believes the consequences will be dire: “It is up to this generation of parents to act for the generations to come to ensure that we protect the family in the black and white of our Constitution lest the global village overtake our homes.”[viii]

These three children’s rights — the right to self-determine education, the right not to be physically hit by parents, and the right to self-determine one’s medical treatment — are consistently targeted by HSLDA. In fact, nearly every statement HSLDA has made in the past (and continues to make today) against the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child — or any other declaration of children’s rights — calls out these three rights negatively. It is worthwhile, therefore, to look at each respectively:

The right to self-determine education

The right to self-determine education is, of course, a direct threat to HSLDA’s specific form of homeschooling advocacy. HSLDA holds back little on this count: Klicka was forthright about the fact that, if children had rights, then they could say no to homeschooling — which Klicka would not tolerate. “If children have rights,” he said, “they could refuse to be home-schooled.”[ix] Thus to protect the ideal of homeschooling, Klicka denounced giving children rights. In fact, in a later article written on behalf of HSLDA by both him and former HSLDA attorney Doug Phillips, to “give children fundamental rights enforceable against their parents” was explicitly said to be a “threat.”[x] As Klicka and Phillips later define “fundamental rights” as rights such as “speech, press, religion,” one can deduce that HSLDA does not believe children should have rights to speech and religion enforceable against their parents. Indeed, the Washington Post has noted that two reasons HSLDA opposes the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child are “the group fears that ratifying the treaty would mean children could choose their own religion” and “a child’s ‘right to be heard’ could trigger a governmental review of any decision a parent made that a child didn’t like.”[xi]

Klicka made this explicit in The Right Choice: Home Schooling. He explained that rights such as “freedom of expression,” “freedom of religion,” “freedom of association,” and “right to privacy” “would virtually undermine parents’ rights as we know it in the United States. Parents no longer would have the basic right to control [their children],” in particular “what church they attend.” Giving “children the fundamental rights of freedom of association, freedom of expression, freedom of religion,” and so forth is thus “in direct opposition to of [sic] those parents’ rights.”[xii]

The right to not be physically hit by parents

The right to not be physically hit by parents is a direct threat to HSLDA’s advocacy of corporal punishment. The aforementioned quote by Chris Klicka continues as follows: “If children have rights, they could refuse to be home-schooled, plus it takes away parents’ rights to physically discipline their children.”[xiii] Klicka and HSLDA not only defend the right of parents to physically hit children, they actively fight to expand that right to include foster parents physically punishing foster children: “[Klicka] had a similar explanation for [HSLDA’s] opposition to increased federal child abuse laws — more laws would mean more likelihood that corporal punishment could be defined as child abuse…Administrators from Patrick Henry College were among those testifying before the Virginia Department of Social Services for a measure that would allow foster parents to physically discipline foster children.”[xiv]

It is important to highlight that HSLDA does not simply defend the right of parents (natural or foster) to physically hit children. Rather, HSLDA explicitly promotes parents doing so. Michael Farris has declared that, “I am a firm believer in—dare I say it?—spanking. When the children are little I will spank either gender for deliberate disobedience of a rule that they have been taught.” Farris describes a father who will not use corporal punishment on his daughter as a “pushover” who “loves his daughter in principle, but…hates her in practice.”[xv]

In Klicka’s book The Right Choice: Homeschooling, Gregg Harris contributes a guest chapter (“How Should We Then Teach? Walking In Light Of God’s Principles Of Education”) where he instructs parents that, “Spanking is one divinely mandated method which must not be ignored,” and that if parents do not spank, their children “could become another statistic in the war on drug abuse, AIDs, and drunk driving.” Parents who do not use corporal punishment are “disobey[ing] God by discarding a clearly biblical method of child discipline.”[xvi]

The right to self-determine one’s medical treatment

The right to self-determine one’s medical treatment is a direct threat to HSLDA’s defense of parents’ religious freedom — contextually defined as the right of parents to withhold medical treatment from their children if their religion thus dictates. Religious freedom forms the cornerstone of HSLDA’s objection to mandatory vaccinations, for example. Chris Klicka has declared that, “Immunizations should not be mandated for all children [because] many parents have strong religious convictions against vaccinating their children.”[xvii] Klicka defends medical religious exemptions because, “Religious exemption statutes simply codify the protections of an individual’s right to freely exercise their religious belief as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and parallel portions of the state constitutions.” However, Klicka never explains how an individual’s right to religious expression implies a right to impose that expression on another individual — i.e., a child’s medical treatment.

Similarly, HSLDA’s current senior counsel Dee Black has expressed support for parents exempting their children from not only immunizations but other health care as well. HSLDA offers support to homeschooling parents who “claim a religious exemption from immunizations,” Black says, “and health and medical services.”[xviii] Farris believes this is appropriate because, even when it comes to complicated medical procedures of which parents have zero education or expertise, “God has delegated these kinds of decisions to parents, not to doctors, social workers, or courts.”[xix]

Since “the village” — the concept of community taken for granted by many cultures and societies throughout history — could potentially lead the recognition of one or more of these 3 rights, it takes on a purely nightmarish quality to Farris and HSLDA. This nightmare drives them to shrink the circle of necessary and desirable socialization to the nuclear family — as we see, for example, in a statement by HSLDA’s Will Estrada that, “It doesn’t take a village to raise a child. It takes parents.”[xx]

But note: while mass mobilization on a national or international scale via government-funded programs (such as public schools, day care, health care, etc.) to recreate the “village” atmosphere lost due to the last few centuries of industrialization is indeed a relatively novel idea, so too is the idea that a nuclear family can adequately carry all the responsibilities previously carried by the “village.”[xxi] (This is why John Holt once argued that, “The family we talk so much about preserving is a modern invention.”[xxii]) While HSLDA does not hesitate to point out the former, they never provide any justification or rationale for the latter. Whether this is due to historical ignorance or intentional omission is unclear. What is clear is that they believe, contrary to actual facts, that the 20th century, American, heterosexual two-parent nuclear family concept is the historical norm.

Click here to read the rest of “Children as Divine Rental Property: An Exposition on HSLDA’s Philosophy of Parental Rights.”

Sources

[i] Chris Klicka, The Right Choice: Home Schooling, Noble Publishing Associations, 4th printing and revised edition, 1995, p. 243.

[ii] Michael Farris, Forbid Them Not, Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002, p. 398-400, 448.

[iii] Michael Farris, “Parental Rights: Why Now is the Time to Act,” Court Report, Marcy/April 2006, link, accessed on December 3, 2015: “In 2002, I published a novel, Forbid Them Not (Broadman & Holman), with the premise that a thinly-disguised Hillary Clinton had been elected president. The first act of her new administration was to secure the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). I do not claim the gift of prophecy, but there is a looming possibility that I may be proven right.”

[iv] Farris, Forbid Them Not, p. 27-8.

[v] Examples of HSLDA’s singling out of Hillary Clinton include: (i) Michael Farris, “Appeals court rejects coerced entry to home,” Washington Post editorial, September 7, 1999, link, accessed on December 3, 2015. Michael Farris begins generalizing about the “it takes a village” people: “We have heard from the ‘it-takes-a-village people’ that the government’s need [sic] to protect children from abuse.” (ii) HSLDA’s autobiographical series, “1983-1998: Marking the Milestones — A Review of History: Hardwon Freedoms,” describes Clinton’s “village” concept in its “International Threats” section: “So-called child advocacy groups, such as Children’s Defense Fund—part of the ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ establishment—have begun to use international bodies, like the United Nations, to gain more control over the world’s families.” See link, accessed on December 3, 2015. (iii) HSLDA, “Pray for Parental Rights,” January 5, 2005, link, accessed on December 3, 2015. HSLDA declared it is “increasingly concerned about the erosion of parental rights, especially when religious parents want to do something that offends modern secular sensibilities. There is a profound tension between the rights and responsibilities of parents, on the one hand, and the increasingly popular ‘It Takes a Village’ mentality on the other.” (iv) Michael Farris, Home School Heartbeat, “Parental Rights, Part 1 — Lessons from History,” Volume 67, Program 1, April 24, 2006, link, accessed on December 3, 2015. Farris says, “There are three direct threats to parental rights,” one of which is, “There’s a rising number of anti-parent politicians who believe, like Hillary Clinton, that ‘it takes a village’ to raise a child.” (v) Michael Farris, “New World Playpen,” American Conservative, October 1, 2009, link, accessed on December 3, 2015. Farris describes “a coalition seeking ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child” as “the faithful, who subscribe to the notion that ‘It Takes an (International) Village to Raise a Child.’” (vi) Will Estrada, HSLDA, “Whose children are they? UPDATE: HSLDA’s Will Estrada counters Melissa Harris-Perry on The Daily Caller,” link, accessed on December 3, 2015. Will Estrada, HSLDA’s Director of Federal Relations, criticizes MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry by way of criticizing Clinton: “It doesn’t take a village to raise a child. It takes parents…This leftist ridiculous idea that children somehow belong to the state—I thought we defeated this back with socialism, back with fascism.” (vii) One of Will Estrada’s speech presentations takes direct aim at Clinton: “The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child—It Takes a Village to Raise Your Child.” See link, accessed on December 3, 2015. These are but a few of many possible examples, all of which indicate HSLDA is particularly bothered and/or threatened by not only the “village” concept in itself, but perhaps more importantly by Hillary Clinton’s specific articulation of it.

[vi] Katherine Paterson, “First, Families,” New York Times, February 11, 1996, link, accessed on December 12, 2014.

[vii] Michael Farris, “Remarks to The World Congress of Families II,” presented at the 1999 World Congress of Families, The Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society, link, accessed on December 3, 2015.

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Chris Klicka, as quoted by Helen Cordes, “Battling for the heart and soul of home-schoolers,” Salon, October 2, 2000, link, accessed on December 3, 2015.

[x] Christopher J. Klicka and Douglas W. Phillips, “Why Parental Rights Laws Are Necessary,” Educational Leadership, November 1997, Volume 55, Number 3, link, accessed on December 3, 2015.

[xi] Karen Attiah, “Why won’t the U.S. ratify the U.N.’s child rights treaty?”, Washington Post, November 21, 2014, link, accessed on December 3, 2015.

[xii] Klicka, The Right Choice, 1995, p. 247, 249, 253.

[xiii] Klicka, as quoted by Helen Cordes, 2014.

[xiv] Ibid.

[xv] Michael Farris, How A Man Prepares His Daughters For Life, Bethany House Publishers, 1996, p. 30-1.

[xvi] Gregg Harris in Klicka, The Right Choice, 1995, p. 188, 190.

[xvii] Christopher Klicka, “Immunizations: A Parent’s Choice,” HSLDA, September 13, 2007, link, accessed on December 3, 2015.

[xviii] Dee Black, “Homeschool Affidavits: Health and Medical Services/Immunization Requirements,” HSLDA, January 6, 2014, link, accessed on December 3, 2015.

[xix] Michael Farris, “Who Makes the Really Tough Decisions: Parents? Or Doctors?”, HSLDA, November 29, 2011, link, accessed on December 3, 2015.

[xx] Will Estrada as quoted by The Daily Caller, “Homeschool advocate obliterates MSNBC host over ‘collective’ view of children,” April 14, 2013, link, accessed on December 12, 2014.

[xxi] In fact, there is growing evidence that this will only further strain the health of nuclear families. For example, see Emelie A. Olson, “Socioeconomic and Psycho-Cultural Contexts of Child Abuse and Neglect in Turkey,” Child Abuse and Neglect: Cross-Cultural Perspectives, edited by Jill E. Korbin, published by University of California Press, 1981, p. 96: “[There is] another result of the increased [modernization in Turkey]: children are valued more for ‘primary group ties, affection, and love’ and less for security in old age and utilitarian values. Ironically, as children become relatively more important as sources of love, support, and companionship to parents cut off from their family and neighborhood networks, it is possible that the parents’ unmet emotional needs may lead to increasingly high expectations and unrealistic demands on their small children and thus to more classic child abuse.”

[xxii] John Holt, Escape from Childhood, published by Holt Associates, 1996.

The Battle of Peer Dependency: Part 2

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Dan Slee.

Continued from Part 1

Let’s jump right in, shall we?

“The first step in overcoming peer dependency is determining whether or not a child is peer dependent. The second is accurately assessing the depth of the problem and then taking the proper steps. One approach a parent might take in order to find out if a son or daughter is peer dependent is to tell your child that all outside activities with peers will be suspended for one week. Will your child willingly and joyfully go along with that plan, or will they whine and cry, manipulate and control, and completely make your life miserable until they can do things with their friends? ….ask them, ‘Who has your heart? Who would you say in in control of your life?’ ”

So lemme get this straight: tell a normal kid that they have to cease and desist all the normal stuff they do outside the home (keep in mind we’re talking about homeschoolers who rely on their parents to have an outside social life), then when they freak out like normal kids, give them a triumphant “AHA! You are peer dependent. We must fix this.” Um, no, actually, they’re just normal human beings who like the company of other human beings. How would this mother handle it if someone told her “You won’t be allowed out of your house or to see anyone else but your kids for a week. And tell me now, who has your heart”? Sounds abusive and manipulative, right? Oh, but not when it’s directed at kids. Kids can be treated as non-humans because they’re on the bottom of the Godly hierarchy. Suddenly “Who has your heart?” sounds uber creepy to me. All this emphasis on who owns whom.

“Accurately knowing who has each child’s heart will be to the parent’s advantage….many parents have said that they lost the heart of their child as early as 8 years of age. Whatever the age, it is never too early to win the heart of your child, then purpose and plan to keep it.”

In what other context is this type of control OK?? Place this in the context of a husband toward his wife, and you have the set-up for a textbook emotionally abusive marriage. Nowhere does Sears ever think to ask what the child wants.

What the child wants in this paradigm is completely irrelevant.

“A child having an independent social life is a cultural phenomenon that has become an accepted practice in Christian homes, resulting in the decay and impotency of the modern Christian family. Many young people find their lives shipwrecked because they have placed too much emphasis on friends instead of family.”

Here we go again with the family v. friends false dichotomy.

“The lack of purposeful and meaningful relationship between siblings and parents has come to be accepted as normal. Not only do present day trends of divorce, abandonment, and death add to the breakdown of the family, but the structure and foundation of the family itself is faulty. Families growing up in the same house, but not sharing each other’s lives, have created separation and aloneness, which often times results in suicide, a leading cause of death among teens.”

I don’t even know what to say to that. Well, actually, these days I’d say “citation, please?” But apparently back in the world I grew up in, nobody bothered with such cumbersome things as citations and evidence. People could spout whatever harmful nonsense they wanted to, write a book about it, even! And nobody bothered to say “prove it”. That could’ve saved a lot of people a buttload of trouble. Like the confusing predicament of being a teenager who is told that because you don’t like your siblings and would love to have friends your own age, you’re responsible for the crumbling of the family and the downfall of the world.

Sears talks about how they found other homeschooling friends with the same goals and the same “standards”. How those relationships were “heaven-sent”; how her kids were happy and making friends. But of course, this was just Satan trying to deceive them and bring them down. “My philosophy that my children needed a best friend outside the Lord and our family was the instrument that set them up for failure.” So apparently even other squeaky-clean homeschooling families are a threat. One of her sons become “peer dependent”, and she spent 5 years trying to get his heart back. She even had to battle other Christians who told her that having friends was perfectly healthy. But she knew better. God told her, revealed to her in his Word, how friends are evil.

Here are some more gems that make up this book and its philosophies, all highlighted in orange years ago by my mom. Read and wonder:

“Children have a great capacity to rationalize truth in order to get what they want, when they want it. It is the parent’s responsibility to train their sons and daughters to obey (Eph. 6:1-3) Remember that partial obedience is total disobedience and good motives do not make disobedience right.”

 

“Partial obedience is not obedience” [this is said many times throughout the book]

 

“Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft and stubbornness is as the iniquity and idolatry….in the Hebrew, rebellion is synonymous with bitterness.”

“Rebellion” was defined as anything we wanted and thought that was against our family’s rules and standards. Having my own opinion on anything often got the label “rebellious” tossed my way. Obedience had to be instant and cheerful, as described in Sears’ book, or it was “rebellion”. Rebellion, we were told, was one of the worse sins of them all, often causing a domino effect of other sins to take hold in our lives.

“The good activities that my children were participating in seemed never to be enough. Once the activity was over, and the pleasure had worn off, they were off to the next thing. The pleasures of this world, no matter how innocent, are never satisfying…..This is why peers and their activities become all consuming.”

Keep in mind that activities for homeschoolers usually meant church, AWANA, Bible studies, homeschool co-ops and field trips to museums, and possibly (if we were lucky) going to play as a family at a friends’ house.

“Serving others is one way to fulfill our need for activity; another is sharing the gospel message”.

You don’t need friends, you just need to volunteer more.

“By not understanding the text of 1 Sam. 15:23, I didn’t see that when my children would peck at the direction or rules of the home, they were being stubborn….Parents need to understand that the root cause of peer dependency is ‘…stubbornness is as iniquity as idolatry’ “.

Sears describes here how God revealed to her that the word for “stubbornness” actually meant “pecking away at”. She goes on to describe how a child being stubborn was the same as that child pecking away at the standards of their family. Just like chickens peck at the ground.

“Were their own brothers and sister important to them, and did they desire to be with them, regardless of the activity, circumstances, or what age group was there? I realized in that instance what a tragic mistake I had been making. I had actually trained our encouraged my children to prefer people outside of our family to be their best friends. My heart was broken as I thought about the state of my family, and what I was going to do.”

“If you can’t treat your siblings well and get along with them, you don’t deserve to have friends. You must love family more than friends.” That’s what I was told many times as a child and teen. I was often “grounded” from spending time with the very few friends I had because of arguing with my sister. To this day, my closest friends are most definitely not my family members so I’m not sure how well that philosophy worked out.

“Understanding that God has given each individual in the family a life purpose, these life purposes will complement the purpose of your family….individual life purposes will work together, in the life of the family, through trials, struggles, and suffering, for God to be glorified to a lost and dying world.”

But goddess forbid that anyone has any life purpose that does not fit the cult, I mean, family, and that kids grow up to have their own lives that have nothing to do with the plans of The Family.

“Knowing that peer dependency is a problem for all age groups and understanding its definition is the first key to having a godly family. As parent realize the potential life-long consequences and danger of peer dependency that will be upon the lives of their children, restructuring the family will occur. Only when the family is what God has ordained it to be will we see nations coming to Christ.”

 

“One of the dangers with church youth groups is that the youth minister must have the hearts of the children in order to accomplish his goals. The youth group in itself becomes a family unit with the youth minister and his wife acting as surrogate parents.”

This just screams “isolate and control” to me.

“Young people have been so segregated in our society that few can adequately converse outside their own peer group.”

 

“Family friends add depth to the family structure; however, many times friends draw individual family members away from the family rather than the friend associating with the family, strengthening the whole unit.”

 

“Children don’t always know what they want, nor do they always know what is best for them. That is why God gave them parents, and why He gave parents Himself.”

It’s very convenient for the parents that they are not only accountable only to God, but they are the ones that get to decide what God wants, what God is saying, and what God wants the children to do with their lives. What the children think or want does not matter and is always trumped by what the parents think God is telling them. In this system, children have absolutely no recourse. And the family becomes a little cult.

Then there’s about seven pages on how your family will go to hell and won’t get free unless you, the mother, confess all your sins and your own peer dependency and get yourself right with god, and how if your kids are failing, it’s probably your fault for unconfessed sin.

Then she explains how to “give your children to god” by building an alter in your mind and sacrificing them on it.

That’s right, folks. You must symbolically sacrifice your children to God, or none of this will work. I wish I were making this up.

One of my favorite puke-worthy parts was when she described how her older teenage son wanted to listen to “ungodly music” (which, for a Gothardite, means anything with a “rock beat” or syncopation). She explains how she told him that “God has shown us a better way to live and to experience his presence in our lives. This music will hinder you and our family’s life goals. Therefore, you may choose to listen to it, but if you do, you will also be choosing to move out of our home.” She goes on to say how she stuck to her guns to kick him out over his music choice, even helped him pack. At the last minute, he changed his mind and she praised the Lord for rewarding her for being faithful. Mother of the Year right there.

I could go on and on. But I’m emotionally burning out over here. Because this isn’t just some crazy shit I randomly found and decided to put on the blog so others could gawk at it. It’s personal. It defines much of my teenage years. But I do want to highlight one more quote before I quit:

“One aspect of winning the heart of my child was trying to discern which activities were acceptable and which ones were not…..I tried to think through each activity and discern whether it was right or wrong….this approach caused great offense among fellow Christians because if there wasn’t anything wrong with the activity, the focus changed to the character or spiritual maturity of the other individuals involved. It wasn’t until our family purpose was defined and clarity was given for the direction that God was taking our family that the struggles lessened. I could take each activity or thing in question to the Lord and see if it would accomplish the goals that the Lord had for our family. For example: our family purpose was for each member to delight in each other and in the Lord. Activities that arose which would not accomplish our family purpose would not be attended.”

This explains so much. Why my mom could just say “no, you aren’t going to go do that thing because it doesn’t fit our family values.” When there was nothing wrong with The Thing and it would be fun and everyone else was going. In reality, this gives parents absolute authority to do whatever the hell they want and arbitrarily forbid whatever the hell they want and say it is because God told them to.

And if we questioned them, we were questioning God.

We had no say in the matter. There was no way out for us. We were trapped in this hell. We were powerless children, and to this day I experience panic attacks whenever I see or hear that kind of bondage in parent/child relationships. Anything that makes me feel like a powerless, trapped child at the mercy of unreasonable adults will set off my stress response, even watching a movie with those kinds of themes.

There was a time I wasn’t allowed to have my own friends. They had to be “family friends” and I had to drag my younger siblings along when I wanted to do stuff. My mom was a social person though so thankfully she didn’t do very well at the whole isolate yourself from friends thing. She would’ve withered and died too. But that didn’t stop the blame and manipulation from being thrown around. If I didn’t get along with my sister, our family was at stake. If I questioned the “family standards” I was making everyone miserable and my heart was not right with God. I was told I didn’t need friends, that my siblings were my friends, and if I couldn’t get along with them then I didn’t deserve friends outside the family.

Family was worshipped above all.

Family had to look, sound, feel, and appear a certain way or we were failing to be a testimony. Peers were evil, friends that didn’t share our standards were threats. As I got older, peers who were boys were definitely evil. Things like “emotional fornication” and “purity” and “defrauding” and “giving away your heart” entered into the already convoluted and ridiculously complicated rules for having friends. It was impossible to navigate and it was hell on earth.

People can stop saying we’re exaggerating now.

They can stop telling us “it wasn’t that bad” and “well, that’s crazy, it didn’t happen to me, I can’t imagine that actually happened” and “not all homeschoolers”. Not only did it actually happen, it was taught and promoted by various leaders in our world. Most of my friends report similar experiences. We used to jokingly ask “did our parents have a manual for this crap they taught?” Well, maybe they did. I’m holding this book in my hands right now. A book that my mom highlighted the shit out of. Full of teachings that so many of us heard and had thrown at us and were used to control and manipulate for years. Read these quotes then tell us “it wasn’t that bad”.

The Battle of Peer Dependency

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Dan Slee.

Sometimes when homeschool alumni tell stories about the way things were — the things we were taught, stuff our parents said, and the teachings we practiced — we are not really believed. Our recollections are met with incredulity, doubt, and outright disbelief. Sometimes, our own parents are the ones telling us “that didn’t happen like that, you aren’t remembering correctly, I never said/did/taught/believed those things”. Those presently homeschooling deny that homeschoolers were like that and tell us “well, you were just part of a small group of extremists”.

It’s hard to be the focus of both gaslighting from the inside and mainstream disbelief from the outside.

We start to think maybe we really aren’t remembering correctly.

But then something happens that helps solidify the fact that we aren’t crazy, we aren’t making shit up, and we can trust our memories. That happened to me this week, and in sharing it with my friends, I think I helped them gain that clarity too.

In cleaning my basement this week, I found an old book that belonged to my parents. A book that we bought at an IBLP Basic Seminar in Seattle, WA, around the time I was 13-14. It is called The Battle of Peer Dependency, by Marina Sears. And when I opened that book and started to read the parts my mom highlighted 16 years ago, it was like stepping into a time machine. I was 14-18 again and all the memories, feelings, situations, even smells from that time hit me full force and in color and clarity.

I’m going to share excerpts from this book, along with some very personal and vulnerable memories of how they were used during my teen years.

My reasons are simple: so that those on the “outside” of the Christian homeschool movement can see the type of emotional and spiritual abuse that we thought was normal. And so those on the inside, both past and present, can see that they were and are not alone.

That we really do remember these things correctly. That they were taught and believed. That they were toxic and abusive.

The book opens with a story of the author’s husband dying in a car accident, and the many sufferings that their family went through, all God’s purpose to show them how to be a family. She alludes to how she would need the lessons learned through suffering for the future of trying to hold their family together, a family threatened by the ominous-sounding “peer dependency”. There is a lot in this first chapter about suffering being God’s will to teach needed lessons.

The entire second chapter is the story of Sears’ fear and her desire to please God and trust him, mostly with her children and their hearts. She sets the stage for a “battle of peer dependency” as something big, bad, ugly, and antithesis to a solid family unit.

Peers are the enemy of children’s hearts; children’s attachment to having friends is the enemy of the family.

This she state quite clearly:

“A child having an independent social life is a cultural phenomenon that has become an accepted practice in Christian homes, resulting in the decay and impotency of the modern Christian family.”

The family v. friends battle is the framework for the entire book.

“Once I entered the battle with peer dependency, a new and different kind of fear gripped my heart. Seeing my children being drawn to the things of this world, I feared that they might never let Christ be the Lord of their lives.”

Peers and independent social lives are the enemy of the family. They are even the enemies of your children’s salvation.

“Even more devastating was the idea that they might never trust Christ as Lord of their lives.”

 

“For five years I struggled with peer dependency, not understanding what it was. I thought if Dave [her son] would just have more character or love God and his family more, the struggle would disappear…..suffering works to motivate one to trust the Lord…This is an essential principle for the family who will enter the battle to win back the heart of a son or daughter from his or her peers. The reason this is vital is so parents won’t become weary in the midst of the battle.”

Suffering for Jesus, learning lessons, parental sacrifice, creating “character”, setting life up as a battle between family allegiance and having friends are the themes of this book. The next part goes into “The Fight”. She talks about her “battle” with her kids wanting friends. It is framed as a battle for the hearts of your children.

You can either be a strong family and have your children’s hearts, or you can have friends.

The false dichotomy here is pretty obvious, but let’s look at more of her advice and her story.

“As the years have passed, I know why many parents are broken-hearted after giving their lives to see their children follow the Lord. These young people have grown into adults grieving in spirit for their failures and living with the consequences of poor choices they made as teenagers. Sadly, they grow up, marry, and have children of their own, still locked in peer dependency. Many are not understanding that they have a greater desire to please others or be like others, rather than the individual God has created them to be….This is not the only reason for broken young people and broken homes, but it is something that every family will face in varying degree. Understanding the battle of peer dependency and fighting it according to God’s word will decide the outcome and success in children’s lives….

 

How then, with God as the head of our home, did I lose the heart of one of my children to peer dependency? At first I didn’t even realize what peer dependency meant. In fact, it took me five years to understand the struggle and realize that I was in for the fight of my life….I soon realized the battle of peer dependency was going to cost me my son’s life, and that I needed to understand that it was a life and death battle.”

She goes on (and on and on) dramatically about this “battle” and how peer dependency will cause children to fall away from God, will destroy the family unit, and ultimately the entire nation. The whole chapter reads like a letter of self-inflicted martyrdom by a mother who is whining about how hard she had to fight and what sacrifices she made to keep her family free from the diabolical threat of friends. I’m sure I don’t have to explain why this is utterly ridiculous. I wish I had the words to explain why this sounded so good to many of our parents. I mean, did the homeschooling cult attract control freaks or what?! It would be funny if it didn’t hit such a personal, raw place in my heart. If I didn’t have to explain what these teachings did to so many of us, how they broke us, how we still struggle with healthy peer relationships decades later. If we didn’t have to constantly fight to get people to believe that it really was that bad.

So, what is “peer dependency”? The author explains:

“Webster’s Dictionary defines peer as ‘an equal or member of the nobility’. Dependence is ‘to rely as for support, to place trust, or to be determined’. Therefore, on can define peer dependence as an equal or member of nobility that one can rely upon, places trust in, and will be determined to do so.”

That’s one of the most epic splicing together of definitions that I’ve ever seen. But it’s also a popular method of finding meanings in scripture that Gothard himself uses. Given that this was written by an ATI mom and sold at a Basic Seminar, it’s reasonable to assume she used the same twisted methods of discovering what God has to say as Gothard does. Actually, Gothard’s teachings, catch-phrases, and strange word definitions are prolific throughout this book.

Then we get into the weird hierarchy, “emotions are evil”, and “agreements/strongholds in your heart” teachings that are straight from Gothard:

“When a young person is in a position that they have taken an equal, or someone they think highly of and are determined to trust and rely upon, a parent is in trouble. To place trust in a peer, one must make a choice with their will to believe in that peer. They come to an agreement within their heart that the one whom they trust is worthy of that trust….Throughout the decision process made by the young person, he has involved his mind, will, and emotions. He has processed the peer through his intellect, enjoyed and desired what he as seen, and has made a decision with his will to follow in order to become like his peer. As we continue to define the struggle, there is one more word that must be considered. Through Scripture, one can find the heart defined as the mind, will, and emotions of a person.”

So let’s create a problem, then see the entire world through this problem, write some stuff that sounds a little like legit psychology to those who know nothing about psychology, and then write a book on how you overcame this salvation-threatening problem and saved the souls of your children. Mother as the martyr-savior. This is starting to sound all-too familiar.

“Some may think that being peer dependent is not such a bad thing….however, Scripture is clear that it is a very big deal to God. In fact, if is God’s desire for the father to have his children’s hearts, because in the last days, if they don’t, He will smite the earth with a curse.”

The above quote is really important if you want to understand the undercurrent of the homeschool movement.

Gothard and other homeschool leaders loved the scripture in Malachi 4:6 that said “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” And upon this verse they built their cults. This verse was used to promote everything from Vision Forum’s “Biblical Patriarchy” and Family Integrated Churches to the pet doctrines of homeschooling and was very likely part of the foundation for the entire homeschooling movement in the 80’s and 90’s. Homeschooling was supposed to turn the father’s hearts toward their children and vice versa. We were told that this was the only way to promote God’s Kingdom on earth, that this was God’s will for families, that it would be the only way to have a strong nation. This verse was used to justify all kind of cult-like family practices, including not allowing peer friendships and individual social lives, as you see throughout Sears’ book.

In reality, it was about control.

“Another factor involved when a father does not have his child’s heart is the principle that whoever has the heart of your child controls him.”

That’s about the most honest statement I’ve seen in any of these books on “keeping your child’s heart”.

“Peer dependency is the loss of your child’s heart. Dressing, talking, and having the same morals is just the beginning. When a father has lost the heart of his child, the child is torn between the direction and wishes of his parents and that of his friends. In the beginning, he may still desire to please his parents. As time goes on, however, the family will experience great turmoil as the peer dependent young persona grows deeper into dependency and rebellion. People who are peer dependent will find themselves beginning to lower the standards that their parents have tried to instill in them. Even young people who have grown up in very godly homes will suffer the consequences and bondage of peer dependency.”

Please tell me that others can see what is happening here, what is actually being said. “Peer dependency is the loss of your child’s heart” and your control over him, per this author. This reads like a manual of how to isolate your kids and ensure that they will never be exposed to anything other than your own teachings; that they will never learn to think for themselves; that they will never question you and your rules.

These are instructions on how to control your children and to rid them of free will and ensure they turn out to be the people you decide they will be.

This is the goal, very clearly stated, of the homechooling movement that I and my friends grew up in. We were raised in cults, even those of us who weren’t part of ATI or Vision Forum or other organized groups. Our families became cults and operated at such. Complete with ultimate authoritarian control, emotional abuse, religious manipulation, isolation from outside influences, censorship, physical abuse, and absolutely no accountability to anyone else. Our parents were taught that this was how to have a strong family and this was how to ensure their kids turned into the robots we were meant to be.

The author goes on to use all the right catch-phrases: “they want to be like the world instead of like Christ; a quest for pleasure, materialism, and self-gratification; comfortable with the things of the world; children and young people act differently when they are with their peers than they do with adults; some Christian groups have outward evidence of the Christian life, but they are inwardly peer dependent.” On and on and on she goes, setting up this danger, this battle, this threat to families and children. THINK OF THE CHILDREN.

“The particular child who was deeply involved in peer dependency was in complete turmoil in his soul. He would argue and fight against the direction of our family but be repentant at night over his bad attitude and hurtful actions. [He] was in such turmoil that he made the whole family miserable.” [emphasis mine]

Raise your hand if, like me, you were told that your stubbornness and rebellion was making your entire family miserable. If you were told that “if you would just submit to God’s will for our family and stop questioning and being ornery and rebellious, then we wouldn’t be having so many problems.”

Raise your hand if your parents followed teachings that made you, in all practicality, the scapegoat.

Dysfunctional doesn’t even begin to describe the consequences of being raised with such toxic teachings. Try for a minute to imagine being a 14-yr-old, struggling with suicidal imaginations, thinking everyone hates you, even God, that you are worthless because that’s what your parents and their religion taught you, stuck in the turmoil that is puberty, and being told that your family’s problems are because you are making everyone miserable by not submitting. Because that was my life at 14.

“For 5 years I didn’t understand that the reason he didn’t want to go in the direction that God was pointing our family was because he had decided in his heart that he wanted to go in the direction of his friends. So I approached my child and asked him, ‘Do I have your heart?’ “

A bit of advice: don’t ask your child that. There is no way to ask that without manipulation and heaping guilt on a child’s head. I knew I supposed to say yes, that that was what God wanted for me. I also knew that my heart was not at all safe with my mother, that I needed to protect myself. But when an influential adult comes to you, the child, crying that she doesn’t have your heart, that you don’t trust her, that all she ever wanted was to have your heart and a relationship with you, that this is what God wants and don’t you want what God wants….what the hell are you supposed to say?! I said what I thought I was supposed to. “Yes, of course, Mom.” It was a lie, and I knew it was a lie, but a 14-yr-old doesn’t have the tools to combat religious and emotional manipulation. A 14-yr-old just wants to make it stop.

Next in Part 2, with the problem clearly defined and laid out, we will get to the good part: what to do about it. Spoiler Alert: It’s all terrible advice.

Even Permanent Ink Fades Eventually

Image copyright 2015, Darcy.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Darcy’s blog Darcy’s Heart-Stirrings. It was originally published on October 18, 2015.

I don’t understand. Who tells a child the things that I was told? Who forms a child’s self-concept in the worst way possible on purpose? What kind of person takes a sensitive, kind, loving, feeling child and tells them from birth that they are mean, bully, selfish, and unloving?

What kind of parent does that?

Was I a threat? Did they feel the need to tear me down because I threatened something? Were they afraid of me somehow? Did they look at me and feel fear and thus were driven to squash who I am? Was who I am that scary?

Selfish, unloving, unfeeling, mean, bully, harsh, hostile, angry, unkind, moody, vengeful, unhappy, rebellious. The words fill my head and keep coming, one after the other, all the words I was given as labels. All the words that they might as well have written in ink on my body as they were indelibly printed on my soul. But even permanent ink fades eventually and can be written over.

I am only recently discovering who I really am. And I am not who they said I was.

I am kind and generous. I am an empath. I feel others’ emotions so deeply, like I am experiencing their pain in my own soul. I am a giver, I give til I have nothing left. I love with all that is within me. I am loyal to a fault.

But I am no doormat.

I do not accept what I am told without proof. I am also a warrior. I fight for the people I love, for every person I come across who can’t fight for themselves. I stand up for what is right and that is interpreted as “hostile”. It’s not hostility, it’s righteousness. It’s strength. It’s ferocity. And it is who I am.

am rebellious. I will claim that label, of all the words they slung at me. Some things are worth rebelling against. Rebelling has saved my life. “There’s something wild in your heart, you need to pray to God to help you.” There was something wild there. There still is. Did that scare them? Does it still?

What kind of person does that to a child? What kind of person teaches another child to do this to their own sibling? What was it about me that scared them so?

Whatever it was, they failed to eradicate it. Because here I am, in all my wild glory, and they can’t do anything about it now, except keep trying to spread their lies and paint their own picture of me that I no longer recognize. Their picture of me looks suspiciously like their own self-portrait.

Was it religion? I fucking hate religion. Religion said I needed my will broken, beaten down, and taken away. Religion said to squash my glory because their pathetic god would be jealous. Religion said they had to take my rights, my ownership, my boundaries, because those things were not from god. Did religion make them try to break a child or did it just justify their own penchant toward insecurity and whatever the hell else was wrong with them? I don’t know. I might never know. Does it even matter? The damage has been done, the healing has long ago begun.

As a parent, I look at my children in all their glory and life and I am completely baffled. The thought of telling them that they are inherently selfish with wicked hearts that need their foolishness driven out by the rod is painful enough to leave me breathless. The idea that I could take such amazing creatures and make sure they know how worthless they are unless they become what I dictate they must be causes physical pain and revulsion in my heart.

What kind of person does that to a child? I have no more excuses for them.

The Problem with the Pearls’ One-Size-Fits-All Approach to Tantrums

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Philippe Put.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog, Love, Joy, Feminism. It was originally published on November 24, 2015.

I recently came upon an old No Greater Joy post about tantrums. No Greater Joy, as you may remember, is run by Michael and Debi Pearl, authors of the fundamentalist Christian childrearing manual To Train Up A Child. I was raised on the Pearls’ childrearing methods, and much of my own parenting journey has been unlearning the toxic parenting structures the Pearls promote. Anyway, this particular post about tantrums was written by Tremaine Ware, one of the Pearls’ assistants.

The relevant text reads as follows:

A tantrum is a manifestation of anger. It is a means of control. This sort of behavior usually comes when a child has had a history of not being consistently denied what he wants (when he pitches a fit). He has only received token swats that were as soft as cotton balls, which only proves to irritate the kid and convince him that authority is of no consequence, making his desires the supreme force. Such behavior in a child can be very provoking to you as a parent, so it is important that you maintain mental and emotional control of yourself. An emotionally out-of-control parent can’t hope to bring emotional control to the child. Children are far more capable than we suppose. We unconsciously know this…which is one reason it “bugs” us so bad when they have a tantrum. We know that it is innate selfishness on their part, not immaturity.

So, when your child of any age starts throwing a tantrum, NEVER, NEVER…I repeat, NEVER give in to their demands. Your denial of their lust, coupled with a good stinging swat or two, will cause the child to see the futility and helplessness of his demands. When your child is convinced by your consistent response of enforcing negative consequences for negative behavior, he will cease his vain and tiresome behavior, employing some other means to achieve pleasure.

Fits are just high-pressure demands falling slightly short of violent action. It is not a stage or something they will grow out of. It must be dealt with decisively.

This reminds me of a recent moment when I did just what Ware says not to do—Bobby threw a tantrum and I gave in and met his demands. I gave in, frankly, because his demands were perfectly reasonable and because I don’t believe in standing my ground just to make a point even when I realize I am in the wrong.

In this particular case, I’d taken Bobby to Steak ‘n’ Shake, and he’d been resistant when it was time to leave, so I’d carried him to the car and he began screaming. This happens sometimes. He’s three, after all, and sometimes he becomes overtired, etc. What I didn’t realize until after we were already on the road was that he was screaming words—barely intelligible words, but words nonetheless. He was completely hysterical because we’d left his cardboard car and coloring sheet. I should have listened more carefully from the get-go, but I was tired and ready to get home and had thought he just didn’t want to leave the restaurant. So I went back and had Sally run in and retrieve his car and coloring sheet. The moment I turned the car around to go back he calmed down and said “thank you,” tears still in his voice.

Ware would have me think that I let Bobby control me, that I gave in to his “lust,” that I should have instead stopped the car and spanked my child to make sure he knows “the futility and helplessness of his demands.” Um, no. I want my child to grow up knowing that I value him, and that his needs and desires and interests matter to me. Now yes, I work to teach him appropriate means of telling me his needs, but he’s three, and that’s something he’s understandably still working on.

Does Bobby always “get his way”? No. Note that I carried him from the restaurant in the first place because staying at the restaurant indefinitely when it was late and we needed to get home was not an option. When, for whatever reason, he can’t have his way, I explain to him why that is, talk through the issue with him, and work to find some sort of compromise we can both live with. Sometimes that simply doesn’t work (and I find myself, say, carrying him from a restaurant), but usually it works and we’re able to cooperate rather than being at odds. Just recently I helped him work through a stage where he was demanding that I buy him everything in any store’s toy section by explaining that we don’t have the room to buy everything and encouraging him to note things he would like for Christmas or his birthday. It worked.

When making parenting decisions, I try to ask two questions:

“Am I treating them with respect as independent people?” 

“Am I helping them gain skills that will be useful in adulthood?” 

I should note that I don’t like the word “tantrum.” In my experience, children usually exhibit “tantrum” behavior when they are overtired, overwhelmed, or otherwise overwrought. I prefer the term “meltdown” because to me it seems much more descriptive of what is actually happening. Ware automatically sees children who exhibit “tantrum” behavior as control-hungry and lust-filled, but this is often not the case at all. In many cases it is possible to recognize the signs of an upcoming meltdown and head it off completely. It’s less about control and more about making sure children don’t reach a breaking point where everything becomes too much and they fall apart. Children have much less experience understanding and handling their own emotions, after all, and it is our job to be attuned to their needs and watch for cues that trouble may be ahead.

This said, I also don’t think it’s wrong for children to attempt to exert some form of control over their surroundings. Yes, we as parents need to teach our children that they are not the only people in existence, and that they need to respect other people’s needs as well. But part of this has to involve teaching them that their needs matter too. And children have so little actual control that it’s no wonder they sometimes try to gain some in whatever means they can, especially when they are being ignored by their parent-people. I find that one way to prevent “tantrum” behavior is to make it clear that I, as their parent, am listening to them and care about their needs. Because they know that I don’t say “no” unless I have a real reason to, they’re more likely to believe that I have a reason when I do say “no.”

I want to finish by noting that every child is different, and that one child’s “tantrums” or “meltdowns” may look very different from those of another child. That’s one problem I have with the way Michael and Debi Pearl go about things on their website and in their newsletter and books. They seem to see parental responses as a one-size-fits all approach, as though children are interchangeable. They pay some lip service to children having differences, but they don’t start by urging parents to try to understand what is going on inside their child, and why they are exhibiting XYZ behavior. Blogs like Aha Parenting, on the other hand, encourage parents to start with an attempt to understand the child and their behavior rather than an assumption that they already know everything they need to know.

Evidence of HSLDA’s Anti-LGBT Advocacy Disappears From Their Website

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has never been subtle about their dislike of LGBT* people or their impassioned advocacy to ensure that LGBT* people are denied human rights and education. In 2004, HSLDA promoted a constitutional amendment that would ban gay and lesbian couples from not only the institution of marriage but also civil unions. They also created two pages on their website, one entitled “Why HSLDA is Fighting Against Same-Sex Marriage” and the other entitled “Questions and Answers Regarding a Constitutional Amendment on Same-Sex Marriage.” Both made explicit how much HSLDA perceived same-sex marriage as a threat to the very foundations of Western Civilization and threatened human rights everywhere. In 2006, the group again lobbied for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. HSLDA’s Director of Federal Relations, Will Estrada, personally filed HSLDA’s lobbying report. And in 2012, HSLDA Michael Farris made headlines for threatening LGBT* students from Patrick Henry College, a college created and funded by HSLDA.

Yet over the last 2 years, HSLDA has attempted to sweep all this under the rug. In a August 2014 interview with ThinkProgress, “[Will] Estrada said that the group no longer lobbies on this issue and that he did not know why it had done so then” — even though Estrada himself filled HSLDA’s 2006 lobbying report against same-sex marriage. Estrada later claimed that HSLDA fights “for the gay teen being bullied and his mom wants to homeschool him” — making no mention of the fact that HSLDA will also do everything it can to keep those gay teens from later getting married, getting jobs, keeping jobs, or going to college.

Most recently, HSLDA has quietly removed their most anti-LGBT web pages, including the aforementioned “Why HSLDA is Fighting Against Same-Sex Marriage” and “Questions and Answers Regarding a Constitutional Amendment on Same-Sex Marriage” pages. The only main anti-LGBT page remaining on their website is “Critical Decision on Text of Constitutional Amendment Protecting Marriage,” wherein Michael Farris declaims that, “The only way that we can stop same-sex marriage from infecting every state in the nation is to amend the U.S. Constitution.” And Farris minces no words as to what his goal is: “This may be the only time in U.S. history that we can stop the homosexual movement from obtaining full rights of marriage.”

HA has archived as PDFs all three pages here, here, and here.

College Isn’t For Girls (And Other Lies My Parents Told Me)

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kierstyn King’s blog Bridging the Gap.  It was originally published on December 4, 2015.

It occurred to me that while I’ve mentioned how my sex determined what I learned in school I haven’t really mentioned how that translated into college.

This is actually a little complicated because my parents waffled quite a bit before settling on their decision. When we first started homeschooling my mother’s plan (with no input from me) was for me to go to the local vocational school and double major in cosmetology and culinary arts. Neither of these were things I was interested in and actively tried to make that known, not that anyone cared.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned about my family it’s that my preferences don’t matter unless they line up with exactly what they want from me, their idea of who I should be trumps the truth of my existence every time – but that’s besides the point.

This was solidly the plan until I was about 8 or so (give or take because the concept of time is a blur). I think part of what they learned in the cult (or maybe it was the one ATI seminar they went to) was that it’s not appropriate for women to go to college. Some people think this but still send their daughters to college to get, I kid you not, an M.R.S. degree. The thought being, college will turn women into evil feminists who aren’t submissive and tell them things that are directly contrary to god’s plan (get married, have babies, homeschool)!

This goes right along with courtship, staying under the father’s head/umbrella/authority until married, and using the in-between highschool and marriage time to learn how to take care of your family. I’m not entirely sure where they got all this, but they did. Anyway, at some point they came to me and said that I wouldn’t be doing college, because god said it’s not good for girls to go to college – and college isn’t going to prepare you to be a helpmeet and mother anyway. This didn’t bother me because my cosmetology and culinary arts future looked bleak to my very young self who was neither into adding more cooking into their life or painting other people’s nails.

I think my family was surprised at how well I took it because they’d been building it up in their head. But anyway. College was out of the question for several years and I kept living my life free of the worry of having to cook and do makeup for college.

Then I discovered politics, speech and debate, and Patrick Henry College.

I wanted more than anything in the world to go to PHC, and since it was a homeschool college and very much daughters-under-their-father’s-authority operating school…I probably wouldn’t have to worry about turning into an evil feminist.

Whether or not I could go to PHC seemed like it changed by the day, but I was several years out so I figured they’d come around.

They almost did – after they decided to break Alex and I up (because courtship = parents control all the things) they encouraged me to apply to PHC, sort of as a bribe – like the money and car they offered. I jumped at the opportunity to go to the college I dreamed of and get out of my parents house. I filled out the application and went through all the steps, got my pastor to write a letter of recommendation and all I needed to do was have my parents sign the waiver.

They refused.

They said they changed their mind, they couldn’t support it, they didn’t want to be responsible for me financially (and my living at home not allowed or able to get a job was what? or right, indentured servitude), and most importantly, college isn’t for girls. I’m going to be a wife and mother after all, I don’t need any further education. My consumer math and ability to read, write, and recite their interpretation of scripture back to them was all I would need and college wasn’t going to help me be a better submissive wife.

And like that, it was over.

After we got married I started applying to a school that did distance learning and was marginally less conservative. It involved re-writing my transcript (which is still a mess) and being a private school hot for Dave Ramsey, financially it wasn’t feasible. I was accepted but it just didn’t happen. I was still trying to navigate what being a Wife looked like and panicking that having a summer job meant I would have an affair (because women in the workforce have affairs, that’s why they have to be keepers at home) – the lies my parents ingrained into me were still so very very strong.

This is why getting accepted to a community college and taking the catch-up/pre-college course is so huge to me.

I’m finally at a place where I can break that jar and decide what I want to do.

Image copyright 2014 Kierstyn King.
Image copyright 2014 Kierstyn King.