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”.
My Mom dropped out of a once a month play date with other homeschoolers because she didn’t agree with the other moms there. When we did go, it was a bargaining tool if our chores weren’t completed or if we had argued with a sibling she would say if we couldn’t behave at home she wasn’t going to go out and allow us to pretend to behave in public. Mom always said your sibling s will be your best friends for your entire life. It gave them a great tool for manipulation as I am no longer allowed to see or talk to my younger siblings, and the ones who are adults disapprove of me so much that they’re hard to talk to when I do see them. It’s like they planned it to be as painful as possible if I strayed from the path – which they pretty much did.
It is a bargaining tool and a way to control your kids. I can fully relate.
“If you question what I say to you
YOU REBEL AGAINST THE FATHER TOO!”
— Steve Taylor, “I Manipulate”
Chickens will also peck “defectives” to death in the barnyard.
“Beware Thou of The Mutant.”
Does anyone else get a bit creeped out by the whole “have their hearts” phrase? I can’t help picturing Regina from Once Upon a Time with her vault of hearts…
Oh you are not the only one!
Just… yes. This. ^^
shit. when I was in junior high (?)l I had one homeschool friend I saw once a month, maybe. we both lived on farms out in the middle of nowhere. One time we had a really horrible fight where she asked me with great emotion if I “ever wanted us to be anything more than playmates” (cause I wasn’t agreeing with her dad and ought to).
Straight was the only paradigm we had to think by means of, and I think she is straight, but my god. In retrospect the isolation was practically… Appalachian? Insectuous? what’s the word?
And then after that I didn’t like her anymore but had go on acting like her friend for the rest of my teenhood and young adulthood cause neither of had any other friends.
I think TheGirlWhoWasThursday might be on to something poetically sound here: Incestuous, specifically emotional incest, is what Sears advocates in her work and she is not unlike others of the religiously excessive type. When TheGirlWhoWasThursday modifies incestuous to the startling “Insectuous”, my heart says, YES! You have totally nailed it. The reduction of a life to the insect level, the ant colony where one has no real identity or freedom, where one is just a faceless worker for the God-Queen Bee.
TGWWT: I am sorry you were so isolated growing up. I grew up on a street at the edge of town and had some friends. They did help but at home we were formed, shaped to be islands in our hearts and heads, often unreachable islands just as our parents needed. They wanted us dead unless Jesus saved us.
Here is her blurb from this sick book:
The Battle of Peer Dependency
Author: Marina Sears
Sadly, many young people 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 to be like others, rather than the individual God has created them to be. It is tragic that young people do not understand that their identity must come from God, His Word, and their families, instead of their peers.
Marina Sears, you miserable wretch! Identity must come from anywhere and everywhere but a child’s own heart and life? Why you buzzing little insect, hungry to suck the life out of children and make them safe little homogenized Bible carriers… You make me shudder and wretch.
Thankfully, it seems that you have not written any more books instructing others on how to ruin children. It is people like you, Marina Sears, who challenge the notion that book-burning is a bad thing. What you have written is not fit even to kindle the fir in my wood stove. Perhaps I shall shred it and make it kitty litter or better still, use your pages to roll a smoke with Ephesians: chop up the Bible verses you use, roll them in your sick warp and light up!
(Do not try this at home: paper is sometimes toxic, bleached and so on…. just imagine it fully as I am right now.) Thanks for the light, Darcy!
It appears you are talking in jest about the book burning. Although I know if I was in your situation I would only be half joking about burning these book. I want to encourage everyone who has books like these that they or their parents have to save these books, tapes notes or whatever so all of this can be documented. I was never homeschooled but I started studying the homeschooling curriculums and philosophies because I am very interested in education. I want to understand how people learn best and whether studying independently or homeschooling is actually beneficial. I wanted to see if perhaps homeschooling or some type of independent study is/was the way of the future as more educational curriculums come online and as people continue to be displeased with the common core curriculum that is being pushed on them. It appears that this may not be the case. As I have been reading as much as I can book-wise and blog-wise both pro and con it appears that the homeschooling ‘utopia’ that is presented by its proponents is clearly a fallacy in most cases and often very dangerous.
As more blogs like these pop up and adult homeschoolers are starting to speak out it appears that a lot of these homeschooling leaders and authors are backtracking a lot of what they said in the past and they are definitely denying and minimizing what they preached. I have seen this backtracking is just the past few years and I am not nearly as immersed or well versed in the homeschooling sub-culture as you and former homeschoolers are so I know you have seen and can document even more. It would also be great if there was a brief update about what happened to the adult children of these leaders and authors like Marina Sears and we could see if even the authors got the results of what they expected and if they children are happy and well adjusted adults. My hunch is no they are not and if they are it might be because their parents spent so much time on the road preaching this toxic material to others they may not have had the bandwidth or opportunity to apply these methods as stringently to their children as they told homeschool followers they were to apply them. As this blog revealed a while ago Josh ‘I kissed Dating Goodbye’ Harris, has done a complete 180 and put his kids in public school while he attends an actual school (seminary) for the first time.
There is clearly the potential for several books or a PhD thesis on the effects of the homeschool sub-culture of the 80’s and 90’s on the homeschoolers in the movement and the effect of the movement on mainstream society (and I am not joking about this). I would encourage everyone who has material like these to save it and perhaps someone on the board of Homeschoolers Anonymous could provide a repository for it. If we don’t learn from the past we are doomed to repeat it. More logical books about effective and reasonable parenting need to be written because it seems that thus far only hyper religious people have written parenting books that whole congregations have gobbled up eagerly and these parenting books have been hyper-authoritarian and hyper-dangerous! All this material could provide the proof and documentation that people need to demonstrate they need to parent in a completely different way and provide a blueprint for how they could do that.
Brian, I wish good luck to you and all the other survivors of toxic homeschooling the best of luck. You guys are not crazy and you are not exaggerating. You are wise beyond your years, compassionate and seriously making a difference for those that are coming behind you. I wish I had even half your strength.
M’lo, It would be a gross oversight to study fundagelical homeschooling as if it in any way resembled secular homeschooling. Also, homeschooling is very individual and what I did with my own kids was unschooling primarily, a whole different paradigm. Have you read Holt and Norm Lee’s autobiographical writing? John Taylor Gatto is another brilliant educator. A guy named Brent Cameron started the Self-Design group on the West Coast of Canada, first called Wondertree and now, Self-Design, I believe. Unless you delve into these folks, you do not have a well-rounded vision of what home schooling can be.
Herd education at the primary and secondary levels is very slowly, steadily adopting the self-directed modes first proven in home and unschooling. (I am absolutely NOT supporting fundagelical homeschooling in this statement… they is more about restricting choices for kids, Christ or go to Hell. Those who insist on isolating their children this way are in my experience abusers of the mind, haters of free learning and the right of children to choose.)
Thank-you for your good wishes. BTW, I am rather slow for my years….. 63 years old now but I believe in life-long learning even for old and slow guys like me 😉
I just checked out the website for the Self Design group,www.selfdesign.com and it seems like they are really up to something good. I will definitely read more of their website in depth. I also put some of John Holt’s books in my Amazon queue. I see that Holt also wrote book to encourage adult learners “Never Too Late: My Musical Life Story”. I, like you, believe in life-long learning as well 🙂
Thank you for the tips.
You are very welcome! When we decide to learn, to follow our interests, education has its primary foundation in the learner’s passion. The learner chooses what to learn and the educator provides opportunity and support. That is adult education. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it could be available to children too? That is, sort-of, what unschooling can be…
I’m relieved that the book is out of print and not even available on alibris!
I wish to hazard a guess that few, if any, children who were homeschooled in the most toxic manner were able to keep a journal or diary at the time. I can only imagine how difficult and downright hazardous that would have been to do. Still, if someone were successful in doing so, I wonder how they, their siblings, peers and possibly parents would react if they were to receive scanned pages from a contemporaneous journal about the miseries inflicted upon them.
Would any of the (toxic) parents eventually recognize the harm they did to their kids?
I have read of some whose parentals realized over the years how damaging they were with their kids. One father wrote to express his regrets but that is I suspect a rare man. My parents would never acknowledge their toxicity except in the most generic, ‘every parents makes some kind of mistake’ way.
I think your idea regarding the journal would be fabulous find to offer for public consumption. Readers would say things like, “My goodness, I had NO idea people lived like that…”
I bet keeping a diary/journal as they were growing up away from their controlling family (parents and siblings) would require creativity and cunning not unlike those who hid from people who would do them grievous harm.
Pages folded up, placed in glass jars and buried. Or put into an oilcloth, metal pencil box and hidden in a tree hollow. Prying up a floor board under the bed and keeping it there and hoping no thinks to check.
I actually did keep a detailed journal from about 15-20. I managed to keep it hidden from parents and siblings (though it would not surprise me if one of them found it and never told me, I shared a room with 2 sisters), and I recorded everything, even entire conversations. I still have it. I used it to recount my non-courtship story and other stories from that time period. I keep it as a reminder that I didn’t make this shit up, no matter what they try to tell me. I really have no idea how my parents, who are far removed from this mindset now and have been for years, would react to seeing any of it. I don’t particularly care to find out.
Darcy – I have a suggestion for you. It’s not practical but IF any of your family should challenge you on the veracity of the diary (stating, for example that you wrote it AFTER THE FACT), you can have the paper and inks forensically analyzed to provide conclusive proof that it was written when you state it was written.
That’s presuming you used ink. If you used a pencil, you may have more difficulties.
I was just thinking that your family could someday turn around and sue you based upon things you have written about your experience that don’t flatter your parents. It’s unlikely they would do so, but it might be worth the hassle and expense.
I have to say this sounds like an amazing idea for a novel.
“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. ”
You forget this should have started at the bible!
Yes indeed! But the Bible is fairly young compared with human history and the delusions it is full of probably began in ‘caves’ of the brain long before the Bible was even a twinkle in Delusion’s eye.
What?! The Bible needs no citations! The Bible is it’s own citation! Because the Bible said so. Or something like that.
We have all been told that patriarchy is the rule of the father over the family. Now step back for a moment and consider the homeschooling movement as the family and define the homeschool leaders/authors as the patriarch, the homeschool parents as the children and the homeschooling subculture as the peers and tell me if the edited verses below don’t send chills down your spine or perhaps provides an AHA moment. (Sorry I can’t redline the changes)
“(Young people) Homeschooling parents don’t always know what they want, nor do they always know what is best for them. That is why God gave them (parents) homeschooling leaders/authors, and why He gave (parents) homeschooling leaders/authors Himself.”
“(Young people) Homeschool parents have been so segregated in our society that few can adequately converse outside their own (peer) homeschool subculture group.”
“The good activities that (my children) homeschooling parents were participating in seemed never to be enough. Once the (activity) conference/book was over, and the pleasure had worn off, they were off to the next thing. The pleasures of this (world ) homeschooling subculture, no matter how innocent, are never satisfying…..This is why (peer) homeschool subculture and their activities become all consuming.”
“One of the dangers with (church youth) homeschool parent groups is that the (youth minister) home school leaders/authors must have the hearts of the (children) homeschool parents in order to accomplish his goals. The (youth) homeschool parent group in itself becomes a family unit with the (youth minister) homeschool leader/author and his wife acting as surrogate parents.”
Homeschool leader/author turns to homeschool parent and says ‘Who has your heart?’ And the homeschool parent responds…..
While my mother never seemed overtly religious in her control, I can relate a lot to the feelings of being held hostage by family, with friends and outings being used as punishment or rewards.
My behavior had to be immaculate if I wanted to see or spend time with friends. My mother was constantly “grounding me” for any hint of dissent. Once we were at someone’s house for a playdate and I laughed too loudly so we had to leave. I’m pretty sure my mother has NPD,and there were always endless lists of chores that had to be completed before I could go anywhere or do anything with anyone.
This continued as I got older and went to homeschool mixers and group social events. I can really see now how it ties into control…friends or peers are just another thing out to steal us from our parents right? If reading Harry Potter promotes disobedience and disrespect (my parents real reason, hidden under that witchcraft bs) then so do friends. It was hell. I’d escape for a sleepover only to have my mother call me at 8am the next day telling me I had to come home because she hadn’t agreed for me to spend a whole day (gaslighting) or I’d forgotten to fold the clothes right, or some other made up excuse. It was insane. As a kid I thought it was normal, and I didn’t understand why my friends thought it was so messed up.
Thank you for sharing your story and tracking down one source of the homeschool isolation nightmare. I really relate to your experience of friends being treated as entirely unnecessary and the family being all glorified as the only important people in the universe.
Today I so wish I had been given the support and opportunity as a child to start learning how to interact with peers on an equal basis, so that I would have been prepared to interact as an adult with other adults in a equal way. Lack of peer interaction really sets a person up to be taken advantage of and to suffer intense loneliness.
The best resource for helping myself come out of isolation that I have found so far is Codependent’s Anonymous. There are two groups in the city where I live and I find that attending meetings is a refreshing social experience as well as an important tool in helping me learn to see myself as equal to others, worthy of friendship, and capable of engaging in healthy relationships. I would really love to hear more about resources homeschool alumni have used to aid them in the journey out of isolation and am as always so grateful to HA for this blog and the role it plays in getting these conversations started.