Homeschooling as a Totalistic Tool

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Send me adrift.

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator.

The following article is an excerpt from an upcoming long-form piece on homeschooling and human trafficking.

“I see homeschooling as a tool. Like a gardening hoe, when used correctly it can help bring life and vitality to living things….But used incorrectly, a tool can harm the very things or people it’s meant to help thrive.”

~ Shaney Swift[i]

Homeschooling is “an educational option that allows parents to teach their children at home instead of sending them to school.”[ii] As of 2011, the National Center for Education Statistics determined that 1,770,000 students, or 3.4% of all school aged children, were being homeschooled.[iii] It has been stereotyped as an educational option primarily chosen by conservative Christian evangelicals in the United States. This stereotype is understandable given that the so-called “four pillars of homeschooling”[iv] are all conservative Christian evangelicals who had the specific intention to direct the homeschooling movement.

Homeschooling as a Pedagogical Tool

While conservative Christian evangelicals dominate homeschooling, parents homeschool their children for a diverse number of reasons. While conservative Muslim families, for example, homeschool for many of the same reasons as conservative Christian families,[v] many others homeschool not for ideological but rather pedagogical reasons.[vi] One of the fastest growing segments of the homeschooling population is African-African families, which is notable because for a long time the homeschooling population was “more white than the student population as a whole.” Nonetheless, African-American families are increasingly homeschooling — in fact, “African Americans now make up about 10 percent of all homeschooled children.”[vii] And these families are often homeschooling not for ideological reasons but to escape white supremacy and racism in the curricula, unfair discipline methods, and low standards of achievement within the public school system.

Homeschooling is thus no more or no less than a pedagogical tool — an instrument by which children are educated, in the same way that public and private schools are instruments. How homeschooling is conducted — and whether it is both successful and nurturing on behalf of children — depends on those wielding the instrument, just as success and safety of public and private schools varies depending on their principals, teachers, and staff.

This is an important distinction because claiming link between homeschooling and any number of negative experiences (for example, child abuse) often meets widespread resistance by homeschooling leaders, organizations, and parents. Such individuals and groups assume that claiming a link exists between, say, homeschooling and child abuse must mean that link is inherent — that homeschooling qua homeschooling leads to abuse. But to claim a link exists is not necessarily to claim that link is inherent. Rather, it is simply to claim there is a link, however inherent or circumstantial the link may be. That homeschooling can play a role in a child abuse case should not be a cause to unilaterally condemn homeschooling. Rather, the fact should give rise to serious reflection as to how this link between homeschooling and abuse can be severed for both the sake of abused children as well as the health and vibrancy of the homeschooling movement itself.

Homeschooling as a Totalistic Tool

Tools can be used for multiple purposes. A hammer can be utilized to hit a nail into a board (and thus become a construction tool) or it can be used to kill a human being (and thus become a murder weapon). In the same way, homeschooling — as an instrument that allows parents to teach their children at home instead of sending them to school — can be wielded as not only a pedagogical tool (to teach children) but also as a totalistic tool (to control children). And just as homeschooling can be highly successful in teaching children, it also can be highly successful in controlling children.

It is the circumstances in which homeschooling is used for the latter purposes (totalistically, to control children) that are of interest to our current examination. By allowing individuals to determine what children are and are not exposed to, homeschooling can become the perfect method for individuals who desire to stratify and consolidate power.

That “perfect method” that homeschooling can become will be notated in this investigation with the term totalism. Totalism is a concept most significantly developed by psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton in his 1961 book Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism. Totalism as a word is related to totalitarianism, and signifies a psychological form of totalitarianism — the totalitarian monitoring and control of another individual’s behaviors and thoughts. Lifton uses the term to describe the attributes of ideological movements and organizations that aim for total control over people’s behaviors and thoughts. While these movements and organizations may vary in design and goals, they follow common patterns and cause predicable types of psychological damage to those within them.

Defining Totalism and Thought Reform

Totalistic movements and organizations desire total control usually for two reasons: (1) because of a fear and denial of the reality of death and/or (2) a reactionary fear of change. Certain people also personally have totalistic tendencies (selfish desires to control other people), and these people “are particularly attracted to movements, governments, and ideologies which manifest a characteristically totalitarian ideological and persuasive style.”[viii]

Totalistic people, movements, and organizations follow predictable patterns in their attempts to achieve control over others. One area where this is especially manifested is in child-rearing practices. In fact, “child-rearing practices that foster a polarized, black or white, all or nothing emotional and cognitive style (i.e., ‘intolerance of ambiguity’) are the primary cause of the development of Totalism.”[ix]

As one might imagine, parents and communities that foster such black and white, all or nothing atmospheres are often described as “fundamentalist” because of their valuation of fundamental doctrines over and against the humanity and self-worth of individuals. In fact, in the years since he wrote Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism, Lifton has begun to directly equate totalism and fundamentalism:

More recently Lifton has identified Totalism as synonymous with ‘political and religious fundamentalism’ because of fundamentalism’s tendency to define the world in absolute, i.e., dualistic, terms. Lifton has stated that ‘the quest for absolute or “totalistic” belief systems…has produced nothing short of a worldwide epidemic of political and religious fundamentalism’… ‘Fundamental,’ in Lifton’s view, ‘can create the most extreme expressions of totalism, of the self’s immersion in all-or-nothing ideological and behavior patterns.’ The core element of ideological totalism, in our view, is the radical, absolute division of humanity into dual evaluative categories such as saved/damned, real persons/false persons, human/subhuman, God’s people/’mud people,’ etc.[x]

Because totalistic people are attracted to totalistic communities, movements, and organizations, they often join together and put their totalistic aims into practice through total institutions: places of living and working where large numbers of similar people associate together, cut off from the wider world to lead an enclosed existence as dictated by the totalistic administration in charge. Philosopher Michel Foucault used the phrase complete and austere institutions to describe such places. Foucault noted that, within totalistic institutions (Foucault gave the example of the prison-state), “procedures were being elaborated for distributing individuals; fixing them in space; classifying them; extracting from them the maximum in time and forces; training their bodies; coding their continuous behavior; maintaining them in perfect visibility; forming around them an apparatus of observation, registration, and recording; constituting on them a body of knowledge that is accumulated and centralized. The general form of an apparatus intended to render individuals docile and useful…”[xi] As we shall see, this description aptly captures all sorts of totalistic communities, especially fundamentalist new religious movements.

Lifton labels these procedures — by which individuals are rendered docile and useful — thought reform. Thought reform is the goal of totalism. Totalism aims to mold the behaviors and thoughts of the individuals within its movements and organizations, and thought reform is how that molding happens. It is “the systematic application of psychological and social influence techniques in an organized programmatic way within a constructed and managed environment.” The goal of thought reform is “to produce specific attitudinal and behavior changes” and these changes “occur incrementally without it being patently visible to those undergoing the process.”[xii]

It is important to note that efforts to produce specific attitudinal and behavior changes are not necessarily inappropriate nor are they necessarily totalistic thought reform. Totalistic thought reform is different from regular attempts at change in that they involve “sequenced phases aimed at destabilizing participants’ sense of self, sense of reality, and values.” This destabilization comes from “organized peer pressure, the development of bonds between the leader or (trainer) and the followers, the control of communication, and the use of a variety of influence techniques. The aim of all of this is to promote conformity, compliance, and the adoption of specific attitudes and behaviors desired by the group.”[xiii] In other words, totalistic thought reform hopes for total control of individuals and it accomplishes that through a complex network of peer pressure, top-down management, and careful environment manipulation.

The Eight Criteria

Lifton identifies eight criteria that make up that complex network: (1) Milieu Control, (2) Mystical Manipulation, (3) Demand for Purity, (4) Cult of Confession, (5) Sacred Science, (6), Loaded Language, (7) Doctrine Over Person, and (8) Dispensing of Existence. Lifton says that “the more clearly an environment exercises these eight psychological themes, the greater its resemblance to ideological Totalism; and the more it utilizes such totalist devices to change people, the greater its resemblance to thought reform [or ‘brainwashing’].”[xiv] And in the same way that we noted that totalism often is the same of fundamentalism, it is important to observe that “most of Lifton’s eight motifs of ideological totalism can be derived from a conception of close-knit, authoritarian movements with intense solidarity and adherence to a distinctly apocalyptic and dualistic worldview.”[xv]

We shall briefly examine each of the eight criteria:

(1) Milieu Control

Milieu control means the thought reform environment controls all (or as much as possible) of the human communication within it — both the information coming in and the information coming out. Lifton explains that, “Through this milieu control the totalist environment seeks to establish domain over not only the individual’s communication with the outside (all that he sees and hears, reads or writes, experiences, and expresses), but also – in its penetration of his inner life – over what we may speak of as his communication with himself.”[xvi]

(2) Mystical Manipulation

Mystical manipulation is the manipulation of the individuals by the totalist administration. This manipulation is done in such a way so that members feel as if their behaviors and thoughts spontaneously arose (rather than were forced by the administration). Mystical manipulation is, essentially, “the man behind the curtain” that no one knows exists. Lifton points out that this manipulation is not done simply for the sake of power. Rather, it is done because the values of the totalist environment render it “necessary.” Lifton notes that, “They create a mystical aura around the manipulating institutions – the Party, the Government, the Organization. They are the agents ‘chosen’ (by history, by God, or by some other supernatural force) to carry out the ‘mystical imperative,’ the pursuit of which must supersede all considerations of decency or of immediate human welfare.”[xvii]

(3) Demand for Purity

The demand for purity is a demand to divide the world into what is “pure” and “impure” and avoid and reject everything considered the latter. Lifton describes totalist purity as “those ideas, feelings, and actions which are consistent with the totalist ideology and policy; anything else is apt to be relegated to the bad and the impure.” Dividing the world in this way creates both guilt and shame in individuals when they fail to perfectly avoid and reject what is considered “impure.” That guilt and shame then become tools of control that the totalist administration uses to manipulate people to do what the administration desires.[xviii]

(4) Cult of Confession

The cult of confession is connected to the demand for purity. The inevitable result of the demand for purity is that people will fail, hence the resulting feelings of guilt and shame. And when people do fail, they must confess those failings. A totalist administration will take advantage of this and manipulate people into all sorts of confessions both to enhance the feelings of guilt and shame as well as to gather information about individuals that can be used against them or to exploit them in the future. Lifton describes the cult of confession as confession that is “carried beyond its ordinary religious, legal, and therapeutic expressions to the point of becoming a cult in itself. There is the demand that one confess to crimes one has not committed, to sinfulness that is artificially induced, in the name of a cure that is arbitrarily imposed.” In a totalist environment, “confession becomes a means of exploiting, rather than offering solace for, these vulnerabilities.” It also becomes “a means of maintaining an ethos of total exposure – a policy of making public (or at least known to the Organization) everything possible about the life experiences, thoughts, and passions of each individual, and especially those elements which might be regarded as derogatory.” This total exposure adds a dire sense of gravity to “the environment’s claim to total ownership of each individual self within it. Private ownership of the mind and its products – of imagination or of memory – becomes highly immoral.”[xix]

(5) Sacred Science

Sacred science is created when a totalist environment elevates its basic doctrines or ideologies to the level of sacredness, or the ultimate vision for how human existence should be. Once sacred, those doctrines or ideologies are not allowed to be questioned. To question them would be to make oneself “impure.” Indeed, Lifton points out, “if one begins to feel himself attracted to ideas which either contradict or ignore [the sacred doctrines or ideologies], he may become guilty and afraid.” The guilt is from the potential violation of the demand for purity. Lifton says, “Sacredness is evident in the prohibition (whether or not explicit) against the questioning of basic assumptions, and in the reverence which is demanded for the originators of the Word, the present bearers of the Word, and the Word itself.”[xx]

(6) Loaded Language

Loaded language occurs when a totalist environment use words or phrases in new or different ways such that people outside the environment do not know what they mean. This new jargon is used over and over and they become catch phrases, mental short-cuts or what Lifton calls “thought-terminating clichés.” The phrases are pat answers that shut down inquiry. A neutral example would be employing a catch phrase like “God works in mysterious ways” in response to a serious and legitimate question about why bad things happen to good people. “God works in mysterious ways” does not adequately answer the question but it is such a common phrase that one is tempted to just shrug and say, “Well, all right then.” Lifton describes this phenomenon as compressing “the most far-reaching and complex of human problems” into “brief, highly reductive, definitive-sounding phrases, easily memorized and easily expressed. These become the start and finish of any ideological analysis.” An individual who is not allowed to think outside the totalist environment’s sacred science, who is taught only to rely upon this loaded language, “is, so to speak, linguistically deprived; and since language is so central to all human experience, his capacities for thinking and feeling are immensely narrowed.”[xxi]

(7) Doctrine Over Person

This criterion of thought reform is self-explanatory: the elevation of a totalist environment’s sacred science (its doctrines and/or ideologies) over and against individuals and their experiences within the environment. Individual feelings, thoughts, or experiences that seem to contradict the validity of the sacred science must be subjugated and reinterpreted in accordance with the sacred science, rather than be used as the foundation for it. Lifton describes this as “the subordination of human experience to the claims of doctrine.” He says that, “Doctrinal primacy prevails in the totalist approach to changing people: the demand that character and identity be reshaped, not in accordance with one’s special nature or potentialities, but rather to fit the rigid contours of the doctrinal mold.” Thus abstract ideas become more valuable than the diversity of human life itself because “doctrine – including its mythological elements – is ultimately more valid, true, and real than is any aspect of actual human character or human experience.”[xxii]

(8) Dispensing of Existence

The final criterion for thought reform is dispensing of existence — when a totalist environment “draws a sharp line between those whose right to existence can be recognized, and those who possess no such right.” This does not always mean actual physical life and death. Rather, a totalist environment might declare, for example, that only its members are “truly human” or “truly alive.” Or it might declare that only those who follow its sacred science will be blessed in the afterlife. This is, of course, a rather audacious claim; indeed, Lifton calls it “arrogance,” but a “mandatory” arrogance because of “the conviction that there is just one path to true existence, just one valid mode of being, and that all others are perforce invalid and false.”[xxiii]

As individuals or groups close themselves off to the outside world and begin using any number of these criteria, thought reform happens. This is the goal of totalism: changing the behaviors and thoughts of people so as to gain control.

Homeschooling and Totalism

Homeschooling is, as previously stated, a pedagogical tool. It is simply one of many instruments by which parents or communities can educate children. Other instruments would be public school, private school, online school, or mixed school. However, homeschooling can also be transformed into much more than a pedagogical tool. As a tool, it can have multiple types of utility. As a hammer can be both a construction tool or a tool by which one commits murder, so too can homeschooling be both a tool to teach as well as a tool to control. Indeed, when a totalist environment employs homeschooling, it can become one of the most powerful weapons in the totalist’s arsenal.

When a totalist environment is large — say, encompassing nearly every single individual in a city — other pedagogical tools can become weapons of totalism. For example, if a new religious movement makes up almost the entirety of a small, rural town, movement adherents can fill most of the influential roles in that town — public school principal, public school teachers, public school staff, law enforcement, and so forth. If that is the case, a public school can be transformed into something it is not supposed to be — a weapon to advance the desired thought reform of the new religious movement. This is rare, but it can happen (and has happened). But it also is more complicated and difficult to execute. If one desires to fuse together a child’s education with the desired thought reform of a totalist environment, homeschooling is a particularly simple and effective method.

To better understand this, let us examine four examples of homeschooling in action.

Example One:

A Muslim parent homeschools their children. This parent uses homeschooling to introduce their children to a vast diversity of information, authors, religious traditions, and political viewpoints. This parent also incorporates into their children’s education many different activities to help their children socialize: park days, science fairs, sports leagues, church events, and so forth. The children are exposed to people from many different walks of life.

Example Two:

A Muslim parent homeschools their children. This parent uses homeschooling to make sure their children are exposed to only Islam. The parent believes the Koran is the only book worth knowing, and thus the Koran is used by that parent as their children’s only curriculum. This parent believes anyone who is not Muslim is dangerous and can lead their children away from the Truth, and thus does not let their children socialize with anyone outside their faith. The children never interact with people who believe differently from their parent.

Example Three:

A Christian parent homeschools their children. This parent uses homeschooling to introduce their children to a vast diversity of information, authors, religious traditions, and political viewpoints. This parent also incorporates into their children’s education many different activities to help their children socialize: park days, science fairs, sports leagues, church events, and so forth. The children are exposed to people from many different walks of life.

Example Four:

A Christian parent homeschools their children. This parent uses homeschooling to make sure their children are exposed to only Christianity. The parent believes the Bible is the only book worth knowing, and thus the Bible is used by that parent as their children’s only curriculum. This parent believes anyone who is not Christian is dangerous and can lead their children away from the Truth, and thus does not let their children socialize with anyone outside their faith. The children never interact with people who believe differently from their parent.

Examples One and Three are nearly identical to each other, as are Examples Two and Four. The only difference is the religion to which the parent adheres. If you are a Muslim, you might see no problem with Example Two but you might bristle at Example Four. If you are a Christian, you might see no problem with Example Four but you might bristle at Example Two. If you, regardless of your own religious beliefs, believe children should have the freedom to discover themselves and what they believe on their own terms, you likely will find both Examples One and Three appropriate and Examples Two and Four inappropriate.

Regardless of your feelings about each, we must realize that Examples One and Three are instances of homeschooling being used pedagogically — that is, to teach children about the world and empower them to learn (and love learning). Whereas Examples Two and Four are instances of homeschooling also being used for another purpose aside from pedagogy. Examples Two and Four are instances of homeschooling being used to fulfill Lifton’s first criteria of thought reform: milieu control. In these instances, homeschooling is employed to control all (or as much as possible) of the human communication children experience — which is the very definition of milieu control. In other words, Examples Two and Four are examples of homeschooling being used totalistically — to control the child’s environment (specifically, the communication within the environment) so as to achieve a desired outcome, namely, thought reform. The homeschooling itself becomes the means by which the parent hopes to mold the children’s behaviors and thoughts in accordance with the parent’s behaviors and thoughts — rather than to encourage the children to be independent and to differentiate themselves from their parent. The parent is essentially aiming to create a mini-me out of each child.

The implication of this fact, that a single parent can use homeschooling as a totalistic tool, is that thought reform can be accomplished not only within a group — like a new religious movement with a close-knit, authoritarian system — but also within an individual family. Most examinations of totalism have involved the former — namely, group totalism. But it is important to realize that individual totalism is also a phenomenon. Individual families can become a world unto themselves, where one parent — usually the father, assuming the role of Family Patriarch — rules supreme. That parent becomes the dictator of the family unit and controls every aspect of their children’s lives. The parent sets himself or herself up as God of the Universe and uses homeschooling to make sure the children are molded to his or her will and properly fearful of the consequences of straying from that will.

Regardless of whether totalism develops in an individual family or a communal group, homeschooling thus can become an all-encompassing weapon by which thought reform is achieved. Of course, homeschooling is nonetheless only one tool among many used in the service of a totalistic environment. There are other tools such as physical violence or a religious text or betrothal and marriage. Basically, anything that can keep the members of a family or group in line with that family or group’s ultimate vision for reality can be a totalist tool. But homeschooling in particular stands out because it can absorb many other tools into its folds. When homeschooling becomes a “way of life” (as opposed to simply a pedagogical tool) often these other tools are simple extensions of that way of life. Certain discipline methods, religious texts, and relationship models can become yet one more attribute of the homeschooling itself.

When homeschooling is used in this way, the wielder of the tool can be either an individual (e.g., the Family Patriarch) or a group (e.g., a new religious movement). To be most effective, it can even be wielded by both. A new religious movement may demand that all families within it use homeschooling and each family can also use homeschooling to achieve the family’s desired thought reform — which will be the exact same thought reform desired by the movement. This doubling-down ensures that if a child interacts with people outside their family — say, with the children of other movement members — the socialization will only reinforce the sacred science of the movement. The socialization occurs between children being taught the same things, and thus new viewpoints are not experienced. Peer pressure between children can even help reinforce the movement’s demand for purity, and children themselves can use guilt and shame against each other to keep other children in check. This only enhances the thought reform, as children not only have to please and be subjugated to their parents and movement leaders but also each other.

To help us better understanding how homeschooling can be a totalist tool, let us explore an example connection between homeschooling and certain instances of human trafficking. If a child grows up in a new religious movement that has effectively mastered thought reform techniques like milieu control via homeschooling, that child will have no understanding of how the outside world differs from his or her experience of the totalist world. If that child also grows up memorizing nothing but the loaded language of that new religious movement, then he or she will not even know how to develop a different language by which to question the movement — and if the child ever did learn to question, he or she would feel immense guilt and shame from thinking “impure” thoughts. And if the pressure from the child’s parent(s) to stop thinking such thoughts was not enough, the child’s very own peers would step up to the task, thinking that they were saving their friend from being not “truly human.”

A nearly perfect system of control, then, would be in place. All it would take is for the leader of the movement to declare a new vision from the movement’s deity came to him or her — say, a vision of young girls being married at the age of 12 to much older men. This leader’s vision would likely be couched in religious justifications — that we are living in apocalyptic times and must fill the earth with as many followers of the movement’s deity as possible. And if young girls are not married early, they might be led astray by the world’s wickedness.

If you were a young girl in this movement, you would now be stuck. Having grown up only knowing people in the movement, you would have no way to know that being married off at the age of 12 is something unusual. You would not know it was something illegal. Even if you learned it was allegedly “a violation of international human rights,” you probably would have been taught that “human rights” are tricks of the Devil and nothing more than sophistic language invented by the United Nations, an organization your parents taught you is a devil-worshipping, New World Order institution. So you would obey your elders and submissively accept your role as a child bride to a balding, sweaty, gray-haired man with 10 other young wives. It is, after all, what God commanded, right?

You may think that the above situation would never occur — that it is an exaggeration. But this situation has occurred many times in the last two decades, right here in the United States (as well as in other countries). Time and time again, totalist individuals and groups have intentionally and methodically used homeschooling to create an environment where severe and disturbing violations of human rights are considered not only normal, but desperately necessary. Children have grown up not knowing that they were living in nothing less than a prison, both physically and mentally — and not knowing they had the right to escape and breathe the fresh air of freedom.


The totalist use of homeschooling is not what homeschooling’s originators intended. John Holt, the liberal anti-Marxist proponent of homeschooling in the 1970’s, envisioned the exact opposite of this scenario. Holt aimed to liberate children from social and political shackles, even nuclear family structures.[xxiv] He wanted children to have the freedom to learn what and as they pleased. To Holt, homeschooling should be “a natural, organic, central, fundamental human institution” that “isn’t a school at all” but rather is “the process by which children grow and learn in the world without going, or going very much, to schools.”[xxv]

Even early religious advocates of homeschooling, such as Raymond Moore, a Seventh Day Adventist, aimed for an “ecumenical vision of homeschooling”[xxvi] that put children first. Moore believed that “homeschooling cultivated children’s natural curiosity and allowed them to learn at an individual pace, an argument that appealed to parents across religious lines.”[xxvii]

But due to later, “parental sovereignty” efforts by the conservative evangelical homeschooling lobby (led first and foremost by Michael Farris and his parental rights organization, the Home School Legal Defense Association), many states have no concrete criteria by which they can distinguish between pedagogical and totalistic homeschooling.[xxviii] For example, 48 states have no protections for at-risk homeschooled children.[xxix] These states have fallen into line with HSLDA’s goal of “total parental sovereignty,” choosing to believe “parents’ rights supersede any relationship a child has with society.”[xxx]

The consequence of this has now become evident: a road has been paved for new religious movements to take full advantage of homeschooling for their own totalistic ends, up to and including child abuse and trafficking.


[i] Shaney Swift, Homeschoolers Anonymous, “Homeschooling, The Tool My Parents Used Well,” August 26, 2013, link, accessed on April 16, 2015.

[ii] Coalition for Responsible Home Education, “An Introduction to Homeschooling,” link, accessed on April 16, 2015.

[iii] Coalition for Responsible Home Education, “Homeschooling Numbers,” link, accessed on April 16, 2015.

[iv] Helen Cordes, Salon, “Battling for the heart and soul of home-schoolers,” October 2, 2000, link, accessed on April 16, 2015.

[v] Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times, “Many Muslims Turn to Home Schooling,” March 26, 2008, link, accessed on April 16, 2015.

[vi] Coalition for Responsible Home Education, “Reasons Parents Homeschool,” link, accessed on April 16, 2015.

[vii] Ama Mazama, The Washington Post, “Racism in schools is pushing more black families to homeschool their children,” April 10, 2015, link, accessed on April 16, 2015.

[viii] Dick Anthony, “Tactical Ambiguity and Brainwashing Formulations: Science or Pseudo-Science?”, Misunderstanding Cults: Searching for Objectivity in a Controversial Field, ed. Benjamin Zablocki and Thomas Robbins, University of Toronto Press, 2001, p. 243-4.

[ix] Ibid, p. 247.

[x] Dick Anthony, Thomas Robbins, and Steven Barrie-Anthony, “Cult and Anticult Totalism: Reciprocal Escalation and Violence,” Millennial Violence: Past, Present and Future, ed. Jeffrey Kaplan, Routledge, 2002, p. 214.

[xi] Michel Foucault, “Complete and Austere Institutions,” The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow, Pantheon Books, 1984, p. 214.

[xii] Margaret Thaler Singer, “Thought Reform Today,” Trauma and Self, ed. Charles B. Strozier and Michael Flynn, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1996, p. 70.

[xiii] Ibid.

[xiv] Robert Jay Lifton, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of “Brainwashing” in China, reprint edition, University of North Carolina Press, 1989.

[xv] Anthony, Robbins, and Barrie-Anthony, 2002, p. 214.

[xvi] Lifton, 1989.

[xvii] Ibid.

[xviii] Ibid.

[xix] Ibid.

[xx] Ibid.

[xxi] Ibid.

[xxii] Ibid.

[xxiii] Ibid.

[xxiv] “We need to allow, encourage, and help young people create extended families of their own.” From John Holt, Psychology Today, “Free the Children; They Need Room to Grow,” October 1974.

[xxv] John Holt and Pat Farenga, “Common Objections to Homeschooling,” Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling, revised edition, Perseus Books, 2003.

[xxvi] Mitchell Stevens, “Politics,” Kingdom of Children: Culture and Controversy in the Homeschooling Movement, Princeton University Press, 2009, p. 173.

[xxvii] Caitlin G. Townsend, Religion & Politics, “The Troubling Push to Deregulate Homeschooling,” February 17, 2015, link, accessed on April 19, 2015.

[xxviii] Coalition for Responsible Home Education, “Current Homeschool Law,” link, accessed on April 19, 2015.

[xxix] Coalition for Responsible Home Education, “The Case for Oversight,” link, accessed on April 19, 2015.

[xxx] Townsend, 2015.

No Unbelievers Allowed: How Homeschooling Became a Christians-Only Club

Gregg Harris, YouTube.

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

As a child, I remember my family was friends with another Christian homeschooling family. My parents ran a local Christian homeschooling support group. This other family, however, was part of an “inclusive” homeschooling support group. I knew this was a source of tension between my parents and the other parents. Whether accurate or not, my child-brain discerned that since the “inclusive” group was not only for Christians, it was not a “Christian” homeschooling group — and that was a problem.

At the time, I did not realize that this tension between my parents and my friends’ parents about whether to include non-Christians in local homeschooling support groups was a significant debate among homeschoolers. The fact that it was a significant debate can be traced back to one person in particular: Gregg Harris.

The influence Gregg Harris has exerted on the modern homeschooling movement cannot be overstated. He is described by journalists Kathryn Joyce and Helen Cordes as one of the “four pillars of homeschooling” (alongside HSLDA’s Michael Farris, NHERI’s Brian Ray, and The Teaching Home‘s Sue Welch). In his 2006 book Homeschool Heroes: The Struggle and Triumph of Home Schooling in America, the late Chris Klicka of HSLDA describes the exact influence Harris had on the fledgeling homeschooling movement in the 1980’s:

In 1980 Gregg Harris and his wife, Sono, elected to take a giant step and homeschool their son, Joshua… Gregg wanted to start a ministry to encourage other families to homeschool. He saw homeschooling as a means of restoring the model of the Bible-centered family, a place to train future leaders… His ministry, Christian Life Workshops (CLW), offered these two-day homeschool workshops… He urged families to homeschool in order to fulfill God’s command to train our children.

His homeschool workshops at first drew a few hundred… Pretty soon the workshops grew in attendance to nearly fifteen hundred. Over 180,000 families were trained by Gregg Harris from 1984 to 1995. At least thirty-five of the now large statewide homeschool associations got their start as Gregg shared his attendee and mailing lists. Many had their founding organizing meetings at Gregg’s workshops.

Without Gregg Harris’s early influence, I am convinced that the homeschool movement would not be the thriving Christian influence on our society that it is becoming today (21-22, emphases in original).

HSLDA’s J. Michael Smith has also noted that Harris’ “early Homeschooling Workshops inspired…many state homeschool organizations to launch annual state conferences.” According to Harris’ own website today, he has taught over a quarter of a million homeschooling families.

It is because of Harris’ overwhelming influence on both the modern homeschooling movement in general and the Christian subculture within that movement that HSLDA named their Lifetime Achievement Award the “Gregg Harris Award for Leadership.” (This is the award HSLDA bestowed upon accused rapist Bill Gothard in 2010.)

One of the primary ways that Harris influenced homeschooling, as noted above, is his transformation of homeschooling from an alternative educational method to a specifically Christian way of life. In his 1988 book The Christian Home School, Harris directly compares Christian parents who send their children to public schools to medieval Christians who sent their children into actual slaughter during the Children’s Crusade of 1212.*** “A similar slaughter is taking place today,” Harris warns, when “Christian parents send their children to the public school… The result is the same” (11). Because “God has entrusted the care, the nurture, and the education of those children primarily to [parents],” “not to the State” and “not to the Church” (11), Harris sees homeschooling as the biblical method of education.

To Harris, part of making homeschooling a specifically Christian way of life means purging local homeschooling support groups of non-Christians. In The Christian Home School, Harris urges Christian homeschoolers that, “For spiritual support, you and other like-minded Christians will clearly need to meet together in homes or churches as a separate group… We should try not to get entangled in the affairs of unbelieving families” (186-7).

Not being reported for child abuse is also an advantage of shunning “unbelieving families.” In a guest chapter for Chris Klicka’s 1995 book The Right Choice: Home Schooling, Harris argues against “inclusive,” or interfaith, homeschool support groups. He warns that non-Christians do not understand the biblical mandate to physically strike one’s children according to Proverbs. Consequently, “Biblical methods of discipline may be reported by fellow group members to authorities as ‘child abuse'” (188).

For these reasons, Harris recommends in The Christian Home School that support groups create statements of faith. “A disagreement over policy or doctrine or an aggressive intruder can mean a lot of problems for the group,” he writes. “Know who you are and what you stand for when you begin.” This means that, “A statement of faith, which should be affirmed by any potential group leader, ought to be broad enough to include Christians who disagree on nonessential matters (such as eschatology), but narrow enough to exclude people from a nonevangelical framework or who hold abhorrent opinions” (185).

In addition to non-evangelicals (e.g., Catholics), Harris also contends for the exclusion of families with “homosexual and lesbian parents.” LGBTQ parents, Harris explains, “have a history of trying to join Christian support groups and move into leadership under false pretenses.” Since “God’s Word clearly condemns these sexual perversions,” Harris argues, “to keep these people out, you need a clear statement in the founding documents” (185).

Note that these families are being excluded because of parental sexual identity. So even if the parents’ children are straight, if the parents are not straight, Harris recommends casting the whole lot out of one’s group.

Furthermore, Harris wants these LGBTQ families excluded while acknowledging they are isolated and persecuted. He points out that LGBTQ families “are attracted to home schooling because they have been socially isolated and often persecuted. They seem to assume that home schoolers are kindred spirits because of the legal battles related to home education. Needless to say, Christian home schoolers have little in common with such people, but we need to say so” (185-6). He does, nonetheless, advocate for showing LGBTQ families personal kindness: “Respond to them on a personal level, but keep them out of the group” (186).

These sorts of exclusions are what homeschooling forefather Raymond Moore referred to in his 1994 white papers in which he lambasted Harris, HSLDA, and others for causing division in the homeschooling movement. Also known as “The Ravage of Home Education Through Exclusion By Religion,” Moore’s white papers lambast all four homeschooling “pillars” for a “form of bigotry” he labels “Protestant Exclusivism.” Moore gives the following harsh description of Harris:

A “Christian” fired from a homeschool job for fraud began using a statement of faith to split states and obtain a following, His Protestant exclusivist [PE] move was joined by lawyer-preacher Mike Farris and Editor Sue Welch of TEACHING HOME magazine, making money from the move, yet it did not come from the Christ whose flag they wave. Backed by publisher who profit by formal, conventional programs, it destroys the historic unity and quality of the Movement, splitting state groups by requiring a statement of faith.

Sociologist Mitchell Stevens gives a more nuanced take on the disagreements between Harris and Moore in his 2009 book on homeschooling, Kingdom of Children: Culture and Controversy in the Homeschooling Movement. In contrast to Moore’s description of Harris being “fired,” Stevens claims Harris “left” his job with Moore:

As the years passed and Christian home education flourished, other stars began to rise. Gregg Harris, who had begun his homeschool career as a conference planner for Moore, left his employer in a bitter business dispute and began his own fledgling ministry… Moore and his wife were themselves Protestant Christian, but their vision for home schooling was an ecumenical one. The next generation of believer elites had different ideas… By the dawn of the 1990s, Raymond Moore was finding himself on the outside… Ultimately Moore’s more ecumenical vision for homeschooling lost out to a distinctively Christian home education (172-3).

Over the last decade, news articles have proclaimed the religious diversification of the modern homeschooling movement. People often point to surveys that show fewer parents are homeschooling primarily for religious reasons. Nonetheless, it is estimated that anywhere from 70 to 94 percent of homeschoolers are Christian.

*** While this is the description of the Children’s Crusade given by Harris, it is not historically accurate.

The History of Homeschooling, 1904-Present

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

The following is a historical timeline of the modern U.S. homeschooling movement from 1904 through the present. It details the various and divergent aspects of homeschooling — from the leftist unschooling movement pioneered by John Holt to the conservative Christian takeover masterminded by Michael Farris, Gregg Harris, Mary Pride, and Brian Ray, the so-called “Four Pillars of Homeschooling.” The purpose of this timeline is to educate the public about how homeschooling has evolved over the years and also reveal divisions that have plagued it since its beginnings. Please feel free to make suggestions for changes or additions in either the comments or by emailing us at


In the Indiana Appellate Court case State v. Peterman, the Court defines a school as “a place where instruction is imparted to the young” and holds that “a school at home counts as a private school.”[i]


Influenced by the Catholic Worker movement, Norbert and Marion Shickel begin subsistence farming. They homeschool their 13 children and call their homeschool “Mary Hill Country School.” Their local school district is not only impressed by their homeschooling, but also “actively sought [Marion] out to deal with some of their problem cases.”[ii]


In Illinois, Marjorie Levisen and her husband Lincoln are convicted of truancy for violating the state’s compulsory attendance law. Marjorie had decided to not enroll her daughter in public school and instead enrolled her in the Home Study Institute, a Seventh Day Adventist correspondence course.[iii] The Levisens are Seventh Day Adventists who believe “that the child should not be educated in competition with other children because it produces a pugnacious character, that the necessary atmosphere of faith in the Bible cannot be obtained in the public school, and that for the first eight or ten years of a child’s life the field or garden is the best schoolroom, the mother the best teacher, and nature the best lesson book.”[iv] In the Illinois Supreme Court case People v. Levisen, the truancy conviction is overturned and the Court rules that Levisen’s homeschooling via correspondence course “did qualify as private schooling under Illinois law.”[v]

Marjorie Levisen and her children. In 1950, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that Levisen’s homeschooling via correspondence course qualified as private schooling under Illinois law.
Marjorie Levisen and her children. In 1950, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that Levisen’s homeschooling via correspondence course qualified as private schooling under Illinois law.


Paul Goodman writes Growing Up Absurd.

R.J. Rushdoony writes the book, Intellectual Schizophrenia, a critique of tax-funded, public education.”[vi]

Bill Gothard incorporates Campus Teams, the organization that will later become the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP).[vii]


Many conservative Protestants pull their children out of public schools on account of Supreme Court decisions that force racial desegregation and ban school-officiated religious activities (such as school-sponsored Bible reading). Their complaint is that the Court “put the Negroes in the schools—now they put God out of the schools.”[viii]


Raymond Moore cofounds the Hewitt Research Foundation with Carl Hewitt.[ix]

R.J. Rushdoony writes The Messianic Character of American Education, a critique of the educational philosophies of over two dozen of the major founders and philosophers of American progressive education, from Horace Mann to John Dewey.[x]


Paul Goodman writes Compulsory Miseducation. Between this and Growing Up Absurd, Goodman argues “that compelling children to attend school is not the best use of their youth, and that education is more a community function than an institutional one. This idea was developed and amplified over the years by many authors, but most forcefully by John Holt.”[xi]

John Holt writes How Children Fail. This book “created an uproar with his observations that forcing children to learn makes them unnaturally self-conscious about learning and stifles children’s initiative and creativity by making them focus on how to please the teachers and the schools with the answers they will reward best, a situation that creates a fake type of learning.”[xii]

Francis Schaeffer first encounters the writings of R.J. Rushdoony. He makes Rushdoony’s book, This Independent Republic, the basis of a seminar for students at L’Abri in Switzerland.[xiii]

Wheaton College, Bill Gothard’s alma mater, invites Gothard “to design and teach a course based on his work with youth.” The course is given the name “Basic Youth Conflicts.”[xiv]


R.J. Rushdoony founds the Chalcedon Foundation.[xv] The Foundation affirms homeschooling as not only one of the most important institutions for implementing Rushdoony’s ideology of Christian Reconstructionism,[xvi] but also “the only model for education given in the Bible.”[xvii]


In New Jersey, Barbara and Frank Massa remove their daughter from public school to homeschool her. This action leads to the 1967 New Jersey Superior Court decision State v. Massa.[xviii]


The New Jersey Superior Court rules in State v. Massa that homeschoolers satisfy the “elsewhere than at school” portion of New Jersey’s compulsory school attendance statute. The Court declares not only that “a child may be taught at home,” but also that the homeschooling teacher “need not be certified by the State of New Jersey to so teach.”[xix] This vindicates Barbara and Frank Massa’s decision the previous year to remove their daughter from public school to homeschool her.

In response to school authorities demanding Amish children attend public school, the Iowa legislature passes SF 785, establishing “an exemption from compulsory school attendance for members of religious denominations which profess ‘principles or tenents [sic] that differ substantially from the objectives, goals, and philosophy of education embodied’” in public school.[xx]

John Holt writes How Children Learn.


Paul Lindstrom founds the Christian Liberty Academy as a result of dissatisfaction with government schools. From this academy is developed a homeschool curriculum known as CLASS. Many of the early seminal court decisions that helped to win the right to homeschool involved homeschoolers who were affiliated with CLASS.[xxi]


Dr. Henry Morris founds the Institute for Creation Research.[xxii]


Ivan Illich writes Deschooling Society, which influences Holt. After Deschooling Society appears, Holt studies and corresponds with Illich at length.[xxiii]

Everett Reimer writes School is Dead: Alternatives in Education.

Edith Schaeffer writes her book, The Hidden Art of Homemaking, which later inspires Mary Pride in her writings.[xxiv]


Raymond Moore writes “The dangers of early schooling” for Harper’s Magazine.[xxv]

Reader’s Digest publishes a condensed version of Moore’s piece for Harper’s as “When Should Your Child Go To School?”,[xxvi] which “distributed it to millions more readers.”[xxvii]

Shamanist/writing coach Hal Bennett writes No More Public School, which “explains how you can take your child out of public school and educate him at home.”[xxviii]

The U.S. Supreme Court, in Wisconsin v. Yoder (a court case frequently cited by later homeschooling advocates and leaders), rules that Amish children could not be placed under compulsory education past the 8th grade. The Court affirms “the fundamental interest of parents, as contrasted with that of the State, to guide the religious future and education of their children.”[xxix]

After Iowa school authorities try to force Amish children to attend public school, the U.S. Supreme Court rules in the 1972 case Wisconsin v. Yoder in favor of religious exemptions from compulsory school attendance.
After Iowa school authorities try to force Amish children to attend public school, the U.S. Supreme Court rules in the 1972 case Wisconsin v. Yoder in favor of religious exemptions from compulsory school attendance.


The Colorado legislature revises its compulsory attendance law to exempt from school attendance any student “being educated at home by a parent under an established system of home study approved by the state board [of education].”[xxx]

In Marion, Utah, noted white supremacist John Singer removes his children from public school after his daughter comes home one day with a textbook that celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. and showed a picture of black and white people together. While Singer is initially arrested for doing so, a Utah court rules that he is “permitted…to homeschool his kids so long as they were tested twice a year and received an annual psychological evaluation at the Singer home.”[xxxi]

R.J. Rushdoony writes his book, The Institutes of Biblical Law. Gary North says that this book, which “took the Ten Commandments as the ordering principle [to] be applied to modern life” and “that civil government must be shrunk drastically to meet biblical standards,” “launched the Christian Reconstruction movement.”[xxxii]


John Holt becomes a public advocate for the children’s rights movement with the publication of Escape from Childhood: The Needs and Rights of Children.[xxxiii]

Bill Gothard’s organization Campus Teams is re-named the Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts.[xxxiv]


Raymond Moore coauthors Better Late Than Early with his wife Dorothy.

Mormon homeschooling pioneer Joyce Kinmont begins homeschooling[xxxv] because her “6-year-old daughter had become ‘engaged’ to a boy at school.”[xxxvi]


The State of Virginia passes a religious exemption from compulsory school attendance. The exemption states that, “A school board shall excuse from attendance at school…any pupil who, together with his parents, by reason of bona fide religious training or belief is conscientiously opposed to attendance at school.”[xxxvii]

In Instead of Education: Ways to Help People Do Things Better, John Holt proposes “a new Underground Railroad to help children escape from schools.” This proposal inspires current homeschoolers to contact Holt, which in turn inspires him to create a newsletter for homeschoolers.[xxxviii]


John Holt starts Growing Without Schooling, a bimonthly magazine for those who desire educational activities outside a traditional school framework.[xxxix] Growing Without Schooling is “the nation’s, and probably the world’s, first periodical about homeschooling.”[xl] The magazine is “filled with citations of trial court rulings home schoolers had won. These cases gave parents confidence and helped the home school movement grow.”[xli]

John Holt coins the term “unschooling” in the second edition of Growing Without Schooling.[xlii]

Manfred Smith, who was previously involved with the “radical reform school movement” that embraced free schools, discovers the writings of John Holt and becomes a homeschooling advocate.[xliii]

Nancy Campbell begins publishing her Quiverfull magazine Above Rubies, “seeking to fill a void in the encouragement of women who resisted the lures of feminism and careers.”[xliv]

In Amherst, Massachusetts, Peter and Susan Perchemlides decide to homeschool their son and submit a curriculum proposal to their local superintendent, Donald Frizzle. Frizzle repeatedly rejects their proposal, leading to the 1978 Massachusetts Superior Court case Perchemlides v. Frizzle.[xlv]

In 1977, John Holt starts Growing Without Schooling, the first-ever periodical about homeschooling.
In 1977, John Holt starts Growing Without Schooling, the first-ever periodical about homeschooling.


In Perchemlides v. Frizzle, the Massachusetts Superior Court rules that Peter and Susan Perchemlides, who removed their son to homeschool him and are represented in court by the Western Massachusetts Legal Services and the Cambridge Center for Law and Education, have a constitutional “right to privacy” that includes the right to homeschool. The Court declares, “Parents must be allowed to decide whether public school education, including its socialization aspects, is desirable or undesirable for their children.”[xlvi]

Bob and Linda Session are tried in Iowa Magistrate Court for allegedly “failing to obtain equivalent instruction for their homeschooled 7-year-old.” However, the Sessions are ultimately victorious on appeal. The Iowa District Court rules that, “The state had failed to make its case that the Sessions’ homeschooling program was not equivalent to the instruction provided by a certified teacher.”[xlvii]

Time Magazine runs an article on the homeschooling movement,[xlviii] “the first of its kind in a major American weekly.”[xlix]


John Holt and Bob and Linda Session appear on The Phil Donahue Show,[l] which has “an immediate and dramatic impact on the scope and prestige of homeschooling.” This show is profoundly influential on later homeschoolers, as “many of the first wave of homeschooling families trace their inspiration back to that first Donahue show.”[li]

Steve Gothard, Bill Gothard’s brother and an employee of the Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts, is discovered to be having sexual relationships with numerous IBYC employees. Bill Gothard “did nothing officially about it.”[lii]

Beverley LaHaye founds the Concerned Women for America, an organization that “opposes the Equal Rights Amendment, abortion, comparable pay legislation for jobs of equal worth, unisex insurance and the 1984 Civil Rights Act.”[liv]

Catholic educator Pat Montgomery becomes a fan of homeschooling. She is asked by a family “to help them teach their nine-year-old at home using the same approach she designed for the students of the campus school.”[lv] Montgomery consequently creates the Home Based Education Program administered through her private school, Clonlara School, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It becomes “a popular correspondence program designed specifically to meet the needs of homeschooling families.”[lvi] It also technically allows parents to obey state laws requiring certification of homeschool teachers (since Montgomery herself is certified).[lvii]


Raymond Moore does his first radio show with Focus on the Family, prompting James Dobson to later say, “I consider Dr. Raymond Moore to be the father of the modern home school movement. The avalanche of mail we received at Focus on the Family after our initial broadcast with Ray in 1979 confirmed that his pioneering theories on education had found a receptive audience.” Note: email correspondence with Milton Gaither indicates that Moore first appeared on Focus on the Family on May 3 and 10, 1980, during a two-part show called “School Can Wait,”. [liii]

Manfred Smith founds the Maryland Home Education Association.[lviii]

Bill Gothard announces his resignation from the Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts due to, among numerous charges, sexual harassment accusations against him as well as accusations that he ignored his brother Steve’s sexually inappropriate relationships with IBYC employees. However, Bill “return[s] to power shortly thereafter”[lix] and technically “never left the function of IBYC president.”[lx]

Pat and Sue Welch begin publishing The Teaching Home magazine.[lxi]

Laurence Popanz of Avoca, Wisconsin withdraws his 3 daughters from public school. Popanz informs his district school administrator that he is a member of “The Agency for the Church of the Free Thinker Inc.” and that this church administers “The Free Thinker School,” his own private school in which his daughters are now enrolled. This leads to a conflict that results in the 1983 Wisconsin Supreme Court case Wisconsin v. Popanz.[lxii]

Dr. Anne Carroll creates the first Catholic homeschooling curriculum, Seton Home Study School.[lxiii]


Michael Farris becomes head of Washington State’s Moral Majority, “the largest Moral Majority affiliate in the nation.”[lxiv] As the affiliate director, Farris debates Timothy Leary at Whitman College on LGBT rights.[lxv]

R.J. Rushdoony starts being an “expert witness” in school court cases.[lxvi]

Francis Schaeffer writes his book, A Christian Manifesto, making him “the leading theorist of the ‘religion’ of secular humanism,” against which “the practice of Christian schooling increased.”[lxvii]

Tim LaHaye creates the Council for National Policy, once dubbed “the most powerful conservative group you’ve never heard of.”[lxviii]

Bill Gothard writes his book, Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts: Research in Principles of Life.

Ken and Laurie Huffman create the Utah Home Education Association. Joyce Kinmont organizes the Association’s first conference and features John Holt as the keynote speaker.[lxix]

In 1981, Bill Gothard writes his seminal book, Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts: Research in Principles of Life.
In 1981, Bill Gothard writes his seminal book, Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts: Research in Principles of Life.


After a school board denies homeschooling parents Denise Pierce and Christopher Rice their request to homeschool, the parents appeal to the New Hampshire Supreme Court. In Appeal of Pierce, the Court rules in favor of the parents, saying that, “While the state may adopt a policy requiring children to be educated, it does not have the unlimited power to require they be educated in a certain way or place.”[lxx]

Michael Farris attends a pastor’s seminar taught by Bill Gothard and is converted to the Quiverfull movement.[lxxi]

Michael Smith hears Raymond Moore on James Dobson’s Focus on the Family radio program and he and his wife Elizabeth decide to start homeschooling. As he was professionally a lawyer, Smith “quickly found himself inundated with requests to defend homeschooling families in Southern California.”[lxxii] According to Smith, Moore’s interviews with Focus on the Family “laid the foundation for the early explosion of the home-school movement.”[lxxiii]

Michael Farris travels from Washington to Utah to tape a radio program with Tim and Beverly LaHaye. HSLDA says, “Raymond Moore, a guest on the program, was there to discuss homeschooling. By the end of the day, Dr. Moore had convinced Mike, as well as the LaHaye’s daughter, to homeschool.”[lxxiv] Many other notable homeschool leaders credit these interviews as foundational.[lxxv]


Michael and Vickie Farris and Michael and Elizabeth Smith found the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).[lxxvi]

Michael Farris moves from Olympia, Washington to Washington, D.C. to become the general counsel of the LaHayes’ organization Concerned Women for America.[lxxvii] He helps Beverly LaHaye defeat the Equal Rights Amendment.[lxxviii]

Mark and Helen Hegener begin publishing Home Education Magazine.[lxxix]

Cathy Duffy begins her career as a “curriculum specialist” for the homeschooling movement.[lxxx]

Francis Schaeffer’s daughter, Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, writes her treatise on Christian education, “For the Children’s Sake.” Cathy Duffy considers Macaulay’s book “foundational reading for those beginning to homeschool”[lxxxi] and the book causes the work of Charlotte Mason to experience “a resurgence among Christian homeschoolers.”[lxxxii]

The Wisconsin Supreme Court, in Wisconsin v. Popanz, supports Laurence Popanz’s decision in 1980 to withdraw his 3 daughters and enroll them in his home-based private school, “The Free Thinker School.” The Court overturns “the state’s compulsory school attendance law by holding that the attendance law could not be enforced against parents or guardians who sent their children to an unrecognized private school because the statutory phrase ‘private school’ was so vague that it was impossible to determine whether or not children were attending a private school.” In response, the Wisconsin legislature passes the 1983 Wisconsin Act 512, providing that “instruction in a home-based program may be substituted for attendance at a public or private school only if the home program meets all the criteria required of a private school.”[lxxxiii]


Manfred Smith’s Maryland Home Education Association organizes the legal defense for Kathleen Miller, a Maryland homeschooling parent charged with truancy. According to Smith, “The trial lasted two days, and the defense team overwhelmed the prosecution. The trial proved that Mrs. Miller was in full compliance of the law and that anyone could homeschool in Maryland so long as they provided regular and thorough instruction to their children.”[lxxxiv]

The Coalition on Revival is formed “to form a united, spiritual army willing to help mobilize the Body of Christ.”[lxxxv] The original steering committee includes Gary DeMar, Michael Farris, Duane Gish, Timothy LaHaye, Josh McDowell, Gary North, R.J. Rushdoony, and Edith Schaeffer.[lxxxvi]

Beverley LaHaye’s Concerned Women for America applies for — and is denied — $85,000 in federal funding “to survey the nation’s 16,000 school districts for school policies, textbooks and classroom activities that Beverly LaHaye believes violate parental rights.”[lxxxvii]

Bill Gothard, Dr. Larry Guthrie, and Inge Cannon begin development of the Advanced Training Institute (ATI),[lxxxviii] a homeschooling program in which “the core curriculum is the Wisdom Booklets, a 3,000-page amplification of the Sermon on the Mount.”[lxxxix]

Jordan Lorence is hired as a part-time attorney for HSLDA.[xc]


The North Carolina Supreme Court rules in Delconte v. State that, “Homeschools should be permitted to operate under the rules governing private schools.”[xci]

Chris Klicka becomes HSLDA’s first full-time attorney.[xcii]

John Holt dies.[xciii]

Francis Schaeffer’s son, Frank Schaeffer (who was himself homeschooled[xciv]), is a literary agent and discovers an author named Mary Pride.[xcv] Mary Pride writes her seminal book, The Way Home, detailing “her post-college embrace of evangelical Christianity, which led to her repudiation of what she saw as anti-biblical feminist ideals.”[xcvi] Starting with this book, Pride is considered by some to be “the Spiritual Mother of the Quiverfull Movement.”[xcvii]

The number of homeschooled children reaches 50,000.[xcviii]

Large-scale homeschooling conferences (with 1,000 or more attendees) begin to spring up across the nation.[xcix]

Conservative Christian homeschoolers become the dominant force within homeschooling, changing “the nature of homeschooling from a crusade against ‘the establishment’ to a crusade against the secular forces of modern-day society.”[c]

Michael and Vickie Farris and Michael and Elizabeth Smith found HSLDA in 1983. Pictured, left to right: Michael Smith, Michael Farris, David Gordon, and Chris Klicka.
Michael and Vickie Farris and Michael and Elizabeth Smith found HSLDA in 1983. Pictured, left to right: Michael Smith, Michael Farris, David Gordon, and Chris Klicka.


Kirk McCord and Brad Chamberlain establish the Texas Home School Coalition as a political action committee “because of the numerous lawsuits against home schoolers across [Texas] and harmful legislation being introduced in Austin.”[ci]

Michael Farris begins working full time with HSLDA.[cii]

Michael Farris allegedly signs the Coalition for Revival’s 1986 manifesto, which declares, “We believe American can be turned and once again function as a Christian nation.” Farris later denies signing it.[ciii]

Mary Pride publishes The Big Book of Home Learning, “the first mass-market homeschool how-to book.”[civ]


Michael Smith moves from Santa Monica, California to Washington, D.C. to work full time with HSLDA.[cv]


Gregg Harris writes The Christian Home School. Harris’s “early Homeschooling Workshops inspired thousands of families to begin homeschooling and many state homeschool organizations to launch annual state conferences.”[cvi]


Bill Gothard’s organization, the Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts (originally called Campus Teams in 1961), is renamed the Institute in Basic Life Principles, the name which it continues to have today.[cvii]

David Barton launches WallBuilders,[cviii] an organization dedicated to “educating the nation concerning the Godly foundation of our country” in order to inspire “public policies which reflect Biblical values.”[cix]

Cheryl Seelhoff starts her homeschooling magazine Gentle Spirit, “a small magazine for (mostly) Christian women living the simple life at home.”[cx]


Brian Ray creates the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI).[cxi]

HSLDA founds the National Center for Home Education “to serve state leaders by providing information about state and federal legislation of concern to home schoolers.”[cxii]

Joyce Kinmont founds the LDS Home Educators Association.[cxiii]

Christian Home Educators of Colorado is founded.[cxiv]

After creating ATI’s Wisdom Booklets and directing Bill Gothard’s ATI program for 6 years, Inge Cannon is invited by Michael Farris to head up HSLDA’s National Center for Home Education.[cxv]

HSLDA membership reaches over 15,000 families and spans all 50 U.S. states.[cxvi]

Cheryl Seelhoff appears on a Focus on the Family radio program, an appearance that “brought mounting attention to Gentle Spirit.”[cxvii]

Rick and Jan Hess publish A Full Quiver: Family Planning and the Lordship of Christ, a foundational text of the Quiverfull movement.


During the 1990-91 school year, fewer than 2,000 homeschoolers sought assistance from HSLDA.[cxviii]

HSLDA goes international with the formation of HSLDA Canada.[cxix]

Jordan Lorence becomes a full-time attorney for HSLDA.[cxx]

Doug Phillips begins working for HSLDA as their first law clerk.[cxxi]

Inspired by the work of John Holt, Grace Llewellyn publishes her book The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education. The book “speaks directly to teens, encouraging them to consider the unschooling option”[cxxii] and embrace youth rights.

Sociologist Jane Van Galen classifies homeschoolers into two groups: ideologues and pedagogues.[cxxiii]


Homeschooling is officially recognized as a legal option in every state.[cxxiv]

John Taylor Gatto publishes Dumbing Us Down, the central argument of which is that “schools are not failing,” rather, they are “explicitly set up to ensure a docile, malleable workforce to meet the growing, changing demands of corporate capitalism.”[cxxv] This book puts him in “heavy demand as a speaker to groups ranging from principals’ associations to software companies to homeschool conferences.”[cxxvi]


Michael Farris runs unsuccessfully for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia.[cxxvii]

Mary Pride and her husband Bill appear on the first edition of Wired Magazine, promoting the use of computer software in homeschooling.[cxxviii]

Doug Phillips becomes the Director of Government Affairs for HSLDA’s National Center for Home Education.[cxxix]

President Bill Clinton signs the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a bill drafted by Michael Farris. Farris is unable to attend the signing ceremony so Doug Phillips attends in his place.[cxxx]


Michael Farris establishes the Madison Project.[cxxxi] The organization “raises money for conservative candidates through [its] network of grassroots conservatives”[cxxxii] and currently has a budget of over $5 million.[cxxxiii] The group becomes known for evading federal election laws regarding donation limits by engaging in a fundraising practice called “bundling.”[cxxxiv]

Gregg Harris’ son, Josh Harris, creates New Attitude, a magazine aimed at teenage homeschoolers.[cxxxv]

H.R. 6 sends cataclysmic divisions throughout the U.S. homeschooling movement.[cxxxvi] Doug Phillips plays a central role in HSLDA’s efforts against the bill.[cxxxvii]

In October, Raymond Moore vehemently attacks not only HSLDA for how it handled the H.R. 6 situation but also all four of the “Pillars of Homeschooling” (Farris, Harris, Pride, and Ray) in his White Papers, or “The Ravage of Home Education Through Exclusion By Religion.” [cxxxviii] Moore accuses Gregg Harris of property theft, saying Harris “raped our Foundation program in the crudest, boldest, most dishonest spree ever.” He also lambasts all the “Pillars” for a “form of bigotry” he labels “Protestant Exclusivism.”[cxxxix]

Larry and Susan Kaseman argue in Home Education Magazine that HSLDA is undermining (via federalization) the entire homeschool movement and its rights, placing homeschooling freedoms at risk.[cxl]

HSLDA successfully lobbies against the U.S. ratification of United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.[cxli]

Cheryl Seelhoff’s magazine Gentle Spirit reaches approximately 15,000 subscribers and generates a gross income of $300,000.[cxlii]

Ken Ham launches Creation Science Ministries in the U.S., later renamed Answers in Genesis.[cxliii]

In 1994, Doug Phillips played a central role in HSLDA’s efforts against H.R. 6, a bill that sent cataclysmic divisions throughout the U.S. homeschooling movement. Pictured, left to right: HSLDA President J. Michael Smith, Doug and Jubilee Phillips, and HSLDA board member Dick Honnaker at HSLDA’s 2004 National Leadership Conference in Spokane, Washington.
In 1994, Doug Phillips played a central role in HSLDA’s efforts against H.R. 6, a bill that sent cataclysmic divisions throughout the U.S. homeschooling movement. Pictured, left to right: HSLDA President J. Michael Smith, Doug and Jubilee Phillips, and
HSLDA board member Dick Honnaker at HSLDA’s 2004 National Leadership Conference in Spokane, Washington.


The number of homeschooled children is between 500,000 and 750,000.[cxliv]

Christopher Klicka writes his book The Right Choice: Home Schooling. The book contends that “sending our children to the public school violates nearly every biblical principle” and homeschooling is the “biblical form of education.” Klicka includes a chapter by Gregg Harris that argues against interfaith homeschool support groups because “biblical methods of discipline may be reported by fellow group members to authorizes as ‘child abuse’” Klicka’s also includes a section written by R.J. Rushdoony, in which it is argued that a child’s will “must be broken.” [cxlv]

IBLP and HSLDA stakeholders (including Bill Gothard, Michael Farris, and Jordan Lorence)[cxlvi] launch Oak Brook College of Law, a “law school for homeschoolers.”[cxlvii]


HSLDA joins (and pays membership dues) to Tim LaHaye’s Council for National Policy.[cxlviii]

Michael Farris’s daughter, Christy Farris (now Christy Shipe), starts a homeschool debate league through HSLDA.[cxlix]

Tim Echols incorporates TeenPact, “with a mission to train youth to understand the political process, value their liberty, defend the Christian faith, and engage the culture.”[cl]

Mary Pride’s sales of The Big Book of Home Learning reach close to a quarter million copies.[cli]

Grace Llewellyn founds the Not Back to School Camp. The camp is for “unschoolers & homeschoolers ages 13-18” and “aspires to create a sanctuary that affirms, inspires, and mentors unschoolers” through normative outdoor camp activities and crafts.[clii]


Cathy Duffy presents John Taylor Gatto with the “Alexis de Tocqueville” Award from the Alliance for the Separation of School and State.[cliii]

13-year-old Rebecca Sealfon of Brooklyn, New York wins the National Spelling Bee, bringing “new attention to the growing phenomenon of homeschooling” as she is “the first homeschooled child to win the National Spelling Bee.”[cliv] Sealfon, however, is not entirely positive about homeschooling, noting that, “One disadvantage is that many of your friends are not at your same age, and there is not the same socialization quite like I would have in school.”[clv]

Josh Harris writes I Kissed Dating Goodbye, which “singlehandedly made the word ‘courtship’ popular in mainstream evangelical circles.”[clvi]

Cheryl Seelhoff, publisher of the Gentle Spirit homeschooling magazine, sues 3 of the “Pillars of Homeschooling” — Sue Welch, Gregg Harris, and Mary Pride — as well as others for “defamation, slander, intentional infliction of emotional distress, intentional interference with commerce, and violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.”[clvii] Michael Farris provides counsel to the defendants.[clviii]

HSLDA holds the very first national homeschool debate tournament at Loudoun Valley High School in Purcellville, Virginia. Christy Farris (now Christy Shipe) is the tournament organizer.[clix]

David and Teresa Moon launch Communicators for Christ (CFC), a nationwide tour teaching homeschooled students public speaking and debate. CFC is later renamed the Institute for Cultural Communicators, with the goal “to equip Christians to shape the future through authentic leadership and cultural communication. “[clx]

HSLDA successfully lobbies against HB 211, a New Hampshire bill that would have included “psychological injury” and “isolation” as forms of child abuse.[clxi]

The Homeschool Sports Network is launched, a national non-profit organization dedicated to promoting homeschool sports events and teams.


Doug Phillips leaves HSLDA and founds Vision Forum Ministries with the aim “to facilitate the restoration of the Biblical family.”[clxii]

Cheryl Seelhoff is victorious in her lawsuit against Sue Welch, Gregg Harris, and Mary Pride. In the court case Seelhoff vs. Welch, the jury “returned a verdict saying the defendants Welch entered into an illegal conspiracy in restraint of trade in violation of the Sherman Act, that damages were caused and determined the damages to Cheryl’s business were in the amount of $445,000. In antitrust actions, awards are automatically trebled, so Cheryl was entitled to receive in excess of 1.3 million dollars from Sue Welch.”[clxiii] Prior to the trial, “Welch’s co-defendants Gregg Harris, Christian Home Educators of Ohio and its then-chairperson, and Bill and Mary Pride settled with plaintiff Gentle Spirit publisher and editor Cheryl Lindsey Seelhoff.”[clxiv]

HSLDA has 45 employees and reaches 53,000 member families.[clxv]

California homeschool activist Mary Griffith publishes The Unschooling Handbook: How to Use the Whole World As Your Child’s Classroom, a book that becomes immensely popular among unschoolers. The book is “focused on the idea that children learn best when they pursue their own natural curiosity and interests.”[clxvi]


Kevin Swanson becomes the Executive Director of Christian Home Educators of Colorado.[clxvii]

HSLDA holds its “Proclaim Liberty” conference in Washington, D.C., where many Republican presidential candidates show their support for homeschooling.[clxviii]

Then-Senator John Ashcroft honors “home schoolers throughout America by presenting Mike Farris with Senate Resolution 183—recognizing September 19-25, 1999, as ‘National Home Education Week.’”[clxix]

HSLDA admits using member dues to pay for Michael Farris’s membership in the Council for National Policy.[clxx]

The National Home Education Network (NHEN) is launched as an inclusive, interfaith alternative to HSLDA. Founded by homeschoolers frustrated with HSLDA’s exclusivism,[clxxi] NHEN declares it “espouses no one particular political agenda or homeschooling philosophy”[clxxii] and “formed in order to expand the general public’s image of homeschoolers to what we truly are, an enormously diverse group which cannot be neatly categorized.”[clxxiii] The founding Board of Trustees include Lisa Bugg, Laura Derrick, Carol Moxley, Sue Patterson, Pam Sorooshian, and Barb Weirich.[clxxiv] The organization’s regional contacts include Linda Dobson, Barbara Weirich, David H. Albert, Elizabeth Bernard, and Holly Furgason.[clxxv]

In 1997, 13-year-old Rebecca Sealfon of Brooklyn, New York becomes the first homeschooled student to win the National Spelling Bee.
In 1997, 13-year-old Rebecca Sealfon of Brooklyn, New York becomes the first homeschooled student to win the National Spelling Bee.


The Texas Home School Coalition incorporates as a 501(c)(4) advocacy organization “to serve and protect home school families in Texas.”[clxxvi] The organization represents “home-schoolers disenchanted with the HSLDA Texas affiliate.”[clxxvii]

John Holzmann, co-founder of the Christian homeschool curriculum company Sonlight, announces that Sonlight will “dissociate from HSLDA” because of HSLDA’s tactics against supporters of Cheryl Seelhoff.[clxxviii]

Michael Farris and HSLDA launch Patrick Henry College[clxxix] “with the primary goal of training conservative, fundamental leaders who will work for legislators and think tanks.”[clxxx]

Salon covers the internal conflicts within homeschooling between “conservative” homeschooling groups (HSLDA, the “Four Pillars”) and others. Mark Hegener, co-founder of Home Education Magazine, declares that HSLDA is “part of a socially conservative constituency network using home schooling as a way to further its political goals.”[clxxxi]

In partnership with German homeschoolers, HSLDA creates Schulunterricht zu Hause, a Germany-based homeschool legal defense association.[clxxxii]

Eric and Joyce Burges found the National Black Home Educators Resource Association, later renamed National Black Home Educators. The organization is “affiliated with HSLDA” and “has grown to become the premiere national organization for Black homeschooling families in this country.”[clxxxiii]

HSLDA’s homeschool speech and debate league becomes a separate organization, the National Christian Forensics and Communications Association (NCFCA). NCFCA’s original seven-member board of directors includes Christy Shipe, Teresa Moon, Todd Cooper, Michael Farris, Skip Rutledge, Deborah Haffey, and Terry Stollar. [clxxxiv]

The number of homeschooled children reaches 1.7 million.[clxxxv]

HSLDA has 70,000 member families.[clxxxvi]

Attorneys meeting at the annual Homeschool of California Conference decide to launch the Association of Home School Attorneys, an HSLDA alternative with the goal of “helping homeschooling families negotiate legal issues that are unique to homeschoolers, including the legality of homeschooling, obtaining services from the public schools, custody issues, and contacts from child protection agencies.”[clxxxvii]

Homeschooling baseball coaches Lori Cochran and Jeff Hartline launch the Homeschool World Series Association, a national homeschool baseball tournament.[clxxxviii]

FLDS leader Warren Jeffs calls for all FLDS families to remove their children from public schools in order to homeschool them with his own FLDS curriculum.[clxxxix]


R.J. Rushdoony dies.[cxc]

The National Household Education Survey finds that 70 percent of homeschoolers cite a nonreligious reason as the top motivator in their decision to home school.[cxci]


National and state homeschool leaders across the U.S. join together to launch the National Alliance of Christian Home Education Leadership, Inc., otherwise known as “The Alliance.” The organization is “dedicated to the support of Christian statewide home education organizations”[cxcii] and hosts an annual training conference that allows leaders of Christian state homeschooling organizations to train and network. The Alliance has an approximate annual income of $100,000.[cxciii] Its original staff includes Kenneth R. Patterson, Bruce Eagleson, Susan Beatty, and David Watkins.

HSLDA creates Generation Joshua, a youth civics program with the goal “to ignite a vision in young people to help America return to her Judeo-Christian foundation.” Generation Joshua founding director Ned Ryun says, “In another ten or fifteen years, we may see a disproportionate number of homeschoolers in positions of highest leadership.”[cxciv]

Michael Farris files a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court defending a Texas law that makes it a crime for two people of the same sex to engage in consensual sexual activity.[cxcv]

HSLDA membership reaches over 70,000 families internationally.[cxcvi]

HSLDA commissions NHERI’s Brian Ray to conduct “the largest research survey to date of adults who were home educated.”[cxcvii] While Ray’s study “is widely cited to support the claim that graduates of homeschooling are well-socialized and go on to lead successful lives,” it unfortunately “has so many methodological problems that we can draw few conclusions from it.”[cxcviii]

Homeschooling parent and lawyer Deborah Stevenson founds the National Home Education Legal Defense (NHELD). Stevenson creates the organization as an alternative to HSLDA because she believes HSLDA aims “to actively promote the adoption of federal regulation of homeschooling.”[cxcix]

The number of black homeschoolers reaches 103,000.[cc]

Jennifer and Michael James found the National African-American Homeschoolers Alliance,[cci] “the only nonsectarian organization for African-American homeschooling families.”[ccii]

Mitchell Stevens publishes Kingdom of Children: Culture and Controversy in the Homeschooling Movement, a sociological study of the modern homeschooling movement. Stevens divides homeschoolers into two camps, the “inclusive” unschoolers and the religious “believers.”[cciii]

African American scholar Paula Penn-Nabrit publishes Morning by Morning: How We Home-Schooled Our African-American Sons to the Ivy League. Penn-Nabrit receives “a lot of open hostility” due to detailing “accounts of the discrimination her sons allegedly faced in public school” and her emphasis on “an Afrocentric approach to education.”[cciv]

Noticing her local Islamic school does not offer “a comprehensive Islamic Studies and Arabic curriculum,” Cilia Ndiaye founds the Al-Duha Institute.[ccv] The Institute offers the first-ever Islamic homeschooling curriculum. Thousands of copies of the curriculum are sold to Islamic homeschoolers around the world.[ccvi] is created in 2003 “to provide information, resources, and a place to share and connect with secular homeschoolers across the world.”[ccvii]


Tim and Beverly LaHaye present Michael Farris with the “Alexis de Tocqueville” Award from the Alliance for the Separation of School and State.[ccviii]

HSLDA backs an amendment to the U.S Constitution to ban both same-sex marriages and civil unions.[ccix]

Homeschool alumna Lila Rose creates LiveAction, an organization that conducts hidden camera stings on Planned Parenthood. Rose is a former NCFCA debater.[ccx]

Jolene Irving founds the National LDS Homeschool Association.[ccxi]

Unschooling advocate Sandra Dodd coins the phrase “radical unschooling” to signify the erasure of the division between academic and non-academic activities.[ccxii]

In 2003, African American scholar Paula Penn-Nabrit publishes Morning by Morning: How We Home-Schooled Our African-American Sons to the Ivy League. Her homeschooling story causes waves among many African American communities.
In 2003, African American scholar Paula Penn-Nabrit publishes Morning by Morning: How We Home-Schooled Our African-American Sons to the Ivy League. Her homeschooling story causes waves among many African American and educational communities.


The number of homeschooled children reaches 1.9 to 2.4 million.[ccxiii]

Gregg Harris’ kids, Alex and Brett Harris, create “The Rebelution,” a blog aiming to “’wake up’ other teenagers.”[ccxiv] The Rebelution becomes immensely popular, currently boasting “more than 40 million page views.”[ccxv] Alex and Brett are former NCFCA debaters.[ccxvi]


The National African-American Homeschoolers Alliance reaches 3,000 member families.[ccxvii]

Reb Bradley pens an article called “Solving the Crisis in Homeschooling,” which later goes viral with the name “Homeschool Blindspots.” Bradley describes the “crisis” in the following way: “Parents have graduated their first batch of kids, only to discover that their children didn’t turn out the way they thought they would. Many of these children were model homeschoolers while growing up, but sometime after their 18th birthday they began to reveal that they didn’t hold to their parents’ values.”[ccxviii]


Raymond Moore dies.[ccxix]

HSLDA creates, a parental rights advocacy group.[ccxx]

Alex and Brett Harris’s Rebelution launches “The Modesty Survey,” described as “an exciting, anonymous discussion between Christian guys and girls who care about modesty.”[ccxxi]

The National Household Education Survey finds that homeschooling parents list religious or moral instruction as the most important reason why they homeschool.[ccxxii]

The homeschool industry generates $650 million in sales annually.[ccxxiii]

Unschooling advocate Dayna Martin and her husband Joe appear on the Dr. Phil Show,[ccxxiv] introducing 50 million viewers to Martin’s philosophy of “radical unschooling.”

HSLDA creates its Lifetime Achievement Award and names it after Gregg Harris. The “Gregg Harris Award for Leadership” is first awarded to its namesake.[ccxxv]


HSLDA awards NHERI’s Brian Ray its Lifetime Achievement Award, the Gregg Harris Award for Leadership.[ccxxvi]

The National African-American Homeschoolers Alliance disbands.

Dayna Martin founds Unschooling United, a non-profit organization dedicated to unschooling advocacy.[ccxxvii]

After homeschooled speech and debate competitors protest NCFCA’s national tournament being held at Bob Jones University on account of the University’s history of legalism and racism, California separates from NCFCA and forms a new speech and debate league, STOA.[ccxxviii]

Nancy Campbell’s Above Rubies magazine reaches a readership of 150,000.[ccxxix]

Milton Gaither publishes Homeschool: An American History, “the first scholarly book-length treatment of its theme.”[ccxxx]

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services removes 437 children from FLDS leader Warren Jeffs’s Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, TX due to allegations of widespread child abuse. This removal leads to “the largest child custody battle in U.S. history.”[ccxxxi] While the children are eventually returned, numerous cases of child sexual abuse are substantiated.[ccxxxii]


Kevin Swanson resigns as Executive Director of Christian Home Educators of Colorado in order to become the full-time Director of Generations with Vision and its radio program, Generations Radio.[ccxxxiii]

HSLDA awards Focus on the Family’s James Dobson its Lifetime Achievement Award, the Gregg Harris Award for Leadership.[ccxxxiv]

Kevin Swanson’s Christian Home Educators of Colorado hosts the 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit at IBLP’s Indianapolis Training Center. The Summit features Kevin Swanson, Doug Phillips, Chris Klicka, Voddie Baucham, and Brian Ray and aims to “define a vision for the future of the Christian home education movement” and develop “a Christian Education Manifesto statement.”[ccxxxv]

Dayna Martin publishes her book Radical Unschooling – A Revolution Has Begun.

Unschooling advocate Sandra Dodd publishes her book Big Book of Unschooling.

Chris Klicka dies.[ccxxxvi]

Robert Kunzman publishes Write These Laws on Your Children: Inside the World of Conservative Christian Homeschooling, a study of six conservative Christian families who have decided to homeschool. Milton Gaither calls it “one of the most important books on homeschooling ever written.”

The Christian Law Association, run by David Gibbs Jr., launches a homeschool legal defense organization alternative to HSLDA. The organization is called Homeschool Legal Advantage (HLA) and is run by Gibbs Jr. and his son, David C. Gibbs III.[ccxxxvii] Gibbs III says HLA is “on track to have over 10,000 member families by the Spring of 2010.”[ccxxxviii]


HSLDA invites IBLP’s Bill Gothard to be a special guest speaker at the 2010 National Leadership Conference.[ccxxxix]

HSLDA awards Bill Gothard its Lifetime Achievement Award, the Gregg Harris Award for Leadership.[ccxl]

Tim Echols and his organization TeenPact are accused on engaging in legally questionable campaign practices after Echols directs “150 home-schooled Christian teenagers” to potentially “violate two tenets of laws requiring nonprofits to avoid political campaign work.”[ccxli]

Brennan and Mary Jo Dean launch the Great Homeschool Conventions, a national, for-profit homeschool conference company[ccxlii] that they describe as “a conservative organization and avowedly ‘young-earth.’”[ccxliii]


Former students of IBLP and ATI launch Recovering Grace, “an online organization devoted to helping people whose lives have been impacted by the teachings of Bill Gothard, the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), and the Advanced Training Institute (ATI).”[ccxliv]

The Association of Home School Attorneys ceases operations.[ccxlv]

Brennan Dean’s Great Homeschool Conventions company withdraws their invitation to Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis, who was to speak at four of their upcoming conventions. The invitation withdrawal is due to Ham publically criticizing another one of GHC’s speakers.[ccxlvi]

Buddhist homeschooling parent Tammy Takahashi writes Zenschooling: Living a Fabulous & Fulfilling Life Without School, a book about weaving together Buddhist teachings and the homeschooling experience.


CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360° features Michael Farris as a leading opponent of U.S. ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.[ccxlvii] Due to the efforts of HSLDA members and others, the Convention’s ratification fails.[ccxlviii]

David Barton’s book The Jefferson Lies is voted “the least credible history book in print” by the History News Network.[ccxlix] The book’s publisher, Thomas Nelson, ceases publication because “basic truths just were not there.”[ccl]

A group of international scholars (including Milton Gaither and Robert Kunzman) found the International Center for Home Education Research. They contrast themselves with Brian Ray’s HSLDA-affiliated NHERI by saying, “We are not an advocacy group.”[ccli]

The Liberated Minds Black Homeschool and Education Expo is founded “for the strong purpose of providing quality culturally based resources, educational training, and support to Black/Afrikan homeschooling & non-homeschooling parents as well as educators.”[cclii]

Muslim homeschooling mothers in Southern California join together and form the non-profit organization Muslim Homeschool Network. The Network exists “to support Muslim homeschoolers on a larger scale in areas such as Islamic, educational, social, and parent growth, and at the same time outreach to the larger Muslim community and increase awareness and education on homeschooling.”[ccliii]

In 2012, CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360° features Michael Farris as a leading opponent of U.S. ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.


Homeschool alumni launch Homeschoolers Anonymous “to bring awareness to, and healing from, different forms of abuse in extreme homeschooling subcultures.”[ccliv]

Gay rights advocate and sex advice columnist Dan Savage recommends homeschooling in cases of gay kids being bullied.[cclv]

The National Home Education Network, intended as an inclusive, interfaith alternative to HSLDA, disbands.

David C. Gibbs III separates Homeschool Legal Advantage from his father’s Christian Law Association and re-launches it[cclvi] as the National Center for Life and Liberty (NCLL)’s Center for Homeschool Liberty.[cclvii] The Center intends to compete with HSLDA as “a fresh approach to homeschooling legal help.”[cclviii] NCLL’s Center for Homeschool Liberty is, like HSLDA, explicitly Christian.[cclix]

Brett Harris partially apologizes via The Rebelution for his and Alex’s “Modesty Survey.” Brett says they sent “the message that modesty is a female issue and lust is a male issue.”[cclx] (The Modesty Survey is later pulled offline a year later in Fall 2014.)

In October, Doug Phillips resigns as president of Vision Forum Ministries and discontinues future speaking engagements. Phillips claims “a lengthy, inappropriate relationship with a woman” led to these actions.[cclxi]

In November, the board of Vision Forum Ministries declares the organization is closing.[cclxii]

Homeschool alumni create the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), “the first-ever non-profit public policy organization to advocate on behalf of the interests of homeschooled children.”[cclxiii]

NHERI’s Brian Ray and Generations with Vision’s Kevin Swanson announce the Gen2 Survey, allegedly “the largest Christian study ever conducted on the Millennial generation.”[cclxiv] While claiming to be notable in its survey of homeschool alumni, it is criticized for “severe limitations”: “it is a non-random sample that strongly attracted similar-minded homeschoolers.”[cclxv]


Homeschoolers Anonymous incorporates as a non-profit organization, Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out (HARO). HARO’s mission is “to advocate for the wellbeing of homeschool students and improve homeschooling communities through awareness, peer support, and resource development.”[cclxvi]

HARO announces the 2014 Survey of Adult Alumni of the Modern Christian Homeschool Movement, the first-ever survey of its breadth to be conducted by alumni for alumni.[cclxvii] Brian Ray criticizes it for “tell[ing] the public very little about adults in general who were home educated”[cclxviii] and Milton Gaither criticizes its method of distribution.[cclxix] Shawn Mathis, however, praises it in comparison to the Brian Ray and Kevin Swanson’s Gen2 Survey, saying, “The substantial amount of data offered by the HARO study renders this study a more transparent and interesting read about homeschoolers.”[cclxx]

In February, Patrick Henry College is rocked with allegations that the college administration mishandled numerous cases of campus sexual assault.[cclxxi]

In February, the Institute in Basic Life Principles places Bill Gothard on administrative leave “while the board investigates claims that he years ago engaged in sexual harassment and other misconduct.”[cclxxii]

In February, Scott Brown’s National Center for Family Integrated Churches (NCFIC), which was originally part of Vision Forum Ministries, launches an intern program using the exact same material from Vision Forum Ministries’ intern program.[cclxxiii]

In March, Bill Gothard resigns from the Institute in Basic Life Principles and its affiliated organizations in the wake of the sexual harassment and molestation accusations against him.[cclxxiv]

Cynthia Jeub, child of nationally renowned Christian homeschool speech and debate coach Chris Jeub, accuses her parents of child abuse.[cclxxv]

In May, Lourdes Torres-Manteufel — the woman with whom Doug Phillips claimed he had “a lengthy, inappropriate relationship” — comes forward with her story and files a lawsuit against Phillips in Kendall County District Court in Texas. The lawsuit alleges Phillips used Torres-Manteufel as “a personal sex object” over a period of five years; Torres describes Phillips’s actions as non-consensual, abusive, and predatory. National Center for Life and Liberty attorney David C. Gibbs III serves as Torres-Manteufel’s attorney.[cclxxvi]

In August, Michael Farris publishes via the HSLDA Home School Court Report a white paper, “A Line in the Sand,” in which he publically condemns the actions of Bill Gothard and Doug Phillips. Farris also states his opposition to the ideologies of legalism and patriarchy.[cclxxvii] Doug Phillips’s wife, Beall Phillips, issues a public and emotional retort.[cclxxviii]

In October, Paul and Gena Suarez, publishers of the popular homeschool magazine The Old Schoolhouse, are accused of both physical and sexual child abuse as well as protecting known child predators. Homeschool leaders also accused of covering up or ignorance the Old Schoolhouse abuse situation include: Michael Smith from HSLDA, Heidi St. John from the Busy Mom, Brennan Dean from the Great Homeschool Conventions, and David C. Gibbs III from NCLL.[cclxxix]

Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE) publishes a scathing report on how Bob Jones University responded to campus sexual assault cases. GRACE’s report finds that the University “urged sexual abuse victims not to go to the police and counseled them to repent for the blame it said they share” for decades.[cclxxx]

In November, Doug Phillips is publicly excommunicated today from his former church, Boerne Christian Assembly.[cclxxxi]

Unschooling United disbands.

Ben Hewitt breathes new life into the unschooling movement with his book Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World. In an NPR interview, Hewitt declares that, “Unschooling isn’t merely an educational choice. It’s a lifestyle choice.”[cclxxxii]

Ben Hewitt breathes new life into the unschooling movement with his book Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World.
Ben Hewitt breathes new life into the unschooling movement with his book Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World.


Homeschool alumna Alecia Pennington’s story of identification abuse goes viral.[cclxxxiii]

The number of African American homeschoolers reaches 220,000,[cclxxxiv] making up about 10 percent of all homeschooled children.[cclxxxv]

Scott Brown’s National Center for Family Integrated Churches issues A Declaration on the Complementary Roles of Church & Family. Most notable in the declaration is the allegation that sending children to Sunday School or public school are sins necessitating repentance.[cclxxxvi]

The shocking, grisly deaths of Stoni and Stephen Blair — 2 homeschooled children whose bodies were discovered in a freezer — inspire Michigan Representative Stephanie Chang to propose a bill requiring annual notification and homeschooled children to have contact with mandatory reporters twice a year.[cclxxxvii] HSLDA opposes the bill;[cclxxxviii] CRHE supports it.[cclxxxix]

Lourdes Torres-Manteufel’s lawsuit against Doug Phillips is expanded to include former Vision Forum board directors Don Hart, Scott Brown, and James Zes. Torres-Manteufel’s lawyer David C. Gibbs III says, “Trial is set for March of 2016.”[ccxc]


[i] Coalition for Responsible Home Education, “A History of Homeschooling in Indiana,” link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[ii] Milton Gaither, Homeschool: An American History, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008, p. 83-4.

[iii] Chicago Tribune, “Woman Gives Up Savings to Aid 2 Adventists,” May 8, 1949.

[iv] Supreme Court of Illinois , The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, v. MARJORIE LEVISEN et al., January 18, 1950.

[v] Ibid, p. 128.

[vi] Gary North, “R. J. Rushdoony, R.I.P.,”, February 10, 2001, link, accessed on April 29, 2015.

[vii] Institute in Basic Life Principles, “IBLP History,” link, accessed on April 29, 2015.

[viii] Gaither, 2008, p. 107: “The 1962 and 1963 Supreme Court decisions outlawing organized school prayer and school-sponsored Bible reading shocked and devastated many conservatives. Coming on the heels of the Court’s desegregation decisions, many conservative Protestants were simply appalled. Alabama Representative George Andrews spoke for many when he said on national television that the Supreme Court had ‘put the Negroes in the schools—now they put God out of the schools.’ With minorities in and God out, many conservative Protestants left.”

[ix] HSLDA, “The Passing of a Pioneer,” Home School Court Report, September/October 2007, link, accessed on April 29, 2015.

[x] Gary North says, “This book became the academic touchstone for leaders of the independent (non-parochial) Christian school movement, which was just beginning to accelerate in 1963. It provided them with both the theological foundation and the historical ammunition for making their case against compulsory, tax-funded education.” See Gary North, “R. J. Rushdoony, R.I.P.,”, February 10, 2001, link, accessed on April 29, 2015. William Edgar also credits this book as early inspiration for homeschooling: “Many have credited Rushdoony with being an early inspiration behind the home school movement. He certainly was the strongest possible advocate of religious education, consistently favoring private over public schooling. In The Messianic Character of American Education (1963) Rushdoony decried the American public school system, tracing its ideology back to John Dewey and other secular thinkers who believed in the natural goodness of children and the role that education could play in liberalizing society.” See William Edgar, “The Passing of R.J. Rushdoony,” First Things, August 2001, link, accessed on April 29, 2015. Furthermore, Joseph McAuliffe says, ”One of his early books, The Messianic Character of American Education, was a major influence in the fledgling home school movement in California. During the 1960s, Rushdoony was called upon in court cases as an expert historian on home schooling as a legitimate alternative to public education.” See Joseph McAuliffe, “An Interview with R.J. Rushdoony,” The Second American Revolution, link, accessed on April 29, 2015.

[xi] Pat Farenga, “John Holt and the Origins of Contemporary Homeschooling,” PATHS OF LEARNING: Options for Families and Communities, May, October, and January Catalog Number 4004, 1999, reprinted by the Massachusetts Home Learning Association, link, accessed on April 29, 2015.

[xii] Ibid.

[xiii] Edgar, 2001.

[xiv] Institute in Basic Life Principles, “IBLP History.”

[xv] North, 2001.

[xvi] Chalcedon Foundation, “Our Ministry,” link, accessed on April 29, 2015: “Chalcedon’s activities include foundational and leadership roles in Christian reconstruction. Our emphasis on the Cultural or Dominion Mandate (Genesis 1:28) and the necessity of a return to Biblical Law has been a crucial factor in the challenge to Humanism by Christians in this country and elsewhere. Chalcedon’s involvement in and commitment to Christian education began with its inception when founder Rousas John Rushdoony pinpointed the Christian and home schools as the most important institutions in reversing the influence of secular Humanism.”

[xvii] Lee Duigon, Chalcedon Foundation, “Why You Should Homeschool Your Christian Child, Part IV: Ten Reasons Why You Should Homeschool Your Child,” August 8, 2006, link, accessed on April 29, 2015.

[xviii] State v. Massa, Superior Court of New Jersey, Morris County Court, Law Division, June 1, 1967, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[xix] Ibid.

[xx] Coalition for Responsible Home Education, “A History of Homeschooling in Iowa,” link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[xxi] Wayne S. Walker, “The History of Homeschooling,” HOMESCHOOL EDUCATORS ON ACTIVE DUTY, SENDING UPWARD PRAISES, Volume 8, Number 4, November 2005: “One man who was one of the earliest to build upon that foundation by calling for Bible believers to take their children out of the public schools and homeschool them if necessary was the late Dr. Paul Lindstrom, a fundamentalist Protestant minister with the Church of Christian Liberty in Prospect Heights (now located in Arlington Heights), IL. He founded the Christian Liberty Academy, a church-related day school in 1968 as a result of dissatisfaction with government schools. Around 1970, from this was developed a homeschool curriculum known as CLASS (Christian Liberty Academy Satellite Schools, now Christian Liberty Academy School System). Many of the early seminal court decisions which helped to win the right to homeschool, such as the 1979 Nobel case in Michigan, the 1982-1985 Budke case in Minnesota, and the famous 1993 DeJonge case also in Michigan all involved homeschoolers who were affiliated with CLASS.”

[xxii] Institute for Creation Research, “Who We Are,” link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[xxiii] Farenga, 1999: “Holt studied and corresponded with Illich at length, and was deeply influenced by Illich’s analysis, particularly with his analysis that school serves a deep social function by firmly maintaining the status quo of social class for the majority of students.”

[xxiv] Kathryn Joyce, “Wifely Submission and Christian Warfare,” Religion Dispatches, March 25, 2009, link, accessed on April 29, 2015.

[xxv] Raymond S. Moore, Dennis R. Moore, “The dangers of early schooling,” Harper’s Magazine, July 1972,

[xxvi] Raymond S. Moore, Dennis R. Moore, “When Should Your Child Go To School?” Reader’s Digest, Vol. 101, No. 606, October 1972, p. 143-147.

[xxvii] Michael Smith, “Honoring Moore’s achievements,” Washington Times, August 20, 2007, link, accessed on April 29, 2015.

[xxviii] Ibid.

[xxix] Wisconsin v. Yoder, May 15, 1972, published by the Legal Information Institute, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[xxx] Coalition for Responsible Home Education, “A History of Homeschooling in Colorado,” link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[xxxi] Gaither, 2008, p. 117.

[xxxii] North, 2001.

[xxxiii] Farenga, 1999: “One tactic Holt wrote about was to fight for children’s rights — which he thought would not only help kids escape bad schools, but also help them escape bad social situations — by granting children the full protection and responsibilities of US citizenship. Holt’s Escape from Childhood: The Needs and Rights of Children (1974) continues to stir passions on both sides of the argument, particularly now that some of the scenarios Holt discusses, such as giving children the right to choose their own legal guardian, the right to control their own learning, and the right to legal and financial responsibility, have come into our courts twenty- five years later.”

[xxxiv] Institute in Basic Life Principles, “IBLP History.”

[xxxv] Darla Isackson, “Joyce Kinmont, Homeschooling Pioneer,” Meridian Magazine, October 6, 2005, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[xxxvi] Susan Saiter, “The Learning Society; Schooling in the Home: A Growing Alternative,” New York Times, April 14, 1985, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[xxxvii] Coalition for Responsible Home Education, “A History of Homeschooling in Virginia,” link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[xxxviii] Farenga, 1999: “Holt proposed removing children from school legally or as an act of civil disobedience. While the education establishment barely recognized this particular book of Holt’s, it struck a chord with some parents. Some wrote to Holt explaining that they were teaching their children at home legally, others that they were doing so underground. Some were rural families, some city dwellers, others were in communes. Intrigued, Holt corresponded with them all and decided to create a newsletter that would help put these like-minded people in touch with one another.”

[xxxix] Walker, 2005.

[xl] Farenga, 1999.

[xli] Scott W. Somerville, “The Politics of Survival: Home Schoolers and the Law,” HSLDA, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[xlii] Pat Farenga, “What is Unschooling?”,, 2013, link, accessed on April 29, 2015.

[xliii] Manfred Smith as interviewed by Michelle C., “An Interview with Homeschooling Pioneer Manfred Smith,” The Atlasphere, December 5, 2004, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[xliv] Joyce, 2009.

[xlv] Gaither, 2008, p. 118-9.

[xlvi] Ibid, p. 119-20.

[xlvii] Coalition for Responsible Home Education, “A History of Homeschooling in Iowa,” link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[xlviii] Time Magazine, “Teaching Children at Home,” December 4, 1978, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[xlix] Gaither, 2008, p. 126.

[l] NBC Universal Archives, “TODAY SHOW OF 6-18-79 (ADDITIONAL STORIES),” link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[li] Gaither, 2008, p. 126-7.

[lii] Recovering Grace, “The GOTHARD Files: The Scandal, 1980,” February 20, 2014, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[liii] Walker, 2005.

[liv] The Spokesman-Review, “Farris now is lobbyist in capital,” January 3, 1985.

[lv] Clonlara School, “Mission & History,” link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[lvi] Mitchell Stevens, Kingdom of Children: Culture and Controversy in the Homeschooling Movement, Princeton University Press, 2009, p. 49.

[lvii] Somerville, “Politics of Survival”: “She formed the Home Based Education Program at the Clonlara School in Michigan. Michigan law, at that time, required every child to be taught by a certified teacher, but the law did not specify how much time that teacher had to spend with each child. Clonlara made it possible to comply with the letter of the law while keeping the spirit of unschooling.”

[lviii] Manfred Smith, “A Lifelong Journey: Twenty Years of Homeschooling,” link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[lix] Libby Anne, “Bill Gothard: When People Know . . . and Do Nothing,” Love Joy Feminism, February 13, 2014, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[lx] Recovering Grace, 2014.

[lxi] The Teaching Home, “Our Purpose,” link, accessed on April 29, 2015.

[lxii] State v. Popanz, 1983, published by Justia, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[lxiii] Seton Home Study School, “Our Story,” link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[lxiv] John Clifford Green, Mark J. Rozell, Clyde Wilcox, The Christian Right in American Politics: Marching to the Millennium, Georgetown University Press, 2003, p. 238.

[lxv] Spokane Daily Chronicle, “Moral Majority chief, Timothy Leary debate,” April 16, 1981, p. 7.

[lxvi] Duigon, 2006.

[lxvii] Paul Maltby, Christian Fundamentalism and the Culture of Disenchantment, University of Virginia Press, 2013, p. 1992.

[lxviii] John Sugg, “A Nation Under God,” Mother Jones, December 2005, link, accessed on April 29, 2015: “The Council for National Policy—a group that holds meetings for right-wing leaders, once dubbed ‘the most powerful conservative group you’ve never heard of’—was founded in 1981 as a project of top John Birch Society figures (see ‘The Fountainhead’). Its members included Rushdoony, Gary North, Tim LaHaye, former Reagan aide Gary Bauer, and activist Paul Weyrich, who famously aimed to ‘overturn the present power structure of this country.’”

[lxix] Isackson, 2005.

[lxx] Coalition for Responsible for Home Education, “A History of Homeschooling in New Hampshire,” link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[lxxi] Vicki Farris, Jayme Farris Metzgar, A Mom Just Like You, B&H Publishing Group, 2002, p. 68.

[lxxii] Zan Tyler, “Along the Way: The curtain rises on HSLDA,” Home School Court Report, January/February 2003, link, accessed on April 29, 2015.

[lxxiii] Smith, 2007.

[lxxiv] Tyler, 2003.

[lxxv] Three examples: (1) Susan Beatty, founder of CHEA of California, “God’s Homeschooling Tapestry: A Memoir,” The California Parent Educator, Summer 2007: “I turned on the radio. This simple act changed the course of my life and my family’s life. It was also one slender thread in the tapestry of history that God was weaving. It was February 1982. The program was Dr. James Dobson’s ‘Focus on the Family,’ and the subject was early childhood education. Dr. Raymond Moore, author of Better Late Than Early and School Can Wait, was describing a typical third grade child who, because he’d been attending formal education from age two or three, was suffering from educational burnout. Dr. Moore was describing my first grade son. Resonating in my heart and head, the idea of keeping children out of formal education until their minds and bodies were mature enough to handle it, took hold of me as I shared it with my husband and as I read Dr. Moore’s books. But this was only the beginning.” (2) Beth Wolsey and Marcia Mantel, co-founders of CHEO, “CHESCA History,” link, accessed on April 29, 2015: “Beth Wolsey and Marcia Mantel, co-founders of CHESCA and the state organization, CHEO, did not know one another when the year of 1983 dawned; but the Lord had already set them on a course that would change their lives, and ours, forever. The prayers of three women asking for direction about an organization to support families interested in home educating were to be answered in God’s perfect timing. Beth, a college-trained teacher, and Marcia, already quietly home educating two children, both heard Dr. Raymond Moore on a ‘Focus on the Family’ radio broadcast. He espoused his ‘better late than early’ beliefs, and a Gregg Harris homeschooling workshop was announced that was to be held in Wooster in the fall of 1982. Both Marcia and Beth attended the workshop.” (3) Mary Pride, founder of Practical Homeschooling, “What’s Our Next Step? The Future of Homeschooling,” Practical Homeschooling, Number 50, 2003: “That famous radio interview catapulted homeschooling into the Christian mainstream. Prior to that time, homeschooling had been growing quietly behind the scenes, as parents from all parts of the political and religious spectrum had become increasingly concerned about their children’s future in both the public and private school systems.”

[lxxvi] Tyler, 2003: “By 1982, Mike Farris had already developed a regional reputation both as a political activist and as a Christian lawyer engaged in fairly high-profile constitutional cases. Mike Farris’ work took him to Sacramento, California, where he met Mike Smith for the first time. Mike [Farris] explained to Mike [Smith] his idea of starting a legal defense association for homeschooling families. His idea embraced the notion that if the education establishment attacked one homeschooling family, the whole homeschooling community would effectively come to their defense…In March of 1983, Mike and Vickie Farris and Mike and Elizabeth Smith became the founding board members of Home School Legal Defense Association.”

[lxxvii] Tyler, 2003.

[lxxviii] Michael Farris, The Joshua Generation: Restoring the Heritage of Christian Leadership, B&H Publishing Group, 2005, p. 102.

[lxxix] Home Education Magazine, “About Us: History,” link, accessed on April 29, 2015.

[lxxx], home page, accessed on April 29, 2015: “Since 1984, Cathy Duffy has been reviewing curriculum for the homeschool community.”

[lxxxi], “For the Children’s Sake,” updated 2009, link, accessed on April 29, 2015.

[lxxxii] Patrick Farenga, “Homeschooling: Main theories, theorists, and methods,” Encyclopedia Brittanica, link, accessed on April 29, 2015.

[lxxxiii] Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, “Home Schooling in Wisconsin,” August 24, 2000, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[lxxxiv] Manfred Smith, “A Lifelong Journey: Twenty Years of Homeschooling.”

[lxxxv] Coalition on Revival, “History of COR,” link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[lxxxvi] Coalition on Revival, “National COR Steering Committee,” link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[lxxxvii] Russell Chandler, “Religious Right Makes Political Arena Its Major Battleground,” Los Angeles Times, March 29, 1986, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[lxxxviii] Institute in Basic Life Principles, “Wisdom Booklets,” link, accessed on April 30, 2015: “A group of educators, ministers, scientists, historians, and engineers worked under the direction of Bill Gothard, Dr. Larry Guthrie, and Inge Cannon to develop this curriculum, which comprises over 3,000 pages in 54 Wisdom Booklets.”

[lxxxix] Institute in Basic Life Principles, “Educational Programs: Advanced Training Institute International,” link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[xc] HSLDA, “Marking the Milestones: 1983-1998,” 1998, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[xci] Coalition for Responsible Home Education, “A History of Homeschooling in North Carolina,” link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[xcii] Tyler, 2003.

[xciii] Farenga, 1999: “In 1985, John Holt died of cancer at the age of 62.”

[xciv] Mark Oppenheimer, “Son of Evangelical Royalty Turns His Back, and Tells the Tale,” New York Times, August 19, 2011, link, accessed on April 30, 2015: “’I had been home-schooled,’ Mr. Schaeffer told me. ‘I had no education, no qualifications, and I was groomed to do this stuff. What was I going to do? If two lines are forming, and one has a $10,000 honorarium to go to a Christian Booksellers Association conference and keynote, and the other is to consider your doubts and get out with nothing else to do, what are you going to do?’”

[xcv] Oppenheimer, 2011: “As a literary agent, he discovered Mary Pride, the Christian home-schooling guru.”

[xcvi] Mark Oppenheimer, “A Christian Pioneer of Home Schooling Looks to Its Future,” New York Times, January 18, 2013, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[xcvii] Hopewell, “Midwife at the Birth of Quiverfull,” No Longer Quivering, June 2, 2011, link, accessed on April 30, 2015: “Way back in the Day, when he was still styled ‘Franky Schaeffer’ (to distinguish him from from his same-named father), Frank was literary agent to a new Christian author named Mary Pride. With the Schaeffer name attached, Pride’s book was a shoe-in. Today we know her, and her (in)famous book, The Way Home: Beyond Feminism, Back to Reality as the Spiritual Mother of the Quiverfull Movement. Frank(y) then, was her midwife.”

[xcviii] Isabel Lyman, “Homeschooling: Back to the Future?”, Cato Institute, Policy Analysis No. 294, January 7, 1998, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[xcix] Farenga, 1999.

[c] Lyman, 1998: “In the 1970s the countercultural left, who responded more strongly to Holt’s cri de coeur, comprised the bulk of homeschooling families. By the mid-1980s, however, the religious right would be the most dominant group to choose homeschooling and would change the nature of homeschooling from a crusade against ‘the establishment’ to a crusade against the secular forces of modern-day society.”

[ci] Texas Home School Coalition, “THSC History,” link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cii] Tyler, 2003.

[ciii] Mark J. Rozell, Clyde Wilcox, Second Coming: The New Christian Right in Virginia Politics, John Hopkins University Press, 1996, p. 103-4: “Farris’s name appears among ninety-seven Christian intellectuals who signed the Coalition for Revival’s 1986 ‘manifesto’ which declares, ‘We believe America can be turned around and once again function as a Christian nation as it did in it’s earlier years.’ The document lists Farris and Virginia C. Armstrong as co-authors of the section entitled ‘The Christian World View of the Law,’ which states, ‘We affirm that a society must inevitably choose between conflicting legal foundations and views of law and should choose Christian views and a Christian foundation because the Christian system is vastly superior to all alternatives.’ Farris denies ever signing the document or co-writing the section on a Christian view of the law although Armstrong recalls that she and Farris wrote different parts of the section and ‘he certainly seemed to be in general agreement’ of the finished version.”

[civ] Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, “All About Reading and All About Spelling Ranked #1 by Practical Homeschooling Readers,” April 7, 2014, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cv] Tyler, 2003.

[cvi] Michael Smith, “Evaluating Success,” Home School Court Report, May/June 2009, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cvii] Institute in Basic Life Principles, “IBLP History.”

[cviii] People for the American Way, “WallBuilders,” Right Wing Watch, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[cix] WallBuilders, “Overview,” link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[cx] Linda Dobson, “News Watch Special Report,” Home Education Magazine, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cxi] National Home Education Research Institute, “About NHERI,” link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cxii] HSLDA, “Marking the Milestones.”

[cxiii] LDS Home Educators Association, “About,” link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[cxiv] Christian Home Educators of Colorado, “History,” link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[cxv] HSLDA Home School Court Report, “Meet NCHE’s Association Director,” March/April 1991, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[cxvi] Edgar, 2001.

[cxvii] Dobson, “News Watch Special Report.”

[cxviii] Christopher J. Klicka, The Right to Home School: A Guide to the Law on Parents’ Rights in Education, Carolina Academic Press, 1995, p. 26.

[cxix] HSLDA Canada, “Our History,” link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cxx] HSLDA Home School Court Report, “New HSLDA Staff,” September/October 1991, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[cxxi] Ibid.

[cxxii] Cathy Duffy, “Review Of: The Teenage Liberation Handbook,”, 2009, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cxxiii] Rachel Coleman, “How Have Scholars Divided Homeschoolers into Groups?”, Politics of Childhood, May 22, 2013, link, accessed on May 1, 2015: “In her 1991 article ‘Ideologues and Pedagogues: Parents Who Teach Their Children at Home,’ Jane Van Galen, a sociologist, argued that homeschooling parents were divided into two camps, which she called ‘ideologues’ and ‘pedagogues.’ According to Van Galen, the ideologues, which comprise the larger group, were Christian fundamentalists who objected to what they believed the public schools were teaching and wanted to instill their conservative political and religious beliefs in their children. Pedagogues, in contrast, homeschooled because they believed that children learned more naturally apart from formal schooling, which they believed stifled children’s innate curiosity and creativity.”

[cxxiv] Mary Pride, “What’s Our Next Step? The Future of Homeschooling,” Practical Homeschooling, Number 50, 2003, link, accessed on April 30, 2015:

[cxxv] David Albert, “The Success of Public Education,” Home Education Magazine, March/April 2002, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cxxvi] Mary Pride, “Interview with John Taylor Gatto,” Practical Homeschooling, Number 37, 2000, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cxxvii] John Clifford Green, Mark J. Rozell, Clyde Wilcox, Prayers in the Precincts: The Christian Right in the 1998 Elections, Georgetown University Press, 2000, p. 82: “In 1993 it was the Christian home-schoolers that dominated Republican politics. The 1993 convention nominated Michael Farris for lieutenant governor…Farris won the nomination easily against a pro-choice moderate woman and longtime GOP activist, Bobbie Kilberg…Farris, however, lost, running an extraordinary twelve percentage points behind the top of his ticket. Don Beyer, his Democratic opponent, characterized Farris as a Christian Right extremist who would ban books from public schools and whose ideas were dangerously out of the mainstream. Farris was a prolific writer and public speaker, and a number of passages from his writings and published statements gave Beyer ample and credible ammunition.”

[cxxviii] Oppenheimer, 2013.

[cxxix] HSLDA Home School Court Report, “Announcing the Congressional Action Program,” January/February 1993, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[cxxx] HSLDA Home School Court Report, “Religious Freedom Restored: President Clinton Signs RFRA Into Law,” November/December 1993, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[cxxxi] People for the American Way, “Madison Project,” Right Wing Watch, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cxxxii] Madison Project, “14 in 2014,” link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cxxxiii] Center for Responsible Politics, “Madison Project: 2014 PAC Summary Data,” link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cxxxiv] Erika Niedowski, “A Bundle From Virginia,” CNN, January 17, 1998, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cxxxv] Tim Challies, “The Bestsellers: I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” Christian Post, March 30, 2014, link, accessed on April 30, 2015: “Beginning in 1994, he began publishing New Attitude, a magazine targeted at fellow homeschoolers, and one that quickly gained a substantial readership. He was now the second generation of Harris’s to make a mark in homeschool circles.”

[cxxxvi] Walker, 2005: “In the 1970’s and 1980’s, it seems as if homeschoolers from both of these wings of the movement generally presented a united front to support homeschooling freedoms. However, an underlying tension between the two groups has always been present and in more recent years a lot of public disagreement has been noted, especially after the H. R. 6 incident in 1994.”

[cxxxvii] HSLDA Home School Court Report, “The Anatomy of a Victory,” May/June 1994, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[cxxxviii] Home Education Magazine, “HSLDA touting Raymond Moore?”, August 23, 2007, link, accessed on April 30, 2015: “One of the lesser-known items authored by Dr. Moore was a white paper he wrote in October of 1994, The Ravage of Home Education Through Exclusion By Religion. Part of the white paper is about the nationwide alarm HSLDA set off in early 1994. The alarm was to stop the danger that only HSLDA saw from an amendment to the House portion of the then-Congressional bill H. R. 6, a $12 billion reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).”

[cxxxix] Raymond S. Moore, “The Ravage of Home Education Through Exclusion By Religion,” October 1994, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cxl] Larry and Susan Kaseman, “HR 6 and the Federalization of Homeschooling,” Home Education Magazine, 1994, link, accessed on April 30, 2015: “HSLDA was unwilling simply to have the Miller amendment removed from H. R. 6. Instead it worked for and was clearly pleased with the Armey amendment that is increasing the risk of federalization of homeschooling. Homeschoolers have worked out agreements in all 50 states and in over 15,000 school districts as to how they will homeschool, agreements that are now working well in most cases (of course, there will always be a few problems, and in some cases the agreements include non-compliance or civil disobedience). But by supporting the Armey amendment, HSLDA appears willing to exchange these carefully worked out agreements for one federal statute that could disrupt these agreements and give the federal government power over homeschools that it does not now have.”

[cxli] HSLDA, “Marking the Milestones: 1994,” link, accessed on April 30, 2015: “In response to an alert from HSLDA, home schoolers from around the nation bombarded their senators’ offices with phone calls and letters opposing the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the 1994 Lobbying Disclosure Act. Following widespread public opposition, the Lobbying Disclosure Act was defeated and the Convention was put on hold for the rest of the 103rd congressional session.”

[cxlii] Dobson, “News Watch Special Report.”

[cxliii] Ken Ham, “The History of Answers in Genesis through February 2015,” Answers in Genesis, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[cxliv] Lyman, 1998.

[cxlv] Christopher J. Klicka, The Right Choice: Home Schooling, Noble Publishing Associates, 1995, p. 112-3, 181, 188, 422.

[cxlvi] R.L. Stollar, “Oak Brook College of Law Distances Itself from Bill Gothard and IBLP,” Homeschoolers Anonymous, February 20, 2014, link, accessed on May 1, 2015: “When OBCL was launched in 1995, it was done so as a joint effort between Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute (ATI) and HSLDA stakeholders. Bill Gothard served as the law school’s Chancellor, Michael Farris served on the Board of Trustees, and former HSLDA director and staff attorney Jordan Lorence served as the school’s Constitutional Law Professor as well as Chairman of Oak Brook’s Board of Advisors.”

[cxlvii] Practical Homeschooling, “Law School for Homeschoolers,” Number 15, 1997, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[cxlviii] Sarah Posner, “Secret Society,” Alternet, February 28, 2005, link, accessed on April 29, 2015: “CNP’s tentacles also reach into a community of well-connected activists who advocate for the imposition of fundamentalist Christian ideology in public life and have succeeded in forcing their agenda in the Bush administration. Besides the well-known affiliation of Dobson and Hodel, just one example is the Home School Legal Defense Association, which has paid CNP dues so that Michael Farris, its executive director, could attend the meetings.” The years of HSLDA’s membership are listed as 1996, 1998, and 1999 at “THE COUNCIL FOR NATIONAL POLICY: Past/Present Officers & Prominent Member Profiles,” link, accessed on April 29, 2015: “Michael P. Farris – CNP Membership Directory (1996, 1998, 1999).”

[cxlix] Michael Farris, “Using debate to learn valuable skills,” Home School Heartbeat, Volume 41, Program 3, December 10, 2002, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cl] TeenPact, “History, Vision, and Mission,” link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cli] Lyman, 1998.

[clii] Not Back to School Camp, “Essential Information,” link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cliii] Alliance for the Separation of School and State, “History of the Alexis de Tocqueville Award,” link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cliv] Lyman, 1998.

[clv] Practical Homeschooling, “Rebecca Sealfon Knows How To Spell ‘Success’: Interview with Rebecca Sealfon, homeschool student and winner of the 1997 Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee,” Number 19, 1997, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[clvi] Libby Anne, “What I Learned from Joshua Harris,” Love Joy Feminism, October 25, 2012, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[clvii] Home Education Information Resource, “Jury Finds Teaching Home Editor Conspired to Restrain Trade: Defendants Gregg Harris, Mary Pride, Sue Welch Settled,” July 3, 1999, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[clviii] Dobson, “News Watch Special Report”: “Four defendants with varying degrees of memory lapses will testify to Michael Farris’ involvement and/or reveal telephone notes indicating involvement in the preparation of the letter of discipline.”

[clix] HSLDA Home School Court Report, “First Annual National Home School Debate Tournament: October 3-4, 1997,” November/December 1997, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[clx] The Institute for Cultural Communicators, “The Mission of the Institute for Cultural Communicators,” link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[clxi] HSLDA Home School Court Report, “NEW HAMPSHIRE: Homeschoolers Block Bad Legislation,” July/August 1997, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[clxii] Doug Phillips, “Vision Forum’s Quest for Family Renewal,” link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[clxiii] Shay Seaborne, “The Truth About Sheryl,” Home Education Magazine, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[clxiv] Home Education Information Resource, 1999.

[clxv] Lyman, 1998.

[clxvi], “About Mary Griffith,” link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[clxvii] Christian Home Educators of Colorado.

[clxviii] Andrea Billups, “GOP rivals all praise their efforts and urge an era of responsibility,” Washington Times, September 25, 1999, republished by HSLDA, link, accessed on April 30, 2014.

[clxix] HSLDA Home School Court Report, “Teach Them to Dream Big Dreams: A Look at HSLDA’s Conference at the Capitol,” November/December 1999, link, accessed on April 30, 2015: “The resolution was initiated by the Missouri Home Educators Association and drafted by the National Center for Home Education.”

[clxx] E-mail letter from Michael Farris to John Holzmann, December 21, 1999, published by, “Does HSLDA Mix Causes?”, link, accessed on April 29, 2015: “We [HSLDA] pay dues to the Council for National Policy so that I may attend the meetings.”

[clxxi] Helen Cordes, “Battling for the heart and soul of home-schoolers,” Salon, October 2, 2000, link, accessed on April 30, 2015: “Frustrated home-schoolers have in the past several months decided to fight fire with fire, launching a new national inclusive group called the National Home Education Network, which will focus only on home-schooling issues and resources.”

[clxxii] National Home Education Network, “About NHEN,” link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[clxxiii] National Home Education Network, home page, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[clxxiv] National Home Education Network, “NHEN Board of Trustees,” link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[clxxv] National Home Education Network, “NHEN Regional Contacts,” link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[clxxvi] Texas Home School Coalition, “THSC History.”

[clxxvii] Cordes, 2000: “In Texas, which boasts the highest number of home-schooled kids at 150,000, a state home-school lobbying organization will debut in November, representing home-schoolers disenchanted with the HSLDA Texas affiliate, which is headed by Republican National Committeeman Tim Lambert.”

[clxxviii] Ibid: “John Holzmann is another stalwart Christian who felt the righteous rage of HSLDA when he asked its leaders to respond to issues raised by Seelhoff, the HEM report and many customers of the Christian curriculum publishing firm he co-founded, Sonlight. Sonlight materials had enjoyed great popularity in HSLDA circles and Holzmann offered HSLDA membership discounts to customers. But when Holzmann spoke up, HSLDA struck back. At a meeting with the group’s representatives, Holzmann says he got the bottom line: Don’t ever speak out against HSLDA publicly or you will face HSLDA charges of ‘gossip, slander and failure to observe the requirements of Matthew 18:15-17.’…In January, Holzmann announced that Sonlight would dissociate from HSLDA.”

[clxxix] Sarah Pride, “Patrick Henry College: A College for Homeschoolers (and Others),” Practical Homeschooling, Number 76, 2007, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[clxxx] Cordes, 2000.

[clxxxi] Ibid.

[clxxxii] HSLDA, “HSLDA Attorney Visits Germany, Legal Defense Organization Established,” October 1, 2001, link, accessed on April 30, 2015: “In August 2000, German home schoolers asked HSLDA for additional assistance. We provided support and encouragement to them in establishing their own national legal defense association: Schulunterricht zu Hause (School Instruction at Home).”

[clxxxiii] National Black Home Educators, “About Us,” link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[clxxxiv] HSLDA Home School Court Report, “An Affirmative Plan: National Home School Debate Tournament,” November/December 2000, link, accessed on April 30, 2015: “HSLDA has recognized that it is time for a separate organization to take on the support of the national home school speech and debate community. This new organization, the National Christian Forensics and Communication Association (NCFCA), was formed in 2000.”

[clxxxv] Cordes, 2000.

[clxxxvi] Ibid.

[clxxxvii] Linda Conrad, “AHSA Moves to A to Z!”, Association of Home School Attorneys, August 24, 2011, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[clxxxviii] Homeschool World Series Association, “History of the HWSA Organization,” link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[clxxxix] Milton Gaither, “The FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) and Homeschooling,” Homeschooling Research Notes, February 1, 2010, link, accessed on April 30, 2015: “In 2000, when much of the Church lived along the Arizona-Utah border near Colorado City, AZ, the Church made headlines when leader Warren Jeffs called for a massive exodus of the Church’s children from the public schools, urging them to be homeschooled using a FLDS curriculum instead.”

[cxc] North, 2001.

[cxci] Milton Gaither, “Home Schooling Goes Mainstream,” Education Next, Volume 9, Number 1, Winter 2009, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cxcii] National Alliance of Christian Home Education Leadership, home page, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[cxciii], “National Alliance Of Christian Home Education Leadership Inc in Brooks, Georgia (GA),” link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[cxciv] Robert Kunzman, Write These Laws on Your Children: Inside the World of Conservative Christian Homeschooling, Beacon Press, 2009, p. 100-1.

[cxcv] Tom Strode, “High court could be poised to overturn sodomy law,” Baptist Press, March 27, 2003, link, accessed on April 30, 2015: “Michael Farris, who wrote a brief defending the law, acknowledged he was ‘discouraged.’ While an oral argument ‘doesn’t make or break a case,’ it can provide ammunition for the justices, said Farris, whose friend-of-the-court brief came on behalf of the Center for the Original Intent of the Constitution.”

[cxcvi] Tyler, 2003.

[cxcvii] Smith, 2009.

[cxcviii] Dr. Chelsea McCracken, “Homeschooling Outcomes or Sampling Problems? A Look at Ray 2003,” Coalition for Responsible Home Education, May 8, 2014, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cxcix] National Home Education Legal Defense, “Background,” link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[cc] Gaither, 2009.

[cci] Ibid.

[ccii] National African-American Homeschoolers Alliance, “About,” link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cciii] Nicholas Ducote, “Home Education Ideologies and Literature: Review, Part 1,” Homeschoolers Anonymous, April 23, 2013, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cciv] Jessica Huseman, “The Rise of Homeschooling Among Black Families,” The Atlantic, February 17, 2015, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[ccv] Shannon Espelien, “Interview with Founder of Ad Duha Islamic Studies Curriculum,” Middle Way Mom, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[ccvi] Daniel Jackson, “Muslim families turn to home-schooling,” Washington Times, February 21, 2012, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[ccvii] Secular Homeschool, “About,” link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[ccviii] Alliance for the Separation of School and State, “History of the Alexis de Tocqueville Award.”

[ccix] Michael Farris, “Questions and Answers Regarding a Constitutional Amendment on Same-Sex Marriage,” HSLDA, April 15, 2004, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[ccx] Alex and Brett Harris, “Lila Rose: Fighting for the Unborn,” The Rebelution, May 16, 2007, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[ccxi] National LDS Homeschool Association, “Jolene Irving,” link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[ccxii] Sandra Dodd, “Is there a difference between a Radical Unschooler and just an Unschooler?,” link, accessed on April 30, 2015: “I think if people divide their lives into academic and non-academic, they’re not radical unschoolers.”

[ccxiii] Lori Arnold, “Popularity of homeschooling rises nationwide, curriculum concerns, safety cited,” Christian Examiner, September 2, 2007, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[ccxiv] Aaron Mesh, “New Kids In The Flock,” Willamette Week, June 18, 2008, link, accessed on April 30, 2015: “Gregg told his sons to embark on an ‘intense’ summer reading program ranging from books by New York Times pundit Thomas Friedman to right-wing talk-radio host Hugh Hewitt. The goal: to familiarize the twins with global trends. They say their reading sparked their desire to ‘wake up’ other teenagers, which led them to start the Rebelution blog in 2005. It is a forum for Christian teens to discuss issues from Third World slavery to women’s modesty.”

[ccxv] Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, “Alex and Brett Harris are Doing Hard Things,” The Gospel Coalition, November 5, 2014, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[ccxvi] Mesh, 2008.

[ccxvii] Gaither, 2009.

[ccxviii] Reb Bradley, “Solving the Crisis in Homeschooling: Exposing the 7 major blindspots of homeschoolers,” Family Ministries, 2006, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[ccxix] The Moore Foundation and Academy, “Death of Homeschooling Pioneer Dr. Raymond S. Moore,” link, accessed on April 30, 2015: “Dr. Raymond S. Moore, author of Better Late than Early, the book that launched the modern homeschooling movement in the United States, passed away on July 13, 2007, at the age of 91.”

[ccxx] HSLDA, “Parental Rights Amendment,” link, accessed on April 30, 2015: “The grassroots organization,, was established in 2007 to pass this amendment.”

[ccxxi] The Rebelution, “Modesty Survey,” link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[ccxxii] National Center for Education Statistics, “1.5 Million Homeschooled Students in the United States in 2007,” December 2008, link, accessed on April 30, 2015: “In the 2007 NHES, parents also were asked which one of their selected reasons for homeschooling was the most important. The reason reported by the highest percentage of homeschoolers’ parents as being most important was to provide religious or moral instruction.”

[ccxxiii] Arnold, 2007.

[ccxxiv] Sara McGrath, “Concerns about unschooling family on Wife Swap TV show,”, April 15, 2013, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[ccxxv] HSLDA Home School Court Report, “Dr. Brian Ray Receives Award,” January/February 2009, link, accessed on April 30, 2015: “First given to Gregg Harris in 2007, this award honors a leader who has demonstrated valuable leadership to the homeschool community, inspired and motivated others to effective action, overcome hardships and obstacles to succeed, demonstrated a servant’s heart while exhibiting the qualities listed above, and maintained a clear witness concerning Jesus Christ and the Gospel.”

[ccxxvi] Ibid.

[ccxxvii] Unschooling United, home page, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[ccxxviii] R.L. Stollar, “A Brief History of Homeschool Speech and Debate,” Homeschoolers Anonymous, July 1, 2013, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[ccxxix] Joyce, 2009.

[ccxxx] Milton Gaither, “Homeschool: An American History,” Homeschooling Research Notes, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[ccxxxi] Gaither, 2010.

[ccxxxii] Carolyn Jessop, Triumph: Life After the Cult–A Survivor’s Lessons, Three Rivers Press, 2011, p. 23: “They did find other children that were being abused, and that, either way, having sex with a sixteen-year-old in the state of Texas is a felony. They found—they found felony cases of child abuse.”

[ccxxxiii] Christian Home Educators of Colorado.

[ccxxxiv] Jim Daly, “Two Tributes to Dr. James Dobson,” Focus on the Family, October 5, 2009, link, accessed on April 30, 2015: “On Friday, September 25, 2009 the HSLDA presented Dr. Dobson with its Lifetime Achievement Award during its annual National Leaders Conference here in Colorado Springs.”

[ccxxxv] R.L. Stollar, “End Child Protection: Doug Phillips, HSLDA, and the 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit,” Homeschoolers Anonymous, May 14, 2013, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[ccxxxvi] HSLDA, “In Memoriam: Christopher J. Klicka,” October 12, 2009, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[ccxxxvii] Homeschool Legal Advantage, “Our History,” link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[ccxxxviii] Homeschool Legal Advantage, “Newly Launched Homeschool Legal Advantage is Experiencing Rapid Growth from Homeschooling Families throughout the United States,” Christian News Wire, November 25, 2009, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[ccxxxix] R.L. Stollar, “HSLDA Gave This Man Their Prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award Just 4 Years Ago,” Homeschoolers Anonymous, August 31, 2014, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[ccxl] Kiri Kincell, “HSLDA Leadership Conference 2010,” The Kincell Family, October 12, 2010, link, accessed on April 30, 2015: “During [Saturday] evening, the Greg Harris [sic] award (named after it’s first recipient) was awarded to Bill Gothard for his huge contributions to the early homeschooling movement.”

[ccxli] Aaron Gould Sheinin and Margaret Newkirk, “TeenPact kids’ campaign efforts raise questions,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 1, 2010, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[ccxlii] Brennan and Mary Jo Dean, “About,” Great Homeschool Conventions, July 15, 2010, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[ccxliii] Sam Blumenfeld, “The Homeschool Convention Season Is On,” The New American, March 26, 2012, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[ccxliv] Recovering Grace, “Our Mission,” link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[ccxlv] Conrad, 2011.

[ccxlvi] Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, “Creation Museum Founder Disinvited from Homeschooling Conferences,” Christianity Today, March 25, 2011, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[ccxlvii] Anderson Cooper, “Farris: U.N. treaty ‘is a law’,” CNN, December 11, 2012, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[ccxlviii] Michael Smith, “Senate Rejects Ratification of UN Disabilities Treaty,” HSLDA, December 4, 2012, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[ccxlix] Jennifer Schuessler, “And the Worst Book of History Is…”, New York Times, July 16, 2012, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[ccl] Elise Hu, “Publisher Pulls Controversial Thomas Jefferson Book, Citing Loss Of Confidence,” NPR, August 9, 2012, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[ccli] International Center for Home Education Research, “About ICHER,” link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cclii] Liberated Minds Black Homeschool & Education Expo, “About The Liberated Minds Black Homeschool & Education Expo,” link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[ccliii] Muslim Homeschool Network, “About MHN,” link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[ccliv] Homeschoolers Anonymous, “For the media: Former homeschoolers rally against abuse,” March 16, 2013, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[cclv] Dan Savage, “If Your Gay Kid Is Being Bullied At School And He Begs You To Homeschool Him…,” Portland Mercury, January 29, 2013, link, accessed on April 30, 2015: “Straight parents: If you know your gay kid is being brutalized in his school and you’ve complained and it’s gotten worse, get him the fuck out of there. Homeschool him. Homeschool him and sue the school. Move away. Move someplace more tolerant. Move someplace better.”

[cclvi] Sonlight Curriculum, “Homeschool Legal Advantage is now the Center for Homeschool Liberty,” link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[cclvii] National Center for Life and Liberty, home page, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[cclviii] Center for Homeschool Liberty, home page, National Center for Life and Liberty, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[cclix] National Center for Life and Liberty, “About National Center for Life and Liberty,” link, accessed on May 1, 2015: “This nonprofit legal ministry—NCLL—will serve to protect and defend the Bible-based values upon which our nation was founded.”

[cclx] Brett Harris, “The Other Side of Modesty,” The Rebelution, June 22, 2013, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cclxi] Doug Phillips, “Statement of Resignation,” Vision Forum Ministries, October 30, 2013, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cclxii] Vision Forum Ministries Board of Directors, “The Closing of Vision Forum Ministries,” Vision Forum Ministries, November 11, 2013, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cclxiii] Coalition for Responsible Home Education, “Homeschool Graduates Launch Nonpartisan Organization to Advocate for the Legal Interests of Homeschooled Children,” December 18, 2013, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cclxiv] Gen2 Leadership Conference, “The Vision,” link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[cclxv] Shawn Mathis, “A tale of two surveys: the continued polarization of homeschooling,”, March 18, 2015, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[cclxvi] Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out, “Our Vision and Mission,” link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[cclxvii] Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out, “Announcing the Results from HARO’s 2014 Survey of Homeschool Alumni,” December 2, 2014, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[cclxviii] Brian Ray, “A Thorny Survey of Homeschool Graduates,” National Home Education Research Institute, December 11, 2014, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[cclxix] Milton Gaither, “The HARO 2014 Survey of Homeschool Alumni,” International Center for Home Education Research Reviews, January 1, 2015, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[cclxx] Mathis, 2015.

[cclxxi] Kiera Feldman, “Sexual Assault at God’s Harvard,” New Republic, February 17, 2014, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cclxxii] Warren Cole Smith, “Bill Gothard place on administrative leave,” WORLD Magazine, February 27, 2014, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[cclxxiii] Julie Anne Smith, “Christian Patriarchy is Alive and Well: NCFIC’s Scott Brown Moves to Fill the Void,” Homeschoolers Anonymous, February 3, 2014, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cclxxiv] David Waller, email sent to member families of the Advanced Training Institute, March 6, 2014, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[cclxxv] Cynthia Jeub, “Melting Memory Masks,”, October 3, 2014, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cclxxvi] Chelsea Schilling, “Christian Giant Sued For ‘Using Nanny As Sex Object,” WorldNetDaily, April 15, 2014, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cclxxvii] Michael Farris, “A Line in the Sand,” Home School Court Report, August 27, 2014, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[cclxxviii] R.L. Stollar, “Beall Phillips, Wife of Doug Phillips, Accuses HSLDA’s Michael Farris of ‘Gross Error,’ ‘Bully Pulpit’,” Homeschoolers Anonymous, August 28, 2014, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[cclxxix] Hännah Ettinger, R.L. Stollar, “When Homeschool Leaders Looked Away: The Old Schoolhouse Cover-Up,” Homeschoolers Anonymous, October 8, 2014, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[cclxxx] Claire Gordon, “After scathing sex abuse report, Bob Jones calls itself ‘very safe’,” Al Jazeera, December 19, 2014, link, accessed on May 1, 2015.

[cclxxxi] Boerne Christian Assembly, “Update Regarding Doug Phillips,” November 17, 2014, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cclxxxii] Audie Cornish, “These Kids Grew Up With The Woods As Their Only Classroom,” NPR, September 4, 2014, link, accessed on April 30, 2014.

[cclxxxiii] Samantha Laine, “Alecia Pennington can’t prove she’s an American – or even exists. What would you do?”, Christian Science Monitor, February 12, 2015, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cclxxxiv] Huseman, 2015.

[cclxxxv] Ama Mazama, “Racism in schools is pushing more black families to homeschool their children,” Washington Post, April 10, 2015, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cclxxxvi] Shawn Mathis, “Scott Brown’s new family integrated church declaration and why you should care,”, April 22, 2015, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cclxxxvii] Gus Burns, “Leaders call for monitoring of home-schooled students after Detroit children found dead in mom’s freezer,” Michigan Live, April 13, 2015, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cclxxxviii] HSLDA, “House Bill 4498: Annual Homeschool Notification and Mandatory Reporter Visits,” April 22, 2015, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[cclxxxix] Coalition for Responsible Home Education, “Statement Supporting Stoni Blair and Stephen Berry and Michigan’s HB 4498,” April 21, 2015, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

[ccxc] David C. Gibbs III as quoted by Julie Anne Smith, “Update on Lourdes Torres-Manteufel vs Doug Phillips Lawsuit,” Spiritual Sounding Board, March 30, 2015, link, accessed on April 30, 2015.

A Brief History of ATI and HSLDA’s Relationship

Screen Shot 2014-02-02 at 10.06.53 PM

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Numerous discussions have arisen online about the relationship between HSLDA and IBLP/ATI. The following is a detailed account of what can be publicly confirmed about that relationship.

Originally called the Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts (IBYC), The Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) was founded in 1961 by Bill Gothard for the purpose of “introducing people to the Lord Jesus Christ.” IBLP’s headquarters are in Oak Brook, Illinois. IBLP has a number of educational programs, one of which is the Advanced Training Institute (ATI, previously ATIA). ATI — which HA covered during our “Inside ATI: A Homeschooling Cult” series — is IBLP’s homeschooling program, the core curriculum of which are the “Wisdom Booklets,” described by IBLP as “a 3,000-page amplification of the Sermon on the Mount.”

According to the Advanced Training Institute, “In the scope of the ATI curriculum, the Bible is the main textbook, the Wisdom Booklets are the core curriculum.” That “core curriculum” began development in 1984 by a team that worked under the direction of 3 individuals: Bill Gothard, Dr. Larry Guthrie, and Inge Cannon.

Bill Gothard and Michael Farris

Bill Gothard, as previously stated, is IBLP’s founder.

Less known, however, is that Michael Farris and his wife Vickie embraced the Quiverfull lifestyle specifically because of him.

As documented in Kathryn Joyce’s Quiverfull, Michael Farris “came to his Quiverfull beliefs through the ministry of Bill Gothard.” In the 1980s, Gothard preached that God should determine family size. And “one of Gothard’s early converts was [HSLDA’s Michael] Farris, who was already primed for the message of letting God control Vickie’s fertility by early anti-contraception literature and his immersion, in the late 70’s, in a conservative Christian movement in Washington State.”

Vickie Farris herself explains this in her book A Mom Just Like You, saying,

Mike had recently been ordained through our local church in preparation for his new job in Washington, DC. He was invited to a pastors’ seminar taught by Bill Gothard, and one of the things Bill discussed that day was the fact that children are always mentioned in the Bible as unqualified blessings… He encouraged the men at the seminar to have as many  children as their faith could handle! When Mike came home and told me the things Bill had said, we decided then and there, with some trepidation, to trust God and stop using birth control. (page 68)

This influence led Vickie to pass on the message and “encourage other women to reject birth control methods and embrace motherhood.”

Inge Cannon and HSLDA

A graduate of Bob Jones University, Inge Cannon was truly the overseer of launching ATI’s Wisdom Booklets in 1984. According to HSLDA’s accounting, it was while working at Maranatha Baptist Bible College that “she was first introduced to the concept of home education. Bill Gothard, founder and president of the Institute in Basic Life Principles, invited Inge to attend a special conference to plan the foundation of the Institute’s home education curriculum, the Advanced Training Institute of America.” In 1985, Cannon moved to Oak Brook specifically “to direct the ATIA program.” She then continued to develop ATI — both the program itself and the curriculum — until 1990. In 1990, after 6 years of working with Gothard and directing ATI, Michael Farris himself sought her out to find a Director of HSLDA’s new division, the National Center for Home Education. She filled the position herself, becoming “the first executive director of the National Center.”

It ought to be stressed that Inge Cannon is responsible for the ATI curriculum — especially the Wisdom Booklets. More than that, as documented by Jeri Lofland, Cannon discouraged young people from going to college during ATI conferences in Knoxville. As Lofland notes,

I was just one of thousands of young people who were told that we didn’t need college credits, that college would corrupt our minds with “vain philosophies” and threaten our faith, that there are some things “God doesn’t want us to know”, and that employers would come looking for us because of our diligence, obedience, and virtue. So, many of us dutifully eschewed degrees in favor of home-based study.

Cannon being recruited by HSLDA’s Michael Farris was not mere coincidence. Cannon herself points out that she and her work is officially “endorsed” by not only Bill Gothard, but Michael Farris (as well as Bob Jones, III).

Larry Guthrie, Inspiring Speaker

The third person overseeing the development of the Wisdom Booklets in the 1980s was Larry Guthrie. In addition to writing “science and medical curriculum materials” for ATI, Guthrie is “the former director of the Children’s Institute”. The Children’s Institute, as discussed by Lana Hope, was where children “started learning about the umbrella of authority from the age of 5.” He also wrote some of the Character Sketches sold by Gothard’s ALERT program.

Still a keynote speaker at homeschool conferences, Guthrie has been promoted by HSLDA as “inspiring.” In 2011, HSLDA promoted the Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators Annual Conference and Curriculum Fair, featuring Guthrie. Similarly in 2013, Peter Kamakawiwoole, HSLDA Staff Attorney, encouraged HSLDA members to attend a conference with Guthrie as keynote speaker.

Beyond Curriculum Developers

The warm camaraderie and partnerships between ATI and HSLDA extend beyond the direct relationships between ATI’s Wisdom Booklet developers (Gothard, Cannon, and Guthrie) and HSLDA. Dianne Hurst, ATI’s grammar curriculum developer, was featured on HSLDA’s Home School Heartbeat for a week. Hurst is also married to HSLDA’s Membership and Human Resources Director, Chuck Hurst. Steve Wells, who worked with Gothard and ATI to develop an online distance learning engineering program (the parent to IBLP’s Telos Institute and Verity College), also appeared on Home School Heartbeat for a week. Inge Cannon was similarly featured on Home School Heartbeat — and more than once.

Vicki Bentley, HSLDA’s coordinator for Toddlers to Tweens and Group Services, recommends ATI for “Bible/Character Training” in the Virginia Homeschool Manual she compiled.

In the 2008 edition of HSLDA’s Court Report, HSLDA featured a history of “The Early Days of Homeschooling.” HSLDA highlights Bill Gothard and Inge Cannon, saying ATI “helped many families get started.” Additionally, ATI is featured on HSLDA’s official curriculum list. ATI is also an HSLDA Discount Group, and just last summer HSLDA promoted an ATI “success story” in Court Report.

In 1989, prior to Inge Cannon joining HSLDA, she helped support a memorandum in Ohio written by HSLDA’s Michael Smith. This memorandum explained “that there is no legal requirement in Ohio that a homeschooling instructor possess a college degree.” According to HSLDA,

Mrs. Inge Pohl [Cannon], Director of Education for the Advanced Training Institute of America (a nationwide homeschool program), testified at trial in North Dakota that in testing 5,000 youngsters pursuant to their program, they found no significant correlation between the parents’ education and their children’s success in testing.

ATI and Patrick Henry College (started and initially funded by HSLDA) also share a rich donor. Dr. James Leininger, a Texas physician, homeschooling parent, and part-owner of the San Antonio Spurs, has long bankrolled conservative Christian projects. He was a founding director of Vision Forum. He served on the Advisory Board for IBLP. And not only was he “one of the first and most significant contributors” to HSLDA’s Patrick Henry College, he also is currently on that college’s Board of Trustees.

Jordan Lorence, ATI, and HSLDA

More than anyone, Jordan Lorence represents the working relationship between ATI and HSLDA. (You might recognize Lorence most recently as the lawyer representing the New Mexico photographer who refused to photograph a same-sex ceremony.)

In the late Christopher Klicka’s book Home School Heroes: The Struggle & Triumph of Home Schooling in America (a book endorsed by Lorence himself, which you can see on the book’s back cover), Klicka points out that Lorence worked with HSLDA from the very beginning. Starting in 1984, Lorence worked part-time for HSLDA and handled legal contacts with homeschoolers. It was Lorence, along with Michael Farris, that interviewed Klicka when he was hired by HSLDA.

In 1985, Lorence served as HSLDA’s Director.

In 1991, Lorence became a full-time staff attorney for HSLDA, focusing on HSLDA’s presence in Canada.

During this time, Lorence also worked with Bill Gothard and IBLP/ATI. Lorence spoke for several years at ATI conferences held in Knoxville and Oklahoma; he was a welcome and well-known guest. There is an online record of his presentation at a 1994 ATI conference in Knoxville. In 1996, Lorence represented IBLP in the court case Institute in Basic Life Principles, Inc. v. Watersmeet TP.

Jordan Lorence  also played an instrumental role in Oak Brook College of Law, as discussed next.

Oak Brook College of Law and HSLDA

The final and most significant relationship between ATI and HSLDA involves Oak Brook College of Law.

Oak Brook College of Law (based in Fresno, California but sharing the same name as IBLP’s geographical location — namely, Oak Brook, Illinois) was launched by ATI itself. In fact, OBCL is still listed on IBLP’s website as one of IBLP’s educational programs and their graduation ceremonies were held at IBLP Training Centers. Not only that, but law students at OBCL study Bill Gothard’s Basic Seminar material.

Law students do not simply study Gothard’s Basic Seminar material, however.

According to Oak Brook’s official college policies as of last year, a “prerequisite for admission” into the school is “attendance at all the sessions of the Seminar in Basic Life Principles sponsored by the Institute in Basic Life Principles.”

When OBCL was launched in 1995, it was done so as a joint effort between ATI and HSLDA stakeholders. Bill Gothard served as the law school’s Chancellor (and he still is the Chancellor), Michael Farris served on the Board of Trustees, and former HSLDA director and staff attorney Jordan Lorence served (and continues to serve) as the school’s Constitutional Law Professor as well as is Chairman of Oak Brook’s Board of Advisors. ***

The relationship continued when graduates of Oak Brook faced difficulties taking the bar in states other than California. In 2005, HSLDA specifically supported Texas House Bill 826 (which ultimately failed to pass) because “homeschoolers who graduate from the distance-learning school Oak Brook College of Law in California are currently prohibited from taking the Texas Bar Exam.” HSLDA highlighted that Oak Brook students “have worked as Legal Assistants for the HSLDA Legal Department” and HSLDA “hired two graduates of the school to work as lawyers in our office.”

Graduates of Bill Gothard’s law school have indeed gone on to work for HSLDA. HSLDA attorney Darren Jones graduated from Oak Brook. Will Estrada, HSLDA’s Director of Federal Relations, graduated from Oak Brook. HSLDA Legal Assistant Elliot Ko graduated from Oak Brook. HSLDA attorney Tj Schmidt graduated from Oak Brook. Former HSLDA legal assistant Daniel Beasley graduated from Oak Brook.

*** Update, February 15, 2014: Jordan Lorence emailed Homeschoolers Anonymous on February 10 and said that, as of February 10, he had “resigned from all of [his] connections with Oak Brook College of Law.” There is no official statement from the college itself on the matter. However, a screenshot from Oak Brook’s website on January 20 shows Lorence listed as faculty; their current faculty page no longer lists him.

A Quick and Dirty Primer on HSLDA

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 1.49.33 PM

A Quick and Dirty Primer on HSLDA, By Kathryn Brightbill

Kathryn Brightbill blogs at The Life and Opinions of Kathryn Elizabeth, Person.

Did you find your way to Homeschoolers Anonymous because of the press coverage of the Wunderlich and Twelve Tribes cases in Germany? Or did the Romeike case in the United States send you hunting for more info on this HSLDA group that keeps showing up in news stories?

Then this story is for you.

It is in no way meant to be exhaustive, just to provide basic information for people who did not grow up in the homeschooling world and are unfamiliar with HSLDA’s activism.

Early Days

HSLDA was founded by Michael Farris in 1983. At that time, homeschooling as a movement was in its infancy, and because parents were concerned about the legality, the idea of a legal defense and advocacy organization dedicated to homeschooling was an attractive one.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, HSLDA was involved in liberalizing the homeschooling laws in states across the US, mobilizing homeschoolers to bombard their legislators with phone calls, telegrams in the early days, faxes, and emails. During this time period most of the restrictions and regulations on homeschooling were removed so that in many states there is now minimal oversight of homeschooling families to ensure that children are receiving an education.

In 1991, HSLDA went international with the formation of HSLDA Canada.

A turning point came in 1994 when HSLDA used the power of its network of homeschooling parents to fight against H.R. 6, a federal bill that said that non-public schools applying for federal funds must have teachers certified in the subject matter in which they teach. For reasons that are not entirely clear since the bill was about non-public schools that received federal money—an issue completely unrelated to homeschooling, HSLDA decided that H.R. 6 meant that the federal government would require homeschoolers to be certified teachers. Although many other homeschool leaders disagreed with HSLDA’s analysis and did not see any threat to homeschooling in the bill, nevertheless, HSLDA mobilized tens of thousands of homeschoolers to contact congress and in the process discovered just how powerful a political network they had built.

HSLDA Branches Out: Non-homeschool-related activities

When you are an organization that is run by conservative members of the religious right (Farris was an attorney with Concerned Women for America who fought against the Equal Rights Amendment, former HSLDA attorney Doug Phillips is the son of Constitution Party presidential candidate and former Nixon administration member Howard Phillips, to give a few examples), and you have built a powerful grassroots network that will do your bidding, the temptation to limit your work to homeschooling is evidently too great to resist.

Coming on the heels of the H.R. 6 fight in 1994, HSLDA touts their involvement in killing the US ratification of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), a human rights treaty.

The only UN member states that have not ratified CEDAW are Iran, Palau, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tonga, and the United States.

In 1995, HSLDA took a case in Virginia, In re Brianna, where the parents were charged with neglect for refusing to vaccinate their child. HSLDA successfully argued that the parents should be given a religious exemption from providing childhood vaccinations to their child. HSLDA’s timeline of events does not indicate that this case had any connection to homeschooling.

In a case where the only relationship to homeschooling was that the party involved was a former homeschooler, HSLDA and Michael Farris took on the case of Michael New, a soldier who refused to wear a UN beret as part of United Nations peacekeeping actions. In a 1995 Court Report cover story, the case was described as, “Michael New v. the New World Order,” a reference to fundamentalist Christian beliefs about the End Times and the United Nations as ushering in a one world government that would lead to the rise of the antichrist.

In 1997, a constitutional amendment drafted by HSLDA, the “American Sovereignty Amendment, H.J.R. 83,” was introduced by Congresswoman Helen Chenoweth (R-ID). The amendment, which did not go anywhere, would have changed the Constitution so that treaties were no longer on the same level as the US Constitution. The text of the amendment is not available online, but it is evident from HSLDA’s own description that it would have had significant effects on the United States’ ability to meet its treaty obligations.

By 2003, HSLDA decided to organize young homeschool students into Generation Joshua to create a generation of young, politically active kids who could provide the manpower on the ground in conservative political campaigns. Generation Joshua was designed to build a second generation of kids to carry forth the culture war battles of their parents.

In 2004, despite the fact that it has not even the slimmest connection to homeschooling, HSLDA backed a constitutional amendment to ban both same-sex marriage and civil unions.

Another way that HSLDA expanded their reach beyond homeschooling was with the 2007 launch of, an advocacy organization devoted to expanding parental rights free from government interference. This includes advocating for a Parental Rights Amendment that would subject all laws relating to parental decisions on the upbringing, care, and education of their children to the highest level of judicial scrutiny, a standard that is extremely difficult to overcome, and which would remove almost all legal protections from children.

HSLDA was also instrumental in blocking United States ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, despite the fact that the treaty mirrors the Americans with Disabilities Act.

On the treaty front, HSLDA has also led the fight against the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Among their objections to the treaty is that it would prevent minors from being sentenced to life in prison—something that the international community agrees is unacceptable but that the US still practices. They also object to the fact that the convention uses the best interest of the child standard in determining matters involving children, even though the best interest of the child standard is the guiding standard in American family law already. Furthermore, they oppose the idea that children should have a right to be heard in decisions relating to their interests.

The only countries that have not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child are Somalia, South Sudan, and the United States. HSLDA bears much of the responsibility for America’s failure to ratify the treaty.

HSLDA and Abuse

Starting from 1992 on, HSLDA’s timeline lists their involvement in an increasing number of cases where homeschool families were accused of child abuse unrelated to homeschooling itself. Further, HSLDA’s timeline credits their work with member families in defeating Virginia Senate Bill 621, a bill that did not involve homeschooling but rather the standard of proof in child abuse investigations.

They also brag on their timeline about their role in killing a 1997 bill in New Hampshire that would have defined isolation of children as a form of abuse, because they believe it could apply to homeschoolers. This certainly suggests that HSLDA believes that some homeschool parents isolate their children to the point that a bill designed to protect children from abuse would apply, and thinks this is okay.

This is particularly relevant given the accusations against the Wunderlich family—HSLDA says that the family wasn’t abusive, but HSLDA doesn’t think that extreme isolation is abuse.

In his 1996 novel, Anonymous Tip, a story intended to dramatize the position that Child Protective Services are a threat to families, Michael Farris repeatedly has his protagonists insist that spankings that leave bruises are not necessarily evidence of abuse.

For more on HSLDA’s handling of child abuse cases, see Libby Anne’s extensive documentation on HSLDA and abuse, including their fight against child abuse reporting, the time they called a man who caged his children a “hero”, and their opposition to Florida’s proposed law that would have defined leaving bruises and welts on children as abuse.

This is not to say that HSLDA supports child abuse. As Libby Anne explains, it is entirely possible to abhor abuse while still taking actions that end up protecting abusers.

Michael Farris’ other non-homeschooling activism

An overview of HSLDA would be incomplete without noting at least some of Michael Farris’ other activism during his time with HSLDA. In addition to an unsuccessful 1994 run for Lt. Governor of Virginia, Farris was the founder of the Madison Project, a political action committee that bundles small donations in support of right wing candidates. Furthermore, his support of right wing candidates extended to backing John Ashcroft for President in 1998 and Mike Huckabee in 2008 (chastising other leaders of the right for not backing Huckabee sooner), and has mobilized Generation Joshua in support of Ken Cucinelli’s run for governor of Virginia.

As already mentioned, before founding HSLDA, Farris worked with Concerned Women For America in fighting against the Equal Rights Amendment that would have guaranteed equal constitutional rights for women. Also in the early 1980s, he worked with the Moral Majority in Washington state to try to get sex education materials removed from libraries.

Farris has also taken to fighting other broader culture war issues after the founding of HSLDA. Writing an amicus brief on behalf of Patrick Henry College in the Hollingsworth v. Perry (Prop. 8) United States Supreme Court case, he argued that if the government recognized marriage between two people of the same sex it would make it harder for Patrick Henry College to continue with their current (discriminatory) policies.

More recently, he spoke at the founding meeting of Trail Life, USA, the scouting group that was formed as an alternative to the Boy Scouts after the Boy Scouts stopped kicking gay kids out of the Scouts. The head of the Trail Life organization has gone on record stating that he believes that parents accepting their gay children is a form of child abuse. Farris, for his part, seems to agree with the head of Trail Life that gay children should be subjected to reparative therapy, a form of therapy condemned by every major psychiatric organization because it is psychologically harmful to the point of being abusive.

In Conclusion

While HSLDA may have started as a homeschooling advocacy organization, over time they have shifted and expanded their focus, fighting against international treaties, expanded child abuse legislation, and fighting for broader religious right causes. They are an organization founded and led by religious right activists who treat homeschooling as yet another front in the ongoing culture wars.

Home Education Ideologies and Literature

By Nicholas Ducote, HA Community Coordinator

This is a review of academic literature regarding the modern homeschooling phenomena in America. The goal is to provide a sociological framework for discussing the diversity and homogeneity of the various branches of the homeschooling movement.

While many ideological models of homeschooling have been formulated and propagated over the past fifty years of the homeschooling movement, two have risen to prominence.  Founded by John Holt, the “unschooling movement” focused on removing children from the negative influences of a school’s hierarchical social structures which, according to Holt and his adherents, impeded a child’s natural creativity and prevented them from truly learning. [i] In contrast, Dr. Raymond Moore founded the “Christian Homeschooling movement,” which argued that public schooling was objectionable because of its corrupting moral influence. [ii] In the late-80s and 1990s, Christian homeschooling expanded rapidly, while the inclusive (unschooling) brand of home education grew slowly. Mitchell Stevens authored a ground-breaking sociological work on homeschooling, Kingdom of Children: Culture and Controversy in the Homeschooling Movement (2001), after immersing himself in many aspects of the movement for eleven years. [iii] He focused on these two main sub-cultures, or camps, of the social movement of homeschooling, their historical development, and how their core philosophies influenced everything from the method of instruction to the organization of institutions.

Any study of homeschooling faces serious limitations. There is no federal legal framework governing homeschooling and states’ regulations are a patchwork of different requirements. The lack of consistent regulation is uniquely American  In ten states, nothing is required of parents in order to homeschool. Thirteen states require a simple notification of a parent’s intent to homeschool their child. In Virginia and twenty-one other states, homeschoolers are required to take standardized tests, but even these requirements vary. The lack of even basic statistical reporting in most states makes the study of homeschooling problematic when attempting to use a social scientific methodology. Even the best studies have questionable validity. In 1996, the Homeschool Legal Defense Association published a study conducted by Brian Ray, who was himself an advocate of homeschooling. Because of this bias, the results of his research are questionable. In 1995, sociologist Maralee Mayberry distributed the most comprehensive survey to date of home educators, which included fifty-six questions ranging from occupation, educational attainment, religious affiliation, household size, etc. [iv] With fewer than 1,500 respondents from Nevada, Utah, and Washington, the demographics skewed towards those who identified themselves as very religious, white, and middle class. Most researchers have to rely on convenience samples (lists from curriculum suppliers, rosters of homeschooling groups, unofficial lists compiled by local school boards), and response rates to academic studies are notoriously low – only 25% of those Mayberry contacted responded. 

Because of these limitations, much of Stevens’ book is observational. Until states gather more data on curriculum, the educational attainment of parents, and consistent standardized testing of students, most studies of homeschooling will, of necessity, lack methodological rigor. Stevens focused his study in Illinois and on two main networks of homeschoolers: the “inclusive” unschoolers and the religious “believers.” He noted that the core difference between the communities was their view on how to motivate children. The unschooling inclusives believed in using solely intrinsic motivation, which is driven by the child’s enjoyment and interest in the task, whereas the exclusive Christian homescholers believed in using extrinsic motivation, which is driven by rewards and punishments that come from outside the child (i.e. the parents). From here, the communities diverge philosophically and pedagogically. He admits that his book does not adequately address groups that serve more specific constituencies, like Islamic or Mormon home educators, parents with special needs children, or the experiences of homeschooled children, but he sought to capture the “general flow” of the movement (8). Stevens refrains from criticizing either camp, merely detailing their differences, commonalities, and how that influences their pedagogy and organizational structures.

The first sub-culture, which he terms the “inclusives,” drew their philosophical inspiration from John Holt. Holt was involved in the alternative school movement in the 1970s, but eventually decided to create his own approach to child development. Holt’s philosophy and pedagogy is typically referred to as “unschooling.” Unschooling was strictly “earth-based,” meaning parents did not focus on spiritual issues, instead encouraging practical skills and creativity. Fundamentally, Holt and his ideological offspring believe in the intrinsic goodness of children and they strive to eliminate hierarchies that subordinate children to their parents.  Holt emphasized the importance of the child’s self-determination, which he claimed was a child’s inalienable human right to “control [their] own minds and thoughts” (37). Holt explained that his “concern was not to ‘improve education,’ but to do away with it, to end the ugly and anti-human business of people-shaping and let people shape themselves” (34-5). He refrained from using words like “teach,” “educate,” and “school,” instead relying on egalitarian rhetoric. Holt argued that “we adults destroy most of the intellectual and creative capacity of children by the things we do to them or make them do.” These unschoolers first organized under the Home Oriented Unschooling Experience network (HOUSE) network in the early 1980s. HOUSE included anyone who wished to participate in its support group meetings, not even adopting by-laws until 1992.

Both Mary Pride and Gregg Harris emphasized a strict hierarchy within the family.
Both Mary Pride and Gregg Harris emphasized a strict hierarchy within the family.

The second sub-culture, which Stevens termed the “believers,” drew their inspiration from Dr. Raymond Moore. Stevens explained that this camp was an “explicitly Christian social movement” (7). Rather than giving children intellectual self-determination, like the unschoolers, Moore’s Christian homeschooling integrated Christ and the Bible into their education. For these Christians, “homeschooling is a fulfillment of God’s command that parents take responsibility for their children’s education in general” (18). A series of radio interviews conducted by Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family with Dr. Moore catapulted the Christian homeschool movement into national spotlight. In Illinois, Steve and Susan Jerome helped organize the ICHE and, in 1984, they held the first state-wide homeschooling conference. The event, held at Wheaton College (a prominent Evangelical college) outside of Chicago, featured Dr. Moore and Phyllis Schlafly. At the time, Gregg Harris served as Dr. Moore’s right-hand man.  In the late-1980s and 1990s, Greg Harris, Mary Pride, and Michael Farris became major national figure-heads and leaders in the Christian homeschooling movement. Stevens found that conservative Protestant Christians dominated the exclusive brand of homeschooling, termed “Christian homeschooling.” He used the term “Christian homeschoolers” because, in his interviews with members of this community, they frequently referred to themselves as “Christian homeschoolers” involved in a larger “Christian homeschooling movement.” Stevens noted that one of the first home education magazine, The Teaching Home, was explicitly religious. It even featured “God’s Plan of Salvation” in each issue, which instructed readers in the “Protestant Christian conversion” (121). Carol Ingram, the associate director of the National Center for Home Education in the early-90s, argued that there were no “neutral” homeschoolers. In her view of the homeschooling social movement, there was no balanced middle ground between secular homeschooling and Christian homeschooling. She explained, “We are either saved or we’re lost. We’re either in a Christian world reference or we’re in a non-Christian world reference, we’re not in a neutral world reference” (129).

Gregg Harris also focused on the importance of controlling the peer influences in your child’s life.
Gregg Harris also focused on the importance of controlling the peer influences in your child’s life.

In the Christian, heaven-based pedagogy, children were sinners that needed to be “trained up” with Christian values and protected from “contaminants” so that they were better (spiritually and academically) than the average child in public school. Both Mary Pride and Gregg Harris emphasized a strict hierarchy within the family. Usually, Christian homeschoolers recite Proverbs 22:6, which reads “train up a child in the way that he should go, so that when he is old he will not depart from it.” In many instances, training your children properly meant protecting them from “multiple contaminants,” which could include secular humanism or the influence of children from “broken homes” (51-53). Gregg Harris also focused on the importance of controlling the peer influences in your child’s life, invoking language from Proverbs,

What would happen if our children were allowed to run around unsupervised with… other children? The companion of fools would suffer harm… The more our children have the opportunity to be the companions of foolish children, the more impervious they are to our counsel. And the more they resist the experiences that we’ve had, the more things we can offer to help them avoid so much trouble.

Moore argued that the contamination of peer pressure and the institutionalized secular humanism of public education tears children away from their parents. “But with the rare exception, when a child loses a sound value system, it is never regained. So peer dependency is a kind of social cancer. Humanly speaking, to try to heal it is like putting a Band-aid on a burned roast” (52). Christian homeschooling emphasizes obedience, respect for authority, and hierarchal social arrangements. Such language encourages families to be protective of their children, lest they fall prey to temptations and immorality and never return to their parents’ values. The Mckie family, Christian homeschoolers that run a blog, provided their explanation of homeschooling [v], which emphasized complete control over the child’s environment and stimuli:

Children are like tender young plants… [and] the gardener [i.e. parents] plants the precious seed in special seed cups in his greenhouse. He provides just the right soil, lighting, moisture, and nutrition so that the seeds have the optimum environment in which to grow. As the seed begins to sprout, the gardener tends to it with love and care…As the seedling grows, the gardener is able to transplant it into larger and larger containers to make room for its growth. The greenhouse allows the gardener to control all the elements of the environment so that the plant grows into a sturdy, mature plant with deep, well anchored roots, and a strong supportive trunk. Then the gardener makes the final transplant… by the time they complete the high school years they are finally anchored in GOD’S WORD, and have learned to stand against the world.

Unschoolers also have an aversion to the way public school impacts children’s minds, but they do not focus on philosophical and religious issues, like the secular humanism targeted by the Christian homeschoolers. Rather, Holt and the unschoolers argue that the public school system is too standardized to develop the innate curiosity and inquiry of young minds. In contrast, Moore argued that children are not “cognitively ready” to even understand why their parents make them do or believe certain things (39). This meant that parents should inculcate their children with a specific set of values and religious traditions. Moore wanted homeschoolers to insulate their children from “the world.” The Christian curriculum industry developed to meet the needs of parents wishing to educate their children with an explicitly Christian frame of reference. Stevens noted that “Evangelical and fundamentalist Christians have the most to choose from when shopping for homeschool curricula… continuing a long tradition of separatist education” (54).

The leaders of the Christian homeschooling were not satisfied to let the unschoolers peacefully co-exist and they attempted to hijack the entire social movement to fit their authoritarian ideologies. Mark and Helen Hegener, editors of Home Educators Magazine, argued that “a small group of individuals, their organizations, and associations” have actively divided the national homeschooling social movement and attempted to impose “an exclusive hierarchal order” (145). HEM named Michael Farris, Sue Welch, Mary Pride, Brian Ray, Gregg Harris, and “dozens of local and state leaders,” as the primary antagonists of this attempted take-over of the social movement. In 1994, Michael Farris and HSLDA created a panic over federal legislation and they spent enormous resources to inform their membership that they should contact their representatives against the legislation. Pat Farenga and Susannah Sheffer, administrators of Holt Associates, continually fought the HSLDA’s politics of panic in the early-1990s and attempted to combat the growing influence of the Christian homeschoolers. In contrast to the HSDLA, when the HOUSE network informed its membership of the legislation, they exhorted their membership to “follow [their] own conscience[s].”  Much to the chagrin of the unschoolers, the “leaders” of the Christian homeschooling movement wanted to impose centralization of “power and control” on the social movement, with the authority squarely in their hands. They acquired much of this authority by creating panic over legislation, scaring parents into thinking their civil rights to home educate faced an existential threat.  Even Raymond Moore spoke out against the rise of “Christian exclusivism” and the subversion of the greater homeschooling movement by Gregg Harris, Michael Farris, and Sue Welch (173). The public divide between Christian homeschooling and unschooling continues today.  Recently, Farenga blogged about Homeschoolers Anonymous, condemning the “extreme authoritarian ideologies,” like military school, boarding schools, and Christian homeschooling, that leads to damaging, sometimes abusive situations.

Despite unschoolers’ objections to extrinsic motivations and the inculcation of specific values or traditions to children, Michael Farris repeatedly attempted to position himself as an advocate for all home educators. The objections in the early-1990s continued to prove an adequate description and, in 2000, Michael Farris and Scott Woodruff published an article in the Peabody Journal of Education that highlighted the academic successes of homeschooled students. [vi] Their framing of homeschooling did not even acknowledge the existence of the unschoolers. His ignorance of, or blatant disregard for, the unschooling ideology is most evident under his section “Two Trends in Home Schooling.” Where every other scholar remarked upon the divergence between ideological/religious homeschooling and the child-centered/unschooling methods, Farris claimed the two trends were “classical education” and the rise of the internet.  Classical education consisted of memorizing large passages of scripture and reading Western cannon.  His article also focuses on why home educated students fare better academically than their peers.  He argued that part of the success is because “most home school parents emphasize the teaching of values that have been honored by time and tradition” and “because of this, most home-schooled children likely will enter adulthood with a set of personal values that closely conforms to that of their parents” (Farris and Woodruff 239).  Farris never specifies his article to Christian homeschooling, rather purporting to speak for all American homeschoolers. His own monolithic view of homeschooling demonstrates the self-perception that many Christian homeschoolers have – that they are the dominant, sometimes the only, relevant homeschooling movement.

Stevens observed that local support groups, national organizations, and literatures produced by the two campus mirrored their contrasting core philosophies on human nature. Local support groups of the HOUSE network always met in a circle, while Christian homeschoolers usually meet in a religious building in a lecture-style. Stevens noted that HOUSE meetings usually involved a level of chaos and children played loudly, interacting with one another, while a circle of adults discussed their experiences. Adults in HOUSE would rarely speak from a position of authority or expertise, instead sharing their experiences with one another as peers. HOUSE network members often lacked the terms to explain their pedagogy, instead relying on metaphors – partially because their membership was so diverse and they did not wish to feign a collective voice when there was none. Another national-level inclusive group, the National Homeschoolers Association (NHA) formed in 1988, espouses values of participatory democracy and refrains from denoting any leaders. Stevens emphasized that he “never” heard the “word leader used to describe anyone in NHA” (132). Their commitment to creating an egalitarian atmosphere meant that most meetings began fifteen minutes late because no individual was responsible for the session (131). NHA members joked about being on “homeschool time.”  For the believers, however, “homeschool time” carried a very different connotation – it meant being punctual and therefore deferential to those in leadership.

In contrast with the loose, egalitarian structure of HOUSE, the Christian homeschooling movement quickly adopted hierarchies and rigid rhetorical frameworks. Christian homeschooling events gave special attention and focus to what it considered the leaders of the movement, men like Michael Farris and Gregg Harris. Stevens found that even conferences, like the 1994 National Center for Home Education Leadership Conference, “were predicated on the idea that organizationally, the homeschool world is organized as a pyramid” (126). Even small, local speaking engagements were held in churches, with the parents all facing the assumed leader, or expert, who spoke from a raised platform or pulpit. Stevens noted that speakers often “bemoaned schedule delays and frequently encouraged participants to check their watches” (131).

Despite the major differences between the inclusives and the believers, Stevens noted that all homeschoolers shared some basic ideas — namely that “their children’s self-development was worthy of virtually any sacrifice” (28). Both camps believe that their children’s education and development was too important a task to delegate to the bureaucratic, standardized public school system. In this way, the evolution of homeschooling in America follows the “great American story, a story about freedom and possibility and skepticism of established authority” (8). In 1984, leaders from the two home education camps organized the Ad Hoc Committee for Illinois Home Education Legal and Legislative Matters. In 1987, they successfully lobbied the state of Illinois to drop legislation that would require reporting to the state. All homeschoolers shared a basic interest in the legal protection of their rights to remove their children from the public school system and apply their pedagogy of choice.


[i] John Holt authored a number of books n early-childhood development and his theory of unschooling: Escape From Childhood (1974), Instead of Education (1976), Never Too Late (1979), Teach Your Own (1981; revised 2003 by Pat Farenga), Learning All the Time (1989).

[ii] Dr. Moore and his wife Dorothy authored a series of book on homeschooling: Raymond and Dennis Moore, “The Dangers of Early Schooling,” Harpers, 1972, Better Late than Early (1975), School Can Wait (1979), Home Grown Kids (1981), Home-Spun Schools (1982).

[iii] Mitchell Stevens, Kingdom of Children: Culture and Controversy in the Homeschooling Movement (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001).

[iv] Maralee Mayberry, J. Gary Knowles, Brian Ray, and Stacy Marlow, Home Schooling: Parents as Educators (Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press/Sage, 1995): In this sample, 91% said religious commitment was “very important” to their lives, 97% said “God lives and is real,” 84% believed the Bible was “literally true,” and 93% believed that “Satan is currently working in the world.”

[v], accessed 7/2/99 and 6/28/00.

[vi] Michael Farris and Paul Woodruff, “The Future of Home Schooling.” Peabody Journal of Education 75, (2000): 233–55.

Why I Blame Homeschooling, Not Just My Parents: Reflections by Nicholas Ducote

By Nicholas Ducote, HA Community Coordinator

Author edit to clarify my call for more oversight: I recommended intra-community policing in my post. State action should be a last resort. Those that care to preserve their parental rights to homeschool need to hold other parents accountable. Unfortunately, fundamentalist homeschooling communities are often isolated from anyone who would question the parents. I don’t have a solution, but I know we can’t just assume the status quo will fix things. Hopefully, projects like this will scare other parents enough to make them confront other parents. But let’s be honest, do you see that happening in these sort of communities? Most of these people laugh at the idea of children having rights and would never support anything that encroaches on their ability to teach their children whatever they want. If you suspect child abuse or neglect in a family you know, please report them to Child Protective Services. 

Homeschooling, as a method of instruction, is not intrinsically bad, dangerous, or damaging. I saw many children raised in homeschooling who were not abused by religious fundamentalism – even if they were Christians. However, as a society, we have to realize that the current state of homeschooling gives parents unique power over their children. Yes, many homeschooled children are a part of co-ops, interact with neighbors, and have relatively normal social interactions. But other homeschoolers are isolated in rural areas, with no contact with neighbors, or the outside world. Abuse develops in these environments because there is no oversight from outside the parents and, if criticism if lodged, the parents are defensive. To many homeschooling parents, homeschooling (the method) is part of a larger worldview that involves rejections of secularism, science, and academic institutions.

I developed claustrophobia, a generalized anxiety disorder, and panic attacks in high school. At the time, I assumed my panic attacks were the result of the Holy Spirit convicting me of my sins. The most common trigger for my panic was sexuality. As a teenager, I would often shake uncontrollably after masturbating. Homeschooling can make children feel trapped because they are literally never away from their parents. When I was quasi-dating girls in high school, behind my parents’ back because they wanted me to court, I would have a mini-panic attack when the phone rang – scared that my parents would find out. When I got in trouble it meant a few hours with mom and dad, crying and arguing about what God told them to do, ending in me feeling completely trapped. When I woke up the next day, I had no choice but to bottle up my anger, shame, and humiliation and go “do” homeschooling. In ATI, many leaders preached about how listening to rock music would literally result in demonic possession. This is abusive to teach to children. To this day, I struggle with anxiety before I fall asleep.  I was taught, by my parents and by ATI’s leaders, that demons were very real and they could possess rebellious Christians. Many in the homeschooling movement conceptualized the “culture war” as spiritual warfare — the secular humanists were literally portrayed as the minions of Satan.

Spiritual abuse is a difficult term for many people to wrap their heads around. It may seem like we are trying to say that raising children in a religious tradition is abusive, which we are not. However, I can say that when homeschooling is mixed with religious fundamentalism, abuse almost always occurs.

There is a distinction between religious fundamentalism and mainstream religions. I once told my mom, “I would have been fine if you stayed Baptist. It’s when you drifted into fundamentalism that hurt me.”  What many people fail to realize is that most parents don’t wake up one day and decide they need to start controlling their childrens’ lives and prepare them for the culture wars. Yes, my parents are to blame for subscribing to fundamentalism, but the homeschooling community and movement are also to blame.

In many states in the 1990s and 2000s, homeschooling parents received most of the curriculum, instruction, and indoctrination at state, regional, or national conferences. There are a myriad of institutions and groups that formed the movement, so it is impossible to point to a single root cause of the abuse in homeschooling. But I know abuse doesn’t just happen because of bad parenting. The bad parenting that people indict was being advocated on stage before thousands of people. There is a reason why so many homeschooling alumni share stories and experiences. Tens of thousands of homeschoolers attended state Christian Home Educator Fellowship (CHEF) conferences, where they were exposed to

  • The Harris family and their beliefs about Biblical courtship
  • David Barton and Little Bear Wheeler’s revisionist history
  • Evangelical leaders that scared everyone about the evils of secular humanism
  • Michael and Debi Pearl’s harsh ideas on corporal punishment and misogynistic ideas of gender roles
  • Huge book sales populated mostly by Christian fundamentalist textbooks — advocating creationism, teaching math based around the Gospel message, or other “educational tools.”

All of these ideas circulated around the homeschooling communities and trickled down to local CHEF chapters.

Parents’ responses have been mixed, but many of them see our blog as a tool to take control of their children away from them. Parents emphasize their rights to raise their children however they want. But, as a society, we have already decided that parental rights end where abuse begins. Thus, one of the main issue in this debate becomes whether or not a homeschooling environment is emotionally or spiritually abusive.

You might think this is only a problem of the past decades — that now, in this new zenith of modernity, fundamentalist homeschoolers that spiritually abuse their children are dying out. You would be wrong. Yes, there is growing momentum behind secular homeschooling, but there is no hard social science about homeschooling.  At this point, observational data is almost all that exists about homeschooling and its demographics. We know very generally how many people homeschool and for what reasons. But ten states do not even require the parents to inform them of their childrens’ “enrollment” in homeschooling.

This is the start of an important conversation about homeschooling. I am opposed to religious fundamentalism in all forms and I believe that the abuse that occurs when fundamentalism is allowed to dominate homeschooling has no place in the modern world. I’ve heard so many Evangelicals and homeschooling parents mock the Islamic madrasas for their religious instruction, but fundamentalist homeschooling isn’t different by much.

To those homeschoolers who are afraid of this exposure, it’s time to own up. These abuses happened, the community’s leaders encouraged it, and the community does not regulate itself. If the homeschooling community is not willing to regulate itself – lest a parent tell another parent their methods and ideologies are abusive! – then someone else will.

I am tired of sitting around hoping that the abusive fundamentalist culture within homeschooling will die out.  I don’t want it to die out, I want to trample it out so that no other children face the sort of abuse I, and many other, went through. Part of the means telling the honest, visceral truth about what happens in many homeschooling homes. Yes, abuse is ultimately the fault of the perpetrators, but why does everyone leave the homeschooling community blameless for how it brainwashed my parents?

The issue of abuse in homeschooling is an issue of the distortion of parental rights and the reality of systemic indoctrination.

You cannot stop the abuse without exposing the advocates.

Homeschool Movement and Abuse, An Introduction

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Julie Anne Smith’s blog Spiritual Sounding Board. It was originally published on October 4, 2012.

The lawsuit from my former abusive church has come and gone and I have been doing some deep thinking — trying to figure out what brought us to that particular church — what made that church appealing to us? I had to acknowledge that this church, like other prior churches, was strongly pro-homeschooling. In fact, if you didn’t homeschool, you may not feel very comfortable there. So, it made me go back further, all the way back to the very beginning — before we started homeschooling and were investigating. What I have discovered is alarming:  patriarchal teachings that are often times abusive, parenting styles that are often abusive, and ideas completely outside of mainstream Christianity are going on in the homeschool movement.

My husband and I have been married 27 years and have 7 children from 25 yrs down to our 6-yr old “caboose”.  We have always homeschooled.  We have always believed that this was the best choice for our family.  We have been to many churches due to my husband’s military service and job changes.  Many people have influenced us in our homeschooling, parenting, marriage, and our Christian life journey and right now, I am angry.   I am angry about what I have discovered looking over our marriage, looking at our parenting styles over the years, looking at decisions we have made, looking at people who influenced us — people we trusted to be godly, like-minded and who wanted the best for their children and families.

If you have not been connected with the homeschool movement and click on some of these links, you might say:  ”Um, yea, you drank the Kool-Aid long ago.”  If you’ve been in the homeschool movement, you will probably be nodding along and can reminisce with me. I will take you on a wild journey going back through what I have experienced or seen in the past couple decades as a homeschooling mom.  Here is a sampling, and not in any order, of the kinds of influences, beliefs, philosophies, practices we dealt with or were familiar with among the homeschooling movement over the years:

Why did we have so many children?  How do you know when your quiver is full?  Would we have had this many children if we hadn’t listened to specific teachings?  Who invented the jumper dress?  Why did I sometimes feel guilty if I didn’t wear my denim jumper?  I no longer own a denim jumper.  Who decided Gregg Harris or Michael Farris were the spokesmen for homeschoolers?  Why did so many homeschoolers flock to the articles and books of Mary Pride?

Is it okay to refrain from sex to not get pregnant or is that saying “no” to God’s blessings of children?  Did it really mean one isn’t trusting God if taking measures to prevent pregnancy after cycles returned 6 weeks postpartum (and round-the-clock nursing)?  How many blessings of babies did I prevent by taking matters in my own hands?  Is God mad at me for my “interference” of “His plan”?

What about all of those families who stop having babies after only 4 children or 2 children — are they disobeying God?  Why don’t they want God’s blessings?  Who is targeting the homeschooling community to convince them to pop out babies to overpopulate the world with Christians babies?  Why does this same dude bombard our mailboxes right before Christmas to encourage us to buy Christmas toys (gender specific boy toys for boy and girly girl toys for girls) when their family does not celebrate this “pagan” holiday?

How did I get to the point where I believed that I may be treading dangerously if I was not a member of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association? Who would protect me if someone from school district came to my door and wanted to find out why my children weren’t attending the evil government school down the block?  How many homeschool families printed out instructions on what to say to government officials  if “they” came unannounced to our door to interrogate?  How many of us had HSLDA phone numbers in a prominent place — just in case? Where did all of this fear come from?

Why was I corrected when I said “public” school instead of their preferred “government” school?  Is there an agenda going on? Who is feeding all of this? Who decided that boys should be owning their own home businesses to support their families?  Who decided that all colleges were bad until Patrick Henry College was founded by popular homeschool leaders in the “movement” and then all of a sudden it became “okay” and even “good” to send our kids away to college?

How did the homeschool movement influence my views as far as who I voted for or how involved I was in politics? How did they convince me that I was eating improperly and I needed to grind my own wheat and make my own bread?  How did the homeschool community have the inside scoop before my traditional-schooled friends from church when it was going to become the end-of-life-as-we knew-it during the Y2K scare?  Who brought that hype to the homeschool community?  Would you like to ask me how many homeschoolers I personally know who are still going through their stockpiles of grains? Seriously!

When did I get to the point where I looked down at my friends who were Christians and either sent their children to public or private schools when “they should” be teaching their own?  How did all of this happen?  Why do so many homeschoolers balk at immunizations? Why are some homeschoolers so proud?  Homeschooled kids were the smartest because they always won the National Spelling Bees, right? Who decided that homeschoolers should be involved with speech and debate? Why are so many families going to their state capitals and involving themselves in politics — because they were going to be the movers and shakers of world in the political arenas?  And why is my husband responsible for my faith and the faith of our children? And why do we have to go through him on spiritual matters?  Does God not speak directly to homeschool kids and wives?

Who told me about modesty and how I should be dressing and how my daughters should be dressing?  What does modesty have to do with homeschooling?  Why do all homeschool boys look alike with similar short haircuts?   Who convinced me that my children could never “date”, but must only “court” and that my husband gets to choose our children’s future spouses?  How did, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” become such a popular book?  Who named the government as “evil” for wanting to know how our children are educated?  Why do homeschoolers assume the worst when they file their “notice to intent” with their local school district?

Why do they assume that the school district secretary doesn’t want to deal with homeschoolers and will instigate more trouble by wanting more information than required by law?  Who made up this purity ring ceremony — and that our teen daughters should wear their purity rings symbolizing their virginity until they replace it with their wedding ring?  Who started this thing where daughters shave their fathers’ beards? Below you will see an invitation to a Father Daughter Tea from Vision Forum. Fast forward to 1:37 to see daughters shaving their fathers. Um, really?

Who decided that boys should have their homes paid for before they get married?   And why are organized sports so wrong?    When did Young Earth creation become a primary issue to be a Christian and that if you didn’t believe it, you might not be Christian?   Why are scientists looked at as if suspect?  Psychology is of the devil.  What’s with all of those pictures of large families with matching clothes on the covers of homeschooling magazines?  Are my children supposed to be wearing matching clothes?  Who decided that was the right way to dress kids?  Who decided that women should only wear dresses?

And what about those who show up at conventions with head coverings — are we bad women if we don’t have them?   Who decided that family-integrated churches were better than traditional churches for our family?  Why is it that homeschoolers brag about their children being able to interact and socialize well, yet you can “pick them out” a mile away because they look and act so “different”?   Who has been instigating the us-vs-them mentality regarding so many of these topics?  Who decided that the only job that we should be teaching our daughters is to be “keepers of the home” and serving their fathers and then serving their future husbands?

Who decided a 1/4-inch plumber’s line was an appropriate tool for spanking?  Who taught us that if we had to repeat a command twice to our children, our children were being disobedient:  First-Time Obedience.   How did we let this group convince us that all infants should be able to go 4 hours between feedings.  What single man decided that fathers were an umbrella of authority over the family below God?  What same man also encouraged men and women to get vasectomies and tubal ligations reversed to allow God to control the size of their families and then paraded post-reversal children in front of the auditorium at conventions?

This is quite a diversion from spiritual abuse in the church, but I need to go there.  I now believe the homeschooling movement made our spiritually abusive church seem appealing to us.  Some of the above is just plain quirky, but other issues go much deeper affecting core spiritual beliefs and agendas.

My daughter, Hannah, is 25 yrs old and she was only homeschooled.  The first traditional school she attended was community college and last spring she became a college graduate. Her peers were from an early generation of the growing homeschool movement. More and more blogs are being published by young adults like my daughter who are “coming out” and sharing their homeschool experiences.  The stories are not pretty.    My daughter has shared some of her story.  And you can read the story I wrote about Hannah’s experience here.  In that story, you can get an idea of the controlling environment in which she lived and how she had to escape – it remains one of the most popular blog posts.

What she experienced at home has probably gone on in many homes.  I bear much responsibility for it.  I went along with it.  I have apologized to my daughter many times for it.   The abusive church we found also aligned with these philosophies of heavy-handed control of children, even adult children.  Hannah was 21 when she moved out.  She was not a child, yet we thought we owned her.

I assumed (yeah, I know about that word), that when we got into homeschooling that it was a safe community — a community where children’s best interest was at heart.  We wanted to have the primary influence in the education of our children.  That’s good, right?

But I have discovered that there is an underlying agenda in the homeschooling community that has been there all along — even years before I started — and it continues to this day. I believe that some of this underlying current — taken to an extreme — could be responsible for breaking up families, causing abuse, wreaking havoc on people’s spiritual life.

I firmly believe that God used the lawsuit in a powerful way to highlight the issue of spiritual abuse in the church.  He was there during the entire time providing amazing support for me.  My life is rich having gone through it.  But now I’m wondering if God is using another experience of my life to share here.

While I have spent countless hours writing blog posts about spiritual abuse in the church, I think there is a setup for spiritual abuse that originates in the homeschool movement. In our abusive church, we felt a “kindred spirit” (and all the homeschool moms just laughed at me with that phrase) in the church because of with like-minded teachings and beliefs. Some of these ideas need to be explored further.

I think it’s important to hear from these young adults who have lived it and are now trying to put the pieces together of their childhood together as they begin their families.