Why Surveys? A Critique of the Tools Used to Judge Us All

About the author: Christopher Hutton is a freelance journalist from Bloomington who writes on technology, religion, and the ideas of the day. He currently writes for Christ and Pop Culture and Paste Magazine. He is also the Social Media Manager/Intern for Rivendell Sanctuary, a new education program designed to provide a truly thorough education. Follow Christopher’s blog at http://liter8.net.

Every day I seem to see a new study or statistic being used to prove a point about something.  Beginning in the 1980’s, the religious survey organization known as the Barna Group provided data point after data point in order to reveal truths of our culture and how to interact with it.

Most recently, Generations Radio host Kevin Swanson teamed up with Brian Ray in order to record the social and spiritual conditions of the millennial generation in a survey. (You can find the survey at gen2survey.com.)

Now, to gather research is not bad.  In fact, it’s the very first thing that self-proclaimed culture-reclaimers should do.

But are they doing it effectively?

The problem with surveys is that they rely on the human language to present and record human behavior. Number concepts are different than word concepts because their definitions are clearer. If you say “five”, then people understand you are discussing a quantity. However, if you say the word “religion”, then the topic becomes fuzzier. Cultural and personal circumstances often cause words to be understood in different ways.

This causes companies to create a lot of ideologically inaccurate surveys. Consider a survey by the Barna Group which seemed to state that “only 4 percent of Christians have a biblical worldview”.  This is a big claim, and can seem scary to those fighting for a biblical worldview.

But what does Barna mean by a biblical worldview?  This isn’t obvious at first glance.  Historically, the concept of a Biblical Worldview has historically had only a few tenets which almost all people who argue for it would agree with (Inerrancy of the Bible, existence of God, Personhood of Christ, etc.), but everything else is flexible. So, was Barna adding political elements to their definition?  Were they adding debatable theological ideas into the biblical worldview?  It’s hard to know from how a group like Focus on the Family used the Barna Group’s statistics.

Kevin Swanson’s latest study is another clear example of this.  If you look at the language used in the study, it does focus on his particular form of Christianity, which emphasizes extreme forms of Conservative Christian theology, as well as an instinctual anti-government bent, an emphasis on the family relationship, and limited options for explaining one’s relationship with God, family, and the Church.

This kind of ideological shifting is dangerous, because it causes the otherwise objective data to be skewed and misbalanced.  It will misrepresent its survey-takers. It will also skew the facts.

So, be wary of surveys. Mark Twain once famously stated that “There are three kinds of lies; lies, damned lies and statistics.”  While quantitative data is helpful, it is dangerous if it is not true. So track statistics, check the facts, and never let them skew your take on a topic.

Adult Homeschoolers Speak Out: Part Six, College? Prepared or Not?

Adult Homeschoolers Speak Out: Part Six, College? Prepared or Not?

HA note: The following series is reprinted with permission from Brittany’s blog BAM. Part Six was originally published on June 4, 2012.

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Also in this series: Part One: Why I Wanted To Write This | Part Two: Survey Stats and Large Families | Part Three: Top 3 Reasons Parents Homeschool | Part Four: Academic and Emotional Experiences, K-8 | Part Five: The Highschool Experience | Part Six: College? Prepared or Not? | Part Seven: What About Socialization? | Part Eight: The Best Thing vs. What Was Missing | Part Nine, Do Former Homeschoolers Want to Homeschool? | Part Ten: Are the Stereotypes Better or Worse?

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Part Six, College? Prepared or Not?

When my 33 year old sister, Amberley, graduated from (home) high school, most people were very skeptical about whether homeshoolers could succeed academically in college.

Yet as first generation homeschoolers (families who started homeschooling right after it became legal in their states) started going to college, research was conducted that proved that homeschoolers, indeed, do very well in college!

My research for this segment of the survey supports this idea. I am very proud of the statistics for this portion of the survey as it shows that many homeschoolers pursue higher education and succeed!

As you will see from the testimonies though, not everyone felt prepared academically, even if they eventually did very well in the college classroom. I will share my [personal] story about feeling academically prepared after I present the data from the survey.

A brief note: I have both a Bachelors and Masters degree in English and currently teach at a University. That being said, many of my friends/ former classmates/ friends of friends who participated in this survey also have advanced degrees. Though I do know that many homeschooled students pursue higher education, the numbers may be slightly greater here due to my personal connections.

Survey Question: Did you pursue higher education after high school? If so, what is the highest level of education you have earned?

Results:

  • Associates: 4
  • Bachelors: 18
  • Masters: 9 (one has 2 masters!; one in Med school)
  • PhD: 1
  • Attended college but didn’t finish: 3
  • Currently in college: 6
  • Other (Cosmetology; ministry certificate): 3
  • Didn’t go to college: 2

The next question on the survey asked whether the adult felt prepared for college academically by his or her homeschool experience. Here are the results:

76% (32 participants) said “Yes”:

Samantha C. 24 from MO: Yes, yes, yes. The night before I left for college, I was terrified that the classroom experience would be too much for me. However, when I got to college, I realized that I had spent the last 10 years educating myself, stretching myself, and had developed a natural curiosity and a desire and eagerness to learn. Freshman year was actually frustrating because I felt that I was being “spoonfed” my education. I was on the Dean’s or the President’s list every semester.

Marybeth M. 29 from CA: I think the only way it helped prepare me was in writing papers and the variety of those papers. I was really afraid of being “secular-shocked” after being Christian sheltered for my entire life. And that I would be behind academically. I don’t remember being behind, and only one class was very anti-Christian.

Renee P. 30 from MS: I was very scared about starting community college. I had myself convinced that I wouldn’t know what to do in a classroom and I would fail school. However after I walked in sat down I never had another problem. I was very prepared academically and did very well in all my classes in college. I felt I had adequate background and I also knew how to learn.

Nara N. 30 from NC: Homeschooling was superior preparation for college because I already knew how to work on my own; lectures by professors were gravy to my college education because I could basically teach myself most material from a book already. I was also used to mastering material on my own so it was natural for me to do this in college. Working independently was an even bigger part of grad school.

Many, many adults noted that they were prepared for college because they already knew how to be  independent learners and take initiative for their education.

14% (or 6 participants) said that homeschooling “Sort of” prepared them for college: 

Grady S. 26 from FL: Yes, but not prepared for the classroom atmosphere. I did take a couple classes at the community college before; that helped but [it was] still different.

Megan V. 27 from IA: Mostly. I am relatively smart anyway, and I am also naturally good with words. So although there probably were gaps in my education, I didn’t sense the gaps incredibly well; I picked stuff up. I think the biggest lack was actually in writing. In high school, my mom and I had re-read papers to see if they were “awkward.” I went into college revising papers by checking to see if they sounded “awkward” and then discovered that was a really horrible way to write. I spent a semester getting Bs and Cs before I figured out how to actually revise papers. 

That said, I think I got lucky because I have smart parents who made me do school and read the books and take tests . . . The testing and results culture in the public school may be difficult and ill-advised for many respects, but by and large, teachers there know how to train students to meet expectations and follow directions. This is not something I believe is taught in homeschooling, or even in Christian schools. A homeschooling family is, by their very nature, the maverick of the educational world. And although kids need to be taught to think for themselves, it is equally important to guarantee that they do in fact think – something that not every homeschooling family is prepared to teach their kids.

M. L. 26 from NE: No and yes. I struggled a lot, but I still managed to graduate with a 3.8. I felt like I wasn’t prepared to juggle all the classes and assignments, I struggled with writing papers, which was something we rarely did. 

Once I was in college, I felt like I missed out on so much!! There were classes I just loved like my literature class. I took it with a friend who was also homeschooled and we both felt like we were cheated and there were so many classic books and writers we had never heard of. I did awesome in most of the class, but when it came to our test it was all essay questions and I froze, because I had never done anything like that. My teacher was so great and so encouraging; she thought what I wrote was great but I gave up on the test. I really wish I had more guidance in writing, to pursue that interest and I would have loved to developed those skills….

Another participant said: Most definitely; the only aspect that was negative was that I didn’t have to study in college which led to a bit of undisciplined learning in post-graduate work.


My note: So many people said they struggled with writing because they received no instruction in it while homeschooled! Sadly, this was also my own experience. However, as I am now an English teacher, I strongly encourage parents to help their homeschool students learn how to write (or find someone to teach them!). If you are in Lynchburg VA, please email me (bmeng@liberty.edu).

9% (4 participants) said that they felt that homeschooling did not prepare them for college: 

M. W. 27 from GA: I didn’t feel very prepared. I had never been in a formal education setting in my life. I had never written a paper until I was in college. My family and I would discuss things, so I was very good at communicating but unprepared for all the writing.

M. W. 30 from OH: I had a hard time adjusting to college. By the end of my freshman year I had it figured out . . . I had some serious disadvantages in high school and college starting out. I have been able to get past most of them now.

S. M. 29 from WV: Not necessarily. I think I would have excelled in any academic environment. I was more prepared for the independent study of college, but that just have been the way my parents chose to homeschool me.

E. M. 26 from FL: I felt I was behind in some areas, not to put my Mom under the bus but areas where she was weaker tend to still be my weak points. It’s difficult to teach someone when you get just as frustrated as them due to not fully understanding the topic.

I think it is wonderful that 95% of the adults who took this survey pursed some sort of higher education. 60% have earned a Bachelors degree or higher! I think current homeschool students and parents can take comfort and heart in these numbers.

My Story: I do not think I was prepared academically for college but….

I was the 3rd of 5 children. My oldest sister (Amberley, mentioned at the beginning of this post) completed high school through a correspondence program, so her diploma is from an accredited private school. My second oldest sister, Chelsea, had no desire to pursue a degree from a college or University (her love was Cosmetology, which she trained for; she is now working in a salon as a stylist).

Neither Chelsea nor I used the correspondence school that Amberley used (I am not sure why). I remember picking my own curriculum and being in charge of my own schooling from 8th grade-12th grade. I took traditional high school math and science courses (Algebra, Geometry, Biology, Chemistry).There was no high school co-op offered when I was in high school, though we did get together with a few homeschool families for science labs.  I don’t remember taking history (although my elementary/Jr. High history studies were excellent). We did Rosetta Stone for French (It didn’t stick) and continued in our Bible curriculum (always excellent).

I never took a literature course in high school, though I did read books (there was no discussion or papers). The only writing instruction I received was when I took Composition I at a local college my Senior year. Ironically, I wanted to be an English major because I loved to read and write “stories.”

Once I got to college, I did well, although I had a lot of academic anxiety about what it meant to “do well.” (Ultimately, I graduated with a 3.7 GPA in undergraduate and a 3.9 in my MA).

College was my first experience with taking tests (we didn’t take any beyond Math tests), taking notes, writing papers, working in groups (hated and still hate this!), and getting grades (we didn’t get grades in our homeschool either. My mom would just assess where we were and had us repeat the work if we didn’t know it yet).

The only time I felt like college was “hard” was in a Spanish class. It was my second semester (first semester I got a B and didn’t learn a thing–very “absent minded” professor!) with a very strict and rather compassionless professor. This class required a lot of speaking out loud in front of others. I was morbidly embarrassed of doing this, of making mistakes in front of others–which I did frequently because I was so self-conscious. I cried multiple times in class.

After seeking tutoring, going to the professor for help, and spending 4-5 hours on homework assignments, I ultimately dropped the class. In reality, I just couldn’t handle the fact that I wasn’t good at something (homeschooling often encourages students to pursue the subjects they are good at and to just “get by” in the others) and I was socially embarrassed in front of my peers.

Perhaps being involved in more group learning during my homeschooing years, such as a co-op (or being in a traditional school setting) would have helped me in this situation. I’d like to blame the teacher (he was pretty harsh) but I know my own insecurities and lack of preparation also contributed to this failure.

In my English classes I actually blossomed. I finally had an outlet for all my thoughts (but was reminded by several professors in several classes to “let others have a turn to talk”….ugh. Socially awkward homeschooler, right there!). I did well on my papers (I only recall one C on an English paper in my whole undergraduate career)–though not due to my writing skills. (I had good ideas. I feel like I really learned to write when I got to grad school).

Honestly, I don’t believe I was prepared academically for college, especially in my chosen field (woefully unprepared in writing and critical thinking!) but I got by because homeschooling taught me to be an independent learner and I was extremely self-motivated. These were the gifts that homeschooling gave me (though I feel that my “real” education began when I went to college and when I pursued my masters degree).

What about you?

After being homeschooled did you pursue higher education? Did you feel like you were prepared academically? 

If you homeschool your child, how are you preparing him or her academically for college?

Please feel free to comment below or ask any questions! Also, please share this post on Facebook or other social networking sites if you think that this series would be beneficial to others!

The next post will be about whether homeschoolers felt socially prepared for “the real world” — yes, I am going to tackle that huge question, “What about socialization?!” The survey results are extremely enlightening and thought provoking! Please keep reading!

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To be continued.

Crosspost: Methodological Problems with Kevin Swanson and Brian Ray’s Gen 2 Survey

Crosspost: Methodological Problems with Kevin Swanson and Brian Ray’s Gen 2 Survey

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was written by a guest writer, Apodosis, and was originally published on Patheos on July 17, 2013. 

Libby Anne posted recently about a new survey conducted by Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute, a non-profit which conducts studies of questionable scientific validity on homeschooling. As a Ph.D. social scientist myself, I looked over the new survey with a critical eye and I’m sorry to say there won’t be much useable data gleaned from it because it is rife with methodological problems.

The survey has over 100 questions and nearly every question needs revisions, so I’m just going to summarize my main critiques of the study.

1. Institutional Review Board

When you are conducting a survey that collects personal information from the participants, every IRB in the country requires that you have signed informed consent forms for each of your participants. In online surveys, these tend to include a cover page describing the purpose of the study and what is asked of the participants, as well as a signature box to show you have understood your rights.These forms often include the phrases “You may stop the survey at any time without giving a reason” and “You are not obligated to answer any question you don’t want to”. They provide contact information for the primary investigator (PI) and other associated researchers, as well as for the IRB that approved it. “If you feel your rights have been violated, call this number” etc.

In the Gen 2 survey, there is no such information. It is not clear who is being asked to participate (see #2), the goals of the study are not honestly stated (see #3), and there is no contact information for the PI or an IRB to contact if you feel your rights have been violated. I had to dig on NHERI’s website to find the email address of the PI, Dr. Brian D. Ray (it’s bray@nheri.org, btw, in case you feel your rights have been violated), and he actively discourages you from contacting him. Red flag.

A peer-reviewed publication will not publish any results from research that was not overseen by an IRB.

2. Target Population

It is not clear who is being asked to participate in the survey. In the “About” section, Ray says the participants are “those between the ages of 18-38 years old that grew up in religious homes”, but in the FAQ he says “Anyone between the ages of 18-38″ may participate. I am between the ages of 18 and 38; I was raised in a moderate mainline Protestant family, and I am now a progressive mainline Protestant. I honestly cannot tell if he wants my data or not. Though both of those statements about who should participate apply to me, the questions on the survey indicate otherwise.

3. Goals

Which brings me to my most serious methodological critique of the study, which is that the goals are not honestly stated. There are two different studies conflated here which have entirely different goals. Dr. Ray even alludes to this in the “About” section: one goal is “to come up with data points of key influences that either encouraged or deterred the participants from practicing the same faith as their parents”; the other goal is to “use the statistics from this survey to help equip parents to make more informed decisions in the education and spiritual guidance of their children.” That is, in simpler terms, the goals are (A) to find out how young people’s religious views change as they reach adulthood, and (B) to figure out how to make sure young fundamentalists/evangelicals stay in the fold.

In fact, the main goal of the study seems to be (B) with a shallow veneer of (A) superimposed on it. Now, (A) is an interesting study whose results I would look forward to reading. (B) is not a scientific study. You do not perform a scientific study with the goal of achieving a certain result. Social science is about trying to describe and explain human behavior, not about trying to change it or attach value judgments.

Here are some examples of the problems that arise when the two studies are conflated. Dr. Ray pays lip service to the idea that young people may belong to a variety of faiths, as evidenced by his questions:

Generally, what kind of religious service did you attend as a child?

What kind of church or religion do you currently associate yourself with?

Available answers include Atheist, Agnostic, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, and a variety of mainline Protestant denominations in addition to the exhaustive list of evangelical/fundamentalist groups. However, on the next pages he asks questions like

My current church is serious about applying the biblical principles of eldership, shepherding, mentoring, and church discipline.

Did you ever get any “worldview” training?

How often did your Father/Mother read the Bible to you?

These questions indicate that the primary audience of this study is people raised in a fundamentalist/evangelical/Christian patriarchy home. How are Buddhists and Hindus and Atheists supposed to answer these questions? Note that there is no “Not applicable” option available. This brings me to #4.

4. Not Applicable

It is important in surveys to allow your participants the freedom to answer the questions honestly, and not be forced to pick the “closest” answer. Many of the questions follow the “Have you stopped beating your wife” pattern, where e.g. a person who has never beaten their wife has no honest way to answer the question. “Not applicable” is only an available answer for one of 100 questions in the survey. This becomes a problem with questions like the following:

How distant or close do you feel to God most of the time?

What was the status of your parents’ marriage during your raising?

My father was very involved in our family home life.

How would an atheist answer the first question without “Not applicable”? How would someone answer the second question if they were raised by two parents in a committed relationship who were not married? And in the third case, what if you didn’t have a father?

“Other” followed by a fill-in-the-blank should also occur much more frequently as an available answer in questions such as:

Have you, or your significant other, ever chosen to have an abortion? Yes/ No

Do you think that people should wait to have sex until they are married, or not necessarily? Yes/ Not necessarily

How would you describe yourself when you were a child? I was very rebellious/I struggled with rebellion, but overcame it/I was always fairly obedient and honoring as a child

In the first question, it would be more appropriate to ask “Have you ever had an unwanted pregnancy?” and then to ask how it was dealt with. As it stands, a person who has never been pregnant and a person who has carried a rapist’s child to term would give the same answer. In the second and third questions, there are clearly more than just the possible answers given. My answers would be “No, unless they want to” and “My parents were supportive of what I chose to do and who I chose to be”. Participants in the study need a way to answer these questions honestly, so even if Dr. Ray wants to limit his variables it would be more methodologically sound to provide an “Other” response with a fill-in-the-blank to such questions.

5. Leading/Biased Questions

This brings me to another point: almost every question is leading or has other problems caused, for the most part, by faulty assumptions and a lack of imagination on the part of Dr. Ray.

“What kind of church or religion do you currently associate yourself with?” Some people consider themselves to be a member of a faith without having a specific faith community. Some people consider themselves to be members of multiple faith traditions. A better question would be “How would you describe your religion or faith?” with multiple check-boxes allowed. And he should list all the religions, not just the ones he could think of off the top of his head! He forgot at least (off the top of my head) Baha’i, Sikh, Wicca, Christian Science, Animism, Deist, Shinto, Unitarian Universalist, Not applicable, Other____, and he did not provide any different denominations of Judaism or Islam. In addition, he should have grouped the religions together by type rather than alphabetically—this list makes it very hard to see if your faith is represented. And groups like “Mormons” and “Congregationalists” should be called by their actual names—LDS and UCC, respectively. This list of religions, while it pays lip service to religious diversity, is actually offensive in its exclusions and ignorance. Plus, there is no acknowledgment in this survey of mixed-faith households. What if your parents were of different faiths, or what if you and your significant other do not share a faith?

Questions such as

What is your sex/gender? Male/ Female

How was your relationship with your Mother / Father when you were 16-17 years old?

How often did your Mother / Father explain biblical principles to you?

presume an oversimplified, heteronormative view of gender and family. Sex is not the same as gender; there are quite a few other genders than just male and female; you might have parents of multiple genders or the same gender (and therefore not have a “Mother” and a “Father”); and you might have been raised by other family members, or primarily by friends, or in foster homes. If this was really a survey about changes in young people’s religious views, it would try to get an accurate picture of their lives without limiting them to these binaries. Ray should also ask about people’s sexual orientations if he’s that interested in the status of their romantic lives; however, his reference to “homosexual” “encounters” in one of the questions indicates that he probably does not believe in sexual orientation as a concept (see #6).

6. Limited Mindset

Many of these questions portray a mindset that is isolated to the evangelical/fundamentalist/Christian patriarchy/Quiverfull/Purity movements–it’s possible that Dr. Ray does not even realize there are other ideologies out there. For instance, there is this question/answer set:

What statement most aligns with how many children would you like to have? I don’t want to have children / I want no more than a few children / As many children as God will provide / I don’t know

This really should be divided into multiple questions. First, he should ask “Do you plan your pregnancies?” If no, he should ask about “how many children you hope God will give you”, but if yes, he should ask how many you plan to have. I don’t think Dr. Ray realizes that some people plan their pregnancies. Then there is the following question/answer pair:

If you have—or were to have—children, what form of education do you plan to use for them? Christian school / Christian school and homeschool / Christian school and non-Christian private school / Christian school and public school / Homeschool / Homeschool and non-Christian private school / Homeschool and public school / Private school, non-Christian / Public school / Charter school/virtual charter / Other

At least this one has “Other” as an option, though it doesn’t let you write in your response. First of all, it’s a badly designed question—he should just list the types of school and let you check as many boxes as you want. Second, the question relies on the assumption that parents would choose their children’s manner of schooling before the children even exist. What if the child is gifted or disabled? Would that change the parents’ plans? And Dr. Ray does not even realize that people who would answer like me are out there—”It depends on the child’s needs and wants, as well as other considerations such as expense, distance, quality of education, etc.”

Then there’s this question/answer pair:

Did your parents use corporal discipline (spanking) with you?No / Yes, consistently and they were generally under loving control / Yes, consistently and often they were not under loving control / Yes, inconsistently and they were generally under loving control / Yes, inconsistently, and often they were not under loving control

These answers presuppose a worldview where the value of spanking is not open to debate (spoiler: we don’t live in that world). It would be more accurate to ask “What was your parents’ position on spanking?” “How often were you spanked?” “Are your attitudes toward it positive, neutral, or negative?” “Would you spank your own children?” etc.

And then there’s the part where he puts these two questions next to each other, clearly conflating them (shades of Libby Anne’s two boxes): “Have you had a sexual encounter or physical relationship with someone to whom you are not married?” and “Were you ever sexually abused before age 18?” Note that a girl who was repeatedly raped by her Christian patriarchy father for ten years and a girl who was raped once by an acquaintance at a party as a teenager would probably have different reactions to their faith traditions, though they would give the same “Yes” response. No effort is made to make this distinction in the survey. And nowhere does the survey ask about physical abuse, since Dr. Ray probably doesn’t think it exists.

Or how about the question “If you were unsure of what was right or wrong in a particular situation, how would you decide what to do?” with the available answers: Do what would make you feel happy / Do what would help you to get ahead / Follow the advice of a parent or teacher, or other adult you respect / Do what you think God or the scripture tells you is right / Something else. These answers reveal Dr. Ray’s belief that morality does not exist outside (his brand of) Christianity.

7. Exclusionary Language

The language Dr. Ray uses is exclusionary and often confusing. For instance, he persists in using terms like church, pastor, scripture, prayer, Bible, youth group, Sunday School when these terms are uniquely Christian and do not apply to people of other faiths–he ought to say faith community, religious leader, holy book, prayer/meditation, religious education if he wanted to get accurate data. He also fails to define several terms which I don’t understand because I was not raised in a fundamentalist environment: family-integrated, homeschooling-friendly, shepherding, church discipline, worldview training. In his questions about belief in “God” and “heaven”, he ought to ask separate questions about each property he wants to assign to these words’ meanings (e.g. “Do you believe in a deity or deities?” “If yes, do you believe the deity/deities is/are omniscient? Omnipresent? Omnipotent? Does it/do they have a gender? Does it/do they affect everyday events?” etc.). If Ray wants accurate data, he should define confusing and ambiguous terms.

You should not be able to tell someone’s political and religious beliefs from survey questions designed to elicit yours. You should not be asked to give dishonest answers to survey questions because your honest answers are unavailable as options. You should not have to infer how exclusionary language in the questions would apply to your situation. You should not be asked to give out your personal information without giving your informed consent.

An IRB would not approve this study. I would not rely on any of the conclusions that come out of it.

Adult Homeschoolers Speak Out: Part Five, The Highschool Experience

Adult Homeschoolers Speak Out: Part Five, The Highschool Experience

HA note: The following series is reprinted with permission from Brittany’s blog BAM. Part Five was originally published on May 30, 2012.

*****

Also in this series: Part One: Why I Wanted To Write This | Part Two: Survey Stats and Large Families | Part Three: Top 3 Reasons Parents Homeschool | Part Four: Academic and Emotional Experiences, K-8 | Part Five: The Highschool Experience | Part Six: College? Prepared or Not? | Part Seven: What About Socialization? | Part Eight: The Best Thing vs. What Was Missing | Part Nine, Do Former Homeschoolers Want to Homeschool? | Part Ten: Are the Stereotypes Better or Worse?

*****

Part Five, The Highschool Experience

Isn’t it funny that when you are going through an experience you can think, “Wow! This is awesome!” and then looking back you can think, “umm….wow. That could have been a lot different/better.” (Maybe that is how most of us feel about our adolescence….?)

This is kind of how I feel about my homeschool experience in high school. During those 9th-12th grade years, I loved being homeschooled. But now that I am 10 years post high school graduation (with a BA and MA under my belt), I have different feelings about what was good and what could have been better.

Many of the adults who participated in my survey felt the same way as I did but, as a majority, had a “good” experience academically and emotionally. However, the numbers were not as positive as when people looked back at their elementary/Jr. High years.

Here’s a little comparison:

Academically:

Here is what some of them had to say about their positive academic experience in high school:

Beka R. 25 from KS: Good – I finished my high school curriculum somewhere around age 14 and then was able to do extra studies and college classes on political science and English to help prepare me for college. 

Jonathan M. 30 from TX: Here I know that I (in many ways) received a better education to prepare me for the real world. 

Elizabeth J. 24 from VA: We had the Abeka video classes, and we watched all of our classes on DVDs. Mom had researched the core classes of most high schools and what was required for colleges and we took, Math, English, Health, Science, History, Bible, Spanish, and my mom was in charge of PE. We has all of these classes every day. However, for the most part it seems very easy. I had a lot of control over my education because I was the one who was mostly in charge of studying and finishing assignments. Mom just graded everything. Other than that we were pretty much left to ourselves.

Nara N. 30 from NC: Academically: I was still above grade level. I graduated 2 years early at 16 and probably could have graduated at 15 except what would I have done then, too young to have my driver’s license even?

Bradley H. 23 from VA: Academically it was superb, from what I can remember . . . I was able to pursue science in a more rigorous fashion being homeschooled, and so I was able to prepare for college well.

Stuart G. 29 from VA: One of the best parts about my high school years was that it brought out an initiative to teach myself. My mom just gave me the books and the rest was up to me. For me, that was an important tool for me to learn, because I was learning self-discipline that would prepare me for higher level education and my career later down the road. I also began to help out with the education of my younger siblings, particularly in math. Perhaps this exercise was helping me better grasp fundamental concepts of certain subjects as well as challenging me to succinctly explain ideas, events, rules, etc. to my siblings. 

Many responders mentioned being taught high school subjects from other homeschool parents in a co-op setting; everyone thought this was a good experience. Also, many also said that they dual enrolled in college in their later high school years, giving them a head start on college classes.

As you can see from the statistics and these testimonies, many homeschool students felt that they had an excellent high school education.

However, here are the statistics for the “other side” of the story

  • 31% (13) of responders said their high school education was “not good” or “could have been better.”

Here are a variety of reasons they gave for these answers:

  • Felt under educated*
  • No guidance from outside adults (like a guidance counselor) concerning education*
  • Did bare minimum to get by
  • Could have been challenged more*
  • Parents not involved in education /  no accountability from parents / parents were too busy
  • Realized they could have achieved more
  • Difficulties and frustrations in math / science / English
  • Not as many opportunities as in a traditional school*
  • Didn’t try hard
  • Laziness (parental or personal)

In looking at all these reasons, I realize that the majority are not unique to the homeschool experience (the ones I marked with * are, perhaps, more related to homeschooling inadequacies than others). I wanted to put a star by “parents not involved” etc. but I realize that this is a gray area for many reasons:

1. If a parent is not involved in a child’s public or private school education, this could and may be a detriment to the student’s overall education

2. Many (if not most) homeschool parents encourage their high school children to be independent learners, and many students flourish in these opportunities (as seen in some of the quotes above).

3. I, myself, took charge of my own education from 8th grade-12th grade (picked my own curriculum, planned my lessons, was very independent of my parents in my education) and I turned out “fine.”

But.

Lack of parental involvement is, I feel, one of the main reasons that my high school education could have been better, though at the time, I thought I was “amazing” for being “so responsible”! I’ll talk about the pros and cons of independent learning for homeschoolers when I write about homeschooling and the college experience.

If I was going to give any “take-away” advice on this point, I would say, “Kids still need their parents to be very involved in their education (pushing, encouraging, guiding, advising) in high school, maybe even more than in the elementary years.”

Emotionally, the stats between being happy homeschooling in younger years vs. high school are only 8 points apart.

19% (8 adults) said that they had a very negative emotional experience for these reasons:

  • Felt like they missed out on a lot
  • Lack of friends / no friends
  • Lack of social experiences
  • Family problems / Bad relationship with parents
  • Felt trapped by parents decisions
  • Wanted to fit in w/ others
  • Felt intense academic anxiety (not good enough)
  • Difficulty socializing w/ others (I’ll be covering this topic in a future post!)

23% (10 adults) had mixed emotions, meaning “I liked some things, but…”

Here are some reasons they gave for having difficulty emotionally (Some of the answers are the same as above. The difference between the two groups is that the above group had a decidedly negative emotional experience for the reasons given; the group below said that their experience had some good parts but also difficulties):

  • Difficulties w/ parents,
  • Lots of teasing from non-homeschooled peers
  • Felt awkward
  • Difficulty finding friends
  • Felt something was missing from high school experience
  • Difficulty w/ curriculum (more of an academic issue but for several students, this cause emotional problems as well)
  • Struggle with shyness
  • Really wanted to go to public school

It is great to see that, overall, homeschooled high schoolers have had good experiences both academically and emotionally. Somehow though, I wish the satisfaction rate was higher for both academics and emotions (even personally). As I stated in my very first post, everyone [in my survey] “turned out fine” and, at best, have worked through their limitations that came from homeschooling or, at worse, learned to accept this part of themselves.

The truth is, everyone goes through “crap” during the high school years, either in public, private or homeschool. The struggles for public/private school students are often very different — and not just the “unholy trinity” of sex, drugs and alcohol. Like it or not, homeschooled high schoolers still experiment sexually and are tempted by drugs and alcohol. But homeschool students often go through personal struggles that their non-homeschooled peers do not have to deal with.

What do you think? 

Were you homeschooled in high school? How was your experience academically and emotionally?

Do you homeschool (or plan to homeschool) your high school student? Do any of these results surprise you?

Please share your comments below! And feel free to share this post with others that may be interested or may benefit from this series.

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To be continued.

Adult Homeschoolers Speak Out: Part Four, Academic and Emotional Experiences, K-8

Adult Homeschoolers Speak Out: Part Four, Academic and Emotional Experiences, K-8

HA note: The following series is reprinted with permission from Brittany’s blog BAM. Part Four was originally published on May 28, 2012.

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Also in this series: Part One: Why I Wanted To Write This | Part Two: Survey Stats and Large Families | Part Three: Top 3 Reasons Parents Homeschool | Part Four: Academic and Emotional Experiences, K-8 | Part Five: The Highschool Experience | Part Six: College? Prepared or Not? | Part Seven: What About Socialization? | Part Eight: The Best Thing vs. What Was Missing | Part Nine, Do Former Homeschoolers Want to Homeschool? | Part Ten: Are the Stereotypes Better or Worse?

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Part Four, Academic and Emotional Experiences, K-8

Welcome (or welcome back!) to this series about the experiences of Adults who were homeschooled! Today we will look at what former homeschoolers thought about their schooling experience from Kindergarten through 8th grade and how they remember feeling emotionally (liked it, didn’t like it, etc).

I thought this post was going to be pretty simple to write. I had read through all the surveys once and was thinking, “Oh, everyone had such a good experience in these grades and they all loved it!”

However, after reading through the surveys for a second time and crunching some numbers, I realized that my first impression was a little (too) rosy.

Here’s the short version:

  • 91% or 39 adults said their Academic experience was good (“Great!” “Awesome!” etc).
  • Only 9% (or 4 participants) said that it “could have been better.”

Emotionally, the numbers were a little different.

  • 65% of adults (or 28 people) said that their emotional memories were good (“I loved it!” “I really enjoyed it.” etc) or that they had no memory of how they felt (2 participants or 4%).
  • 30% (13 participants) of adult homeschoolers said that they struggled with negative emotions concerning this time in their lives. (To see survey demographics, click here).

Here are some of the Academic testimonies from the survey:

Kelly C.; 29 from VAI have really pleasant memories of my homeschooling experience as a child. My mom only has a high school education and I feel like with the curriculum she had and the homeschool community we were a part of that I was not slighted in the least from receiving a good education.

Elizabeth J., 24 from VAI loved it! . . . We only had three formal classes: Math, Spelling, and Grammar. And the rule was, once you finished the set assignments for the day, you were finished from school. So most days we would start around eight in the morning and be finished by 9:30 or 10. There were other things that we did sometimes: Handwriting, phonetics, field trips (we visited probably every important or historical site in Virginia). Also my siblings and I read like crazy. We would go to the library every Friday and get as many books as we could carry and my sister and I would read each other’s books. But we all had to get one science and one history book and write a report on it.

Nara N., 30 from NCAcademically: my Mom always chose curriculum from all kinds of places and at whatever grade level was appropriate for us in each subject. My brother and sister (twins) did not even always do the same curriculum for each subject. I was basically always above grade level and never knew what “grade” I was in.

Matthew W., 30 from OHFor the most part everything was good. I enjoyed the benefits of homeschooling and we had a lot of friends that were also homeschooled. We were in some pretty good homeschool groups and took some cool field trips. 

Christine M., 31 from  KSIt was a good, very positive experience. There were times I wanted to try out public school, but I loved knowing I could be done with my schoolwork before lunch and spend the rest of the day creating, exploring, playing, and just enjoying being a kid instead of dreading the homework that would follow me home. I had lots of time with friends at church, co-op, and in my neighborhood. I also had lots of time to foster my interest in piano.

Stuart G., 29 from VAAcademically: Admittedly, in these first years of home-schooling there was some frustration because my mother was trying to navigate the new waters of schooling at home, and being teacher for all eight of her children. On the positive side, I was given the freedom to more seriously pursue subjects I was personally interested in. My curriculum therefore, was tailored to my needs and natural inclinations, which in turn, made learning more enjoyable for myself, and (I believe) all of my siblings.

Corinna R., 35 from VAAcademically I did much better than I would have otherwise as my parents were able to cater to areas where I had a harder time (like math) and also push me and provide extra opportunities where I was gifted (like music).

Kellan A., 23 from KS:  I really enjoyed it. I feel like I learned a lot and got an extremely good groundwork for the future.

O. G., 29 from KSI thoroughly enjoyed being homeschooled. I think we had a great support group and I had a great relationship with my mom and sister. Academically I probably could have been challenged a bit more…

Emotionally, no one [in my survey] had a completely “bad” emotional experience. However, the ones whom I placed in this category indicated that they had struggled with negative emotions for about 2 years, usually starting around 5th grade. Others noted that Jr. High was a hard time emotionally (which is often a hard time for kids whether they are homeschooled or not).

Reasons cited for negative emotions:

  • Wanted to go to public school
  • Felt like he or she was missing something
  • Felt different
  • Didn’t feel “normal”
  • May have lengthened struggle with shyness
  • Was angry about being taken out of school
  • Felt like parents had too much going on to help
  • Lack of social activities

Interestingly, many participants tied their emotional experience to the availability of social experiences. (A note concerning interpretation: I had to use my personal judgement in determining the emotions behind the words/experiences in some of the surveys. For example, see academic results above where many just said, “I really enjoyed it.”).

I have included both positive and negative testimonials below:

Kelly C., 29 from VA:  [T]he community that we were a part of was wonderful for me as far as socializing. I think there is a big misconception (among the non-homeschooled) that homeschoolers do not socliaze and for me that was not true. We were involved in many activities with other homeschoolers; I participated in 4-H, we had weekly get-togethers at the park or skating rink as well as field trips to various historical/educational facilities.

However, while Kelly noted feeling “wonderful” about these experiences, M.V. relates more negative feelings toward very similar experiences. This just shows that different students had different emotional needs.

M.V., 27 from KSEmotionally, I had friends and social opportunities . . . I don’t feel like I was deprived of social events. At the same time, I don’t think I had much in the way of developmental activities. Sometimes kids this age get involved in a sport or a musical instrument: I had choir, 4-H and long walks through the pastures around our house, none of which were really conducive to developing my future skills and personality as an adult. I think the lack of developmental activities here contributed to more problems in high school.

Here is another contrast between experiences, this one concerning personality:

Nara N., 30 from NCEmotionally: I think I did just fine. I’m naturally quiet/introvert. Sometimes I wonder if public/group private school might have brought me “out” more, but I think it probably would actually not have been good for me as a young child, and would have created a lot of extra stress in my early life.

E. H., 21 from DEEmotionally, it may have lengthened my struggle with shyness, but it meant I was able to unfold in my own time and with invaluable personal/family/spiritual growth in the mean time.

S. M., 29 from WV shows a good contrast between someone who had a good academic experience but who struggled emotionally:

I was full of anxiety because I felt I was getting less of an education that my peers. I always felt educationally and intellectually inferior the entire time. Academically, I did well.

M.L., 26 from NE and M.D., 19 from KS both had positive experiences in earlier grades but struggled emotionally as they got older:

M.L., 26 from NEThe younger years I really enjoyed it, I loved being with my brothers while doing school, I felt challenged to always keep up with them . . . However with life changes, baby, sicknesses/health conditions in the family I felt that my education wasn’t as important as other things going on. Whenever I had questions about school, I felt like my mom had too much going on to help me. In 5th grade I really struggled with school, I felt like all of a sudden it was really hard, I didn’t understand it, it took me forever, I didn’t feel challenged to do well because my brother who had always been a year ahead of me was now behind me and the others were too far ahead so I had no motivation to do well it school. It was the first time I begged to go to public school, I thought, “even if I hate school, at least I would be with my friends. 

M.D., 19 from KS: My view of homeschooling up to [5th grade] was fairly accepting. I remember a few moments of jealousy toward other kids my age who got to spend their days with their friends in public school, but for the most part homeschooling was normal for me, and I didn’t question it. 

I remember middle school being the time when I really started questioning whether I wanted to be home schooled. I was becoming more involved in my church youth group and less involved in the home school group and because of this I was surrounded by kids who attended public school. 

On the other hand, other adults recorded strong, positive emotions in looking back on these years:

Stuart G., 29 from VAEmotionally: I was happy and enjoyed strong relationships with my siblings due to the fact that we were schooling together. Furthermore, my bond with my parents became stronger because of the increased time we were spending together. Especially effective was my father’s involvement in my education, which had not existed prior to home-schooling. 

There was also a noted lack of turmoil that many of my peers in public/private atmospheres experienced. Because we missed out on much of the “drama” middle-school and high-school atmospheres cultivate, we were more at peace with ourselves (choosing things we were truly interested in without regards to what was “popular” at school, etc), and amongst ourselves.

Overall, homeschoolers [in my survey] looking back at their elementary and Jr. High years remember being satisfied academically and happy emotionally (though I think some of the responses concerning emotional satisfaction are very thought provoking).

What about you? 

If you were homeschooled, what do you think about your academic and emotional experiences looking back at K-8th grade?

If you homeschool your children, what thoughts or concerns do you have about their academic and emotional lives?

Please feel free to comment and ask questions!

Also, feel free to share these posts on Facebook or other social networking sites if you feel that others would benefit from or be interested in this series!

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To be continued.

Adult Homeschoolers Speak Out: Part Three, Why Parents Homeschool

Adult Homeschoolers Speak Out: Part Three, Top 3 Reasons Parents Homeschool

HA note: The following series is reprinted with permission from Brittany’s blog BAM. Part Three was originally published on May 25, 2012.

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Also in this series: Part One: Why I Wanted To Write This | Part Two: Survey Stats and Large Families | Part Three: Top 3 Reasons Parents Homeschool | Part Four: Academic and Emotional Experiences, K-8 | Part Five: The Highschool Experience | Part Six: College? Prepared or Not? | Part Seven: What About Socialization? | Part Eight: The Best Thing vs. What Was Missing | Part Nine, Do Former Homeschoolers Want to Homeschool? | Part Ten: Are the Stereotypes Better or Worse?

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Part Three, Top 3 Reasons Parents Homeschool

While growing up, I heard my mother describe homeschooling as “a lifestyle” countless times to curious inquirers who wondered why anyone would embark on such an endeavor. In the late 1980s, when my family started homeschooling, the question of “why” was very apropos, considering that homeschooling was illegal or newly legal in many states.

Keeping in mind these historic details, I was very intrigued to discover the answers to the question “Why did your parents choose to homeschool, from your understanding?” from first generation homeschoolers. (To learn more about why I decided to explore these questions, click here!)

(While reading, please keep in mind the last part of the question: from your understanding. All of these responses come from the adults looking back on their experiences and to understand why their parents decided to homeschool).

An example from my own family might give insight into the wide variety of answers I got:

My oldest sister, (Amberley, 33 years old), gave this answer:

Well, homeschooling was not legal in Nebraska when I started school, so I don’t know if Mom would have homeschooled me from K or not… But she said I was a brat and wanted me to get along better with my siblings. But I think there was also the religious aspect of things, where they wanted me to be able to study the Bible and learn about things from a Biblical perspective (ie. Bible as a subject, creation).

My second oldest sister, (Chelsea, 30 years old) also mentioned the “getting along with siblings” part, as well as religious reasons.

I, personally, don’t remember my sister being “a brat” (that just makes me laugh a bit). However, the following story is what I remember my parents telling us about why they started to homeschool:

My oldest sister was in the AWANA program (a church based Bible memory club) that met on Wednesday nights. Amberley was so tired in the morning that she had a very difficult time getting up for school. My parents decided that Biblical education (like the AWANA program provided) was of greater value that academic education that required my sister to get up early in the morning. These circumstances greatly influenced my parents’ decision to start homeschooling. 

My younger brother (Kellan, 23 years old) gave this reason:

Well, all of you guys were homeschooled so by the time I rolled around I guess they just had to.

My brother’s answer, of course, is very tongue-in-cheek, but I think it gives a good example of how siblings can have different perceptions of the same event.

Most of the homeschoolers who took the survey cited multiple reasons that influenced their parents’ decision. But the # 1 reason for homeschooling on the surveys mirrored my own family’s reasons for homeschooling: Religious Reasons or Convictions. 

Here are some direct quotes from the survey:

(To see Survey Statistics, Click here)

Melissa Ann G., 26 from VA:   Parents decided to homeschool us for religious reasons.

Christine M., 31 from KS: [My parents] wanted us to have a religious foundation to our education

Jeremy D., 18 from VA: My parents didn’t like “ungodliness” of public school . . . they felt God calling them to homeschool us.

Emily M., 26 from FL: I believe it was primarily because they are very conservative and strong christians and they felt that public schools taught things they didn’t believe and they also thought that it opened up a lot of room for temptations and misguidance.

Elina C., 25 from KS: They didn’t like the evolution stance that was being taken in the school system and wanted to have the freedom to teach us creation.

Jenna C., 28 from KY: [My parents homeschooled] to keep us sheltered from many of the negative influences of the world, and to instill a love of God in our hearts.

And many others:

  • 12 people (myself included) specifically mentioned “religious conviction”as a primary reason for homeschooling
  • 6 people said that their parents wanted to protect them from “worldly,” “ungodly,” or “bad influences
  • 3 people stated that their parents “wanted to teach the Bible”

While religious convictions was the # 1 answer, the next highest response was related to Academics or dissatisfaction with Public or Private Schools.

Stuart G., 29 from VA mentions academic reasons along with others:

My parents were unhappy with the public school environment and the quality of education we were receiving. The straw that broke the camel’s back was an incident in which my sister was being bullied and the administration was ineffective in dealing with the perpetrator. After this incident, my parents decided to try homeschooling on a trial basis. After the first year, it was clear that homeschooling was the right way to go for our family.

Elizabeth J., 24 from VA stated:

My mother wanted to protect us from the negative influences found in public schools, and later (after my sister spent 3rd grade at a private Christian school) to give us a more personalized, at-our-level, education. My mother taught us at the level that we were capable of, not holding us back or going on ahead of us. She also wanted to avoid the bullying and cliche-ishness that were in the schools. 

Kaitlin G., 22 from KS explained that “My brother and I needed more 1 on 1 attention in certain subjects and we were not getting that in public school.”

  • 7 people stated that their parents believed “they could do a better job” than public/private school
  • 5 mentioned that parents “didn’t like the public schools”
  • 2 cited that the parents wanted to have more control over their child’s education
  • One mentioned being “bored” in school
  • One family had a child who was academically advanced

Finally the third highest response after Religious Convictions and Academics was because parents did not want their children being taught Sex Education (5 people mentioned this, though this reason was primarily coupled with religious convictions).

One participant saidThey believed it was God’s will for parents to take active responsibility for their children’s education. This was precipitated by early sex-education in my older brother’s second grade class.


Kelly C. 29 from VA also gave this reason: [My mom] did not want the public school system’s influence (in particular evolution and sex education) on my education. She preferred being able to teach me with a godly influence.

I found these top 3 reasons for deciding to Homeschool fascinating. Other reasons included:

  • Military/ lived overseas (4)
  • Bullying (3)
  • Private/ Christian School too expensive (3)
  • Family closeness (3)
  • Flexibility (3)
  • Disagreement w/ school
  • Thought it would be fun (I particularly liked this answer!)

In closing this very long and informative post, I wanted to share what, I believe, is is a uniquely insightful response for why parents decided to homeschool.

Christy L., 28 from CA said:

My mom started out homeschooling (I am the oldest) and did it for my first two years of school. Before I started second grade she decided to put my brothers and I into public school for two reasons 1. She does not enjoy teaching kids how to read 2. My brother was chronically ill and it was getting to be too much to homeschool and care for him. My parents then decided to homeschool all 5 kids during 6-8th grade. They wanted to ensure that we had a good bible education and felt that middle school is the time that kids really pull away from their parents and they didn’t want that. 

I so enjoyed this response because I believe it shows wise parent(s) who knew her likes and dislikes (nothing wrong with not enjoying teaching kids to read!) personal limitations (having a child who was chronically ill), and their own personal convictions about teaching the Bible and their faith, as well as developing family closeness. Christy eventually went back to public school from 9-12 grade and felt prepared and grateful for this new experience as well.

What about you?

If you were homeschooled, why did your parents choose to do so (from your understanding)?

If you homeschool your children today, what are your primary reasons for doing so?

Please feel free to comment on the above responses, or ask questions! I will do my best to answer them and provide what insight I may.

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To be continued.

Adult Homeschoolers Speak Out: Part Two, Survey Stats and Large Families

Adult Homeschoolers Speak Out: Part Two, Survey Stats and Large Families

HA note: The following series is reprinted with permission from Brittany’s blog BAM. Part Two was originally published on May 24, 2012.

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Also in this series: Part One: Why I Wanted To Write This | Part Two: Survey Stats and Large Families | Part Three: Top 3 Reasons Parents Homeschool | Part Four: Academic and Emotional Experiences, K-8 | Part Five: The Highschool Experience | Part Six: College? Prepared or Not? | Part Seven: What About Socialization? | Part Eight: The Best Thing vs. What Was Missing | Part Nine, Do Former Homeschoolers Want to Homeschool? | Part Ten: Are the Stereotypes Better or Worse?

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Part Two: Survey Stats and Large Families

Here are the demographic statistics from the survey I conducted about the experiences of adults who were homeschooled.

To better understand the following data, here is my own demographic information:

  • Name: Brittany Arpke Meng
  • Born in: Nebraska
  • Grew up in: Kansas
  • Currently live in: Virginia
  • Age: 28
  • Number of siblings: 4
  • Number of years homeschooled: 12 (1st-12th)
  • Marital status: Married; spouse was not homeschooled
Current info about levels of government regulation for homeschoolers per state.
Current info about levels of government regulation for homeschoolers per state.

Total number of surveys: 44

Women: 34

Men: 10

(Sadly, the results are a little estrogen heavy, but the male perspective I received was excellent!)

These homeschoolers grew up in:

  • Kansas (16)
  • Virginia (7)
  • South Dakota (3)
  • New York (2)
  • Nebraska (2)
  • Florida (2)
  • Wisconsin
  • Illinois
  • New Mexico
  • North Dakota
  • Washington
  • Texas
  • California
  • Georgia
  • South Carolina
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Colorado
  • Illinois
  • Military family (3)
  • Overseas

These adults now live in:

  • Virginia (13)
  • Kansas (6)
  • Mississippi (2)
  • Georgia (2)
  • Florida (2)
  • California (2)
  • Oklahoma (2)
  • Iowa
  • Texas
  • North Carolina
  • West Virginia
  • Delaware
  • Missouri
  • Kentucky
  • Ohio
  • Nebraska
  • Washington
  • France
  • Japan (2)
  • Germany
  • Cayman Islands
  • Turkey

Age range: 18-37 (my minimum requirement was for the participant to be out of the house for at least one year)

Average age: 26

Fun fact: this means that earliest these families started homeschooling was around 1980!

Number of siblings range: 0-13

Average: 3 siblings

Number of years homeschooled range: 5-13

Average: 11 years

Marital status:

  • 22 married (4 spouses had homeschooling experience)
  • 16 single
  • 2 Divorced
  • 2 Engaged
  • 2 in a relationship

I included the sibling information because, in my own experience, homeschooling families tend to have large families. As you can see, the range of siblings in each family is pretty dramatic (from an only child to a family of 14 children!) The average of 4 children in a family seems pretty “normal” to me. Many homeschoolers talked about relationships with siblings in the surveys so that is why I included this information.

I also wondered though, “Does the “largeness” of a family affect the homeschooling experience positively or negatively?” I didn’t receive overwhelming data on this point but I think that two examples may provide a good contrast to answer this question.

M. M. a 29 year old from CA was the oldest of 8 children. She describes a negative experience related to family size:

My mom didn’t seem to be involved very much in my individual learning or invested in only my education since there was so many kids. I felt this was a disadvantage to me . . .My mom would start at the youngest child and work her way up to the oldest in going over their homework, teaching, etc. I don’t think she got to me very often.”

In 12th grade, M. M. did her homeschooling with another family where the other mother kept all of the young people accountable for their work.

This is just one example, of course. But in this case, family size seemed like a detriment to M.M’s homeschooling experience.

Contrasted with this is Beka R’s story, a 25 year old from Kansas and the 2nd oldest in a family of 14 children. Though Beka came from the largest family in survey group, she implied that academics were a very strong focus and stated that family relationships were the most positive part of her experience:

“One of the best things homeschooling did was allow for strong family relationships – we had school on Saturdays and had Thursdays off because that reflected my dad’s work schedule, and those Thursdays with my dad are something I’ve always cherished. I think that the primary influencers of my foundational years were my parents and grandparents, and that is something that has always shaped my values.

Most responders had a very strong family and the number of children did not seem to negatively affect the homeschooling experience (or they didn’t mention it). I think it is interesting that homeschoolers have large families though and, in my own experience, homeschooling helped make relationships with my family stronger.

What do you think? 

Did you come from a large family who homeschooled? Did it enhance or take away from your education?

Please comment or ask any questions!

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To be continued.

Visualizing “The Myth of the Unsocialized Homeschooler”

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Heather Doney’s blog Becoming Worldly. It was originally published on July 7, 2013.

I googled “homeschool” to see what pictures came up. Many of them had to do with socialization and the messages that homeschool parents get and give about it. So I figured I’d talk about homeschooling and the issue of socialization today and use some of the cartoons I found in the process. Some of them are a little disconcerting in the way they point out issues I see, just maybe not quite in the ways the cartoonists intended.

What is This “Socialization Problem” You Speak Of?

So first a bit about what socialization is and how it relates to homeschooling. This diagram explains socialization pretty simply and it comes from a site that talks abut stopping cycles of discrimination that are often passed on intergenerationally.

soc1

I think the site the diagram comes from – Parenting for Social Change – makes an excellent point – that this is generally how socialization is done but socialization can sometimes be bad. You can absolutely be taught harmful things as well as positive things in the course of your socialization and most people are taught a mix. What homeschooling parents often become inclined to do though is try to eliminate or greatly reduce these “bad” things by winnowing their child’s socialization opportunities down to only parentally vetted and approved sources and quite often those approved sources are fellow homeschoolers, religious leaders, highly edited texts and media, other “likeminded families,” and sometimes, when the parent is particularly controlling or inept at socialization themselves, nobody at all except for the immediate family.

Yes, this last one is a real big problem because terrible things can happen when families get isolated like that and it is a big risk factor for all kinds of abuse, neglect, and poor mental and physical health. Thing is, this social isolation problem happens in homeschooling much more frequently than it should. In fact, even in Brian Ray’s wacky (and so methodologically unsound that I am stopping myself from going on a rant about how many problems it has) “Strengths of Their Own” study included something I found interesting about it. See if you can catch it.

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That’s right. The third bar from the bottom. The yellow one. If 87% of the children in Brian Ray’s highly self-selective study play with “people outside the family” (and I will leave you to ponder right along with me as to why this wording is not “other children outside the family”) then that means that 13% of children in Brian Ray’s study do not play with others outside of their own family, which I would most definitely define as a socialization problem. If Brian Ray, excellent fudger, misconstruer, self-quoter, and ideological spit-shiner of homeschool data extraordinaire, has almost 15% of the kids in his rather cherry-picked study having this issue, how common must it actually be in real life and how do people in homeschooling react to this issue? Well, let’s see…

Socialization Sarcasm

This cartoon makes fun of the concept that socialization problems exist in homeschooling. To me it implies that socialization happens so naturally that it simply isn’t something a homeschool Mom could forget. Why? Well, I’m honestly not exactly sure. Socialization is a component that definitely can be ignored or accidentally left out and it has openly (and wrongly) been discounted as being unimportant by many prominent homeschool leaders. Because it has been ignored and dismissed as a necessary part of many homeschool curriculums is the main reason why homeschoolers have gotten the reputation for being unsocialized in the first place.

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Most homeschool kids don’t like being stereotyped as unsocialized or feeling like they are unsocialized (I mean really, who would?). So there’s also some memes and jokes that have been spread by teenage homeschoolers implying how inherently dumb or inappropriate they think it is when people make socialization an issue. Most of these involve poking fun at the “myth” that socialization is a problem in homeschooling. There is this YouTube video by a homeschooled girl who is trying to do this by distinguishing “the homeschooled” from “the homeschoolers” and while I find it funny, I’m quite sure that her pie chart is wrong and she perpetuates elitist stereotypes she has likely heard throughout her homeschooling experience.

This blog had a post by a homeschool graduate complaining about people asking what’s become known as the “socialization question” and in her post she uses a picture I’ve seen fairly often. There’s even t-shirts with this printed on them that you can buy.

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Socialization is Fishy

So what do homeschooling parents think about the socialization issue when theydo actually address it? Let’s start out with this cartoon, as it’s used a lot. It claims that a lack of socialization in homeschooling isn’t just a rare problem, but an outright myth. It implies that homeschool kids are not only actually in diverse environments as part of a natural ecosystem but are thrilled about it. It also implies that children who are socialized in public school are like half-dead sardines in a can rather than the school of likeminded fish they are expected to be.

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This cartoon is a direct dismissal of there being any merit to the “socialization problem” and it is compounded with a public school counter-stereotype. This is unsurprising to me as the argument that homeschool socialization problems are an outright myth is quite often included with something disparaging about public school or insulting to teachers (and this cartoon is no exception). Notwithstanding how insulting it is to imply that most people who go through public school are like dead fish, is this depiction of homeschool versus public school in any way accurate? Well, I imagine for the occasional situation it is, but in general, certainly not.

Oddly this cartoon was actually almost the exact opposite of my experience. In the CHEF homeschoolers group I was in it was all white Christian families and our parents had to sign a statement of faith to join. It was absolutely a school of fish all swimming the same way and because we got together infrequently, I generally felt like that fish in the fishbowl. Also, when I went to public school in 9th grade I was certainly no canned sardine, even if I wasn’t exactly the manic fish thrilled at the ecosystem in the upper righthand corner. The teachers often tried to corral us into all doing things the same way but we didn’t make it altogether easy for them and generally I expect it was a bit like herding cats. We were all individuals, as were the teachers. I had favorite teachers and subjects and ones I didn’t like and I made friends of different races and beliefs and political persuasions, many of whom who are still my friends and acquaintances to this day.

The Dark Knowledge of Teen Degenerates

Here’s another cartoon about homeschool kid socialization from a slightly different angle, and this one does address the idea that kids don’t always do what you want them to do and by invoking the dreaded “peer pressure,” implies that its all bad. Which one is it – are they lobotomized sardines in a can or are they violent and rebellious ingrates? Make up your mind! Also, how realistic is this, do homeschool moms actually think public school kids are like this? Where are the public school kids who are not “at-risk” of being part of the school to prison pipeline? Why aren’t there any of those at the bus stop?

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Also, in this little dystopian cartoon, gang members with knives read books on values (morally relativistic ones, no doubt), evolution, meditation, and “new age” religion (if that isn’t a culture wars, fearmongering buzzword, I don’t know what is) and pregnant girls read about sex ed and still don’t know what made them pregnant. This cartoon is crazy stuff. People don’t drink beer and shoot up heroin (yeah, there’s a needle on the ground in the cartoon) while waiting for the school bus (although some do smoke cigarettes). People who read a lot don’t typically join gangs. People who know about comprehensive sex ed aren’t any more likely to have sex than kids who don’t and they are much less likely to accidentally get knocked up. Honestly, if this is what anyone actually thinks the world is like then they are not fit to educate other human beings and they probably need some mental help themselves.

Sweet Homeschool Girl in the Ghetto

This cartoon is similar to the previous one in that it also indicates that public school socialization is all bad, but it depicts the expected reaction of the homeschool girl in the public school and implies that if your daughter goes to public high school (obviously radiating her feminine purity with a big hair bow and below-the-knee church skirt) that she will soon be shocked and horrified to encounter people dressed immodestly, young people openly dating, tattoos and piercings everywhere, vandalism and crime, blatant teenage rebellion, and big scary black boys that look more like grown men. So obviously the answer is to just have her at home not knowing that people who are different from her exist, and make most of the people her age out to be disgusting, immoral, and scary, right?

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I followed this cartoon to its site, a blog called Heart of Wisdom, trying to get a higher resolution picture. The blog talked about how homeschool kids should only selectively socialize with other Christians and claims this is biblical. Yep, this is just the type of homeschooling “socialization” I am familiar with. It’s a form of social isolation and indoctrination called “sheltering.” This stuff is all about parental fear and desire for control and helicopter parenting to this extreme is very unhealthy for your child. It will mean that in adulthood that they won’t know how to function at an optimal level. You cannot shield your kid from all “bad influences” and indeed there is nothing in the bible that says your kids cannot play with the kids of people who have different beliefs. That is quite a stretch and it is insular, cultish thinking.

My Homeschool Kid is Smarter than Your Honors Student

That same Heart of Wisdom blog had this other cartoon about homeschooling, so I followed that link and it was to a page dedicated specifically to homeschool cartoons. When I see stuff like this cartoon I have to once again ask – is this supposed to be funny? Do these people actually think this is accurate? My main question, though, is why the elitism and negativity? Even if your kid is getting a much better education in homeschooling, why talk trash about children who through no fault of their own don’t have as good of an education? Why make it into a competition, act like homeschool kids in general are “better” than other kids? It shows me some immature and defensive parenting, really. If you revel in it when someone else isn’t doing as good as you it shows you are 1) being a jerk and 2) secretly worried that you’re no good at what you’re doing. Nobody should ever be excited about other kids having a sub-par education, thinking it makes them and their kids look better. That’s just gross.

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As it is, I find that there is a grain of truth in this cartoon but perhaps not quite in the way the cartoonist intended. I’ve known a lot of homeschool kids who do use big words in conversations and they soon realize that it comes across as awkward when they socialize with other non-homeschool kids. Admission: I was that kid myself. I read a lot of classic literature and became familiar with words that simply aren’t used in everyday speech anymore. Trying to use them in peer-to-peer conversations didn’t reflect on me being smarter. It reflected on me not having a modern day frame of reference as to what is appropriate. It reflected on me being socially backwards. Lots of public school kids who are bookworms like I was know many big words. They also know the right words to use for their audience. Context is everything. An unsocialized homeschool kid doesn’t have that context and very well might find that using 18th century literary terms in a conversation about basketball will indeed get people looking at them sideways. If homeschool parents want to be proud of that, think it makes their kid (and by extension them) “better,” it shows they truly don’t understand the issue at hand.

Parental Fear & Social Anxiety

That’s where I think we hit the crux of this whole thing. I think the main issue is parental angst and fearfulness. Too many homeschooling parents socially struggled in school themselves and/or got into drugs or unhealthy sexual relationships. Instead of taking a broader view today, they expect that they need to hide their kid away from these settings or the exact same thing will happen to their kid even though their kid is in a different school district in a different generation and *gasp* a different person. These parents become scared of or hurt by the society we live in, withdraw, and then use homeschooling as an excuse to be separatist, snooty, and helicopter over their kids. These are not positive reasons for homeschooling and these are the exact kind of fearful and overbearing attitudes that lead to socialization problems for homeschool kids.

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Because people with strong views often find themselves in positions of leadership, those with exclusionary, separatist, and elitist attitudes often end up running things and then set this negative and divisive tone for the homeschooling group and the community it serves. It’s so pervasive that even some “second choicers” who start homeschooling simply because the other educational options in the area aren’t up to meeting their child’s particular needs (which is an excellent reason to homeschool, in my opinion), can get sucked into this culture, an “us versus them” mindset where homeschooling represents everything that is pure and good and healthy for children and public school and the people and structures that support it represents everything bad. This creates a parallel society of sorts and then you see people start calling public schools “government schools” in a pejorative sense. All this “us versus them” talk fans the fear that homeschooling parents are vulnerable (although still superior) outsiders who are or soon will be discriminated against and this in turn leads to easy exploitation of these scared people.

Why does widespread homeschool participation in things like the fundamentalist-led HSLDA, which capitalizes on these fears and requires dues money (that then goes into their cultish culture wars arsenal) for unnecessary “legal protection” exist? Because many these people are too freaked out to do anything more than cling onto a protector, ignoring all evidence that their “protector” just wants to use them – financially and for furthering a disturbingly anti-democratic agenda. This fear grows and leads to the kind of mindset that spawns ridiculous cartoons like the one below.

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Put in prison for homeschooling – really? Of course in this cartoon there’s that same (expected) depiction of scary people with piercings, this time instead of a shocked daughter (projecting much?) it’s got a dejected homeschool Mom being shunned by hardened criminals who sarcastically note that her “crime” was homeschooling.

Homeschooling parents who follow these “leaders” (often starting because their local homeschool support group requires or recommends HSLDA membership) hear these divisive messages and become scared to death of being framed, exposed, persecuted, worrying that they will land in jail just for homeschooling. It may be a wacky and unrealistic fear given what’s actually going on, but if people hear it often enough they often come to believe it, along with the bogus stats and stories claiming that homeschooling is as close to perfect an educational option one can get in such a messed up society, and the myth that there is no evidence to the contrary because homeschooling is just so awesome.

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Because homeschoolers test scores aren’t made public and often not even expected, registration isn’t even required in many states, and most people don’t pay much attention to homeschooling unless their kids are being homeschooled. Homeschool movement leaders have been able to get away with exhibiting the cream of the homeschooling crop as representative of all homeschoolers. This has painted an inaccurate picture and hurt the vulnerable kids by leaving them ignored as they fall through the cracks.

Saying “our homeschool kids are socialized but socialization doesn’t matter and in fact it generally sucks if it isn’t coming directly from parents” is a very unhealthy attitude to go into educating with. Responsible homeschooling parents really need to do a bit of soul-searching as to why they tolerate these inaccurate depictions of what socialization is and isn’t, why there is this the across-the-board maligning of all public schools within many homeschool communities, and why so many participate in this ugly (and frankly in my opinion undeserved) elitism, and contribute to such extreme (and inaccurate) stereotyping and putting down of children who have had to attend lower quality inner-city schools, all in order to inflate the merits of homeschooling.

Two big question:

(1) Does this kind of attitude help do anything beyond artificially boosting homeschool egos?

(2) Is there any need for this behavior if homeschooling is really so awesome?

Also, if there is no good data on the problems of homeschooling then instead of celebrating the cobwebs we need to be collecting more data. Every single education method in this world has problems and the places where the problems are denied is where child maltreatment can and does flourish.

The Truth Between “Stereotype” and “Myth”

I get the message that not all homeschoolers are cloistered and don’t know how to talk to people their own age, but the fact is that too many are and we need to recognize that it is a real problem affecting a sizable percentage of homeschool kids. Also, homeschoolers are simply not the most brilliant people in the world or inherently “smarter” than other kids, and as such they shouldn’t need to feel pressured to achieve perfection, perform as child prodigies, or that there’s a black mark on them if they mix up “asocial” and “anti-social” in a conversation.

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This “myth of the unsocialized homeschooler” is an issue in homeschooling but the prevalent idea that the socialization problem is a myth is the real problem, not the legitimate questions and concerns about socialization that homeschool parents keep being asked. Those questions actually need to keep happening because social isolation and ostracism in any setting (including homeschooling) often follows a person into adulthood, and can leave people struggling with social anxiety, a small social network, low levels of social capital, mental health issues, and an unnecessary amount of sad and lonely memories.

The least we can do is stop making fun of people, stop being in denial, stop pointing fingers elsewhere, and acknowledge that it is real, it happens too often and it should be assessed and addressed as the serious problem that it is.

Adult Homeschoolers Speak Out: Part One, Why I Wanted to Write This

Adult Homeschoolers Speak Out: Part One, Why I Wanted to Write This

HA note: The following series is reprinted with permission from Brittany’s blog BAM. Part One was originally published on May 24, 2012.

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Also in this series: Part One: Why I Wanted To Write This | Part Two: Survey Stats and Large Families | Part Three: Top 3 Reasons Parents Homeschool | Part Four: Academic and Emotional Experiences, K-8 | Part Five: The Highschool Experience | Part Six: College? Prepared or Not? | Part Seven: What About Socialization? | Part Eight: The Best Thing vs. What Was Missing | Part Nine, Do Former Homeschoolers Want to Homeschool? | Part Ten: Are the Stereotypes Better or Worse?

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Series Preface for HA

** In the introduction to my blog series in 2012 about Adult Homeschoolers I wrote that “everyone turned out fine.” This phrase may seem odd and may even seem hurtful to some HA readers and writers due to the fact that many of the stories on HA deal with the painful past of many adult homeschoolers. The purpose of sharing that “everyone turned out fine” was to state that everyone who participated in my series is now a strong, functioning adult who has worked through or is working through any struggles from their homeschooling background.

The purpose of my series was to look at the “good, bad, and ugly” issues of homeschooling in an honest and fair way, with the underlying thread of hope by sharing the experiences of many adults from all around the USA. I hope that, as you read, you will be able to identify with the stories of these men and women as they share the reasons their parents home schooled, their elementary and high school years, the “best” and “worst” thing about homeschooling, adjusting to college, socialization issues, and if they plan to homeschool their own children.

I hope that as you read, you will also feel hope; know that you are not alone.

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Part One: Why I Wanted to Write This

I was a first generation homeschooler.

…meaning my parents starting homeschooling in in the late 1980s right after it became legal in Nebraska (where I was born). In my elementary years, when someone asked where I went to school, 99% of the time my answer would produce a furrowed brow and the question, “What is homeschool?”

Nowadays, everyone knows someone who is homeschooling or who was homeschooled. First generation homeschoolers have grown up, gone to college, and have started families of their own.

My own children are now almost school age (I have twins who will be 5 in October) and in recent months I have been contemplating my own schooling experience.

I wondered:

  • Do former homeschoolers want to homeschool?
  • What do they think of their homeschool experience?
  • Were they happy and satisfied? Did they wish for more?
  • Were they prepared for college academically and socially or were they scared, unprepared and awkward?
  • Are they stereotypes of homeschoolers true? (homeschoolers are brainy/stupid/socially stunted/well rounded/fill in the blank?)

I spent hours on the internet, trying to find articles, blogs, anything written by former homeschoolers about their homeschool experience. I was disappointed by what I found (or the lack there of). Either I found stats about how homeschoolers are successful (with no personal testimony involved) or personal testimonies that I distrusted because I thought they were too “Pollyanna” in nature. I wanted to read about the honest experiences of adults homeschoolers, the good and the bad, the advantages and disadvantages, their thoughts on their academic experiences and the issue that homeschoolers everywhere never seem to escape:

“What about socialization???”

So I put together a short survey and and used the wonderful world of social networking to launch this blog series. I received 42 responses from adult homeschoolers from all over the USA (childhood friends, people I went to college with, friends, and friends of friends).

I am excited to share the data I have collected with you: adults who were homechooled, parents who are homeschooling their own children (and may be wondering, “Am I doing the right thing? Am I messing up my kid? WHAT ABOUT SOCIALIZATION????”), or anyone else who is curious about the lives and experiences of homeschoolers.

Here is a little sneak peek at the end of the story: Everyone [that took my survey] turned out fine. **

Not always “happily ever after” and not without some bumps, awkwardness, struggles, and obstacles on the journey to adulthood.

But, really, everyone [that took my survey] turned out fine.

[Some] parents, breathe a sigh of relief.

And keep reading.

You can look forward to personal testimony about topics such as:

  • Why first generation homeschool parents decided to homeschool
  • The academic and emotional experience of homeschoolers in grades K-8
  • The academic and emotional experiences of homeschoolers in grades 9-12
  • Do homeschoolers pursue higher education?
  • Were they truly prepared academically?
  • Were they truly prepared socially?
  • What is the best thing about homeschooling (so many people said the same thing! amazing!)
  • What former homeschoolers wish was different about their experiences
  • The inside perspective about the advantages and disadvantages of homeschooling
  • Do former homeschoolers plan to homeschool their own children?
  • The homeschoolers perspective on society’s thoughts and opinions about homeschooling

This series will be honest in every way, exploring the good, the bad, and everything in between. While my posts will primarily be focused on the results of the survey, I will also share my thoughts and experiences as they relate to the survey results.

I hope that this series inspires conversation, stirs up memories (for former homeschoolers), incites conversation, provides insight and information, and ultimately encourages those who read. Please feel free to comment, ask questions, and share your own thoughts and experiences.

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To be continued.

End Child Protection: Doug Phillips, HSLDA, and the 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit

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 By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

In 2009, an exclusively male group of conservative Christian leaders in the homeschooling world descended upon Indianapolis, Indiana. The event was the Men’s Leadership Summit. While its purpose was to draft a unifying vision for what they called “the Christian home education movement,” it included speeches on a variety of topics that were part of the vision.

These topics included the necessity of patriarchy: girls needing to have an entirely home-focused education,  the need to defeat “feminism” in homeschooling, and the concern that “the female sin of the internet” (framed as equal to “the male sin of pornography”) was blogging. Indeed, blogging could be the kryptonite to the homeschool Superman, the patriarchal Ubermensch. Men needed to take back their rightful place as head of their own households and as members of churches and homeschool groups through a new vision. Speakers at the summit claimed that, in doing these things, they could change the world. To the end of world-changing, submission of women and children was mandated and homeschooling was to be reframed as “discipleship,” the specific tool to accomplish world-change for generations to come.

This post is long and detailed and will include all of the information currently available about the Men’s Leadership Summit. This post will also focus on how this event’s goals transcended the narrow confines of entrenching Christian male superiority in the homeschooling world. In fact, it extended to their dream of ending public education entirely and and implementing their expansive conception of “parental rights.” It was at this summit that a former HSLDA attorney articulated a disturbing call: a call to end child protection as we know it. This call places the recent controversy between Libby Anne, the HSLDA, and Homeschoolers Anonymous’ #HSLDAMustAct campaign into an entirely new and much more urgent context.

A Brief History of the 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit

The Christian Home Educations of Colorado (CHEC) is a state homeschool organization founded in 1985. Directed by Kevin Swanson since 1999, CHEC hosted a “National Leadership Summit”  in 2006. This was a men’s only event, described by Generations With Vision as “a men’s leadership meeting…for home school leaders across the nation, in order to encourage home school dads to fully embrace the vision, and to launch a vision for the future of a movement.” There is nothing of particular interest on the Internet about this first summit. The same, however, cannot be said about its sequel.

In December 12, 2008, Kevin Swanson announced on the Generations With Vision blog a new summit, a “National Leadership Summit with Kevin Swanson, Doug Phillips, Chris Klicka, Voddie Baucham, Dr. Brian Ray.”

According to CHEC, this event — even though it was in another state — was officially hosted by the Colorado organization: “CHEC host[ed] a 2nd National Leaderhip Summit in Indianapolis.” It was allegedly co-sponsored by HSLDA, but I cannot find any verification of that from the little original source material that is available. The Men’s Leadership Summit had five headlining speakers, according to Generations With Vision: “Chris Klicka (HSLDA), Dr. Brian Ray (NHERI), Douglas Phillips (Vision Forum), Voddie Baucham, and yours truly [Kevin Swanson].”

Swanson believed this summit to be remarkable because, “We have [never], in the history of the movement drawn so many visionary leaders into one room at one time to discuss the home school vision.” Furthermore, he says, everyone is attending on their own accord, because they want to: “Every leader represented (including speakers) are volunteering their own time to this meeting.”

And what was the purpose of this historical summit of exclusively male homeschooling leaders? Swanson says, “The objectives of this 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit are first, to define a vision for the future of the Christian home education movement.” Not just a “vision,” though. There is another, more important objective of the summit: “the development of a Christian Education Manifesto statement.”

This, then, should be the most important, defining moment in the entire history of the conservative, Christian homeschooling movement. All of the movement’s visionary leaders will be there, he says, and they will be creating the movement’s very own vision and manifesto. As that is the explicit, publicized purpose of this summit, all these speakers — Klicka from HSLDA, Phillips from Vision Forum and previously from HSLDA, Ray from HSLDA’s NHERI, Baucham, and Swanson — will be attending to (1) create a vision and (2) create a manifesto.

It is curious, however, that — up until two days ago — I never heard of this summit. Even more surprising is that, apart from some serious digging, this seemingly most-important homeschooling summit of all time barely exists on the Internet. The website for the event, 2009leadershipsummit.com, no longer exists. There are no recordings, no mentions of this summit on Generations With Vision (save the one I just cited), or Vision Forum, or HSLDA. I had to go a good, old fashioned web archive service just to view archives of the original event website.

To save you the hassle of finding the right archive, I will detail what the now-expired 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit website said. But I will also provide links to the archived versions for your own perusal.

The 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit was held on March 5-7, 2009. It had a mission statement: “Defining a Vision for the Christian Home Education Movement.” The website’s home page explicitly stated the purpose of the event:

“In March of 2009, Christian Home Educators of Colorado will host homeschool leaders from around the country at a national gathering in Indianapolis. The Purpose? To lay out a vision for home education in the 21st Century.”

The About page of the website goes into further detail about the summit’s “vision”:

The homeschooling movement has entered challenging times . . .Challenging times require extraordinary leadership . . .Extraordinary leadership requires dynamic vision.

The time has come to define the vision. With the explosion of school choice and the increased accessibility of state-funded options for home educators, the time has come to define the vision that characterizes the Christian Home Education movement, thus unifying both national and state leadership and solidifying the vision for generations to come. As George Washington said at the Constitutional Convention, “Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair; the event is in the hand of God.”

For Such a Time as This, in a Changing Political and Socio-Economic Climate . . .

Home education is poised to bear significant effects on the how we do education, economics, church, and politics in the years to come. As leaders, we feel it is important that we be self-aware of the direction we are headed.

The goal of the 2009 Leadership summit is to define a vision for the future of the Christian home education movement. Together, we must lay down a rock-solid, biblically-based vision for home education that will withstand the attacks of our current generation and preserve this precious vision for future generations. To accomplish this goal, we are assembling the key national leaders, authors, researchers, speakers and advocates who have framed the homeschool vision over the past generation (1979-2009).

Another objective for the leadership summit will be the development of a Christian Education Manifesto statement.

The speakers listed are identical to what Kevin Swanson said on the Generations With Vision blog: Chris Klicka, Doug Phillips, Voddie Baucham, Brian Ray, and Kevin Swanson.

Finally, the accommodations: As already stated, even though the Men’s Leadership Summit is “hosted” and “sponsored” by a Colorado organization, it is interestingly held in Indianapolis. Even more interesting is where: it is not held a normal convention center. Rather it is held “at the Indianapolis Training Center in Indianapolis, Indiana,” a facility “owned by the Institute for Basic Life Principles.”

Yes, the Men’s Leadership Summit was held at one of Bill Gothard’s IBLP/ATI training centersSpecifically: Indianapolis Training Center, 2820 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46208. Although now that center appears to be a new IBLP project, the “Verity Institute,” a college created by Gothard and ATI’s Trent Thompson to “help students obtain a college degree without…losing their faith.”

So in 2009, an exclusive group of male homeschool leaders got together at a conference held at Bill Gothard’s training center, to be inspired by talks by frequent HSLDA guest Kevin Swanson, then-current (now deceased) HSLDA attorney Klicka, former HSLDA attorney Phillips, current HSLDA-affiliated researcher Ray, and Heritage Defense ally Baucham. And all of this was to culminate in one thing: a grand vision, or manifesto, for the future of what they themselves term “the Christian Home Education Movement.” And none of these organizations ever mention it happening.

Shall we take a look at what happened, then?

The “Manifesto” of the Men’s Leadership Summit

There is very little primary source material available for determining what happened. However, two bloggers — John Holzmann and Karen Campbell — have preserved a few items, which are extraordinarily important. 

A Manifesto for Christian Education

The first item is “A Manifesto for Christian Education,” which was handed out by Kevin Swanson at the end of the summit. That manifesto, as recorded by Campbell, is as follows:

A MANIFESTO FOR CHRISTIAN EDUCATION

The Basic Elements

First Proposition

The beginning of wisdom and knowledge in the education of our children is the fear of God.

The Worldview

All education assumes and presents a basic worldview, and Christian education is based on a biblical, God-centered worldview.

The Purpose

The primary purpose of education is to equip our children to live to the glory of God.

The Sphere

It is the family – not the state or the church – whom God has assigned the responsibility and attendant rights to educate their children.

The Teachers

Parents are the principal and primary instructors for their children.

The Content

The training in humility -and fear, faith and character is preeminent and inseparably integrated in the intellectual development of a child.

The Core Curriculum

The Word of God is the primary textbook for our children’s education.

The Summary

Therefore, we affirm that education is discipleship, and Christian Education is Deuteronomy 6:7. And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. Deuteronomy 6:7

The main observation to be made about this manifesto is that, according to Swanson, education should utilize the Bible as its primary textbook. Not science books, history books, or mathematics books, but the Bible. Education equals discipleship. This demonstrates that education should not only be primarily religious, but — it seems — exclusively so. Children are also to be trained in “humility” and “fear.” And making one’s children humble and fearful is a task God has assigned not to state schools or private schools (or even church-based private schools) but to parents.

Cindy Kunsman from Under Much Grace has a good summary of this “Manifesto”: “I think it’s been another lesson in the wisdom of Solomon that there is nothing new under the sun, and there is nothing really new in patriocentricity and the Vision Forum driven CHEC…The MCE is essentially an outline of major points already contained in the Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy.” 

Transcripts of Swanson, Baucham, and Phillips presentations

The only copies of speeches from the Summit, that I can find, are preserved on John Holzmann’s blog. The Summit’s site is not up anymore; HSLDA, Vision Forum, and Generations With Vision do not have audio recordings or transcripts. At one point in time, there was a website — Resounding Voice — that sold the original audio recordings of the talk. (Resounding Voice is run by Joshua Erber, a homeschool graduate and Patrick Henry re-enactor.)

Holzmann purchased the recordings of the presentations of the Summit. He then linked to Resounding Voice so that others can also obtain the recordings. However, the links to the recordings now lead to “database errors.” And if you go on Resounding Voice’s website, there are no mentions of a Men’s Leadership Summit, there are no talks by Phillips or Ray or any of the speakers from the Summit, and — of especial note — there is not a single recording from Chris Klicka on that site in general.

So all we have to go off of to determine what was said at the Summit are presentations by Swanson, Baucham, and Phillips transcribed by John Holzmann. These presentations are divided into five parts. I will summarize Holzmann’s findings under each part’s link:

2009 Christian Home Educators of Colorado (CHEC) “Men’s Leadership Summit,” Part I

In Part One, Holzmann summarizes some of the themes throughout the conference: the Reformation; fathers are responsible for family discipline; homeschoolers should use “home discipleship not home education,” because “we out not be preparing our children for Harvard… but (instead for heaven”; gender roles via “biblical manhood and womanhood”; countering the rise of “feminism” in not just the culture at large but also within the homeschooling movement; the need to integrate religion into every school subject; the need to train daughters to be moms and supportive spouses, not leaders.

Of particular concern is this observation: “In an open forum Friday night, one of the participants at the conference asked three questions of Doug Phillips related to this obvious missing piece. One of the questions specifically asked for Phillips’ views concerning a woman’s ability to have a career in addition to being a great mom and a great spouse. Phillips’ response indicated that he believes it is unbiblical for a woman to have a career.

Holzmann ends Part One with this: “Bill Roach, CHEC’s president, introduced each speaker at the Summit. According to my source, before he introduced Kevin Swanson for Thursday Evening Session I, he said, ‘This weekend is to define what Christian Home Education is and to strategize our next moves.'”

CHEC “Men’s Leadership Summit,” Part II–“For Such a Time as This — The 1000-Year Battle Over the Hearts and Minds of the Next Generation”

Part Two is Kevin Swanson’s speech, “The 1000-Year Battle Over the Hearts and Minds of the Next Generation.” Swanson begins his speech by referencing the Father of Reconstructionism, RJ Rushdoony, and then claiming that the “Pillars of Homeschooling” — Harris, Klicka, and Farris — were the foundation for what he is about to say:

Let’s thank God for the men and women who went before us–the R.J. Rushdoonys, the Gordon Clarks, the Cornelius Van Tils–who created the materials that we are using today. I’ve also read some great materials written by Gregg Harris and Chris Klicka and Mike Farris. These guys were writing things in the 1980s that we are saying today. . . .

We here, today, stand on the shoulders of guys who went before us 20 and 30 years ago who started The Reformation of the 20th Century.

Swanson then goes to detail the problems with our world, including gems such as, “Men are not being men.” He also then says that the “Manifesto” — which, remember, was the point of this whole thing? — was going to be “put off.” But it is still necessary, for some rather bleak reasons:

By the way, we are going to put off the publishing of the Manifesto. We’re not doing it this week, because we don’t think we have cultivated it enough. We’re going to give you an outline, a preview of that Manifesto…

I think it’s about time we had such a manifesto because, number one, education is falling apart in America. Our culture is falling apart. And the culture, the social system, is a derivative of the educational system. And the political system is a derivative of the social system. And it’s all falling apart… Our world is falling apart!

…Call it what you will, existentialistic, humanistic, materialistic, whatever it is, it is enveloping our culture, our academic system, our universities, our economic system. It is raging. And if our little children even get one little toe in that river, it will suck them through and [make] them join the millions upon millions of Christian children who have been taken into this river.

To Swanson, our world is on the brink of extinction. But not just any extinction. It is the exinction of “The City of Man,” as opposed to “The City of God”:

I think we’re coming to the end of an about 1000-year project of building the City of Man.The City of Man is built by the Cains of this world, the humanists, those that refuse to fear and love and worship the living God. It is their project. And this project has been worked on for the last 1000 years.

The root of this is that we, I guess, have not integrated God into every school subject:

Guys, if you teach science, if you teach chemistry, . . . don’t you dare to do it without stopping from time to time and saying, ‘. . . Children, let’s worship [the God who made these things]. Get down on your knees and worship the God who made these things.

…Universities haven’t taught that way in hundreds of years. I’ll tell you, that’s what’s ruining chemistry and biology and science in our modern age. It’s a scary thing what’s happening. You teach science without the fear of God for a hundred years, I fear what they will do to that science. They’ll destroy it.

Swanson’s solution, naturally, is the Christian home education movement:

God says, “I want you to teach your children My truth as you sit in your house. You see, I want you to take the truth, the reality, the absolute truths, the ethics of God, the laws of God, the perspectives of God, and teach them My worldview, My truth, in the womb of relationship.” And I say we call that discipleship.And that, brothers, is the Manifesto.We are going to bring back the relevance of God. We’re going to bring back worship, bring back confessions, bring back relationships in the education of our children.

…We need to call [Christians] to use words like discipleship and nurture. Stop talking schools with me. Don’t talk about education with me. Let’s not talk about home education and Christian education, Christian schools. Let’s talk about discipleship. Let’s talk about a focus on faith and character. Let’s focus on the discipling of a child.

…So, brothers, let’s restore the concept of discipleship in our homes and in our families. Let’s take the arms of those little children and say, “Let me lead you to Jesus. Let me teach you about Christ.” Let’s nurture them in these relationships. Let’s nurture them in the algebra class. Let’s disciple them in the chemistry class. Let’s worship God in the physics class. And then we’ll shock everybody when we begin confessing our sins in the geography class.

That’s education!

CHEC “Men’s Leadership Summit,” Part III – “The Battle for Faith and Family”

Part Three is Voddie Baucham’s speech, “The Battle for Faith and Family.” Baucham begins by identifying himself with the family-integrated church movement, which is a movement, he explains, that is “committed, absolutely committed–in our structure, in our doctrine, in our practice, in our philosophy–to a very simple principle: we look men in the eye and say, “I double-dog dare you to disciple your family and we are not going to do anything structurally to put a net under you. It’s your job.”

Baucham then lists off all the normative statistics that so many of us in the homeschooling world grew to fear: how few Christians “possess a biblical worldview,” how few Christians say there is absolute truth, how the youth today are disenfranchised from Christianity, and so forth. And the zinger: “We are currently losing 70 to 88% of [the youth] by the end of their freshman year in college!”

Baucham says that questions people, including Christians, have about homeschooling — like “What about socialization?” — are rooted in evil:

They all ask the same questions. It’s a running joke in the homeschool community because nobody asks any other questions. And their questions all go back to certification, permission, and instruction. Why? Because they’re Marxist, secular humanists to the core disguised as Christians. That’s why. . . . The homeschool movement is now rife with parents who do not know their roles; do not have a vision for their families; are afraid to lead.

And then there is his ending:

When [people] say they can’t do [some]thing, I say, “You racist, you!”

And they look at me: “Wha-?!??”[

And I answer,] “If I took you to Africa or Asia or South America, and we preached the gospel and some people got saved, you’d spend two weeks there and find one of the guys with God’s hand on him, and you’d say, ‘Now, you’re the pastor and this is your church.’

“But you’re saying that God is not good enough for you. –You racist!”

CHEC “Men’s Leadership Summit,” Part IV – “A Vision for the Family”

Parts Four and Five are the most important to this exploration. They are the speeches from Doug Phillips, an HSLDA attorney for six years and the director of Vision Forum. Phillips begins his first speech, “A Vision for the Family,” by identifying the other speakers as his comrades:

They are my paisanos. They are men that we have had the privilege of being in many battles together, traveling around the country and sharing a synchronous message. Our hearts are linked together.

Phillips thus begins with identifying his message as synchronous with the messages of Swanson, Baucham, Klicka, and Ray. And what is this message? The heart of it is that his version of God is the beginning of knowledge:

The fear of the Lord not only gives us wisdom and knowledge, but it is true faith that tells us to believe when all the empirical data seems to be pointing us in the opposite direction. We must believe what God says when you cannot taste, touch or smell the victory, simply because God said it.

Phillips believes this is important because, he, like Swanson, sees our current time as an apocalypse due to very specific events:

You and I are presiding over the worst international cultural apostasy of the West in more than a thousand years. There [have] been terrible wars, terrible evil. Horrible things have happened…

Never have we had major nations, major cultures that once claimed to be Christian, fundamentally questioning whether marriage is one man and one woman for life…

It is on your watch, it is on my watch that the sodomites are redefining marriage in our land. Never before in history. First time…

More professing Christians want to thwart the womb, to pervert the natural function of the body, to separate life from love, than don’t. First time ever….

This is a judgment on our land. It’s not that America is about to have judgment; it’s that America is in the midst of judgment. This is a judgment. It is perverse. It is evil. It is wrong. And where is all this pointing to? The family!

…these judgments and horrors are the product of our worship of the false gods of our day, our idolatries . . . of self, of materialism; philosophical idolatries: evolutionism, social Darwinism, feminism, statism, Marxism, and hundreds of -isms…

In contrast to all this evil, Phillips brings up Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar as shining role models: “Jim Bob just radiates Christ.”

CHEC “Men’s Leadership Summit,” Part V – “Visionary Fathers”

In his second speech, Doug Phillips brings it all home. This is where Phillips sets forth his vision for the future of the Christian home education movement:

One of the most important things we can do is to have God’s panoramic presentation for us, looking at the past, standing in the present, with our eyes focused on the future. This is a critical component of preparing the next generation for leadership.

What does this future look like?

It involves a future where men take the reins of homeschooling back from women:

The birth of the modern homeschool movement gave us a generation of mighty ladies–ladies that fear the Lord, ladies that wanted to see great things happen to their families, ladies that walk beside their sons and their daughters and their men as well. But it was predominantly a woman’s movement.

Something must be done, before… we become like Massachusetts?

If we do not continue to grow and advance further on toward where God would take us next, we will become worse off, we will become like Massachusetts, like Boston, like New England, which, having had the glory and the blessing of the Gospel, ultimately rejected it and became one of the darkest places imaginable.

The solution is heavier doses of ideology:

Is every homeschooler that goes through a state conference getting a heavy dose of vision and presuppositional apologetics in the area of education? Because if they’re not, we are actually training them to be apostate…

I remember a day when we talked about fundamentals. And we need to be speaking about them again.

…Every subject from math to history needs to be reformed to incorporate distinctively biblical presuppositions about facts and the interpretation of facts.

We should be explaining to people that mathematics makes no sense in an atheistic universe. We should be telling them that Genesis 1 is the very first primer on basic arithmetic…

And now begins Phillips’ comments that are particularly concerning for those of us in the homeschooling community that are trying to represent moderate voices as well as stand up to child abuse:

We need to realize the state has zero jurisdiction in education. None!

….We understand that the core problem with Child Protective Services is its existence.

…At the end of the day, the problem isn’t simply Child Protective Services to get better; it is eliminating it altogether.

…It is the fathers who have a duty of lovingly leading their family, and fathers, not moms, will be overseeing the home education discipleship of their family.

…the movement within home education circles of creating an androgynous educational system where we view boys and girls as having the very same outcomes of careerism and world independence is contrary to the principles of the Word of God, which teaches that we should be training our daughters, ultimately to prepare themselves for the assumption . . . –and the assumption is, they will be married, they will be keepers at home.

…if we are not willing to talk about this, what it means is, we have been usurped by feminism.

Phillips at this point references Chris Klicka:

I’m quite confident that Chris [Klicka], my brother in HSLDA, . . . We all stand unified in recognizing that the greatest threats are not legal. Those are real and they have to be addressed, but they are not the biggest ones.

And then Phillips veers into something entirely bizarre:

We will lose this movement and this work of God, men, if we do not govern our households. And that means lovingly shepherding our wives. The less you love your wife and the less you shepherd your wife, the more you create an open door for the female sin of the internet. The male sin of the internet is pornography. The female sin of the internet is gossip-mongering…

…We don’t live in the type of communities where our wives tend to go from house to house gossiping. They tend to go from blog to blog gossiping. And they spend their day going from blog to blog gossiping. And some of you are letting them.

…The world is watching. When the lesbian, feminist, transgender publishing house Beacon Press decided to release their exposé this month on families that believe in large households, they knew exactly who to go for. Go to the internet assassins. Go to the blogosphere gossips and get the information to denounce and divide the homeschool movement directly from the wives who live on the internet, gossiping 24/7.

Phillips ends his speech by calling for casting out from the homeschooling movement those who disagree:

The homeschool movement can no longer tolerate, it can no longer handle, unassociated Christian members that are simply not willing to be part of formal biblical associations.

Why? Well, because of anthrax:

If we ever find ourself in a state of martial law; if somebody puts anthrax in one of our major water supplies; if there is a suitcase nuke, which is opened up in a major city, we could very well see panic break out.

So there you have it: the agenda of the 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit. Karen Campbell provides a helpful summary of what the “Manifesto” would look like based on the presentations:

1. Destroy the entire government-run school system and abolish Child Protective Services.

2. Reject and bring an end to church-based or church-run schools.

3. Reject college or any training for daughters that might lead to them being outside of the home.

4. Kick out homeschoolers that are not willing to be part of formal biblical associations.

5. Ensure mothers are not leaders in their homes and protect them from women internet bloggers who see godly womanhood in a different light and who speak out against patriocentricity.

HSLDA’s Doug Phillips on the CPS

In light of the recent controversy between Libby Anne, HSLDA, and Homeschoolers  Anonymous’ #HSLDAMustAct campaign, I’d like to refocus now on what Doug Phillips said at the 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit:

….We understand that the core problem with Child Protective Services is its existence.

…At the end of the day, the problem isn’t simply Child Protective Services to get better; it is eliminating it altogether.

Doug Phillips, a former HSLDA attorney, explicitly called for the destruction of child protective services as they currently exist. This should concern not only the homeschooling community, but also the entire United States. Phillips’ call did not go unnoticed. In fact, Karen Campbell — in writing recently about the #HSLDAMustAct campaign — references this fact:

I am not surprised in the least that this has been the posture of HSLDA. In 2009 they co-sponsored the Homeschool Leadership Summit where one of the goals listed in their manifesto was to get rid of Child Protective Services which I discussed in this podcast series on august 15 and 21, 2010. From the first time I saw that on the list, I was dumbfounded. While I do not believe the government is the solution to all of society’s ills, I do believe there are times when it must step in to protect children who are genuinely being abused. I know many godly parents who do understand this and have become involved in the foster care system in order to provide good homes for little ones in these situations. But to me, the message HSLDA is sending is that protecting the rights of parents to homeschool trumps protecting children (any children) from abuse.

Unlike Karen, I was sadly surprised to read Libby Anne’s series on the relationship between HSLDA and child abuse. While I grew up in the “Christian home education movement” and am intimately familiar with the fears we homeschoolers had of the CPS, and while I witnessed first-hand a lot of abuse experienced by fellow homeschoolers, I was oblivious to the specifics of the relationship. I never knew, for example, that HSLDA was moving from homeschool advocacy to the dismantling of some of the cornerstones of our child welfare laws: anonymous tips, mandatory reporting, and mainstream definitions of child abuse. I never knew the details of the Michael Gravelle case — that he had a history of abuse, and later divorced his wife after he assaulted her — and I did not know that Scott Somerville, an HSLDA attorney, called Gravelle a “hero.”

It is in this context of sad surprise, then, that I encounter the words of Doug Phillips and others at the 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit. Phillips, an HSLDA attorney (though not any longer, since he left HSLDA to run Vision Forum), made a direct threat against child protection and advocated a dystopian —almost Orwellian — dream of what homeschooling can “achieve” for him and other adherents to Christian patriarchy.

Doug Phillips spoke of wanting to gut the egalitarian goals of our society and destroy child protection as we know it.

Does Doug Phillips Speak for HSLDA?

When you have a national event like the 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit, it is difficult to determine how like-minded the speakers are. I remember that, during the California Home Education Association (CHEA) conventions that my dad ran in the Bay Area when I was a kid, there would be speakers of all sorts of ideological leanings. I particularly remember Reb Bradley, a courtship proponent, mercilessly tearing into Jonathan Lindvall, a betrothal proponent, for being “extreme.” Of course, everyone at these conventions shared a common vision for conservative Christian homeschooling. But doctrinal disagreements were everywhere.

But here is the difference between CHEA conventions and the 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit: CHEA conventions did not explicitly state their purpose was to create a grand, unifying vision and manifesto for the entirety of the Christian home education movement. The speakers attending did not agree to that; the speakers attending did not constantly reference each other as ideological comrades; and the speakers attending did not have their speeches mysteriously disappear after the fact.

The question then arises, when Doug Phillips calls for the destruction of child protective services in the United States — or really, any of the other extreme positions he has — where does HSLDA stand on that?

This is particularly important with the CPS question right now. HSLDA has — to this day — not condemned another one of their attorneys, Somerville, for calling Gravelle (an incestuous child molester and self-appointed warden of his own caged children) a hero. Also, HSLDA has visibly chosen to target child protection laws instead of focus on homeschool advocacy.

To determine the relationship between Doug Phillips and HSLDA, the best thing to do is just look at what Doug Phillips and HSLDA themselves say. According to Vision Forum’s website, Phillips “served for six years at the Home School Legal Defense Association in multiple capacities including staff attorney and Director of the National Center for Home Education.”

Phillips was thus not only an HSLDA attorney. He was the Director of HSLDA’s National Center for Home Education, now called the Federal Relations Department and run by William Estrada, former director of HSLDA’s Generation Joshua program.

A quick search of HSLDA’s website shows a number of results for Doug Phillips. In 1992, Phillips was a legal staffer for HSLDA who traveled to Ontario to speak at one of Gregg Harris’ workshops. By 1993, he was the Director for Government Affairs for the National Center for Home Education, tasked with lobbying against things like the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, “all child rights bills,” and corporal punishment restrictions. In fact, when President Clinton signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (which Michael Farris drafted), Phillips attended the signing ceremony in Farris’ place when latter could not attend.

In 1995, when the extraordinarily divisive controversy in the homeschooling community over H.R. 6 erupted, Doug Phillips was at the center. It was Phillips who received the alert from Dick Armey’s office. According to HSLDA’s timeline of the H.R. 6 situation,

Doug Phillips assembles the team of ten staffers to blanket Congress, personally delivering the letter to each of the 435 Congressional offices….Doug Phillips meets with Martin Hoyt, the Washington, D.C., representative of the American Association of Christian Schools, to discuss the dangers of the Miller Amendment… Doug Phillips meets with Horace Cooper and Dean Clancy of Armey’s staff to strategize on how to obtain broad support for the “Home School/Private School Freedom Amendment.” …Christopher Klicka and Doug Phillips hold a press conference in Houston, Texas, attended by 100 home school support group leaders and three television networks.

And if you read Phillips’ own account of the fiasco, he is almost entirely the one responsible:

I was the person who received the phone call from the office of Congressman Dick Armey alerting the Home School Legal Defense Association of a threat posed by bill H.R.6…I was given the honor of serving as Director of the National Center for Home Education…I launched a national e-mail alert and physically gathered a brigade of valiant home educators to descend upon the Capitol en masse.

If this was not clear, then: Doug Phillips was the man behind one of HSLDA’s most important legislative moments in their history of advocacy.

Also in 1995, Phillips worked alongside Farris and Klicka “with a broad coalition of pro-family groups, including Concerned Women for America and Eagle Forum, to ensure that the freshmen of the 104th Congress will fulfill their promise to completely eliminate the federal role in education.” 1996 saw Philips training homeschool lobbyists as well as featured in HSLDA’s Court Report as one of “The Dads of HSLDA.”

He also was part of HSLDA’s National Legislative Strategy Day. Along with Farris and Klicka, Phillips “briefed the home school leaders on the latest developments and strategies concerning a host of federal issues. The topics included the Parental Rights and Responsibilities Act, the national registry and identification system in the Immigration bill, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, abolishing the federal role in education, and the Careers Act.”

1996 seems to be the last year that Phillips appears as an HSLDA attorney. But since then, HSLDA has made zero efforts to distance themselves from his viewpoints. In fact, almost a decade after Phillips left HSLDA to run Vision Forum, he was still featured by HSLDA as a peer. In 2007, HSLDA referred to Phillips as one of “the nation’s top leaders.” Also in 2007, Chris Klicka received an award from Doug Phillips and Vision Forum for his homeschooling advocacy. In 2008, HSLDA says of him that he is “one of the most popular conference speakers in the nation today because of his ability to encourage, inform, and inspire.” In fact, HSLDA proudly sponsored a reception at an event where he was the keynote speaker.

The official relationship between HSLDA and Doug Phillips is thus one of continued mutual admiration. There are several debates online about whether this “official” admiration is real or not. I have heard rumors that HSLDA considers Phillips to be “radical” or “extreme,” or that leaders in HSLDA consider things like ATI and Vision Forum to be “cults.” But in terms of official statements that are publicly verifiable, at no point has HSLDA distanced itself from Phillips’ ideas, and in fact on many accounts they are the same: ending public education, keep their ideas of corporal punishment legal, and so forth.

If HSLDA really was concerned with preserving child protection services, they have made no efforts to counter Phillips’ call for ending the CPS — a call made at the exact same summit where HSLDA’s research guru Brian Ray and fellow HSLDA attorney Chris Klicka spoke at, the same Klicka that Libby Anne has so well documented as being zealously dedicated in his own right to dismantling child welfare laws.

Conclusion

It has already been pointed out by Kathryn Brightbill that what Phillips said about child protective services is a sentiment shared on many levels by other HSLDA attorneys:

HSLDA seems to be arguing that even parents who are already known to law enforcement and CPS as abusive should still be allowed to homeschool. And here is another article where Christopher Klicka argues that the child abuse prevention system is too aggressive. Here is Scott Summerville claiming that parents who withdraw their kids from school to hide abuse already have social services on their trail. No suggestion that these parents should be prohibited from homeschooling if they’re withdrawing their kids to hide abuse, just an assertion that CPS will be watching.I am unable to find an instance where HSLDA has indicated that they believe that abusive parents should be prevented from homeschooling.

Brightbill wonders whether this might be part of some overarching legal strategy on HSLDA’s part:

The only thing that makes sense to me is that HSLDA is doing what they’re doing with abusers as part of a well thought out legal strategy with the end game being the Supreme Court ruling that homeschooling is a fundamental right that is subject to virtually zero regulations…The idea that HSLDA would be using children who have been abused by their parents as pawns to expand the right to homeschooling is too horrific for me to really want to contemplate. But yet, it’s also the strategy that makes logical sense if an expanded fundamental right to homeschooling is the goal.

Whether or not this is HSLDA’s intention, here is what we know: Two HSLDA attorneys attended the 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit, which included some of the most dystopian, nightmarish language about the future of homeschooling that I have ever encountered. The evidence of this fact has almost gone entirely unnoticed, and all the original evidence apparently has vanished. At that conference, Doug Phillips, a former HSLDA attorney, called for the destruction of the United States’ child protection system. A then-current (now deceased) HSLDA attorney, Christopher Klicka, was there. He never repudiated Phillips’ statement, and his career indicates that he, too, desired a similar dismantling of child welfare laws. Another current HSLDA attorney, Scott Somerville, called Michael Gravelle, a child and wife abuser, a hero.

This is no longer about homeschooling. The vision and manifesto laid out at the 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit should surely worry anyone with a vested interest in countering the extreme voices in the Christian home education movement. Laid out were misogynistic, educationally neglectful, and frankly dangerous ideas. And as Heather Doney points out, “This kind of perverse ideology has hurt too many unsuspecting families, too many men, women, and children already, including my own family. ”

But also laid out there was a vision that entails a fundamental redefinition of how our society thinks about child abuse. That fundamental redefinition would have extraordinary ramifications for all children in this country, just not homeschooling children. That redefinition, articulated so explicitly by a former HSLDA attorney, has only been echoed and enhanced by other representatives of HSLDA through their own words and actions.

If HSLDA fundamentally disagrees with Phillips and fundamentally disagrees with Somerville’s choice of words, then now is the time for them to speak up. For too long their silence has been complicity.

“We understand that the core problem with Child Protective Services is its existence.”

This is no longer about homeschooling and child abuse in homeschooling communities. This is about protecting every child in this country.