Former Employee of David and Teresa Moon at Communicators for Christ Alleges Workplace Abuse, Harassment

Susan Young
Susan Young

HA note: The following story is written by Susan Young, the Communicators for Christ Executive Assistant from Summer 2005 until Spring 2007. While HA took care to verify the claims contained herein, it must be noted for potential legal reasons that the claims are the author’s and not HA’s.


We’d hit the bottom.

I thought it was my fault

And in a way I guess it was.

I’m just now finding out

What it was all about.

Those words from Ben Folds have rung true in multiple relationships in my life and none of them were healthy. The situation described, though, should never develop in your place of work. I realize now that there are things like labor laws and I know phrases like “hostile work environment.” At the time, I was naïve and far too old at the age of 23 to be so unaware of my own rights.

My rights weren’t exactly a big part of what I had been taught.

I was a good homeschooled girl. I had graduated with great test scores and had decided that college was completely unnecessary for my future. My plan for my life saw me at home with my parents until I would meet and marry a good, preferably homeschooled man. While all of this could bring up many other topics, suffice it to say that in many ways, I fit the profile of the community.

My younger brother had become something of an early rising star in the home school speech and debate community – an activity I had never participated in. Being eight years older, I had long since graduated and was working as a piano teacher. My family, however, was growing personally closer and closer to the Moon family and they were meeting up outside of Communicators for Christ conferences. Eventually, I was invited to attend a get together as well. It wasn’t long afterward that I was offered a part time job updating the CFC database and I accepted.

For the next few months, I was a strange, creepy person who called up random strangers from a spreadsheet asking them to verify and update all of their information for us including all of their children’s names and birthdays. It struck me as at least as weird and frightening as it did the people I was calling, but I was sold on CFC as a whole and would have done pretty much anything Teresa Moon told me to do. My parents believed in it, and therefore so did I.

I became more and more involved in the workings of CFC. Eventually, I gave up teaching piano, devoting more and more time. It was good timing for Teresa as her current administrative assistant was leaving for a new job opportunity. The role would soon fall to me.

The earliest clue I could look back on and recognize that should have told me something was badly wrong with my job was when the former administrative assistant was leaving. She took me aside, looked me right in the eye to make sure she had my full attention and said, “Guard your time.” I promised her I would, not really taking the warning very seriously.

Teresa told me that they wanted me to be an independent contractor, not an employee. She explained to me that we would both save money this way since my taxes wouldn’t be withheld.  Even though I read the requirements from the IRS that made it clear my type of position wasn’t eligible for independent contractor status I believed her and was sure she wouldn’t do anything illegal, so I went along with it.

After all, why would she lie to me?

My second clue that this was all wrong bounced off my optimistic skull almost as easily as the first one. While going through customer emails, one came in that I didn’t know how to respond to. It was a warning directed to anyone involved with Communicators for Christ to stay away. The author of the email told whoever might possibly read her note before it was deleted that anyone who gets too involved or gets too close to the Moons ends up deeply hurt. I sent it on to Teresa not knowing what else to do. She told me to delete it and treated it like it was just something to be ignored from someone who was very bitter. Even then, I couldn’t help but wonder what had happened to trigger such a dire warning.

Soon, my work load exploded. My days were a mushroom cloud of maintaining spreadsheets of all conference registrations for the entire tour, answering all phone calls and emails except a few directed specifically to Teresa, packing and shipping all of the orders for the online book store, running every credit card by typing the number manually into a terminal since we had no online shopping cart system, retrieving the mail from the company box, going over each bill with David Moon, taking care of payments for all bills, both business and personal, maintaining the records of all things financial in QuickBooks, and occasional random errands like picking up printing orders and dry cleaning.

At first I could manage it, but as tour season came closer and then launched, leaving me to manage alone in the office for months on end, it became more than one person could handle. After arriving at the office at 9 in the morning, I would get just barely caught up enough on my work to rush the day’s book order out of the door to the UPS store barely in time for pick up mid afternoon and grab lunch at a drive through on the way back to be consumed while sitting at the computer futilely attempting to catch up again. At 9 pm, I would trudge out of the office after the credit card terminal automatically closed the day’s batch to drive home, stopping at another drive through on the way.  This would happen Monday through Saturday and I would sometimes slip in a few hours on Sunday.

David once laughingly told me it was a good thing I was on a salary because they couldn’t afford me otherwise.

Meanwhile, my mother and Teresa became closer and closer friends. They met up often and soon it became apparent that nothing was off limits in their discussions. Not my job performance, and not my personal struggles with my family. I don’t believe my mother was intentionally trying to cause problems at work, but in hindsight I’ve been given every reason to believe that Teresa stores up this type of information to use and get what she wants.

Those home issues could be a whole other series of articles, but for now, all that’s relevant is that living at home at the age of 23 was not going well. My battle with depression, which had already been off and on for nearly a decade, was a constant in my life at this point. Still, I was trying desperately hard to be the good girl and earn approval. That approval at home now seemed inseparably tied to my performance at work.

Several weeks into my 70+ hour per week work schedule is when it all spiraled into addiction. Due to a strange food allergy, I can get ridiculously high on a fairly common ingredient: artificial food coloring. Later after meeting people who were quite familiar with drugs, I described the symptoms and they told me it was exactly like crack. Obtaining it was as easy as my usual runs to the drive through on the way home. Taco Bell provided my dinner and my fix in the form of a burrito and a large pink lemonade that I would sneak up to my room frequently so I wouldn’t have to interact with anyone while under its influence.

Eventually, it became clear to Teresa that I wasn’t keeping up, so in response she turned up the pressure on me and began calling frequently from the road to check on what I was doing, obviously convinced I wasn’t doing anything. I would also receive phone calls from David who would berate me and scream at me because in my struggle to keep everything on track for the business, I would drop balls like one of their personal bills. I knew it was all going to hit the fan after tour. Before they came back, I took a vacation they approved during which I still checked in on phone messages, returned calls, answered emails, and shipped book orders. I had literally brought books with me so I could fill orders.

After they returned, it was like I had feared. I had not lived up to their expectations. I was a failure. They wanted to know what went wrong. Why had I taken that vacation when there was so much work? I hadn’t done the work they were paying me for. I wasn’t worth my $18,000 per year salary.

I couldn’t do it any more.

I got up, dressed, and got in the car as though to go to work at my usual time, pulled out of the driveway, and went in what appeared to be the right direction. At a crucial intersection, I took the opposite turn driving away from the CFC office. Without really remembering much about the trip there, I was sitting in the back of the Walmart parking lot fighting to get control of my frantic breathing. I had a plan.

It would be easy enough to walk in, buy a knife from either sporting goods or kitchen supplies, take it back to my car, and end my life at the back of the parking lot.

As a last ditch effort, I called a number my therapist had given me where they’re supposed to talk you out of killing yourself. They tried to get me to a hospital, but I couldn’t get there from their directions. I wasn’t incredibly motivated to find it considering my worst fear was and still is a hospital psychiatric ward. They talked me into calling a family member and said they were going to call back and check on me. They didn’t. I called my dad who convinced me to come home. Turns out that Teresa had already called them wondering where I was. I got home. No one said much. My parents sent me to bed.

Later that day, Teresa showed up at my house. My parents left me alone with her to talk. I remember she asked a lot of questions. She wanted to know why I had done what I did. I don’t remember what all I told her, but I do know she learned about my depression and ADHD. She acted like that explained a lot about me. What I didn’t realize was that she was collecting ammunition.

She liked to push me

And talk me back down

Until I believed I was the crazy one.

And in a way, I guess I was.

 The following weeks, I was back at work, only now they knew. Under the guise of concern, Teresa monitored me, checking on what I was doing, and scrutinizing everything I ate. While she didn’t know about my allergy, I never brought colored food to work, so there was nothing to see there. She was convinced that something I ate had to be triggering my depression and my work failures. Somehow, the culprit was erroneously identified as carbohydrates and I began ordering grilled chicken salads every day to avoid her judgment on my lunch.

Eventually, I even switched to a therapist she recommended.

Teresa told me she was glad I wasn’t seeing my old therapist any more because “Every time you saw her you came back talking about your rights.”

Her opinions extended to the medications I tried and she didn’t hide her disappointment after I stopped a particular one due to its horrible side effects.

The annual Masters conference was where it all finally went to pieces. One of my jobs had been to drive some of the volunteer staff assistants from their host home to the conference and back every day. My driving style was a lot more cautious than it was aggressive, so I became the butt of their constant jokes and taunting about my driving skills every day morning and night. Eventually, it took its toll and an intern found me in a bathroom crying and asked what was wrong, so I told her. Maybe that was a mistake, but later that day I was called in front of a very angry Teresa after the story had made its way through the rumor mill up to her. All of these volunteers were hoping to become interns in the future and she had her eye on several of them for the position. If what I had said were true, it would disqualify all of them from interning, including my own brother, since people now knew about their disrespect. That is, unless I changed my story and made a point of telling anyone who asked about it that I had overreacted and they weren’t really teasing me so much.

Caving to the pressure, I made myself out to be the crazy one. I think the only people who didn’t really believe my modified story was the intern who had found me in tears and a select few of the kids I had been driving who knew what they did and realized how close they had come to losing their internships.

As if that weren’t enough, a flu epidemic swept through nearly all of the attendees and I was not spared.  Despite the fact that I couldn’t stand without shaking, Teresa made no effort to hide her irritation at finding that I had involuntarily fallen asleep on a sofa in the staff room. The next day, I had to excuse myself from driving students for their own safety after collapsing on the floor.

And I twisted it wrong just to make it right.

Had to leave myself behind.

The week after the conference, Teresa sat me down across from her and grilled me about what went wrong. She said I had done a better job the year before when I hadn’t known what I was doing yet. I was also berated about the work that had fallen behind in recent months. In my effort not to miss bills and keep everything up to date for conferences, bookkeeping had suffered. There were implications that it traced back to my mental health and that I wasn’t fit for the job. I believed her. I was damaged and worthless. That’s when she told me, “You haven’t done the job we’ve been paying you to do. How are you going to make that up to me?” The same shaking, desperate girl that had sat in her car in the back of the Walmart parking lot fought for some form of redemption.

Teresa was finally satisfied when I told her that I would give back my paychecks for January, which I had not yet deposited, and I would work through February for free.

After that, I would resign. Teresa added the caveat that working through February would be enough if the work was caught up by that time. Once again, my lack of knowledge regarding labor laws and her experience with how to manipulate me allowed her to take advantage.

Over the next month and a half through the end of February, the slow season allowed me to catch up on the bookkeeping and prepare to leave the world that my family revolved around more each day. My mother came to the office frequently as she prepared to spearhead the new chapter program. My brother readied himself for his internship the following tour season.

I left the office for what I thought would be the last time at the end of February. I was called back again in March to train my replacement – for no pay of course. Tax season came around and Teresa’s deception about my “savings” as an independent contractor came to light and I was left with almost nothing not long before I would have to strike out on my own and support myself.

My home situation was crumbling as everyone but me, the now unemployed oldest child, practically orbited around the Moon family. To be clear, I don’t think that Teresa or CFC was the cause of our problems. But I don’t hesitate to say that our involvement accelerated the self destruct course we had already been travelling for years.

It wasn’t until much later that I fully “opened my eyes and walked out the door” of that world. Yes, I could have sued CFC and had I realized it before the statute of limitations was up, I probably would have. Looking back is a painful, nauseating experience.

The worst part is reading the stories of others who have been abused by Teresa and realizing that my work facilitated her behavior.

I ask myself how much longer it’s going to go on before someone still in a position to bring them to justice and hopefully put a stop to it will speak out. I’m not the only one who has been pushed to the point of harming themselves. How long do we have before someone is driven to another suicide attempt? What if it’s successful?

I’ve just passed the 7 year anniversary of when I resigned my position with CFC. Despite everything I’m sure Teresa still believes about me, I’m proven myself responsible and capable many times, which has lead to success in my career. Since then, I’ve learned some crucial things that would have drastically changed my experiences:

  • Employers do not have the right to force, encourage, or even allow staff to work for free.
  • Employers do not have the right to be privy to the details of their staff’s medical conditions. There are a few exceptions where it might affect their job or cause them to miss work, in which case they may require a doctor’s note. Situations in which an employer can require a doctor’s note vary by state.
  • Employers have no say over the medical care of their staff. That is entirely up to the patient.
  • If there is ever any question about whether an employer’s behavior is acceptable and you live in the US, each state has a department of labor that can clarify the law for the state you live in. There is also the National Labor Relations board, which covers different rights and has several offices throughout the US. There is a section on that explains the particular rights they protect.
  • I have the right to report any illegal activity by my employer to the appropriate government office without fear of retribution.
  • Any therapist worth their fee will tell a patient to quit a job that is making them suicidal, even if it means living on unemployment for a while.

If I had known half of this, maybe I wouldn’t have taken the job. Perhaps I would have left sooner.

Maybe someone will learn from my mistakes and not allow their boss to take advantage of them.

It’s Not Always Rainbows and Roses Now, But: Eloah’s Story


HA notes: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Eloah” is a pseudonym.

I promised a long time ago that I would write something for Homeschoolers Anonymous, but it has been hard to put these feelings to words to pixels.

I wanted so badly to contribute something positive, constructive, maybe even hopeful, to what I feared could well turn into a chaotic frenzy of confessions and self-justifications.

But I also wanted to tell the truth. Honesty, if I learned nothing else from my mistakes, is I believe the paramount virtue. I value it above—well, practically all else.

Honesty is what has brought miraculous healing to some very broken relationships, including those with my parents.

Relationships that were broken as a result of the culture fostered in the homeschooling circle I grew up in.

You see: My parents raised me to know good from bad, right from wrong, and to see things in black and white. And if there was ever confusion about which was which, the adults surrounding me had strong opinions about it that they forcefully fed to their young.

At a very early age, I learned to parrot what I heard, even if I didn’t understand or agree with it. I could passionately espouse a strong opinion in public that was either ill-formed with virtually little thought, or precisely the opposite of what I really felt.

Because I sensed that there was no room for error, I quickly became an expert liar. Even now looking back, I don’t think I realized I was doing it. My outward expressions I believe were genuine attempts to force myself to “be good” and to meet the judgmental approval of my friends’ parents and my parents’ friends.

I thought maybe if I said something long enough, and adopted a self-righteous attitude about it, I could come to believe it, accept it and maybe even agree with it.

Never, ever underestimate a child’s need for approval from adults, especially her parents.

Why would I strive so hard for approval from people who gossiped hours on end about others, their mistakes and their “sins”? (If you can call listening to rock music, going on dates with boys, wearing pants and going to college as a female “sins.”)

Because I knew they would eat me alive if I didn’t meet their expectations—in a figurative sense, of course. But the last thing I wanted was to be a topic of hypocritical and self-righteous conversation. I dreaded the punishments—the intense, oppressive groundings that were meant to treat the aforementioned sins.

This is why it’s remarkable that I did what I did, at that Master’s Conference in 2003. It was in Birmingham, my hometown, and a boy I flirted with sometimes was on guest staff with Communicators for Christ, which puts on the communications conference/tournament.

I was almost 18. I kissed him in a stairwell between rounds one day. Or he kissed me. Who ever knows? It was my first kiss, and I was giddy and excited and happy and all of those emotions that come with your first.

Except somebody saw or found out, as they inevitably do in those circles, and it got back to my parents. And before I knew it, the family staying with us that week had learned of it. And the mother called me a slut, in front of my family and hers, and said she would not trust me alone with her son (who happened to be quite a few years younger than I).

If I had committed murder, I might have met more sympathy.

I resigned from the Master’s worship team, not because I was forced to but because I knew I was expected to.

The emotional roller coaster after all of that doesn’t even need describing. You can imagine for yourselves.

On the one hand I felt liberated at last – “the adults” knew me for what I was: an imperfect human being. No need to go on pretending anymore. But on the other hand, I felt more trapped than ever. I remember one other girl—one considered among homeschoolers as “notorious,” if you know what I mean—reaching out to offer me sympathy and support. “We bad girls need to stick together,” she said.

I was horrified, because I realized I was now a “bad girl.”

I had been branded with the Scarlet A, and there was no living it down. Decent parents would never allow their sons and daughters around me again.

It wasn’t until years later that I realized she probably wasn’t all that bad. She probably wore a short skirt once, or talked back at a condescending parent. Or kissed a boy.

I can’t tell this story without sharing the redemption. Yes, it was ugly for many years, yes my relationships (romantic and otherwise) got progressively dysfunctional. I became a liar about everything—things that didn’t even matter. I hurt people just to hurt them. I rebelled just to rebel. I felt. Trapped.

Until I started speaking up about it.

Until I started talking to my parents, and sharing with them my feelings. Yes, we had many a loud argument with slamming of doors. Yes, they kicked me out, numerous times, but always let me come back. Yes, we disagreed, and there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth, but you know what?

We were hashing things out. We were challenging each other, and learning from one another. And eventually I realized they weren’t wrong about everything, they didn’t hate me and they genuinely did not realize the pressure their behaviors had put on me.

Because I never told them.

And I think maybe they realized that not everyone was formed from the same mold, and that regardless, people are entitled to learn from their own mistakes. And that maybe self-righteousness, judgment, hypocrisy and gossip are also sins.

It’s not always rainbows and roses now, but what I so love and appreciate about my parents (and I think many others from that circle have come to this place now, too) is that they love, respect and see me as a person now – not a parrot. I appreciate that they have been humble, teachable and eager to change their ways so as not to repeat the mistakes with my little brothers. There is a closeness we have now that we never experienced when I was simply walked through life agreeing with them on the outside but confused and trapped on the inside.

And who knows if we ever would have come to this place if I had not spoken up?

I only hope this story gives others the courage to speak up now, if they haven’t already.

Incorporating Thinkers: A Lesson in Debate Theory and Wolves


By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Slightly more than a week ago, a blog called Thinkers Incorporated (TI) published three posts about Homeschoolers Anonymous. TI describes itself in the following way:

Thinkers Incorporated is a unique blog devoted to the study and application of effective reasoning. With the purpose of promoting rational thought, inspiring a love for thinking, and spreading ideas worth contemplating, Thinkers Incorporated is regularly updated and promises new material for your scrutiny each week.

There are currently four writers at TI: Joseph Clarkson, Luke Adams, Owen Stroud, and Paul Hastings. From what I have read, they were all homeschooled to one extent or another. Most of them did homeschool speech or debate via NCFCA. Some have been involved with the Institute for Cultural Communicators, which is the organization that grew out of Communicators for Christ. ICC/CFC is the same organization that Nicholas Ducote and I both worked for, and also the same organization that Josh Craddock (the guy that called us “homos”) worked for.

Small world, huh?

Paul Hastings is the Legislative Liaison for the Texas Home School Coalition and also did some film work for the trailer for the IndoctriNation movie. Joseph Clarkson is currently homeschooled and recently completed an internship with the Texas Home School Coalition. (By the way, if you are wondering why “Texas Home School Coalition” sounds familiar, it is probably because either (1) it was in the news recently over the whole Ken Ham/atheism debacle, or (2) it was the group behind Texas’ “Tim Tebow” bill.) Luke Adams, who also interned with the Texas Home School Coalition, is attending Hillsdale College. Owen Stroud is a junior at Texas A&M University and interns with Texans for Fiscal Responsiblity.

When I read the first post from TI, which was Joseph’s, I had some serious disagreements with him. I also noticed he (and also the other two) got quite a few facts wrong about HA.

But more than anything, I was struck with how much I actually agree with him.

We both experienced some positives about homeschooling. We both agree that there are problems in the Christian homeschool movement. We both agree that we should not use generalizations. So while Joseph clearly had some qualms with HA (and while I think those qualms are unfounded), it was a breath of fresh air to hear someone “take us to task” but do so in a way that did not involve calling us “homos” or saying we “deserve a beatdown.” He did imply I have “rudimentary marketing skills,” but, hey — you cannot win every battle and I can only make things go viral every once in a while.

In the spirit of dialogue, I want to both point the HA community to the TI series as well as preface that pointing with some thoughts of my own. These thoughts are:

1. We Are An Inclusive Community

I have two overarching objections to the Thinkers Incorporated series. Although, honestly, “objection” is not the right word. Objection might imply I am opposed to hearing the voices of the TI writers. The fact is, I am willing to hear their voices. So these are less objections and more observations. The first observation is this:

Insofar as the writers at Thinkers Incorporated are (1) alumni of the Christian homeschool movement and (2) admitting that movement has problems that should be addressed, their voices are not excluded from Homeschoolers Anonymous.

The writers at TI go to great lengths to communicate that that they grew up in the same world we did but they had positive experiences. They also balance this positivity by each admitting that they saw problems within the Christian homeschool movement.

Normally I would just say, “Well, that’s a wrap!”

But the curious thing is, the TI writers seem to think that those two aspects of themselves make them distinct from, or other than, or even opposed to, Homeschoolers Anonymous. But that is simply not the case. Just look at me, as a glaring example: I, like them, would describe my experience in general as positive. But I, like them, saw negative aspects as well.

This is certainly not the case for everyone in the HA community. Some of us had generally negative experiences. Some of us had rather mixed experiences. We are by no means homogenous. We have vastly differing political and religious beliefs. And it is honestly amazing — and so encouraging — to see that so many different people from different ideologies and beliefs can come together and give each other space to speak.

Have you thought about how amazing that is? We listen to each other’s stories and express so much compassion, love, and respect for one another, even when we disagree.

That is what makes this community beautiful and healing.

And that is what makes the TI series strange to me: what they wrote is not somehow “other than” Homeschoolers Anonymous. In a sense we can “co-opt” what they wrote.

For all you debaters and debate alumni out there, this is a great example of how the “mutual exclusivity” requirement has real-life implications.

For all you non-debaters, I will try to explain this as simply as possible.

In policy debate, there are two teams debating a topic. One team argues for the topic and one team argues against the topic. The team arguing for the topic is the “affirmative” (because they are affirming the topic). The team arguing against the topic is the “negative” (because they are negating the topic). The affirming team, in order to actually affirm the topic, usually does two things: (1) they point out that the way things currently are is problematic, and (2) they propose a solution to fix those problems — the solution being the debated topic.

For example, let’s say the topic is, “Resolved: we should make the Christian homeschool movement better.” The affirmative team in this case would say, “Right now, there problems in the Christian homeschool movement. Children are getting hurt because of these problems. Our solution is to make the Christian homeschool movement better by bringing awareness to these problems.”

In this case, the negating team would have several options if they wanted to negate this topic. Here are just two examples: (1) The negative could argue that we do not need to make the Christian homeschool movement better because there are no problems. If something ain’t broke, why fix it?

Another tactic would be (2) the negative could argue that, yes, there are problems, but the other team’s solution — bring awareness — is misguided. In this case, the negative team would offer a counterplan.

Since the negative team in this case has to argue against making the Christian homeschool movement better, their alternative solution to the affirmative team’s problems must therefore involve something other than making the Christian homeschool movement better. Otherwise the affirmative team could just say, “Well, our opponents agree that there are problems, and they also agree we should make the Christian homeschool movement better — so, really, we’re just two affirmative teams here who merely disagree as to how to make the movement better. So we win.”

The key concept here is that, when the team arguing against the topic is willing to admit that there are problems that require a solution, their solution needs to be at odds with the other team’s solution. They need to be mutually exclusive, in other words. If the affirmative team’s solution to problems in the Christian homeschool movement is, “We should increase awareness,” and the negative team’s counter plan is, “We should avoid generalizations,” these solutions are not mutually exclusive.

One can increase awareness while also avoiding generalizations. 

So the affirmative team could co-opt (or to use debate theory jargon, “permute”) the negative team’s solution as part of their own solution.

That is the idea of mutual exclusivity.

2. TI is not mutually exclusive to HA

While explaining that idea, I have also explained my second observation about all of the writings by Thinkers Incorporated about HA. My second observation is simply that everything they said about communication — avoiding generalizations, stereotypes, and ad hominems — I completely agree with. So I am not really sure what the point was.

Is homeschooling very diverse? Yep.

Are Christian homeschoolers very diverse? Yep.

Should we try to avoid demonizing homeschooling as an educational option while we bring awareness to problems in our homeschooling environments? Yep.

Should we try to avoid demonizing Christians who choose to homeschool while we bring awareness to problems in our homeschooling environments? Yep.

And so on and so forth.

By posturing themselves as somehow “opposed” to HA and our goal of making homeschooling better for future generations, it actually just makes everything a bit more difficult. Because that opposition makes it harder to take their suggestions from a non-defensive posture ourselves. (And to be fair, they are not opposed to our mission; they are opposed to our “narrative,” however they interpret or misinterpret it.)

It is one thing to say, “Hey, can I share my positive experiences so I can help you balance out your narrative?”

Or, “Hey, I notice you have some pro-regulation posts regarding fighting child abuse. I also believe in fighting child abuse, but I believe self-policing is a better solution. Can I write about self-policing as an alternative?”

To either of those questions, I would respond, “Absolutely!”

But it is another thing to say things like, “They’re a wolf doing a poor job of putting on a fleece” (as Paul Hastings did), or “They sound like bitter, angry children who need to go to their earthly parents and heavenly father to work things out” (as someone responding to Paul Hasting’s comment did). If you acknowledge there are problems, and you actually care about fixing those problems, then by all means let’s work together! We can agree to disagree on many things — this is evident from the fact that the HA community consists of Millennials, Gen X’ers, Boomers, current homeschoolers, former homeschoolers, students, parents, conservatives, moderates, liberals, libertarians, Marxists, Christians, atheists, Buddhists, Protestants, Catholics, Universalists, and so forth.

I highly doubt any one of us agrees entirely with any other one of us. But we all care about figuring out ways to make homeschooling better.

If that makes us wolves, we will proudly howl at the moon.

To read the Thinkers Incorporated series

Having said all that, I want to reiterate that I appreciated hearing these voices, and to understand how some people — who admit there are problems in this movement — perceive our “narrative.” Unlike what some people have alleged, Homeschoolers Anonymous is not some tone-deaf echo chamber whose arch-enemies are God, country, and homeschooling.

It is for this reason that, over a week ago, I reached out to Joseph and asked him to contribute something to HA. I also mentioned our upcoming positives series to him, so that if any of the TI writers wanted to add their voices, they knew they would be explicitly welcome. I sincerely hope they participate.

If you are interested in reading what Joseph, Luke, and Owen wrote over at Thinkers incorporated, the links are provided below. I am also posting on HA some thoughts that Lana Hope at Wide Open Ground had about the TI series. As a community here at HA and also more broadly as members or alumni of the Christian homeschool movement, my hope is that we can have a spirited dialogue about all these issues together.

This dialogue that we are finally having — and I include the TI writers in that dialogue — is one of the main reasons I wanted to create Homeschoolers Anonymous.

The TI series:

A Week of Joy: Call for Contributions to HA’s Upcoming Positives Series

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By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator


I have a very complicated relationship with homeschooling.

In many ways I have significant problems with the Christian homeschool movement; in many other ways, however, I appreciate my homeschool education. My education was lacking in some areas, particularly science, but it was also exceptionally above average in other areas, such as language arts and communication. I have suffered emotional and verbal abuse in homeschooling contexts. But this was at the hands of other homeschooling parents, not my own parents. My parents have been extraordinarily supportive of Homeschoolers Anonymous, for which I am deeply grateful. Also, while I experienced emotional and verbal abuse in homeschooling contexts, I have also experienced sexual abuse in a public school context.

I am under no delusion about the universality of abuse.

It is for these reasons that I do not primarily see my identity as a survivor of homeschooling. In many ways I am a survivor: I am a survivor of abuse, sometimes from abuse in homeschooling and sometimes not. But my experiences are too mixed to be able to fairly isolate only one community from which I am a survivor. I have instead channeled that complex pain into wanting to make the world a better place in whatever context I can. Since homeschooling was my life for so many years, I see myself as an advocate for other homeschoolers who have had far worse experiences than I have.

Honestly, most of my experiences growing up in SELAH and CHEA, my California homeschool groups, were positive. It was while traveling around the country with Communicators for Christ that my eyes were opened to all the different subcultures and ideologies that can create real and serious damage to children. Growing up, I only had an inkling about some of these phenomena. I did not begin to connect the dots until I came into contact with thousands of other homeschoolers and began observing patterns.

Much of my life has revolved around this sort of tension, or dialectic: there is so much good, and there is much bad; there is so much pain, and there is so much joy.

As we begin our next “week series,” I am hoping that as a community we can explore this sense of tension and the reality of dialectic in our experiences.

On July 15, we asked you as a community to pick the next topic you’d like to see us address as a community. We received votes via Facebook comments, private messages, emails, and Tweets. Honestly, there was a good number of votes for all four of the options: (1) Mental health, mental illness week, (2) Abusive relationships week, (3) Grandparent(s) appreciation week, and (4) Positives (what you liked about homeschooling) week.

No one topic won by a landslide.

So obviously we need to cover all of these at some point in the near future. Mental health came in second, with a lot of vocal support for it. So it seems that would be the most appropriate topic for the series after this next one.

For the immediate next series, the winning topic was positives.

While this topic was the winner, it also received a lot of pushback — which, frankly, I understand. If you have suffered neglect or abuse in homeschooling, you’ve probably spent the majority of your life wearing a “I love homeschooling and nothing is wrong with it” mask. This might be the first time in your entire life that you’ve felt the freedom to talk about the negatives. You might be thinking, “I don’t want to talk about positives. I’ve done nothing but talk about the positives since I was a kid.”

Honestly, I personally relate to that sentiment.

At the same time that every fiber of my being wants to finally talk about the negatives, there is a place for the positives in our community. Not everyone in our community has had a bad experience. Not every ally here has experienced our pain. But they are here, supporting us, and listening to us.

I want to give people with positive experiences a place to be heard, too.

Our allies’ positive experiences are fundamentally vital to making homeschooling better for future generations. Those of us with good stories are examples of how homeschooling can be done well.

For every story that says, “This was a problem,” the question is raised: “What is the solution?” Sharing positive experiences is crucial to teaching current and future homeschooling parents the difference between those environments that led to pain and those environments that led to joy.

We need to hear those.

So those of you in our community that have had positive experiences, this is your time to speak up.

And to those of you in our community that have had negative experiences, this is actually also your time.

A week of positives does not mean we are just talking about generally positive homeschooling experiences. Yes, it means that we are taking a week to celebrate the good things. But it also means we are dedicating time to celebrate those moments of joy that contrasted with those moments of pain. This is a week of joy for everyone: to share in others’ good experiences, and also to celebrate those people or those moments that gave us a hope to carry on, that gave us maybe a unique experience of unconditional love.

I have moments like that. I remember when a horde of parents surrounded me and yelled at me (no exaggeration), and one parent silently pulled me out of that crowd and went for a walk with me. That one parent in a very real sense rescued me. He told me that, regardless of what the other parents might say, I was valuable. I was a human being and I was to be unconditionally loved.

I learned that lesson from a conservative Christian homeschooling father. So I celebrate him.

I remember that moment because moments like that, though maybe few and far between, are some of my favorite memories to this day.

Our upcoming positives week is an official celebration

Of parents that succeeded in giving their kids a good education, of those adults or peers that showed you real compassion, love, or respect, of those moments that gave you hope and healing amidst not-so-positive experiences.

Let’s celebrate all of those things together.


To contribute:

If you are interested in contributing, here are some ideas for what you could write about:

  1. Your personal story of a positive homeschool education
  2. Your personal story of positive aspects of your homeschool education
  3. An experience you had where another person in your homeschool life (one of your parents, another homeschooling parent, a friend, a tutor, etc.) showed you love or respect that maybe you had not experienced before
  4. An experience you had where another person in your homeschool life taught you something that gave you hope about the future, or maybe a personal struggle you had

You do not have to pick just one topic. You could combine several of these ideas, or bring your own ideas to the table, or — if you have a lot to say — contribute several pieces on a variety of these topics.

The deadline for submission is August 23, 2013.

As always, you can contribute anonymously or publicly.

If you interested in participating in this, please email us at

The Space To Be Human: Jayni’s Story

The Space To Be Human: Jayni’s Story

I was fourteen when I was introduced to CFC/NCFCA. The mother of another large home schooling family approached my mom with the “great opportunity” to provide all of the meals for a CFC conference she was coordinating. “If you make all of the meals the conference fees are waived for your family and I thought of you, since you have so many children.”

The conference was terrible. There were very clear expectations of what each attendee should look like and how they should act.  The conference was full of bright, happy, perfect home schoolers with impeccable manners. They all looked like they had stepped out of a Lands’ End catalog. (Lands’ End: the modest J. Crew) I was embarrassed to have to re-wear the only two skirts I owned for a full week. I was ashamed to be a “scholarship” kid.  I inwardly raged at the attitude that you were a bad Christian if you were not a good speaker. Naturally shy and introverted, I balked at the idea of ending the week by giving a short public speech.

It was very clear to me that I was an outsider. But by the end of the conference my mother was sold: her kids needed to do this NCFCA thing. And by the end of the conference I was hesitantly intrigued by debate: my mother would support me verbally fighting with people? Awesome.

Looking back at the few years I spent in NCFCA, I am struck by the contrast I experienced. On one hand, every organized experience (both in and out-of-state conferences, CFC, and Masters) were terrible. On the other hand, I met people who saved my life.

The first year I partnered will my unenthusiastic older brother. Wisconsin was very new to NCFCA and there was only one in-state tournament. We were warned ahead of time that all of the “community” judges were biased towards the hosting debate club. We were assured that if we lost every single round it was not an indication of our debating ability. We went 2-4 and I was devastated. I saved every ballot and poured over them incessantly, trying to find the key to my failure. For a league that touted Communicating for Christ there was very little grace for the losers.

The next year my brother went to public school. I was partner-less in a rural area with no club. I turned to everyone’s favorite online phorum to find a partner and debate coaching. It was extremely intimidating: apparently I was the only one who had not spent every waking moment since I was 12 obsessed about debate. I began spending upwards of six hours a day researching (I’ll admit, now, often without a clue about what I was looking for.)  I found an out-of-state partner and began pushing my parents to let me attend more tournaments. This meant expensive out of state travel; something my mother had not planned on. My birthday present that year was attending a practice tournament in Indiana.

The comments on my ballots that year were evenly split between admonishments of “have more confidence! =)” and “you are too intimidating and forceful, try to be more lady-like.” The capstone was at that year’s aforementioned state tournament. In a semi-final round my partner and I were debating against the tournament coordinator’s son. Before the round began when we all filed into the room to introduce ourselves to the [impartial] judges and shake their hands, one of them leaned over the table to give this guy a hug and mentioned something that happened at church last Sunday. I shook it off; I knew this team relied on smooth talking for the win, but nobody could ignore my heavy box of evidence. They were affirmative and the case was weak.  I jumped out of my chair to cross examine him after the 1A. There was a huge hole in the case and I dived right in. He talked around the question. I asked it again. He changed the subject. I rephrased and asked the same question. It got heated.

I doubt I even have to tell you that we lost the round because I was “rude.” The kicker? The timekeeper was the guy’s younger sister. My father was in the room watching the round and said afterward that when it was clear that I “had him,” the girl stopped the clock and called time.

Losing that round prevented me from going to nationals. Knowing my season was finished, I decided to focus on the friendships I had built through the online phorum instead. The phorum became a huge outlet for me. Thinking about this is still hard, and it’s hard to put into words. Looking back, the largest flaw I see in the home school debate world was the propensity to radiate perfection in everything. Because, obviously, if we’re Christians, we’re perfect.

I was envious of those “perfect” debators, and the more popular and perfect they were, the more I hated them, knowing I could never be them. I was fifteen the first time I typed over AIM that I was depressed. It took a long time to type those words because it took a long time to realize them. My closest friend, the one I had chosen to tell, responded by saying he didn’t think depression was a real thing. As my reputation grew on the phorum, I was increasingly known as the crazy girl, the rebel, the one who took things too far. Outwardly I embraced it. Inwardly I was embarrassed and ashamed. That reputation had a bright side, however. Asking questions like “Why do you believe in God?” sparked deep friendships with the girl from a single-parent home, the boy who was bipolar. These were the friends who supported me when I very shockingly announced I would no longer be a part of NCFCA because I was going to public school.

I was assailed with comments like, “you’re going to the dark side!” People were genuinely appalled; some genuinely thought this was a clear indication that I was no longer a Christian. The truth was that being home schooled in a heavily patriarchal home with an abusive father had led to suicidal depression.

The very fact that Homeschoolers Anonymous exists is a testament to the emotional trauma endured by many, and it’s very important that we have an open dialogue to ask why. Home schooling and debate are entwined worlds for many, and the individual answers will vary.

I rarely think back to my years in the NCFCA.  For the most part I prefer to forget it ever happened. When I do think back, I regret that façade of perfection we all felt pressured to adopt. Time has taught me that’s all it is: a façade. I wish that teaching us to change the world with our radical communication skills was not NCFCA’s sole focus: there was no space given to teach us to be human.

Sharing the Burden of the Pedestal: Renee’s Story

Sharing the Burden of the Pedestal: Renee’s Story

Renee was a student instructor on the 2004 Communicators for Christ tour.

I toured with CFC (now ICC) in 2004. It was a fast-paced, high-stress whirlwind of a tour, and it was one of the best of my highschool experiences.

Let me give you some context. I chose to start debating competitively in the HSLDA/NCFCA at the age of 12. I was introverted and shy, but learned how to be outgoing and adopt a care-free attitude. I trembled with fear at every cross-examination, but learned to project confidence. I had some natural ability, a lot of determination, and a successful older sibling who was well liked and respected in the league. I made it to octafinals at Nationals by my second year.

The following year began well: my partner and I (a girl/girl team) did well at several tournaments. People I barely knew started coming to watch my partner and me “in action” in preliminary rounds. They stopped cheering as loudly when we made it to the finals, because it was just expected that we would be there. They predicted that we would win the national tournament. We didn’t. Instead, I had a losing record for the first time in my life. The crowds disappeared in awkward silence, and I was left with a staggering sense of very public failure. I was 14. I developed an eating disorder and severe performance anxiety.

The fear of a repeat failure spurred me to greater competitive success, bringing with it friends, popularity, and far too much of a spotlight. The increased attention raised the stakes of failure, and within a month of the new season’s start I had turned to self-injury to manage and escape the anxiety. My parents recognized the signs and intervened in the summer of 2004; by then I was 17 and had already been accepted to be a CFC staffer for the fall. At their insistence, I called Teresa and confessed that I struggled with anorexia and self-injury, and waited with a knot in my stomach. Was I too broken, too dysfunctional to teach? She asked whether I thought it would be a problem on tour, emphasizing that it would be a very stressful environment; that we would be under scrutiny almost continuously.  I said no. She trusted me, and in August I joined the team.

What I didn’t know, or didn’t fully appreciate at the time, was how much different the homeschooling culture I knew was from those in which I would teach. NCFCA had a normalizing effect on the parents in my community. My parents, and many others in California, made it clear to me that they hoped I would pursue a high-power career, encouraged me to take leadership positions in the club, and were receptive to criticism or advice when I gave it tactfully. I wore ties and pantsuits, had one of the most aggressive cross-examination styles in the region, and was used to people being more or less okay with both. I would learn, over the course of the tour, that some people think all women who wear ties are lesbian, that it is ungodly to encourage people to read books that aren’t explicitly Christian, and that women should in no context teach men (or boys over 13). Tour was eye-opening.

For the most part, I thrived on tour: I got to see friends across the country, coach fledgling speakers, comfort & reassure terrified parents, and teach the activities I loved without the constant pressure to be the best. When conferences went well, my performance anxiety was almost non-existent. When they didn’t, it was rarely because I had taught badly: the tough days were when a parent would complain about me. For some reason, such complaints rarely came directly to me; instead, the offended party would approach Mrs. Moon, who would then meet with me to relay the concern. The first few times, I fought back the tears, feeling like a failure, and went back out to finish the day as though nothing had gone wrong. Then one day when she pulled me aside, Teresa noted that she didn’t share the concerns, but that in the scale of things the project we were working on was worth the pain of accommodating the whims of the conference attendees, when not unreasonable.

There were several more complaints throughout the tour; there always are. It was still crushing to hear that I had offended or disappointed someone so badly as to make them complain, and it still kept me up at night, but it was easier to bear knowing that Teresa didn’t condemn me for it. Once I made a judgment call in the moment that offended some parents, but when they complained, Teresa took responsibility, saying it had been her call, and diffused the situation for me.  Hearing her handle the situation, I realized then that whatever strains and stresses I had suffered as an intern, it was likely she had undergone them a hundred-fold, each and every tour.

Occasionally, on the long drives between conferences, while we each sat up working late into the night, we would talk: about the stresses of living such a public life, about the delicate balance between truth and tact, about politics and people, exhaustion and motivation, and, of course, about failure.  Sometimes we talked about adjusting to life after tour—I was relieved that I had only one more season to compete. If I had been popular before, tour transformed me into a homeschool celebrity: students would ask for pictures, shoving binders and shirts towards me for me to sign. I loved being loved, but hated the pressure. On bad days, I could hold onto the thought that soon tour would be over, and in a year I would graduate, and I could leave the limelight. I knew that Teresa did not have this comforting thought: for her, the years stretch out unending, all under the title ‘Director of CFC’. When we had our differences, it was this thought that helped me to understand, at least a little bit, the kinds of strains that she must be under, and marvel that she was as even-handed and controlled as she did manage to be.

Teresa Moon is far from perfect, but I worry that too few of her critics stop to understand how difficult it is to live the life that she leads. Teresa lives on an awfully high pedestal: she must routinely make decisions that have weighty consequences, and must decide based on very little information, or in a very short period of time, and all under unforgiving scrutiny from all of us. The perverse thing about the sort of fame that she endures is that mistakes and missteps get more attention than all the right decisions she makes. There’s a logic to it, of course: we notice outliers, so if things generally are going well, we are likely only to notice when things go wrong, taking the successes—and all the effort required to achieve them—for granted.

It would be misleading to say that Teresa and I were close friends by the end of tour. One of the costs of living a life as public as Teresa Moon’s is that she cannot afford to open up to many people; confidants must be few, carefully selected, and stable. Interns just don’t fit that bill. We did part on good terms, and I returned to assist with the annual Masters’ conference every year until the demands of my college coursework precluded such activity.

Tour was not a panacea: it did not fix my self-injury problem (it took years of counseling in college to even get close to doing that). Nor did it eradicate my performance anxiety; unfortunately that may be here to stay. What tour provided was an outlet for my energies, a chance to do what I loved in a way that mattered, to help people rather than just collect trophies, and a group of close friends who understood and could share the burden of the pedestal together with me.

At 17, that was exactly what I needed.

Angry Emails And Thoughts On Why They Happen: By Andrew Roblyer

Angry Emails And Thoughts On Why They Happen: By Andrew Roblyer

This past week, Homeschoolers Anonymous has been featuring articles written by former students about their experience in competitive forensics.  These articles have mostly focused on the National Christian Forensics and Communication Association (NCFCA) and Communicators for Christ/Institute for Cultural Communicators (CFC/ICC), but many of the concerns raised in those posts can be found throughout the site, not just in this series.

The legalism, the double standards for men and women, the focus on controlling external appearances and behavior, the desire to appear as put together and perfect as possible to the outside world and especially to other homeschoolers; these are all common threads throughout this tapestry of stories we are weaving here on HA.

And I have some thoughts about why that is.

As I was reading Ryan’s excellent duology about a controversial article he wrote (you should take a moment to read both posts if you haven’t already), I found myself asking why so many people were and are so terrified of criticism within the homeschooling community.  More specifically, why are so many parents scared to hear someone suggest that maybe, just maybe, we should think about things in a different light?

Because in reading Ryan’s article, I saw nothing that attacked or demeaned individual parents, leaders, or students.  I saw nothing that advocated for the dissolution of the competitive NCFCA environment.  I saw nothing that assigned motives beyond that which all the parents I knew in the NCFCA would have willingly reminded students: we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God.  What I saw was a young man imploring a group of people he knew and loved to be compassionate.  To be understanding.  To live out the love of Christ towards those students that they lauded as representing the epitome of what they hoped their children would be.  It was a criticism of perfectionism and of the very real danger that perfectionism brings.  One would think that conservative Christian homeschooling parents would have eaten that stuff up.  So…why didn’t they?

To find an answer, I turned to the public school system (blasphemy, I know).  Critiquing the public school system in this country does not yield the same percentage of outraged responses from educators as criticism to institutions like the NCFCA yields from parents, in my experience.  I know plenty of teachers who will join with you in listing the flaws of the public school system and their frustrations with the things that prevent them from doing what they love: teaching students how to think.  So why is homeschooling any different?

The difference is that the public school system is separate from the teachers who make it up. The teachers are not the system, they are but one piece of a greater whole, and so, for the most part, criticism of the system is something that they can at least tolerate and even share without any cognitive dissonance.

Homeschool parents, on the other hand, are their own educational system.  They are their schools.  They are entirely responsible for their children’s education, and so it is much harder to separate the teacher from the parent from the education.

I think I first started to realize this a few months ago when I was discussing my public accounts of coming out with my mom.  She told me that she felt like I had painted my “education” and “childhood” with such broad strokes that, for a reader who didn’t know me, it would be easy to assume my parents had contributed to many of the problems that I perceive with both.  And, as she felt that she and my father had tried very hard not to be the cause of problems like my negative self-worth and depression/anxiety, she felt hurt by what I had written.  I quickly tried to reassure her that I didn’t blame her or dad for any of that, and have since tried to do a better job delineating between the loving, supportive home life that I had growing up.

This, I would imagine, is not a unique situation.  I would imagine that, for many of our parents who have poured so much energy and time into us as children, fretting over curriculum and wanting us to be good, Godly people, their methodology is all-too-easily conflated with their intentions and personal character.

I spoke about this exact phenomenon in my article for the Homeschoolers Are Out series, when I struggled to separate the structure of homeschooling from the conservative Christian religious community I was raised in.  To me, homeschooling and NCFCA and CFC/ICC are all structures first and foremost, but I realize now that they are structures informed by a very personal passion of our parents.

As I told my mom, it was true that they never spoke negatively about gay people at home, but we never really discussed it at all.  This meant that I was hearing one message denigrating my self-worth from external sources and silence on the subject at home, so the external message was the one I internalized.  I don’t blame her for this, nor am I in any way upset about it, but it’s something I have to recognize and process as I become more self-aware.  And while it was easy for me to see that this was not a personal failing or character flaw of my parents, I think it was much harder for them not to see that criticism as such.

I say this not to suggest that we should cease criticism of these institutions and structures; quite the opposite in fact.  We should continue to offer thoughtful criticism and tell our stories in full, with the hope of provoking thought and change to those institutions.  However, I think that we must be cognizant of the ease with which a structure like homeschooling or the NCFCA can be conflated with the hearts and souls of those parents who created them.

After all, most parents are not bad people with evil intentions (though as the stories of abuse on this website show, some of them can be), and by working to differentiate between the people and the system(s) we are criticizing, we strengthen our message and, in the process, help ourselves on our journey to self-awareness.  It may be difficult to parse out what criticisms we have about the system and what criticisms we have about individuals, but I think it is worth the effort.

Let me close by saying that this is not a criticism of HA or any of its authors.  Their/our stories need to be heard and I am honored to be a part of a group that wants to tell them.  In addition, I would love to know if you (readers/authors/critics) agree with my thoughts on the conflation of the system with personal character.  Let me know in the comments!

CFC Gave Me Confidence: Michele Ganev’s Story

CFC Gave Me Confidence: Michele Ganev’s Story

Michele Ganev was an intern with the Institute for Cultural Communicators during the 2006 Communicators for Christ tour.

Looking back on my time as an intern for Communicators for Christ (now known as the Institute for Cultural Communicators), I am always a little torn. It’s true that when you pile a dozen or so homeschooled teenagers in an RV and haul them around the U.S. for six months — stopping only to stand them up in front of a crowd of (often, but not always) insecure and judgmental homeschooled families — you will cause those teenagers some very intense stress. Touring with CFC was an emotional time for me, it was my first time being away from home and living with peers. I loved it, but I didn’t know what to do with myself.  Long working days, little sleep and teenage emotions combined to make tour a taxing time for me. Little things became big things. I grew tired of being picked apart by homeschooling parents who attended the conferences, who had so much to say about the clothes I wore or how I acted but very little to say about kindness or grace.

At the same time, I loved tour. I loved being away from home and exploring new things for the first time. I loved being able to develop relationships with my peers on a level I had never experienced before. As much as I feel CFC took advantage of us by making us work for free, and despite the memories I have of cruel things that were said to me out of judgment; I credit my time at CFC for giving me the confidence to get out of that cloistered homeschool, fundamentalist culture I had grown up in. 

Before going on tour for CFC, I was pretty convinced that I was set out for life as a homeschooling housewife and mother (not that there is anything inherently wrong with that, I just think there is something wrong with feeling like it’s your only option as a woman).  I told myself that was all I wanted, but I was dreading what would happen after high school: waiting aimlessly for my opportunity to marry off to some other homeschooled guy and make lots of babies.

After my first CFC conference, I was convinced I wanted to be an intern. I loved how well-spoken the interns were. I looked up to them. I thought they were cool. I wanted to be exactly like them. For years, I obsessed about becoming a CFC intern. I worked my ass off, completing what was meant to be two one-year programs in three months in order to prove to Teresa Moon that I would be a good intern. I nearly went crazy from all the stress (sometimes hearing clocks ticking in my head when I stopped working for a short break), but it worked. I was accepted to tour with CFC in the summer of 2006.

Many of my fellow interns were intimidating to me at first. They were all very intelligent, had accomplished a lot in the NCFCA public speaking and debate competitions I had been part of, and had big plans for themselves after high school. I felt a tad out of place, but I figured I’d rather be the dumbest person in this group than feel smart and lonely at home.

The way my friends on tour talked about philosophy, history, politics and poetry inspired me. The way they talked about college inspired me. Because of their friendship, I was motivated to apply to college. My immediate family had never encouraged me to do so; leaving the impression in my mind that college was a place for brainwashing and bad peer influences more than anything else. It was refreshing to hear from people who saw it for what it was: a way to learn more about the world and prepare for a rewarding career.

Also, I loved planning the conferences and teaching the classes. I developed the ability to command a room for up to an hour.  I learned how to engage my audience and think of ways to lead classes and lead interesting, beneficial discussions. As much as I remember hurtful words spoken in judgment, I also remember many kind words from conference participants who were excited after my classes. I remember seeing some people’s eyes light up when I would teach. These moments gave me so much more confidence in just six months than I had received anywhere else in my life.

I hear other stories about people who toured (even people on the same tour as me) who had a very different experience, who were hurt deeply by their experiences at CFC and I am saddened, but not surprised. Touring with CFC is a very difficult experience. I would never recommend that a bunch of 16-18 year olds pile into a motor home and work 40+ hours a week for no pay for six months. I don’t think it is fair or even legal; it makes me angry. I know that if it wasn’t for the kind people who interned with me, I would have had a very different experience. But the truth of the matter is, the experience I did have changed my life. I still keep in touch with many of the interns who traveled with me and I still consider them dear friends. I can still stand up at a moment’s notice and command a room when necessary. I am much more comfortable in my own skin than I would have been if I had not had this experience.

The strange reality is, despite the fact that CFC is part of the problems we at Homeschoolers Anonymous speak out about; for me it was also part of the solution. Because of CFC, I was equipped with the tools I needed to effectively get out of what I now look back on as a toxic community and make something more out of myself.

Competence, Not Character: Marla’s Story

Competence, Not Character: Marla’s Story

Marla was a member of the 2008 CFC touring team with the Institute for Cultural Communicators.

"I wanted to be the best intern I could be, because when Mrs. Moon said that Christians needs to be good communicators, I believed her."
“I wanted to be the best intern I could be, because when Mrs. Moon said that Christians need to be good communicators, I believed her.”

My teammates and I were about to go onstage and deliver our introductions. We had two main types of memorized introductions for each other: short and long. Our long ones were set in stone, but the short ones changed. Sometimes we said our city and state, sometimes just city, sometimes first and last name, sometimes just first. Without fail, there were always a couple of us who did it one way, and a few who did it another. I wasn’t quite sure the right way to do it, so before we went on I raised my hand and said, “Since this is something we tend to get confused on, I just wanted to double check exactly what we’re supposed to say.” Next thing I knew Mrs. Moon was towering over me, harshly lecturing me about how I was the cause of all of my team’s problems, I’d destroyed all of the hard work they’d done, etc… I could feel my stomach drop, my spine went cold, and my eyes started burning with months of suppressed tears. This time, though, I wasn’t going to cry because I felt guilty or worthless, this time I was mad. As Mrs. Moon gradually ran out of ammunition it was the first time I think I saw clearly that she was actually… wrong… and when she asked me to explain myself the only thing I could choke out was an angry “What did I do wrong, I said ‘we,’ didn’t I?”

You see, on tour we weren’t allowed to say you or I. If you missed a class you were supposed to teach, we missed the class. If you did something particularly well, we all got the recognition. This was supposed to be team building, frankly it was confusing. But, let me back track, because this particular incident occurred in the last week in a half of a nationwide conference tour, and it had taken me several years to get there…


Telling people about my Institute for Cultural Communicators Experience (ICC) is something that I have a lot of practice doing. I was a member of the 2008 ICC touring team, and prior to that I had spent several years working my way through the alumni program, and serving in every possible student leadership role that they offered. I was completely supportive of ICC’s mission, the Moon family, and the organization’s structure and leadership. I fiercely defended ICC and the Moons against anyone who criticized them, and my mother and I supported them to our best ability, by organizing the facility and managing the advertising for their annual conference in Colorado. I firmly believe that without my mother’s efforts there wouldn’t have been an annual Colorado conference, nor would it have been as well attended as it was (my mother frequently paid student’s tuition out of her own pocket, calling it “scholarships” because she believed so strongly in Teresa Moon’s work).

There were few things I wanted more in high school than to be an intern, and I used this goal as my motivation to create the best possible resume I could to serve as student instructor. I volunteered hundreds of hours, won a national debate championship (so that I would have more credibility as a teacher), and started my own debate club so that I could practice teaching. I wanted to be the best intern I could be, because when Mrs. Moon said that Christians need to be good communicators, I believed her. To Mrs. Moon being a good communicator also meant being authentic and transparent, without hypocrisy. So, when Mrs. Moon banned me from spending any substantial time around my boyfriend who was also involved with her organization (even though both sets of parents were aware of and consenting to the relationship), I tried to obey as best as I could. When she told me that I needed longer skirts, I had my mom take my hems down. When she told me that in order to be modest I couldn’t gain weight as an intern, I obsessed over only eating salad. When she told me I was prideful, I spent countless hours self-destructing by contemplating my worthlessness.

I used to think that any negative feelings I had about my ICC experience were my own fault, for my bad, prideful attitude, and for not being mature enough to understand that what went on was for the greater good of ICC. Now, as a 22 year old, not a 17 year old, I’m ready to talk about the negative experience I had as an ICC intern. Having now worked in government and with other non-profit organizations, all with powerful missions, I’ve learned that a good mission doesn’t mean you can treat people however you want. Having now had a string of kind, gracious, consistent bosses, I can also say that people with large amounts of authority and stress are capable of controlling their emotions towards their employees and treating all employees fairly. The treatment I received as an “employee” for  Mrs. Moon was not normal or acceptable. If you have been involved with ICC, and you were treated wonderfully, good for you. That doesn’t negate poor treatment that I received. If you are an ardent supporter of ICC, like I once was, being a true supporter doesn’t mean that criticism isn’t allowed, and that anyone complains has turned into a rebellious or ungodly person.

When I speak of the leadership problems I encountered, mainly from Teresa Moon, the best way that I can summarize them is a lack of consistency. Students who participated in ICC were held to an array of different standards, and it was hard to tell what standard you were being held to, or what it meant to be held to a particular standard. Some of my fellow interns could get away with almost anything, and some of us were constant scapegoats. It was nearly impossible to navigate what could be done, when, and by whom. I could go on writing in generalities about inconsistent treatment, however, there are few things that I find more frustrating than people who criticize, but can’t provide a single example to support their complaints.

Fortunately, my memory of my ICC experience is still quite vivid, so let me summarize what bad leadership looks like with a few examples:

Putting individuals on the team who had severe mental and emotional health problems, with no safety net or plan to give them the treatment that they needed to thrive: One of my fellow teammates, Krysi, wrote about her experience as an intern. You can read her story here, where she discusses a string of mental and emotional struggles she had experience prior or tour, which came to a head in the middle of her time as an intern. While I believe that Krysi should not be blamed for what happened, I have a question to ask of Mrs. Moon: who in there right mind puts young people with documented instances of depression, suicide attempts, and eating disorders in a high pressure environment with no access to therapists, no understanding of their medication, and no training in how to deal with and monitor destructive behaviors? Mrs. Moon knew many of the struggles Krysi was facing, and never thought to prepare a safety net. Instead, she put a vulnerable girl in a high pressure environment, and when Krysi began to struggle, she initially rushed to provide support and promised to help Krysi. However, she was not capable of providing the support she promised, and ended up letting down a girl who had been let down too many times before. You don’t promise to take care of someone, and then decide, with 2 weeks of a tour left, that all of the months of promises you made were just too much work after all. If someone was in too fragile and precarious a state to intern, and you weren’t prepared to help them, they shouldn’t have interned. If you thought that they could intern, you should have come prepared, and not quit at the last moment.

Jeopardizing team cohesion by giving interns secret assignments and unclear authority: I’m a natural workaholic, so on tour whenever I finished an assignment, I would go to Mrs. Moon and ask if there was anything else that I could do to help. She gradually increased my responsibilities on tour, without telling my teammates what was going on. She would give me secret jobs, such as corresponding with a Christian camp, Doe River Gorge, where we were going to be doing a brief in-service training. I was instructed not to tell anyone, as I gathered information and made a conference plan. Two days before the conference, Mrs. Moon’s son, Wendell, who was acting as tour manager told me to begin a staff meeting by telling my teammates about our conference at the camp. I began telling them what Wendell had instructed, when Mrs. Moon walked into the room and gave me her iciest glare. She pulled me into her office and harshly lectured me about how I was acting inappropriately and my pride was becoming a huge issue. I tried to explain that I hadn’t meant to act improperly, I was just following Wendell’s instructions. She ignored me, and Wendell refused to back my story up. Variations on this happened too frequently to count, and caused me to constantly be under an undue amount of stress.

Disrespecting labor laws, disregarding health: Before I interned I assisted at various conferences where my job was basically to act as a janitor and kitchen assistant. It was normal at these events to stay up until 1:00 and then get back up at 6:30. A person can keep such a schedule for a week or two, though it is not pleasant. The straining schedule I experienced as an assistant to ICC staff became almost unbearable when I served as a touring intern. I was frequently up until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, finishing extra assignments that Mrs. Moon gave me, then back up at 6:30-6:45 to do full hair and makeup for the conference. I would teach classes almost all day long, with little to no break, and any break I did have was spent working on another list of assignments. Once the conference ended it was seemingly endless meetings and more work. In addition to this, since there were no real provisions to assist my struggling teammates, such as Krysi, I began trying to serve as a monitor, making sure that she was eating, that she wasn’t hurting herself. When we shared a room I would wake up multiple times throughout the night to make sure she was alright. When adults don’t take care of kids, kids have to take care of each other, even if they don’t have the emotional stamina or knowledge to fill the role. By the end of tour I was consumed with work and with trying to help Krysi, in addition, I was part of an inner circle that was informed of all that had happened in her family, and sworn to secrecy. Keeping that secret from my teammates and parents, was completely draining. By the end of tour I was physically and emotionally spent. When I got home I was constantly sick, and began having digestive problems, and minor panic attacks that lasted for months. When I had to leave home to go back and complete the last conference, called Masters (A two week long end of tour convention occurs after a month long break for the interns), I struggled with uncontrollable vomiting and what felt like fever sweats. I was terrified of getting on the plane to go back to the Moons home, of seeing my teammates, of having to teach again… I could barely keep food down the entire Masters conference, and all I wanted to do was leave. I can’t help but think that some of this was due to being completely and totally over worked. The schedule I kept, and the responsibility placed on me were too much for my age. I know that homeschooled kids are supposed to be more mature, but there are limits, and I don’t think ICC respects them.

Tying physical looks to appropriate conduct… but, only for the girls: I’ll never forget the girls only meeting that Mrs. Moon called together a month into tour. She gave us her most winning smile, and explained that some of us had put on some weight, and if we wanted our clothing to be appropriately modest, then weight gain was just not something that could happen. We were encouraged to keep each other accountable about our weight, either by telling our fellow teammates that they were looking heavier, so that they would be more cautious, or if they were too far gone, we were supposed to tell them to wear spanx. Mrs. Moon meant it, too, if she saw any bulge, any panty lines, she would take action. One of my teammates had gained a slight amount of weight (she was still incredibly tiny) that caused a very minor panty line to be visible in her evening gown. Mrs. Moon pulled her to the side when she stepped backstage in the middle of a performance, and made her take off her underwear. In addition to humiliating events like that, Mrs. Moon’s talk caused a general panic amongst many of the girls, which shouldn’t be a big surprise since Teresa gave this talk to a group of girls, knowing full well that at least 3 of them had struggled with eating disorders and body dysmorphia. Tying weight gain to modesty and morality only made many of these girl’s weight struggles worse.

Putting children in emotionally damaging situations: The Moons decided that my team had unity problems, and that any and all difficulties we faced were because we had not bonded enough. In retrospect, I think claiming that every thing that goes wrong is a result of a poor team dynamic, may just be an easy excuse to avoid having to examine leadership. However, the worst part of this judgment on my team was that Wendell, Mrs. Moon’s eldest son decided that he was going to institute some team building exercises. I don’t know where he came up with them, but the one I remember best was called the “hot seat.” Each of us had to sit in a chair in front of everyone, and each teammate took a turn telling the person in the chair a Criticism, a Confession, or a Compliment. Neither Wendell nor Mrs. Moon seemed to have anticipated that what they were really doing was giving interns a chance to be flat out mean to one another. I remember sitting in the chair while teammate after teammate described my personality and character in broad, crushing, negative terms. I was trying so hard not to cry, because I knew that the terrible things they were saying must be true, and that I needed to be mature about it, but another part of me was screaming that this wasn’t how people should treat each other. A few of my teammates were genuinely kind in their remarks, but it’s a lot easier to remember the negatives. After the Moons watched interns tear each other down, there was no rebuilding, no demands for apologies, no assistance in sorting out how to treat people who had basically just said that they hated you. After the hot seat activity I withdrew from my teammates for the rest of tour, finding any excuse I could to be alone. I figured this was what was best for the team, since I was so terrible to be around, and so deeply hated. Now, I know this isn’t true, but the fact that I was made to feel that way under the leadership of the Moons is not right.

Valuing anything to save face, rather than caring about other’s well being: This was perhaps the thing that was most difficult for me to deal with as an intern. Appearance really was treated as everything, which meant a lot of lying and a lot of coverups. However, there were some things too big to gloss over, like Krysi disappearing from tour, and then not showing up to the Masters conference, while all of her family did. Mrs. Moon was visibly stressed about how to explain Krysi’s absence at Masters, when right before the conference she got the perfect explanation. Krysi was hospitalized for viral meningitis. When we found out about it I overheard Mrs. Moon audibly sigh with relief, and turn to whoever was near her and say something along the lines of “thank God.” Wendell led a little prayer for Krysi at the conference and talked about how much they wished she could have come. I was so angry when I sat there watching him put on his most concerned face for the audience. Krysi wasn’t there because she had been kicked off, Krysi had been kicked off because she had been set up to fail, and her being in the hospital was not “convenient” it was frightening and sad. Appearances don’t matter more than people, and putting on public displays of concern as a cover for bad leadership is not authentic communication.


My last real interaction with ICC was June of 2009, when Mrs. Moon asked me to run a Flood the Five conference (a shortened version of the normal conference structure) in Colorado Springs. Both of my parents had undergone surgery that summer, so in addition to a full time job, I was also taking care of the house, and tending to their post-surgery needs. Despite how busy I was, I managed to create an entire conference plan, writing brand new classes and planning activities for the two day event. I showed up with barely a greeting from Teresa, and found out that I had basically no one to assist me, and that I would be teaching every class on my own. I stayed up until 3:00 in the morning preparing for the first day, and got up at 6:30 to arrive on time. I taught the entire day, and when I finally returned back to the place I was staying Teresa asked me to come and have a chat with her. She asked me what my tour experience was like, and I tried to explain to her how hard it had been to believe so firmly in an organization, and then have that slowly destroyed by watching hypocrisy every day. I told her my frustration that her son, and the other teammate involved in the drinking episode that Krysi mentioned did not receive any where near the same amount of punishment as Krysi. I tried to tell her how hurt I was by the months of “criticism” about my character, and how I’d never tried to be prideful, in fact, I had felt completely worthless all of tour, and had struggled with horrible depression in the months since tour ended.

She responded by telling me that my pride was the biggest problem that they encountered on tour, and that ICC wanted student leaders with “Competence and character, not just competence.” There was no understanding, no thank you for the years of dedication, the thousands of dollars my family had spent, the months of secrets I kept for her, and the sincere love and affection I had for her. I left her room and looked out the window at my car in the driveway. I though about just driving back home, and letting her handle the second day of the conference on her own, because I honestly didn’t know if I could get up on a stage and be a perfect intern again. Part of me wishes I had just driven away, but I didn’t. The next day I showed up with a big smile and taught each class as well as I could. I gave the closing speech about the wonders of ICC, and never lost face until I was in my car. Some would call that showing character, but to ICC, that’s just competence.

When I Recanted What I Truly Believed: Krysi Kovaka’s Thoughts

When I Recanted What I Truly Believed: Krysi Kovaka’s Thoughts

I was one of those renegades who affixed my signature (albeit electronically) to the Great BJU Protest of 2009.  The reasoning behind this protest is listed in a prior post so I won’t go into the logic of it all.  Suffice it to say, when it was announced that Nats 2009 would be held at Bob Jones University, there were quite a few dissenters; BJU is known for having a proud tradition of racism (among other things.)

When several NCFCA officials found out about the protest, there was a bit of a backlash. For me, this meant that I received an ominous email from Teresa Moon [of CFC/ICC] telling me that I should extricate myself from the protest.  My mother was also involved, and she made it very clear that I needed to remove my name from the protest if I wanted to attend the tournament.  Simply removing my name from the apology wasn’t sufficient though – Mrs. Moon emailed my mother and encouraged her to persuade me to write the following letter:


Dear NCFCA board,

I’m writing to you under the most exigent of circumstances; I’m writing to you concerning my recent participation in the Facebook group protesting the location of Nationals 2009.  After much contemplation and lucubration I have come to the realization that my actions condoned discourteous, impertinent, and contemptuous behavior.  For this I would like to extend a full apology to the NCFCA board and Bob Jones University. 

In retrospect it occurs to me that my misdeeds were injurious not only to the NCFCA and Bob Jones University, but also to my reputation as a follower of Christ.  We read in Hebrews 13:17 that we are to, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”  This concept of respect for authority is further addressed in I Timothy 2:1-3 and Exodus 21:17. 

My conduct in no way exemplified a Christian attitude and I understand that I did a tremendous disservice to the NCFCA by participating in this Facebook group.

I take full responsibility for my delinquent actions and present myself to the NCFCA board contrite and in need of forgiveness for my transgressions towards the NCFCA board, Bob Jones University, and any other party I might have inadvertently injured with my calloused and unthinking misdeeds.  In future I hope to live up to the standards set forth in I Timothy 4:12 which reads, “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” 

I appreciate the opportunity to heed correction and guidance as outlined in Proverbs 15:32, “He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding.”

Please accept my apology for my actions.


Kristen Alyse Kovaka


I remember when I was told I needed to write the letter. I was furious.

I had spent years learning argumentation and how to think for myself, and when a situation occurred where I felt I needed to use those skills, I was reprimanded. I did my best to make sure my disdain and insincerity was evident in my apology, but that did little to make me less angry.  I felt stifled and controlled — and this from a community that allegedly encouraged free thinkers.