Beka Horton’s Theology: Eleanor Skelton’s Story

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Ryan Hyde.

By Eleanor Skelton, HA Editorial Team. Eleanor also blogs at The Girl Who Once Lived in a Box.

Beka Horton wrote and edited most of the A Beka Academy curriculum, produced by Pensacola Christian College. And she’s also the reason I started questioning fundamentalism.

Christianity seemed so simple in the early days.

I was born in Southeast Texas, in the Bible belt. At two years old, I prayed to accept Jesus into my heart with my mom before bath-time. She cried over my folded hands.

I was on the right path; I lived in light and not in darkness.

If only life had fewer complexities.

I was homeschooled from preschool to high school graduation, primarily with A Beka Academy Video School and some BJU press and Weaver curriculum sprinkled in. My mom told me the stories of Adam and Eve, Daniel and the lion’s den, David and Goliath with flannel-graph cutouts and the A Beka Bible flashcards.

This was what we believed, and we had the truth.

We were not deceived like the poor Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Pentecostals. We had the True Doctrine™. And my churches and homeschool textbooks mostly agreed, until high school.

In 10th and 11th grade, A Beka reveals why all the Scripture their students had been memorizing since kindergarten comes only from the King James Version.

That’s because Arlin and Beka Horton, the founders of Pensacola Christian College, believe all other translations are part of Satan’s plan to confuse the church.

I asked my pastor at our IFCA church in Colorado Springs who graduated from the Bob Jones University Seminary about it. We used the New King James Version in our services, but Beka Horton said this was sinful and contributing to the downfall of modern Christianity.

KVJ tampering
From Jesus and His Followers, A Beka Book, p. 22
KJV infallibility
From Jesus and His Followers, A Beka Book, p. 24

The same textbook also argued that abstinence from alcohol was the most moral decision for modern Christians, because Jesus only drank alcohol because the water in first century Palestine wasn’t safe.

wine
From Jesus and His Followers, p. 67

This argument bothered me.

My parents and pastors had always told me that alcohol itself wasn’t sinful, but alcoholism hurt others. And we had a duty to not cause our brothers in Christ to stumble.

But Beka Horton was telling me the only way to follow Jesus was to be a teetotaler.

Something was wrong here. My textbooks disagreed with my parents, my churches. My parents bought me this curriculum so I could have a better education, so I could learn True Doctrine™.

I asked my pastor about these discrepancies. He told me, “I like Pensacola Christian College, but they are also legalistic. This is why young people lose their faith when they go to college, because they are told things like this, and then they learn it’s not true. So they question their entire faith.”

And he wasn’t wrong.

So in senior year of high school, I questioned when Beka Horton said that Adam and Eve never saw death before the Fall, not even dead plants.

leaf
From Genesis: First Things, p. 61

And arguing that the letters to the churches in Revelation was prophesy outlining the ages of the church throughout millennia seemed like an awfully convenient way to scare me into believing the Rapture and Tribulation were imminent.

revelation
From The Book of the Revelation, p. 5

I kept questioning, looking for more subtle legalism within what I’d thought was the safety of True Doctrine™.

Three years into college, I wondered if syncopated music was really evil or not.

My high school youth group textbook, published by Proteen / Positive Action for Christ, reasoned this:

Syncopated music is disorderly.
All disorder is of the devil.
Therefore, syncopated music (most modern music) is of Satan.

holywar
From The Holy War, p. 79

I made Christian friends in college who came from evangelical but not fundamentalist backgrounds, and their love for Jesus seemed genuine. I couldn’t believe they weren’t True Christians™ because they sang contemporary worship songs and listened to CCM.

Then the point of crisis came.

I read Harry Potter. I didn’t believe it was evil. I asked my parents to extend my curfew to midnight instead of 7:30 p.m.

My parents said I was being influenced by the world, that I had to move out or attend Bob Jones University. I told them I had prayed, and I felt like God wanted me to stay at UCCS.

They involved our pastor.

My pastor said I was disobeying God’s will for my life by moving out as an unmarried young woman.

He said it was wrong for me to leave because I was still under my parents’ authority if I wasn’t currently experiencing physical or sexual abuse.

And he said that God had clearly provided another option for me in transferring to BJU, a way to both obey my parents and gain independence.

He said, “If you are going to be obstinate and let Satan confuse you from following God’s will for your life, then I have nothing more to say to you.

And he walked out.

And I’d lost all trust for the label True Doctrine™.

I realized that fundamentalism is colorblind except for black and white. That fundamentalism uses fear to coerce obedience, that fundamentalism makes no exceptions, because that would be questioning Divine Will, and that is what Satan does.

My questions grew.

Did my purity ring actually remind me to stay pure, or did it just seem arrogant to my friends who weren’t virgins? I stopped wearing it.

Why did we use a handful of verses describing pagan temple practices to condemn the entire LGBT community? I remembered many more verses about loving our neighbor as ourselves.

Is creationism versus evolution actually a “salvation issue”? One of my chemistry lab instructors, who happened to be a Christian herself, pointed this out to me.

I took two semesters of Koine Greek, and I learned that museums have copies of scribal errors from the medieval period, something Beka Horton told me never happened, because the scribes destroyed an entire manuscript over slight errors.

scribe no error
From Jesus and His Followers, p. 5

Could I still be a Christian if the Bible wasn’t inerrant? My friend Cynthia Jeub reminded me that the disciples and the early church had no Bible. All they had was their experience.

I’ve been moved out since 2012, and I’m still questioning.

Still sorting through what I was told was True Doctrine™ and what the early church practiced historically, how I was told to treat “sinners” and what Jesus said about loving people.

Because I don’t believe Beka Horton has a monopoly on truth.

 

ATI’s “Sex Ed” Curriculum: Silencing Victims and Excusing Sex Crime

By Nicholas Ducote, HA Community Coordinator

I recently received a set of first edition Advanced Training Institute Wisdom Booklets – thanks to the generous scrounging of an HA community member. I distinctly remembered a volume of the WBs (Wisdom Booklets) that dealt with sexuality, lust, and immoral sexual activity. At the time, it left me more confused than anything. I thought married couples literally could not catch or spread a venereal disease. My sexual education from the WBs did not include anything on consent or rape, and it placed much of the burden of lustful thoughts on the seductive powers of scantily clad women. While I cannot say with any certainty that the Duggars received the same sexual education I did, our shared curriculum in the WBs and Bill Gothard’s teachings were at least our shared base line for “sexual education.” Ironically, it was the coverage of President Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky that prompted me to ask “what is rape?” and not a concept I learned from my sexual education.

A foundational point in ATI and Gothard’s sexual ethic is a lack of agency for men and women as a powerful temptation.Women were saddled with the majority of the responsibly for men’s “lustful” thoughts. Gothard’s characterization of women meant that their immodesty compelled men to sexualize, harass, or assault them.

One of Gothard’s big things was for families to have “bible time” in the mornings, which consisted of reading a Proverb each day of the month, then a handful of Psalms. Proverbs 7 (KJV was what ATI mandated) was always emphasized by my parents, and it describes a young man being tempted and literally led down a dark alley to have sex with a woman of the night. The woman is described as wearing “the attire of an harlot.” Her participation in the public sphere is key to her function as a temptation, and “her feet abide not in her house: Now is she without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.”  The chapter constantly emphasizes the woman “catching” the man, convincing him to “take our fill of love… with her fair speech.” Despite the highly sensual details provided by the author, the consequences of participating in such actions are clear:

He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter… Many strong men have been slain by her. Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.

Let not thine heart decline to her ways, go not astray in her paths.

C ox slaughter
Intro section of WB24 echoing Proverbs 7

The message of Proverbs 7 is echoed by ATI’s Wisdom Booklet #24, which focuses on lust, temptation, and provided the basics for sexual education for thousands of ATI students.

A full copy of the volume is included at the bottom of this post, and I will discuss excerpts. ATI and Gothard always encouraged families to apply their WB lessons to everyday life. My parents decided the teachings of this volume meant I shouldn’t play rec-league soccer on a team with girls (I was 16). Wisdom Booklet 24 focused on Matthew 5:27-28, which reads:

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: but I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

bible verse

B lust conquer

Much like Proverbs 7, this WB wanted to emphasize theC lust three times physical dangers that can come from lusting. However, in typical Gothard fashion, the WB claimed that envisioning an act three times had the same effect on your body and soul as doing the action. Not only can imaginative lusting equal fornication, but the WB claims that lusting can actually make you a violent criminal. “As a result [of lusting], the glands and other bodily functions are activated, and the level of testosterone increases. Recent studies revealed a significant correlation between high testosterone levels and those who commit violent crimes.” I’m not here to say I know what was going on in Josh Duggar’s mind all those years ago, but I can tell you what I felt when I was taught these things as a teenager.

This teaching really messed me up. I assumed I was no better than a sex criminal because I had sexual thoughts. If I wanted to be with a girl, I was no better than a violent rapist. Sexual thoughts are natural for pubescent teens, and making them feel their life and soul are in literal danger by even thinking these thoughts fucks you up. How is it productive sex education to tell young people that they might as well commit the act if they are going to think about it three times?

Another glaring error in the text is the lack of any discussion of consent. In the chapter where we translated the original Greek and made all sorts of assumptions about God, called “How Does the Greek Confirm the Dangers of Partners’ Defiling Their Marriage By Lust?,” there are a number of terms defined, including: honorable, undefiled, fornicator, adulterer, judge, lewdness, lechery, lust, prolifigacy, abandonment, depravity, perversion, dissipation, dissolution, vice, and profanity (all terms defined in the context of marriage). But where is consent? Where is “marital rape” in this list of terms? Michelle Duggar is outspoken about her beliefs on a wife’s subservient role and need to be sexually available to her husband. ATI’s curriculum would have taught no different.

SCN_0009 SCN_0010

And just to make sure you are grasping the slippery slope put forth by the text – pg 17 hitlerthinking about immorality three times is just as bad as doing it. Immorality is entirely defined by scripture verses and does not address things like consent or marital rape. The Wisdom Booklet’s “History Resource” profiled Hilter, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Karl Marx, and Nietzsche. You guessed it, each one of these people were characterized by how their immorality led them astray or ended up with genocide. Next in history, we learned about how immorality led to the collapse of the Maya, Incas, Ancient Greece, and the Roman Empire. In the Math section, we learned how to “visualize the consequences of lust” with visual graphs.

The “Science Resource” chapter further emphasized the role of women as active “trappers.” The chapter is entirely on different kinds of traps used animal trappers and it begins with “How Do Trappers Illustrate the Enticements Which Satan Uses to Appeal to our Lusts?” This language is borrowed directly from Proverbs 7, which says the seductress “perfumed [her] bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.” Throughout this volume, men are the presumed focus of the lust and women are the dangerous seducing forces that can lead to the collapse of civilizations.

45 traps

As Wende discussed yesterday, many of Gothard’s teachings explain that victims of sexual abuse may be at fault for being abused. This image has been making the rounds through mainstream media. Its horribly offensive and damaging message are reiterated in other information like this that redirects responsibility for assault to “immodest” victims. Wisdom Book 24 covers this very topic on page 1130. “God’s Laws on Nakedness Begin with Modesty in the Home” begins the section:

The requirement for modesty among family members is given in Leviticus 18. Twenty-four times in this chapter, God’s people are commanded not to “uncover their nakedness” to those near of kin. Whether this refers to an incestuous relationship or nakedness alone, the fact is clear that indecency as well as immorality is forbidden.

Gothard’s insistence on a literal interpretation of Levitical law informs his sexual ethic. Deuteronomy 22:23-24 also advocates stoning raped women “because she cried not.”

If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you

Right on queue, WB24 throws in a graphic image of s56 incest stoningomeone being stoned “for incestuous relationships.” It’s no stretch to say that ATI and Gothard continually pushed the idea that victims were, at least partially, at fault for their abuse.

The closest WB24 gets to actual sex education is the medical section on venereal diseases. However, even this led to very basic confusion about how one can acquire a VD.

Venereal diseases are transmitted primarily by a corruption of God’s design for love. When man violates God’s design for marriage and follows his own lustful desires, he suffers grave consequences to his own health.

The section, and WB24, ends with an admonition to “identify the medical consequences of lust,” once again equating mental fantasies with physical consequences. The supposed impacts are VDs, and each sub-heading of the chapter is matched to the appropriate Bible verse.

The distortions of the idea of appropriate sexual relations and consent by WB24 are inexcusable. Men are characterized as dominated by fleeting lust, which are irresistibly stoked by the dress of girls or women. Even family members not excused from discussion by ATI, thus family members are subsumed into the “seductress” category. If a father molests his children, perhaps they are to blame. Such is the thinking proposed by Gothard. Looking back, it’s easy to see how this philosophy can lead to serial sexual abuse because men are relieved of much of their responsibility for their actions, while just lusting is as bad as actually doing the act. Leading many men to think they are beyond help, consumed by their desires. So instead of dealing with them, they repress them, and it only makes it more difficult to deal with what may have begun as natural sexual urges.

I can see just in my own life how this thinking impacted my sexual ethic and ideas of consent at a young age. It made me think that masturbating made me as perverse as sex criminals. I talked with a friend of mine and we would confess our “sins of lust”, and I saw us as struggling with similar burdens. His burden meant he took advantage of underage girls, mine was masturbating in my bed. ATI and Bill Gothard taught me those things were just as bad.

In my many conversations with ATI survivors, sexual abuse is too often a topic of discussion. One woman I talked with was abused as a child, and her family not only blamed her for it, but held exorcisms. They convinced her the demons inside her were “making” men abuse her. Agency and responsibility are replaced by pseudoscience and utterly incomprehensible logic about sex and sexual desire. Gothard used this system to groom his victims, to shame them into silence, to make them afraid to speak up. Why? Because they might have been responsible for the abuse.

Full copy of Wisdom Booklet #24:

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Childhood Memories and Homeschool Field Trips

Screen Shot 2013-07-29 at 12.10.39 PM

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published under the title “Homeschooled: Where I Went, Or Not” on July 20, 2013.

My sister and I are both in our hometown shortly for a family wedding, so we decided we wanted to explore the area around us that we never saw as kids. Today we went to a wild life refugee and a state park and took a friend along.

My friend likes to tell stories of his childhood, and his childhood, as a son of a wealthy lawyer, stands in contrast to ours. While he flew on airplanes, we drove to homeschool conferences. While he went to arcade places in the mall, we played in creeks. While he celebrated Halloween in full costomes, we sewed cowboy and Indian costumes during the year and stayed locked up on Halloween. We grew up in the same community, and by comparing notes, you would never know it.

We started comparing notes today while literally chilling in a lake we had never seen before, remarking how our mother has issues with just relaxing. She has a problem with it. Everyone has to do chores, constantly. Everytime someone walks past mom, they are given a chore. Constructive play is okay, but just relaxing is not okay. So we never went to lakes, or hanged out at the coffee shops, or went places (other than places to eat or church). And when I think of hot summer days like today, I think of four kids lined up in a row picking and passing the corn to mom with sweat pouring down us; I certainly do not think of cooling down in lakes.

My friend kept asking what we did as kids.

Did you go to the movies?” “No, in matter of fact, I never went to a movie until I was 14,” my sister said. “I was 16. Mom said if we went to a movie, it would be a bad influence because someone walking out of the theater would not know what movie we had seen.”

Did you go to the mall?” “Yea we went to Dillards before.” “Only when our grandmother was in town. I never shopped there.”  “I mean to hang out at the mall. Did you hang out there?” my friend asked. “No, we never hanged out at the mall, and definitely never went places without our parents.”

Where did you go with your parents on weekends?” “We went nowhere.” (other than church)

Where did you go during the week?” “Nowhere, really.”

Did you go on vacation?” “Not much.”

“Where did you go on vacation?” “Homeschool conferences, well, and Little Rock and Memphis to see our friends.”

Did you ever go to the lake as kids?” “Only twice to [X] state park, and that was only for camping, so I only went to the lake two times.”

“Oh, homeschool conferences must have been fun,” my friend said, responding.  “No, they were not fun. It was just better than home.”

“Come on, you must have gone somewhere,” my friend kept asking questions.

At some point we realized that although we had never visited the lakes, and never went to the malls or the theaters, we had seen a part of our area my friend had not seen such as:

Sewage plant

Waste field/trash dump

Tower of the airport/air traffic control center

TV news station

Coal mine

McDonalds kitchen

Kitchens in two pizza places

Weather plant

Plantations

And of course, we went to the library.

So you know you are a homeschool student when you’ve stood on top of the largest trash heap in town, walked inside the McDonald’s freezer, visited the sewage plant, and won the reading contest at the library, but never went to a movie theater or played a video game.

Looking back, it’s all pretty funny to me.

What kind of field trips did you go on?

Debate As Socialization: Luke’s Thoughts

Debate As Socialization: Luke’s Thoughts

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

One of the very first things you learn in debate is the necessity of defining your terms.

So I’d like to begin with defining “socialization.”

In the spirit of late 1990’s homeschool debaters, I am going to use an online dictionary. Here’s how Dictionary.com defines “socialization”:

“a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position.”

This definition of socialization fascinates me, because it has absolutely nothing to do with how we homeschoolers think of socialization. When we made fun of outsiders asking that age-old question about it, we’d kinda laugh it off and say, “Um, we have lots of friends! We don’t have a socialization problem!”

But what’s really funny is not the question itself. What’s really funny is that having friends, or park days, or co-ops, has nothing to do with socialization. Because socialization isn’t just interacting with like-minded or ideologically similar people of the same (or even different) peer group. It’s about a process that allows you to become you. And my early homeschooling years had nothing to do with me being me. They had to do with me being a mini-version of my parents and my subculture. I wasn’t learning how to think for myself. I was learning to think like my parents. Actually, that’s not fair. I was learning to think how the writers of our homeschooling curriculum wanted me to think. My parents, like me, were pawns on a cultural chessboard that transcended our little home.

But then debate came around. Debate was like my own Enlightenment, my own personal Great Awakening. Debate forced me and inspired me to look at different sides of an issue, to examine opposing viewpoints with earnestness and dedication. Debate taught me to question assumptions and challenge norms. Debate put me in a position to realize how complex life actually is. And it is far more complex than my homeschooling curriculum tried to trick me into thinking.

As the black and white facade faded, for the first time I got to figure out what I thought. What values and policies and ideas I thought made sense. I was beginning the process of acquiring a personal identity.

And as I acquired my own identity, I also learned the norms and skills necessary to being a good citizen in the public square of ideas. In short, I was becoming truly socialized. I learned how think for myself, how to articulate my own thoughts, and how to interact with people that thought differently.

The socializing aspect of debate was truly a blessing. It made me me. And that’s something I would never give up for anything. Learning to be one’s self — and to publicly express that individuality — is one of the greatest lessons someone can ever learn.

Voddie Baucham, Shy Kids, and Spanking 5 Times Before Breakfast

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Julie Anne Smith’s blog Spiritual Sounding Board. It was originally published on June 17, 2013.

One of the traps that we got ourselves caught in was looking to religious leaders for guidance on how to raise our children. It’s ok to seek guidance, but we didn’t always check what we learned with scripture. We read a lot of books and went to parenting seminars/classes over the years:  Train Up A ChildShepherding a Child’s HeartTitus2.com, Ezzo’s Growing Kids God’s Way, etc.

We weren’t the only ones. Some of these books/classes were trendy and many churches across the states would jump on the bandwagon. During the mid 1990s, I spent time visiting homeschool forums online and I’d hear of new parenting books/programs popping up all over the country. Next thing I knew, our own church was now promoting the program I had just read about online.

In general, we tried to adopt ideas that worked for our family and leave the other stuff behind. That seems like a balanced approach, but we still got ourselves in trouble and I have had to apologize to my kids for the way I treated them.

It’s interesting, but the Bible really doesn’t have a large amount of verses on child training, yet some of these Christian leaders were able to write meaty books on the subject or speak for hours on the subject,  showing us how to parent our children the “biblical” way. Yet how much of what they write or speak about really is in the Bible?  It’s really more of their interpretation of the Bible and the application of it. I don’t know about you, but none of my kids were born with an instruction manual and coming from a dysfunctional family, I wanted all the help I could get.

I now get red flags when I see big names being promoted as being the expert on a particular issue. Voddie Baucham is one such pastor whose name is in the celebrity pastor limelight.  I don’t quite understand why people elevate certain pastors to the level of celebrity status.  It’s high time we start removing people from pedestals and acknowledge that God has given us parents the same ability to discern that He has given them.  They were not given a direct line to God any more than we have been given.

From Mr. Baucham’s “about” page at his church website:

Voddie Baucham wears many hats.  He is a husband, father, pastor, author, professor, conference speaker and church planter.  He currently serves as Pastor of Preaching at Grace Family Baptist Church in Spring, TX.  He has served as an adjunct professor at the College of Biblical Studies in Houston, TX, and Union University in Jackson, TN.  He has also lectured at Southern Seminary.

Baucham is a big proponent of homeschooling and his 8 children are educated at home. He and his church also promote family-integrated church model, meaning families worship together and there is no age segregation for Sunday school classes, youth groups, etc.

In this article, we read about his involvement in the Homeschool Movement.  The Homeschool Movement is a subculture within the homeschooling community which subscribes to specific teachings and ideologies:  Courtship, Patriarchy, Purity/Modesty teachings, Quiverfull, etc.  He believes the Homeschool Movement has the ability to turn the tide in recapturing this current generation for Christ.  Here’s one quote:

”The one hopeful sign I see is that the home-schooling movement is thriving. If there is an answer, I believe that is it.”

Along with his support of the Homeschool Movement, Google searches will show that he is a strong supporter of Courtship and Patriarchy. He also does not think adult daughters should leave the home to go to college.

I’m not going to discuss those specific issues, but only bring them up to give a little background information.

What I do want to focus on is his parenting ideas, namely, spanking. Listen to his words. Line up his words with what the Bible says on parenting and see for yourself if this man is speaking biblically or his own agenda. Does the Bible say anything about shy children? Does the Bible say anything about how many spanks a child needs each day? Where does that come from?

*****

The following was transcribed from the above video:

Voddie Baucham

November 4, 2007

CORPORAL PUNISHMENT

SPANK OFTEN

Ephesians Chapter 6 Verses 1-4: I want to take you through three things, I want you to see three things, three phases in the training of our children. Phase number one is the discipline and correction phase. These are the first few years of life incredibly important. This is where we lay the foundation for everything else. The discipline and training phase. In this phase is where we are saying to our children “give me your attention, give me your attention.” “You need to pay more attention to ME than I do to YOU, give me your attention.” “The world doesn’t revolve around YOU, YOUR world revolves around ME.” That’s what we need to teach our children in those first few years of their life. Because they come here and just by nature of things they believe that the world revolves around them. And for the first few weeks that’s okay, but eventually we need to teach them that that’s over, that, “The world no longer revolves around YOU. YOUR world TODDLER, revolves around ME, around me.”

Folly is bound up in the heart of a child and the ROD of correction will drive it far from them. In other words God says your children desperately, desperately need to be spanked.

Amen, Hallelujah, Praise the Lord and spank your kids, okay? (laughter from audience)

And, they desperately need to be spanked and they need to be spanked often, they do. I meet people all the time ya’ know and they say, oh yeah, “There have only been maybe 4 or 5 times I’ve ever had to spank Junior.” “Really?” ‘That’s unfortunate, because unless you raised Jesus II, there were days when Junior needed to be spanked 5 times before breakfast.” If you only spanked your child 5 times, then that means almost every time they disobeyed you, you let it go.

Why do your toddlers throw fits? Because you’ve taught them that’s the way that they can control you. When instead you just need to have an all-day session where you just wear them out and they finally decide “you know what, things get worse when I do that.”

THE SELFISH SIN OF SHYNESS

Let me give you an example, a prime example. The so-called shy kid, who doesn’t shake hands at church, okay? Usually what happens is you come up, ya’ know and here I am, I’m the guest and I walk up and I’m saying hi to somebody and they say to their kid “Hey, ya’ know, say Good-morning to Dr. Baucham,” and the kid hides and runs behind the leg and here’s what’s supposed to happen. This is what we have agreed upon, silently in our culture. What’s supposed to happen is that, I’m supposed to look at their child and say, “Hey, that’s okay.” But I can’t do that. Because if I do that, then what has happened is that number one, the child has sinned by not doing what they were told to do, it’s in direct disobedience. Secondly, the parent is in sin for not correcting it, and thirdly, I am in sin because I have just told a child it’s okay to disobey and dishonor their parent in direct violation of scripture. I can’t do that, I won’t do that.

I’m gonna stand there until you make ‘em do what you said.

*****

How I (Barely) Survived Home Schooling: Jonny Scaramanga’s Story

How I (Barely) Survived Home Schooling: Jonny Scaramanga’s Story

Jonny Scaramanga blogs on Accelerated Christian Education and leaving fundamentalism at his blog, Leaving Fundamentalism. He is building a resource on ACE here, and collects survivor stories from students with experience of ACE.

"I was a shining light for Jesus. Then, suddenly and brutally, I became suicidal."
“I was a shining light for Jesus. Then, suddenly and brutally, I became suicidal.”

I must admit something: I wasn’t really home schooled. I attended an Accelerated Christian Education school, which is probably the closest thing to home schooling you can get outside of a home, but, officially, I was in a school.

At first, I loved it. When I started at the school, so many of the other children were perfect. The boys held the doors open; they smiled and nodded attentively when the supervisors spoke, and they behaved like good Christians. I was not like them. I spoke back to my mother sometimes, and I swore occasionally. If I held a door at all, it was a casual shove to make sure it didn’t hit the person behind me in the face. I never did the proper stand-beside-the-door-and-salute-everyone door-holding. And I only said please and thank you occasionally, unlike my new schoolmates, who could not ask for anything without saying both. 

They were good Christian boys and girls, and I was determined to be the best. Whenever a supervisor spoke to me, I nodded vigorously and said “Yes, Mrs. Staggs” at regular intervals. At the end of school functions, I often found that my face was hurting from smiling so much.

I became the best Christian boy. My first year ended in triumph at the school awards ceremony as I picked up the certificates for the most work completed and the highest average test score, among other achievements. I was a shining light for Jesus.

Then, suddenly and brutally, I became suicidal. At the time I thought no one knew, because no one offered any help. In hindsight, I think everyone was at least vaguely aware, and absolutely clueless what to do. My report card from my second year actually says, “We wish you could find a way to enjoy this, Jonnie.” 

What had seemed like God’s perfect place for me became a prison. And so I hatched a plan.

As many of you will know, ACE allows you to work at your own speed. If you complete the work fast enough, you can graduate early. I knew I had to get out, because I hated that school so much. So I decided I would complete 100 PACEs (ACE workbooks) in a year (compared with the average 60) and graduate young.

This meant that, in effect, I had to be home schooled through the summer. To make 100 PACEs per year possible, I needed to work through the holidays. 

What followed was probably the worst type of home education imaginable. ACE is “teacherless”, at least in theory. The student just completes the workbooks individually. So my parents left me to get on with my work and went out. I couldn’t face it. The second they went out, I was on the internet. This was in the days before high-speed connections, and even before unlimited internet access. I ran up an bill of £500 ($750) in one month, desperately looking for anything to do except PACEs. My Dad made me pay the bill, but it didn’t change the fact that I would do anything to avoid those PACEs.

Having avoided work all day, I couldn’t socialise in the evenings. I spent a summer in solitary confinement, avoiding PACEs during the day and completing PACEs in the evening. Then when I should have been asleep, I wrote diary entries about how I wished I was dead but didn’t know how to kill myself.

One day, walking through my village with my mum, I passed a boy I used to know. Before my ACE school, we had been friends. He had even come to my house to play. 

“Jonnie!” he cried, obviously pleased to see me.

“Hi,” I replied. Well, I tried to reply. My voice came out as a squeak barely audible even to me. I had lost the ability to talk to anyone I didn’t see regularly. 

“Aren’t you going to say hi?” asked Mum. I hadn’t even managed to make a noise loud enough for her to hear.

When we moved churches, we spent an evening at our new pastor’s house, and I barely managed to utter a word to anyone. Eventually the pastor’s daughter spoke to me one-on-one, and I could just about manage that because she went to an ACE school too (I use the word “school” loosely; there were three children, including her). 

Somehow, I managed my hundred PACEs, but it became obvious that I would need to do the same again next year before I was even close to graduating. I felt so resentful that I was missing out on a good education, even though I had no idea what a good education might be. I just had this vague sense that somewhere out there were real schools, with science labs and libraries and literature, and I wasn’t getting any of that. 

Finally, I had a meltdown at school. Someone said something that triggered me. My vision blurred, and for a few seconds I couldn’t see. Then I started shouting at everyone.

Following this explosion, my parents finally removed me and sent me to a regular school. And, of course, fitting in was murder because I didn’t know how to talk to anyone who wasn’t a super-conservative Christian. But I had escaped. And I changed the way I spelled my name, from “Jonnie” to “Jonny”. It was a tiny thing, but it was my way of saying that I wasn’t the same person I used to be.

Now I think fundamentalist Christian home school curricula are part of the problem. Educating children is difficult. Very few parents are equipped to do it well. An off-the-shelf curriculum gives parents a false confidence that they can provide an education with little effort. In fact, a pre-packaged curriculum for every student is not going to fit any student. Systems like ACE just provide a simplistic answer to a difficult problem. Rather like fundamentalism, in fact. 

Burn In Case Of Evil: Cain’s Story, Part Four

Burn In Case Of Evil: Cain’s Story, Part Four

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

*****

In this series: Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four

*****

My Home “Education”

A lot of people read this site and remark on how accomplished, out-spoken, and well-educated we all seem.  Many have remarked that it was obviously homeschooling that made us who we are.  The answer to that question is complicated because I am what I am because of, and despite of, homeschooling.  When your entire social life and community K-12 is homeschooled, of course these influences significantly impacted my life.  But much of my adult life has been spent “re-learning” everything (from social skills, to history, to biology, to relationship etiquette).  I was taught about all of these things through homeschooling.  Some subjects I was never taught properly in high school and my insufficiency handicapped my educational opportunities.

My mother was the primary instructor and, bless her heart, she only had a GED and a few college classes.  It’s not that my mother is not smart, or stupid; it’s that she was not qualified to give me a high school education.  I consider most of my educational experiences before 8th or 9th grade to be generally positive.  I excelled in spelling, math, science, and language arts.  I really had an interest in science at an early age – I can remember enjoying earth science, nuclear science, and astronomy/space.  As I entered high school, a few things happened.  First, we got involved in ATI (a homeschooling cult) when I was about 10, but by my high school years the “Wisdom Booklets” became my primary textbooks (other than math).  Second, I became involved in NCFCA/CFC when I was 13 – started debating at 14.  Third, I started liking girls and “rebelling” by falling for them and having innocent phone and text conversations.

We used Saxon math as a supplement to the Wisdom Booklets.  I excelled at geometry, basic algebra, and word problems.  I’ve always enjoyed problem solving.  As I got involved with advanced geometry and algebra II, my mother simply could not keep up.  I would call my older sister, who was pursuing an engineering degree, and she would try to help me through it.  But math-by-phone is no substitute for a math teacher.

I think about 15 or 16, when I got involved heavily in debate, my mom stopped requiring me to do math.  Debate literally took over my life and I spent about 40 hours a week researching, writing speeches, and talking to friends in homeschool debate.  I consider my friends from CFC/NCFCA as the closest thing to a “high school class” because they were the only social group that I interacted with somewhat limited parental oversight.  I excelled at debate and it fed my father’s interest in history and politics.  So for three years all I did was debate, which was vastly superior to Wisdom Booklets.  My education with Wisdom Booklets made me think that AIDS was a gay disease and my sex mis-education was downright reckless.  I “learned” about logarithms intertwined with the tale of Jesus multiplying the loaves and fishes.

When it came time to submit my high school transcript for college (and to apply for state scholarships) my parents sat down at the computer and literally made up my transcript.  Debate-related activities and research were labeled under lots of different titles (American History, Composition, Logic, Civics, Public Speaking, English, etc).  Of course, I got A’s in all of these categories.  Now, my parents had some semblance of ethics and they decided I needed to complete some science courses to qualify for the state’s college entrance requirements.  My science courses in high school were pathetic, with the exception of computers because my dad worked in the industry for his entire adult life.

During most of my junior and senior years, I worked full-time and debated.  There was a long-distance Latin course from PHC, chemistry, and biology course interlaced with working and debate.  I got C’s in all of these classes and I’m pretty sure I had to cheat on two of the finals just to pass.

Technically, I took a chemistry and biology course, but in reality, I learned nothing about those subjects.  My mom wasn’t that knowledgeable in sciences. I used the Apologia biology textbook.  I remember bumbling through the biology book, not understanding anything I was reading.  Mostly because there was no grand narrative, like evolution, to make sense of all the different species.  I excelled in college biology, but not until I understood the topics from an evolutionary perspective.  My chemistry course was me and my homeschooled friend learning from his father, who was a doctor.  The “classes” lasted for maybe a month or two, but then life got busy and I stopped going.  He didn’t really follow-up, for whatever reason, and my parents didn’t seem that interested either.  So I taught myself chemistry?  Nope, I suck at chemistry – on a very basic level.

As a side note, I’m great with computers because of my father, but I never took a programming class beyond Visual Basic.  He tried to teach me about things, but it always seemed like I was missing part of the story – like he wasn’t “dumbing it down” enough.  Looking back, I realize it’s because my father was trying to teach me only the practical applications of computers while never learning the scientific theory.  I know he knows all about it, but I don’t know that he was qualified to teach it to a child.  It’s not like I gained marketable skills from my computer education.

I was also a huge asshole when I began college. I’m sure you know the type: fundamentalist Christian debater.  I had no idea how to navigate relationships with non-homeschooled people and it took a year or two, many broken friendships, and loneliness to find friends.  I was also encouraged through programs like Summit to challenge my “evil, secular humanist” professors in class – to “stand up” for Jesus in the public classroom.  I was prepared to enter an atmosphere that antagonized Christians and Christianity.

College was fantastic, but difficult and filled with substance abuse.  I realized that I had ADD, but self-medicated for sometime with cannabis.  Alcohol and cannabis helped with the anxiety –social, existential, spiritual, school and parent-related – and helped me to socialize with big groups.  I still can’t socialize with big groups of people easily and I lucked into taking a lot of Honors classes with small class sizes.  I almost lost my big scholarship (which required me to keep a 3.5) in my sophomore year because I got terrible grades in science and foreign languages.  I didn’t know how grades or tests worked, let alone how to study.  I excelled in political science and history, so that’s where I stayed.  I didn’t take biology until my senior year.  I finally understood it and, since then, I’ve developed a keen interest in neurobiology, psychopharmacology, psychology, and health care issues.  At this point, I’d love another two or three years of school to get a B.S. and another three to get an M.S., but that part of my life is over now.

I remember a time in middle school when I really wanted to be an engineer and I still think I could have excelled at it, if it wasn’t for my homeschooling.  Yes, I have an MA, but I’m confident I could have a stable, well-paying job in a science-related field.  My liberal arts education came easily to me, but I would have relished the challenge of advanced science and math.  Almost every public school student has a somewhat competent math teacher and most have access to AP calculus.  Yes, debate is a great skill and it has made me successful, but I’ve always been jealous of people who excelled in math or science – like I once did – and moved seamlessly into the job market.

To be continued.

The Many Men and Women Behind The Curtain: Noah’s Story

The Many Men Behind The Curtain: Noah’s Story

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

"There is a homeschooling machine, whether some people want to admit it or not. There is a Man Behind The Curtain."
“There is a homeschooling machine, whether some people want to admit it or not. There is a Man Behind The Curtain.”

My family started homeschooling because they didn’t like the public schools.

This had nothing to do with God or the feared specter of Marxism. There was no prophetic mandate from above, no urge to add more offspring to Michael Farris’ cultural Illuminati. No, my parents’ reason for homeschooling was really that simple: they didn’t like the public schools. They thought the public schools were a failure.

But my story is a common one. It has a theme mirrored in so many of my friends’ stories. As time went by, my family got slowly but surely sucked into the vortex that is a particular type of homeschooling: the conservative Christian type. While a lot of people want to lay the blame at my parents’ feet, that’s not really fair. And it’s disingenuous. Because the people wanting to blame my parents are specifically not wanting me to blame homeschooling. But those people don’t know my parents. And they don’t know what my early homeschooling looked like. Those people don’t want to acknowledge that it was the homeschooling machine that changed my parents.

There is a homeschooling machine, whether some people want to admit it or not. There is a Man Behind The Curtain. Or, rather, many men (and women). Call me crazy or a conspiracy theorist. But why do all our stories bring up the same names? Gregg Harris. Michael Farris. Mary Pride. David Barton. Ken Ham. Little Bear Wheeler. Michael Pearl. Josh Harris. Etc. Etc. Etc.

You do realize that that a shit ton of money is being made by all these people, right? There is literally a homeschooling industry that is profiting off these peoples’ ideas. Their ideas are being pedaled at homeschooling conventions all over the country, month after month, year after year. Their books are being promoted in every edition of every homeschooling magazine (well, the conservative Christian magazines, but I think you know I’m talking about a particular subsection). Their ideologies are reinforced in state and local support groups, where parents that don’t follow the line get ostracized, just like the so-called “Four Pillars of Homeschooling” have long ostracized the secular homeschooling movement.

It’s really, honestly, a type of bullying. My parents experienced this from the beginning, when they tried to get into a local homeschool group when we were young. We weren’t “Christian” enough (even though we were Christians!). The other homeschooling moms talked shit about my mom until, in tears, she almost gave up on homeschooling us entirely. She eventually found a more supportive homeschooling group, but, as the years went by, she started turning into the moms she originally hated. It’s, strangely enough, just like peer pressure. As one “cool thing” like courtship became a fad, as soon as the “cool” family picked it up, everyone else had to as well. If you didn’t, if you weren’t into courtship, you became that kid in public school who got his shoes at Goodwill. You were ostracized and made fun of, rejected and abused. It’s no wonder that my parents slowly became what originally almost turned them off from homeschooling.

That’s not to say people aren’t responsible for their own actions. But my parents have honestly tried to do their best for me. I respect them and love them. But they respected and loved me not because of the homeschooling community. They respected and loved me despite the homeschooling community.

It’s really ironic, that homeschoolers hold up their practice as this alternative to the evils of bullying and peer pressure in the public schools. Because there is so much bullying and peer pressure between homeschooling parents, it’s ridiculous. Watching homeschool moms tear each other apart with their words is really scary. They’re brutal to one another.

I’m deeply grateful that I had parents that stood up for me. And I’m glad finally people are standing up for people like my parents (and in a sense, against what my parents later became), by standing up against the systematic bullying, peer pressure, and brainwashing that pervades the homeschooling world.

The conservative Christian homeschooling world, that is. I know I already said that.

But sometimes people are tone deaf.