Two Upcoming Series: Sex Education and Media Memories

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By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

For the first time since we started our topical series, we are going to announce two series at once. If you are interested in writing something, you are welcome to do so for either one (or even both, if you desire).

February Series: Let’s Talk About Sex (Ed)

For many Christian homeschoolers, sex education is one of the top reasons why we were homeschooled — specifically, so that we would either not get any or get a very religious version of it. It remains a motivating factor to this day, which makes sense since “religious or moral instruction” is still the most common reason parents choose to homeschool their children.

For the “Let’s Talk About Sex (Ed)” series, please feel free to submit any stories and thoughts you have about homeschooling and sex ed. Ideas could include (but should be not limited to):

  • What your sex education (or lack thereof) consisted of
  • How better sex education could have helped you
  • How you received a good sex education and how that helped you
  • How you received a bad sex education and how that harmed you
  • What your sex education (or lack thereof) communicated to you about body- and sex-positivity
  • How a lack of sex education kept you silent about abuse
  • Some variation of “What I Wish 16-Year-Old Me Knew About Sex and Sexuality”
  • How sex education (or the lack thereof) that focused only on straight sexuality alienated or harmed you as an LGBT* individual
  • Humorous, embarrassing stories as you went about educating yourself about sex
  • Resources for others on sex education

Deadline for submission for Sex Ed series: Thursday, February 13, 2014.

Please put “For Sex Ed Series” as the title of the email.

As always, you can contribute anonymously or publicly.

If you interested in participating in this, please email us at homeschoolersanonymous@gmail.com.

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March Series: Media Memories

Being homeschooled makes you part of a cohort. You share a common language and culture with other homeschooled individuals that seems like a foreign language to others outside that cohort. It’s like a variation on the “third culture kid” concept.

As Christian homeschoolers, we also are a part of the larger “American evangelical” cohort. We are the Jesus Freaks: the children of the flannel graph, raised on a healthy diet of Psalty, Veggie Tales, Donut Man, and Carmen.

That culture we were raised in? Many of us (though not all) have mentally burned it to the ground. Yet we find ourselves circling back to where it burned and sifting through the ashes for memories to redeem. Inside that whole culture’s remains — homeschooling in particular, American Christianity in general — we have found solace, peace, and transformation. Maybe you found hope for your depression in Jars of Clay’s Much Afraid; maybe you found stress from the “seriousness” of the church in Veggie Tales; maybe, maybe not.

But for the “Media Memories” series, we want to remember those pieces of media — whether videos (Buttercream Gang, anyone?), music, TV, books, etc. — that were a part of our culture and impacted us deeply. Consider this nostalgia week, basically. Pick something that you loved, or hated (maybe even hated vehemently), or (probably most commonly) have a love/hate relationship with, and talk about it. It can be a song that got you through hard times, a book that helped you break free from the culture, a movie that prompted a new stage in your recovery process — or a creative conspiracy theory about Psalty.

Or even just something you remember lightheartedly with a smile.

Deadline for “Media Memories” submission: Saturday, March 15, 2014.

Please put “For Media Memories Series” as the title of the email.

As always, you can contribute anonymously or publicly.

If you interested in participating in this, please email us at homeschoolersanonymous@gmail.com.

How I Lost My Faith, Part Three: Rejection

Part Three: Rejection

HA note: The following story is written by lungfish, a formerly homeschooled ex-Baptist, ex-Calvinist, ex-Pentecostal, ex-Evangelical, ex-young earth creationist, current atheist, and admin of the Ask an Ex-Christian web page.

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Also in this series: Part One, Introduction | Part Two, Isolation | Part Three, Rejection | Part Four, Doubt | Part Five, Deconversion | Part Six, Conclusion

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Rejection: Evangelicalism 

“But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.” Romans 14:23

The doctrine of sin effectively maintains many Christians in a cycle of guilt and self denial that they cannot escape.

The Bible teaches that, whether a person is a believer or an unbeliever, everyone on this planet is a slave to sin. The Bible also teaches that a lack of faith results in sin – and sin results in evil and destruction in this world. In other words, evil exists in the world because of you. Destruction exists in the world because of your sin. People die of famine, disease, and natural disasters because your faith is not strong enough to avoid breaking God’s law. When this is the belief that you hold so closely, there is no choice but to drown in an unending sea of guilt – because, everything that causes sorrow and loneliness in this world, is your fault.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9

But there is a dangerous loophole to this doctrine: forgiveness is available to anyone who merely asks for it. A sort of “get out of jail free” card that can be played – no matter the enormity of the sin that may have been committed. So you ask for personal forgiveness with little concern for those whom your sin may have affected and you pray for strength to deny your own thoughts and biological functions so that you may not sin again. With effort, this denial of self can often be accomplished and the guilt may even subside – but it is always only temporary because you are fighting who and what you are as a human being.  All of this traps a believer in a continuing swell of rising and falling periods of guilt and self denial. This emotional roller coaster comes at a psychological cost that Christianity refuses to acknowledge and often even considers beneficial to the individual’s personal relationship with Jesus Christ – because the pain that this cycle causes is Jesus himself forming and shaping you into a person closer to His likeness. And to be more Like Jesus is the ultimate goal of a Christian.

Battered Person Syndrome is defined as the medical and psychological condition of a person who has suffered persistent emotional, physical, or sexual abuse from another person. 

When Battered Person Syndrome manifests as PTSD, it consists of the symptoms: (a) re-experiencing the battering as if it were recurring even when it is not, (b) attempts to avoid the psychological impact of battering by avoiding activities, people, and emotions, (c) experience of being constantly tense and the need to maintain an increased awareness of the surrounding environment, (d) disrupted interpersonal relationships, (e) body image distortion and (f) sexuality and intimacy issues. Victims of Battered Person Syndrome often believe that the abuse is his or her fault and the abuser is somehow omnipresent and omniscient.

This is often the effect that Christianity has on many of its followers and the effect it had on me.

The righteous chooses his friends carefully: but the way of the wicked leads them astray.“ Proverbs 12:26

We began attending a large Evangelical church. I knew many of the youth at this church from the Christian school I attended when I was younger; but I had developed a social anxiety I did not have before. I don’t know if I was afraid that if I made friends again I would lose them again or if I had just become used to a lack of social interaction. But it did not really matter. Most of the youth’s parents would not allow me to be friends with their children because my father was not a Christian. A fact made painfully obvious by his absence from our pew each Sunday morning.

The thought was if we could not convert our father to Christianity, then there was something wrong with our own Christian walk. 

I was told this straight to my face on multiple occasions. No one invited me to events that took place outside of church or youth group. I often saw everyone at the sledding hill or the ice cream shop, but no one ever called me to ask if I wanted to join and that hurt me in ways I would not admit to myself.

However, there was one who did accept me. He was the pastor’s son. We were once friends at the Christian grade school we attended and we managed to rekindle that friendship. Together, we became the youth group video production team. He as the camera man and I as the actor. We filmed many videos for the youth group and this gave me purpose. Eventually, he invited me to teach sixth grade Sunday school with him. I found that I had a talent for Biblical teaching. I believed that the Bible meant what it said and, therefore, needed no interpretation beyond that. I began giving long talks in youth Bible study about the meanings of Bible verses. This sometimes brought out sarcastic remarks towards me from the other youth. But my clear and direct approach to the Bible impressed my youth pastor and he suggested I get further training in seminary. We toured Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and I loved it. I began fabricating plans in my mind to become a missionary to third world countries.

After a fund raiser for the church, the pastor’s son, my only Christian friend at the time, informed me that he and his family were moving to Texas.

The church elders asked his father to resign as head of the church. They believed him to be too liberal and wanted the church to travel more in the direction of fundamentalism. I was devastated. He was the only Christian that accepted me and he was being removed from the church by the Christians that did not accept me. Soon after, I was asked to resign from my position as Sunday school teacher and replaced. When the kids asked me why I was no longer their teacher, I couldn’t answer them.

I did not want to cause these kids doubt by making the church look bad.

But Peter and the apostles answered and said, we must obey God rather than men.“ Acts 5:29 

I became lonely and after constant begging, my mother once again agreed to let me attend public school. I attended full time my senior year. I consider this the best year of my life. I made many friends; but, I was still afraid to let them get close.

Although I had never felt as accepted in my life as I had been among these unbelievers, my indoctrination still held me tightly. 

I thought their influence was a danger to my Christianity and my eternal soul. I was often invited to parties and small get-to-gathers but I would never attend them. I wanted nothing more than to let these people in. I wanted to drink and talk about life with them more than anything I had ever wanted before.

I just wanted to be normal.

But I wasn’t normal; I was a child of God. These desires were merely a temptation from Satan and I was a pillar of Christian morality. I knew that people must look up to my morality, even though no one ever told me this. I thought that if I faltered even once, someone who looked up to me would be devastated. That person, who may be considering accepting Jesus, might decide the teachings of the Bible are a lie. That person would be sent to hell and I would be responsible. But I soon found this not to be true.

Halfway through the year, one of the kids in my neighborhood, whom I had reconnected with that year in public school, committed suicide. 

I still do not know why. I thought myself a failure. I could not understand how he could not see hope in the Jesus that I strived so hard to be like. I attended his open casket funeral, but I trivialized the experience and repressed any emotional response. Losing people I cared about had become a normal occurrence. So, instead of mourning, I sunk even deeper into Christianity. I became more devout, I become stricter, and I began to verbally evangelize for the first time in my life. Christianity had emotionally shut me down and I coped with it by adopting even more fundamental views of the same doctrine – avoiding the reality of abuse by becoming more abused.

It was around this time, I befriended a girl at school. She showed an interest in Christianity so I invited her to church. I became closer to her than I had ever been to anyone else. I took her to a presentation by Kent Hovind at a local church. He talked about faith and science – connecting the two in a way that never gave my faith more validity. On the drive home, she told me of how interesting she found the presentation. The talk had given me a confidence in evangelizing I had never experienced before. I pulled the vehicle over and told her all the reason that I believed the Bible to be truth over any other religion in the world. I told her how we are born into sin, separated from God; but He sent his son to die so we could be with Him in heaven. Soon after, she accepted Jesus and I began a romantic relationship with her.

She began attending church with my family every Sunday and, eventually, I asked her to marry me.

To be continued.

A Few Leave, But Others Stay

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on August 29, 2013.

I recently read a post by Lana that made me think about everyone I left behind when I left my conservative evangelical patriarchal homeschool upbringing.

With all the [ex] conservative homeschooler blogs out there nowadays, people may be under the impression that homeschool fundamentalism has virtually disappeared among homeschool alumni. To be sure, this Christian movement among homeschool graduates is dying a very slow and painful death. But it is so far from over, and I have so many friends still trapped in the ideology that I constantly feel the tension with old friends and old hangouts.

I don’t spend as much time in my old hangouts as Lana, so I don’t feel quite as much of the tension that she feels, but I’d like to echo what she says about not assuming that the thriving ex-conservative-homeschooler blogosphere means there’s some sort of mass exodus going on.

Sure, there’s an exodus — but in my experience most stay.

Out of the half dozen girls I was closest to in high school, only one has left. You know her as Kate. Two others are still living at home, under the authority of their father, having never left home even as they are now in their mid- to late twenties. One married young, going straight from her father’s home to her husband’s and has begun to fill her husband’s quiver with arrows. The final two left home with their fathers’ blessings and attended college in traditionally feminine pursuits, only to return home to live once again under their fathers’ authority afterwards.

Both were Gothard girls.

One now attends Vision Forum conferences with her family.

When I widen the net to the dozen or so girls I knew as acquaintances and saw only from time to time, the numbers don’t get any better.

Of the four girls who were in a Gothard Bible study with me, only one has questioned and left. Others I don’t know about—they just drifted away after I left. Two girls I knew are divorced, having married early to men who turned out to be abusive. Others, I really can’t say.

When I widen the net still further, to the teens I participated in debate with or saw at homeschool camps, I can point to a few more. One girl I met at a homeschool camp left home and wound up pregnant. Things were hard with her family for a time, but she made it through and questioned some things along the way. Another girl I met at a homeschool camp also questioned and left. One guy I knew through debate turned out to be gay. He came out and headed for the big city. But of the dozens and dozens others I knew through these venues? I have very little idea.

Of the guys, it’s really hard to say, and for a very interesting reason.

It’s easy to tell when a girl leaves. There are angry sparks and an extremely visible rift is torn. When a guy leaves? In my experience, the process is generally not quite so fraught with trouble, and is sometimes invisible on the outside. No one is going to be telling that guy that he is supposed to submit to his father, or that it’s his role to follow, or that he shouldn’t be pursuing a career. The family expects him to go off on his way and forge his own way, even if they also expect him to maintain a specific ideological viewpoint.

When a guy leaves, 4 times out of 5, it just looks like he’s doing what he’s supposed to do—leaving home, going to college, getting a job, and starting his own life. When a girl does those things, she’s often seen as stepping outside of the box she was supposed to contentedly inhabit.

There really isn’t any way to get at exact numbers, but Lana is right.

We left plenty of people behind when they didn’t walk the same path we did, and some of them are now repeating our parents’ patterns.

When I Rejected Dominionism

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on August 4, 2013.

By now most people have probably heard of the dominionism in homeschooling and conservative evangelical circles — the idea that homeschoolers will change the world by their involvement in absolutely everything, from science to the high arts to politics. Oddly even after I rejected patriarchalism (and courtship and purity), I still saw myself as a huge warrior and herione. I’ll tell you what changed that for me. But first thought I’ll give you a couple quotes of this in homeschool circles.

First here’s what we learn from the Botkins over at Ladies Against Feminism.

Will your children know how to handle business and finance in a down economy? Defend their faith to militant antagonists? Stand firm against a defiling culture? Fight for their freedoms? Take advantage of technological innovations? And see opportunity amid the chaos?

More importantly, what kind of salt and light are they prepared to be? They may be able to name every country in the world, but do they know how to disciple the nations? They may know about the Battle of Waterloo, but do they know how to fight the battles of today – to win? Homeschoolers have proven they can beat the world at geography and spelling. But can we lead in the arts? Can we lead in the gates? Do we know how to take dominion of science and technology?

Notice the idea that we should be the leaders in science and art, and basically everything. We are cultural warriors, we learn here.

Now here’s a second quote over at The Old School House from Gene Edward Veith over at Patrick Henry College.

Christians fight the culture wars. Some persons put their hope in politics, but that doesn’t seem to do much, even if you elect Christians. A lot of Christians are doing things with the arts and film, and I salute all those efforts. But the effort that is the most dramatically successful is what Christians are doing in education. And the homeschoolers are really leading the way in that.

If Christians become more educated than non-Christians, if they become the people who can use their minds and develop their talents, who can write, read, and have knowledge … if those are the Christians, while the non-Christians in many cases are functionally illiterate, who’s going to be the leaders and the culture makers of the next generation? Homeschool kids give me great hope for the future, that we may come back to where Christians are the influential culture makers once again.

Notice that while Dr. Veith appears to steer away from dominionism in politics, he ends back up in the same place.

If we breed the bright homeschoolers enough, and educate them enough, then homeschoolers can shift the culture. As the nature of Patrick Henry College students, this certainly includes law and politics.

With that, it’s no wonder that when I moved to SE Asia, I thought of myself in big leader terms. To be clear, I grew up in a family with a salary (at least at that time) of the working class, so I was shielded from much of the dominion attitude; we never dreamed big enough for speech, debate, law and politics. We could not afford worldview camps and debate. In fact, my family even slacked to an extent in academics. But I was still taught that motherhood was how I could change the world. I was still taught that Christians would change the world — Christians were that awesome. I was still taught that I was. somebody. special.

Then the bomb fell. I arrived in SE Asia, and I was not anybody special. In fact, I remember telling a friend over skype one day, “people think missionaries pull up to villages, and everyone loves them, and the kid’s kiss them. Yea right.” My work was mostly dominated by kids who either tried to steal from us, or who would yell at me. I was also the worst kind of soldier, and would often fight back. In all the day outreaches I did, the kids and people came running, but what they really meant was, “give me treats and goods.” I still loved those days, but it felt superficial enough that I almost preferred the drama of our kids at home.

That is when I finally began to realize that I am not the hero of my own story. I’m not. I did not come here to win over the world. I came here to serve. I came here to love because they need love, and they need to experience the human dignity that was never afforded to them. The kids do not owe me anything, and I was there to love them, change or no change. In fact, this is what the Bible has to say (I wish I had been taught this in a context other than serving a man).

...whoever wants to be great must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the willing slave of all–like the Son of Man; He did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give up his life as a ransom for many

If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.

And then there is the example of Jesus, who humbled himself to the point of death, even death on the cross (Phil. 2).

My response to Dr. Veith: I do not think the hope of the world is to breed upper middle class Christians with the best education in the world.

Education should never be used as a weapon tool. It’s not a trophy. Instead of focusing on breeding babies and breeding the middle class, we need to focus on all lives. Education is a gift we can give to the entire world, most especially those who have never been afforded one.

I still want to change the world. I hope I’m never too apathetic that my desire to see change dies with me. However, we need to remember that we are first and foremost here to be a servant and to love.

The story is not about us. It’s about other people.

The Lessons I Wasn’t Supposed to Learn: Andrew Roblyer’s Thoughts

The Lessons I Wasn’t Supposed to Learn: Andrew Roblyer’s Thoughts

The 6 years I spent involved in the NCFCA changed my life.  I would wager, however, that my life was not changed in the way that many of the adults in NCFCA leadership wish that it had been.  The dream, espoused to us students many times over the course of our competitive careers, was that we would leave that league trained to do battle against the evil influence of the world, to defend our beliefs, and to convert people to Christianity.  It was, in essence, a conservative (and at times fundamentalist) evangelical pipe dream: a veritable army of thinkers and speakers to fight the good fight and defend their view of the Bible, Truth, and God.

Well, I came out of the league a pretty good thinker and speaker, but I’m also out of the closet, a mainline progressive Christian, and a moderate liberal.  And I am all of those things in large part because of those parents and leaders, some of whom are probably quite disappointed that I didn’t use my influence for their specific idea of what was “Good.”

But before I expound upon my NCFCA experience, I must preface with this: When I set out to write this piece, I did not set out to talk about anything negative.  My experience is one that I normally recall quite fondly (mostly because of the friendships that came out of it), but in reading the other posts this week, some very vivid and painful memories have returned to the surface, and I feel the need to discuss them.  These negative memories center around the league leadership, not the coaches I worked with or really even the parents I knew.  The few criticisms I have included are not intended to be directed at any person’s integrity or reputation.  Many of the adults in leadership while I was competing and coaching are people I have a great deal of respect for.

So, here are six things the NCFCA gave me, including some lessons that I don’t think they intended me to learn.

  • The NCFCA gave me peers, for the first time in my life.  Growing up, I was always “the smart kid.”  I hated that term, but as it was the only way I knew to get respect from both my peers and the adults in my life, I worked hard to perpetuate it.  As a kid, I always had my nose in a book, had very few close friends (but the ones I did have were wonderful), and spent a lot of time alone.  I wasn’t unhappy by any means, but I think that was only because I didn’t know what it was like to have peers.  The students in the NCFCA challenged me.  Collectively, they are some of the most intelligent, dedicated people I have ever met, and I consider myself exceedingly lucky to have met and grown to know and love so many of them.
  • The NCFCA taught me that communication is key.  More than anything intellectual, my time in the league developed the innate passion within me to be in relationship with people.  Communication was prized above anything else, including research and academic prowess.  It didn’t matter what you knew unless you knew how to talk with people and not at them, in a way that they could understand.  This tenet influences decisions I make and endeavors I undertake to this day.
  • The NCFCA taught me how to ask questions.  Whether through cross-examination in debate, extemporaneous speaking, or impromptu, I learned how to ask powerful questions both to gather information and to test the information I had already gathered.
  • The NCFCA taught me that adults are not superior to adolescents just by virtue of their age.  I guarantee you that this was not the lesson that I was intended to learn, because the league leadership rarely empowered us as young adults outside of the debate rounds.  We were looked at and spoken to like children while we were expected to think, speak, and behave like adults.  Even as legal adults, alumni were placed in a special category of judges, being the only ones to have our ballots read for legitimacy, regardless of our reputations.  On the flip side, I can’t tell you how many adult arguments and feuds I saw during my time in the NCFCA, but I can tell you that there were just as many as between students.  My time in the league removed any illusions that communication and maturity became easier as adults, which prepared me for the “real world” in a huge way.
  • The NCFCA taught me (but didn’t mean to) the value of both transparency and trust.  More specifically, it taught me that answering the question “Why?” may be one of the most important things I can do as a leader.  This was due in large part to the lack of transparency and trust between the league leadership (especially the board of directors) and many of the students.  In this area, our questioning skills were often cast in a negative light and we were dismissed.  I remember speaking with a friend about this and saying that it felt we were on a Christian Soldier assembly line, and the adults in the league were trying to control how we behaved and thought at the end of the process.  What they didn’t realize is that much like in the film I, Robot, that method of control provoked exactly what they sought to minimize.
  • The NCFCA taught me that getting know a person’s heart and individual situation is of paramount importance to the development of relationship.  I saw relationships ruined time and again because legalism got in the way of true listening and understanding.  The integrity of the “assembly line” I mentioned earlier often seemed more important than the individual students and parents involved.  This was not as much a top-down issue as it was ubiquitous: most rule violators were problems to be dealt with.  This continued through our time as alumni, dovetailing with the way that we were categorized and talked down to mentioned above.

The people I met during my time in the NCFCA are dear to my heart, including many of the people in league leadership that I knew.  Many of these issues are issues that would likely develop in any institution like NCFCA, but as it is NCFCA we are discussing this week, it is NCFCA I have written about.  Nobody involved in the league leadership was ever a “bad person,” and they all gave so much of their time and energy that it’s a wonder they don’t all have grey hair.  But the league was not perfect, no matter how much I want to remember that time in an entirely positive light. And it’s important to talk about how we perceived both the great and the not-so-great because those things have clearly contributed to who we (as authors) are as people.

So, when people who were or are involved with the league read this, I hope you know that I bear you no ill will. I still to this day recommend the league to students I work with, because it helped make me who I am today.  And I think that’s pretty awesome…even if that person isn’t exactly who the league hoped I would become.

Crosspost: When I Love My Neighbor More

Crosspost: When I Love My Neighbor More

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on June 18, 2013.

I started this blog a few months ago to write my journey away from Calvinism and other evangelical teachings. But I soon realized that although I had left fundamentalism ten years ago, the tiny homeschool bubble that had surrounded me through all my developmental years had affected my religion to this day perhaps more profoundly than Calvinism ever did. The reason I was burned out quickly from both the intellectual-Calvinist church and the more emotional-charismatic church is because of how the spiritual abuse, authoritarianism, and hell fear tactics had worn on my soul two decades ago. I had a radar for spiritual abuse. And so this realization formed so many of the topics that have filled this blog.

My life breathes the story of spiritual and emotional abuse, and I think that is one reason my story penetrates the heart at a tender level. We all know that physical and sexual abuse (and these things definitely occur in homeschool families) is deeply evil, but how does one respond to a story of spiritual abuse?

I wrote my story to show how spiritual abuse stunts the growth of children and damages relationships. Go back 25+ years when my parents first started having children, and they were a regular family. They hurt. They had pains. But they were trying to live despite their childhood wounds. They were not physically or sexually abusive. They wanted their kids to get an education, and they wanted their home to have more peace than their childhoods. My parents wanted to create a better life for us – better than they had it. They joined the conservative movement and a fundamentalist organization out of both cluelessness and a desire to raise children better. In essence this is the story of so many homeschool families, a story of people who wanted better lives but ended up dumping religious abuse on top of the already muddy waters.

Of course, many homeschool dads are attracted to authoritarianism because they want to dominate their families. Many of the most dysfunctional people that the church appeals to get sucked into fundamental homeschooling in order hide abuse. Hidden within homeschool circles, some families hurt their kids and hurt their kids and never show remorse.

But that is not the story of my family. My parents were not selfish per se. Sure the homeschool movement became more about conforming to a group than their children in it. But they never meant for homeschooling to hurt us or leave us culturally disconnected. They never thought it would stunt our growth. They never thought what if teaching their daughters to be homemakers would leave their daughters unmarried without a career.

My parents started homeschooling for academic reasons. My mom did not want to feel different from other homeschool families. So she started conforming to the group. My dad liked homeschooling because it academically made sense to him, but as he stayed involved in his career, he did not understand my struggles or my life. He got up every day and went to work in mainstream culture while the rest of us lived in a vacuum. But I was not physically abused.

My relationship with my mom started to crumble when I became a teenager both because my mom struggled to relate to me in a healthy manner and because I became bitter over the messages I received about my stupidity as the inferior gender. Homeschooling became our living nightmare because we never braked from each other and I heard the Bill Gothard garbage over and over, the same old character traits and same old submit-to-authority lines. My mom turned to shame-based parenting tactics, not to hurt me, but as a last resort to win my heart. She bought into the lines out of a desperation. But as the years creeped by, our relationship went from damaged to all but impossible. And that’s when my dad pulled the plug on fundamentalism, when I hid in my room reading theology all day and avoiding high school academics (my dad’s way of not undermining my mom’s authority but giving me space from mom), and when I turned to Calvinism to rescue my heart from pure abandonment.

Back to my first paragraph, as I realized through blogging, because I grew up in fundamentalism, shame-based fear tactics in the church alerted me quickly. Many of the philosophical strengths in Orthodoxy itself are appealing to me (whether or not I believe in them), but it’s the fear tactics in the nitty-gritty doctrine that make my skin crawl.

I have no patience when people scare their congregations and scare children into believing something. These problems — while not as bold as in fundamentalism — are nonetheless so intertwined in evangelicalism that I could not remain in the church and love my neighbor at the same time. I could not tug my children in bed at night while the church said something bad would happen to them if they did not believe what we believe. I did not want to spend so much energy on getting girls an education only to haul them into the church who said their education had no place if they were a girl or gay. I could not love my neighbor and love my church at the same time.

I don’t blame homeschooling for this.

In fact, I thank homeschooling for burning me out. For as much as I miss stable and concrete answers that Christian evangelicalism gave me, I love my neighbor more.

7 Ways Christian Homeschooling Parents Can Support LGBT Kids: Theo’s Thoughts

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Theo blogs at The Neon God They Made.

Some background for consideration: I am a homeschool graduate, now in college. I identify (right now) as queer and trans*. I no longer practice my parents’ religion, but I grew up in a conservative-evangelical Christian community. Certain aspects of that culture have not only made it difficult for me to understand and accept myself, but also deeply harmed my relationship with my parents.

I realize that Christian/homeschooling parents may not be eager to take parenting advice from someone like me, someone who turned out very differently than my own parents expected and hoped I would, but — my parents did their best to give me a Christian education. To raise me to serve Jesus.

I became who I am anyway, in spite of their efforts to control my future. I hope that parents in this culture can try hard to listen to the stories my peers are bravely sharing, so we can work together to build healthier, respectful relationships.

Speaking as a member of the LGBT community, a child of evangelical Christians, and a homeschool grad, the best advice I can give parents struggling to come to terms with their child’s differentness is to listen without condemning. Even if it goes against what you’ve been taught. If you want to maintain a relationship with your kid, you’re going to have to learn how to let go of your expectations for them. They’re going to be who they are anyway, with or without your acceptance.

This is in no way an exhaustive list of things you can do as a Christian/homeschooling parent to actively support LGBT youth in general and your kids specifically, however they identify — just a few things that would have dramatically improved my self-image and my relationship with my parents.

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(1) Create an environment of approachability.

Employ positive parenting techniques so we can learn how to be confident and capable from a young age. If you teach us to conform or else, you’re teaching us to shut ourselves off from you in order to protect ourselves from what we perceive to be a real threat, regardless of your actual intentions. Our relationship with you will suffer, and we may also suffer long-term emotional consequences.

(2) When you tell us that you love us “no matter what,’’ prove it.

Don’t undermine our trust by simultaneously expressing hateful views of others. If we catch you lining up at Chik-Fil-A to protest federal protection of LGBT employees or cracking transphobic jokes, we will determine that your love for us is very conditional indeed.

(3) If you want to raise us with a knowledge of Christianity, do some research into textual criticism.

Catch up on the latest theological scholarship. Educate yourself so you can distinguish between what’s good and helpful, and what’s overly simplistic, lacking in nuance, or downright harmful. If this is uncomfortable for you, remember that many Christians — in fact, entire denominations — have found that being open to new information has led to a richer, more vibrant faith.

(4) If attending church is important to you, make sure our church home is a loving, accepting community, in theology, theory, and practice.

If it’s not consistently encouraging you to love more, if it’s sending mixed messages or advocates a systemic hierarchy wherein queer people are “rightly” treated as subpar humans, even in subtle ways, it’s not a safe community for us.

(5) Thoroughly research Christian textbooks before you purchase them.

Don’t blindly accept curricula just because it has “godly” and “biblical” stamped all over the cover. (This might require you to confront other assumptions, like theories of origins or structures of society.) Unfortunately, many of the big names in Christian-homeschool publishing are pushing a very specific political agenda that does kids a big disservice by discouraging and suppressing critical thinking skills.

(6) Treat other LGBT people in your life with kindness and respect.

Make our home a safe zone for our queer friends. Stand up for us. When we’re bullied, when we’re discriminated against, when “authority” figures in our world act with arrogance and hate. Be proactive in supporting political policy, at all levels of government, that seeks to protect LGBT people from discrimination and hate crimes.

(7) Don’t interpret any point of divergence as a personal attack.

We love you, but we are not you, just as you differ from your own parents. Everyone has the right to express themselves and make their own life choices. If we grow into happy, healthy, functioning adults, you should see that as a sign of success! You’ve done your job well.

More Than Just a Love Story: Phoebe’s Story

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

It was awkwardly quiet in the car as my words settled. They echoed in my own brain, I could only imagine what Michael was thinking.

“I have the highest respect for you, but I don’t think we can keep dating. I feel like I need to find someone who is more like-minded.”

The problem was, Michael was not a homeschooler and did not come from an evangelical background like I did, just the opposite in fact. His family was laid back about spirituality and never addressed it with structured religious custom. Pressure from my homeschooling family and friends and internal guilt had brought me to this point. I was sitting in the car with him having this awkward conversation because I felt there was no other option. I had grown up in a cloistered, homogenous community and I needed to find someone who would help me create the same kind of community for my own future children. This had been made clear to me when my family found out what kind of man I was dating.

When he graciously hugged me despite his confusion and left the car without looking back, I felt the old loneliness unpacking its bags and moving back into my heart.

For me, the story of being homeschooled was a story of being told to sit down and shut up. “An ideal woman is quiet and submissive,” I was told time and time again. As a weird, geeky, slightly tomboyish girl, I certainly didn’t fit that description at all. I ran around in the woods for hours at a time, I loved competitive debate, Cheese-Its and oversized cargo pants. My stubborn, goofy personality did not fit well in the sheltered, pressure-cooker that is the homeschooling culture.

My family followed the Quiverfull doctrine, which meant I was told that I was an arrow in my parent’s quiver, to be shot out into the world for God’s glory. As time went on, I began to realize that girl arrows get a much narrower, more specific target than boy arrows. They are to become wives and mothers or celibate missionaries. End of story.

At the local homeschooling meetups, it was hard for me to find a place in the circles of thin, whispy girls who were being groomed to be homeschooling mothers and wives. The pressure to be quiet, mousy and seemingly perfect was very high. I tried. I wore dresses and grew my hair out long. I read and quoted books about meekness and godly womanhood, and did my best to avoid hugging boys.

Ultimately, I wasn’t happy. I would hear the adults debate about how women were to be silent in the church. I would hear my dad yelling at my mother, telling her she was not a submissive wife. I would hear girls and mothers gossip about each other and use nasty words for whoever wasn’t ladylike enough. I saw the thousand mile stare and deadpan look on my mom’s face when she opted yet again to check-out, bottle up everything she was thinking and let her bitterness grow. I watched as other homeschooling mothers picked our family apart, criticizing us and pushing my mom around, spreading lies and rumors about each of us that my mother refused to refute. After years spent in this oppressively judgmental and chauvinistic environment, I listened to what I was told. I shut up just to avoid attention and judgment. I hoped to go unnoticed so no one would point out how inadequate I was. The silence and submission I was pushed into was ultimately a place of loneliness, bitterness and almost crippling insecurity. I wanted to get out, but I didn’t know how.

I went to the local college despite my parent’s discouragement. College (especially for women) is clearly contrary to the beliefs of many very zealous home-educators. In class, I met women who spoke up when they had something to say (sometimes even when they didn’t) without anyone thinking anything of it. Women who taught and led classes with passion and a certain touch of oddness that was all their own. They didn’t fit the submissive woman cookie-cutter shape I had grown up with. They were themselves. They were more feminine with their pant suits, unkempt hair and unabashed geek-out sessions than anyone else I had met. I wholeheartedly believe this is true because didn’t feel judged by them and I didn’t feel like less of a woman myself when I was around them. In my mind, that is a huge part of being truly feminine, letting other women feel comfortable being themselves around you. I cut my hair short, I got clothes that fit and I raised my hand in class.

Then I met Michael and we started dating. Michael is goofy, he is curious, he asks questions. He drew me out of my shell, took my hand and encouraged me to stand up and say something. We got into debates and he never once told me to shut up or submit. He was one of the first men I met who didn’t feel like women were solely meant to be homemakers; he helped me build a new confidence in the possibilities that were ahead of me.

Things got rough for Michael and I when my family and friends in the homeschooled circles realized what was going on. I was encouraged to dump him. I was told the path I was going down was dangerous. I was told our future children would go to hell, for sure. Michael was aggressively witnessed to by my family and friends almost constantly. He and I began to argue about religion and conservative beliefs almost every time we went out. I desperately wanted him to sit down with me, to shut up with me, so we could just quietly carry on and go unnoticed and free from judgment. Maybe if he would just nod his head in public and let the judgment pass us by.

He wouldn’t have any of that, so I tearfully dumped him. I decided in that moment that I would rather be comfortable, miserable and silent than be with the man I loved.

It took time, but we stayed in touch and slowly our friendship grew again. It became obvious that he was the man I wanted to be with and that the homogenous, fear-based homeschooling environment I had lived in for so long was holding me back from the life I now knew I really wanted. I wanted to be part of a family that could be open and honest and be married to a man who treated me as a true partner and an equal and respected my thoughts and goals. Two years later, on a pleasantly chilly day, we were married. My family and friends are still unhappy that this arrow went off target, but slowly they are learning to accept my husband and I for what we are and I am learning to stand up for myself around them.

With time I came to understand that my purpose on earth is not determined by my parents or the judgments of the homeschooling community. It can be hard to think and decide for yourself when you grow up without any autonomy, stuck at home with all your life decisions and friends carefully picked out for you. Sometimes, I get overwhelmed and slip back into passivity or dysfunction. I know this is frustrating for my husband to see, but he encourages me to step out of it.  Slowly, I am discovering how to communicate and take charge of my own life.

I am grateful to be away from an environment where women are told to sit down and shut up. Michael and I are slowly building a new family culture from the ground up, one that’s founded on mutual respect, openness and love. I hope if we ever have children, they will never feel like powerless arrows that their parents just shoot at set targets. I hope they will know that they are free to choose their own future, and that they will be prepared to take responsibility for doing so.

After homeschooling, this next phase of my life has become more than just a love story. It is about breaking the silence and learning to speak out for myself.

Putting Children First: Karen Loethen’s Thoughts

Putting Children First: Karen Loethen’s Thoughts

The following piece was originally published by Karen Loethen on her blog Homeschool Atheist Momma with the title, “Still Looking for Disadvantages of Homeschool?” It is reprinted with her permission. Karen describes herself as “a homeschooling mum of two children (ages 15 and 12) and the wife of an amazing man.” She and her family “are Midwestern Americans, currently living in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.”

I’ve been wondering, do I write pro homeschool stuff because I am simply reinforcing my insecurities about homeschooling?

No.

I write it so that others can find pro-homeschooling stuff easily.

But today I am motivated to explore the truth behind negative homeschool experiences.  I have been reading websites of homeschool alum who are very unhappy with their homeschool experiences and blogs of suspect homeschoolers.  I’ve been reading stories by homeschool alum, adults who feel “weird” and “odd” and in pain and who have serious difficulties relating to the world at large, who report abuse, neglect, serious emotional damage, and hugely poor parenting.  I am overwhelmed, today, with the negative homeschooling experiences for some children and adults out there.

While we can not reparent any of these wounded people who are trying so hard to heal themselves, we can offer them our love and seek to understand their claims. We, as homeschooling parents, should never attempt to discredit someone’s story (as I have seen on some of these sites). No, instead, we must learn from these experiences and offer these people our love and compassion. And offer them our thanks for being willing to share their stories. It takes courage in this world to stand up and disprove the majority. And, besides, they are people who are courageously, fearfully offering their life stories, hoping for healing.

If you go there, write nothing, or write only messages of love and support.  It is homeschooling parents who are insecure and fearful themselves who do not allow these voices to be heard without confrontation.  I understand that fear, but these boards are not the place to put one’s own issues out there.

As one woman at the Homeschoolers Anonymous website said, today, homeschooling is often portrayed in the media as some great and noble cause or as a quaint, folksy version of the Great American Dream.  I’m grateful for the “improvement,” as homeschool has had a fairly dreadful rep for a long time. Sadly, some of that rep is well-deserved. I must also add that most of the stories (all the I have read today, in fact) share a fundamental Christian motivation or Evangelical basis for their isolationist and authoritarian approaches to their homeschooling and parenting. This is not the point of my post, but it is an essential piece of the puzzle.

I think of homeschooling as an extension of, as a part of, parenting.

In my mind there is no way to separate the two.

I think we should all have the right to freely educate our children without state involvement. But this presupposes that all adults are capable of making healthy and wise choices for their families and we know that this is not the case. But whose job is it to decide who should and who should not homeschool? No one is sitting in an office making lists of people who can and should become parents.  Anyone can become a parent regardless of maturity, ability, mental issues, all other issues, etc. Parents of all ability levels have always existed in the world.

Maybe we can all agree that not all people who are parents should have been parents.

Similarly, not all people who homeschool should homeschool.

To homeschool, to parent, to the best advantage of one’s children, a parent needs to be mature enough to put the needs of themselves Last on the List and the needs of their children First on the List. A person suited to homeschool and parent children must have no philosophy, culture, or creed that puts anything, anything ahead of the good of the children. A person well-suited to parenting and homeschooling children is a person who is willing and able and apt to reflect upon new information and evidence and use that evidence and make changes, improvements, adjustments when necessary.  The person adequately suited to parenting and homeschooling is a person who takes the time to learn about a variety of educational and parenting options and looks at those options carefully, making decisions based on what makes a better human being from each child.

And more, I believe that the best approach to parenting, in my opinion, is a person who manages to believe in their children, who even believes in the human race!  I believe the more successful parent and homeschooling parent is one who finds humor in life and looks for fun.  I believe it essential to think well of people.  I think it necessary to put Love at the center of family life.  I think it necessary to be a self-aware adult.  And I think it necessary that I spend time locating my own issues, growth areas, and limitations.  And seek to improve myself.

Yes, I can be a bit serious about this.

I believe that adults owe it to themselves and to their progeny to become the best people they can be.

Because when they don’t, it’s the kids who suffer.