I Hope That No One Will Send You Lies About Our School: Adriel’s Story

Homeschoolers U

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

I’m a current student at PHC (about to start my junior year) and I happened across your call for stories. I’m very interested in sharing my experience thus far! I’ve shared your call to a few other PHC students as well. Hopefully many of them will e-mail you. (I also hope that many of them will think to e-mail you from their student e-mail accounts. That serves to prove that this e-mail is actually coming from a PHC student.)

While I know that some people have had a negative experience at PHC, mine has been mostly positive, although there has been a bit of both.  I’ll provide you with a sampling of events from my time at PHC, in the hopes that some of them will prove informative.

My school experience.

Like many PHC students, I was homeschooled through high school. Like quite a few PHC students, I also spent a year at a local community college before attending PHC.

Homeschooling, while an overall positive experience, left me very socially awkward (part of that was simply my introverted personality) and sheltered. Community college, while also an overall positive experience, left me independent in a way that was more like isolation.

When I arrived at PHC, I was distant from others, depressed for my future, and angry at God. I was nervous and unable to make decisions on my own.  If PHC were the hyper-conservative ‘Homeschoolers University’ that it is made out to be, all of those problems would be exacerbated, with more besides. Rather, PHC has repaired me. I am strong, confident, capable. While still occasionally angry at God, I am learning to trust. I have friends, and I love people. I have hope.

PHC is not a perfect school. No school is a perfect school. But PHC has been good for me.

I rather like my school and my fellow students.

If I had only read about PHC online, and not actually been there, I might have a negative opinion of the school. But, having been here, I see a beauty and life in the school that I hadn’t seen anywhere else.

I do not agree with everything that has been said by my fellow students. I do not agree with everything that has been said from the podium. I do not agree with everything that has been said from the podium and agreed with by the student body. (Those two sentences are very distinct, PHC is good about bringing in challenging speakers.) But I love my fellow students, respect the professors, and have grown significantly as a person in my time at PHC.

We grow at PHC. 

A lot of PHC students, in my experience, enter PHC with a lot of growing up left to do. We’re sheltered in our understanding of the world, awkward in our interactions with others, and untempered in our views. Occasionally students will say or do things that reflect badly on the school. But that’s because we’re all growing, and PHC is a major part of that growth. PHC was a very healthy place for me at a time when I needed it, and it continues to be so. I’ve mellowed out, normalized. I’ve become more confident. I’ve decided that I disagree with my parents and PHC on some issues. I don’t feel ‘immodest’ in form-fitting clothing. Thanks to classes, readings, RAs, fellow students, work, professors, and many other aspects of life here, I’ve grown for the better.

I’ll give you an example of what this looks like on a larger scale: When the freshman classes come in, for the first several days, they seem to, of their own volition, sit at gender-segregated tables. Boys at this table, girls at that table. Sophomores and upperclassmen disapprove of this behavior. My class apparently desegregated quite quickly, and the upperclassmen were proud of us, as we are proud of the now-sophomore class for desegregating as quickly as they did.

I remember reading about the allegations of the mishandling of the sexual assault cases.

It sounded like it was about a completely different school. There was no moment in my readings about the allegations that made me say, “Yep, that’s my school.” For such an idiosyncratic place, I found it strange that that didn’t happen.

For example, the first thing that stood out to me was the depiction of Dean Corbitt.*** I could not reconcile the woman in those articles with the woman who spoke kindly and understandingly to me and ~4 other girls on why it is okay not to be perfect. I see her on campus frequently, and she is a real person, not the monster that the articles made her seem to be.

Regarding those cases, I trust my personal experience more than the writings of someone on the internet. I strongly doubt that the case was handled in the way that it was portrayed.

A note on PHC before my time there.

PHC has changed. The structure of rules for the students to follow has changed. In the past, there were some crazy rules, I’ve heard. But the current system is one I highly respect. We put virtue before legalism.

One specific example that I know about: There used to be a rule that students could not watch R-rated movies on campus. So, students would sit across the street from campus and watch whatever movies they chose. Now, we are simply told to exercise good judgement. If we believe that an R-rated movie would be edifying, we are free to watch it. If we think that a more mildly-rated movie would not be a good movie to watch, we can exercise our own judgement. It’s up to us to decide what we will watch, and we are encouraged to learn the skill of deciding for ourselves what is and is not beneficial.

Other rules have changed along similar lines. So if you hear, “PHC has a rule that the students can’t…” be aware that that statement may no longer be true.

We respond healthily to criticism. 

There was a student in my class who left after freshman year. She was unique and interesting, and I respected her. She helped me pull a prank on another student and it was hilarious. After leaving, she posted her reasons on Facebook, and many of us read them. While some of what she’d seen at PHC took me by surprise, much of it rang true and pointed out flaws in the student body and the way we interacted.

At the beginning of sophomore year, my class held a student-organized prayer time in front of Founder’s Hall. We prayed for our class and for the incoming freshmen. One of the students delivered a brief prepared ‘sermon’. He quoted directly from that FB post, with his point being that we need to be more careful not to be the sort of people that she felt that we were.

A student criticized our school, and we read the criticism aloud with a determination not to be what she saw in us. I was proud of my fellow students for doing that.

In conclusion…

I hope that this e-mail has been helpful, and that the e-mails that you receive will help you to better understand PHC.

I hope that the article which you write will be accurate to the stories that you have been told, as well as accurate to the reality of PHC.

I hope that you will tell others things that they may not expect to hear; that there is a healthy place full of homeschoolers who are growing and learning together.

I hope that you will tell us PHCers things that we didn’t expect to hear, that the anonymous format will allow my fellow students to deliver timely and accurate criticism, like that of the student I mentioned earlier.

I hope that no one will send you lies about our school. (Of course, knowing the internet, that is certain to happen.)

*** UPDATE 2 pm Pacific, 07/28/14: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the dean’s name as Thornhill.

Voices of Sister-Moms: Part One, Introduction

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HA note: This series is reprinted with permission from Heather Doney’s guest series on her blog, Becoming Worldly. Part One was originally published  with the title “Quiverfull Sorority of Survivors (QFSOS) & Voices of ‘Sister-Moms'” on June 24, 2013. This is a slightly modified version of the original post. If you have a Quiverfull “sister-Mom” story you would like to share, email Heather at becomingworldly (at) gmail (dot) com.

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Also in this series: Part One: Introduction by Heather Doney | Part Two: DoaHF’s Story | Part Three: Maia’s Story | Part Four: Electra’s Story | Part Five: Samantha Field’s Story | Part Six: Mary’s Story

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Part One: Introduction by Heather Doney

I hosted a guest blog series about the experiences of “sister-Moms” in Quiverfull families.

This was actually the first time I’ve had people do guest posts on Becoming Worldly. I was excited about it  — and really couldn’t think of a better topic to start with!

Before beginning with the first guest post, an account by a young woman who’s going by “DoaHF,” I figured a brief intro about the kinds of issues young women and girls who were raised in these sorts of environments often face would be appropriate. This intro is a generalization. But based on my experiences, research, reading blogs, and conversations with many other Quiverfull/Christian patriarchy daughters, the following troubling patterns and issues for girls emerge:

  • Being a “parental child” and having an adult level of responsibility within the home starting at a young age.
  • Inappropriate and enmeshed relationships with parents, particularly fathers, encouraged by daughter-to-father purity pledges, purity balls, and purity rings and teachings saying that daughters are under their father’s “spiritual covering,” much like a junior wife of sorts, until (and if) they receive permission to marry through a parent-guided or arranged process.
  • Lack of age-appropriate financial, social, emotional, physical, or educational independence during formative years (and often into adulthood).
  • Social isolation and indoctrination as part of a controlled, restricted, and separatist “us v. the ungodly world” perspective.

In May I briefly spoke out about my personal experiences as part of a BBC World Radio Heart & Soul documentary on the Quiverfull movement. The “A Womb Is A Weapon” radio piece is half an hour long, with some adorable British accents and one distinctive New Zealand one. I speak starting at minute 11, and Nancy Campbell totally sounds like a racist Disney villain. Yep…not even kidding!

Within this sort of isolated, dogmatic, and restricted environment where the parents are consumed by what they see as duty to “the Father,” the eldest daughters of Quiverfull families are enlisted as junior mothers to their own siblings. While Quiverfull proponents such as Nancy Campbell often talk about how helpful this system is to mothers of large families and focus on how much these daughters are learning about childcare, the drawbacks of the lifestyle to the daughters doing this constant care are numerous. They are only recently coming to light because, as these daughters ourselves, we speaking are out about them.

That is the focus of this “Voices of Sister-Moms” guest post series.

Note: The rest of these issues apply to daughters of Christian patriarchy as well as Quiverfull daughters. While many in Christian patriarchy families did not have to care for numerous siblings, most still had the rest of the accompanying teachings, rules, and expectations.

The “Dad in charge of everything, particularly guarding his daughter from the interest of young men” is a standard thing in Christian patriarchy (with a watered-down and often more symbolic version of this occurring in mainstream society). But it can become much more extreme when a daughter is homeschooled. Then she literally can be hidden away from all outside men and boys, encouraged to look to Daddy as the manliest of manly examples in her life, and I don’t think I have to get into how very wrong this can sometimes go.

Daughters who do eventually disobey or disagree with their fathers (often by choosing higher education without approval or planning to marry someone he disapproves of) describe a subsequent shunning that takes place by dear old Dad as being “like a bad breakup.”

This, folks, can be referred to by the icky name for what it actually is — emotional incest.

Some young women report not being allowed to work outside the home in their teens and early 20′s, others report being able to do so under heavy monitoring and sometimes then only at certain types of workplaces seen as appropriately “feminine” or gender-segregated enough, and others report being able to only work in or start home-based businesses or do tutoring and childcare. Some report engaging in long hours of unpaid labor for family businesses, others being forced to turn over their earnings to their parents, and others having what they are allowed to spend their savings on tightly controlled by their parents.

Either way, becoming physically and financially independent is often not allowed.

A number of Quiverfull/Christian patriarchy daughters say that they were not permitted to get their diploma, a GED, or their drivers license. Some even did not have social security numbers issued to them due to being the product of an unreported home birth.  Their parents chose to use withholding these things as a way to control them. Some have even said that they were told it would be their future husband’s choice as to whether they eventually got these things, or were simply told that they would not need them for a life of housewifery and motherhood.

For many, a college education is intentionally set out of reach, whether being described as an unbecoming or immoral goal for daughters.

The young woman is repeatedly told she is not intelligent enough or doesn’t have the right aptitudes to obtain higher education. Or her parents might refuse to sign FAFSA paperwork enabling her to be eligible for student financial aid.

Many girls report only being able to socialize with siblings or the daughters of likeminded families, and then only under supervision, steeped in a strong “informant culture” inculcated into the children that generally curtails secret-telling. In addition to often being kept away from peers, most girls report being encouraged or required to wear “modest” dresses that are several sizes too big or more appropriate for someone several years younger or a great deal older, having their Internet and phone conversations closely monitored, and having friendships with boys disallowed or ended for superficial reasons.

Another thing often mentioned by young women who grew up in Quiverfull and Christian patriarchy homes is that very coercive and often both emotionally and physically abusive “discipline methods” were regularly used on them to keep them toeing the parental line. “Spankings” that consist of multiple hard hits with a belt, a piece of plumbing line, or a wooden stick or utensil (sometimes occurring well into their teenage years), “taking of privileges” that may include meals or basic necessities, and being put “on restriction” by being given punishing chores and/or temporarily shunned and shamed by the family for any form of questioning or disobeying.

Often there are threats of having even minimal contact with the outside world removed and replaced with punishments if a girl gives so much as a hint of showing disagreement or displeasure towards her parents, which is referred to as “having a bad attitude.”

As such, smiling and “being joyful” are often the only moods permitted for young women like us and the struggles with depression, guilt, self-harm, and self-esteem that might be expected in such an emotionally repressive environment occur with regularity. In addition, and this is often reported to be one of the most painful of the control techniques, young women raised in Quiverfull/Christian patriarchy families often are told that they are risking their very souls, God’s wrath, and the entrance of demonic and satanic forces into their lives if they do not “honor their mother and father” by cheerfully complying with every parental request. Some parents will also tell their children that the bible permits and may even require rebellious offspring to be put to death.

For most young women who do choose to leave (or are forced to leave) the Quiverfull/Christian patriarchy way of life, the outside world can be quite overwhelming and scary in many ways and the transition difficult on many levels. Some initially find shelter in marriage and family, others though university attendance, others through paid employment, and still others through the help of extended family and friends.

A few even manage to find their way to places like Meadowhaven for cult deprogramming.

As we come of age and grow in our understanding of what happened to us and gather to tell our stories, there is a sense of comfort, healing, and solidarity in finally being able to compare and share our experiences, to know that we are not broken, we did not “imagine things,” and we are not alone. Together we can face the truth and recognize (if not come to an in-depth understanding of something seemingly so unfathomable) that the indoctrination that took place in our formative years was indeed done by the same people who brought us into this world and our parents were likely indoctrinated themselves.

While growing up in this lifestyle may seem pretty extreme or foreign to someone looking at it from the outside (or even to someone like me who grew up in it but didn’t really see it through this sort of framework until many years later) there is something important to keep in mind. First, it was normal for us because it was what we knew. Also, although it certainly can bring hardship and pain — after all we never asked or chose to be raised in such an environment — there are many strong, smart, dedicated, and likable young women who have escaped it and “pass for normal” in our society today.

I have so much respect for many of the ones I’ve had the honor of meeting and getting to know and look forward to being introduced to more.

When you choose to move on despite the fear, the hardships, the shouted threats by “leaders” and patriarchs, even while knowing you may face a loss of connection with your own family, you do it because something inside you says you have to be free to live, not because you want to leave your loved ones behind. Despite the unnecessary hardships that many of us have had to overcome (and are still overcoming), today we know that we have both the right and the ability to let ourselves out of the cage that this harsh and harmful lifestyle is.

As more of us come of age, more will continue to do so.

We hope to make it easier for them.

The Quiverfull/Christian patriarchy movement is still young. It’s mostly the “big sisters” who are speaking out right now.

But as time goes on our little sisters will likely join us.

So while these sorts of formative experiences do leave scars, today those of us who are out can choose what directions we would like our lives to go. We can take back these stolen parts of our lives. And as we let others know what happened and how we felt about it, we can find assurance in the knowledge that we are discovering and shedding light on a dark side of human nature. We are also highlighting the resilience of the human spirit and the power of community.

We might have each felt hopelessly alone and silenced while we went through this stuff before, as children, teens, and young women. But we are not alone today.

We now have the words and confidence to share what happened to us, what is still happening to others, and the confidence to ask you to understand and help us do something about it.

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To be continued.

Homeschooled Girls and Trash Cans: Latebloomer’s Story, Part Three

Homeschooled Girls and Trash Cans: Latebloomer’s Story, Part Three

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Latebloomer” is a pseudonym. Latebloomer’s story was originally published on her blog Past Tense, Present Progressive. It is reprinted with her permission.

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In this series: Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven

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Part Three: Sexuality, the Elephant in the Room

"At Reb Bradley's church, my family found a culture of people who were also trying to ignore the elephant in the room."
“At Reb Bradley’s church, my family found a culture of people who were also trying to ignore the elephant in the room.”

My mom walked into my bedroom and handed me a heavy biology textbook. “Read chapter 13,” she told me, breathless and blushing. Then she rushed out. I opened to the appropriate chapter: “The Reproductive System”. That was my entire sex education; I was 17 years old.

I think we can all agree: sex education should probably be done by people who have said the word “sex” out loud at least once in their lives.

My parents’ denial of sexuality couldn’t stop puberty, and couldn’t stop our curiosity about sex. Instead, their attitude clearly showed us kids that we could never go to our parents with any questions or concerns that were related to our sexuality or genitals. For me, I found some answers around age 11 when I looked up “sex” and “puberty” in the encyclopedia. Later, a hidden copy of “What Solomon Says About Love, Sex, and Intimacy” in my parents’ closet provided hours of heart-throbbing reading.

Not every homeschooling family is so repressed about sex, but at Reb Bradley’s church, my family found a culture of people who were also trying to ignore the elephant in the room. A favorite theme of Reb Bradley was sexual purity and “Biblical courtship”. He was fond of referring to 1 Timothy 5:2, which says, “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.” According to his interpretation, all young men were to treat all young women as sisters, absent of sexuality.

Paradoxically, Reb Bradley also taught that these single “siblings in Christ” should not be allowed to mingle freely with each other because of temptation…..wait, what? How are you supposed to treat someone as a brother or sister if you’re not allowed to spend time with them? I guess Reb really didn’t believe that platonic friendships were possible between the genders after all.  I think even Jesus himself would have gotten disapproving looks like the mingling teens in the back row if he came to Hope Chapel.  After all, “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (John 11:5)–if Jesus was close friends with single women even in ancient Jewish culture, then why was it forbidden at Hope Chapel?

So how could an honorable young man find himself a wife in this gender-segregated culture? Ideally, he had to notice a girl from across the room–for her godliness, mind you, not her body–and approach her dad to ask permission to court her. Without knowing much about her, he would have to prove to the dad that he was serious about a relationship with the daughter.

If the dad thought the young man was suitable, he would inform the young man of the physical boundaries of the relationship, such as when/if they could start to hold hands. The dad could also control the frequency of contact, monitor emails and phone calls, and require all interaction happen in the presence of other family members. It was encouraged but not Biblically necessary for the father to ask his daughter for her opinion of the young man, regardless of the age of the daughter.

I saw this courtship process attempted once in Reb Bradley’s own family. However, even with his courtship “expertise,” Reb’s involvement was not able to prevent a lot heartbreak, drama, and broken friendships when the courtship ended.  And even Reb’s involvement and teaching couldn’t prevent at least three of his six children from having premarital sex, including one unwed pregnancy. I am not saying this because I think his kids are bad people–they certainly are not. I’m only saying these things because Reb Bradley is still trying to sell himself as an expert on family relationships and courtship. His materials give other parents false expectations of the outcome; people who take his advice should not expect better results than the man himself has been able to achieve.

When I started college at age 22, I determined to give male friendship and dating a try.  It was very difficult at first.  Because I was paranoid about flirting or being attractive, I had trouble relaxing and just being myself.  However, I was encouraged to persevere because I could see the benefits right away.  Long conversations with guys helped me see the world differently and let me experience a different style of communication.  Once I could interact freely with guys, I stopped developing crushes on every boy I saw.  I started to gain confidence about myself, and I started to see what type of guys I got along with the best.

Compatibility, not just character and beliefs, is important to consider when selecting a spouse. This is something that the couple can only determine for themselves by spending lots of time together, not only in groups but also alone.  No wonder Reb Bradley tries to downplay compatibility; he wants to keep the father in charge and he wants the father to control the sexual aspect of the relationship as well. That’s why he teaches singles that they can make a marriage work with anyone, and it’s better for their sanctification to marry someone really different from themselves.

In case anyone cares, even though I dated a few different people in college, I was still a virgin when I married.  However, I was surprised to learn that my virginity wasn’t the “gift to my husband” that I was led to believe.  My amazing husband, himself a virgin at marriage, honestly didn’t care about whether or not I’d had sex before.  Additionally, we both found that physical closeness helped us maintain emotional closeness and openness with each other throughout our dating relationship.  The process of getting to know each other mentally and emotionally is gradual, so why should getting to know each other physically be so abrupt?  We were both very happy that we allowed some sexual progress in our dating relationship, and we both feel it has helped us to have a healthier sex life in our marriage.

For me, what I’ve learned is that there is no use in denying that we are sexual beings, and no benefit to fearing it or trying to hide it.  Accept yourself, take responsibility for yourself, and make your own choices.  You’ll find that sexuality is not such a scary and powerful monster when you stop treating it like one.

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To be continued.