Michael Farris, founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association and probably the most visible Christian homeschool leader, is fond of calling his generation the Moses Generation and my generation the Joshua Generation. Christian homeschooling parents, he says, removed their children from the perils of Egypt (aka the public school system) and educated them in the wilderness (aka homeschooling them) in order to send them forth to conquer Canaan (aka take America back for Christ). This really is the entire point of Christian homeschooling (as opposed to homeschooling done by those who may or may not happen to be Christian but do not have religious motivations for homeschooling). This is also why Farris’s daughter started NCFCA—to train Christian homeschool youth in argumentation and debate in an effort to prepare them for their assault on “the world.” In that light, I recently saw an interesting comment left on a Homeschoolers Anonymous post:
The idea that someone thinks that they can find really bright young people, teach them exceptional skills of debate and argument, and then unleash them upon the world as adults while still controlling their thoughts and attitudes is nothing short of insane. Young people have been growing up into adults who reject the authoritarian views imposed upon them for literally centuries. Why does this group of fundamental Christians – who often behave abusively to that self-same group of bright young people – think that they are exempt from the questioning and breaking away process that all young adults do as they grown into independence?
Because they believe they have completely brainwashed their young people into absolute loyalty to The Party as part of their training/indoctrination. Like the Uruk-Hai coming from the spawning pits below Isengard, they were raised and indoctrinated to be living weapons and nothing more.
Why do they think they are exempt from their best and brightest living weapons breaking away? Divine Right, of course.
My father spoke at my graduation. It was a homeschool graduation held at a local church, of course, and each father presented his son or daughter and gave a short speech. I was preparing to begin university the following fall. In his speech, my father said that many people had questioned his wisdom in sending me off to a secular university, asking whether I was ready for that. His response, he said, was that the real question was not whether I was ready to attend that university, but rather whether that university was ready for me. His confidence in my performance disappeared over the following years as I did indeed become “corrupted” by my time at university, and halfway through college my father launched into a tirade against me in which he brought up his remarks at my graduation and told me, his voice full of emotion, that those who had warned him against sending me off to a secular university had been right, and that he wished he could go back and undo that.
Put simply, the commenter quoted above is right.
It is completely unreasonable for Christian homeschool parents to think that they can train up ideological clones whom they can train in debate and argument and then unleash upon the world without at least some of them going rogue or asking questions they shouldn’t. If these parents limit their children’s interaction with the world outside of their religious communities and avoid teaching their children critical thinking skills, creating ideological clones is simpler. But if you’re going to train them in argumentation and debate and then send them out into the world to wage ideological war on your foes, well, that’s more complicated. My parents equipped me with the very tools that ultimately led me to think my way out of their mindset, and meeting and getting to know people in “the world” meant that I realized the portrayal of “the world” my parents had given me growing up was wrong and extremely backwards. The system my parents constructed around me, in other words, was built with an internal weakness.
Why, then, did my parents have so much confidence? The commenter quoted above does have a point when referring to divine right—my parents believed that they were right, that their ideology was sound and true and demonstrably so. They therefore assumed that if they equipped me with Truth, that would be enough.
That I might grow up to disagree with them on what is true and what is not wasn’t really a concern, because they believed that the truth of their beliefs was completely obvious to anyone with eyes. When they would talk about people who “left the faith,” they would always attribute it to some sin—the person just wanted to have premarital sex, or to be able to be selfish and not care about others, or what have you. In their conception, it was never a disagreement about fact that led people once saved astray, but rather fleshly desires—because the truth of their beliefs, they were certain, was manifestly obvious to anyone and everyone.
There was something else, too, something more related to Christian homeschooling. My parents believed they had hit upon the perfect formula for raising children who would never fall astray. They believed this because this is what they were told by the books, magazines, and speakers of the Christian homeschool world. And they had done everything on the list from keeping me from friends who might be bad influences to teaching me with curriculum that approached each issue from a Christian perspective. This, quite simply, is what I consider the number one reason my father said what he did at my graduation. He was convinced that he had produced a culture warrior, following the proper formula and all of the proper advice, and that I was, in a sense, infallible—that I couldn’t possible go wrong.
But what was I, really?
I was chock full of apologetics arguments and conservative talking points, but utterly without lived experience or any real understanding of the arguments against the ideas my parents had taught me. After all, I’d never really interacted with people with different ideas or beliefs and my parents provided me only with straw man versions of opposing arguments in order to then knock them down. I’d grown up in an echo chamber and was happy contributing to that echo chamber, but I had no experience stepping outside of it.
I wasn’t a culture warrior. I was a teenage girl who thought she knew everything and wanted very much to please her parents.
I clearly remember having conversations with my mother about how “those people weren’t really homeschooling” and how our family and friends were getting it right. We talked about how they weren’t really part of any home school community, and their parents were just trying to get away from the responsibility they bore for the abuse they inflicted, by claiming the title “home schoolers.” The home school community distanced itself from these stories, claiming that the abuses of a few “nutjobs” shouldn’t impact the rights of the whole homeschool movement.
It’s been interesting to hear the same lines come up in response to the stories shared on this blog. In comments on other sites, I’ve read many things like, “you could find 30 abused kids in any school system!,” or “these kids’ parents were just crazy. That’s not what home schooling is really like!” It seems like many people invested in the homeschooling movement are reading this blog in the same way my mom read stories like the ones mentioned above — as extreme examples of abuse from people on the far fringes of the homeschool movement. I’ve read comments that go so far as to dismiss these stories outright. More people, though, lament the suffering they read about, but make comments that distance themselves from the problem. These extreme cases are hard to catch, the sentiment goes, because these families never show up to homeschool groups or 4-H clubs or churches or anywhere we (homeschoolers) might be able to intervene. “These kids were totally isolated! It’s not our fault!” they declare, explicitly or implicitly.
This is misguided.
For many of us who are sharing our stories, our families were not on the fringes of the homeschooling movement — we were at its center. Our parents were the ones running the debate leagues, and founding the AWANA programs. We were the ones winning awards, respect, and acclaim. We are the poster children of the homeschooling movement.
And yet, we suffered serious abuse and neglect, and no one intervened on our behalf.
As a survivor, I started asking why. I was (almost constantly) involved in a myriad of extracurricular activities, and none of the adults in my life intervened in the neglect I experienced. They either didn’t notice, or didn’t care.
This is what isolation looks like in the homeschooling community.
I interacted with many adults outside of the homeschool movement, in many different contexts, and I honestly don’t think any of them had an inkling of what was really going on. Homeschoolers have always been trained to put on our most adult, most mature face to the outside world. This has to with the ways we’ve been socialized and the pressure we face to be walking proof of the “success” of homeschooling — but that’s another post. Regardless, we’re excellent at being polite and reciting (often eloquently!) the ideas we’ve been taught. We therefore often make a very positive impression on outsiders — I can’t tell you how many times I was told how grown-up, how mature, how insightful I was when I was a tween. Most of the adults outside of the movement were so blown away by my irregularity (and my ability to discuss the classical origins of astronomical nomenclature) that they never asked deeper questions about my education or physical well-being, let alone about the emotional and spiritual abuse that was present in my home.
I also regularly interacted with adults within the homeschool movement, where parents should have been able to notice what was happening — and still, no one spoke up. Many of them didn’t (and still don’t) consider what many of us endured abuse — it’s just part of the process of “training up a child.” Many bought into the same vision of religious indoctrination and corporal punishment. The “us vs. them” mentality was huge, and “them” was often Child Protective Services. I’d still be surprised to hear of one home school parent reporting another. Even when the “moderate” parents didn’t agree with the techniques of the more fundamentalist ones, the “rights of the parent” continuously won out over the rights of the child. This line of reasoning is currently being used by the HSLDA to justify the refusal to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The combination of these factors created a unique culture that fosters and covers up or ignores the abuse and neglect that happens at the center of its community. The case against Sovereign Grace Ministries, an evangelical denomination that promotes homeschooling, is just one example. We’ve experienced it, and we’re hurt. There was a deep sense of community in the homeschool movement, and many of us, as kids, trusted deeply in its people and institutions. Now that I’m an adult reflecting on my experiences, I feel betrayed. The people I trusted perpetuated the systems of indoctrination that harmed me, and facilitated my parents’ neglect.
This is what isolation looks like in the homeschooling community.
The invitation that this blog presents to the homeschooling community is to begin to take abuse, neglect, and indoctrination seriously, and refuse to look the other way. The children of homeschooling need advocates, and our parents aren’t always looking out for our best interest. Neither is the HSLDA.
I had a conversation with my mom today. The HA group came up. I was, of course, very careful about how I worded things. She is still very much a homeschooling giant, if there is such a thing. She was one of the homeschooling “pioneers” although she laughed today when I told her the name of the group, stating, “Not that long ago everyone in the country was taught at home.”
I’m always careful when I talk to my mother. I can’t tell her that I smoke. She knows that I have in the past, but I never told her I started up again. She’s never seen me smoking.
Today, I was standing on the porch talking to her on the phone while smoking a cigarette. Ironically, after asking her questions about what it was like growing up in the 1960’s, when she was a teenager, she told me about “smoke alley,” at her high school. That was what they called the area beyond the sports fields, where all the smokers would hang out. I asked her if there was a legal smoking age at that time. She said there was, and that likely the students procured their cigarettes from an older sibling, stepdad, or other kids at school.
She told me that there was a radical change in the ‘culture’ from that of the 1950’s. She remembered families spending time together for holidays, girls wearing dresses to school, and “never showing any skin,” in the 50’s. “Then the 60’s came along, and it all went to pot.”
She laughed, then added, “Literally!”
She went on to talk about how when she went to college, she managed to stick to the straight and narrow, even though her classmates went a little overboard with partying. “There was this rebellion…” and kids were drinking, smoking, doing drugs, and the whole Woodstock thing. She thought that a great deal of it was fueled by the controversy over the war in Vietnam, and that the response of the people was “we’re not going to be told what to do,” and she also said that there were similar feelings of unrest that were an underlying cause of some of the rioting that went on during that time.
I told her I was interested to know why the homeschooling movement seemed to pick up and become popular around the 80’s and 90’s, and she agreed that it may have been a reaction by parents to what they had experienced in their school years.
I found all of this fascinating.
My mother is fascinating.
I used to be able to confide in her. I would tell her everything. But as I got older, her thinking what I said was cute, and then telling her friends about it got old, fast. So I’m careful what I talk to her about. I am much more open with people my own age. I think it’s something I learned as a child. Parents, people in authority, and people older than me were not to be trusted, because they could bring a world of hurt crashing down on you should they so choose.
I was careful to point out to my mom that I did not think homeschooling was bad, or wrong, only that some people had been in abusive environments, and were sharing their stories, and supporting each other and healing. I’m also careful how I talk to my mom because she was abused for so many years. First by her parents, then her husband, my dad. So she is used to being attacked. I think she expects to be attacked. Now that I am older, I don’t think she minds as much as she used to when I disagree with her, although it’s mostly trivial things, I haven’t tried to bring any of the big things up with her.
I’ll get to more of what those big things are later.
I remember when I was 12 years old my mom throwing her hands up, exasperated, saying, “If I said the sky was blue, you’d say the sky was green!” Which was stupid, because the sky was blue. And funny, because I’ve seen tornado skies, and they are most definitely green. But I don’t think she ever realized that I just wanted to have my own voice, and be heard. I was becoming my own person, from a very young age. And she didn’t know how to handle that.
I think that when the last kid moves out of her house, she will have no idea of what to do with herself. And she is already trying to ensure that she never has to face that, by keeping my youngest sister forever…
Fundamentalist Homeschooling Is A Poison: Isaiah’s Story
HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Isaiah” is a pseudonym.
I have mixed feelings about homeschooling, to say the least. While I find many, if not most, of the common criticisms of homeschooling to have some kind of validity, I still feel myself cringe when homeschoolers are caricatured as deranged fundamentalists since I know from experience that there is more to the story. My experience with homeschooling consists of extremely varied highs and lows — the highs of a dedicated and capable parent as a teacher, an education that fit with my self-motivated personality, and freedom from rigid schedules; and the lows of religious indoctrination and the personal struggles caused by living in an insular environment. If the good side of my homeschooling experience was very good — and it was — the bad side was very bad, and I still feel its effects to this day.
I was homeschooled for my entire lower-level education — kindergarten through high school — and in that time I knew homeschoolers from all sides of the social spectrum. I knew unschoolers, conservative Christians, liberal Christians, vaguely religious people, non-religious people, and even a Wiccan at one point (though I didn’t know what “Wiccan” meant until some time later). I knew people — or more accurately, the children of people — with a fairly wide range of beliefs and philosophies which had led them to homeschool, rather than just the evangelical families so well-represented in cultural tropes about homeschoolers.
But in spite of the diversity I was exposed to, my experiences have led me to be very suspicious of homeschooling in general, for a simple reason: in the homeschooling movement, the most extreme voices are the majority. There is a reason why the archetype of homeschoolers as fanatical morons is so popular. For every parent who chooses to homeschool for health reasons, extenuating circumstances, or educational philosophy (ie, that of unschooling), it seems like there are ten who homeschool because they are part of the fundamentalist or Quiverfull movements. Knowing what I know now about the history of homeschooling, this makes sense. After all, the Quiverfull movement openly says its goal is to produce large broods of future homeschoolers who will repeat the process over and over until they outnumber everyone else, and while the majority of Christian homeschoolers tend to be less brazen, they often only believe in milder versions of the same philosophies touted by Michael Farris and the other leaders of the Fundamentalist/Quiverfull movement.
Fundamentalist homeschooling is a poison. I say this from experience. It spreads like a virus, and not just among the conservative Christians who form its natural hosts. There are people of milder faith who get progressively sucked into more and more conservative elements of the homeschooling movement. Sometimes, through ignorance of fundamentalism’s real motives and philisophical underpinnings, a person can be lulled to sleep by the superficially attractive images of evangelical rhetoric and never notice the bigotry and delusion lurking right below the surface. I’ve seen it happen to people, and my mother was one of them.
As is probably typical for non-fundamentalists, many things contributed to my mother’s decision to homeschool me. Essentially, she believed — not without reason — that the public schools I would go to were dirty, violent, overcrowded, had poor curricula and bad funding. We couldn’t afford a private school, so she as a stay-at-home parent began to consider homeschooling.
By the time I had reached four my mother decided not to enroll me in preschool or kindergarten, and for the next three years did a wonderful job both educating me and socializing me with other children and adults. Even though I was an only child, I had a healthy and very normal social life, and was able to be educated above my age group, starting grade one at five years old. These were some of the best years of my childhood, and I still believe to this day that with sufficiently intelligent, caring and involved parents, early life education does not require formal schooling of any kind (although I see nothing wrong a with a good formal early education either).
After this successful start, when I had turned about seven, we decided to continue homeschooling through grade school. This marked the beginning of our brush with the conservative homeschooling movement. The HSLDA, which previously had been only an abstract form of social insurance to us, began to be a resource for our studies, and its sister organizations were used to help choose my formal curriculum. We spent a while before the start of my third grade school year deliberating on what system offered the best education, and ultimately decided on a hybrid approach. Other than the notoriously dry Saxon math textbooks, we chose a fundamentalist Christian curriculum called LIFEPAC and its digital equivalent, Switched-On Schoolhouse. This might seem incongruous, since we weren’t fundamentalists, but my mother was a religious conservative in the sense that she had a very hard time criticizing anyone who claimed to represent Christianity, and always gave religious individuals and organizations a great deal of respect even when her values were utterly opposed to their beliefs. She never looked beyond the very thin religiously moderate veneers that the HSLDA and other conservative Christian organizations put up, and so she assumed the curriculum was merely a good Christian education, and nothing more.
If the thought had ever crossed her mind that the curriculum I used for ten years would progressively harm me intellectually, psychologically and spritually, she would have thrown it back on the shelf in an instant. But as it turned out, this curriculum would prove to be the central destructive influence of homeschooling on my life. It was from these textbooks and lessons that I was poisoned by fundamentalism, and they are largely responsible for the part of my homeschooling experience which stunted my development and left me struggling with extreme self-doubt, self-hatred and depression as years went by.
The lesson plan started off innocuously — even with a bible study textbook as one of the main subjects (right next to science, history, and English), the first few grades were of decent quality and generally avoided controversial material. Thanks to excellent teaching I excelled consistently in my studies and everything seemed to be going well. But as the years went by, little oddities started to present themselves when I studied my textbooks or took lessons on the family computer. Starting around the sixth grade — once biology and astronomy became serious subjects — science seemed to take a strange path, and as grades progressed upwards the tone of the text became more and more defensive, with the writers eventually resorting to actually mocking biology and astronomy (evolution and the big bang were the biggest targets) rather than merely promoting creationism. The extreme immaturity of using mockery in a textbook apparently never occured to the writers of the lesson plan.
History not only consisted of the standard American whitewashing, which strains a person’s grip on historical facts badly enough, but also a Biblically literalist whitewashing, an almost colonial view of non-Europeans, and to top it off, no acknowledgement that anything over six thousand years old could exist at all. It is not an exagerration to say that everything I actually know about history I learned outside of that curriculum, and that beyond certain parts about Rome, colonial Britain and early America, I have had to erase and relearn much of what I was taught to get an accurate picture of the world. As with the science curriculum, history lessons progressed in their deviance from standard textbooks over time, in this case by including slightly more biblical content in each grade level, marked as “history” right next to the founding of Rome or the pyramids of Egypt. Bible study, needless to say, was extremely focused on inculcating the “right” beliefs into students as quickly as possible and didn’t pull its ideological punches as much as the other subjects did. Although it did review the whole Bible (starting at about the 6th grade) it only did so in a literalist context, progressing in nastiness and pushiness by grade. All this time I had continued to use Saxon’s math textbooks — which I loathed, but did seem to work — and occasionally found myself welcoming their dry dullness near the end of the school day.
Saxon didn’t preach — it merely made you fall asleep.
The curriculum as a whole struck very softly with indoctrination, couching it in well-written and produced textbooks as well as computer applications that included media and games. The packaging was, as a whole, fairly slick, and if you weren’t looking it was easy to miss the poison that peppered the whole thing.
In addition to the other beliefs I described, all the subjects I studied promoted complementarian sexism, sexual abstinence, chastity, Edwardian/Victorian style gender roles, human exceptionalism, and of course Biblical Literalism, though they all did so in different ways. What strikes me now is how subtle some of this propaganda could be — it was even present in English class, not only in the books on the required reading list but occasionally written bluntly between otherwise unrelated text in the middle of a lesson. Now and then harsh Bible quotes would appear beside inspiring ones, as if in warning, and heaven, hell, angels and satan were all real characters in the context of the textbooks.
Before I make this look too bad, though, I have to say that I didn’t even notice much of this until the last years of my education, although I always noticed, ignored and then tried to forget all kinds of little doubts I had about what I was learning. I read voraciously, including many science and history books that contradicted what I was taught, but until I became an older teenager I never really paid much attention to the contradictions, and through some kind of doublethink held that both ideas could be true. My mother remained an excellent teacher, I continued to hold a healthy social life, and I was otherwise quite whole as a person. Because fundamentalism only came from one part of my life and it was not promoted — though it was also never criticized — by my family, I had a lot more intellectual freedom than do most of the children who use this kind of curriculum. While some problems were simmering within me, my middle school life was overall a good experience even with my inane curriculum.
Personal issues during my high school years finally drove me to look back on, question and eventually discard the philosophy I was taught. A move to a faraway state had left my social life in tatters and it never recovered for the rest of my teenage years, I was forced to realize my own sexuality (both the existence of a sexual instinct itself, and that I was bisexual), I learned enough about real science and history to know that my education had not given me the whole truth, and I began to realize the terrible cruelty and undesirability of the world that fundamentalism sets out before people. All the little doubts and moral outrages I had repressed over the years came flooding back piece by piece, and after a long and hard struggle that included four years of constant depression I left both the fundamentalist part of my education and religion in general, becoming a happier and better person for it.
Only a couple of years after that last break from fundamentalism, my feelings on homeschooling remain mixed because my experience was mixed, and while the high points were great, the low points could be awful and intolerable. My mother’s dedication and inherently tolerant and empathetic nature gave me not only a good basic education, but a diverse and varied social life, ethical feelings I could seperate easily from religion, and intellectual freedoms that most homeschooled children never enjoy. But my curriculum, much of the media I watched or listened to, and the culture I grew up in contained no voices arguing actively against fundamentalism. Because of this, I became a host to the virus of religious paranoia and self-hatred, which I only recently managed to shake off enough to do things like write this essay. I was taught a much more warped perspective of history than even the average American middle-schooler, and my knowledge of useful science was very small until I studied real science for enough time to fix what my curriculum had broken. My relative intellectual freedom as a young child had left me well-prepared for this and I have managed to “catch up” without much fuss, but not everyone gets that opportunity.
Ultimately, I can’t say what my views are on what should or shouldn’t be legal in homeschooling. No matter what, I believe that there must be a strict basic code of regulations on homeschooling to prevent indoctrination and abuse, but I also understand the position of Germany and Scandanavia when they choose to simply ban it outright except in exceptional circumstances. I have met a few secular homeschoolers, unschoolers and other non-fundamentalist homeschoolers who have done well with their children’s education and have nothing to do with religion, let alone religious indoctrination. But the poison of religious fundamentalism is very potent, and the potential for even non-religious abuse within homeschooling is still high, regulated or not. I was a very loved and nurtured child in a relatively liberal household, and yet I suffered at least some of what children in deeply authoritarian Christian homes do.
I can’t imagine what I would be right now if I had grown up in a family of true fundamentalists, Quiverfull members, or right-wing evangelicals.
The lawsuit from my former abusive church has come and gone and I have been doing some deep thinking — trying to figure out what brought us to that particular church — what made that church appealing to us? I had to acknowledge that this church, like other prior churches, was strongly pro-homeschooling. In fact, if you didn’t homeschool, you may not feel very comfortable there. So, it made me go back further, all the way back to the very beginning — before we started homeschooling and were investigating. What I have discovered is alarming: patriarchal teachings that are often times abusive, parenting styles that are often abusive, and ideas completely outside of mainstream Christianity are going on in the homeschool movement.
My husband and I have been married 27 years and have 7 children from 25 yrs down to our 6-yr old “caboose”. We have always homeschooled. We have always believed that this was the best choice for our family. We have been to many churches due to my husband’s military service and job changes. Many people have influenced us in our homeschooling, parenting, marriage, and our Christian life journey and right now, I am angry. I am angry about what I have discovered looking over our marriage, looking at our parenting styles over the years, looking at decisions we have made, looking at people who influenced us — people we trusted to be godly, like-minded and who wanted the best for their children and families.
If you have not been connected with the homeschool movement and click on some of these links, you might say: ”Um, yea, you drank the Kool-Aid long ago.” If you’ve been in the homeschool movement, you will probably be nodding along and can reminisce with me. I will take you on a wild journey going back through what I have experienced or seen in the past couple decades as a homeschooling mom. Here is a sampling, and not in any order, of the kinds of influences, beliefs, philosophies, practices we dealt with or were familiar with among the homeschooling movement over the years:
Why did we have so many children? How do you know when your quiver is full? Would we have had this many children if we hadn’t listened to specific teachings? Who invented the jumper dress? Why did I sometimes feel guilty if I didn’t wear my denim jumper? I no longer own a denim jumper. Who decided Gregg Harris or Michael Farris were the spokesmen for homeschoolers? Why did so many homeschoolers flock to the articles and books of Mary Pride?
Is it okay to refrain from sex to not get pregnant or is that saying “no” to God’s blessings of children? Did it really mean one isn’t trusting God if taking measures to prevent pregnancy after cycles returned 6 weeks postpartum (and round-the-clock nursing)? How many blessings of babies did I prevent by taking matters in my own hands? Is God mad at me for my “interference” of “His plan”?
What about all of those families who stop having babies after only 4 children or 2 children — are they disobeying God? Why don’t they want God’s blessings? Who is targeting the homeschooling community to convince them to pop out babies to overpopulate the world with Christians babies? Why does this same dude bombard our mailboxes right before Christmas to encourage us to buy Christmas toys (gender specific boy toys for boy and girly girl toys for girls) when their family does not celebrate this “pagan” holiday?
How did I get to the point where I believed that I may be treading dangerously if I was not a member of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association? Who would protect me if someone from school district came to my door and wanted to find out why my children weren’t attending the evil government school down the block? How many homeschool families printed out instructions on what to say to government officials if “they” came unannounced to our door to interrogate? How many of us had HSLDA phone numbers in a prominent place — just in case? Where did all of this fear come from?
Why was I corrected when I said “public” school instead of their preferred “government” school? Is there an agenda going on? Who is feeding all of this? Who decided that boys should be owning their own home businesses to support their families? Who decided that all colleges were bad until Patrick Henry College was founded by popular homeschool leaders in the “movement” and then all of a sudden it became “okay” and even “good” to send our kids away to college?
How did the homeschool movement influence my views as far as who I voted for or how involved I was in politics? How did they convince me that I was eating improperly and I needed to grind my own wheat and make my own bread? How did the homeschool community have the inside scoop before my traditional-schooled friends from church when it was going to become the end-of-life-as-we knew-it during the Y2K scare? Who brought that hype to the homeschool community? Would you like to ask me how many homeschoolers I personally know who are still going through their stockpiles of grains? Seriously!
Who told me about modesty and how I should be dressing and how my daughters should be dressing? What does modesty have to do with homeschooling? Why do all homeschool boys look alike with similar short haircuts? Who convinced me that my children could never “date”, but must only “court” and that my husband gets to choose our children’s future spouses? How did, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” become such a popular book? Who named the government as “evil” for wanting to know how our children are educated? Why do homeschoolers assume the worst when they file their “notice to intent” with their local school district?
Why do they assume that the school district secretary doesn’t want to deal with homeschoolers and will instigate more trouble by wanting more information than required by law? Who made up this purity ring ceremony — and that our teen daughters should wear their purity rings symbolizing their virginity until they replace it with their wedding ring? Who started this thing where daughters shave their fathers’ beards? Below you will see an invitation to a Father Daughter Tea from Vision Forum. Fast forward to 1:37 to see daughters shaving their fathers. Um, really?
Who decided that boys should have their homes paid for before they get married? And why are organized sports so wrong? When did Young Earth creation become a primary issue to be a Christian and that if you didn’t believe it, you might not be Christian? Why are scientists looked at as if suspect? Psychology is of the devil. What’s with all of those pictures of large families with matching clothes on the covers of homeschooling magazines? Are my children supposed to be wearing matching clothes? Who decided that was the right way to dress kids? Who decided that women should only wear dresses?
And what about those who show up at conventions with head coverings — are we bad women if we don’t have them? Who decided that family-integrated churches were better than traditional churches for our family? Why is it that homeschoolers brag about their children being able to interact and socialize well, yet you can “pick them out” a mile away because they look and act so “different”? Who has been instigating the us-vs-them mentality regarding so many of these topics? Who decided that the only job that we should be teaching our daughters is to be “keepers of the home” and serving their fathers and then serving their future husbands?
Who decided a 1/4-inch plumber’s line was an appropriate tool for spanking? Who taught us that if we had to repeat a command twice to our children, our children were being disobedient: First-Time Obedience. How did we let this group convince us that all infants should be able to go 4 hours between feedings. What single man decided that fathers were an umbrella of authorityover the family below God? What same man also encouraged men and women to get vasectomies and tubal ligations reversed to allow God to control the size of their families and then paraded post-reversal children in front of the auditorium at conventions?
This is quite a diversion from spiritual abuse in the church, but I need to go there. I now believe the homeschooling movement made our spiritually abusive church seem appealing to us. Some of the above is just plain quirky, but other issues go much deeper affecting core spiritual beliefs and agendas.
My daughter, Hannah, is 25 yrs old and she was only homeschooled. The first traditional school she attended was community college and last spring she became a college graduate. Her peers were from an early generation of the growing homeschool movement. More and more blogs are being published by young adults like my daughter who are “coming out” and sharing their homeschool experiences. The stories are not pretty. My daughter has shared some of her story. And you can read the story I wrote about Hannah’s experience here. In that story, you can get an idea of the controlling environment in which she lived and how she had to escape – it remains one of the most popular blog posts.
What she experienced at home has probably gone on in many homes. I bear much responsibility for it. I went along with it. I have apologized to my daughter many times for it. The abusive church we found also aligned with these philosophies of heavy-handed control of children, even adult children. Hannah was 21 when she moved out. She was not a child, yet we thought we owned her.
I assumed (yeah, I know about that word), that when we got into homeschooling that it was a safe community — a community where children’s best interest was at heart. We wanted to have the primary influence in the education of our children. That’s good, right?
But I have discovered that there is an underlying agenda in the homeschooling community that has been there all along — even years before I started — and it continues to this day. I believe that some of this underlying current — taken to an extreme — could be responsible for breaking up families, causing abuse, wreaking havoc on people’s spiritual life.
I firmly believe that God used the lawsuit in a powerful way to highlight the issue of spiritual abuse in the church. He was there during the entire time providing amazing support for me. My life is rich having gone through it. But now I’m wondering if God is using another experience of my life to share here.
While I have spent countless hours writing blog posts about spiritual abuse in the church, I think there is a setup for spiritual abuse that originates in the homeschool movement. In our abusive church, we felt a “kindred spirit” (and all the homeschool moms just laughed at me with that phrase) in the church because of with like-minded teachings and beliefs. Some of these ideas need to be explored further.
I think it’s important to hear from these young adults who have lived it and are now trying to put the pieces together of their childhood together as they begin their families.
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” ~ Proverbs 22:6
You see that verse? Probably every homeschool parent heard that verse too many times to count throughout their homeschooling years. It was engrained in us. We did not want our children to depart from “the way they should go” and the solution was to “train” our children. At least that’s what they told us.
Ever since my spiritual abuse journey, I have been trying to figure out what led our family to that spiritually abusive church and pastor who sued us in an attempt to discover who our primary influencers were over the years. I found that the most influential people in the last couple of decades have been leaders in the homeschool movement who had a spiritual agenda, not necessarily an educational agenda. We have been taught so strongly to “train our children” and some of us did that quite well. We created little obedient and compliant robot children who were polite, respected authority and looked really good in church all lined up in a pew. People always commended us on our beautiful large family.
These influencers not only taught us how to parent, but taught us what they thought was very important: large families, courtship, modesty and purity, fathers as spiritual heads/priest of the home, mothers as hard-working submissive wives, preparing wholesome meals from homegrown gardens, grinding wheat to make whole grain breads. The boys were taught how to be boys, play like boys, work like boys, helping their fathers in projects around the house. Daughters learned traditional homemaking skills that would last them a lifetime when they got married and started families of their own, because that was their ultimate lot in life. Yes, in many homeschooling families, daughters were discouraged and even forbidden from going to college for any higher level education, they were to stay at home serving dad and their family while they waited to be courted by a young man approved by their father.
True to the homeschooling culture, I did own a denim jumper or two, and I sewed matching jumpers for my daughters who were 7 years apart in age. My five boys may thank me that they never had matching homeschool uniforms like khaki slacks and polo shirts, but they did manage to always match by having jeans with holes in the knees.
Not only did we raise good obedient children, we invested in our children and pushed them towards educational excellence. We made sure they were well-versed on the popular homeschool-movement agendas which we adopted as our own: they knew how to debate creation vs evolution, they were politically involved in their communities, worked on political campaigns, participated in speech and debate classes and competitions, attended worldview conferences, and went on missions trips. In my family, our kids knew how to evangelize the “right way,” how to defend their faith, and knew the tenants of 5-pt Calvinism inside and out. Homeschooled students were good students, usually testing years ahead of their peers. They were accomplished in music, sports, volunteered at Crisis Pregnancy Centers, lobbying at the capital for homeschooling rights, etc. What more could we ask for?
What many are finding out is that those brilliant robots, when released to the real world, start questioning where they came from, what they believed, where they are going. This is a normal response for young adults. But I’ve seeing a disturbing trend especially among young adults who were raised in this kind of environment. Many of these “trained” adult kids are now venturing 180 degrees in the opposite direction, perhaps in response to the controlled environment in which they were raised, some suffering a host of problems similar to what spiritual abuse victims experience that I deal with so often: mental health issues, addiction issues, etc. There is a lot of heartache among this group.
I feel very responsible for buying into this garbage. I will continue to speak out against disturbing aspects of the homeschool movement on my blog. It takes a lot of emotional energy to work up one of these posts because it means I have to admit my failure. Of course my blog will also continue to be a platform for these precious young adults. I believe in a way that some of us parents were cult leaders in our families. We were fed an agenda by those home school leaders. We believed it. We saw their perfect families and wanted to emulate what we saw and expected that kind of obedience and educational excellence from our children. We trained them alright.
Not too long ago, I was asked if I would like to partner with others in a new blog called Homeschool Anonymous. I was thrilled to be asked because I have attempted to use my blog as a Spiritual Sounding Board to the abuses that I’ve noticed in the homeschooling movement. Most of the participants in the Homeschool Anonymous blog are former homeschool students, and two of us have been (or currently are) homeschool moms. Interestingly, you will notice that many of the blog participants no longer connect with their Christian heritage. I think conservative homeschoolers will find this shocking. In fact I admit that I am afraid to post about this on my private Facebook page because I have easily 300+ homeschooling friends/moms who might be pretty upset if I mention this big homeschooling secret: some of our adult kids have departed from the way in which we trained them.
I have long ditched my homeschool mom uniform, the denim jumper. I refuse to go to state-run Christian homeschooling conferences whose conference leaders get to hand-select vendors and speakers based on their approved religious agenda. So as I continue to teach our last two kiddos at home, those destructive religious-agenda influences play no part in our homeschooling anymore.
So yes, I am partnering with R.L. Stollar who is an amazing individual and new friend who was completely homeschooled and put together this group. I have so much respect for what he is doing to help his peers walk through their homeschool journeys and the aftermath or perhaps fallout. I hope Homeschool Anonymous reaches many former homeschooled students and parents and that our collective voices will be heard and considered. It’s never too late, right? Oh my, parenting is a humbling journey – so, so humbling.