Bill Gothard’s Abuse is Not a Surprise

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Rachael Moore.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on February 19, 2016.

If you follow developments in homeschool leadership, you likely know that prominent homeschool leader Bill Gothard is alleged to have sexually groomed and molested dozens of young women during his leadership career in homeschool and other fundamentalist Christian circles, beginning in the 1970s and continuing until he stepped down from leadership a couple years ago. You likely also know that a handful of graduates from his leadership programme, IBLB, are suing Gothard, and subsequently the entire IBLP leadership board for turning a blind-eye to Gothard’s crimes.

In the lawsuit documents, the woman describe strikingly similar Gothard experiences: Gothard noticed beautiful girls or woman at his conferences, asked the girls or women to come work for him, and once the girls or women arrived, he made them his secretary, although they were, in many cases, too young (a minor; only 18, etc) or unskilled for the task. He initially would invite the young girls into his office to “counsel” them, and from this relationship, he groomed and then molested or harassed the young women. He called the young women his “energy giver,” and the lawsuit documents state that it was well-known that Gothard had “pets” and a certain “types” of women.

Homeschool blogger Libby Anne recently describes this grooming in her description of the lawsuit:

10. It was common knowledge at IBLP that Gothard took teenage girls as “pets.” It was also common knowledge that Gothard’s behavior with regard to these girls was not appropriate. At one point in the early 1990s, after Gothard asked the IBLP Board of Directors for permission to marry Rachel Lees, the board barred Gothard from having female personal assistants. This ban was never enforced, and Gothard continued his pattern.

I’m sitting here trying to come up with some explanation for how this went on for as long as it did. People knew this was going on. The IBLP Board of Directors knew, the personal assistant who told Jane Doe III to buy shorter skirts knew, the employee who arranged the room assignment for Jamie Deering knew. People knew something was off. We’re talking about an organization that sent teenage boys home for merely talking to girls, while its leader held late night one-on-one “mentoring” sessions in his office with teenage girls.

Well sure, you say, it was a cult. That’s how cults work. But I want to stress just how widespread IBLP’s influence was within the Christian homeschooling world throughout my entire childhood and beyond. There were hundreds and thousands of families involved who had no idea that anything untoward was happening. This wasn’t so much an insular group like we’re used to thinking about, with its members cut off from contact with the outside. Rather, it was one that faced outward and led wide swaths people across the country to trust it its leadership and its “godly” mission and methods.

I highlighted a couple sentences from Libby Anne’s post that I want to address, namely to what degree did the thousands of homeschool families know about all this.

My family was one of those involved in ATI, the homeschool branch of IBLP, mostly from a distance. We were involved in ATI my entire homeschool career, from about 2nd grade until 10th grade, when we started slowly distancing ourselves from the programme more and more, although my family did not completely severe ties until I was in college. What ATI looked like for my family was yearly visits to the national homeschool convention in Knoxville, Tennessee; quarterly meetings with the homeschool families in our areas; and attendance to several conferences. I did attend one of their local homeschool camps, and we did visit the ALERT academy (a homeschool “army” training programme) occasionally, namely because we lived nearby their main headquarters.

My experiences in ATI were enough to remember some of the strict rules. For example, I had to walk with my head down when I passed ALERT guys, and I can remember the weird campus luncheons where guys pulled out the chairs for us young ladies, and then we sang a hymn and prayed, before eating together.

However, my experience in ATI was still small enough that I had a life outside ATI; my family never visited the Indiana campus, for example, and I never recall speaking to Gothard personally, although I am sure my parents did at some point.

From all appearances, my family was one of the thousand sea of faces that passed in and out of conferences or a campus every year, while remaining mostly a nobody family.

I bring this up because despite the fact that my family barely met Gothard, never worked on our local campus, other than a few volunteer days, and only occasionally visited the campus, my parents were well aware that Gothard had “pets” and “types.”

Here are a few family conversations I remember, which went something like this:

In elementary school:

Me: “Mom, dad, why do we have to wear  our hair down and wear white shirts and blue skirts to conferences. This is so dumb.”
Dad: “Because Mr. Gothard likes girls dressed that way, and he makes the rules.”

In middle school:

Me: “Why does this say we have to curl our hair?”
Dad (beginning to connect the dots): “Gothard is attracted to women with wavy, though not too curly, hair. *He* likes women that way. That’s why he says this.”

In high school:

Mom’s Friend: “We spoke with Mr. Gothard at family camp. You should have been there. Mr. Gothard asked my daughter Hope to come work for him at headquarters. He is so impressed with her and her character and wants her to be his assistant.”
Mom: “Your daughter is ONLY 15.  She needs to finish high school.”
Dad: “Yes, but she knows enough already, and she can catch up during the summer, he says.”
Mom: “He isn’t interested in your daughter because she’s godly. Your daughter is super attractive. He wants her because she is pretty, not because she’s godly.”

I can still remember the conversation my parents had about the daughter Hope at the dinner table that day. Hope was “his type.” Hope had “long, thick wavy hair and perfect complexion.” Hope had little education, and would wait on his every beck and call, because she wouldn’t know better. Dad just kept saying, “Gothard is creepy; I know he is. He spent his whole life [indirectly] telling us that our daughters with very straight hair had inferior hair because it isn’t wavy. Too bad the girls didn’t get my hair, haha.”

I want to be clear; this conversation occurred long before the testimonies of Gothard’s “type” surfaced the internet through the website Recovering Grace. In fact, my family did not have internet at this time that I remember, other than email via dial-up. My parents had this conversations without any personal verification; they obviously had heard gossip about his “pets” and “types,” but they never heard that he was actually touching young girls.

When these young women, who suffered abuse at Gothard’s hands, finally told their story, neither one of my parents expressed shock. They said, “of course, he is guilty.”

And my parents non-shock is not because my parents are cynical; on the contrary, they were extremely shocked when Doug Phillip, another homeschool leader, had to resign from his leadership position, because he assaulted a homeschool girl. My dad said, “nah” when I read him the news about Phillips, and my mom just kept repeating, “How could this be?”

But with Gothard? My parents just said, “of course, he’s guilty; he’s always had ‘types’ and ‘pets.”

When I read the lawsuit accounts, it was creepy to see how much Hope matched the description of the other girls. Like many of the young women, Hope also came from an unstable family. For example, one of Hope’s siblings had a child marriage; her brother married a 15 year girl (I don’t remember his age; perhaps 18? 19?), in a sort of arranged marriage. None of her siblings have a high school education, at least by government standards. Every sibling has married by age 19. Gothard likely knew at least part of this family’s history, because they attended family camp annually (the same family camp the Duggars from 19 Kids and Counting attend) and had the loud-kind of mouth that liked to brag about how they had married their children off. In addition, as I mentioned, Hope was gorgeous, and she spent 2 hours in front of the mirror each day working on her hair and face to make her look even more beautiful.

Thankfully, Hope did not go to the Indiana training centre. My parents had an influence on her family, and for that, I am thankful. Hope married a son of a prominent staff family who worked at the Indiana training centre. (They met at family camp.)

I echo what Libby Anne said; it’s weird that no one stepped in and did anything permanent about the abuse. But I do suggest one additional thing: these allegations are not really a shock, not even to most ordinary homeschool families.

As my parents said, he has always had pets and types; we all knew this.

Wrestling With Skepticism After Fundamentalism

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Kate Ter Haar.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on December 31, 2015.

I grew up in a fundamentalist, homeschool environment, which means that from a young age I learned to defend my faith and be skeptical of all people who disagree with what we believed. And I mean all.

I spent my childhood on guard. I analyzed the neighbors, so that their “public school” mentality or behavior did not taint me. In homeschool, I learned about how all the scientists were wrong about everything. I learned that academic people in general had trouble getting to heaven because their minds were steered in the wrong direction. I was taught that Catholics were deadbeats with incorrect doctrine, and to beware of any liberal theology, lest it corrupt me. As I got older, I became the family watchdog.

I studied theology in highschool, and could tell you which theologians were okay and which were not.

I was not just trained to be a skeptic of intellectual ideas; lifestyle choices, too, were also something from which I needed to keep pure. I was skeptical of those who ate pork and junk food; those who did not know how to grow their own vegetables; those who went to public school; those who listened to secular music; those who dressed in a “worldly” manner; those who used bad language.

I always hated the fact that I judged people and was so territorial and guarded against outside ideas and outsiders. My best friend in the neighborhood was born from a teen mom (raised by her grandmother), and I called shit on the way in which some of the other girls at my church treated her, as if she had done something wrong. And yet, while I saw the downsides of how we judged people as the result of how we tried to defend the gospel and keep the church pure, I never could break free, shut my mind off, and pretend that ideas do not matter or have consequences.

As I continued to get older, I lived with a tension: on the one hand, I wanted to accept my liberal friends and liberal ideas, and on the other hand, I could not just turn off my mind. In college, I had lesbian friends, who were pretty much awesome. Yet I was not instantly convinced that my lesbian friends should marry and have children because I could not see how two children could be raised by two same-sex parents and not miss out on something. I could not just tell my friends, “I love you, so I’m turning my mind OFF.”

I had to work through my preconceived ideas and do my own research; I needed my own “proof.”

I’ve realized lately, that I’m still the same passionate skeptic that I was when I was 13 years old and that I was in college. I am, today, generally accepting of people different than me, but that’s not because I’m not skeptical. I’ve already worked out in my mind that there is no single “right” way to raise children, so I have no further comment about who live outside the box. But when it comes to ideas, philosophical, social, or theological, I am still the same skeptic I once was.

Whenever I encounter a new idea, I am instantly on guard, unable to assent, refusing to assent, demanding proof (not necessarily proof in a scientific way, but in a way that makes sense to me). You might say, “normal people struggle with skepticism.” I think that is true to a degree.

But my skepticism is far more intense than your typical person.

As an example, I took an entire course on Kant this last fall term. Most graduate students treated the class like a chess game: “isn’t it interesting,” kind of thing. For me, life and death was at stake.

After reading the first section of Kant’s first Critique, I felt like I was going to vomit.

Then I felt like crying. Kant’s basic thesis that we only conceive “appearances” and not reality as it is “in itself” was trouble for me – life and death trouble. I experienced a dual tension: If Kant is right, then my whole ability to trust reality was going to fall down the tubes. Yet, the strong Christian side in me was also certain that Kant was wrong; I just needed to figure out what it was. I spent every afternoon in September out on the driving reading Kant, trying to figure it out. When I mentioned how I was troubled to the rest of my classmates, they nearly laughed at me and said, “even science is starting to believe that Kant is right.”  It was not until December and 600 pages of reading Kant later (DECEMBER) that I finally had peace. I had an epiphany one day, independent of what everyone else in class was saying (because people’s opinions never do much for me), where I realized, “you know, Kant is just observing experience” and in that moment, I found peace. I still heavily disagree with Kant in many places, but I’m at peace at the same time, no longer guarded, no longer think his philosophy is the death of western culture.

I can’t just make my mind assent to an idea just because it’s popular by really smart people. 3 years back, when I first started really, really questioning the doctrine of fundamentalism, I couldn’t make myself believe the earth is old just because most people believe it’s old. I had to research it myself.  As old earth became more comfortable to me, evolution did not suddenly feel comfortable. It’s taken time for me to just to accept that we might have evolved from lower life forms.

My skepticism always makes me an outsider. Just yesterday, a friend posted on facebook a meme about an idea that is endorsed by mainstream research and liberal politics. I instantly reacted to the fact that the premises on the meme were not well argued. The first thing that a skeptic needs to be convinced is well-argued point. But besides this, I’m just not convinced that this particular liberal idea is true. I’ve yet to see the evidence for myself, and I can’t make myself believe it, just because conservative ideas are usually wrong.  (I actually think the truth is usually somewhere between the liberal and the conservative, but that’s another story.)

I’ve only recently learned to quit fighting the fact that I’m a passionate skeptic.

It’s overall a blessing, except when it turns into bigotry against others, and yet I’ve also seen my skepticism help me fight bigotry. For example, I’ve seen facebook friends post memes that argue for scientism, the belief that science is the ultimate authority, but the language of the memes celebrate science to the point that other “unscientific” cultures would be conceived inferior if the meme were really true.  My skepticism of anything mainstream – a skepticism that ultimately derives from my childhood – made me able to see this general problem of scientism.

My skepticism is also what makes me a good philosophy scholar. My skepticism is what makes me a refreshing and needed voice in the academy. I presented work this semester, just as an example, of what characterizes the modern subject and how that has influenced how we conceive of history, and from there, I made a bold move to try to critique this. The night before I presented this paper I was really unsure what would happen – after all, I was presenting a paper critiquing modernity, when most of the academy is very modern. But you know what? it was well-received. It got people thinking. And this paper would not have been possible without spending the last 2+ years of grad school unsatisfied and skeptical.

I’ll never feel settled in this world; I’ll never truly “become worldly” or find a home. I often tell people I have left fundamentalism only to become a wanderer, without a home. Even the place that feels closest to home, the philosophy department, I am the most skeptic of them all. But that’s okay. I must learn to accept this.

One thing has changed since I was 13: I am keenly aware that I might not be right, that I could be wrong. I am aware today that I don’t have the final voice; I’m just a voice in the sea of voices. I know that when I present a paper, others get to present their papers too. Sometimes I feel like tearing my work up because I’m aware that I really, REALLY could be wrong.

The 13 year old me did not know I was wrong. But the 30 year old me knows that I could be wrong.

And yet, I am no longer afraid of my skepticism, because underneath my skepticism is my passion. I am passionate about ideas and philosophy because truth matters to me. When I encounter new ideas, I can’t promise anyone that I will agree or be open-minded. The truth is, I will probably be extremely close-minded and hard-hearted about it. But I can promise that I will read; I can assure you that I will assume that the research or author is intelligent, even if I disagree; and I can guarantee that if I read and find out otherwise, I will change my mind.

Lesson of the post: if you are an ex-fundamentalist, learn to celebrate your skepticism, although do yourself the favor of reading. If you know an ex-fundamentalist, or anyone skeptical in general, don’t call skeptics stupid just because they won’t believe in something everyone else believes in.

Stop “Knowing” What Anna Duggar Will Do

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on September 12, 2015.

The downside of the cute, quiet  ATI-patriarchal-quiverfull life of the Duggar family is now all over mainstream media. While it’s somewhat of a relief to see the public realize that conservative homeschooling is not as innocent as it seems, as an ATi alum myself, it’s also gets very triggering and downright weary to hear the media mock my childhood leaders as if it’s nothing but a good story for them. Likewise, seeing the Duggar kids pictures on the front page of the tabloids makes me sad. The Duggars aren’t a juicy story to devour. They are a broken, hurting family.

I don’t like what the Duggars have done and are doing, never will, but I am so sick of the media turning the victims into a juicy headline, as they seek to ‘unlock’ what Anna Duggar will do. Poor Anna, she is a headline: “Anna Duggar won’t leave Josh,” the headlines read. In philosophy, we call reducing a woman to a headline the equivalent to reducing her to an object.

Here is what I want to know: How does the media know Anna won’t leave Josh?

They are guessing.

The media is browsing around ‘interviewing’ homeschool alumni or any and everyone who can give them a juicy line about what it’s like to be a Duggar. But none of the juicy lines, usually which were pulled out of context without really understanding of the greater picture, yield any real knowledge of what Anna Duggar will do. The media is guessing.

We need to stop ‘knowing’ what Anna Duggar is going to do.

The media is assuming Anna won’t leave based upon what they think women in cults do when they are cheated upon. But here is the deal. I grew up ATI, and I have seen families divorce on grounds of infidelity. I’ve seen them not.

The media is going to assume the worse about cults, the darkest reality of a cult, not because they care about Anna, but if they can make the ATI religious group the darkest and most freaky group humanly possible, than they can get more page views. So ‘homeschool leaders could support her’ isn’t a good headline. ‘Anna is trapped for sure’ is a much better pickup line.

I should mention that if Anna wants to leave, she does have Biblical grounds for divorce. No, not everyone will argue that she has Biblical grounds for divorce (i.e. John Piper), but she has it, and most Christians know it.

I should mention that even the extreme fundamentalist leader Kevin Swanson recently admitted that Josh Duggar is a disgrace in the podcast Homeschool Murderers. Even leaders are starting to think Josh is kind of evil.

Within Anna’s own family, some have supported Anna all the way, including one of her siblings and cousin Amy. She and Josh have a lot of siblings; I’m sure there are plenty more who will also support her if she divorces Josh.

I do believe that if Anna wants to get out, she will find people within conservative homeschooling who won’t condemn her for divorcing Josh and won’t blame her for not having enough sex with him.

Josh didn’t just cheat. He willingly walked into bars, willingly set up profiles online, and cheated on her over and over. People know they can’t blame Anna for that. Sure, some of the homeschoolers will say Anna just should have had more sex with her wayward husband. But for pete’s sake, she was extremely pregnant with her fourth child when some of this was going on. Leaders can try to ‘blame Anna,’ sure, but it’s going to collapse in their faces. Plus Josh’s parents wouldn’t have sent him away if they thought more married sex was going to cure him.

It won’t be easy for Anna to leave, but she can, if she wants.

Another thing I keep hearing: “Anna Duggar won’t leave because she’s brainwashed.”

Stop calling homeschool alumni brainwashed. It’s insulting and rude.

At this point, we don’t know if Anna will leave or not. It’s her choice, not our choice. It could take her days, months, or years to work this out. Everyone has a different journey. But I believe in Anna, just like I believe in all other homeschool alumni. If other homeschool alumni have escaped, so can Anna.

I don’t have a clue what Anna will do. Neither does the media. But Anna owns this story. It’s her story, not ours, and the media needs to quite telling Anna’s story.

They need to quit ‘knowing’ what Anna will do.

How Roland Barthes’s “Myth” Functions in Modern Homeschooling

Roland Barthes.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on October 6, 2014.

In a previous post on emotional abuse in homeshooling, I wrote this:

The reason I connect this to homeschooling is that homeschooling made the shit seem natural, the way that it was ought to be.

In the comment section of that post, one reader writes:

I also went through verbal and emotional abuse, but we weren’t homeschooled. . . . I still thought this was normal, even though I saw a lot of other families in school. Because my parents truly loved me and cared about me; they just had tempers and fears.

I do realize that the majority of abuse survivors, probably especially children, think what their experience is normal and not abuse. But when I spoke of “the shit” seeming “natural,” I was speaking of a lot more. Let me explain.

Most of you are probably familiar with the way that companies use advertisements to sale their products. Just to help illustrate, you can view the following commercial:

Mercedes is just a car. But this advertisement is not just selling a car – it is selling a lifestyle. From watching this clip, think of the wolf, the mountains, the modern house, and even the phrase “untamed” and how it all signifies a certain lifestyle.

All of us today are aware of basic advertisement strategies. Roland Barthes, a 20th century social critic and structuralist from France, was the first to coin advertising as “myth.” Barthes argues that advertisements has a double order of signification. A Mercedes sales both a car and a lifestyle. The myth is the lifestyle.

But what Barthes says is that myth functions in all of language, not just in advertising. In his short essay “Myth Today,” Barthes argues that myth sacrifices history. He illustrates with this picture:


This is the front page of the Paris Match. Barthes explains:

“I am at the barber’s, and copy of Paris-Match is offered to me. On the cover, a young Negro in a French uniform is saluting, with his eyes uplifted, probably fixed on a fold of the tricolour. All this is the meaning of the picture. But whether naively or not, I see very well what it signifies to me : that France is a great Empire, that all her sons, without any colour discrimination, faithfully serve under the flag, and that there is no better answer to the detractors of an alleged colonialism than the zeal shown by this Negro in serving his so-called oppressors.”

Myth sacrifices history. Myth in this photo re-ordered the history of colonization and made it appears as if it was “natural,” as if it was the only way to be.

So how does this connect to homeschooling?

The homeschool community fosters several “myths.”

Remember I said that when someone buys a Mercedes, he or she is not just buying a car, even though technically all they receive is a car. He or she thinks they are buying a whole lifestyle, which is why they are willing to pay more than twice the price of a regular car and drive by a poor neighbor on the way home from the car lot. Myth makes one feel young, important, ageless, etc.

It is the same way with conservative homeschooling. Our parents did not just buy a method of education or a lifestyle of doing school at home. Instead they were buying a package of a happy, happy, godly, content, grateful, loving, spiritual, happy, loving, happy, loving, spiritual, happy, loving family.

Think of the Duggar poster family. They represent the homeschool lifestyle and send certain messages to the American public. The Duggars are not just selling “big family.” They are selling the message that their lifestyle makes people happy and godly. The myth says, “raise your kids the Duggar way, and they will be polite and want to become missionaries and aways get along with each other.” The Duggars even sale books telling you how to produce this kind of family.

I actually wrote about this in my post The Duggars are Not Crazy. Homeschooling and fundamentalism sold something besides just education. It sold a lifestyle, a lifestyle that looked extremely appealing.

I like this picture of the Duggars because instruments are part of the homeschool myth:


We play instruments, yes, but the instruments in homeschooling also signify the big happy family. Big homeschool families, the myth tells us, are happy, get along, and even play instruments together. When homeschoolers pick up their instruments, they know they are doing more than just learning an instrument; they are practicing the big, happy homeschool lifestyle.

So what is my point? What is the problem with myth? According to Barthes, myth demands the sacrifice of nature. Myth rewrites history. It changes everything while making everything in front of us seem natural, as if it was the only way to be.

And that is what I was saying about homeschooling making abuse seem so natural.  When my mom yelled at me, spanked me, and said I was rebellious, not only did the emotional abuse seem natural to me, as if it was the only thing I ever knew, but also the whole homeschool myth made our pain seem necessary to the overall goal to produce a happy homeschool family who would go on to save the world. Part of the myth was that the tears and struggle were necessary in order to overcome a rebellious heart and stubborn spirit.

It wasn’t just that mom exploded, and she covered it up. My mom actually would call her friends on the phone, and they would discuss how to break my rebellious spirit.  My parents’ friends were the ones who told my parents to take my basketball away from me because I forgot to say thank you. My mother’s friend told her to just give me bread and water and make me stay in my room for being disrespectful. As Barthes argues, myth does not lie. When you sign up for the conferences, they told our parents that winning their kids souls for God would be difficult but not to let down because the end result was a happy and godly generation of arrows for God.

Thus Mom and her friends would brag to each other about their discipline. Sure no one saw the degree of the emotional abuse in our family. Nevertheless, myth was always covering up my parent’s tracks and always sacrificing the truth. You may notice that whenever a homeschool alumni comes out and tells his or her story of abuse, a flock of homeschol parents comments and says it’s no big deal and the alumni is just being disrespectful. So many parents still believe that breaking the spirit of children is totally necessary.

Everything around us was sacrified for the homeschool lifestyle, as it came completely natural to us, as natural as eating.

Again, to illustrate, think of phrases from North American history textbooks, such as the American “frontier,” the belief that God gave us the land, “the virgin land,” and progress. All of these myths allowed us to steal land from the First Nations People in North America and then kill their culture.

Similar the belief that homeschooling is a Biblical command, the belief in purity and courtship, and all of the homeschool “lifestyle” that homeschoolers bought into when they signed up for the conferences, all allowed parents to sacrifice the hearts of their kids.

As Ryan Stollar argued in his paper, patriarchy and legalism are a small part of the problems in American homeschooling. Homeschooling was a myth that has covered all our broken pieces. The fact that there was so much abuse in our families is not a surprise.

Myth is always too good to be true.

I Have No Roots

Photo by Lana Hope.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on March 7, 2015.

When I left my fundamentalist upbringing behind, I left it all, all my roots, all my friends, all the things that connected me to the past.

They say people need roots, but I have none.

When I’m lonely, I have no where to turn, except to people of the moment. When people talk of old family Christmas traditions, I have none, or nearly none.

When it’s Christmas break, I don’t fly to my parents because there is no Christmas there. When the semester ends, I go camping, not to visit old friends. When I’m lonely, I write in a foreign language on my FB.

My facebook includes no one I knew before the age of 16, and only one person I knew before the age of 18.  That one person wasn’t from my hometown.

I’m almost 30, and my oldest friendships date back only 10 years.

When I walked away from fundamentalism and the homeschool world, I didn’t just leave my old friends behind. I left behind a whole different set of traditions and norms. I have no roots.

For most of my life, we did not have a Christmas tree, Christmas decorations, and lots of presents. We did not have Easter egg hunts on Easter Sunday or dress up for Halloween.

But we did wisdom searches, and sewed our own matching doll clothes, and cooked meals with our friends. We played outdoors and did research in the library.

We had massive family get togethers with other homeschool families. We had a watermelon party at our house because we had so many watermelons, and I remember times with friends where we dug tiny tunnels and had cricket races through them, and I remember all us kids catching 100 baby frogs at our house.

With our local ATI get together, we went swimming in our ridiculous modest swimsuits in our friends swimming pool, rode their massive zipline, played cricket with all the dads and large numbers of siblings. We did this year after year;.

We went to gatherings at the ALERT Academy, which is associated with Bill Gothard and ATI, and we had a whole different set of traditions, such as singing hymns before our meal.

We had American girls club when we were elementary school, and Proverbs 31 girls group in middle school.

But those traditions, if you can call them traditions, were all put behind me when I left fundamentalism. No one else says to you, “what did you do in your proverbs 31 girls group as a kid?” They say “what was your Christmas traditions” and I shrug my shoulder with nothing to say except “well I did lead the little kids birthday party for Jesus.”

My facebook friends talk about meeting up with an old friend from high school; my friends here at the university talk about their old high school friends. I always say nothing, and then come home and facebook search old friends.

I find their facebook cover photos with their 7 siblings and 15 nieces and nephews. One old friend I recently found had a cover photo were she and her whole family (i.e. parents + siblings + their families) were all wearing T-shirts that said, “Children are an inheritance from the Lord.” The mother had bought these for all of her children and grandchildren, which at this point totals nearly 50. In the comment section of the photo, homeschool mothers said, “arrows for God. Praise the Lord.”

And so I realize it’s better not to even look up people from the past; I don’t need to know what they are doing, because my heart might judge them for not leaving it all behind, when I know in my heart that leaving is so difficult it’s almost not worth it.

When I turned 18 I got my drivers license, and went to my own church and formed my own friends. For the first time in my life, I didn’t have someone overseeing my friendships and picking my friends for me. I’m thankful the last ten years have been different than the first ten years, but I can never go back and have any kind of roots.

Some times I think the hardest part of not having roots is not that I don’t know anyone from high school. I think the hardest part is I have no one who remembers what it was like, what the massive get togethers were like; no one to discuss those ridiculous wisdom searches with and all things fundamentalist and evangelical.

People speak of just cutting off the past, but we never really are separate from it. We uproot the tree, and the tree lays there alone. I am that tree. My roots are no longer dug into the soil, but the soil is still around me. There are many other trees around me, and they still have roots, but I don’t. 

I have no roots.

On Growing Up Duggar

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on May 24, 2015.

For months, and for years, I have pleaded with the American public to stop glorifying the Duggar family and to get the Duggars off TV. It has pained me, indeed hurt me, to see a family who grew up in the same subculture as I did, make headlines.

I have called 19 kids and Counting, the Duggar’s reality TV show, the Truman Show. Births are filmed and aired on TV. Girls’ virginity are sold to TV advertisers. And the Duggar children never get a taste of the real outside world. In a cult, there is no outside world. Because, in a cult, you are told that everything is more real, more tasteful, and more glorious here, in Christ.

On reality TV, sexism and abuse are glorified, but people are entertained.

The media makes the already-absurd reality show only more absurd and intense, preferring to poke fun at the Duggar kids, without any understanding of what they are going through. Just last week, I wrote an unpublished blog post on Jessa Duggar and Evolution. In this unpublished post, I basically was telling the media to get off her back, that they have no clue what it is like to grow up believing that the Bible is the foundation of all truth and that nonbelievers cannot be trust. Jessa Duggar may be wrong, but she is just that, wrong. Not evil, and not an object for the Americans to mock, just because her dad decided to parade their family on TV.

Everywhere I turn on the internet, the media and viewers never considers what it is really like to grow up Duggar.  The last few days, even as people have begun to connect the dots that the Duggars aren’t all as they appear to be, people have blamed Anna and pointed fingers at Anna, never considering the lack of choices that Anna really had. I wrote a post last year about a girl I use to babysit whose parents married her off, right before she was finally going to break free and attend college. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before or not, but I had two homeschool friends married off as minors, and one of my guy friends had a father approach him to marry his 16 year old because he couldn’t afford to feed her anymore (he thankfully said ew and declined). Yet none of these girls felt forced or under privileged to marry because they have been trained that marriage is their God-given duty.

Even Josh’s crime did not happen in a vacuum. The ATI cult grooms young men to devalue women, teaches that all sex is sin, has no concept of consent, and teaches young teens to suppress their sexuality. There is no excuse for Josh’s crime, but Mr. and Mrs. Duggar’s crime is not just overlooking that he molested children. The purity culture/modest doctrine/ATI environment fueled the crime. I recommend this post at Diary of an Autodidact.

Meanwhile, the American people watch the Duggar kids smile and pretend that it is all okay. It has to be okay, for the Duggar kids, because the TV is how they feed their siblings.

As you can imagine, I’m tired and pissed. I’m tired of the show. I’m tired of thinking about it. I want it off the air. I want the American people to shut up their mouths, for once, and stop talking about what the Duggars think about evolution and guns and courtship and hell and evangelism, and even sex.

It’s cruel, it needs to stop.

Two nights ago I started having these flashbacks of my days in ATI. I remember walking the halls of the ALERT academy, a good little girl. I remember the jumpers. I remember the men pushing my freakin’ chair in at the dinning hall. I still remember the day in the early ’90s when I talked to the Duggars, never knowing they would be famous.

That world was both empowering and frightening. It was empowering because we felt empowered to be the light on the hill that would never die; it was empowering because we had community. It was empowering because we were not like everyone else, those poor worldly souls. But it was frightening because I would never be good enough.

I remember crying as a teen and praying to God. Every time things got more dysfunctional at home, I just kept going back to my pillow at home and praying to God.

I couldn’t break free because God wanted me to be strong and because God would use our shit for good.

I couldn’t break free because I distrusted everyone and everything outside my own home.

I couldn’t break free because I never left my own house. Once, I attempted to run away for the day, and after running and running, I realized that the nearest person who would let me stay with them until dad got off work, was just too far away. I couldn’t make it there on foot. While other kids I knew got a driver’s license just so they could go to their buddies house, I just wanted a driver’s license so I could feel safe.

I don’t know what it’s like to grow up Duggar, because I don’t know what it’s like to have 18 brothers and sisters to worry about and be put on national TV.

But I do know this, the last few days I’ve been exhausted and depleted because the Duggar news has hurt my heart at a personal level. And I think I have a good reason to be. ATI stole my childhood, and ATI is at least semi-responsible for my friend who ended up taking his own life after his experience growing up ATI and going through ALERT.

We, homeschool alumni, are angry, pissed, and worn out.

I don’t hate the Duggars; I’m sure, even if their current dresses-only condition, we could get together and have fun. But I do hate their show.

TLC we are waiting. Please, cancel 19 Kids and Counting.

College After Homeschooling

CC image courtesy of Flickr, BiblioArchives. Image links to source.
CC image courtesy of Flickr, BiblioArchives. Image links to source.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on April 28, 2015.

Most of my readers know that the last four semester I have been in graduate school. I am graduating with my masters degree next month, and so I have been reflecting on the experience lately. Grad school has been surprisingly positive for me. To understand why, we should zoom back ten years ago.

In Fall 2005, I started college at the university that awarded me my honours BA. The experience was overall more negative than positive, so much so that I regretted that I attended college even after I finished my degree with highest honors.

I think there were several reasons undergrad did not resonate well with my spirit.

First, I literally was not prepared to handle relationships. I did not understand that it is okay if I do not get along with some people, so I tried to force people to be my friends. I had almost never in my entire life been alone with any one friend at a time, and I do not mean alone with a guy. I mean alone with anyone. As a kid, we always hanged in small groups of sibling friends. In addition, I dressed weird. I had never had sex education, so did not know basic, basic sex terms and could not follow conversations in the cafeteria. I was using google every, single night to catch up on what was going on. Further, I had been taught that homosexuality was deeply sinful, and that people who had premarital sex were wicked. When I met people who were gay or who had sex, I had no idea how to react.

For the first two years of college, I lived in a fog, with no idea how to integrate myself or handle relationships of any kind.

Things did change, relationship wise, but that change brought a whole new world for me to sort. At some point in college, I decided that I was over the purity culture and courtship culture. But no matter how much I tried, I could never put it past me. I felt guilty for every romance movie my roommate and I watched. Literally, I was on my guilt bed for watching My Fat Greek Wedding because the couple had sex, probably, and because the dresses were so immodest. Also, I felt guilty for watching movies period because basically I never watched any movies as a kid other than Sound of Music and Anne of Green Gables. Further, I felt that I had to hide relationships because only courtship was allowed. By the time I graduated, I was an emotional wreck because I did not know what I believed anymore, and was guilty that I had had a life. I actually went through a period where I would cry myself to sleep because I thought I was wicked, all the while I was cursing courtship and I kissed-kissing-goodbye under my breath. I lived a contradictory life, and it wore down my soul.

Speaking of not knowing what I believed, I spent most of undergrad closed minded and could not listen to what my professors were seeking to show me. It started my freshman year when I took freshman literature and New Testament. We read “A Rose for Emily.” When I mentioned this to my mother, she told another homeschool mom, who then told mom to tell me that I was compromising my faith by reading this literature. At that time, I was a music major, like all good homeschool girls, and I went through weeks being torn asunder because I wanted to change my major to literature but everything in me knew that I would be exposed to so many evil stories (my family did not read literature other than Jane Austin, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien). New Testament was worse. My professor told us that the Bible has errors, he did not believe Moses crossed the red sea, and told me that Job was not a real man.

Looking back, I did not understand that even professors disagree with each other, and that disagreements are okay. One of my professors was a socialist and had us read Marxist philosophy for an entire month of our critical theory course. I complained and was annoyed because I saw her as seeking to make us socialists when in reality she was exposing us to different opinions. Back to the New Testament professor, I was not just closed minded to the idea that the Bible has errors.

I thought that everyone had to agree with me.

There was also a significant amount of deconstructing that occurred throughout my undergrad as slowly the more progressive ideas began to sink in, which again always left me torn. I have mentioned before that one of my professors, who I had nearly every semester for a literature class, quit his tenure job the year that his wife finished her PhD and got her a professorship at a state university in another state.  I was unbelievably impressed. My Greek professor, who I had for four semesters of Koine and Ancient Greek, fully embraced egalitarianism and disagreed with the complementarian interpretations of the Bible. He walked us through several of the chapters in the Bible that are used to hurt women and showed us why they have been misinterpreted or why the manuscripts are unclear and missing words. Further, my undergrad thesis supervisor, who worked closely with me for four semesters as I wrote my thesis, was married to a man who stayed home with their small children while she focused on her career. These kind of encounters may seem minor in the scope of things, but this is what my undergrad was like, being constantly pulled from that little sheltered world of homeschooling and being oriented to a world completely different.

Yet in all this, I did not appreciate college because it was thoroughly ingrained in me that college is stupid, dumbed-down, and a waste of time. A week before I graduated, I told my thesis supervisor that I had learned nothing — and I was in tears over this. Even recently when I was complaining about my undergrad to my grad mate, my friend stopped me and said, “geez, you must have learned something.” When I graduated, I did not want to walk the stage– I only walked because I was getting a special award for my honors thesis and it would be disrespectful to my examiners. And when I graduated, I wanted to burn the thesis because I was ashamed that I had written a liberal  paper. (When I presented my paper in front of interested faculty and students, I even had a disclaimer in there about the content– my professor must have been cringing.)

I should have graduated a feminist and progressive, but I just could not. The guilt overcame whatever freedom I had gained, and my academic knowledge felt such in vain, that the progressive ideas went to the wayside. To be sure, I know that it did my heart good, that it stretched me, and helped me later become who I am today. Still, I could have received it much better.

I say all this because homeschoolers frequently point to public schoolers and say, “See, public schoolers do not want to learn.” I think that statement should be challenged, but even if it were true, I, a homeschool grad, did not want to learn, either. I may have produced the grades, but it was motion for me. I could not receive what I was learning. I did not respect the professors’s knowledge — I was always thinking, “he is a liberal, don’t listen to him.” It took moving overseas and having my entire worldview uprooted before I was ever able to listen and receive contrary ideas.

I see the world differently now, as I will explain in my next post about grad school.

White Nationalism and Racism in Christian Patriarchy’s Background


HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on March 19, 2013.

A while ago, someone outside the homeschool movement mentioned that my post on Bill Gothard sounded like a description of a White Nationalist.

The claim startled me at first. I grew up in the south. My university was built on a plantation and slave quarters and my great-great-great grandparents owned slaves, for crying out loud. So I’ve never been sure what’s religious racism and what’s southern racism (or when the two cross).

As luck had it, Fiddlrts, who writes at Diary of an Autodidact wrote a highly researched post on Patriarchy, Christian Reconstructionalism, and White Supremacy. His post got me thinking about how we cannot divorce those who influenced Christian Patriarchy from the Christian Patriarchy leaders. He writes:

It was during my Gothard years that I first noted a racist edge to this segment of ultra-conservative Christianity. Gothard, who began his programs in the 1960s, blames most, or perhaps all spiritual problems on exposure to “rock music.” “Rock music” (which turned out to include jazz as well) was deemed evil, regardless of content, due in large part to its alleged origin in pagan Africa. “Godly” music came from Christian Europe, and was exemplified by military marching music. (There were also musical claims, which I discuss below in my note.)

I also noticed that the vision of “ideal” Christianity presented looked much like an upper-middle-class, white society of the past. Perhaps the 1950s, or the Victorian period. There didn’t seem to be any chance of attaining “God’s best” unless one was reasonably well off, certainly; and all vestiges of non-European or non-white American cultures were looked on with suspicion.

Fiddlrts makes the point that Doug Philips, Doug Wilson, and Bill Gothard all studied (and in some cases plagiarized) influential men who were racists. 

Dabney and Rushdoomy are two men mentioned a bunch in his post. This does not mean that Doug Philips and Bill Gothard carried over all their ideas; they may have picked and chose which ideas to follow. But I don’t think that makes us feel much better. (If they tossed out slavery, but kept the oppression of women, for example, is that a great leader?)

So after reading Fiddlrt’s post, here’s a few highlights that got me thinking more about this.

  • Both Doug Wilson and Doug Philips are fans of Dabney, an influential figure white nationalists love to quote. I owe this point to Fiddlrts. Doug Wilson wrote a book called Slavery As It Was that some book publishers refused to carry because it was a wholesale plagiarized book by Dabney. Doug Philips wrote a book on Dabney called Robert Lewis Dabney: The Prophet SpeaksI was able to download Dabney’s most racist work, A Defence of Virginia, for free. The book says that slavery in the south is recognized by the Bible.
  • In Christian Patriarchy, there is an emphasis on hierarchy. In a way there is a sense that the last people left for white males to control is women and children.
  • The Dominionist and Quiverfull mentality is almost parallel to overpopulating other races. The twist, of course, is that now we are overpopulating other religions and “left-flaming liberals,” instead of non-white people. Bill Gothard then has his military ALERT camps to go along with it.
  • Christian Patriarchy almost goes in hand with the Christian Reconstructionism ideology that Rushdoomy advocated. I suppose the name is clear in that Christian reconstructionists want to reconstruct the past. But keep in mind that the past controlled women, discriminated against minorities, and hated LGBT* people. This has led some, such as Rushdoomy, the late Christian Reconstructionist leader who influenced Doug Philips, to advocate stoning gays. Libby Anne writes about this here.
  • There is a prevailing elitism going on in Christian Patriarchy because of an emphasis on the Victorian age. I’ve gotten in debates on whether Victorianism was better with homeschool peers. It’s weird.
  • Rock music is evil because it came from pagan Africa. Bill Gothard and other fundamentalists say just this. European music has rock music too, but yet, Bill Gothard always blames the Africans. I already knew this was racist, but Fiddlrts pointed out that Gothard borrows this almost word-for-word from Rushdoomy.
  • The Patriarchal/Quiverfull leaders oppose public education. Again, this is a twist on Dabney, Fiddlrts says. Rushdoony advocated private schools, and we see this in fundamentalism as well.
  • Interracial marriage is sometimes discouraged. In fairness, I never heard Doug Philips or Bill Gothard say this. But I remember studying the “problem” of the interracial marriage between Pocahontas and John Rolfe. I learned that Pocahontas would not have died if she had not married a foreigner.
  • Bill Gothard is against wearing jeans. Even guys wear khaki pants, not blue jeans. Again, this point is Fiddlrts, not mine: “Jeans were marketed to factory workers (an evil Northern system, according to Dabney), although I suspect that James Dean also contributed to their ‘ungodly’ reputation.”
  • Christian Patriarchalists believe that a Godly society once existed. And that brings us back to the entire quiverfull, anti-women, anti-gay ideology that progressives fight to stop and reconstructionalists fight to bring back.

Please read Fiddlrt’s entire post for all the many quotes and sources he has to back up these points. Julie Anne also wrote a post on Reconstructionism and Rushdooney worth checking out.

Locking Your Kids in a Tower: The Duggars and “Tangled”

CC image "Rapunzel" courtesy of Flickr, ihave3kids.
CC image “Rapunzel” courtesy of Flickr, ihave3kids.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on October 27, 2014.

Recently one of the girls I once babysat called me on phone. She wanted to talk about something that happened in the past between us. I miss her and her family, but mostly, when I look back, I feel pain.

You see, starting when I was 11 or 12, I was put in the place of authority over her. I had to discipline her and her siblings. If I could not control them, the punishment was only worse when their parents got home. The parents would wake them up to spank them. I was a kid who had to punish a kid. It frightened me.

When she got older, as a young teenager, the girl and I began to fight more, maybe because she resented me and rightly so. But either way, rather than let us work it out ourselves, our parents got involved. They forced us into some dumb get-along-model, and it really broke us both.

The girl is now in college and called to apologize to me for not respecting me and obeying me more. She could not even remember what the fight was about (I do), but there she was on the phone, apologizing.

When she called, I tried to compose myself, but I wanted to weep. And over the phone I stuttered between “please, don’t apologize,” to “girl, we were victims of spiritual abuse.”

But she is still living at home. She could not hear me.

I repeated, “We would not even remember this fight if our parents had not thought it was a huge sin for teenagers to fight.”

And I repeated again. “Your sister got spanked repeatedly because of me. She had to apologize on the phone because me. All I can say is I’m so, so sorry now. I was a kid. There was no right point of view for us. Why was I placed in that position?”

Again, she did not hear me.

I wanted to give her my blog, and tell her about Homeschoolers Anonymous, but there was not much use. She still lives at home.


I wanted to know about the other kids I used to babysit, so I started googling their facebooks. I found the facebook of one of the girls. Her family has the same name theme as the Jeub family. The kids names end with a “uh/ah” sound. I started babysitting for them when her mom was 28, and there was only 7 kids.

Her status messages were preachy. She told her friends how to associate among our “worldy” friends – and she used the word worldly. There was so much judgemental side to it, that I just weeped.

That little girl I used to babysat is now a young adult who is scared of the world.

It hurts.


Last week I went to our university hockey game here in Canada. I talked with friends and made new friends. In the middle of it, I had an existential moment where I needed to leave and compose myself because I realized something. I was with “worldy” friends. I was alone, outside my parents home. I have my own car. I pay my own bills. I have top grades and a promising option to eventually get into a phd program.

I left home nearly a decade ago, but my life is still full of first. And the last year, living in North America far away from my parents, has involved a lot of firsts.

First to go to the mall alone, for example.

First to go to a hockey game, for example.

First year to consistently shop at a grocery store, for example. (Yes, I’m serious. In college I ate a dorm. In Asia I shopped at the market. As a kid, we canned our meat and vegetables, and I rarely went to the store.)

All these firsts, after nearly a decade since I left home.


When I say I worry about the Duggar children, I am accused of being a Duggar hater.

But I’m not a hater. I just want them to be free.

I want them to get in their cars and drive far away from home, to go to hockey game with friends their parents don’t even know, to date and have careers.

I want them to be friends with their siblings with being placed in authority of them.

I want them to know that the world is not scary, nor is it worldly, nor are these so-called worldy people less happy than homeschool families.

I want them to know that people who kiss before marriage are just as happy as them.

I want them to know a life other than being pregnant.

They are like the princess in Tangled, who only sees the world from a tower and from media studio, only in their case, they are not hidden. The whole world is watching and saying, “oh, there is nothing wrong with locking your kid in a tower.”

But if you saw what I saw, you would know better.

If you were put in the position of spanking your siblings, you would know.

If you got the phone call I got from the girl I used to babysit, you would know.

If you went to a hockey game and were sitting there shaking, realizing you knew nothing about the rules and that this was the first time to attend a game with friends, you would know.

You would know that of course, I think the Duggars are people too, with great personalities, and that of course I don’t hate them.

But still, I worry for them, and I hate the TV show for making what they do seem natural, as if locking your kids in a tower is natural.

Why the Homeschool Movement Was So Frightening

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 11.44.29 AM

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on October 4, 2014.

The stories on Homeschoolers Anonymous have been more triggering for me lately. HA is hosting a series called “Hurts Me More Than You.” Then today Cynthia Jeub, a daughter of a well-known homeschool family with 16 children, shared her story of the abuse she and her siblings have received, and still are receiving.

My story is not Cynthia’s story, nor is my story identical to anyone else’s story. (Cynthia’s story is more wild than mine if for no other reason than she has 15 siblings and has been on reality TV.)

I was frequently spanked, and I was spanked for stupid, ridiculous stuff. For example, when I was a small child, my parents laid the paddle in front of our bedroom doors at night. If I got up, I had to take the paddle with me. So I could not go to the bathroom at night. The spankings hurt my soul, even though my mother said it hurt her more than me.

But we never got a bruise. My mom had been beaten as a child by her father, and she never spanked so hard or so many times that it bruised us, not even close.

But one does not need to be beaten to live a childhood that is a nightmare.

For example:

  • When I did not understand math, my mom would throw the textbook across the room, yell at me, and call me stupid.
  • In the afternoon, I had to listen to mom bitch about me to other homeschool moms over the phone. It hurt me to hear that I was rebellious.
  • I never knew when Mom would yell at me or throw things. For a few years, it seemed as if I was yelled at every day. It was so, so painful.
  • Mom would call me names. Stupid was one of them. Others were worse.
  • I did not have a lock in my room. Mom did not value privacy. So I never was safe in my room. She could walk in anytime and yell at me for being disrespectful.
  • Our family was the center of all the homeschool activities. People came to our house every day, to buy cows milk, to pick up the homeschool news letter, to visit.  I felt like I was always on the spot light, even though an hour before mom was yelling at me and telling me how bad I was. It was insanely hypocritical.
  • My little sister used to sleep in the bathtube. When dad was upset, he would say that we were all screwed up and he should eliminate us. My sister’s logic was that if dad lost his temper and decided to kill everyone in the family, she would survive because the bathtube would protect her from the bullets. My sister also lived in her closet whenever my parents fought.
  • I had an insane amount of chores. If I missed a dish, or the counters were not clean, I was yelled at.
  • I was isolated. I had a piano lesson one day a week and church on Sunday. A few years we had a girls group, and I often babysit for other homeschool families. But at best, we had just a few hours a week outside the home. I never was alone.

You might wonder what any of this has to do with homeschooling. My parents were abusive because they were hurt as kids themselves. This has nothing to do with homeschooling, right?

The reason I connect this to homeschooling is that homeschooling made the shit seem natural, the way that it was ought to be.

Had I gone to public school, mom probably still would have yelled at me. But maybe yelling would not have seemed so natural to me.

The homeschool narrative told me it was all my fault. My fault was that I was not responsible enough and orderly enough. I needed to be more thankful, more assertive, and more thorough in my chores. We even had damn songs to teach us this.

Cynthia Jeub tells a story where her mom came home and said: “You didn’t do the dishes?! You don’t appreciate that I was gone shopping all day. I do so much work around here, and I can’t be gone for a few hours without coming home to a mess!” I think she quoted word-for-word what my mom used to tell me. Poor mother. She got to leave the house unlike us, and the least we could have done was keep the house spotless.

Once my sister had not cleaned up the mess she and dad had made. When my mom, grandmother and I got home, my mom yelled that the dishes were not cleaned up. Then my grandmother found me and gave me a lecture for not being a helpful enough daughter. I had not even been home to have the opportunity to clean up the mess, but somehow I was in trouble for not cleaning up the mess because the kitchen was my chore.

I have noticed that teenagers often complain about their parents. Mom made me do this. Dad made me do that. But when I was a kid, my homeschool friends and I were too terrified to complain about our parents. We could not even trust each other not to tattle. So we all suffered in silence.

Another issue was that as a homeschool student, I never had a break from my parents. I was susceptible to emotional abuse every minute of every day.

My parents would have struggled with their temper even if we had been in public school. But you know what? Without people like the Pearls. Without Bill Gothard and Doug Philips. Without the homeschool community. Without all those people, mom and dad never would have said I was “rebellious” or that I was not grateful enough.  My parents actually got involved in ATIA in the first place because dad knew they were broken, and Gothard’s IBLP taught anger management. Gothard taught us that if they taught their daughters to do this, that, and the other, and if we followed this formula, we would be happy. When I became a teenager, it all slipped out of their fingers, and the shame and pain was only worse.

My parents never would have been perfect parents, but without the homeschool narratives, it could have been better.

So when I read the narratives of other homeschool alumni, I see two trends.

1) We were led to believe that we were being punished for not living the character traits, for not being good enough, and helpful enough.

2) We suffered in silence while our families put on fronts in our community.

It was all fake shit.

Thankfully my dad woke up, started intense counseling for mom and him, and threw away the ATI books. The rod made it to the garbage. Unfortunately, it was too late for to change how he raised me.

Maybe it is not too late for homeschoolers to change the next generation.

And please do not tell me, “I’m a homeschool mom, and my family is not like this.” Good for you. That does not change the fact that for many of us, homeschooling was used to isolate us from the world while our parents could do anything they wanted and say anything they liked. It does not change the fact that our lives were chores and babysitting, and the fact that some of us got an education at all is a miracle.

We are grieved and tired.