Finding Freedom from My Demons: Nicholas Ducote’s Story, Part Three

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By Nicholas Ducote, HA Community Coordinator

< Part Two

Much of what I have discussed is about my childhood and teenage years, but there were three incidents after my marriage that proved my parents were still trapped in ATI Parent Mode.

I assumed, because my parents actually said on multiple occasion, that after I was married I would be treated differently — more independently. I knew to expect this because it’s just the way people who are into courtship think.  However, my parents have continually chosen to put their fundamentalism in front of our relationship, despite me now being the “Spiritual Leader of my Household” (in their mind, not mine — you could best describe my marriage as an egalitarian party, looking at you Doug Wilson). They know that I do not agree with them, so most parents would just back off with the religious judgment and prioritize their relationship. But not my parents!

Over a steak dinner celebrating my graduation from my MA program in 18 months with a 4.0, my father half-joked, half-claimed that he lost faith in the university institution because I grew up to disagree with them politically. For my older sister, who converted to Christianity after college, it worked. But my education “failed” me. It failed me because I did not turn out conservatives like them. To his credit, he apologized after I blew up at him (and openly talked about the event on Facebook). I’m a forgiving person, so I let it go.

I thought, maybe this is the last time, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

When I was visiting the next day, I had one of my most triggering conversations I’ve ever had with them. They claimed that the black people of New Orleans are “culturally more violent because they have a long history of accepting government benefits.” I tried to keep my cool, but our argument quickly brought me into a blind rage. This wasn’t the first time I was triggered by a conversation like this and my parents had been trying harder to not argue about politics with me. It might seem strange that I, someone who debated competitively for eight years, would have such an uncontrollable, visceral reaction to a political argument.

I called them racists and, to say the least, they got pissed. The conversation continued deteriorating and I couldn’t take it any longer. I stormed out of their hotel room and said they could just leave. They had brought me crawfish, my favorite food, but when my mom called in tears telling me I had forgotten it in the room, I told them to just throw it away — I couldn’t see them again. Later that day, my oldest sister talked me down. But this incident drove a big wedge my parents’ and my relationship. I sent them a series of emails that led to me calling them Victorian, sexist, racist cultists.

Political arguments with my parents trigger me because the conversations always include a level of personal judgment.

Debate rounds take place outside the realm of personal judgments — I can advocate a position and my opponents don’t take it personally or judge me.  In fact, some of my biggest rivals in college debate became my closest friends.  When I started attending college and developing concise counter-arguments to my parents’ zealous Reaganism, conservatism, and… well, how do you describe someone who thinks giving the women the right to vote ruined America? My challenges to their political beliefs are what gave me the courage to question many of the cultic philosophies deeply ingrained in me.

Even though I remained a devoted Christian who attended church and bible study for the first two years of college, my parents reacted to my transforming political beliefs as if I was as rejecting the Gospel. One of their biggest mistakes was telling me I was only “in a phase,” and would believe like they did when I joined the “real world and started paying taxes.” (I have had a full-time job since the age of 16, even paying the dreaded self-employment tax, so I’m not unaware of taxation).

My father took my political beliefs incredibly personally.

We had lots of arguments about rich people paying more taxes, namely by repealing the Bush Tax Cuts. My parents helped me a little bit through my four years of undergrad, they bought my books and paid my $50/month car insurance. I still worked a part-time job throughout college and debated one or two weekends a month around the US for a scholarship. Occasionally, I had to ask my parents for a few hundred dollars, but I always paid them back quickly. I hated feeling dependent on them and financial independence gave me. After I graduated, my father informed me that he resented the help he gave me, and couldn’t stomach giving me more, because of how I felt about taxes. Even though I only argued the richest people should pay more taxes, he internalized that as an attack on him.

After the incident in the hotel room, I didn’t talk to my parents much on the phone. I stuck to email because I could control my triggers and reactions much better. Over a year after my marriage, and nine months after the hotel incident, my mother called to have a chat on the phone.  During my childhood, we always got along well and she was my confidante. As long as she doesn’t get judgmental, I enjoy her company. I remember it being one of the better conversations we had in quite awhile when she decided to bring up the state of my virginity on my wedding day.

To be clear, I told my mother I was moving in with my girlfriend (now wife) nine months before my wedding (two years prior to this phone call). One would think this would have given her ample time to discuss the consequences of my sinful lifestyle, but she chose to bring it up a year after my marriage.

After finding out I was “impure,” she said that, later in my marriage, I would “face consequences” for my sins. When I told her that I didn’t think it was a sin to live with the woman I was going to marry (we had been engaged over six months at that point) she said that she was “sorry” I believed that and obviously I had bigger problems. Eventually, she said that the root of all of our conflict was my sinful lifestyle — not, of course, their raising me in a homeschooling cult, still clinging desperately to those beliefs, and refusing to accept my personal development/evolution. I pushed back and then my mom started crying.

It’s not like I enjoy making my mother cry, but I now refuse to be manipulated, guilted, and shamed.

And what came next proved the depths of my mother’s spiritual and emotional manipulation. She reminded me of the purity pledge I made to her at 14 years old. That was it, I told her the conversation was over.  She apologized and said she didn’t want our great conversation to end this way. I curtly replied that if she wanted to have a good time, she could just not judge my spiritual condition. My father sent me an email after, as he always does now after my mom and I fight. In it, he took on a self-righteous air about how my rebelliousness (against them and God) was the cause of our conflict and that Jesus was right when he said the righteous man would cause strife among his family.

I guess he forgot the one about a father provoking his child to wrath — but that’s my parents! Apply verses selectively to shame, guilt, and manipulate. I replied that I spent the last six years forming my own beliefs and I knew they were wrong ethically, morally, spiritually, and politically.

Even now, I am still on my father’s insurance (because of a crazy accident that left me with a fractured L5 pars and then an ordeal that left me with dying femur heads and a hip replacement) and this has made me feel like I cannot publicly speak against them.  When I first became a frequent public critic of my parents and their beliefs, they would email me or call me and plead with me to essentially just let it be.  I told them that I believed my cohort of homeschooled peers had been subjected to systemic problems within the Christian homeschool movement and I intended to get to the bottom of it.  I moved from Louisiana to Oregon so I could be surrounded by fewer fundamentalists and more free thinkers who will judge me less for my progressive politics.  I also moved to get more distance from my parents so I could freely pursue my advocacy, which would include my personal testimony (it feels funny using that word, but it’s applicable here).

The final straw in my attempt to repair our relationship came just a few weeks ago after I underwent my hip replacement.

When I first learned that I would need a hip replacement, my parents made it very clear that they were too busy moving to be expected to come up to Oregon to help me after the surgery. This was fine with me since their presence usually just triggers me. At the same time, I wished that I did want their help because that’s what parents are for, right? And I knew my usual lines of emotional defense would be compromised by my weak physical state. You probably think this is incredibly heartless of me, but the only consistency in my relationship with my parents is that they will somehow judge me with their self-righteousness and ruin whatever good times may have occurred.

The day of my surgery, my mother was bugging me to talk to her. She said “a mother worries when her favorite son is having a major surgery thousands of miles away” and said “glad to know you are alive.” Despite my wife calling her before and after my procedure. After that, I told her to stop trying to guilt me into talking to her more. That wasn’t the way to make me want to talk to her. Later that day, she became infuriated because I updated my Facebook, but didn’t send her a text. So she didn’t get the update until four hours after my status update. I eventually texted her back later that night and gave her an update, but she didn’t reply, so we tried calling her phone only to discover it was off. I believe right around the time she got pissy, my spinal block wore off and I experienced the worst pain of my life. I cried for thirty straight minutes and couldn’t even think. Luckily they doped me up, but I was still a wreck.

A few hours later, my mother posted one of the most passive aggressive Facebook statuses I have ever seen.

You see, although I didn’t have time to text a bunch of people, I did have time to update by Facebook status to let a few hundred people who were concerned about me know what was up. She proclaimed to the Facebook World that she was “breaking up” with it because it found out about me before she did. (Although my wife tried to call her and the phone signal was just bad in the hospital.). The way the status was worded, I could tell she was incensed.

As I finally got a nurse to enter the long distance code on the hotel landline, I tried to call her. I texted my dad saying I didn’t know what was up and I was trying to get in touch with mom. As I lay in the hospital bed — a wreck physically and emotionally — my father responded with this text message:

“Moms phone is off. You hurt her terribly. I’m very disappointed in you. I’m also upset at how you treat her. She is concerned about you. And you blew her off.”

I was just blown away. My mother turned off her phone, the night after my hip replacement, because her feelings were hurt. It’s hard to believe she was truly concerned about me since she turned her phone off.

At this point, the only indication I had that my mom was upset was the passive aggressive Facebook status and my dad’s text message. Because exactly what I wanted to deal with then was my parents’ bullshit.

This was the moment my parents needed to just show sincere compassion, selflessness, and love.

Sure, maybe I was mean, but I was just out of surgery, doped up with insane amounts of oral and intravenous opioids, my brain polluted by lingering anesthesia, and unable to move my right side without immense pain, which was swollen to twice its normal size. On top of that, my wife got food poisoning that night!

With all the energy I could muster, I slowly composed and recomposed a message about ten times. I met with a therapist earlier in the month to prepare for this very moment because I knew I would be vulnerable and my parents would try to manipulate me. It seems completely irrational to expect such behavior, but my instincts proved right. I told my parents that their reactions were completely unacceptable and that I needed space and time. I didn’t mince my words and I told them their attempts to guilt and manipulate me lost them the privilege of getting constant updates.  Everyone else in my life gave me nothing but positivity in my moment of need, but my parents put on an entire dramatic performance because I posted to Facebook a few hours before texting them directly.

It seems like I have gone on quite a tangent since my days in ATI, but all three of these instances occurred because of the way they allowed Gothardism to take over their lives. To them, I may always be the son who chose to live, and thrive, outside their Umbrella of Authority. Despite having almost ten years to indoctrinate and brainwash me into their version of cultic Christianity, they continue to try and enforce their perceived God-given right to judge me (or “show me the light”) into adulthood. I now refuse to allow them to treat me as their subordinate. I demand respect and I try to avoid controversial topics.

Unfortunately, nearly every topic is corrupted by their Gothardist fundamentalism.

Only in an ATI home could you get into an argument on Christmas morning about how women should never have gotten the right to vote or divorce. They conceptualize my mental illnesses (anxiety and triggers) as spiritual weakness because Gothard told them that’s how it is. The morning before I left to go to Afghanistan to teach debate for a month, I had terrible anxiety, and my dad just chuckled and said “well you wanted to go there.”

My dad likes to chuckle when I’m in a really awful situation. 

I talked to a lot of my ATI friends about all these events that I’ve described and most of them have patched their relationships up with their parents. Most of those friends’ parents have liberalized a lot, but not my parents. My friends are constantly baffled by the way my parents treat me. Because my parents still conceptualize our relationship as that of a parent-child, when I assert myself, it creates conflict. They seem to believe this conflict is the result of my sinful lifestyle. As long as they cannot even understand why what they do is so hurtful, they have no positive impact on my life. Every positive encounter with them becomes overshadowed by an intensely painful experience.

There are only so many times you want to open yourself up when you know what the result will be.

That’s my story. For the ATI kids out there: Did your relationship with your parents improve as they moved away from Gothardism? Does my observation hold true in your life?

Finding Freedom from My Demons: Nicholas Ducote’s Story, Part Two

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By Nicholas Ducote, HA Community Coordinator

< Part One

You’re just “spiritually sensitive,” they told me at six years old, my young mind racing with anxiety. As my parents entered further into the labyrinthian maze of fundamentalism, they took my mind with them.  My parents were convinced that Gothardism held the solution to my issues. If religious options and doctrines were a grocery store, my parents plopped down on the Gothard Aisle and expected me to also enjoy their strict diet of Gothardism.  Instead, the doctrines on spiritual warfare, the Umbrella of Authority, and Strongholds increased my anxieties – sending me into a state of hyper-vigilance at night as I waited for the demons.

For years, I confused invasive thoughts, which everyone has, with a Satanic assault on my mind.

I began conceptualizing my mental illness as spiritual warfare very early on, probably by the time I was 7 or 8. Recently converted, it was the only paradigm my parents accepted so they explained things to me through that lens. When I had nightmares night after night, my parents told me it was the rock music I could hear through the walls that my sister listened to – certainly not our rapidly changing family dynamic as my parents tried to apply fundamentalism to my older sisters when they had already begun high school.

I remember one night, perhaps after attending the Basic Seminar a second time, my parents decided we should burn all the things in our house that possessed “demons” or a “demonic influence.”  This included books and movies and music – especially my dad’s vast collection of rock and roll from his youth.   We had to purge our home.  As time went on, I was sucked further into this idea of spiritual warfare causing mental, and even spiritual, issues.  My education in creationism only further complicated science and confused me about how my body worked.  It was not until college at a public university that I began to understand how the brain worked.  I slowly realized that many “mysterious” feelings and thoughts, which supposedly originated from God or Satan, were really my own brain simply working.

There were a number of Gothard’s doctrines that caused a great deal of fear.

One of the most problematic doctrines is the Umbrella of Authority. 

In this model of communication with God, divine inspiration and guidance flows from God, to the male parent, then to the female parent. It’s clear in this model that wives are subordinate to their husbands and ATI leaders preach that a woman’s first duty is to submit to the male leadership in her life. For wives, that means their husband. For daughters it means their fathers. In this model, the father is the only person in the family unit that has a sort of “direct connection with God.”  By this, I mean that if a child believed God was calling them in a certain direction, the child could only pursue that option if their father “confirmed” it with God. This model profoundly impacts a child’s conception of themselves.

If you disagree with your parents, you are disobeying God.

If you are outside of your parents’ Umbrella of Authority, then you are literally opening your mind to Satan and demons.

This brings me to what, in my life, was the most abusive and damaging belief. Gothard rejected the idea of mental illness and replaced it with a concept of “Strongholds” in your mind. Gothard preached that when humans disobeyed God, or their earthly authorities, they allowed Satan to “build a stronghold in your mind.”  From this Stronghold, Satan could tempt you and further lead you down the path to darkness and evil. One of the most common weaknesses for teenagers was rock music and dating, which Gothard believed was one of the fundamental reasons why teenagers rebelled and became perverse. In another giant leap of logic, Gothard argued that physical ailments could be caused by Strongholds. Literally almost every cause in your universe stemmed from your spirituality, which included everything from Christian Contemporary music, to apparently demonic Cabbage Patch dolls, and of course Disney.

So over my teenage years, I gradually developed intense anxiety, insomnia, and panic attacks. I would lay awake in my bed, staring at my door waiting for demons to come and get me.  This very real fear was stoked by Jim Logan, who would tell his Real Life Ghost Stories. Logan would preach about his many exorcisms, how African masks would literally scream and cry out if lit on fire, and how children’s misdeeds attracted demons into a Christian home. Especially rock music! I prayed incessantly, sometimes screaming with eyes filled with tears, for God to take away my fear and anxiety – but nothing ever happened.

It was because the cause of my mental anguish was not demons and spiritual warfare.

In fact, the further I get away from my internalized fear of demons and possession (taught to me exclusively through ATI), the better I sleep, the less afraid I am of what’s behind the shower curtain, the more confident I am to walk through a room with the light off, and it is because my brain no longer feels like its survival is threatened by the invisible forces of evil.

In my teenage years, some of the only relief I could manage to muster came from listening to a local modern rock radio station.  First, it connected me with the outside world and gave me hope that one day I could be in that world and not the one I was trapped in.  Second, it allowed me to enter all the conversations my peers had about their favorite music. Third, it gave me something to focus on that took my mind off spiritual warfare, demons, etc.  Unfortunately, I was also taught to believe that rock music would open my mind to Satan. I struggled with the cognitive dissonance for a year or two until I decided that the peace I received from rock music was far more important than risking demonic possession (which I was starting to believe less and less).  I figured, with all my rebelling as a teenager, if I hadn’t been attacked by demons yet I was probably alright.

It’s not uncommon for precocious, smart children to develop anxiety – as I now know my “sensitivity” is really just anxiety – but my parents only worsened it by focusing on solely spiritual causes and solutions.  When we prayed, when I prayed, when we “cried out” – whatever Gothardist ritual we preformed – it never made me feel any less anxious.  As a result, I felt like I must not be a real Christian or must have some sin in my life stopping God from helping me.  I don’t know how many times I prayed the sinner’s prayer, afraid that whatever I had done before wasn’t “sticking.”   I started finding a way out of the anxiety, and sometimes intense panic attacks, by learning about my brain. Not from fundamentalists, but from scientists who studied the brain – neuroscientists.

In the back of my mind, after I left the house, was always a voice warning me that my actions would attract Satan – that he would ruin my life because I chose to live outside my father’s Umbrella, to reject the concept of Strongholds, and I listened to rock music.  For quite awhile, I struggled to find out who I was, beyond my fearful subordination to a fundamentalist God.

I now know that I have a form of complex PTSD, which is triggered by my parents and their fundamentalism, especially when they judge my “sinful lifestyle.” 

For the longest time, I didn’t know why certain things they said or did would “launch” me into an irrational, emotional state.  Sometimes it was something inanimate, like the American flag covering my old bedroom wall or the library of fundamentalist literature I was pressured to read and apply to my life.  It doesn’t affect my life much anymore, but it did quite a bit into my early-20s.  Part of the reason is because I rarely communicate with my parents anymore.  Despite my best efforts, most of our interactions end with me being triggered by their lack of acceptance or the cultic doctrines they still try to evangelize me about.  This isn’t a story that takes place wholly in my past.

The third and final part of my story discusses how (as a 25 year old) I am still impacted by my parents’ fundamentalism.

Part Three >

Finding Freedom from My Demons: Nicholas Ducote’s Story, Part One

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By Nicholas Ducote, HA Community Coordinator

Friends of mine and readers of Homeschoolers Anonymous may notice that, despite my involvement in HA from the beginning, I’ve yet to tell “my story.”

At first, I wasn’t sure what my story was or what information I wanted to make public, so I waited.  I also hoped my gentle public criticisms of homeschooling would start a dialogue with my parents.  Quite the opposite: they talk to everyone but me about HA.

I do not want a bad relationship with my parents, but I am no longer willing to limit my expression in an effort to try and appease them.

It’s sad because my parents no longer participate in ATI, but they still hold to the most radical and cultic beliefs promoted exclusively through Gothard and his allies in IBLP and ATI. Sometimes I see glimpses of the loving, fun people that my parents are, but the religious fundamentalism preached by ATI hijacked our relationship.

To put it simply, I was raised in a homeschooling cult (ATI) and my parents were/are emotionally manipulative and spiritually abusive. It has taken me a long time to be able to write that, and for the longest time I didn’t want it to be true.  But my time reading others’ stories and talking about our complicated parental relationships, patterns began to emerge. I hope that telling my story can help other troubled young adults to find ways to assert, defend, and express themselves with their parents.  As for me, I’ve given up waiting for the fun, loving version of my parents to take over the fundamentalist version.

Many people will call me embittered, angry, or any number of pejorative terms to delegitimize my story, but I am not telling my story in an attempt to lash out and hurt my parents. I am telling my story because I now know that my story is not unique. All across America, former homeschoolers are dealing with convoluted and dysfunctional relationships with their parents. Sometimes parents give up the rigid legalism of Gothardism as they age. But my parents did not.

All too often I see the scared little boy (me) that my parents created — cowering in fear of reprisal, instead of confidently asserting my thoughts and beliefs.

This may seem odd to the people that know me because I am far from meek in debates about politics and religion. I debated competitively for eight years, which makes me good at finely tuning my advocacy to avoid conflict.  Over the past few years, I’ve carefully avoided answering questions about my religion because I was too afraid of the reactions my immediate family would have.

It was easier to lie to them than to deal with being their “project.” 

So for all the people who wonder where I am coming from — and I know religion is prima facie to many Christians when weighing an argument’s or source’s validity — here is it all laid out.

I am a non-Christian Theist.

I believe that there is something in the universe that is omnipresent and supernatural — unexplainable by modern scientific knowledge — but it certainly is not some father-God-Lord-Universe-Creator. I believe the universe originated at the Big Bang, which may have been triggered by aforementioned supernatural being, and life evolved. I believe humans have consciousness that is equivalent to a soul.  I arrived at these beliefs through years of study, exegesis, and weighing of all sides. I don’t need evangelizing.

As far as the Old Testament of the Christian holy scriptures, I view them as a typical ancient history where a cultural group claims some supernatural justification for their conquest. I do not believe a loving God would order genocides, but I believe a group would commit genocide in the name of God and defend their actions with “God told us so.” I view Muslims, Christians, and Jews as essentially the same monotheistic religion, relying on ancient incorrect history to prop up a modern religion. That said, I believe the modern forms of these religions look nothing like they did in their original form. All religions evolve substantially over time, often changing core tenants or relying on arbitrary man-made decisions as Divine Truth (i.e. Council of Nicea, Papal Ex Cathedra, etc.).

When it comes to the New Testament, I believe that the historical Jesus was nothing like he was portrayed in the epistles and NT outside of the Gospels. Jesus was likely a real person, but the historical Jesus and verifiable source texts do not reflect the modern Biblical interpretation of Jesus’ divinity. That said, I believe Christianity, like Islam, Judaism, and many other religions, introduced many great moral codes to humanity.

When I traveled to Afghanistan to teach debate, I could not believe how similar the rural orthodox Muslims were to patriarchal fundamentalist American homeschoolers.  (I’m sure some of you are incensed reading that, but remember I’m just being honest).  Women were treated as second-class citizens, many were forced into a form of “stay-at-home daughter,” and laws discriminated against them.  It was the exception for a young Afghan girl to attend as much school as her male peers, and certainly to attend a university.

Modesty is also rigidly enforced in both cultures, to an obsessive degree.  Only in Afghanistan and American homeschooling have I seen so many arbitrary rules regarding modesty only for women.  Granted, the level of modesty required of American homeschoolers does not reach the level of the burqa, but the philosophy and its outcome is relatively the same thing.

Just like many of the rural Orthodox Muslims, patriarchal fundamentalist American homeschoolers want their version of Christianity enforced through the government.  Afghans also revere and respect their elders – a tradition that thrives in patriarchal fundamentalist American homeschooling.  Even as a married adult, my advocacy in America faces the “you’re just a rebellious bitter child” line all too often.

The similarities were haunting and during my month there I started writing what would become a catalyst for the stories that built HA.

My mind made so many connections and being in the repressive atmosphere brought back so many memories. Even teaching Afghans debate mirrored my experience teaching patriarchal fundamentalist American homeschoolers.  At first, they could not grasp the idea of arguing both sides — since they had been raised to only believe in one side. But as the light bulbs went off they lit up and they were so excited by debate.  One thing that struck me was how religiously devout the Muslim students of the universities remained.  Although they were among a very small cohort of their peers who attended secular universities, they all left the debate tournament after lunch to pray.  The entire tournament halted because they needed time to pray.

Something like that would never happen at an NCFCA tournament!

My next essay will focus on the impact of ATI on my childhood and teenage years.  And the terminal third essay will explain how ATI’s toxic teachings continue to poison my relationship with my parents.

Part Two >

“My Daughters Are Not Going Off to College”: When Homeschooled Girls Are Trapped

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Julie Anne Smith’s blog Spiritual Sounding Board. It was originally published on October 12, 2013 with the title “Homeschooled Adult Daughters Held Captive at Home, Prevented from Getting College Education.”


“There are too many homeschooled girls who need help overcoming the legal obstacles their parents put in their path to a college education. It also bothers me that the leaders of the Christian homeschooling movement preach that young girls shouldn’t get a ‘regular’ education – that they should only be trained in domestic arts and ‘female’ tasks.”

~ Nick Ducote, “Reflections on Malala, Patriarchy, and Homeschool Advocacy”


In an effort to “raise up a child in the way they should go,” some Christian homeschool parents are essentially kidnapping their daughters, only teaching “homemaking” skills, even denying and preventing them from getting a college education.

The father is involved in all aspects of his adult daughter’s lives until marriage.

Earlier this week, my young friend, Nicholas Ducote, co-founder of Homeschoolers Anonymous, wrote something that resonated with me.  It hit me hard because this was a path our family was heading down.  He was writing about the plight he has seen among a number of young ladies who are part of the “Homeschool Movement,” the subculture of fundamentalist Christians who adhere to the Patriarchal lifestyle in which the father is very involved in all aspects of his adult daughters’ lives, even through adulthood until they are married — married to a husband approved by the father.

Nick, a former homeschool student, has earned his Master’s degree.  He knows the challenges he faced in getting his degrees. But it struck me how Nick was clearly upset about the injustices he saw facing his female homeschool peers.

In the Homeschool Movement, this educational imbalance among the sexes is not perceived as an injustice whatsoever. In fact, to even think of sending an adult daughter “off to school,” is to some, heretical.  As recent as a month ago, a homeschool mom and friend of mine posted on Facebook that her adult daughters would not be going to college — that she and her husband “just don’t believe in that.”

It makes me wonder: did her parents make all of her decisions when she became an adult?  Probably not.

Here is a screenshot I saved from a homeschool wives group on Facebook several months ago and you can see the similar mindset:


I used to believe this way.  

In the Homeschool Movement, I was taught to believe that if we sent our daughters off to college, they would want to use that education, get a job, might even earn more money than their husbands.  This was “not right” because husbands were supposed to be the breadwinners and mothers were to be busy at home with the children.   They claimed this was all the work of feminists and the feminist influence on society was breaking up families and demeaning men.

Feminism was the cause of the moral decay in society.

I’ve been a homemaker for nearly 27 years.  I have loved staying home with the children.  It is wonderful for mom to stay home with her children.  But is it the only way?  Is it always possible?  Is it really all that black and white as “they” portray it to be?  Can we have decent families in which a mom works part-time?

Leaders in the Homeschool Movement spend an exorbitant amount of time selling their rhetoric in words and in materials (books, videos, blog articles) sharing what they believe to be the ultimate role of women as homemaker:  how to be respectful and submissive wives, how to cook, sew, how to raise children, etc.

If you are a young girl raised in this environment, your know your lot in life is:  get married to your approved husband, have many children, teach your children at home, and hopefully, your children will do the same.

It is important to note the basis of this ideology. The ultimate goal in the Homeschool Movement is to be fruitful and multiply and “take dominion” of the world.  Dominionism and Reconstructionism are foundational roots from which everything in the movement is cultivated.

Nick then discussed a young lady who has been in the spotlight lately, Malala.  If you are unfamiliar with Malala, I encourage you to read about this courageous young lady who is making her voice be heard in a country where women’s voices are squelched.

“Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani school pupil and education activist from the town of Mingora in the Swat District of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. She is known for her activism for rights to education and for women, especially in the Swat Valley, where the Taliban had at times banned girls from attending school. (Source)

Here is a video Nick included of Malala.  The Taliban tried to assassinate this young lady because of her powerful voice and she survived and her voice is even stronger and now has international attention.   Please listen to this amazing interview.

Nick writes:

What is especially disturbing is when you hear Malala talk about how the Taliban in the Swat Valley of Pakistan wants to take education away from girls. You would hope, in the 21st century, young women would have basic access to education.

I will be loud and proud about my homeschooling advocacy because my heart is broken on a regular basis when homeschooled teenagers trapped in fundamentalism contact me trapped, struggling to assert themselves and pursue the future they want. Sometimes parents deny FAFSA signatures, or they edit their transcript if they apply to an “unapproved” school. I have talked to homeschooled girls who were literally trafficked (for sex and for labor).

Some homeschooled adult daughters fare no better than Pakistani young ladies when it comes to education.

Nick is right.  We expect this kind of thing in Pakistan, but not in the US.  Some of these young ladies who have officially graduated from their homeschool high school are not allowed to even choose whether they go to college or not. College is simply not allowed. They are destined to be a “stay-at-home-daughter,” serving parents, helping with the remaining children at home, help with cooking, cleaning around the house, etc.

In the United States of America, we have young female adults — I said adults — who are living at the home of their Christian homeschooling parents, unable to make adult decisions of where they can live, where they can go to school, who they can be friends with, where they go on the internet, etc.  They are essentially forced to follow the path of their parents.  They are cut off from the outside because their internet use, cell phone use is highly monitored.

Now some of these young ladies go along with this without any dissension. This is the only life they’ve ever known. They have been sheltered from the “world” or society.  Their friends are people from church, from homeschool groups, etc.

This is their norm.

Some may do fine with this. They will allow their parents to help select a husband for them, get married, have babies and continue living the legacy their parents planned for them.

However, there are other young ladies who want to explore life outside of the life and rule of their parents.  They want the opportunity to go to school and further their education. But they are not allowed this opportunity. They are prevented.  How can this be? In this day and age?

These parents hold the keys to their adult daughters’ freedom. They are the ones who decide whether they will turn over their signed homeschool high school transcript. They are the ones who must sign and turn over info for FAFSA documentation for financial aid. They decide whether their daughters can get a driver’s license, work outside the home, etc.

In the United States of America, there are young ladies held against their will in their parents’ homes and they are trapped.

They don’t know where to go. They don’t know how to escape. They don’t know how to get schooling. They are completely isolated.

This is happening in our country — the USA.

I Am A Testament To Homeschooling’s Power: R.L. Stollar


I Am A Testament To Homeschooling’s Power: R.L. Stollar

Do you want proof that homeschooling can be awesome?

Then look at Homeschoolers Anonymous.


Along with Nicholas Ducote, I have organized an online community that — in less than five months — has received national media coverage, garnered over half a million views, received both the praise and the wrath of educational activists, and engages in dynamic social media activism.

I don’t attribute that to myself. I attribute that to homeschooling.

Now, some of you might be thinking, “Well, Ryan, of course you attribute that to homeschooling! You hate homeschooling. If you didn’t hate homeschooling, you wouldn’t have organized this community. How is that a positive?”

First, I don’t hate homeschooling.

Second, sure — if I did not experience negative experiences and observe other people have similar experiences, I would not have made Homeschoolers Anonymous. I’d be on the other side of this whole debate, scratching my head and wondering, “What is everyone upset about?”

But that’s not what I am saying.

What I am saying is that the skills necessary to pull this off – the skills of community organization, advocacy, communication, debate, and social media — I directly credit to my homeschooling experience. All things considered, my parents gave me an excellent education. For example, my mother is an amazing writer and editor. She put an extraordinary amount of effort — and skilled effort, not just energetic effort — into my writing abilities. We read awesome books as kids. We were encouraged to write our own stories.

I was even encouraged to write my own plays.

I wrote a full musical when I was twelve — “The Fun Factory” — and my mom cheered me along. Which is very gracious of her, in retrospect, because the musical is highly embarrassing to me now. My dad constructed an entire theater stage — a real one, with curtains and everything! (my dad worked for a furniture construction company at the time) — for me in the backyard. Along with other kids from our homeschooling group, my siblings and I put on a full-blown production.

That’s awesome homeschooling right there, folks.

I wrote a musical, my dad built a stage, a bunch of kids were creative and self-driven, and we put on a legitimate production for our parents. We even charged an admission fee that covered the costs of the production materials and the food provided during intermission. 

That’s Writing, Drama, Wood Shop, Leadership Dynamics, Music, and Economics right there.

I was encouraged to be creative. I was encouraged to think differently. I learned to write and express myself. I did speech and debate. I was taught to pour my heart and soul into research and advocacy. When I wanted to learn html so I could create websites, my parents bought me a book. When I wanted to make research books as a summer job, my parents underwrote my business. When I wrote controversial things for my research books, my parents stood by my side.

And here I am, years later, using these very things — using creativity, technology, communication, and inner drive — to do what I believe in. This drive and these skills I owe to my parents and the homeschooling environment they created.

When I critique the Christian homeschool movement with well-phrased sentences and well-placed screenshots that go viral, I am a testament to homeschooling’s power.

When I am not afraid to stand up and denounce the leaders of the movement who value ideas over children, I am a testament to homeschooling’s power.

That power is not mine to claim.

I had a severe speech impediment for years as a child. No one understood me except my older brother until I was an adolescent. I went through intensive speech therapy. And to make life even more complicated, I was abused by one of my speech therapists. And if that was not enough, I am also an introvert. I am extraordinarily sensitive. I was even a kleptomaniac as a kid. I started shoplifting when I was 6 or 7. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was just a broken, confused, and scared little kid.

And yet through the love and selflessness and dedication of my parents, through personalized experiences that supported me and my unique temperament, I became a national award-winning debater who taught thousands of other kids speech and debate when I was but a teenager.

Me, the kid who couldn’t speak basic syllables correctly.

I am a testament to homeschooling’s power.

Resolved: An Index

Resolved: An Index


Call for Stories

By Nicholas Ducote: Resolved: That We Should Talk about HSLDA Debate, NCFCA, STOA, and CFC/ICC, Part One

By Bethany: “Resolved: That We Should Talk about HSLDA Debate, NCFCA, STOA, and CFC/ICC, Part Two”


Debate History and General Topics

By R.L. Stollar: “A Brief History of Homeschool Speech and Debate”

By Nicholas Ducote, “A Letter of Gratitude, A Call for Dialogue”

By Luke: “Debate As Socialization: Luke’s Thoughts”

By Andrew Roblyer: “Angry Emails And Thoughts On Why They Happen: By Andrew Roblyer”

By Alisa Harris: “The Shining City’s Superman: By Alisa Harris”



By Libby Anne: “The Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute: NCFCA and Growing Up in a Conservative Bubble — Libby Anne’s Thoughts”

By Finn:

“Sailboats And The Spirit: Finn’s Thoughts, Part One”

“Sailboats And The Spirit: Finn’s Thoughts, Part Two”

By Philosophical Perspectives:

“Of Love and Office Supplies: Philosophical Perspective’s Thoughts”

“How NCFCA Taught Me to Fight Sexism: Philosophical Perspective’s Thoughts”

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

By Kierstyn King: “Teenagers Taking Over the World: Kierstyn King’s Thoughts”

By R.L. Stollar:

“The Most Controversial Thing I Ever Wrote, Part One: By R.L. Stollar”

“The Most Controversial Thing I Ever Wrote, Part Two: By R.L. Stollar”

By Jayni: The Space To Be Human: Jayni’s Story



By Krysi Kovaka:

“I Was A Problem To Be Ignored: Krysi Kovaka’s Story, Part One”

“I Was A Problem To Be Ignored: Krysi Kovaka’s Story, Part Two”

By R.L. Stollar: “I Was The Original CFC Fuck-Up: R.L. Stollar’s Story”

By Marla: “Competence, Not Character: Marla’s Story”

By Michele Ganev: “CFC Gave Me Confidence: Michele Ganev’s Story”

By Renee: “Sharing the Burden of the Pedestal: Renee’s Story”


Great BJU Protest of 2009

By Joe Laughon: “Engaging the World — Debate and the BJU Protest: An Interview with Joe Laughon”

By Ariel: “The Embarrassment of Protesting Racism: Ariel’s Thoughts”

By Krysi Kovaka: “When I Recanted What I Truly Believed: Krysi Kovaka’s Thoughts”

A Brief History of Homeschool Speech and Debate

A Brief History of Homeschool Speech and Debate

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator


“There is warfare. We are soldiers. We have weapons.”

~Shelley Miller, NCFCA Oregon State Representative, 2013


As we embark on our Resolved: series, you will see a lot of acronyms being thrown around. I figured it would be helpful for those unfamiliar with the homeschool speech and debate world to see a brief summary of what those acronyms mean. The following history of the key organizations and individuals is important to keep in mind as a general context for reading the posts this week.

HSLDA Debate

Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) began a homeschool debate league in 1996. Christy Shipe (then Farris), the daughter of HSLDA’s chairman and co-founder Michael Farris, started the league when she was a senior at Cedarville University. The goal of the league, according to Michael, was “to improve your child’s reasoning powers, clarity of thinking, and ability to stand for the truth of God’s word.” Whereas competitive forensics sees the skills of forensics as ends in themselves, homeschool debate sees them as means to a larger end: “to help homeschoolers address life’s issues biblically, with God’s glory, not their own, as the focus.”

The very first national tournament was held in October 1997 at Loudoun Valley High School in Purcellville, Virginia. Christy Shipe was the tournament organizer. The debate team from Cedarville, of which Shipe was a part, played a crucial role in the beginning. Deborah Haffey, Cedarville’s debate coach at the time, was influential in Shipe’s love for debate. HSLDA’s original debate teaching materials featured Haffey. And the very first homeschool debate summer camps — as far as I can remember — began at Cedarville, via the university’s Miriam Maddox Forum, led by Haffey, Jonathan Hammond, and later Jeff Motter.The final round of HSLDA’s first national tournament, by the way, took place a separate venue than the rest of the tournament. It occurred at the 1997 National Christian Home Educators Leadership Conference in front of 400 home school leaders from 44 states. It was judged by Michael Farris, Deborah Haffey, and Bob Jones University’s debate coach, Dewitt Jones.


After five years past, the homeschool debate league had grown significantly. HSLDA decided that the league should become a distinct entity from itself. So the National Christian Forensics and Communications Association was created in 2000, co-founded by Christy Shipe and Teresa Moon. The association’s original seven-member board of directors included: Shipe, Moon, Todd Cooper, Michael Farris, Skip Rutledge, Deborah Haffey, and Terry Stollar. NCFCA’s stated goal is “is to train students to be able to engage the culture for Christ.” From the very beginning, NCFCA had a significant amount of in-fighting, resulting in a rapid burning-through of its leaders. Todd Cooper, NCFCA’s original president from San Diego, was booted almost instantaneously. My father, Terry Stollar, became the second president, and resigned after significant disagreements with the board. The first two presidents — as well as Moon, who served as Director of Forensics — all hailed at some point from California, which is interesting considering what I will later mention about “Region 2” and its split from NCFCA. Mike Larimer took over the presidency after my father. Teresa Hudson is NCFCA’s current president.

While debate was primarily the focus when the league was under HSLDA, NCFCA branched out significantly in their more diverse inclusion of speech events. As of today, NCFCA includes two types of debate — Policy and Lincoln-Douglas — as well as a variety of speech categories — biographical narrative, oratory, persuasive, duo interpretations, humorous interpretations, apologetics, extemporaneous, impromptu, and so forth.


Crucial to the growth of both HSLDA debate and later NCFCA was Communicators for Christ (CFC). David and Teresa Moon began CFC in 1997. Teresa was also the personal debate coach of many of NCFCA’s original “legends.” In the early days, the Moons traveled around the country, from state to state in their motor home, with a team of student instructors — later termed “interns.” As CFC taught speech and debate to other homeschool parents and students, it served as a “feeder” of sorts into NCFCA.

As CFC’s popularity grew, Teresa expanded CFC’s focus from homeschoolers to Christian schools in general. She refashioned the for-profit CFC into the non-profit Institute for Cultural Communicators (ICC). Today, ICC continues its CFC tours, but also offers “a variety of programs, events and teaching materials designed to help all Christian students, from all educational backgrounds — public, private and home — [to] become ‘cultural communicators’ — people who can impact their culture through excellent communication of the truth.” ICC’s stated goal is “to provide support and guidance to Christian schools, churches, and community education programs as together we train well-rounded communicators.”

A crucial concept about ICC’s goal is embodied in their “Flood the Five” conferences. The premise of these conferences is that only 5% of Americans are “ready” and “willing” to command any sort of public platform. So ICC “is committed to coaching Christian speakers to flood that 5%.”

HSD (HSD) was created by Andrew Bailey, an NCFCA alumni. HSD is an online forum for competitors, alumni, parents, and coaches from all over the country to connect. HA’s Nicholas Ducote was a board administrator on HSD for four years, and also owned the site (after Bailey and McPeak moved on) for two years, from 2007-2009. I myself used HSD significantly to market Plethora, my research book series, from 2001-2005.

HSD features threads on the current year’s debate topics, on homeschool league politics, on ideas for improving debate skills, and — well, and everything else. Some of the most popular threads on HSD in the past had nothing to do with speech or debate. The most popular threads were the “Just For Fun” and “Controversy Corner” threads, where us homeschool kids would argue about everything from free will versus predestination to that year’s presidential candidates. We would also create role-playing games and fictional stories about each other, projecting fellow competitors into soap opera storylines or superhero graphic novel contexts. HSD was, and continues to be, extraordinarily popular. When competitors would actually gather in person at national qualifying tournaments or the national tournament itself, it was always a highlight to meet in person these people you would socialize with digitally for the year prior.

HSD became a microcosm of some of the speech and debate world’s important developments: the promotion of evidence and research books, the promotion of summer camps, the connecting of alumni with current competitors to pass on both competition strategies and life lessons, and a channel for graduates to help younger kids work through questions about faith and humanity. HSD was also the starting place for the Great BJU Protest of 2009.

The Great BJU Protest of 2009

In 2009, NCFCA announced that the National Tournament that year would take place at Bob Jones University. This caused an outcry from many competitors on account of BJU’s extreme legalism and history of institutionalized racism. Some competitors believed the board made a poor decision that could hurt the image of both Christianity as well as homeschooling. This issue was also exacerbated by two other issues: how NCFCA allegedly ignored California’s previous suggestion of Irvine as a location, and how the previous year NCFCA also held a national tournament event at a Shriner’s Temple. Going from a Shriner’s Temple to a place popularly conceived as racist and small-minded infuriated quite a few people. As early as March of 2009, months before the tournament happened, members of HSD were considering how best to address this — some suggesting a boycott of the tournament, others suggesting petitioning the board to change the location, and others suggesting wearing stickers or walking silently out of the opening ceremony when BJU would give their “come to BJU!” talk.

In the end, a petition was sent to NCFCA leadership to change the location. Mike Larimer, then-president of NCFCA, gave what one of the protest’s organizers called “an expected non-response.” But the petition picked up when alumni from all around the country started showing overwhelming support for the protest. (I myself proudly signed the petition, though I was long graduated from the league. Standing up for what you feel is just and right is what this whole training was about!) As support for the petition ballooned, and word got out that protestors were planning a “walk out” of the opening ceremony, the NCFCA regional coordinator of Region 8, Lisa Kays, did something highly controversial. Kays sent an email to all the other regional coordinators. In her email, she demanded (1) that any competitors from her own region that signed the petition must immediately remove their names, and (2) ban anyone that is unwilling to remove their name from competing at the National Tournament.

Yes, you read that right. Lisa Kays, one of the heads of NCFCA leadership and who is now on the board of ICC, wanted to ban people from the National Tournament for speaking up against legalism and racism. As one of the protest’s organizers said at the time, “I am incredibly saddened to see this. This is nothing less than strong arm tactics against a very legitimate and very respectful protest.”

As it turns out, this protest organizer was not the only one who was saddened by this tactic.


In 2009, after years of strained relationships between the leaders of Region 2 (primarily California) and the national leaders of NCFCA, secession happened. Due to differences in governance philosophy, the structure of tournaments qualifying students for Nationals, and allegedly how certain NCFCA leaders (mis)handled the BJU Protest, California broke from the homeschool forensics union. A new speech and debate league was formed, STOA — which is not an acronym but a reference to ancient Greek architecture. While there are several accounts discussing STOA’s split from NCFCA in 2009, and while the official date is listed everywhere as such, it seems that the original genesis of STOA as an organization began in 2008, as evidenced by STOA’s original blog post dating back to August of that year. This split was announced on HSD in July of 2009 with the title, “California secedes from NCFCA. NO JOKE!”

The original leadership for STOA were Lars Jorgensen, Scott York, Marie Stout, Jeff Schubert, and Dorr Clark. Lars Jorgensen, who was the NCFCA regional coordinator for Region 2 since 2004, was the one who officially announced the split on August 10, 2009. STOA’s goal does not differ significantly from NCFCA’s: “to train Christian homeschooled students in Speech and Debate in order to better communicate a biblical worldview.”


As of today, there are two homeschool speech and debate leagues: NCFCA and STOA. HSLDA continues to sell speech and debate material geared towards these leagues. Many of the original movers and shakers are still involved. Christy Shipe is still on the board of NCFCA. Teresa Moon continues to run CFC and ICC. Lisa Kays, one of the key players attempting to shut down the BJU protest, is on ICC’s board. Scott York continues as president of STOA.

And most curiously, a lot of us competitors who frequented the HSD forums a decade ago still frequent that forum to this day. There’s something about HSD that feels like home.

A Letter of Gratitude, A Call for Dialogue

A Letter of Gratitude, A Call for Dialogue

By Nicholas Ducote, HA Community Coordinator

As this project has continued, I have challenged myself to analyze many of the institutions and cultures of my youth. (I wrote about an overview of my experiences and contemporary observations here.) I look very fondly on my time in NCFCA and CFC, but my female peers from high school (overwhelmingly) had a lot of criticism due to their experiences.

All of us believe in the mission of teaching kids to express themselves, think critically, and hone their verbal skills. But many of us have now realized that some of the toxic teachings of religious fundamentalism have negatively impacted many of the children in the league and Christian homeschool debate culture. This is not to say that NCFCA must abandon its Christian motivation and purpose. There are, however, simple steps that could be taken to lessen the negative impact of purity teachings and modesty doctrines.

I speak these words of criticism with a heavy heart because I know the tales of the suffering of many of my peers will be dismissed as atypical experiences or dramatic whining. Each and every one of us approaches this task of speaking about and criticizing Christian homeschooling debate with love, deep respect, and admiration for many of our dear friends from the league. Our criticisms are not a condemnation of NCFCA, CFC, STOA, et al (see here for an overview of the differences in these acronyms). Rather, consider our criticisms a call to “be holy for I [Christ] am holy.” I know perfection is impossible, but Christian homeschool debate taught me to fight for the impossible if I believed it was right.

We will publishing some pieces this week that are very critical of Communicators for Christ and the Moon family. I have fact-checked them and considered each one with an open mind. It is hard for me to comprehend how it could be so bad for some, when my experience was so positive.  I don’t say this to diminish others’ negative experiences because, as I read these stories, it all made sense. Yes, things like the pressure of competition or the Body Shaming/Modesty Police didn’t impact me negatively, but I support and defend all the stories that we publish here.

I wanted to include a letter I wrote to Mrs. Moon a while ago, before Ryan and I began this project. I had a feeling that we would eventually get around to NCFCA and CFC, if only because so many of us share that experience on common.


Mrs. Moon,

I was chatting with Devin recently about how beneficial my time on tour was for me. He mentioned that a lot of former interns have written to you about their scarring, possibly traumatizing experiences, they had one tour (no details, just very generally). I was honestly very shocked! Devin said I should pass on the kind words to you. I certainly can’t speak for anyone else, but my experience was fantastic. Yes, I had to memorize a sign-language dance to Mary Did You Know, but it’s a great memory.

My adolescence was very troubled. My family got deep into ATI, which I now consider to be a cult. At the first CFC conference I attended in 2003, Caleb Smith’s charisma opened me up to really express myself. From there, I developed critical thinking skills in the networks fostered at your conferences. I remember one conversation I had with you, I think it may have been in Austin in the downstairs coffee shop (I don’t expect you to remember), and I asked you about why CFC operated for-profit instead of a non-profit. You said you had a vision and you didn’t want it to be lost. This really bothered me for a long time and I thought it was a sort of “pat” answer. In the last few years, I’ve come to appreciate the work you did on an entirely new level. You opened up thousands of sheltered homeschool kids to so many ideas and the ability [to] process new ideas. I can honestly say I probably learned more from CFC [about how to think logically and empirically] than I ever did about all the sciences combined in high school. Without CFC, I never would have found debate, which was my only way to process out all the cultist nonsense. I credit debate 100% with where I am now.

Not only did the conferences change me, but the tour experience itself was life-changing. For the first time, I was out of my parents house and given real responsibilities. Emotionally, I experienced the first few months without a sense of impending doom, constant anxiety, and other home problems. I will also never forget that you made some pretty big exceptions to your rules for alumni participation levels to even let me tour with the team. I remember a conversation we had sometime before I toured after a regional tournament. I waited away from all the people partying to try and talk to you, you made it clear that you thought I had a lot of potential, but I needed to focus and buckle down. You were one of the first people to give me any sort of self confidence and sense of purpose.

I thrived in that environment and I kindled my love for teaching. Never again have I had so much “class room” time simply teaching subjects I’m passionate about. The skills I learned coordinating tournaments, administering things, herding participants prepared me for being dropped into Afghanistan with three weeks to design a curriculum, teach it, practice debates, organize, run, and administer a tournament. I know without CFC there’s no way I would have been prepared for that. And now there’s a thriving debate league in Afghanistan – thanks to the determination of Josh McCormick. 


Many of us are where we are in large part because of Christian homeschool debate. Ryan and I have the tools to do this because we were trained to be counter-cultural warriors who fight the power in order to defend truth. It is unfortunate that criticism must be leveled at what many of us hold so dearly. Yet we would betray those life-changing lessons if we did not.

We want younger people in these groups to have a better experience, to have the “life-changingness” without the emotional trauma. I don’t know what that means exactly — but almost ten years ago, Ryan Stollar tried to start that conversation and he was punished for it. So we are going to have this damn conversation, whether it is comfortable or not.

If You’re Just Gonna Call Us Homos, Please Get In Line

If You’re Just Gonna Call Us Homos, Please Get In Line

By Nicholas Ducote, HA Community Coordinator

People have called me fag, gay, or homo for years now.  When I was the weird, sheltered homeschooled kid, my co-workers persistently mocked me for my social awkwardness.  They usually chose to mock me by calling me some variation of a gay slur. At one point, while working at Walgreens, my co-workers created a big foam board and hung it on my locker. They decorated it with brightly-colored foam words, which read “Nick is gay.”  The managers and assistant managers laughed along with my co-workers. They only requested that it be taken down when the district management came to visit the store a few weeks later.

My Freshman year of college, roughly five hours from Walgreens, one of my new, so-called friends dubbed me “Gay Nick.”  For two years, I endured daily name-calling and shaming over my social awkwardness.  In fact, he still likes to occasionally post on my Facebook wall and call me Gay Nick.  I gave up on our friendship when he informed me that New Orleans didn’t deserve to be rebuilt after Katrina because of some racist reason.  To put it plainly, my social options Freshman year were limited.

Name-calling is the easiest way to dismiss someone. Today, another former colleague and peer resurrected this tactic and called me “homo”:

Screen Shot 2013-06-25 at 1.12.42 PM

I’ve known Josh Craddock for almost seven years now.  Josh traveled to numerous Communicators for Christ (CFC) conferences while I was interning and our team was tasked with evaluating Josh.  He wanted to be an intern, but was advancing quickly through the alumni/training programs, so we monitored him closely.  He was a hard worker, diligent, and kind.  I personally recommended him to serve and eventually he did.

It’s ironic when I consider that Josh Craddock and I were once “servant leaders” together in CFC.  We taught thousands of high schooled Christian homeschoolers how to be confident public speakers with sharp critical thinking skills.  Even HA’s other Community Coordinator, Ryan Stollar, spent three years working with CFC. In fact, Ryan was one of their original student leaders, touring with them for the first three years of CFC’s existence.  Ryan said, of his time with CFC,

“If there’s one thing I will never forget from my time with Teresa Moon and CFC, no matter how far I may “stray” from the narrow path I was prepared for, it’s to do one’s best to communicate with civility and grace, even when you disagree with someone else. This is one of the most important things I have learned — and I learned it from a conservative Christian homeschooling mom, and I am grateful for it. I am disappointed that Josh apparently did not learn the same lesson from the same individuals during his time with CFC. Even when I choose (and oh boy, I do!) to disagree with my very teachers, I hope to do so in a way that does not shy away from the disagreement but still grants the opposing side its humanity. Josh, on the other hand, is choosing the path of dehumanization. Which not only hurts what he perceives to be the side that opposes him — it also only serves to hurt “his side” as well.”

Today Josh Craddock chose to refer to us as a part of a “whiney, disgruntled cohort of self-loathing atheistic homos hell-bent on undermining the family.”  When many of the Homeschoolers Anonymous cohort (love you all!) took to social media questioning Josh, he responded with this gem:

Craddock reply tweet

For what it’s worth, I married my wife a year and a half ago in a Methodist Church in Louisiana (picture below).  But even if I was all of the things he described, that would have zero bearing on whether my message would still be worth spreading.  If you think getting a few replies is trolling, maybe you should calibrate your Troll Meter.  What you fail to realize is that Homeschoolers Anonymous, our message, and our contributors do not fit into a simple box with clear-cut labels. So if your only response to our advocacy is that I’m a homo, I’d say get in line with the scores of other people who have tried to dismiss me with name-calling.


Resolved: That We Should Talk about HSLDA Debate, NCFCA, STOA, and CFC/ICC, Part One

Resolved: That We Should Talk about HSLDA Debate, NCFCA, STOA, and CFC/ICC, Part One

By Nicholas Ducote, HA Community Coordinator

I was introduced to the world of speech and debate by Communicators for Christ in 2003. From that moment, I was obsessed with speech and debate. For four years, I competed in tournaments across the country, even interning and touring with CFC.

For me, as a child raised in a fundamentalist homeschooling cult, the Advanced Training Institute (ATI), speech and debate was a welcome diversion.  It emphasized critical thinking, research, and discussion about issues.  All of these concepts were relatively foreign to me, despite my inclination to argue at an early age.  Debate gave me the tools to deconstruct my fundamentalist worldview.  Most of my highschool “network” consists of students I met through NCFCA or CFC.  Some of my closest friends are the other CFC interns I toured with.

So everyone is clear, CFC was a non-profit ministry that held conferences around the U.S. teaching public speaking and debate.  When it began, it acted as a sort of feeder for NCFCA, but has since evolved its own purpose (and changed its name to the Institute of Cultural Communicators).  NCFCA is strictly a competitive forensics league, only open to homeschooled students, that sanctions local qualifying tournaments for an annual national tournament.  While NCFCA and CFC are not the same organization, in the 2000s there was much crossover in people and ideas.

While my experience was liberating and empowering, I was surprised to hear many of my female peers from NCFCA/CFC complaining about the sexism they experienced first-hand in these environments.  The patriarchal attitudes also lead to discrimination against any males that did not conform to the dominant ideal of “Godly masculinity.”  The male youths were given leaderships roles in worship (before the tournaments), while women sang or played an instrument (usually piano).  I can only imagine the torment of being homosexual in such an environment.  I know many of my former NCFCA friends now openly identify as homosexual and they have dealt with other NCFCA friends saying they should be stoned to death.

As a high school student, I remember noticing that everyone seemed preoccupied with the way women dressed and looked, but as an ATI student this was nothing new.  ATI discouraged women from wearing pants and a strict dress code was enforced at all the events.  I remember some of my female friends complaining about the strict enforcement of dress codes at events like formals and awards ceremonies, but it seemed normal to me at the time.

As I became more aware of my own patriarchal inclinations in college and became more of a feminist, I remember thinking “wow, if all these ideas about gender messed me up, I bet they really did a number on my female friends.”  One moment that stood out from the rest was a regional banquet I attended after touring with CFC (during a gap year before college).  The regional coordinator, Jan Smith, was literally standing at the entrance to the event passing judgment on each woman’s modesty.  Always the provocateur, I decided to enter the banquet with my arms locked with another guy’s.  As the banquet had a nautical theme, Mrs. Smith informed me that there were “no gays allowed aboard this ship!” and we were told to stop.

My conversations in the last few months have identified some troubling themes from our collective experience in the NCFCA. (Caveat: I am six years removed from the league, but I’m sure some of these attitudes are still prevalent in some regions.)  It seems that, as a whole, men were given a sense of entitlement and women were held to an impossible standard of “Godly modesty” and submission.  The arbiter of all competitive rounds in the NCFCA is the judge (or judges), who are trained and informed by the NCFCA prior to their judging.  A mix of community volunteers, competitors’ parents, and alumni judge the events.  Often, sexist ideas about gender influenced a judge’s decision and they commented on ballots about girls’ appearance of modesty.  These sort of critiques of personal hygiene and “modesty” were encouraged usually before every tournament, if not every competition day, by tournament representatives.

All of these misogynistic themes are underscored by the fact that, in reality, women ran the league, coordinated the tournaments, and did much of the coaching of speeches and debate clubs.  In my experience in the Deep South, women would speak and lead public assemblies, but a man would always pray.  There was a certain sense of women in leadership having to defer ultimate responsibility and authority to a man, even if she was more qualified and informed.

Ultimately, the standards of modesty promoted a rape culture (which is not to say that they promoted rape), where women would be “at fault” for dressing immodestly if they turned a man on.  The purity culture’s inversion of guilt can be detrimental to some young women.  Fundamentally, a binary is constructed where the “good girls” wear modest clothes, don’t lead boys on, and get happily married at a young age, whereas girls who dress in pant suits or develop friendships with male competitors are “slutty” and will not be “desirable for marriage.”  In a culture that extols “godly motherhood” as the life purpose of females, not being desirable for marriage is an affront to a person’s intrinsic worth.  Recently, Elizabeth Smart discussed how the purity culture influenced her negatively to feel worthless like “an old piece of gum” during her captivity.

Now that I’ve established that this problem is somewhat systemic and promoted in a top-down manner, I’ll provide some examples of this sexism in action (these examples are from eleven different women).  In debate rounds, young women were often chastised (or given a loss) if they took an “aggressive tone” with male debaters.  If young women wore pant suits, they would be criticized for looking slutty, or even lose the round because they wore pants.  Female debaters were expected to prove their points in a submissive, womanly way, while males were given more leniency with tone.  In many cases, a young woman’s confidence in “looking good” would be smashed by a snide criticism of her modesty.  One young woman who struggled with an eating disorder and body dysmorphia would have comments about her “immodest appearance.”  Young women with natural curves faced the most potential for trouble and they were ordered to hide their body’s shape.

Sexual contact at tournaments (usually kissing) was strictly forbidden — and those restrictions were enforced. On one occasion, a young woman kissed a boy at a tournament and her parents told their host family.  As a result, the host mother approached the young woman and told her that she did not “feel safe” allowing her son to be around her slutty behavior.  Some young women were barred by their fathers from even participating in competitive debate, instead being forced to participate only in speech.  To be sure, any insecurities a young woman faced about her appearance would be challenged and highlighted at a speech and debate tournament.  Despite often spending hours picking out “appropriate” attire, they still faced criticism.


I sent the above to a close friend from NCFCA to have it proofread.  She responded with some reflections about her own time in NCFCA — my essay stirred some memories.  I asked for her permission to post her thoughts alongside my essay because I wanted a female voice on this topic and her response was very sincere, visceral, and empathetic. Read Bethany’s post here.


Contribute your story or thoughts to homeschool speech and debate week!

Is this a healthy or unhealthy environment for young people to grow up in? What are your stories and experiences with the homeschool speech and debate world? Were they positive, negative, or a mixture? These organizations were a vital part of many of our experiences with homeschooling in high school and no subject or institution is off limits here.

As always, you can contribute anonymously or publicly.

If you are interested in participating in this series, please email us at The tentative deadline for submissions will be Saturday, June 29.