Ready for Real Life: Part Six, History and Law

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Ready for Real Life: Part Six, History and Law

HA note: This series is reprinted with permission from Ahab’s blog, Republic of Gilead. Part Six of this series was originally published on November 3, 2013.


Also in this series: Part One, Botkins Launch Webinar | Part Two, Ready for What? | Part Three, Are Your Children Ready? | Part Four, Ready to Lead Culture | Part Five, Science and Medicine | Part Six, History and Law | Part Seven, Vocations | Part Eight, Q&A Session | Part Nine, Concluding Thoughts


In this part of the Botkin’s “Ready for Real Life” webinar, the Botkin family discusses the role of history and law in homeschooling curricula. Much of the webinar focused on teaching children a fundamentalist Christian interpretation of history and law, with obedience to God as a seminal virtue.

At the beginning of “Ready to Lead in the Gates”, Geoffrey Botkin encouraged parents to raise children to be leaders, to “stand at the gates” without shame. At the 1:22 mark, he once again warned homeschooling parents about alleged “enemies” who rage against their efforts. 

“Your children have enemies today. There are a lot of children out there who have enemies they know nothing about. You parents have enemies. The very fact that you’re homeschooling your children is a remarkable statement against the current status quo, and there are people who have special interests in that status quo who really dislike what you’re doing, a lot, and not just a little bit. They’re very vigorously and viciously opposed to what you’re doing.”

Christian homeschoolers have the freedom to give their children a free, generous, and fully-rounded education, according to Geoffrey. A home education should prepare children to serve as leaders in politics, the judiciary, business, media, religious communities, and other realms.

Geoffrey Botkin clearly believes that fundamentalist homeschooling families will have a massive impact on society.

On the 4:39 mark, he shared his vision for Christian homeschool families establishing a thousand-year Christian civilization. 

“Ten, fifteen, twenty years from now, what will history say about the homeschool families of the 21st century? What will they say a hundred years from now? This is my vision, and I want you parents to share it with me. I want historians to say those parents who took the risks, made the sacrifices, laid the foundation for the building of Christian civilization, and that foundation was used by families for a thousand years, that’s what I want them to say. The foundation that you come up with, the things you teach your children, the subject matter, the generous education you give them will be used by families for a thousand years because it showed everyone what the kingdom of Christ looked like and what the tools of civilization were.”

Sadly, he fails to understand that society isn’t morphing into a “Christian civilization”, and that many Americans would reject his dominionism outright. Time for a reality check, Geoffrey, I thought.

Geoffrey celebrated Isidore of Seville, a 7th century archbishop who compiled the Etymologiae, an exhaustive encyclopedia and curriculum Kings, princes, & statesmen who studied from the Etymologiae became nation-builders, Geoffrey said. However, the Etymologiae is out of date, so homeschooling families should reflect on what books and subjects make up their homeschool curricula.

In the Botkin home, Geoffrey explained, children are taught a range of subjects with a scriptural foundation: scriptural literacy, dominion, patriarchy, theonomy, the five solae of the Protestant Reformationand applying scripture to life. As extensions of this scriptural foundation, the Botkin children are also taught about family life, multigenerational visions, history, the scriptural foundations of civil society, and the free market as an expression of scriptural liberty. To my amusement (and consternation), the Botkins also teach young earth theology and the great flood as a historical event, as Geoffrey explains at the 12:46 mark. 

We want them to have historical literacy, beginning where history begins in the Bible. Genesis is incredibly important. All through their life, your children are going to run into people who are being tested morally by what they really believe about a young earth and an old earth, and those who side with the old earth theory are moving away from Biblical truth and a Biblical foundation. They’re on shaky ground. The earth is young, and the Bible explains why. They need to know about the worldwide flood, that it really did happen and when it happened.”

At the 14:56 mark, Geoffrey urged parents to teach their children about the relationship between scripture and civil society. America has “walked away” from liberty and justice because it has abandoned the Bible, he claimed. 

“Teach them about civil society and its scriptural foundations and find in the Bible where it talks about this, the law and its scriptural foundations … Liberty — and that doesn’t mean libertinism, which just means every man just gets to do what’s right in his own eyes — and its scriptural foundations, liberty. Liberty and justice are the foundations of the United States experiment, and we’ve walked away from it. Why? Because we’ve walked away from scripture.”

Biblical law serves as the foundation for everything in their homeschooling curriculum, he emphasized, arguing that obedience to Biblical law is the key to all happiness and success in life.

Tell that to ex-fundamentalists who were desperately unhappy, I thought. Tell that to countless people who are happy without Christian fundamentalism.

Biblical law is a delight rather than a burden, he claimed, adding that children will find rest for their souls if they take up the “yoke” of God’s law. On the other hand, if one’s children reject God’s law, they will become “outlaws” and find themselves on the side of the wicked, he warned.

Geoffrey’s son Isaac spoke next, categorizing all law as either natural law, positive law, or God’s law. Isaac claims that Jeremiah 17:9 (“The heart is deceitful above all things”) shows natural law to be insufficient, and that Romans 13 (“the authorities are God’s servants”) shows that positive law is insufficient because civil authorities have a responsibility to God. Ultimately, the purpose of any law is to honor God, and obedience to God’s law will bestow more happiness than any legal system humans could design, Isaac insisted. He elaborated on this at the 19:29 mark.

“Christians need to be able to understand that the purpose of law, whether it’s civil law of a government, or the rules of a church, or the rules of a household — the purpose of those laws are to honor God and his standards so that we can obey him, and we’re not pursing our own happiness, we’re not doing what we think is orderly, we’re actually trying to pursue God’s standards since we know that his law is perfect. And we also know from Psalm 119 that adherence to his law will result in far greater happiness and order than we can ever define on our own sinful human terms.”

Isaac split all law into a false dichotomy between “man’s law” and “God’s law” at the 20:13 mark.

Outrageously, he made no distinctions between democracy, dictatorship, and sharia, arguing that all are “fallen and destructive” vis–à–vis divine law.

“At the end of the day, there’s only two kinds of law. There is God’s law, and there is man’s law. A dictatorship is one man making up his own law. A democracy is a whole bunch of men making up law.Sharia law is one man making up law and ascribing it to a false God. Only God’s law in his revealed word is going to be any different from man’s law … Human law is fallen and destructive, and it’s destructive to the principle of theonomy, which is pursuit of God’s law.”

This kind of oversimplification is dangerous. Dictatorships, Islamic theocracies, and representative democracies are not the same thing! They do not hold their leaders to the same levels of accountability, and they do not afford citizens the same rights.

Isaac Botkin’s oversimplification betrays his ignorance about the ways that governmental systems operate in the real world.

In their haste to glorify laws based on the Bible, the Botkins ignore barbaric laws in the Bible (which themselves were man-made, ironically). I would rather live in an America under the Bill of Rights than one under ancient laws condoning slaveryforced marriagehonor killingreligious persecution, and draconian punishments for trivial offenses. I would rather live in a country that acknowledges the Geneva Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights than one that reduces people to chattel or expendable vermin. This is not to say that the U.S. human rights record is perfect, or that its ideals have been fully realized, only that its secular democracy is far superior to the state outlined in Deuteronomy and Leviticus.

Furthermore, the Botkins’ blind praise for “God’s law” ignores just how dysfunctional Christian theocracies have been throughout history. The European wars of religion following the Protestant Reformation, Savonarola’s Florence, and the Salem witch trials are but a few examples of the flawed results of such ambitions.

David Botkin offered Nazi Germany as an example of a country that did not honor God’s law. He claimed that because Germans feared a communist takeover of Germany, they brought the Nazis to power. When the German people did not want to take responsibility for the results of that election, and thus the Nazis turned the country into a “single-state democracy”. Covetousness lead the Third Reich to invade neighboring countries, while evolutionary thinking resulted in their attempted extermination of other races, he argued. These “national sins” had devastating consequences for Germany, given that God’s laws “will not be mocked”, David reminded listeners. God uses war as a tool of judgment, and World War II cost Nazi Germany dearly.

David Botkin’s history of the Third Reich was littered with problems.

First, I find it ironic that a regime that practiced offensive war and ethnic cleansing would offend a deity who commanded both in the Hebrew Bible. Also, by depicting Nazi Germany as a country in rebellion against God, David ignored the fact that Germany was solidly Christian during the Third Reich, and that some Nazis wove Christianity into Nazi ideology. Nazi racism, not evolution, produced the Holocaust, with earlier Christian anti-Semitism setting the stage for Nazi racial policy. Finally, David’s notion of “national sin” is problematic, as not all Germans were equally accountable for the Third Reich’s atrocities. What about Germans who actively resisted the Nazis? What about the White Rose activists, the Rosenstrasse protesters, the German “Righteous Among the Nations”, and other Germans who struggled against the Nazis? The idea that World War II was the Botkins’ God punishing innocent and guilty alike is one I reject.

Geoffrey Botkin echoed his son’s statements, telling listeners that all people and nations are subject to God’s law. At the 25:33 mark, he warned that terrifying cosmic judgment awaits those who disobey God. 

“All men in all nations are equal before the law of God, and it’s binding. It’s binding on the Jews, it’s binding on the Christians, it’s binding on the gentiles, it’s binding on every single nation. The Lord held Nineveh accountable, and Tyre and Sodom. They were all accountable to God’s law, and that’s why he ultimately had to judge them because they wouldn’t turn, they wouldn’t repent, they wouldn’t submit themselves and make themselves subject.

Now, one reason that the Lord allows you to have several years with their children is so they can understand this fact. They are not allowed, and parents, you’re not allowed, and your children need to see that the parents are not allowed to go their own way. They have to obey the Lord in the way that they raise up their families. Daddies, you have to submit to the authority of God Almighty, and wives are required, yes, to submit to the husbands, and this is why husbands, you really need to set this example and show that you literally, you are willing to lose your life in submission to the Lord’s authority, and you’re willing to lay your life down for your wife.”

Geoffrey returned to the study of history, slamming education reformers such as Harold Rugg and John Dewey as “historical revisionists”.

At the 29:00 mark, he poured his wrath on Rugg and Dewey, accusing them of hating history, time, and eternity (!?).

“Rebellions men like Harold Rugg and John Dewey and the other men who were getting the funds together to rewrite all the textbooks, they hate the past because it is providential. That means God was in charge. God was decreeing everything. Because of that, it’s full of meaning. And rebels hate the future because it is unpredictable and uncontrollable. They hate time because it’s limited and it reminds them of their appointment with death, and they hate eternity because they cannot control it or they can’t access it on their terms. And so rebellious men like Harold Rugg seek to make God and Christ remote from the present by abstracting them from the past and the future. That’s why they mess up history. They seek ways to manipulate history by denying Providence and manipulating other men. Your children simply need to know this.”

David Botkin chimed in, stressing the importance of finding sound, accurate history books. At the 34:13 mark, he claimed that some books sugar-coat history, but he provided no examples of books that do so. 

“History also teaches us about the sinful nature of men apart from Christ. As we read sound histories, we learn about what the real world is really like … There’s some historians that try to clean up history and remove some of the wickedness. They paint the world as a happy place where there’s no real bad guys, or at worst, just confused people that make some bad decisions, and if you fall victim to this theory of history, it will warp and destroy your ability to really understand the world we live in. I’d like to give you an example. Stalin, in some history books, becomes a nice man with a mustache that’s just trying to save the Russian peasants and stop the mean Germans.”

Victoria Botkin offered guidance on teaching history to homeschooled children, arguing that parents and children learning about history together is the best strategy. She claimed that she knew nearly nothing about history when she began homeschooling, a result of her public school education.

To be fair, Victoria had some positive advice for parents teaching their children history.

For example, she reminded listeners that all history authors have their own perspective, and since none are perfectly objective, it’s important to read several books on a particular topic in history. Unfortunately, she also espoused her family’s beliefs about God in history, ascribing historical events to God’s will. For instance, she claimed that the retreat of “pagan” Mongol invaders in Europe and the failure of the Spanish Armada were God’s judgment against them and a deliverance for Christians.

The Botkins spent the remainder of the webinar discussing the role of economics (complete with a defense of the free market and jabs at the federal reserve) and military history in homeschool curricula. Geoffrey recapped with a discussion of God’s authority, a father’s authority within the family, and the importance of teaching the Bible to children.


This part of the Botkins’ “Ready for Real Life” webinar contained the following themes:

  • Hierarchy and obedience: The Botkins’ understand the world as a hierarchy, with children submitting to parents, wives submitting to husbands, and governments submitting to God. 
  • God’s law as the ideal root of all law: The Botkins believe that all valid law must honor God and stem from scripture. Governments and legal systems not rooted in the Bible were framed as inferior at best and defiant at worst. Unjust elements of scriptural law were ignored.
  • History as a cosmic story: The Botkins, like other fundamentalist homeschooling voices, attribute historical events to divine intervention. History, in their eyes, is a record of divine intervention, as well as how humans obey or reject God across civilizations. In doing so, they shoehorn history into a narrow narrative, oversimplifying history and ignoring the complex causes of historical events.

Stay tuned for the next partI!


To be continued.

Making My Own Way: Matthew’s Story, Part Two

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


In this series: Part One | Part Two


High School Years

My first year in high school was wonderful for me. Finally, I was out of the house! I made friends and felt like I could finally breathe. I won’t go into great detail about my high school experience, since that isn’t the point of this story. However, I will point out a few things that I noticed over those four years:

• I discovered that I had a real problem with social anxiety. I’m not sure if this is hereditary or caused by my childhood. After reading some of the stories on this site, I’m thinking that it was a little of both.

• I was plagued by feelings of inadequacy. I thought I was not good enough, smart enough, athletic enough, witty enough… none of it. I did come to the realization that there are things that I’m good at, but it took years. In high school, I wound up trying everything since I had no idea where I fit in – I’d never had other kids around for me to gauge my own ability.

• I was plagued by guilt. Even if I hadn’t done anything wrong, I was often overcome by guilt over my (imagined and real) transgressions. This tied a lot into the messages we were receiving at church, which at this point were downright toxic.

• I had little-to-no self-confidence. As a homeschooler, you become so used to your parents’ authority, that you don’t really know how to make your own decisions, or when you do, you constantly second guess yourself.

So while getting out of the house was a welcome relief, I still felt like I was trying to overcome my upbringing.

At Home – Part 2

While I was off enjoying my high school experience, the “shit was hitting the fan” at home… oh, and how! My oldest younger sister had started hanging out with this girl she met at the homeschooling coop, and they decided they weren’t going to let being at home slow them down. I noticed one night that my sister and this girl, who was sleeping over, were acting really strange and goofy. Turns out, they were drunk! But how did they get the alcohol? After all, my parents didn’t drink. I later learned that my 12-year-old, shy-as-can-be sister stole it from a convenience store!

For my little sister, this would kick off what would become a six year blur of cigarettes, alcohol, promiscuous sex, drugs, and whatever else. To this day, I am convinced that the combination of home schooling and extreme Christian Fundamentalism destroyed her confidence. I remember her telling me, at 11, that she had given up and could never live up to the standard — I really think that she cracked under the pressure of that atmosphere.

She got pregnant at 17, got married, moved out, and hasn’t had issues with drugs or alcohol since. She and her husband now have 5 kids, all of whom are in public school, and her oldest daughter (13) is an exemplary student. All of her kids appear to be doing well.

Because of my sister’s meltdowns, I ended up getting away with a lot that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. So in a roundabout way, I owe her a “thanks” for taking the pressure off me and humbling our parents. I did take advantage of her recklessness and flew under the radar as I started drinking at 15.


The drinking continued on into college. I could never shake the idea that I wasn’t good enough and that I was in a perpetual state of sin, so the alcohol helped me to ease the anxiety and mentally “check out” for long periods of time.

Then I’d get sober, feel horrible, and go cry to my Christian friends about how I was going to hell. My secular friends would shake their heads and wonder why I was so conflicted. This pattern continued until I got sober at about 26 years old.

Other things happened in college as well. My drinking habits combined with my lack of any sort of sex education made me a sitting duck when it came to STDs and unexpected pregnancy.

But despite all that, I managed to graduate.


Today, I don’t harbor any resentment over my upbringing, as I realize it could have been a whole lot worse! There were actually several good things that came out of it:

• Since much of my learning was from reading books and not in the classrooms, I’m very good at figuring things out on my own. This has been a very beneficial skill to have as an IT specialist.

• I don’t mind being alone. This is something I’m starting to see as a blessing. During my four year marriage (yes… I’m divorced) I was miserable most of the time. I always had to come home to a spouse who was either angry with me or trying to drag me to some function that I didn’t really feel like attending. Once I realized that marriage is not for me, I’ve been able to enjoy being a single dad, making my own way. Since as a kid, I often went out and about to do things on my own, it isn’t really much of an adjustment to do things and go places on my own today. I don’t need a large social circle.

• I’ve seen the damage that religious extremism causes and I can spot the warning signs a mile away. While I still attend church, it’s a seeker-sensitive, theology-lite congregation that just loves everyone. I take my kids on the weekends when I have them, but I don’t preach at them. Their faith is between them and God. I expect them to make mistakes and refuse to hold them to a higher standard than the one I hold for myself. I have no idea if God is real or if the Bible is completely true. If he is and his word is true, then I’m sure he’ll get my attention one way or another. But after years of unanswered prayers, a failed marriage, kids from multiple relationships, and alcoholism, I find it hard to believe that he is actively involved in our lives.

• I witnessed first-hand the despair and hopelessness of many disillusioned homeschooling parents. These are people who, by and large, poured their hearts and souls into raising Godly men and women. Seeing this convinced me that it’s best to adopt a “live and let live” parenting model and to love your children unconditionally! Even if my son winds up marching in the local gay pride parade with his boyfriend and my daughter ends up working overtime at the Diamond Club, I will still love them and welcome them in my home with open arms. Life is too short for fallouts over lifestyle choices.


Homeschooling was really just one piece of the whole dysfunctional puzzle. I’m sure that if other factors had been different, but I was still homeschooled, I might feel differently about it than I do now. That said, it is very encouraging to read accounts from other homeschoolers to confirm that many of my experiences are shared by others.

End of series.

Making My Own Way: Matthew’s Story, Part One

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


In this series: Part One | Part Two


I have been reading the posts on Homeschoolers Anonymous with great interest for the past few weeks. After giving it some thought, I decided to share my own experiences. I can identify with much of what has been posted here, even though my story isn’t as traumatic as some of those I’ve read here.

Early Childhood

I was homeschooled from grades K – 8 and in public school for grades 9 – 12. I believe that it was my dad’s idea to send me to high school full-time. I give him credit for this since it left my parents open to criticism from members of the church we attended. Had it been solely up to my mom, I probably would have gone to public school for math and science only and been at home for all other subjects. She typically had her own ways of doing things, and her ways didn’t always line up with conventional wisdom.

My parents started homeschooling me in the early 80’s (I’m 33). If I had to guess, I would say that they were influenced to do this by James Dobson’s Focus on the Family ministry and Mary Pride’s book, The Way Home. Back in the mid-80’s, there weren’t nearly as many groups and organizations for conservative, Christian homeschoolers. However, our family managed to link up with a church that had a few other families that were educating their kids at home, so we would get together with these other families on a weekly basis for a homeschooling coop.

Our curriculum was a hodge-podge of Saxon, Bob Jones, and Abeka. My memory is a little hazy on what curriculums we used for each subject, since my mom typically mixed and matched our text books from year to year. I am certain that my parents’ primary reason for homeschooling my three younger sisters and I was to pass on their religious beliefs. It may have had a little to do with my mom’s belief that she could give us a better education than the local public schools, but the main reasons were definitely religious in nature.

The church we attended started off as a group of charismatic, non-denominational Christians who just loved Jesus. Practically every member was a first generation “believer” and many had really traumatic pasts. There wasn’t too much emphasis on theology or formulating a consistent, Christian worldview, but the members were undoubtedly in love with the Lord. The pastor of this church had a particularly abusive childhood and had accepted Christ in his early 20’s. From there, he just started preaching. I don’t believe that he had a formal education at a seminary, but he was very sincere and spent his life studying the Word.

My early childhood was fairly pleasant. I didn’t mind homeschooling, mainly since I didn’t know any different, and because all my best friends were at church. Things were good up to the age of about 9 or 10. But then, slowly and subtly, the environment at church and at home began to change.

At Church

Our congregation started to get heavily involved in the Pro-Life cause and, in particular, Operation Rescue. We became very active in pickets and protests and even started sitting in front of abortion clinics. For a 10-year-old kid, the scene at these early protests and sit-ins leaves a real impression. On one side, you had the Christians, who were singing praise and worship songs while walking in a slow circle or sitting in front of the clinic. I never witnessed any of them behaving in a confrontational manner (although I did witness how they would go limp when the police would start hauling them into patty wagons).

On the other side were God’s enemies – the feminists, liberals, and atheists. These people would spew all kinds of hate and vulgarities at the Christians. As a kid, the contrast was stark. I couldn’t understand why these people were so angry at the Christians who were just trying to save the babies.

(Getting a little off track here… so back to the story.)

Not too long after getting involved in Operation Rescue, our church split up. About half the members stayed at the original church and the other half planted a new one that began meeting at an elementary school. Soon after the split, a new assistant pastor came on board. The new pastor was staunchly reformed and, within a few years, the church adopted a Reformed, Christian Reconstructionist theology. Christian Reconstructionists are fiercely post-millennial, meaning that they believe Christ will not return until all aspects of culture and government are under his “Lordship.”

What does this look like exactly? The book of Leviticus should give you some idea. The pipe dream of this movement is one where the constitution is replaced by Old Testament case laws. Public executions by stoning, slavery, and extreme patriarchy would be the “norm.” Separation of church and state would become a thing of the past. RJ Rushdooney was the patron saint of this movement.

Once our church adopted this theology, homeschooling became the main method for raising up our nation’s next generation of foot soldiers to usher in a theocratic “utopia.” Suddenly, evangelism was replaced by activism and joy was replaced by anger and paranoia. Rather than serving the community, the members became focused primarily on getting the right candidates elected into office, including a few from within our small church.

For years, my family had been the standard by which other homeschooling families in our community were measured. But then all these new homeschoolers started showing up. These families made my parents look liberal by comparison. They adhered to the courtship model and truly believed that public education was a tool of the devil. I did witness one marriage via courtship between an oldest daughter and one of the men in the church. My parents praised them as a shining example of biblical courtship.

They were divorced within a year.

At Home – Part 1

At about age 10, I started to realize that I was “different.” Kids in the neighborhood started asking me why I didn’t go to school. I’d probably give them some canned answer that my parents told me to recite when asked this question. But it still made me feel like an outsider. It also didn’t help that I had weak hand/eye coordination – I couldn’t hit a baseball! I’m sure if you’re a natural leader and athlete like, say, Tim Tebow, being homeschooled isn’t too bad. But for me, it felt like I was getting a double-whammy.

When you also take into account the fact that I was spending every day, 24/7, with my domineering mother and three younger sisters, well… let’s just say the fact I’m straight makes me living proof that homosexuality is not rooted in one’s upbringing.

Around grade 6, I had some sports-related activities going on at the local Middle School. I got to see kids goofing around, having fun, and just being kids. I was incredibly shy and did not know how to join in, but I really wanted to! I was tired of feeling like an outsider. I wanted to jockey for position in the middle school social hierarchy. I wanted to get teased or get in a fight. I wanted to flirt with girls. I was tired of spending my afternoons and summers cooped up with my mom and sisters. I wanted my own life – one that wouldn’t be under the constant supervision of my parents.

A few days later, I mustered up all the courage I had, and told my parents that I wanted to go to school. I’ll never forget my mom’s response: “NO WAY! OUT OF THE QUESTION! THAT’S FINAL!” I was crushed and cried for a few days. On top of this rejection, her and my dad laid a massive guilt trip on me for even wanting to go to school in the first place. Saying things like, “I can’t believe how ungrateful you are for all the sacrifices we have made so that your mother can stay home with you kids” or explaining to me “how disappointed God must be in me for being so ungrateful.” Then my mom would force out some tears to drive the point home.

Of course, whenever we were around my dad’s work colleagues or anyone else who was skeptical of homeschooling, I was expected to suck it up, be sociable, and tell them how great my homeschooling experience was. And I did… every time.

That rejection and those next two miserable years were the worst of my life. My parents used to be fond of telling us that we “have no idea how good we have it” as kids. But I’ll tell you, nothing I have encountered in adulthood rivaled the misery of 7th and 8th grade. It was like I died a little inside. However, worse than the initial hurt was the fact that the seeds were planted for my distrust and animosity not just of my mom, but of women in general. I really believe that those 13 years spent being micromanaged by a controlling, overbearing mother turned me off to ever wanting to live with a woman full-time again.

To be continued.