Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Christian" Homeschooling Merits An "F"

Before any of you get all twisted out of shape, read the title again. Note that it doesn't say "Christians who homeschool". That's a distinction that many fail to see.

I've no problem whatsoever with homeschooling. I think it's wonderful - when done for educational or special needs purposes. However...when the goal is indoctrination (as I discussed here) I stand whole-heartedly against it. It never, ever, produces good results. It produces broken and narrow minds, hearts, and lives.

Unfortunately for Christians who are attempting to properly and fully educate their children at home, a minority of neo-conservative, hyper-fundamentalist "Christians" have co-opted the industry, attempting to force-feed their religiously stupid (best word I know) agenda to all homeschoolers who claim Christ. A platform has been given for idiotic demagogs and wolves like Gothard, Phillips, Swanson, the McDonalds, Baucham, the Botkins, the Chanceys, Wilson, Lindvall, the Ludys, to become folk heroes and 20th/21st century versions of the apostles, redefining the Christian faith and lifestyle with their brand of reconstructionism and dominionism. All who fall under their spell are dumber for it.

The narrow minds become evident in groups like HSA (Homeschool Alumni), a popular gathering of what its title suggests, with annual reunions and a private forum. From what I understand of it, a better title for it would be Neo-Conservative Homeschool Alumni, as the strongest voices in it seem to fall under the sway of "the movement". Dissenters are generally kicked to the curb and banished, which suggests a strong desire for milieu control by those in charge, i.e., they prefer to control the discussion and thinking of those involved. More reasonable voices usually don't feel welcome there.

The narrow minds also become evident in the comment sections on popular blogs within the movement. Look at the comments at Stacy McDonald's blog or Kelly Crawford's blog. God help us all at the narrow-minded, mis and ill-informed ignorance by Victorian groupies. That ignorance is being daily indoctrinated into their children.

The impact also manifests in the webpages of women (particularly younger women) who become wannabes of the sterile, isolated, "godly" lifestyle promoted by the queens and would-be queens of the movement. Those pages have a lot of images on them like this...

And like this...
It makes me look like this...

(I wrote about the Victorian Era Fantasy several months ago, and it still boggles my mind.)

The worst manifestation of it, however, is in the plethora of emotionally dysfunctional and intellectually stagnant homes where the agendas are lived out. Would a home where a proper education, both academic and moral, is taking place produce something like this recent nugget from the son of Doug Phillips?...
"Just got to visit the incredible Nathan Bedford Forrest Monument in Memphis, TN. The monument was erected in 1904 and the front side reads:  "Erected by his countrymen in honor of the military genius of Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest, Confederate States Army 1861-1865."

For those who don't know, Nathan Bedford Forrest's enduring contribution to society is the Ku Klux Klan. He's the first ever Grand Wizard. Somehow, I don't think this is that big of a deal in the Phillips household.

Does anyone really think that this kid, or any of his siblings, has a reasonable chance at living in ANY semblance of reality, being fully educated about the world around them and its history? The McDonald's kids? How about Kelly Crawford's? Sheesh.

My former future in-laws are exhibit A in the product of an emotionally, spiritually, and even moreso, intellectually stagnant and closed environment. My ex literally knew nothing about anything outside of the patriarchal, neo-conservative bubble. She had no ability to reason or to use logic. To some degree that's understandable, given the gross amount of information purposely kept from her or blatantly revised in her "education". She had been heavily indoctrinated to believe that the course of her life was set due to her gender, regardless of wherever her life may be spent or whom it may be spent with. She was to be a "help-meet", look to a man as her "spiritual head", cook daily and dutifully, clean, spit out babies (preferably by the bushel), and "keep sweet" while doing it, even in suffering, being she was under the curse of Eve and all that cheese. She was to follow the courtship formula, she was to always be under the covering of a man (her father, then transferred to her husband upon completion of a marriage ceremony), to never use birth control, to have all of her babies at home, to distrust modern medicine, and to homeschool her children. When pressed, she couldn't tell you (from any genuine conviction or knowledge) why these things were best.

All of these ideas were part of her homeschooling indoctrination.

Her family didn't choose homeschooling to give the children the best possible education. Her family chose homeschooling to isolate itself from that mean ole world (which it knew nothing about aside from the movement's propaganda), to make sure that the religious beliefs - not the intellectual and personal growth - of the family were continued. She and her siblings are the casualties of a stupid sociopolitical cultural war that her parents, in their blindness and fear, bought into with wholesale zest - but at retail prices. Their wounds are their social and knowledge handicaps and their overwhelming emotional and spiritual dysfunction. 

I was labeled a "dishonorable" man and a "troublemaker" for standing up to it. Rather than impotently "speaking the truth in love" (which by most Christian definitions is worthless) I stood in the midst of the madness and shouted "This is wrong and it must stop!!!" Judge me for that if you will. I don't really care. I had to do what I knew was right and stand up to what I knew was evil, and the neo-conservative minority which has overtaken the Christian sectors of the homeschooling industry is evil to its core, producing destructive evil in homes like that of my former future in-laws. I loved my ex. I couldn't just passively let the nonsense continue and see her get hurt repeatedly beyond the scope of what she could fathom.

I don't use the strong language you frequently find here, or even within this piece, flippantly. I know of too many young women living in exile from their families, guilty of nothing more than thinking for themselves outside of the parameters approved by the movement, or in some cases, of loving an unapproved person. Some live in various degrees of hiding, whether for safety reasons or to give themselves enough space to heal. It's heartbreaking in every case. All thanks to the doctrines established and daily reinforced through the indoctrination processes of the "Christian" homeschooling cult movement.

Following formulas, trying to coerce and cajole mechanical fruit into producing a tree, rather than giving a wide birth to the genuine vine and letting it produce what it will. Social and political engineering wearing a mask of Christianity. Apostasy.

It's wrong and it must stop.


  1. Just one little quibble...I would not lump the Ludys in with the likes of any of those other people. Although I still don't like courtship, their books where the only ones that gave me hope when I was a teen. They didn't have "formulas" and there is much grace in their writings. Yes, i have seen some performance-based gospel ideas in some of their newer books, but I really don't think that they are a threat to the truth of the gospel, as are the other folks on your list. I certainly have disagreements with some of their beliefs but I wouldn't hesitate to call them family in Christ. Just my own little opinion, take it or leave it. :)

  2. Great post, Lewis. I couldn't agree more.

    Darcy, I'm afraid that i would lump the Ludys in there as well. Their version of the gospel is just as twisted, it is just more subtle. They can be a gateway drug to even more extreme versions of patriarchy. Since it is more subtle it is, in some ways, more dangerous. I guess that also makes it possible for someone who grew up in more strict circles than they promote to feel like they promote freedom, but that is not really true. I wouldn't throw them out of the faith either, but it takes a lot for me to make that distinction. Most of the uber patriarchs i would assume in good faith still are believers, their beliefs are just skewed and damaging. The Ludys definitely fit into that for me, :). You've read my Ludy critique, right?

  3. I'm really on the fence with this one, Lewis. You make some good points, but I think a more accurate title would be '"Cultish" Homeschooling Merits An "F"'. I know Christian families who homeschool and incorporate their faith into it while still allowing their children to have a mind, to learn logic, and even *gasp* disagree with the parents. And I know the cultish families of the sort you describe above. And in the middle are those that fall - well, in the middle. :) But I feel you attack all Christian homeschooling as evil. So what if a family wants to homeschool because they want to be able to share their faith at the same time? It is only when it becomes cultish that it becomes a problem. I think a distinction needs to be made between the two.

  4. Rachel, yes I read it. :) And I agreed with it. I just personally can't lump them in with the likes of Gothard, Lindvall, and Phillips. I see the fruits of their lives and they aren't rotten like the others' on that list. I realize some might disagree, and that's OK. It's just my personal opinion.

  5. Darcy - I can accept that! Who knows, my own opinion may change in the future. I guess there is just too much bad fruit from the Ludys on this campus that I see every day for me to give them more grace than Gothard, Lindvall and Phillips. I CAN totally agree, though, that their teaching is concentrated mostly in a few select areas of life and that is less damaging than the whole-life cultish mindset. I like that you know where you stand. Actually, I just like you. :)

  6. This is what I think about when I see families who homeschool and are way to the right of the Duggars: What will happen when the bubble bursts and they endure forced contamination from the real world? What happens when Mama or Daddy dies or, yes, FLEES. What happens then? Then have "skills"--sure, they can diaper babies, heck maybe even build a steel house from the ground up, but they don't have the cultural references that let them FIT IN. What happens when a Mom of Many is widowed and has to send her at-home older kids out to support the family?? Are you sure those piano lessons will really pay for food for 14 people? We're called to be IN the world, not OF the world. That doesn't ever mean hide away somewhere and pretend it's safe and better.

    You guys might want to read this new book I've reviewed, too. http://hopewellmomschoolreborn.blogspot.com/2011/03/book-review-when-sparrows-fall.html

  7. Good post...I'm glad that you do realize a distinction between those Christian families who homeschool their kids in a healthy, godly way and those who fall into the trap of a bunch of skewed ideas that really mess up their attempt at homeschooling and end up breaking their childrens' hearts or terribly confusing them as to what the word "godly" really means.

    I was homeschooled in a household that bought into some (and I do mean only some) of the messed up courtship, absolute-authority, and such ideas. My fiance on the other hand was
    homeschooled by parents who insisted that he think for himself...to learn how to intelligently defend his own views, whether political or spiritual or whatever.

    And those Victorian pictures...yeah, they make me look like your third picture too. LOL.

    My fiance can sympathize with you when you say that you were labeled as a troublemaker or "the wrong one" for standing up to such messed-up beliefs. He's been there...and thought he was going to lose me too because of it. We broke up twice before I finally got loose from these things...and ever since then it's been one step at a time.

  8. "Their wounds are their social and knowledge handicaps and their overwhelming emotional and spiritual dysfunction."

    Lewis, this statement really caps the whole mess. It is so very sadly what happens, especially the latter half of the sentence.

  9. Yay! Rachel likes me. :) I like you too. *warm fuzzies* I REALLY like reading your blog and have enjoyed all the ranting against certain popular teachers. ;)

    OK, back to your regularly scheduled program/comments/whatever y'all were talking about. :P

  10. "I was labeled a "dishonorable" man and a "troublemaker" for standing up to it. Rather than impotently "speaking the truth in love" (which by most Christian definitions is worthless) I stood in the midst of the madness and shouted "This is wrong and it must stop!!!""

    That really struck a chord for me. Arrgg I cannot stand how they turn it into sin to question or stand up against something! For my family, we were told to sit down and shut up. When we said, "Uh, no, this is WRONG," we were labeled bitter, unforgiving, unloving, etc. Haha there were even sermons about how if you can't make peace (agree to evil), you're going to hell. (And it was so obviously directed at my family. That's this man's style. When he preaches, he opens his Bible, gives quick lip-service to a passage, and then goes on a rant about whatever he wants. Calling names, yelling about whatever issue he has rage about, flapping his arms all over the place.. When it's about an actual person or situation, he'll never be direct but everyone knows what he's talking about. (i.e. "There are bloggers who.." "There's are families who.." "There are men who.." "There are other pastors who... AND THEY MUST REPENT!") But once he steps down from the pulpit he is as meek as ever and will never say those things to your face. Because then that would be opening himself up to serious discussion and challenges. And he'd rather just agree and pacify everyone until he gets behind some sort of microphone.)
    So ridiculous. haha I should probably carry this rant over to my own blog..

    I'm glad you did and do continue speaking the truth!

    Back to your original topic, I agree that the "Christian" homeschool movement as a whole deserves a big fat F.
    There *is* a major distintion between Christians who homeschool, and so-called Christian homeschooling, which I think you made clear.

    It's hard because so many people just want to be part of a group. They want advice. They want some sort of direction. They want encouragement. I think they feel safe. There's strength in numbers. Everyone wants to come together. Everyone just wants friends who are in the same boat.
    Will there ever be a time where Christians who homeschool will be able to get together and just exchange ideas and come alongside one another without it becoming a power trip? I've been pondering that. I don't know how it can happen. I don't think there can ever be groups or leaders in this. I don't know.

  11. You're welcome to rant as much here as you'd like, Amy;) I'd love to see you blogging more, though. You express your heart and thoughts well.

  12. We left homeschooling this year because my wife wanted a life. Our kids are receiving a superior education while being public schooled. I was schooled in that system, along with my smarter siblings. We turned out just fine.

  13. Wow! "Neo-Conservative Homeschool Alumni"? No, I believe a few HSAers jokingly called it "Hopeless Singles Anonymous," a far more accurate title, imo. I joined before HSA's first birthday, was an active participant for a few years, and even (briefly) held the distinction of having the most posts on the regular forum.

    Narrow minds and inflated egos (including my own) were definitely prevalent, but they came from all sides. Those who didn't like it left the forum on their own. Remember, homeschoolers are bred to have strong opinions and voice them. It's unfair to characterize everyone as a blind follower. Sure, maybe a more neo-conservative voice eventually won out, but I wouldn't necessarily call the dissenters "more reasonable."

    HSA's leadership failed because it tried to establish a (religious) mission and set down rules (apart from the excepted common law) over time rather than immediately. A clash with the membership should've been expected. Add insider power struggles, and it's no wonder accounts were deleted at will.

    I'd like to point out that the axing that caused such an international uproar over the gross abuse of power was not of an innocent martyr. It was of a moderator who was primarily responsible for getting a real innocent member kicked out. And in neither case (nor many others), imo, was "the movement" jeopardized. There were always enough opinionated members promoting it.

    If HSA was a movement, it died soon after birth. The founder and most of the original members have essentially moved on with life. Today, it still offers an opportunity for sheltered and shy homeschool graduates to open up. For that, I'm still glad it was created and is still around.

  14. I'm a huge fan of homeschooling. But I personally feel that it is very important that children/students learn to think for themselves. If the whole goal of homsechooling is just to transfer your version of truth to your children, the "success" achieved is that they become a mindless robot. My goal is to teach my children to think for themselves, and consider what they personally believe, not what I tell them to believe. Will it always be easy? No! But I want them to have a faith that they own, not a parroted faith.

  15. I haven't been following your blog as closely as I would like to, Lewis. I hope it's okay to comment on an older post.

    I homeschooled my kids. There is a difference between education and indoctrination. To me, a Christian education is one that is individualized. (1 Corinthians 12)

    That means taking into account each child's strengths and weaknesses, making sure you encourage the gifts, and work on the weaknesses if appropriate. I only have 2 children, and each of them used a totally different method learning to read....The education I tried to provide was based on INDIVIDUAL needs.

    I think all too often, a "Christian education" is "New Speak" for a fundamentalist one.

  16. I was invited to join the HSA. I made an account and have ignored it for years now. Why? I wasn't enough like everyone else. I joined when Josh Harris was still 'amazing', and I made it loud and clear I'd rather die an old maid than marry a chest thumping egocentric man who thought it was his job to be god in his household. I also got an education: both a Bachelor's AND a Masters. I dated. Not courted. DATED. And my parents had nothing to do with any of my relationships. I didn't fit into their little world, and thus I threatened it with my 'different' ideals and ideas. Too opinionated. Too independent. Too strong minded. It's better to have a soft, weak woman. She's easier to herd around, like a cow.

    I married a man I met a grad school. Married him 2 weeks after completing my education, actually. He's thrilled that I'm a good conversationalist. That I know about other cultures, am interested in learning and can have discussions with him in anything: politics, religion, economics, you name it. College didn't teach me what to think, it taught me HOW to think. Which is huge. So many people, "Christian" homeschoolers in particular, really don't know how to think. They do what they are told. Why? Because they are told too. I grew up hearing, from my mother, 'Anything but instant obedience is disobedience!' Somehow, I can picture Hitler saying that easily. And Jesus? Not at all! I imagine He wants us to think. To question. To dig deeper, know Him better. Mindless followers dont seem like His thing.