Thursday, April 11, 2013

Homeschoolers Anonymous - New Site By Homeschool Survivors

"Survivors" seems the most appropriate word.

If you're someone who thinks what I wrote here was rife with hyperbole, I encourage you to visit Homeschoolers Anonymous to hear first hand from young people who came in up the Christian homeschool movement...and now have to deal, as young adults, with the repercussions and emotional (and other) damage done by this cloistered (in nearly every way), paranoid, fearful cult movement. Bravo to these people for speaking out. A lot of people don't understand what they risk in doing so, but I do, and I have bushels full of love and respect for them.


  1. It's a great site, some of the stories are incredible, especially Mary's series (those posts make me so angry at her mother).

    I'm in the middle of writing a guest post for them, since I got the go ahead from the blog creator.

    Sharing my story can get kind of old sometimes (and be hard to do, dredging all that up), but people need to hear that stories of former fundamentalists....

  2. Fascinating! Will have to go check that out.

    I would be interested to hear people talk about homeschooling done RIGHT--how homeschooling looks when you're not doing it for paranoid reasons, and how parents can make sure that paranoia and seclusion don't creep into their homeschooling lifestyle. I wonder about this a lot, having relatives who are homeschooling for non-religious reasons, but are surrounded by people who ARE homeschooling for religious reasons. These people model a very unhealthy attitude towards it, and I imagine it must be hard for my relatives to not have that many good role models of HS done well.

    1. Look around for homeschoolers who are using the Charlotte Mason method. They generally (not always) choose homeschooling due to philosophical, not religious, disagreements with standard public education. This is appropriate considering that Mason herself had philosophical disagreements with what became the underpinnings of modern public education. She was a school administrator herself and she developed her method for classroom use. In a nutshell, she argued (using metaphors available in her lifetime, of course) that a child's mind is not a game of Tetris--that children can draw out important facts from context, given the right books and some guidance. She also observed that most people run on habit, so choosing useful habits and consciously practicing them until they become habits is only sensible.

      It's possible to be a Christian fundamentalist and use Mason's method. She used the KJV in her schools and matter-of-factly talked about "slippering" disobedient children. However, she also talked about studying evolution and the inadvisability of corporal punishment as a first choice instead of a last resort. It's possible to be against corporal punishment altogether and use her method (raises hand). It's possible to be irreligious and use her method. Heck, I teach Sunday school and I also use a science curriculum written by an atheist in my Charlotte Mason homeschool.

      Jenny Islander

    2. Yes, this--and also, if you are interested in a community of people who do homeschooling in a very non-authoritarian way, google "unschooling".

      Unschooling is a specific philosophy that not everyone will agree with--basically, it's the notion that kids want to learn and you don't have to make them, and that the usual classroom structures are not terribly conducive to learning, having been invented more for the sake of crowd control & to deal with the limitations of teaching 30 very different people at the same time. Basically in unschooling you do teach but in an unstructured way, following the thread of what the child is currently interested in, because if they are interested they will learn better. There are Christian unschoolers although probably more non-Christian ones. As you can imagine from the philosophy, none of them are likely to be people who think they ought to choose their children's spouses for them!

      (I actually plan to unschool my kids, at least to a degree. There are all kinds of ways of doing it; I do think they'll need a little structure to make sure they're well grounded in "the three R's" and stuff. I also want them to have choices--if they want to try our local public school they can, and they will also have the option to quit if they don't like or are bullied or something.)

  3. I have just read several of those articles and all I can say is.."I honestly don't have the words". Let me just say that the Majority of these articles and what these kids went through was about Abuse! I am horrified and disgusted!

    I'm a homeschooling parent with four grown kids who have long graduated from homeschooling but I am still homeschooling two teens.I am going to be honest here and say Yes..I have seen and heard about these extreme views and belief's. It scares the heeby geebies out of me.

    I always thought the courtship thing was such a great idea.It sounded so good.(sorry Lewis..I have read your story and I am so sorry for all that happened to you!) until one of my ADULT kids found the girl for him. Who the heck were we to tell him how to do this.Good grief..he was in his 20's. We didn't tell him anything. He knew how to go about this. Honestly Lewis..You sharing your story on here helped.We have a great relationship with them both and they are to be married within a year.

    I can't believe the stupid comments we get from people.They should not be holding hands or hugging etc. I pretty much shut them up when I tell them we don't consider it a sin. They are adults..enough of that.

    The Frank Shaeffer story. Good grief. I heard his son sharing what it was like to grow up in the midst of this culture and I just can't read anything by his parents anymore. He did write a book(the son)that I will read one of these days.I'm talking about the article from the mom who has the seven kids and is now divorced who has become an atheist.Wow! I am really sorry for everything that woman went through with her husband and community. I just want her to know that there are really good husbands out there who love their wives and children.I'm married to one of them.

    I would also like to share that I had an adult daughter who went through some unbelievable Crap at the hands of supposed Christians.It took years but she is now able to see it for what it was and it has made her a stronger person and also taught her that this stuff is Just Crazy!! God help us all when we look to people's ideas and lifestyles.

    I just wanted to share that all Homeschooling parents are not these Crazy fundamental lunatics that are talked about in these articles. We are far from and don't have it all together but we Love our families and may Homeschool for many different reasons. We are mostly just trying to find a balance in the midst of it all and Love our families!

    1. Keri...This is why I differentiate between homeschooling, Christians who homeschool, and the Christian homeschooling movement/religion-driven homeschooling.

      I agree that the issue is abuse, but we'd be doing the abused a disservice by failing to recognize the common thread in these abusive situations: the religious zealotry of their parents within and because of the Christian homeschooling movement. From a spiritual perspective, the movement nullifies the Holy Spirit within the child's life and replaces it with the parents, and generally goes on to replace Jesus as mediator between children and God. Unfortunately, a parent like you is more an exception than the rule in your ability to identify troubling issues within the movement.

      At the end of the day, the Christian homeschooling movement (and all that it brings with it - quiverfull, patriarchy, courtship, no personal will for the children) and religion-driven homeschooling ARE the abuse.

    2. Lewis..I see exactly what you are saying here! Quiverfull,patriarchy,courtship, no personal will for the children. These terms seemed like they weren't even around when we began homeschooling our oldest three who are now well into their twenties.

      Personally, I see alot of these problems as fear based.Yes..We made mistakes as parents so we don't want our kids to make the same mistakes.Something any loving parent would want-to help and encourage their kids to not make the same mistakes.

      So,we listen to these stories and think,Wow!there is a better way and get caught up in some movement or mold of how we think it will all work.

      I'm going to be pretty honest here and say that I have Always believed in the Bible. Never doubted it-hopefully never will.It is what PEOPLE do with it and how they take it out of context that causes the problem.Yes-I know that there are going to be those who will say.."How can you know"? I don't have all those answers but I know when someone is distorting it!

      I am for the Church. We have been in a couple of churches where the people are so loving to each other that I don't think they will Ever leave no matter the false teachings that go on there. We knew it was time to Run!

      My husband and I will Never be the Holy Spirit in our kids lives! Parents cannot do this!! Our kids will make mistakes! Does that mean we stop loving them or shun them? NO WAY! That is why so many of these adult kids now are Bolting away from their faith and family!

      My hope and prayer is that when we all witness these things that we will not become to hard hearted.I have been there..Not good. Sometimes my husband just chuckles and moves away from me(jokingly)when I make a comment quietly to him when I see this stuff happening in Christian circles...As if the lightning bolt is going to hit us any minute!!

      We all do need to be truthful when we see or hear this garbage happening. Speak against it and expose it.

    3. And push for more legal accountability for home schools. Annual physicals, eye exams, end of year testing or portfolio review, and fund local school districts with federal funds to open a local office for home school parents to not only send in those physicals and educational evaluations, but be a resource for those parents to schedule testing for learning disabilities, teaching tips and tools, serve as an access point for a curriculum exchange. It's time for home schools to be open and transparent in society. It's past time, actually.

    4. I think my local school district has it handled beautifully already, with minimal extra paperwork.

      1. No shots, no school, no exceptions (except for common-sense issues such as immunocompromised students). If you register your homeschool student through the district, all shots must be current. (A physical and eye exam are also required at initial registration.)

      2. Required paperwork includes:
      a. Initial registration packet, rather fat because the paperwork for all state and federal school programs is included.
      b. Annual re-registration packet, mostly a matter of "initial here if this information does not need an update."
      c. Annual outline of subjects to be taught and texts and other resources to be used in the coming school year. Scheduling is up to you.
      d. 3 progress reports dwith writing and math samples.
      e. Completion of bubble tests, proctored by school staff, starting in 3rd grade. Very low scores will prompt a call from the district and a plan to assist the student.
      f. NO justification WHATSOEVER as to why you want to homeschool. As long as your student is showing comprehension and mastery, they're just as happy to have them home as not--saves wear and tear on the facilities.

      3. Resources available to parents include:
      a. A library of free textbooks, including surplus textbooks from classrooms, publisher's samples, and donated material. If you really want that crud from Bob Jones, you can probably find it here. Also included are craft supplies, lined practice paper, and (for checkout only) microscopes and math manipulatives.
      b. The same amount to spend on each homeschool student that the school district would spend on that student in the classroom. This money can be spent on textbooks, equipment, tutoring, and outside classes.
      1)All non-consumables become the property of the district when the last student is done with them.
      2)Textbooks paid for from this fund cannot be explicitly religious, to preserve separation of church and state. They can discuss every religion, but not preach any religion. You are free to include religion classes in your curriculum, but you have to pay for those materials yourself if you can't find them in the free room.
      c. All in-classroom resources available to in-classroom students. Signup is just as simple as it is for in-classroom students. Basically, if your child needs speech therapy or assistance with dyslexia or what have you, you just pick up the phone.

      This system was developed for a small town, but I think it could translate to a school district of any size, if bureaucratic nosy parkers could be kept from "improving" it.

      Jenny Islander

    5. What state is this???? That's amazing, and I have never heard or experienced anything like that. This could serve as a national model.

    6. Kodiak Island Borough School District in Alaska.

      I forgot to add that this school district decided to add homeschool students to their "iPad in every child's hands" program, so every homeschool household has one, and also a $40 per month stipend to offset Internet costs in addition to the student allotment. However, our iPad can be recalled at any time, and if we break it, we buy it. We use it normally for Google Earth, as enrichment for history and geography study.

      I think there are three keys to the success of the local program. First, a family's reasons for homeschooling are a total non-issue. Second, the homeschool coordinator has an open -door policy and encourages homeschool parents to get in touch with one another as well, even reserving time at the community pool for homeschool kids. Third, the standardized tests provide an independent progress check. Note, however, that Alaska only requires one standardized test, not like, say, the mind-boggling five required in Texas (recently cut down from 15?!). They take this multi-part test on three mornings in April and then they're done.

      One local homeschool group still doesn't like all this largesse because, they say, the school district is trying to restrict what they do by not paying for religious materials. I asked one member of that group if she really wanted to live in a nation with no separation of church and state and she changed the subject. But that group also passes along every "get scared and give us money" press release from HSLDA.

      Jenny Islander

  4. Thanks for putting us on to this, Lewis. These are some brave people and I hope that what they're doing will help others to avoid being sucked into fanatical movements.

  5. I'd also like to hear you talk more about homeschooling done right so it doesn't appear like what you're attacking is the idea of homeschooling itself which can be very beneficial to a child depending on their personality! It comes off sounding very harsh toward homeschoolers in general which I don't *think* is what you're trying to convey. Also, if courting is something the individual chooses to do, I don't see anything wrong with it, as long as they know what their options are and that their parents (and God) will love them and *support* them no matter how they go about their relationships.

    1. People are free to talk about beneficial educational options, including homeschooling, in the comments. I'm clear throughout the blog that the core of what I write is directed at the Christian homeschooling movement (which is a rotten mess) and not homeschooling in general.

      Courtship is stupid. STOOPID. If someone wants to practice it, there's no law against being stupid.

    2. The problem with focusing on the benefits of homeschooling outside of the Christian homeschool movement is that in MANY areas the Christian homeschool movement dominates the homeschooling community. Many well meaning parents who simply want to homeschool (like myself and my family) end up getting sucked in by this cult. They are a CULT they are persuasive and in an effort to introduce their children to other homeschool children many families end up finding themselves brainwashed before they even realize it.

      At this point I can and will not promote any type of homeschooling because I have seen too many horror stories where perfectly normal people start homeschooling and end up living the cult lifestyle to the hilt and destroying their children.

      Our family has now walked away from homeschooling completely as a result of all we have seen an experienced. My advice if you can't find a STRONG local community of non-Christian based homeschoolers skip it and find a good school!

    3. I loved home schooling, and I still support it as a valid educational option, but Taunya is right about this: the Christian home school cult has purposely and systematically set out to dominate home school support groups on a local and state level. Good solid curriculum vendors have been displaced by Christian fundamentalists at many state home school conventions. It's not about home schooling as an alternative method of education, it's about joining the cult. Home schoolers who don't want that will need to come out strongly in favor of better regulation and transparency in home schooling, FOR THE CHILDREN'S SAKE. If that doesn't come from the home school community, then it will eventually be brought down by the testimony of legions of home school graduates. HA is the tip of the iceberg.

  6. And for minors?

    As for adults, I think it can be done in ways where there is parental advice that doesn't interfere with the relationship between the couple, and I support that no matter what it's titled in the case of a healthy relationship between the parents and the couple. In the end this isn't ground I'd be willing to die on, because the relationship is in NO WAY about the parents, but they do and should care!

  7. Parental involvement with minors, absolutely, so long as it doesn't turn formulaic or something where the parent has to oversee or officiate every conversation, every thought process, every emotion, et cetera. If a parent needs to do that, their child isn't mature enough to be in ANY kind of relationship under any title.

    I'm all for parental advice for adults, too. I'm a middle-aged man and still very much value the opinions of my parents, older and respected relatives, and such, and seek their counsel...and then I do what I want without fear of emotional reprisal, leveraging, or manipulation, which isn't something that many from the Christian homeschooling world can say. Some may be able to, but not many, and the few that are able to usually have to go through hell to get there.

  8. Thank you for this article. I am a "home school survivor" as you say. This is a subculture in this country that is greatly over looked. The transitional to a normal life is rare and difficult. Thanks again for your insight and love.

  9. Hi, I am a former home school parent. I think our family mostly benefited from the experience, but you would have to ask my two grown children. Yes, "just" two - I used to get asked all the time where my other children were as lots of homeschoolers we knew followed Mary Pride's teachings. Our kids also tested with the public school students through 8th grade as best I remember.
    I recall going to one of those courtship meetings and it struck me as being very controlling. I think the speaker even bought all his kids first homes after he selected their mates.
    I secretly (at the time) thought a couple not kissing until they were married was odd. I think I thought it meant they lacked passion for each other. Maybe I am wrong.
    I am a modest person but didn't formally teach modesty to my daughter; although I think she is modest, I do recall the day she showed up at a home school curriculum fair in a halter top - and our table was next to people heavy into courtship who did wear ankle-length skirts and high-necked tops. I think they sewed their own clothes. I probably turned red, but now it just seems funny.
    I will say that one does not have to be in the home-schooling community to suffer greatly from the role-playing about marriage. (I think I am speaking to a different article now) - I had a lot more trouble at our church, where hardly anyone else home-schooled. As I was asked to take leadership positions in the church, I ran into a lot of "attitude" from some of the men. I am reserved and a former people-pleaser - so it was stunning to me that so many males stated I was out of place, bossy, etc. It all led to my researching the role of women in the church. This was all over a decade ago. I am now an ordained minister. For a while I encountered men who would say to me I was sinning, had not really heard from God, etc. It used to bother me and I often returned to a place of shame and guilt - all false I now believe. Now when someone says I am out of place, not really called by God, etc, I cannot help but laugh.
    I study the Bible irregularly now, on purpose; the reason is that I used to think something terrible would happen to me if I didn't read 3 chapters of the Bible daily - preferably before 8 am. I guess it sounds odd to say I take breaks from it so I can return later because I want to - not because God is going to beat me up if I don't read 3 chapters by 8 am.
    I am rambling.

    1. No worries. I hear ya. Very interesting ramble.

  10. Lewis, have you read the YA book "Pure"?? It perfectly sums up many of the repulsively mushy and childish schlock that girls "dating" their daddies spew, with a far more well-rounded and mature heroine. I recommend it!