“Child abuse casts a shadow the length of a lifetime." Herbert Ward link
What's the best form of education for "Christian" parents?
A few years ago, I was teaching a Sunday school class in which I reviewed the religious trends of the 80s and 90s. We had done a walk through history and were coming to the end. I mentioned the rapid rise of the homeschooling movement during this time frame. Suddenly, a woman in the class frantically waved her hand, obviously wanting to speak. As I recognized her, she immediately went into a tirade, saying that she was sick and tired of everyone shoving homeschooling down her throat and that she was quite happy with the public schools.
I reminded her that I was merely discussing religious trends and not endorsing any one form of schooling. At that point, I decided to explain my views on education since it was obviously a hot button issue. Years ago, I would give tours of my children's Christian school in Dallas. I would find parents who were searching for the "right" solution to their kids' education. I would emphasize that there was no "one size fits all" answer. In fact, I believed that in some families, children might be involved in different educational environments to fit their personalities. These could include just about any permutation one might imagine: homeschool, Christian school, public school, charter school, parochial school, or private secular schools. All of these choices are valid and none of them have a "spiritual" edge over another, as we will see in this post.
I encouraged them to look at their children and try to see what would work for them as individuals. Also, what might work for one year, might not work for next year. I also told them if they felt they were banging their heads against a wall about the school where their kids were currently attending, then an alternative might bring some peace to their family.
As a mother with grown children, I also want to reassure young parents that there is no one schooling method that guarantees smart, gifted Christian kids who get into Harvard on scholarship, effectively evangelize the heathen there and then go on to become President and change the world. In fact, most of our kids will turn out to be nice, normal. slightly above average (aren't they all) kids with struggles and triumphs. Oh yeah, they also learn and grow the most through the struggles.
I have seen failures and successes in all of the learning methods that I have mentioned. No one method "assures" good Christian kids just like playing music to them in the womb does not breed a Mozart.
The Duggar Family Is NOT the Norm for Quiverfull Homeschooling.
The Duggar Family television show worries me.They are the Amway of the Quiverfull Movement. They hold out the promise of a beautiful home, trips to China, appearances on The View and personal tours of the Creation Museum by Ken Ham himself (a dream for the ardent YEC). I have been known, from time to time, to critique this family which usually results in a slew of emails condemning my judgmental attitude. I contend that the Duggars are an imaginary family that do not exist in a real world setting. Oh, these families exist but very few (if any) do so in the fantasy land that is the Duggars.
I am not judging their salvation. I think that they are probably very pleasant to be around. But they, as portrayed on TV are not, nor should they be presented as, a model Quiverfull, patriarchal family.
Imagine the Duggars minus the TV, books and appearance income. Consider their lifestyle minus the hidden support of the second kitchen. Think about their lives without the trips to China, Dollywood (with a visit from Dolly herself) and Disney world. Did you know that there are frequent retakes of scenes when the children are acting up or don't look "just so?" The Duggars are a myth, supported by revenues that will NOT be available for the homeschool families who have 14 kids and a dad with an average job.
Did you know that the Duggars have church in their home? They are hardly isolated with their fame. Can you imagine how this works in the real world, isolated from everyone during the week and then having church at home as well? The majority of these families are isolated, living crammed into small homes, while being financially strapped. Can you imagine the stresses in their day to day lives? I would predict that the potential for child abuse is pretty high. Well, as the first of these non-Duggar kids hit adulthood, the fiction of the "Duggar myth" is beginning to be exposed and the picture is not pretty.
This is all well spelled out by a new website called Homeschoolers Anonymous link which is attracting the attention of the media. Our good friend, Julie Anne Smith, link, now serves as a member of this board. (This woman is a dynamo!) Most of the people who write on this site were homeschooled within fringe Christian groups which promoted ideologies such as Quiverfull, Bill Gothard, the Pearls and others. The vast majority of homeschooling parents are not represented by such groups and I want to make sure that I do not tar and feather them in the process of this post. I want to focus on what I believe to be the alarming subgroups. In the week to come we will be exploring, in depth, the aftermath of Bill Gothard, in particular which will be disturbing as well.
It is important to note that some of these young adults have rejected not only their upbringing, but their faith. They were sold a bill of goods by their parents. Many of them suffered significant abuse- physical, spiritual and sexual. They deserve our love and prayers as they honestly deal with their past.
The Daily Beast featured a story here called Homeschooled Kids, Now Grown, Blog Against the Past
Here is an excerpt.
In 2006 the evangelical magazine World featured 15-year-old Kierstyn King—then Kierstyn Paulino—in a piece about homeschooled kids who blog “to rebel against rebellion.” She was quoted describing her heroes: “‘First, Christ. After that: soldiers, my parents, and Ronald Reagan.’” On her blog, she wrote posts with titles like “The Case for Christians in Government,” arguing, “Our founding fathers built this land on Judeo-Christianity, and we have strayed too far from Christ.”
These days King, 22, has a hard time stepping into a church without having a panic attack. She escaped—her word—from her family in Georgia on her 18th birthday and lives in Maine with her husband, also a former homeschooler. Very little is left of the ideology her parents worked so furiously to instill in her.
I am the eldest in a family of 10 children, more daughters than sons, now ranging in age from 10-30. I was homeschooled until the age of 13 by evangelical Christian parents whose beliefs and lifestyle can be best described as Quiverfull/patriarchal (although those weren’t the words we’d use to label ourselves). We lived in poverty in south Louisiana and there was considerable abuse and neglect in our crowded home, including poor hygiene, occasional food insecurity, a lack of medical care, and almost no formal education. We were physically disciplined in an often violent and unpredictable manner, generally with a belt or a wooden stick, for disobedience and mistakes. We were also socially isolated and told demons and the devil were lurking behind the actions of unbelievers, both strangers and our neighbors and relatives, waiting to pounce. Somehow I found the strength and desperation to rebel and seek outside help.
Due to an intervention by both sets of grandparents, my siblings and I were hurriedly “caught up” as much as possible, given a few basic resources and “normal” experiences, then sent to public school in 1998. I went into 9th grade at a medium-sized public high school and after overcoming some bullying and culture shock, found a profound appreciation for education and people in general.
The Daily Beast gives a bit of the history of this movement. They claim that the majority of parents in this movement are "fundamentalist". However, in my experience, the majority of parents that I know who homeschool do not fit this definition.
The Christian homeschooling movement first took off in the early 1980s, in tandem with the broader rise of the religious right. The Home School Legal Defense Association was founded in 1983 to promote homeschooling and protect parents from state oversight. Its founder, Michael Farris, dreamed of creating a generation that could do battle with the corrupt secular world and reclaim the institutions of American life for Jesus. At the extreme edge of Christian homeschooling culture, the Quiverfull movement, which picked up steam in the late 1980s,preached the duty of women to submit, bear as many children as God would give them, and train them up as dedicated culture warriors, arrows in a divine quiver. Estimating the size of these movements is tricky, but official statistics give us some hints. According to the Department of Education, 1.5 million kids were being homeschooled as of 2007, up from 850,000 in 1999. Eighty-three percent of homeschooling parents said they did so to provide religious or moral instruction. Not all these parents are Christian fundamentalists, but Christian fundamentalists predominate.
Homeschoolers Anonymous link describes their mission.
We are an inclusive community interested in sharing our experiences growing up in the conservative, Christian homeschooling subculture. From the Quiverfull movement to the betrothal/courtship mentality to Generation Joshua and the dominionist attitudes of HSLDA, we are survivors. And we are standing together to make our voices heard. We are an inclusive community interested in sharing our experiences growing up in the conservative, Christian homeschooling subculture. From the Quiverfull movement to the betrothal/courtship mentality to Generation Joshua and the dominionist attitudes of HSLDA, we are survivors. And we are standing together to make our voices heard.
Their stated goal is support and education.
Above all, we want to provide healing to other survivors, hope for those still suffering, and knowledge to those unaware of the inner workings of homeschooling.
According to the Daily Beast, independent-minded girls are particularly hurt by this fringe movement.
As the eldest of eight, King was told that her divinely ordained role was to be a helpmeet to her mother until her own marriage, when her job would be to sexually satisfy her husband, bear as many children as God would give her, and homeschool them in turn. She dreamed of going to Patrick Henry College, but her parents saw no reason for women to pursue degrees. King never learned algebra; instead, she was taught “consumer math,” which was mainly about creating a family budget.
Heather Doney, who was rescued by her grandparents, has published a guide called How to Escape from Bad Homeschooling here. She discusses the need to tell people about the abuse (she told her grandparents, boyfriend and the police) and to find friends to break the isolation which is common in this movement. This guide instructs escapees how to find a place to live and find a job. Here is what she says about getting an education.
There are grant programs for you to go to college. I used them, Pell, SEOG, Louisiana’s TOPS program, and graduated debt-free. Admittedly this is rare and I managed it because I budgeted like a crazy person. I was still ridiculously afraid of debt because of how I’d been raised. if I could do it over again I’d honestly take out a loan or two and live a little less austerely. So if you want to further your education, do it. Also, if you want to go to hairdressing or mechanic school, do that, or if you want to join the military, read info on the connection between adverse childhood experiences and the higher risk of developing PTSD in the military. Then, if you still want to go the military route, do it.
If you are unsure about how educated or uneducated you are, get the collection ofbooks starting with “What Your First Grader Needs to Know” and going all the way through the sixth grader one. Sad as it may seem to say this, getting through the sixth grade book should make you feel pretty confident you can make it in college. You’ll need a bit more math and essay skills, but that’s about it. Also, it took me less than one year and my grandfather’s military-style dedication to my education (we started early in the morning and sometimes he even shouted drill-sergeant style and broke pencils) to get through them all. I caught up to high school level in everything but math, and that is the one subject I still struggle with, even though I have found I love stats and budgets. Still, even after a decade of educational neglect I made it through a mediocre public high school, went to a decent and affordable public college, and then got a master’s degree at one of the top 10 schools in my field. It mainly took patience and dedication to the goal.
I was deeply disturbed by the number of personal stories that are told on the Homeschooler Anonymous website. They are doing a yeoman's job, offering the world a peek inside of this isolationist movement. As we have found on our blog, people who have been abused find a great deal of empowerment by telling their story. The comments of support give them confidance that their stories are believed and that they will find love and support outside of their abusive family.
I feel that the best insight into the movement is told by an excellent writer who takes us through her growing up years in a six part story called Home Is Where the Hurt Is. Mary's Story. Make sure to have your Kleenex ready. Here are the links:
Please join us in praying for all those who have suffered at the hands of abuse under the guise of "Christian" education.
Lydia's Corner: 1 Samuel 5:1-7:17 John 6:1-21 Psalm 106:13-31 Proverbs 14:32-33