Train up a child in the way he should go:
and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
You see that verse? Probably every homeschool parent heard that verse too many times to count throughout their homeschooling years. It was engrained in us. We did not want our children to depart from “the way they should go” and the solution was to “train” our children. At least that’s what they told us.
Ever since my spiritual abuse journey, I have been trying to figure out what led our family to that spiritually abusive church and pastor who sued us in an attempt to discover who our primary influencers were over the years. I found that the most influential people in the last couple of decades have been leaders in the homeschool movement who had a spiritual agenda, not necessarily an educational agenda. We have been taught so strongly to “train our children” and some of us did that quite well. We created little obedient and compliant robot children who were polite, respected authority and looked really good in church all lined up in a pew. People always commended us on our beautiful large family.
These influencers not only taught us how to parent, but taught us what they thought was very important: large families, courtship, modesty and purity, fathers as spiritual heads/priest of the home, mothers as hard-working submissive wives, preparing wholesome meals from homegrown gardens, grinding wheat to make whole grain breads. The boys were taught how to be boys, play like boys, work like boys, helping their fathers in projects around the house. Daughters learned traditional homemaking skills that would last them a lifetime when they got married and started families of their own, because that was their ultimate lot in life. Yes, in many homeschooling families, daughters were discouraged and even forbidden from going to college for any higher level education, they were to stay at home serving dad and their family while they waited to be courted by a young man approved by their father. True to the homeschooling culture, I did own a denim jumper or two, and I sewed matching jumpers for my daughters who were 7 years apart in age. My five boys may thank me that they never had matching homeschool uniforms like khaki slacks and polo shirts, but they did manage to always match by having jeans with holes in the knees.
Not only did we raise good obedient children, we invested in our children and pushed them towards educational excellence. We made sure they were well-versed on the popular homeschool-movement agendas which we adopted as our own: they knew how to debate creation vs evolution, they were politically involved in their communities, worked on political campaigns, participated in speech and debate classes and competitions, attended worldview conferences, and went on missions trips. In my family, our kids knew how to evangelize the “right way,” how to defend their faith, and knew the tenants of 5-pt Calvinism inside and out. Homeschooled students were good students, usually testing years ahead of their peers. They were accomplished in music, sports, volunteered at Crisis Pregnancy Centers, lobbying at the capital for homeschooling rights, etc. What more could we ask for?
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What many are finding out is that those brilliant robots, when released to the real world, start questioning where they came from, what they believed, where they are going. This is a normal response for young adults. But I’ve seeing a disturbing trend especially among young adults who were raised in this kind of environment. Many of these “trained” adult kids are now venturing 180 degrees in the opposite direction, perhaps in response to the controlled environment in which they were raised, some suffering a host of problems similar to what spiritual abuse victims experience that I deal with so often: mental health issues, addiction issues, etc. There is a lot of heartache among this group.
I feel very responsible for buying into this garbage. I will continue to speak out against disturbing aspects of the homeschool movement on my blog. It takes a lot of emotional energy to work up one of these posts because it means I have to admit my failure. Of course my blog will also continue to be a platform for these precious young adults. I believe in a way that some of us parents were cult leaders in our families. We were fed an agenda by those home school leaders. We believed it. We saw their perfect families and wanted to emulate what we saw and expected that kind of obedience and educational excellence from our children. We trained them alright.
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Not too long ago, I was asked if I would like to partner with others in a new blog called Homeschool Anonymous. I was thrilled to be asked because I have attempted to use my blog as a Spiritual Sounding Board to the abuses that I’ve noticed in the homeschooling movement. Most of the participants in the Homeschool Anonymous blog are former homeschool students, and two of us have been (or currently are) homeschool moms. Interestingly, you will notice that many of the blog participants no longer connect with their Christian heritage. I think conservative homeschoolers will find this shocking. In fact I admit that I am afraid to post about this on my private Facebook page because I have easily 300+ homeschooling friends/moms who might be pretty upset if I mention this big homeschooling secret: some of our adult kids have departed from the way in which we trained them.
I have long ditched my homeschool mom uniform, the denim jumper. I refuse to go to state-run Christian homeschooling conferences whose conference leaders get to hand-select vendors and speakers based on their approved religious agenda. So as I continue to teach our last two kiddos at home, those destructive religious-agenda influences play no part in our homeschooling anymore.
So yes, I am partnering with R.L. Stollar who is an amazing individual and new friend who was completely homeschooled and put together this group. I have so much respect for what he is doing to help his peers walk through their homeschool journeys and the aftermath or perhaps fallout. I hope Homeschool Anonymous reaches many former homeschooled students and parents and that our collective voices will be heard and considered. It’s never too late, right? Oh my, parenting is a humbling journey – so, so humbling.