Classical Conversations #1: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Classical Conversations, Homeschool, Classical Education, #ClassicalConvMadeKnown

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About 10 years ago, I was at a homeschool family camp with my family in Washington state, and it was talent-show night. Previous years at the talent show, children and families sang, kids performed skits, or danced a routine. However, this year, there were a couple of very young girls who recited historical passages. I cannot recall what was recited, but I remember being impressed with these girls, who were about 5 years old, reciting such long texts – texts that included vocabulary words with four syllables, using words I rarely use. Actually, I was blown away.

I later found out these girls were involved in a group called Classical Conversations (CC) in their area, and memorizing was part of their schoolwork. Along the way, I’ve run into several homeschool moms who have tried to encourage me to join Classical Conversations, especially when I expressed my interest in classical education.

Here is a brief description of classical education:

Classical education focuses on the great books of Western civilization, Latin, and lessons about morality and virtue, and is based on the medieval European curriculum that divided learning into the “trivium”: grammar, logic and rhetoric. The concept of fusing classical education into modern teaching was popularized by a 1947 essay by British author Dorothy Sayers called “The Lost Tools of Learning.”  (Source).

I had already been teaching my children and adopting some classical methods of learning after hearing a compelling lecture by Susan Wise Bauer who spoke at a HEAV convention in Virginia. I immediately bought her book and began implementing classical methods in my teaching. Prior to that, I used a hodgepodge of curricula, but now with Susan Wise Bauer’s recommendations, my children were on a tried-and-true academic track  – a proven educational method that had been used by students for centuries. It felt reassuring to have such a proven academic plan for my kiddos.

When we moved to a new state, many of our new homeschooling friends were supplementing their homeschooling with the Classical Conversations program. My new friends once again encouraged us to join. I asked questions, took a look at what we already had going on in our homeschooling plan, looked at the needs of our children, and my needs, and decided it was not a good fit for us at the time. Currently, there are so many options – maybe too many options – for homeschoolers. Parents need to use what works best for them and for their children to achieve optimum educational success.

Classical Conversations didn’t work for my family; however, it has worked for many families. For many families, CC has become a way for them to connect with other families who are homeschooling, and receive support. Children can grow up with other CC children through the years and gain solid friendships. Parents can encourage and support each other.

I’ve read accounts that using Classical Conversations has helped some inexperienced or perhaps unorganized moms/dads to stay on task and get all of the academic boxes checked, because someone else has made sure that the material is good and appropriate.

Students can participate in fun activities together from science projects, to memory work, speech and debate, and mock trials. Have you ever heard of a child reciting Newton’s Laws of Motion? When was the last time you heard of students learning Latin? Classical Conversations sounds like a rich and broad learning experience, doesn’t it? I have no doubt that many have benefited from this rich program.

CC also can benefit new homeschool moms who are overwhelmed with homeschooling options. It can give them a sense of security, knowing they don’t have pick books and programs when it’s already done for them. It’s a great way to get immersed into homeschooling without doing it blindly. Parents only need to cover reading, writing, and arithmetic (for the lower grades). The rest is covered at Classical Conversations which meets one time per week.

That all sounds great, doesn’t it?

It probably is great for many families/groups. But all groups do not run the same, nor do they have the same leaders or families, so there is bound to be different “looking” groups.

Unfortunately, I’ve been hearing negative issues connected with Classical Conversations. I’ve noticed them, too, as I have been in homeschool sites on the internet. And, recently, people have contacted me to share their experiences. I believe I’m in a position to do something that makes a positive difference, by hosting some conversations here at Spiritual Sounding Board, about apparent problems in the Classical Conversations system.

Julie Anne’s (yes, I go by both names or JA is fine, too) Background

Let me give new readers a little background so you can understand where I am coming from and the purpose of this blog. After starting BGBC Survivors, a blog about my abusive church experience, I, along with five others, were sued by the pastor there in 2012 in a defamation lawsuit. He lost the lawsuit and had to pay not only his attorney fees, but the defendants’ attorney fees, along with court and filing costs. Through that process, I learned a lot about First Amendment rights and responsibilities, and what people can and cannot say publicly.

When the lawsuit against me went viral, a lot of people came to my blog to send notes of encouragement. Along with those notes, many people shared their abusive church experiences. I continued to blog, changed the name to Spiritual Sounding Board, but now made it about spiritual abuse in general, and invited others to share their stories.

This blog is for survivors who have been harmed in church or Christian groups/organizations. Other stories covered here have included Doug Phillips, Vision Forum, Family-Integrated Churches; Bill Gothard, IBLP, ATI, and reports of sexual abuse; the Christian Patriarchy Movement, Stay-at-Home Daughters Movement, courtship, purity, and modesty teachings, etc. I do quite a bit of investigative reporting, have done interviews on these related topics, am quoted in major news articles, etc. I am not new to this gig. As a 23-year veteran homeschool mom, I know the Christian homeschool culture pretty well.

Let me get straight to the point: I have seen and heard enough about Classical Conversations that alarm bells are going off. This is going to be the first of probably many posts about Classical Conversations. For some who have not experienced any problems with CC, this will probably be shocking to you. I get that. I believe 100% that is has been good for you.  But there are others who have been harmed, and it is because of those people that I have decided to take this on (along with a team of others who were directly involved with CC).

I am working with a team of former Classical Conversations members who have done an incredible amount of research. Combined, they are connected with scores of people currently and formerly part of Classical Conversations. As typically happens with systemic abuse, once someone goes public and tells their personal story, others feel more comfortable sharing their experiences.

So far, here is a sampling of what I’ve seen/heard that I find troubling:

  • Mishandled child-to-child sexual abuse cases.
  • An atmosphere of: no talk, no asking questions, especially publicly if the question seems at all critical.
  • A blurry line between ministry and business aspects of the organization.
  • CC leaders using the Bible to control or silence people.
  • Misuse of Matthew 18 when dealing with conflicts.
  • A rigid atmosphere: “Classical Conversations is the only right way to homeschool” – others are inferior.

Sadly, these are not just normal issues, but issues that would represent systemic malfeasance

Apparently, leaders at Classical Conversations have made legal threats to members who post negative comments about their experiences. That is bullying behavior. Here at Spiritual Sounding Board (SSB), you have the opportunity to share the good, the bad, and the ugly. I do not reveal sources, e-mail addresses, or IP addresses of my commenters to anyone.


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Commenting Ground Rules

I have a minimal set of ground rules to keep Spiritual Sounding Board a safe place for people to share their experiences and expression their opinions.

  • My blog is set up so that your first comment is moderated. After that, all subsequent comments should go through fine unless there are ground rules broken (like language, personal attacks) or it gets stuck in spam. If you think your comment is stuck in the spam box, feel free to send another comment asking me to check the spam box, or send me an email at spiritualsb@gmail.com.
  • Pseudonyms are absolutely fine. In fact, I find that people often feel more comfortable to share when using a pseudonym. Your story is very important. It is very likely that your story has happened to others. By you speaking out, you will give others the courage to speak out.
  • I do not allow comments with the pseudonym. “Anonymous.” Mickey Mouse and Fred Flintstone are up for grabs. 🙂
  • While this is primarily a place for survivors, I do allow conversation from people with opposing opinions, but no personal attacks. You get one warning before Owen, the SSB watchdog, comes out. I’d like to introduce you to Owen:
  • If you violate the warning again, you will be put in the “dog house,” which means all of your comments will be moderated. They will eventually be approved if they are okay, or trashed if they are rude and attacking. Good behavior will get you out of the doghouse. This must remain a safe place.

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Note to Classical Conversations Leaders

Please do not be foolish and send me Cease and Desist letters from attorneys or threaten to sue me, as you have allegedly done to others. I am very aware of my First Amendment rights. The attorney who represented me in the defamation lawsuit taught me much; in fact, she also taught about First Amendment and SLAPP/anti-SLAPP law to other attorneys. She is probably the top attorney in the state on this topic. (SLAPP stands for “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.” Such frivolous lawsuits are basically designed to shut people up by threatening to tie up their time and resources. Anti-SLAPP suits counter those.)

I know how to make sure I am within legal parameters on what can or cannot be said.

I live in Washington State, which has anti-SLAPP laws. Discussion about Classical Conversations would qualify under the anti-SLAPP due to this phrase in the law: “in a place open to the public or a public forum in connection with an issue of public concern” (Wash. Rev. Code § 4.24.525 (4)(a-e)).

My blog is a public forum and the issues related to Classical Conversations are issues of public concern. And there you go.

Additionally, this is what will happen if/when I win a defamation lawsuit using anti-SLAPP statute:

If you win your motion to strike under Washington’s anti-SLAPP statute, the court will dismiss the lawsuit (or the parts of the lawsuit found to be SLAPPs). You will also be entitled to receive your attorneys’ fees, your court costs, and an automatic statutory damage award of $10,000. The court may also sanction the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s attorney.

I recently noticed my vehicle is getting close to 200,000 miles. That $10,000 would come in handy. Just sayin’.

BREAKING: Leaders at Doug Wilson’s Christ Church Put Woman in Abusive Marriage Under Church Discipline

Mike Lawyer, Counseling, Abuse in Marriage, Abuse of Authority

I have been in contact with a woman named Gen, who has agreed to let me post this letter she received from Mike Lawyer, “on behalf of Christ Church Session.” Christ Church is Doug Wilson’s church in Moscow, Idaho. If you would like to learn more about Doug Wilson and his extra-biblical and spiritually abusive ways, see his name in “Categories” in the side bar.

Gen told me she was in an abusive marriage. She was not physically abused, but was emotionally, verbally, spiritually, and financially abused. She and her husband sought counseling, and were in counseling both together and separately.

Gen also told me that she didn’t respond appropriately to the abuse – that she reacted by yelling and crying. I don’t think that’s an inappropriate response to abuse, do you? That seems very normal. I’m not sure where she learned that she was responsible for her response, but that concerns me because it takes the focus off the perpetrator and places it on the survivor – as if they are both equal sinners.

This following letter was sent to Gen on January 18, 2018. Mike Lawyer has decided he knows her spiritual condition and has determined that she is not living up to being a proper wife, etc. Because of her “unwillingness” to deal with her sins, she is being put in church discipline.

It’s important to understand that Doug Wilson believes that husbands are the heads of the home. He believes in Patriarchy. If husbands are the priests of the home, who do you think they would believe first, the husband or the wife? Continue reading

The David and Louise Turpin Family Homeschool Cult

David and Louise Turpin, Homeschool, Cult, Abuse, Torture


David and Louise Turpin, homeschool, cult, abuse, torture, chain, padlock, quiverfull full-quiver, Christian

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Most likely you have heard the news about the large homeschooling family, the Turpins, from California. The parents, David, 57, and Louise, 49, Turpin who were arrested for torture and child endangerment, with bail set at $9 million each. Here are some of the key facts:

  • David and Louise Turpin are the biological parents of 13 children ranging in age of 2 years to 29 years old.
  • They live in Perris, California, not too far from Los Angeles.
  • Their 17-yr old daughter escaped from her home early Sunday morning by climbing out of a window, and used a deactivated cell phone to contact authorities. She showed the police photos of the living conditions of the home which convinced authorities to do a welfare check at the house.
  • When authorities arrived, they found several children shackled to beds or furniture by chain and padlocks.
  • The children were found pale and extremely emaciated.
  • It was reported that the 17-yr old looked to be approximately 10 years old. The other adults, too, looked very young for their age.
  • David and Louise Anna Turpin were arrested on charges of torture and child endangerment.
  • The minor children were taken to one hospital, and the adult children were taken to another. All were given food and drink, and admitted for treatment.
  • “US reports say Louise’s parents had tried to visit their daughter and son-in-law in the past, and had to turn back at the airport when the Turpins refused to provide their street address.” Source
  • They were known to be hoarders, and the home was dark and had a foul odor.
  • The children were rarely seen outside. Neighbors had no clue there were 13 children (and adult children) living in the home.
  • They were deeply religious, and were forced to memorize chapters of the Bible
  • David Turpin registered his homeschool under the name, Sandcastle Day School in 2011.

Continue reading

Christian Blogger Invited to Speak at Free Thinkers’ Meeting about Abuse in Christian Churches

Free Thinker, Atheist, Christian Blogger, Thought Reform, Patriarchy, Spiritual Abuse, Cults




Last Sunday, I had the privilege of speaking at a Free Thinkers group. Privilege, some might ask? You bet. I will take any opportunity afforded to share the truth, set the record straight, and especially let people know that I, as a Christian, am displeased by the state of the Body of Christ when it comes to abuse and our response to abuse.

I feel I have a connection with many atheists. You see, when my defamation lawsuit went viral, I received over 500 emails of support. Many of those emails were sent by people who were harmed in the church, and then became atheist. This was originally a surprise to me, and  it saddened me. So many of these folks get spiritual abuse. They see the dysfunction and hypocrisy of celebrity pastors and leaders. Many of them are upset by what they see, and rightly so. If only those within the Body of Christ would get worked up about it!

It all started when I was in my Environmental Science class at school. Continue reading

Josh and Anna Duggar Announce New Pregnancy After His Sex Scandal

Josh Duggar, Sex Scandal, ATI, Ashley Madison


 

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The eldest son of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar of TLC’s popular TV show, 19 Kids and Counting is in the news again. Josh and his wife Anna Duggar made an announcement on their family’s website. This announcement comes two years after accusations of:

  • alleged sexual abuse against his sisters and another young minor as a teen
  • having an Ashley Madison online account
  • paying for sex
  • entering a pseudo Christian “treatment” facility
  • separating from his wife, Anna

Continue reading

Review of Children’s Book “God’s Design” – Married/Single; Husband/ Father; Wife/Mother

Complementarian, Gender Roles, Being Married, Being Single, Desiring God’s Influence

married-couple

-by Kathi

This series is a review of God’s Design, a children’s book which teaches children about complementarity. For an introduction of the book, click here. All of the underlined subtitles below are chapters from the book.

Today, children, we will talk about marriage and singleness, husbands and fathers, and wives and mothers.  Continue reading

A Young Woman’s Personal Story: The Residual Effects of the Teachings by Doug Philips, Bill Gothard, and Patriarchy

Doug Phillips, Patriarchy, Vision Forum, Stay-at-home daughters, Courtship, Quiverfull, Bill Gothard


It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything about Doug Phillips, Vision Forum, Bill Gothard, or Patriarchy teachings. A young woman who identified as “Done Running” posted her personal story and it deserves its own post. Done Running describes the residual effects of patriarchal teachings by Doug Phillips. These ideologies (stay-at-home daughters, courtship, quiverfull teachings) leave women completely dependent on their fathers for their choice in marriage partners, schooling, work, etc. It is abusive, and in my opinion, a form of emotional, if not physical kidnapping.

Young women whose parents participate in these teachings/ideologies are not allowed to have independent thought, to make their own choices for their future. The plan is to have the father pass his baton of authority over to a man he selects as her future husband. A woman is always under the authority of a man, never to be free to think for herself. Her role in life is to bear children (as many as the Lord provides) and serve her husband.

~Julie Anne Continue reading

R.C. Sproul, Jr. Steps Down from Ligonier Ministries and Reformation Bible College

R.C. Sproul, Jr., Ligonier Ministries, Abuse, Reformation Bible College


 

R.C. Sproul, Jr., Ligonier Ministries, Spiritual Abuse, Spiritual Sounding Board

Twitter Photo (note the lock indicating the account is now private)

 

Ligonier Ministries has reported that RC Sproul, Jr. is stepping down from Ligonier Ministries & Reformation Bible College citing personal reasons: Continue reading

Review of Children’s Book, “God’s Design” -Examples of Godly Womanhood

Ruth, Mary, Sarah and Proverbs 31: Examples of Complementarian Women

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-by Kathi

This series is a review of God’s Design, a children’s book which teaches children about complementarity. For an introduction of the book, click here. All of the underlined subtitles below are chapters from the book.

Today, young girls have the chance to learn what makes a godly woman. I know you all were thinking hard about who the examples might possibly be. Now’s the time to find out! Continue reading

1-1/2 years Later, Bethlehem Baptist Church Doesn’t Seem to get Domestic Violence: A Personal Story

Bethlehem Baptist Church, Pastor Jason Meyer, Domestic Violence, Emotional Abuse, Spiritual Abuse

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Pastor Jason Meyer, Bethlehem Baptist Church

Almost 1-1/2 years ago, I wrote an article about John Piper’s former church, Bethlehem Baptist Church (BBC) regarding domestic violence, Encouraging Shift from Bethlehem Baptist Church Regarding Domestic Abuse and Care for Abused Women. Around that time, BBC pastor, Jason Meyer, preached a sermon and humbly expressed how he and his church had not handled domestic violence appropriately.

You can listen to the sermon or read the transcript here: Fooled by False Leadership

The following is the opening paragraph of the Elders’ Statement which was also released at the same time:

Elders’ Statement on Domestic Abuse
We, the council of elders at Bethlehem Baptist Church, are resolved to root out all forms of domestic abuse (mental, emotional, physical, and sexual) in our midst. This destructive way of relating to a spouse is a satanic distortion of Christ-like male leadership because it defaces the depiction of Christ’s love for his bride. The shepherds of Bethlehem stand at the ready to protect the abused, call abusers to repentance, discipline the unrepentant, and hold up high the stunning picture of how much Christ loves his church.

I was cautiously optimistic about the steps Bethlehem Baptist seemed to be taking. They brought in professionals to help them learn and understand domestic violence signs. They professed to want a heart to empathize with women who were harmed by domestic violence.

One domestic violence case was ongoing at that time. Natalie had reached out to the Bethlehem Baptist leaders for help years earlier. But now, the church leadership was doing a complete overhaul in how they were going to counsel when there was abuse involved . . . . or so they implied. Continue reading

Capturing the Minds of Daughters via Reconstructionism, Gary DeMar, The American Vision, and the Homeschool Movement

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Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood 2016 Conference #CBMW16 Live Tweets and Complementarianism Cool-Aid

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Attorney Plans to File Another Sex Abuse Lawsuit against CJ Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries

C.J. Mahaney, Sex Abuse, Failure to Report, Statute of Limitations, Sovereign Grace Ministries, Lawsuit, Pedophiles, T4G

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The Fallout of Spiritual Abuse on Our Children

Children Harmed by Spiritual Abuse

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Pastor Doug Wilson on Rape, Submission, Feminists, and Boobs

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Blogger Claims Because of our Culture of Death, Our Children Need a Belt and the Bible

Culture, Spanking, Bible, Lori Alexander, Abortion, Feminism, Divorce

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CBMW’s Gavin Peacock Claims Eve Was Trying to be King and Lost True Womanhood

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Bill Gothard Defenders Launch Website within Days of Civil Lawsuit against His Former Ministry, IBLP

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Domestic Violence, Jim and Doug Wilson, and Damaging Pastoral Response to Abuse in Marriages

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