Monday, January 20, 2014


A few days ago, I put a list of around 10 book titles/authors/companies that are generally associated with "homeschool culture" as a status on Facebook and asked my friends which ones they were familiar with. The results were slightly surprising: even though the majority of my current Facebook friends had been homeschooled, many of them were only familiar with a couple of the names. A handful were familiar with 6 or 7.

I grew up familiar with all the names on the list (plus more). I suspect this is partially because my parents tended to "dabble" in things - that is, my mom would collect all the books she could on homeschooling, child training, etc, read them, and use portions from each. In a way, I think this was preferable to being strictly entrenched in one particular method; on the other hand, the lack of consistency was sometimes difficult to deal with (strict weeks might give way to more lenient ones; harsh edicts lasted only as long as they were remembered, we might be punished severely for something that was a non-issue the month before).

And, since I've always been a voracious reader, I read nearly everything on my parents' bookshelves. So perhaps I also remember and took on more than some other children might have.

With that said, here's a quick "intro" to the terms I had listed, and my experience with each.

IBLP/Bill Gothard
IBLP = Institute in Basic Life Principles, an organization founded by Gothard. We were never really involved with ATI (Advanced Training Institute), which is their homeschooling curriculum.

My family attended one of the week-long IBLP seminars when I was around 11 (I went to the kid's portion and actually have fond memories of that week due to the very engaging storyteller and songs. I came away with a workbook that I probably still have somewhere). My parents had the seminar textbooks and some Character Sketches books. I remember that my parents became more strict in some ways after the seminar. For instance, I owned very few music CDs, but had one with 50's-60's Rock songs that was a birthday present from my aunt. I remember my dad taking it and telling me he was throwing it away because it wasn't godly. No more humming along with or secretly dancing to Runaround Sue or Rock Around the Clock for me.
This was one reason I threw myself even more into classical music, insisting that it was the only kind I cared to listen to, anyway.

For further reading, check out the stories on Recovering Grace,

For Instruction in Righteousness by Pam Forester
A child-training book published by It emphasizes the Bible above all else (perhaps even exclusive of all else) as the source and guide for training and instructing children. I don't recall a lot of specific details from the book, but the table of contents gives a good idea as to the approach (emphasizing sin nature and use of "the rod" as a correction tool). My parents also had some of the charts, such as the If-Then chart, which outlines what punishments (generally, a picture of wooden spoons representing how many spankings) a child will receive for misbehavior.

I went through Doorposts' "girl's manual", Polished Cornerstones, when I was around 12. Although Doorposts doesn't seem to be quite as widely-known in homeschooling circles as other books, the company attended a variety of homeschool conventions in 2013.

To Train Up a Child/No Greater Joy, Michael and Debi Pearl
Oh, what to say about the Pearls? Their philosophy emphasizes breaking a child's will (through use of "the rod") so that the child is totally submissive and obedient to the parents. Children are consistently presented as sinful, annoying, wrong, bratty, etc throughout the Pearls' material. Only completely happy and obedient children are acceptable.

As you may well imagine, their teachings can easily turn downright dangerous as parents are promised that their children will become happy and compliant if spanked enough. I have personally witnessed spankings that lasted well over an hour. Spanking for every kind of disobedience - from forgetting to do something to not having a cheerful face - is encouraged.

I'd rather not put any quotes from their materials up, but if you have the stomach, you can read their child-training book To Train Up a Child online, as well as a good review series of the book on the blog LoveJoyFeminism and an overview of the Pearls' teachings on Rachael Held Evans' blog. My parents still receive the magazine No Greater Joy by default.

Child Training Tips by Reb Bradley
This is another child-training book that sets up parents to assume the very worst about children, and to punish them harshly for infractions.

You can read an excellent review/overview of the book on Past Tense, Present Progressive.

Vision Forum
Run by prominent homeschooling father and Christian Patriarchy leader Doug Phillips (who emphasized his Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy), this once-popular organization has just recently closed down after it came to light that Phillips had been involved in a long-running extramarital affair. The irony, it burns.

We received store magazines growing up, read their articles, and envied the cool toys the company sold and what a great dad Phillips seemed to be.

Above Rubies
A magazine/website geared towards "encouraging women in their high calling as wives, mothers, and homemakers". Although I don't recall that my family subscribed to the magazine itself, the name and principles were definitely familiar to me growing up.

For other thoughts on Above Rubies, there's the blog post by LoveJoyFeminism.

Mary Pride
A pioneer homeschooling mom and "anti-feminist", author of books like The Way Home, which, among others, my mom owned. You can find a debate/discussion of Mary Pride's philosophies (between the blog author and Mary Pride's daughter) on the blog Becoming Worldly.

Geoffrey Botkin
Another leader/speaker/author in the Christian Patriarchy circle, Geoff Botkin was also involved in Vision Forum. His daughters run the Visionary Daughters site, which encourages unmarried daughters to stay at home and serve their fathers (you can find review blog posts for their book So Much More on the blog Time To Live, Friend). Botkins speaks at seminars. I consider myself lucky that my parents valued education and allowed me to go to college (rather than having me stay at home to wait for marriage).

Homeschool Legal Defense Association. Nearly all homeschoolers are aware of this one.

My memories of HSLDA growing up are of the newsletters (and emails) that my family would get, and of the rather horrifying stories I would read from them of homeschoolers being persecuted and their children being snatched away for no revealed reason. My parents had a piece of paper taped to the door that HSLDA had sent out - it said "STOP" on it and had a warning to CPS (or whoever it was that showed up at doors to harass homeschoolers) that they weren't going to get to interview the children and that the parents were going to call HSLDA. We were warned - mostly implicitly - to not mention spanking in front of anyone. They might not understand. They might take us away. I worried, sometimes, that someone would hear my brother screaming.

I'm sure that some homeschooling families have indeed been unjustly persecuted and prosecuted, and that HSLDA has done some good. However, imagine if there were children in a home who actually were being abused or neglected. HSLDA had given parents a perfect script to hide abuse (coaching children what to say, not allowing children interviews with authorities, not allowing authorities inside).

Homeschoolers Anonymous hosts a series on HSLDA, as food for thought.

Other articles related to the above and with parallels to my own background:
Fear-Based Parenting
Paved with Good Intentions
Finding my Cohort

Friday, November 15, 2013

I entered the battleground with flags waving high -
well prepared, well stocked, well planned.

But the fog of uncertainty quickly slipped in,
blinding me
Fear wrapped around
and clutched my heart
I was stricken.

crawling forward, unseeing
struggling to breathe

No glory in this battle
survival only.

And at the other side, it was not how I imagined
armor shining and thrown flowers gathered in my arms

but, clinging to my tattered banner
I stood.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What I want people to know

I'm not afraid of listening. I'm not afraid to hear your story.

I'm not afraid to answer back.
I'm not afraid to try to help, if that's what you need from me.

I'm not going to abandon you after you've gotten up the courage to tell of the abuse you've suffered. I'm not going to think that your difficulties are somehow "catching".
I'm not going to give you a trite answer.

Maybe I have "fear" somehow deeply rooted in my psyche - I suffer from panic attacks and anxiety. But I'm not afraid of you. I'm not afraid of your story.

I'm not going to stop believing that you're beautiful.

I'm not going to stop wishing for more "safe people".

I'm not going to let my past experiences stop me from trusting others.

And here is what I wish there was more of - acknowledgement. Love. Understanding.
"I'm so sorry you had to go through that/are going through this."
"That sounds really difficult."
"Tell me more."
"I don't understand what you're going through - but I want to help in any way I can."
"You are strong."
"You are not alone."

Sometimes just be being alive we are brave.
I acknowledge this. I acknowledge you.

Monday, July 29, 2013

"Books on Training"

I found some old Institute of Basic Life Principles books on a dusty corner of one of my parents' bookshelves. I was wondering where those got to!

Other notable child-rearing type books in my parents' collection due to their popularity in the homeschool circle:

Child Training Tips - Reb Bradley
To Train Up a Child - Michael and Debi Pearl
No Greater Joy (Vol 1 & 2) - Michael and Debi Pearl
Don't Make Me Count to Three - Ginger Plowman

There's more, but that's what I can recall at the moment.

Many other authors have already written on the subject of the damaging effects and teachings in many of these books, but personally, I feel that one of the most damaging things taught in them as a whole is the idea that you can train all children in exactly the same way - even children with handicaps or mental illnesses (which most of the authors deride as "fake").

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Never Perfect

The past year, I've finally been allowing myself to think back and try to come to terms with how my past experiences have shaped and affected me.

Two articles I recently read on the subject of Perfectionism in the Christian-homeschooling-subculture, "The Pressure of Perfection'" and "Never Good Enough", led me to think back on my own experience with the peculiar brand of Perfectionism described. I've always been at least somewhat of a perfectionist in the mainstream sense, but I'd never really grasped how much my upbringing played into this.

In high school, I worked various jobs to earn income for myself, took classes at the local community college starting when I was 15, and graduated top of my "class". I was always trying to be the best I could be, trying to be "good", trying to gain and keep some kind of elusive approval. By the end, I couldn't wait to move on to something bigger and further away. Although I (like many other homeschoolers) could have easily graduated much earlier than the norm, my parents decided to keep me in highschool officially until I was 17 as I was going to go away to college. I had turned 18 by the time the start of College Freshman Year officially started.

Even though I entered college with enough credits to be considered a Transfer Student and a Sophomore and thus was in an odd place in terms of categorization, I thought I would "fit in" better at University than I did at Community College (or in general). I wouldn't always be the youngest, I would be challenged and awed by the new material, I would make friends.

Instead, I "crashed and burned" my first semester. The experience of being thrust into a totally new and far away environment, along with the pressure to do well while being in a Major that I knew, deep down, wasn't for me, brought my long-simmering and previously undealt with anxiety issues to the surface. Within the first few weeks, I ended up in the ER with a severe panic attack that wouldn't end. I spent the rest of the semester in a depressed fog. I was on the edge of a panic attack on the days that I wasn't actually having a panic attack. I carried my newly-prescribed bottle of Ativan with me wherever I went, clutching at it desperately until the label wore off. I couldn't sleep. I didn't eat. I missed the ocean far more than I missed my family.

My dormmates (and even professors) were certainly kind, and they helped me in more ways than I can describe. I don't know how I would've made it through without their understanding. But even this was overshadowed by my own issues. I was prone to depression to begin with; the fact that I hated my classes and knew that I wouldn't be able to complete the major that my parents pushed me towards weighed heavily on my mind. I didn't feel worthy of friendship. My depressed and anxious fog seriously affected my ability to get work done in any classes. I horrified myself by getting a C in a non-engineering class (the professor's teaching style didn't mesh with me at all), but at the same time, I was almost past the point of caring.

Or so I told myself. In reality, I was crushed by the thought of all the people I felt I was disappointing - professors, parents, classmates, friends, myself. My past notion of my personal worth being tied into my success began to unravel. I was forced to rely on others for help; I had to come to terms with looking foolish and being helpless as I threw up from anxiety (several times) in front of my long-suffering roommate, fell asleep and cried silently in classes, periodically couldn't get out of bed or walk due to depression and fear, needed to be taken to appointments, developed an inability to be alone. This all went way beyond "getting used to a new environment" - the Perfectionist house of cards I'd built had begun to collapse even as my parents' calls told me to get over it all. I was forced into counseling and the counselor told me to stop telling my parents anything that wasn't going "well".

After the first year, I officially changed majors and had a few classes related to my first major "drop" (there were one or two that I had let "fail" rather than doing a Withdraw due to some miscommunication). I picked up the pieces, re-earned my scholarship, made good grades from then on, tried and partially succeeded in getting past some of my fears and having a social life, and graduated in a total of 3 years at age 20. I graduated again with a Double Major the next year after going through a life-threatening illness for most of the final semester. I had gotten married two years into school when I was 19 (arranging the wedding and getting through finals during a particularly nasty bout of mono), and had made all the meals, kept up the apartment, and continued to work when able since then while going to school full-time.

Most people would probably look at the accomplishments, the trials survived, the work well done, and be pleased.

But it was never good enough for me. I felt the pressure of my parents from afar, not to mention my own absurdly high expectations (set up partially by my given personality, and partly by my upbringing). I was ashamed for having had to change my major. Angry at myself for not making straight-A's, for not doing more while in school. I told myself that I didn't truly enjoy many classes and that I was rarely challenged and learned little. I was disappointed that I hadn't tried harder to make and maintain friendships. I kicked myself for not graduating in even less time, if I was going to go for an "easier" Major, anyway. I tried too hard to push past my illnesses and didn't allow myself to really process them. I felt little sense of satisfaction in having graduated, and felt (whether real or not) my parents' lack of approval at my "settling" for a "lesser" major and lesser grades and lesser physical/mental health.

It is still very, very hard to get past my too-high expectations for myself - oddly, this often tends to paralyze me into inaction. After getting married, my husband and I paid off in excess of $45,000 in student loans and interest, becoming debt-free in 3 years and 2 months. We've accomplished a lot, and we've come far. But most days, I just focus on my ineptness, my difficulty in finding a job, my failings as a wife.

This particular post relates little besides a few brief pieces of my experiences; just recounting what I have here has been triggering and exhausting. And I know, too, that there were many great experiences and much that I learned throughout my college years. But I can't deny the difficulties; this has been one of the first times I've allowed myself to see how far I've come, and under what circumstances.

Focusing on the positive in daily life is a much harder exercise than I thought. Growing more mature and away from this toxic brand of Perfectionism has been a slow process. But I'm getting there.

Friday, July 12, 2013



sometimes initial capital letter resembling or befitting Don Quixote.
extravagantly chivalrous or romantic; visionary, impractical, or impracticable.
impulsive and often rashly unpredictable.

2. fanciful, fantastic, imaginary.

 preoccupied with an unrealistically optimistic or chivalrous approach to life; impractically idealistic



1  [fey]
a fairy.


2  [fey] 
noun Obsolete .