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

1 comment:

  1. Wow. I didn't know about any of these. I mean, I think I've heard of some of it in recent years from blogs like yours, but wow.
    I went and skimmed the table of contents of For Instruction in Righteousness and the "Sins of Unbelief" section just about sent me over the edge...