Michael Pearl on children who leave

“There is an epidemic of young adults jumping ship from their Christian upbringing to join the world’s parade to hell.”

I came upon this article series by Michael Pearl, which was later expanded into a book called Jumping Ship. Somehow I feel like it confirms everything I have ever said on this blog. Let me dissect the introduction for you all.

The homeschool movement has matured to the point that we now have a large pool of graduates from which to survey our successes and failures, and to modify our course accordingly. The first wave, in their late twenties to early thirties, are now married and have children of their own.

There are many success stories among them. Success can be measured by tangible or visible achievement, such as the many attorneys, doctors, scientists, teachers, and statesmen who are now making a difference in the world and in the lives of the individuals they touch. But success is best measured by the emotional stability and spiritual perspective that homeschooled young people have carried into their marriages.

Note: Tangible and visible achievement is not the best way to measure success, “emotional stability and spiritual perspective” are. This is code for ideological and spiritual conformity. THAT is what makes a child successful, nothing else.

Regardless of the prestige of their vocations, we have a new generation of godly parents, not having been tainted by the world. They are now building heavenly marriages and raising a fresh new breed of stable, godly children. While the public school system continues to degenerate into a drug-stupid, sex-oriented, illiterate morass of misfit, Marxist clones, the homeschool movement is producing intelligent, clear-thinking, confident citizens ready to stand in the middle of cascading corruption and declare their allegiance to God and family.

Good kids = those not tainted by the world. These untainted children can then bring up doubly untainted grandchildren for you.

Furthermore, homeschooling produces “intelligent, clear-thinking, confident citizens” while public schooling produces a “drug-stupid, sex-oriented, illiterate morass of misfit, Marxist clones.” Just so we’re clear here.

However, not all homeschoolers become success stories. A few fail to measure up fully, while a small percentage fail miserably.

Ah, so some homeschoolers become “success stories” while others “fail miserably.” Given that success means ideological conformity, I’m not seeing a lot of middle ground or flexibility here.

Not all homeschool families create themselves equally. Homeschool children are the product of their parents and the culture they provide. There is nothing magical about homeschooling itself. It is just a context in which to conduct parenting without interference from humanistic government and the influence of contemporary cultures, which are causing the “devil-lution” of society. When parents choose to homeschool, they are choosing to become the primary example and the prevailing culture for their children. They are “cloning” their worldview—an enormous commitment of responsibility before God.

Okay, so, homeschooling allows for parenting “without interference from humanistic government.” This paragraph makes crystal clear that these homeschoolers are doing just what I’ve been saying – intentionally trying to produce little clones by isolating their children from any influences outside their control. Wait a minute. *Looks back up the page.* I thought homeschooled kids were “intelligent and clear-thinking” while public school kids were clones! Apparently it’s not being clones that’s the problem here; it’s who’s doing the cloning.

However, there are two problems. In the first place, some parents are not always good stock for “cloning”. The world doesn’t need more people “just like them.”

Aha. So what do you tell that, sad, grieving parent, grieving because you promised they could make their children into clones of themselves and it didn’t work? It’s your fault! You’re simply not good enough!

Secondly, and this will be the main point of our present discussion, there is nothing easy or automatic about culture cloning. You cannot take it for granted that your children are going to adopt your perspective on life. It takes serious commitment and wisdom to duplicate your heart and soul in your children. There was a time, many years ago, when the community life (church, school, the extended family, friends and neighbors) all pointed the children in the right direction–a godly direction. Sometimes when parents failed to be good trainers and examples, their deficiency was rectified by grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and the local church, around which all social life revolved. But no more. The average church today will send your children to hell as fast as the local video rental store. Community life has gone the way of the old familiar front porch and grandma sitting there shelling beans. Today, you have to be on guard for your uncles and cousins, who may attempt to molest your children. Our present culture is scary enough to send a family packing to the Amazon, taking their chances with drug lords, anacondas, and malaria.

You hear that, other grieving parents? You failed because you didn’t shelter your kids enough! You let them go to church and hang out with grandparents!

I’m intrigued by one specific statement here, though: “You cannot take it for granted that your children are going to adopt your perspective on life.” Let me fix that for you: “You should not expect that your children are going to adopt your perspective on life.” There, much better.

We are receiving far too many letters from parents who tell us that their older children, 15 to 18 years old, are jumping ship, bailing out, changing sides, looking for the meaning of life on the other side of the tracks. Parents are shocked. They tell us, “I kept them from the TV. We homeschooled and homechurched, were careful to only meet with families of like mind. We taught them the Word of God and protected them from evil influences, but the first chance they got to join the world’s parade, they did so without hesitation.”

Yeah, this sounds just like my parents. They followed the formula, threw out the TV, sheltered their kids, taught them the Word, and then their oldest daughter left them for the world. And as Pearl states, my parents were “shocked.”

So just what does this look like, when the children leave for the world?

One woman wrote and told us that she discovered that her two teenage homeschooled boys had been engaging in sodomy since they were young. Another family discovered that every one of their children were engaging in group incest in the first degree. Children everywhere are finding ways to access pornography on the web. One kid was slipping into his neighbor’s house when they were gone. A sixteen-year-old girl ran away and shacked up with a druggie. In two years, she was a drunk and a drug addict with a child and a broken jaw where her shiftless man busted her one for sassing him. When one family discovered that their children were engaged in incest, the mother and father stopped going to church and took up drinking themselves. The whole family went to hell with an “I don’t care” attitude. One of the girls wrote to us to decry their shameful condition. She told how the family had done devotionals every day and did not watch TV. They did all the “right things”, but it just did not take with the kids. She got saved after getting married and having three children, and then became concerned for the rest of her family, especially her lesbian sister.


I have to say, I have some serious questions about the sort of people who read Michael Pearl’s publications and feel the need to write to him.

It seems to me that Michael Pearl creates a dichotomy: there are good homeschooled kids who turn out to be clones of their parents’ fundamentalist beliefs, and there are bad homeschooled kids who do drugs and commit incest. Either you’re a good little cloned Christian, or you’re a wicked perverted mindless sex addict. Somehow I’m really not sure where I fit here. Because, well, I don’t.

In a strange way, this dichotomy makes my parents’ anger and pain more understandable. By leaving their beliefs, I have grouped myself in with the incesters and druggies. This also helps explain my parents’ confusion that I seem to be having a successful life. Jumping ship for “the world” is supposed to mean every manner of perversion, and, well, I’m leading a pretty straight life. I don’t fit with what they’ve been taught to expect.

I know this is depressing to you. It has depressed me to write it, but you need to be forewarned. So the question I seek to answer is, “What can I do to ensure that my children do not jump ship when they get to be 16 or 18 years old?”

Oh yes, tell me what to do Mr. Pearl, I don’t want any incesting going on in my house! For the love of God, tell me quickly what I can do to keep my child from the demonic and perverted world! Anything – anything!

Let me reframe the question a few times, and then see if you catch a hint of what the answer will be.

    • What can I do to be sure that my children are actually embracing the values that we teach?

  • What can I do to prepare my children to resist the temptations of the world?
  • How can I impart a knowledge of good and evil to my children that will cause them to choose the good?
  • How can I forewarn and forearm my children without taking away their innocence?
  • How can I cause them to love righteousness and hate iniquity?
  • How can I cause them to be patient and wait for the spouse God has prepared for them?
The very first question in this series of questions is the dead giveaway. “How can I make sure that my children are actually embracing the values that we teach?” It’s not, “how can I make my child into a happy, successful adult?” or “how can I raise a child mature enough to make his own decisions?” It’s “how can I make sure my children are little clones of me, echoing everything I believe?” Because that, ladies and gentlemen, is what is important.

It is hard to communicate with many of you because you have been blinded by the “religion”. Even now as you read this, you think I am talking about someone else. You are confident that your family is secure in Bible principles and religious devotion. You have given them a “packaged Christianity” and isolated them from any outside influences, and you are confident that they are safe behind the fence.

Oh. I see. So being a devoted Christian and sheltering my children isn’t enough? I can think I really love Jesus and devote myself to reading the Bible and still be “blinded by the ‘religion’?” Seriously…what the heck is “the ‘religion’” anyway? Something to scare devout believers into thinking that maybe they don’t actually believe so that you can control them by dangling the promise of “true” religion in front of them?

There are two problem areas that you must consider. The first one is your own example. You must be all that you want your children to be. You can’t drive teenagers; you must lead them. That will be the first point of our discussion.

This sounds like a rehash of Pearl’s “if your kids don’t turn out to be clones of you it’s because you’re not good enough” argument. Scare them again, Pearl!

Second, you must not assume that innocence is a hedge. The enemy is not always on the “outside” of your home. There is a big enough and bad enough enemy within the flesh of your own children to scare an angel to death. A child who never even heard of sex of any kind, never saw an example, never has been tempted by any outside source, can discover it on his own and then engage in incest. Genuinely good families who provide righteous examples, can have their children go to hell right in the middle of their carefully constructed and properly maintained sanctuary. While a father and mother are standing guard at the gate that leads out into the world, children of Adam’s descent can build their own Sodom from scratch, right under the best example that loving, careful, attentive parents can provide.

Oh. I see. So sheltering isn’t enough, because the evil lies inside your children. I’m sorry, I’m confused as how Pearl think it’s a good idea to tell parents that their children are filled with evil and also emphasize the importance of spanking them into submission. You ever heard of “beating the devil out of him?” This just sounds like a recipe for disaster. Oh wait.

There’s more, but I really can’t go on. So, let’s take a moment to summarize.

Homeschoolers are the intelligent ones and public schoolers are stupid clones. Your goal as a Bible believing homeschool parent is to make your children into clones of yourself. If your children turn out to be clones, you have succeeded. If your children don’t turn out to be clones, they’ll be on drugs and committing incest. In this latter case, you’re either not good enough or you’re not sheltering them from the world enough (including keeping them away from church and grandma). But really, even if you shelter them, your children could go bad anyway, because they’re filled with evil. Plus you might not really be a believer in the first place, but rather be blinded by “the ‘religion’.” Are you scared yet???

Yeah, this sounds like great advice. I personally would rather be an individual than a clone. But then, maybe that’s just me.

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.