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.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, teach 'em what to think, not "How to think".

  • Anonymous

    Great job! The Pearls don't have a clue. I wonder if they ever even talk to normal people who weren't homeschooled, trained, or protected. I mean seriously, all the nurses I work with my age and younger weren't beaten with plumbing line as childen, homeschooled, or protected, but somehow they all managed to grow up to be responsible hardworking adults who are making a difference in the lives of some very sick people and raising beautiful families. I work with some great people. Mr. Pearl needs to get out of his little make believe world and find out that normal people aren't scary and evil after all. kateri @ http://dandelionhaven.blogspot.com/

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Kateri – I just had a thought. Michael Pearl makes a big deal out of the prison ministry work he does. He talks about how he's taken Jesus to prostitutes and druggies and murderers, he tells people, and has seen the scum of the earth! I wonder…maybe that has warped his perception of people outside of his homogeneous little Tennessee compound.

  • Anonymous

    I ddn't realize he does prison ministry. You are right, that might explain why he sees things in such black and white and is so fear based in his writing. From reading his writing it seems like he has very little to do with normal, non homeschoolers…kateri

  • S_Morlowe

    I'm truly terrified that he thinks that all children, if unsupervised, will start committing incest. I can't imagine he's an only sibling, being such a strong figure in this movement, which can only mean…ick! That is truly perverted.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p00e54ecbc1658833 The Count

    Well, to be honest, I seriously doubt that the examples Pearl quoted are real. I think it's just exaggeration to scare godly folk with what they already perceive the world to be like.

  • Anonymous

    The Count – I strongly suspect Pearl typed those descriptions with one hand. The dude gets off on child abuse.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15172112981244682382 shadowspring

    Yikes, only made it through the second of Pearl's paragraphs before the gender double-standard hit me: if you were a guy in one of those professions, you are a success story. But if you as a woman followed the rules and limited your life to wife and mother, where are you in that paragraph?That's the lot of women who strive for approval by total conformity in their religious system. You disappear completely.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15172112981244682382 shadowspring

    Okay, read it all now. Not that I am any better off for it- lolz.I am a horrible home school failure then, I suppose. My daughter is a senior in college, going as an officer into the air force, and she rarely attends church anymore. Her sex life is none of my business, but she does go to clubs and dance- with boys! She has a boyfriend who is a professed atheist. And…She is an awesome person! She is beautiful, smart, talented, and hard-working. She is responsible and kind. We talk almost every day, and we are friends as well as relatives. Her boyfriend is so supportive. He seems to really see my daughter for who she is, and is enthralled by that. I am really happy she is able to be in a healthy relationship and have a fulfilling life, in spite of all the dysfunctional religion that characterized her early days.My son is a young adult who would also be considered a failure by Pearl, because my son supports gay rights and gay marriage. He plays guitar in the worship band, so probably we go to one of those awful churches sending people to hell.And yet, he aspires to become a doctor, not so he can be rich but to help make the world a better place. He is generous, fun, happy and kind. I couldn't be prouder. I think my two are true home school success stories, though I am quite sure Mr. Pearl would look down his nose at us in disgust. To which I give a sigh of relief, because being approved my Michael Pearl is a damnation all on its own.

  • http://www.quiveringdaughters.com Hillary

    It might interest you to study his thoughts on sinless perfection. To summarize, Pearl believes (at least in the past, and I've not seen anything to the contrary) that it is truly possible to achieve a sinless state even as a human here on earth. This reveals much about how he views others (us vs. them) and is a foundational element of his teachings.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Shadowspring – LOL. I totally agree with you! Pearl here asserts that there are two options for homeschool kids: they either become fundamentalist spiritual clones of their parents or they become miserable incestuous failures. That leaves no space for me, or for your children, or for the many other homeschoolers who grow up to become their own people and live normal (and yet fulfilling!) lives. Hillary – I've heard of that but haven't looked into it much. You're right, though, it might be coming into play here. Because you have to remember, just like with my parents and so many others, I'm sure that Pearl would say that someone living in a sinless state, truly following God, lives exactly LIKE HIM. There is no room for individuality or diversity of experience or spirituality. The result is that there are those good people living like he does, and then there are the others, the bad people. This thinking sure does foster a dichotomy!

  • http://nonprophetmessage.wordpress.com Sierra

    "While the public school system continues to degenerate into a drug-stupid, sex-oriented, illiterate morass of misfit, Marxist clones…"I gotta say, I love the hyperbole.Although "duplicate your heart and soul" in your children is another file in the "creepiest things I've ever heard" folder.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12117442983915295489 Jesse

    Wow…That black and white thinking is why my parents see me as lost forever, and have accused my (perfectly safe and wonderful, but school-raised) spouse of possibly harming our children.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04191162451745534259 @lankr1ta

    What surprises me is the amount of manufactured fear in this sort of thinking. The unnecessary creation of a monster so that parents to whom these publications are targeted live in a state of heightened fear that something will go wrong. that kind of stress cannot be good either for the parents nor their children. I cannot pretend to know what life in such homes is like- my own upbringing was in a very open family, in a very different culture. But I do think, it would be very stressful where everyone was trying so hard to live with all this fear that something might go wrong. Also I imagine it would be very one dimensional- in the end doing more harm than good.

  • http://www.ayoungmomsmusings.blogspot.com Melissa

    I laughed through this whole thing. I can just hear your voice saying it. : ) And yeah, I think he is exaggerating his "examples" of kids gone wrong, since he very obviously uses hyperpole in other parts of his writing (ie. how public schooled kids turn out). That being said, if you parent using his methods of humiliation, shame and pain, I can see why you'd be afraid that your kids might repeat that treatment in their interaction with others if they are not constantly monitered. I cannot understand how I used to think this was rational, I was so scared of my kids turning out like he said they would if I didn't do everything "right".

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Melissa – I know, right? Also, it's good to see you here under your *real* name! Yay!

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    "I strongly suspect Pearl typed those descriptions with one hand."LOL! Didn't wanna be the first to say it but that was kind of going through my mind too. Everybody I know who has kids worries, to some degree, about them "going wrong" but none of them seem to think that the first step down that road will be "group incest." This guy is WAAAY too preoccupied with illicit sexuality and it kinda makes you wonder…"While the public school system continues to degenerate into a drug-stupid, sex-oriented, illiterate morass of misfit, Marxist clones…"Excuse me, Mr. Pearl–I know I'm just a depraved, illiterate product of the public school system, but I still have a firm enough grasp on the English language to be confused by the assertion that one can be a "misfit" and a "clone" at the same time. Can you please explain to me how that works? lolHe really does just seem to throw a bunch of stuff at the wall and see what sticks–to the point of going from implying that if you don't do what he says, your children will be dysfunctional outsiders in society to implying that if you don't what he says, your children WILL be included in society which is very, very bad because society is EVIL and made up of "Marxist clones"–all in the space of a sentence. Make up your mind, dude.

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/ Ophelia Benson

    "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."I knew it, I knew it, I knew it – a lot of this nonsense is just dopy nostalgia.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16130907707715832131 Lisa

    You know, we aren't fundamentalist Christian ourselves, but I've read the Pearl's materials and Mrs Pearl's book, and it's taken me a while to have some discernment on their writings. Things that have hit me the wrong way (or the right way, actually) and this is one of them. My deepest, deepest worry is that our children will abandon the Faith and involve themselves in the world's depravity. Our son has told his sister that nowhere and no one outside this house lives a life of morals and values. Period. What to do? Pray and hold on is the only thing I can hope for now. Christianity isn't for cowards, that's for sure.

  • Anonymous

    Here via Feministe. This stuff is monstrous. It amazes me that people like you can emerge from this sort of hellishly disturbing upbringing and indoctrination to shed light on its constructs. Thank you for this analysis.Sandy

  • Anonymous

    Ewww. Sounds like Michael Pearl is the one with the perverted mind. Where does he get this stuff about incest?

  • Anonymous

    Mr. and Mrs. Pearl should be gang beaten for seven hours with a couple of prayer breaks thrown in because even joy can become monotonous.