1. Children are indoctrinated rather than educated.
2. Children who step out of line risk being ostracized.
Here’s a quote where Lewis explains this:
I have two nephews and two nieces (ranging in age from 20 to 3), and I love each of them as if they were my own children. If they choose a path other than one of faith in Jesus Christ, or make unusual or controversial lifestyle choices, sure, I won’t like it, but I won’t begrudge them their choices or emotionally (or in any other way) punish them for their choices. As long as their choices don’t endanger others, the choices are theirs to make. If the logic they use to reach their conclusions is faulty, and they discuss it openly, sure, I might argue the logic with them. Even so, I won’t begrudge them or punish them for their choices.
Christian homeschooling doesn’t allow the freedom to make such choices. Children within this world MUST accept the conclusions of the paradigm and curriculum – or be expendable, facing brutal emotional leveraging, ostracization, and emotional abuse.
They’re taught little and indoctrinated much.
While I’m not sure I’d use the term “cult” (I have too much of a background in religious studies to use that term lightly), I see Lewis’ point. The two aspects of the Christian homeschool movement Lewis discusses here – the tendency to indoctrinate rather than educate and the tendency to ostracize children who leave their parents’ beliefs – are indeed key aspects of what we popularly call “cults.” And Lewis is absolutely right to point out that the Christian homeschool movement does have both of these traits.
Homeschoolers in the Christian homeschool movement teach their children science from creationist textbooks and history from textbooks that promote pseudohistory. Whether it’s politics or religion, only one side of every argument and every view is given. Children in the Christian homeschool movement rarely get an honest exploration of the facts. Instead, essentially every bit of their education has a bias and an agenda. And because they’re homeschooled, these young people often have almost no honest exposure to any other views or ideas. This is what Lewis calls “indoctrination,” and it was most certainly my experience.
Lewis is also spot on with his discussion of the ostracization homeschooled children who leave their parents’ beliefs – even in little ways – face. I’m not just speaking of my own experiences either, but of the experiences of homeschoolers I grew up with, homeschooled young adults I’ve met since, and homeschooled young adults I’ve met through blogging. For some – including myself – changing your beliefs means potentially losing everything you’ve ever known. You either mime your parents’ beliefs or you are expendable, broken, ruined.
Does having some cult-like traits make a movement a cult? I don’t feel like I’m in a position to make that call, but if a movement has cult-like traits, that does at least mean that it has cult-like traits. And that matters.
Note: Lewis uses the term “Christian homeschooling movement” to make it clear that he’s not in any way calling ALL homeschoolers a cult. He’s not talking about every homeschooler or even every Christians who homeschools, but rather about those who homeschool BECAUSE they are Christian. He’s talking about the homeschoolers who follow every word of Michael Farris, Doug Wilson, Michael Pearl, Bill Gothard, or Doug Phillips. THIS is what he calls the Christian homeschool movement.