Raised Quiverfull: Reasons for Homeschooling

Why and when did your parents originally decide to homeschool? Did their reasons for homeschooling change over time?


My family knew nothing about homeschooling until we met the esteemed, Bill Gothard.  Then, when Mama fell in love with every word that dripped off his tongue, she viewed his homeschooling program as the only program worth belonging to.  Little did I know this would be a huge blessing in my life.  I considered it a curse at the time, as you will soon see.

In 1992, Bill Gothard required the board of the Advanced Training Institute to approve families that desired to enter into his homeschooling program.  This made sense because, according to his program’s strict standards, their could be no bad apples.  Thus, my family received scrutiny from the board due to our horrible evil condition of being seven children with a single mother.  Gasp!  We were eternally marred by divorce.  The board required a bunch of signatures to vouch for us as being good people and worth their time.  Then, they required us to get our father’s approval.  My dad would have nothing of it.  He knew how abusive and horrid Mama was to us and didn’t want her to have complete control of our lives 24/7.  The board rejected our application.

I wept.  I was twelve.

My mother never attempted again and, instead, wore the badge of a martyr for the cause – whatever cause that was.  From that day forward, all the Mama approved “testimonies” we had to recite in front of church people made some mention of how our father stopped us from homeschooling.


I heard the stories so many times as I was growing up, the reasons for my parents’ decision to pull me out of public school halfway through first grade and start to homeschool me.  I heard how I cried every day when my mom dropped me off at school.  I heard how I was bored in class because I had learned to read at age three, long before going to kindergarten.  I heard how my teacher was wasting classroom time on political issues by having the class write a letter about saving some whales.  I heard how the teacher hurt my feelings badly by insulting my quiet speaking voice during a presentation.  I heard how I had the problem boy as my seatmate because I was the best behaved student.  I never thought to question my mom’s narrative; school was certainly a terrible place for me, based on her stories.

As a former elementary school teacher, my mom knew that she could give me a more personalized education than I would get in a classroom of 30 other students.  While helping me get ahead academically, she would also be able to protect me from worldly and liberal influences.

Unfortunately, after many years of countering criticism and being surrounded by other like-minded Christian homeschoolers, my mom lost the ability to objectively evaluate whether homeschooling was still working for our family.   By then, our identity as homeschoolers was inseparable from our spiritual, political, and family identity; failure was not an option.

Libby Anne:

My parents originally decided to homeschool for purely practical reasons, and they only planned on doing it for a year. But that first year went so well they did another, and another. Meanwhile, they began reading Christian homeschool literature, attending Christian homeschool conferences, etc. By the time I was ten my parents were homeschooling us because they believed that the public schools brainwashed children into “secular humanism” and turned children into unthinking robots, and because they believed, based on Deuteronomy 6, that it was the responsibility of the parents, and not the state or anyone else, to educate their children. Homeschooling had moved from being a practical and temporary option to being a lifestyle.


My parents said that they always wanted to homeschool us kids. I as the oldest have never seen a public school from inside. My Dad was convinced that public schools were filled with sin (sex and drugs) and that they enforced certain “agendas” on the students. It got worse over time, my Dad thinking that all the bad things in America are rooted in the pro-gay pro-choice pro-everything ungodly schools.


As I mentioned before, my parents always planned to homeschool. They felt that they, and no one else, were responsible for their children’s education (referencing Deuteronomy 6:7). Education is inseparable from faith, in their minds, and this was something they believed was a responsibility and a calling from God.


Originally, I remember my Dad talking about choosing homeschooling because he had hated being in school. He had always felt as if he had been held back and had never fit in well with the other kids. My parents saw an article about homeschooling in the newspaper and decided to try it. As time went on there were more reasons, such as protecting us from the disbelief and propaganda in the schools, and keeping us girls safe from unsupervised interactions with men/boys. I remember them talking about how we would waste so much time in school, learning stuff that we would never need for life, whereas if we were at home we could learn about caring for children and cooking and cleaning, all things my mom had felt inexperienced in when she started her family.


My dad had serious problems in school as a kid. He was very intelligent and found the structure of school to be oppressive and a hindrance. When my parents first heard about homeschooling they were very excited to have found an alternative. My dad wanted us to have academic freedom, and my mom wanted us to be safe from the world. Their goals converged over time.


My mother decided to homeschool me because I was terrified of school. I was in kindergarten for three months in a room with an aging, unsympathetic teacher and a bunch of rowdy boys who bullied me. I was a sensitive child, and couldn’t handle it. I had insomnia, horrible nightmares, anxiety attacks, random fits of crying, and was generally miserable. I was also a gifted child who had known how to read for three years and was bored to death by the lessons we were doing. My mother (prudently, I think) decided to take me out of school for a year and let me mature a little bit before being put back in that environment. Then my mother met a fundamentalist and hit it off with her (as I hit it off with her son, Sven) and we were sucked into that family’s church. Once we were part of the Christian Patriarchy movement, my mother’s reasons for homeschooling me changed from getting me a head start academically and letting my social skills catch up to protecting me from worldly influences.

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Raised Quiverfull Introduction — Homeschooling Summary

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.

  • ArachneS

    This hits hard for me. I’ve never went to public school either. My parents homeschooled for 3 reasons. 1. Rejecting Evolution(they were trad catholics, and still didn’t accept it) 2. rejecting Sex Ed & 3. Sheltering from “bad influences” of materialistic corrupt public schools.

    My 3rd oldest sister convinced my parents to put us in the church private school by offering to help pay for it(by teaching at the school) when my 4th oldest sister joined the convent(she was the one who was teaching us younger kids). We got pulled out of that school due to in-church political clashes w/ our parents. When I was around age 12 it was apparent we were badly behind in school, so we were sent off to a different private school, where I was held back, and still started at the bottom of the class. Was there 2 years(enough for us to catch up) and then pulled out again and home schooled. The rest of my education(high school years) I was expected to get books and study them entirely on my own. By 16 I got a job at a restaurant and just worked. Finally at 18 I took an English, and Math class at the community college and got my GED.

    From time to time, my parents would say that home schoolers are smarter, they learn better, etc. But it was apparent to us younger ones that education was not their priority for us. Our parents did not do any teaching, my older siblings did, and when they left we didn’t get taught. This more than anything else made me a strong proponent of homeschooling regulation.

  • shadowspring

    I chose home schooling for multiple reasons, but looking back, many people merely gave lip service to those reasons while actually having other motivations. I know one woman who home schooled her daughter because she was so beautiful (mom resented it: it was so Snow White and the wicked stepmom, except it was her blood mom!). When I asked her why she home schooled, quite sincerely wanting to learn about home schooling, she angrily said “Well just look at her! Every guy at school would be trying to get in her pants!” as she pointed at her gorgeous daughter WHO WAS STANDING RIGHT THERE. :-0

    I think all of us have our stated reasons and our inner motivations for home schooling. My stated reasons were to provide a nurturing, rich learning environment with maxed out opportunities for real life exploration coupled with creative and engaging learning activities at home. Super hippy dippy, no? And I meant it, I really did. We went lots of places, I spent lots of money of museum memberships, lessons, manipulatives, posters, art supplies. If it was creative and fun, I was interested. We went to the library every week for years. If a book had great art, great rhythm and rhyme, or really pleased my kids in some other way, I would buy it to keep around.

    I was gifted child, and went to an excellent magnet school in my early elementary years, then moved to a small town on the Great Plains in fourth grade. The only thing worse than being a girl who was a smart, fat, city kid would have been being black, but then my family would probably have been targeted for far more serious violence and we would have left. As it was, I was beat up, bullied, and bored for years. It was hell.

    So in my school, I tried to recreate the excellent educational environment I enjoyed at that suburban Washington, DC magnet school in the 70s. Plus I bought my artistic daughter great art supplies, was pretty liberal about using the computer a lot in grade school, seguing to going online in middle school. It probably explains why I was shunned by the other Christian home school moms, and why we are no longer fundamentalists today.

    And while all that IS true, it is not the WHOLE truth. I seriously did believe that the daily devotions, Bible reading, prayer and *wholesome* entertainment were necessary to having a good, happy life. We had done none of those thing growing up, and my life sucked. My husband’s family were fundamentalists, and did all those things growing up. The stability and predictability of their lives attracted me. Little did I know what lay hidden underneath. I really believed they were the ideal family. My husband claimed his childhood was idyllic.

    So while I was doing a lot of things right, not only educationally but also personally for each child’s temperament/talents, I was overdosing them on religion. I did hurt my children, the oldest especially, with my fundamentalist expectations. Lucky for us all, I loved them more than anything, and so when my daughter just stopped conforming, I stopped demanding conformity. And then, I started questioning everything.

    The doctrines that hurt my family the most: belief in hell, obviously; belief that Christians should try to be “like Jesus” instead of just being their honest selves; belief that sacrifice, submission and prayer will make everything okay; denial about emotional issues like depression; not recognizing my daughter’s Aspie tendencies until I after I spent years shaming her for them. Those are the things I really, really regret.

    I, like ArachneS, am I strong proponent of home school regulation. I taught my children well, and they both liked home schooling (though my son wishes now he chose public high school, and he really DID have a choice!). But I have run across so many home school grads who did not get an education “commensurate with his/her ability” like the state of FL requires. I have even read online of students being denied medically care, and confined/isolated against their will. Our society should demand better for our children. So I support increased regulation/national regs of some kind.

    I would also like to see it made easier to go to public school from a home school in high school without negatively effecting your transcript. Our schools here in NC will accept your transcript as Pass/Fail, but not your GPA, and this is understandable with no home school regulation in this state.
    You’d do better applying to college with a home school diploma than starting high school at home and ending at public school. But if there were some way they could be sure that our credits meant something, then they could transfer GPA.

    Homeschoolers doing mediocre/crappy jobs don’t want standards though. They turn their nose up at public school so don’t see the need. But I think it would make life better for home schooled teens, so I am in favor of standardizing credits.

  • AnotherOne

    Latebloomer said:

    “Unfortunately, after many years of countering criticism and being surrounded by other like-minded Christian homeschoolers, my mom lost the ability to objectively evaluate whether homeschooling was still working for our family. By then, our identity as homeschoolers was inseparable from our spiritual, political, and family identity; failure was not an option.”

    This is so succinct and insightful, and it describes my family perfectly. So much of homeschooling culture is predicated on a black and white view of education, Homeschooling is set up as the option in which children are nurtured in the way of the Lord and given an amazing academic education at the same time. This conception is juxtaposed against public schooling, which is represented as an evil den of liberal indoctrination, worldliness, drugs, group sex, and sub-par academics. This false dichotomy often informs the thinking even of those who pay lip service to the idea that families should choose what educational options suit them best. So yeah, failure isn’t an option. You keep homeschooling and homeschooling, even when things have completely falling apart.

    The strange thing is that I’ve encountered this idea even among atheist homeschoolers. I grew up in fundamentalist homeschooling circles, and for a long time I tacitly assumed that non-religious homeschoolers were much more balanced in their views of education. But then I came into contact with a circle of committed atheist unschoolers, and they talked about public school in the same tones of horror (minus the religious overtones) that I had heard it talked about growing up. I know that this one group is most likely not representative of non-religious homeschoolers as a whole, and I am probably overly sensitive to these attitudes because of my own negative experiences with homeschooling. But I couldn’t help feeling like they were painting themselves into a corner, and that even if they got to a point where homeschooling just wasn’t working, they would have a really hard time stopping, because they had turned all alternatives into horrible bogeymen.

  • Karen

    I went to Catholic schools through my senior year of high school. High school was adequately challenging, but I was mostly bored in elementary school, even though I skipped a grade! Though I’ll never have children, if I did have them I’d think seriously about homeschooling just to get them past that horrible boredom and bullying that I experienced. I know liberally religious or non-religious parents in my area who do homeschool young ones for just that reason. However, everyone I know who homeschools for that reason backs off and lets the experts take over for high school.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Wow, Sierra, we probably would have made nice little oddball friends when we were little kids. I was also a sensitive, gifted child who got bullied a lot and had a lot of issues with anxiety, insomnia, and nightmares. And sleep paralysis, ugh. (I actually still have issues with those things but now I have adult coping skills–and the occasional clonazepam. lol) Homeschooling wasn’t an option for my family and I don’t think the idea was even on my parents radar anyway. Sometimes I do wonder if that would have been better in my earlier years. But what I struggle with is, once you start, when do you know to stop? I can say that homeschooling would have been good for me in the elementary years then would I have been fit for traditional schooling after? For me (and for a lot of kids), the bullying actually hit its peak in middle school. I shudder to think what would have happened if I’d been plunked down into a public middle school after years of learning at home. At least by the time I entered middle school, I’d honed some defense mechanisms. Not something any kid should have to have but, for what it’s worth, it sure was better to have them then to not. I saw what happened to THOSE kids.

    Even without any religious ideology, I think it would probably be really hard for a parent to make the right call when they’re dealing with a children that have needs like I did. I could easily see how a year could turn into longer and longer and longer. I don’t know WHAT the answers are there.

    Although I actually think I would have done well in a Montessori school. Our city even had a public one but I don’t think that was on my parents’ radar either. When and if I have kids, I would LOVE if that were an option for them.

    • Anat

      Although I actually think I would have done well in a Montessori school. Our city even had a public one but I don’t think that was on my parents’ radar either. When and if I have kids, I would LOVE if that were an option for them.

      You may know this, but just in case: If you ever look into Montessori education, be aware that the name ‘Montessori’ isn’t regulated in any way. Anyone can call their program Montessori, regardless of how well it matches the educational philosophy. Though membership in a Montessori organization is usually a good sign. If it ever becomes relevant to you, check relevant schools yourself, ask questions, observe the interactions between teachers and students, check the materials etc as you would with any school. It is also helpful to read some of Maria Montessori’s books to familiarize yourself with the philosophy and the terminology.

  • Noelle

    How does a homeschool family handle a special needs kid? I don’t know what I’d do without the ST,OT,SW,personal aide, special ed, and regular ed teachers who work with my ASD+ADHD kid every day.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      There are other ways to find therapy and assistance, outside of the public school. I am fully certain that it varies by homeschool family, but one of my many siblings does have special needs, and my parents made use of state services to obtain early therapy and later to continue to access therapy at local centers when she was school age. I think they even created plans for her with goals, exercises, etc. My mother also did a great deal of research on educating special needs children, bought special curriculum and therapy devices, etc.

      Thinking of other large homeschool families in our circle who had children with special needs (and I can think of two close ones off the top of my head), they pretty much did the same – therapy, research, special curricula. I don’t know what all services public schools offer, so I can’t compare, but they seemed to make out fairly well. Now again, I’m sure not all homeschool families with special needs children worked this hard, but the family I grew up in and the others I knew did.

      • Noelle

        It depends on the school system if a non-enrolled child may obtain services from the school therapists. If they do not allow this, then it depends on your health insurance and how much you’re willing to pay for private therapists. I guess it could work, though it seems so piecemeal. And you’d have to be very up to date on what services are available and what your child needs. With my 7 year-old son, everything is brought to him in one place and on the same schedule. Whenever there’s a concern, they discuss amongst eachother and us on what to try next. I knew how to find a speech therapist when he was 2 and he spoke fewer than 10 words. She knew how to get him into special ed preschool. That teacher noticed he needed OT and SW and a personal aide. As he got older, they all recommended the autism specialist for an eval. He didn’t quite qualify at that time, but did a year later. Higher functioning ASD kids sometimes take waiting time to see where they’ll fall. I’m a physician, so I knew to call child psychiatrists for appointments. It took several caring and qualified individuals to do all this. I imagine it’d be very hard work for one parent to learn about and coordinate all the services, and to know what miracle intervention they found on Google is quackery. This is all hard work even with all the help he has. If homeschooling were more regulated and tied into the local school systems it would be easier to find and help these kids.

  • Comrade Svilova

    I definitely experienced non-religious homeschooling with a lot of negative attitudes towards public schools, but some of it was justified, in that we started homeschooling after I had some truly terrible experiences in public school. However, the intensity of my parents’ critique of public schools was (and is) unrealistically high. My brother and I are working on convincing them that public education is an important and necessary public good – not everyone can or should homeschool!

    As an aside, it’s interesting to me how many people feel that homeschooling in high school is generally ill advised, however, as those were the best years for me. I suppose it makes a big difference to be unschooled in an environment in which reading, researching, debating, and investigation were not just school but everyone’s hobbies. My parents are huge autodidacts, and though I started college with huge gaps in what I had studied, I had learned how to study, and caught up on, say, the facts of historical periods with which I was unfamiliar really quickly. Just putting it out there that homeschooling in high school doesn’t have to be a disaster or worthy of scorn. :-)

    But again, some oversight should make sure that kids are learning and not using their youth to look after their siblings / online learn homemaking skills!

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  • http://christiancompletely.blogspot.com/ Skarlet

    “Why and when did your parents originally decide to homeschool? Did their reasons for homeschooling change over time?”

    Initially, my parents decided to homeschool because they believed that home-education provides for better academic success, with individualized progress, along with better subject matter (education focused on character and Scripture and excellence in life), and also protection from the ungodly influences in public schools (sex, drugs, rock n roll, rebellion), and private schools (hypocritical attitudes, etc).

    These reasons were also the ongoing reasons for homeschooling. As I mentioned in regard to a previous question, though, not all of the kids were homeschooled all of the time. My little sis NEEDED more social connection, so she insisted on being public-schooled from age 13 throught now (age 17). After graduated from our high school, my older brother wanted to spend a year in a private christian school, and had lots of fun; academically it was all easy for him, and socially, he was able to become homecoming king that very year. Two of my younger brothers spend one year in that same private christian school, because they wanted to and my parents let them. And one of my younger brothers has spent the last two years at an alternative private school, but my parents are now wondering whether to pull him out or not, because the tuition rate just doubled and it’s hard for them to juggle all the costs.

    My mom still homeschools the youngest four. [5 of us are over 18, one is graduating next month, one is the alternative private school, and then the youngest four are being homeschooled currently].

    So, I believe that my parents had some ongoing concerns, but they did not let those concerns take precedence over other concerns or other freedoms and requests that came up over time.

  • http://christiancompletely.blogspot.com/ Skarlet

    Can I formally participate in this study? I was homeschooled through highschool in an Evangelical Christian/Christian family, with 10 siblings.

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