On Getting Sucked In: A Homeschool Mom Speaks

A recent post by blogger Julie Anne Smith appeared on Homeschoolers Anonymous, and it reminded me of what I wrote in my essay “Homeschooling Under the Influence.” In Julie Anne’s case, she’s coming from the homeschool parent’s perspective, speaking personally as one of those who was sucked in.

My husband and I have been married 27 years and have 7 children from 25 yrs down to our 6-yr old “caboose”.  We have always homeschooled.  We have always believed that this was the best choice for our family.  We have been to many churches due to my husband’s military service and job changes.  Many people have influenced us in our homeschooling, parenting, marriage, and our Christian life journey and right now, I am angry.  I am angry about what I have discovered looking over our marriage, looking at our parenting styles over the years, looking at decisions we have made, looking at people who influenced us — people we trusted to be godly, like-minded and who wanted the best for their children and families.

If you have not been connected with the homeschool movement and click on some of these links, you might say:  “Um, yea, you drank the Kool-Aid long ago.”  If you’ve been in the homeschool movement, you will probably be nodding along and can reminisce with me. I will take you on a wild journey going back through what I have experienced or seen in the past couple decades as a homeschooling mom.  Here is a sampling, and not in any order, of the kinds of influences, beliefs, philosophies, practices we dealt with or were familiar with among the homeschooling movement over the years:

This is exactly what I was talking about. It happened to my parents and to Julie Anne and to so many others.

Why did we have so many children?  How do you know when your quiver is full?  Would we have had this many children if we hadn’t listened to specific teachings?  Who invented the jumper dress?  Why did I sometimes feel guilty if I didn’t wear my denim jumper?  I no longer own a denim jumper.  Who decided Gregg Harris or Michael Farris were the spokesmen for homeschoolers?  Why did so many homeschoolers flock to the articles and books of Mary Pride?

Is it okay to refrain from sex to not get pregnant or is that saying “no” to God’s blessings of children?  Did it really mean one isn’t trusting God if taking measures to prevent pregnancy after cycles returned 6 weeks postpartum (and round-the-clock nursing)?  How many blessings of babies did I prevent by taking matters in my own hands?  Is God mad at me for my “interference” of “His plan”?

What about all of those families who stop having babies after only 4 children or 2 children — are they disobeying God?  Why don’t they want God’s blessings?  Who is targeting the homeschooling community to convince them to pop out babies to overpopulate the world with Christians babies?  Why does this same dude bombard our mailboxes right before Christmas to encourage us to buy Christmas toys (gender specific boy toys for boy and girly girl toys for girls) when their family does not celebrate this “pagan” holiday?

How did I get to the point where I believed that I may be treading dangerously if I was not a member of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association? Who would protect me if someone from school district came to my door and wanted to find out why my children weren’t attending the evil government school down the block?  How many homeschool families printed out instructions on what to say to government officials  if “they” came unannounced to our door to interrogate?  How many of us had HSLDA phone numbers in a prominent place — just in case? Where did all of this fear come from?

Why was I corrected when I said “public” school instead of their preferred “government” school?  Is there an agenda going on? Who is feeding all of this? Who decided that boys should be owning their own home businesses to support their families?  Who decided that all colleges were bad until Patrick Henry College was founded by popular homeschool leaders in the “movement” and then all of a sudden it became “okay” and even “good” to send our kids away to college?

. . .

When did I get to the point where I looked down at my friends who were Christians and either sent their children to public or private schools when “they should” be teaching their own?  How did all of this happen?  Why do so many homeschoolers balk at immunizations? Why are some homeschoolers so proud?  Homeschooled kids were the smartest because they always won the National Spelling Bees, right? Who decided that homeschoolers should be involved with speech and debate? Why are so many families going to their state capitals and involving themselves in politics — because they were going to be the movers and shakers of world in the political arenas?  And why is my husband responsible for my faith and the faith of our children? And why do we have to go through him on spiritual matters?  Does God not speak directly to homeschool kids and wives?

Who told me about modesty and how I should be dressing and how my daughters should be dressing?  What does modesty have to do with homeschooling?  Why do all homeschool boys look alike with similar short haircuts?   Who convinced me that my children could never “date”, but must only “court” and that my husband gets to choose our children’s future spouses?  How did “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” become such a popular book?  Who named the government as “evil” for wanting to know how our children are educated?  Why do homeschoolers assume the worst when they file their “notice to intent” with their local school district?

. . .

And what about those who show up at conventions with head coverings — are we bad women if we don’t have them?   Who decided that family-integrated churches were better than traditional churches for our family?  Why is it that homeschoolers brag about their children being able to interact and socialize well, yet you can “pick them out” a mile away because they look and act so “different”?   Who has been instigating the us-vs-them mentality regarding so many of these topics?  Who decided that the only job that we should be teaching our daughters is to be “keepers of the home” and serving their fathers and then serving their future husbands?

Who decided a 1/4-inch plumber’s line was an appropriate tool for spanking?  Who taught us that if we had to repeat a command twice to our children, our children were being disobedient:  First-Time Obedience.   How did we let this group convince us that all infants should be able to go 4 hours between feedings.  What single man decided that fathers were an umbrella of authority over the family below God?  What same man also encouraged men and women to get vasectomies and tubal ligations reversed to allow God to control the size of their families and then paraded post-reversal children in front of the auditorium at conventions?

And there’s more. Go read it. This is so much what I was talking about. The Christian homeschool world is awash in all of these ideas, and people get pulled in little by little, without meaning to. It’s like the frog in the kettle, who doesn’t notice the temperature rising until it’s too late. Fortunately, there are increasing numbers of people homeschooling for secular reasons, and thus more resources and co-ops that fall outside of these toxic influences. Still, even these homeschooling parents have to be careful not to get sucked in—my own parents, after all, started out homeschooling for secular reasons.

I wish my mom could be where Julie Anne is. I wish she could look at all of that and say “wait a minute, how did I end up sucked into all of this?!” And Julie Anne really wasn’t all that different from my mom. When I read what she did to her young adult daughter, I couldn’t help but be reminded, again and again, of how my parents treated me when I was the same age. And yet, Julie Anne was able to break out of it and leave it behind, and is now doing her best to make up for the hurt she caused. If only my mother could come to the same realizations.

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.

  • swimr1

    I have a friend who homeschooled because her kid really needed the extra time/attention. Expensive private school was not working so she sacrificed a lot to homeschool. Unfortunately, I’ve seen her and her husband slowly slide into this kind of world.
    I used to be the more evangelical of the two of us. She and her husband now seem like they’ve been sucked into the world of christian creepiness while at the same time I’ve completely rejected everything about christianity. It’s really sad.

  • Hippie Gramma

    Libby, do you or any readers think there are certain personalities or types of people who are more likely to slip into the “dark side” of homeschooling? I’m starting to form a theory on this myself, and am curious about your perspective on this question. I’m wondering if there are certain personality traits or tendencies that might be more susceptible to cult-think and other influences, and therefore might benefit from, I don’t know exactly — prevention education? “Early intervention?”

    For instance, I wonder if the strict black-and-white thinking and rules-orientation of fundamentalism is attractive to people who have lived in chaotic environments, or people who crave routine and predictability, or high achievers who like the steps to be very well-defined, etc. It’s interesting how many intelligent, well-intentioned parents get sucked into these environments; I’m curious if there are other “risk” factors somewhere that could be identified so people could recognize the red flags in themselves, before they head down the wrong path, kind of like the child of an alcoholic being aware that they have a greater risk for addiction and related behaviors.

    • Lori

      I am a former homeschooling parent (for secular reasons and w/secular methods), and I know a family that fits a lot of your post. I have always gotten the impression that they were on a mission to build up their own self-esteem and standing in the world by creating their own model “tribe.” When the father would get so angry and blow up at the kids, it always seemed like it was because he was embarrassed by something they did wrong. When they obeyed him well or received complements about how well-behaved their children were in public, he would beam with pride and say, “See, it can be done.” And to be honest, they do both seem like happier, more confident people after all these years. They have also been humbled along the way (as we all have) and seem to handle their kids better these days, actually. But my theory has been that at least for this family, they were attracted to many of these things because it offered a system in which they could show the world that they had a better way in order to build up their own self-images which seemed rather low at the beginning of the journey. Their family seems to be their life’s work.

    • Anonymouse

      Hippie Gramma, you raise a really thought-provoking question. I was raised in a military family (yearly moves, lots of chaos) by black-and-white thinkers who were quite acquainted with dealing out physical and emotional abuse. They were very authoritative, too. Despite that, they never fell into the fundamentalist mindset, nor did any of the children. I homeschool my child for completely non-religious reasons (started in high school) and just cannot believe some of the ideas I encounter in the homeschooling groups I belong to. We mostly socialize with our public school contacts because homeschool social gatherings have so often proven to be so challenging. For example, the other homeschoolers feel perfectly free to proselytize to my son and are very self-righteous that they don’t watch tv, listen to current music, or live in greater society, but my son is not free to say he enjoys movies and books.

    • gimpi

      I think the gradual nature of the process might be a big factor. You start out with one idea, home-schooling a child that might have problems with disability or bullying, whatever. Then, you meet people to share resources with, and find yourself adapting to your new circle in small ways. We are social animals, after all. You make small changes, then more small changes, and your views start to shift, reflecting the ideas you are getting from your new circle of friends. More changes, more adaptions, and eventually things you would have laughed at a few years ago are now the center of your world-view. I have seen it happen in both religion and politics, and it really is the frog-boiling paradigm.
      That’s why I think reality-check are so important. Whatever you believe, I think it’s a good idea to seek out sane, reasoned views that are different. Not to change your mind, necessarily, though it’s fine if that happens, but to pull you back, keep you from moving into a self-reinforcing bubble. We all know where that bubble leads, you wind up on national TV, gaping like a fish, trying to explain why your “sure thing” didn’t happen. Not pretty.

    • Mogg

      A little bit of research on cult recruitment techniques and the types of people they target is quite interesting, and I suspect that like any cult, people who are prone to getting involved in fundamentalist, Quiverfull, home schooling circles are idealistic in some way (presumably to do with family and childraising in this particular example), dissatisfied with something about their world (perhaps they have experienced or observed a lot of pain from dysfunctional family life), a little bit lacking in confidence and assertiveness so that they are less likely to question or disobey leaders, and often going through a stressful time of life or big life change and needing some support – college kids, newlyweds or couples with their first child, people who have had some kind of trauma.

      My father fits this pattern exactly. My family got involved in a church which was fundamentalist, purity/courting, and semi-cultic in nature when my dad was invited to a men’s retreat. My dad was professionally quite successful but lacked a certain amount of self-confidence, and he and Mum had (and still have) a fairly difficult marriage. He went through a period where his career was pretty much destroyed mostly through the actions of another person, he had several deaths in his family including his own mother, and he developed a serious illness, all while trying to raise three kids, and someone told him that here was the way to make his family and marriage better… twenty years later, he and mum are still there hanging onto promises that if they are just obedient enough God will bless them, but his life has been destroyed, the family is dispersed and divided, the marriage is still difficult, his health has deteriorated, and he has been financially ripped off.

    • Sgaile-beairt

      most of the quiverful/dominionist families i know, reacted (rebelled!!) into it, were from military families, and were also very rules-oriented….i think yr right….

  • swimr1

    @ Hippie Gramma – I often wonder how I was sucked into the evangelical movement in high school. My family was nominally christian (didn’t even go to church much) and I fell for the extreme evangelical thing hook, line and sinker. I think my tendency to follow rules, be responsible and work hard played a big part. I also think, when you are spoon fed these bits and pieces of a pretty picture (and never exposed to the darker elements) you get gradually sucked in. Add some nice people who are seeming to do good things into the mix, and a little of the scare tactics to make your movement seem like the right choice and, viola! you are immersed before you know it. Once you are inside that bubble and you stop fraternizing with the “outside world” you really don’t see anything outside and don’t realize how small and insular your world has become.

    I don’t know what the answer to preventing this is. Aside from raising your kids to QUESTION everything, which is my current plan…

    • Christine

      But isn’t homeschooling one of the best tools for ensuring that your kids get a problem-posing education?

      And yes, I’m deliberately being a shit disturber – I’m sure that unusual educational opportunities (homeschooling, unschooling, private schools, etc) are a great way to receive an amazing education. They’re also a great way to receive an awful education. Public schools are more about getting a guaranteed decent education.

      • swimr1

        @ Christine: I can’t imagine for one moment that I would be able to offer my three kids the opportunities or the quality of education they are getting in our local public school/s. I have a degree from a fairly prestigious University and I always did well in school as a kid. However, as well as I did and as motivated to work hard as I am, there is no way I could cover the ground that teachers in their various specialized disciplines do on a day to day basis with my children. I know I’m lucky that my kids like learning and that they live in a nice neighborhood with good schools and lots of parent involvement. There is just no way in hell, IMO, that I could provide as well-rounded an educational experience for them by schooling them myself.

      • Christine

        I personally don’t think that I could match the quality of a public school experience for my daughter either, but in the cases where someone is a very capable and motivated and is up for learning on their own and directing their own education there are a lot of other benefits. I completely agree about the benefits of properly-certified teachers (I had a few who were obviously teaching in their secondary or tertiary teachables, and they were horrible). I’m also not actually the biggest fan of problem-posing education, as I feel that there is a good value to respecting the greater knowledge of experts in the field, as long as you don’t turn them into unquestionable oracles.

      • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

        “in the cases where someone is a very capable and motivated and is up for learning on their own and directing their own education there are a lot of other benefits.”

        I think I’ve said this before, but this is one thing that sometimes bugs me about the pro-homeschooling side–not them arguing that it can be done well, but that it’s something EVERYONE should do. And there’s all kinds of reasons that people shouldn’t homeschool.

    • Hippie Gramma

      @swimr1, There’s probably some truth to that… I managed to avoid getting sucked in at various times in my life, and I DO question everything, to a fault. And though despite my questions I might have eventually fallen right in line (with enough positive attention and love-bombing)… it was actually the act of questioning itself that led them to exclude me. “I just don’t ever think you’ll be submissive enough,” I was told, for example (they were right!).

      I also think the teenage years are an especially susceptible time for indoctrination. We haven’t fully developed our abstract thinking at our age, lots of things can make logical sense if we don’t follow the threads deeply enough, and we long for the easy security we felt (or wanted) when we were younger. I guess that’s not new; cults used to regularly recruit teens.

      • swimr1

        @ Hippie Gramma: lol @ not being “submissive enough.” Smart woman.
        I’ve definitely developed my “rebellious” side over the last 20 years… :) I consider myself really lucky that, despite my tendency to follow rules, I also question them. When they make sense, I’m the first one in line. When they seem bogus, that’s when I have issues. Those issues eventually got me out of that crazy christian world (though it was a long and painful process). I’m also really lucky that my parents were never part of that whole scene and that I wasn’t indoctrinated from infancy. That would be REALLY hard.
        Questioning is a really good thing…

    • machintelligence

      I don’t know what the answer to preventing this is. Aside from raising your kids to QUESTION everything, which is my current plan…

      For those of you who have not yet encountered it (probably all of three of you) I heartily recommend the free on line book “The Authoritarians” by Bob Altemeyer.
      http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/
      He deals with the excessive respect for authority, the isolation and the fear which result in authoritarian followers; and the danger inherent in how easily they may be lead off a cliff.

      • Cathy W

        …so I wasn’t the only one who thought “Authoritarian follower” was the personality type at risk of getting “sucked in”…

  • Kiki

    Public schools are a great way to get an amazing education, a terrible education, or something in between, but homeschooling is a terrific way to get no education at all.

    Even having been home “schooled” (*because* of having been homeschooled?) I, in all honesty, can’t really understand the reasoning that goes into deciding to homeschool a kid, except in the case of a severe disability, or one or both parents being qualified teachers.

    Plenty of regular people are probably fine with the idea of homeschooling, even if they themselves send their kids to an actual school, but how many of them would be comfortable with the idea of legal “home-doctoring” for those parents who distrust medical professionals?

    If homeschooling were a reasonable idea, if untrained people were capable of adequately educating kids, then there would be no reason to insist on meticulous training for real teachers in real schools. Teachers and pediatricians have to go through rigorous schooling for the same reason: CHILDREN’S SAFETY. It makes me so angry to see this kind of treatment of kids be completely accepted on grounds of “parental rights” or some crap; but this is legalized abuse of children’s emotional and social development. This is abuse of their intellects…preaching to the choir, I know >__>

  • Tess

    You know, it still boggles my mind whenever I consider how much I naturally just know about this subculture when most of my current friends are completely ignorant about its existence. I mean, for a good chunk of my life it was totally *the dominant culture* in my corner of the world, even though it’s mostly a somewhat-distant-bizarro-land to me now.

  • http://truthspew.wordpress.com Truthspew

    I’ll be honest, if I had a child there’s no way in hell he’d go into public schools. They’re all basically rote memorization factories now.

    And I’m coming to the point in my life where I’ll have the time to be around for kids. Isn’t that always the way. Anyhow – I’d homeschool though my curricula would have ZERO religious component in it.

    • swimr1

      “They’re all basically rote memorization factories now.”
      And your hard data to support this sweeping generalization is what, exactly?

    • Noelle

      My kids’ schools aren’t rote memorization factories, and neither are the ones I attended as a child. Not sure where you’re getting your information from.

    • ako

      That’s just not true. There are a lot of public schools out there, including some excellent ones that encourage creativity and independent learning. I’d advise anyone trying to find the best education for their child to at least look at their local public schools instead of assuming they’re all crap.

    • AnotherOne

      Another parent here with kids in public school who wonders where on earth you’re getting your information about “rote memorization factories.” If anything, I wish my kids memorized more. I thin, because I believe memorization is a valuable, enriching skill that is mostly lost in our society. But in general I’m very, very happy with the education my kids are getting at their public schools.

      • machintelligence

        This is a bit of a derail, but there is a reason why rote memorization is being downplayed. Why spend valuable time memorizing something when the information you need is at your fingertips in your smart phone? Since the invention of writing we have been downloading memory to the printed page, and this is just a further extension of that process. There is the further advantage that physical records do not degrade like memory does. As an engineer that I knew once told me:
        “I don’t care how confident I am that I remember a constant or a formula, if it is critical I look it up anyway.”
        After you mis-attribute a quote or two, you learn to Google first.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lucrezaborgia Lucreza Borgia

    After reading many stories about homeschooling going horribly wrong, I sometimes wonder if there is some sort of secret playbook that everyone is operating out of because of how similar they all sound. One of the common threads is the joining of a local HS group or going to a HS convention and I wouldn’t be surprised, at all, if some of the major Christian homeschool textbook producers have a hand in that too.

    • “Rebecca”

      Suddenly, I’m glad my parents kept the local homeschooling group at arm’s length. There was some nuttery going on in our worldview but we avoided, for instance, the anti-vaccination and overt patriarchy stuff.

    • Anonymouse

      I don’t think the playbook is so secret, LOL. Seriously, I belong to several online support groups, and they’re all freaking out about standards in education. I’m getting identical emails all with the same “the sky is falling! PANIC!!!!” message. Someone at the top is carefully crafting these tinfoil hat messages and disseminating them through religious homeschooling pipes.

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  • http://www.spiritualsoundingboard.com Julie Anne

    Hi Libby Anne – thanks for posting my article. Hippie Gramma asked what kind of person gets sucked into this stuff (my words). I have spent a lot of time thinking about it. Both my husband and I come from very dysfunctional homes with abuse. We both were trying to hard to not let anything like that happen to our children. We had great intentions, but then got caught up into the movement.

    The post I did “In Honor of Hannah” about my daughter I still cannot read without crying. It’s painful for me to realize what we put her through. Thankfully, Hannah and I are doing very well. We have a great relationship and I know I do not deserve it.

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

      It was hard for me to read that post, because my parents put me through something very similar, and while we’ve sort of papered it over since we haven’t actually dealt with it. There has been no closure. They didn’t let my siblings be in my wedding, and almost didn’t come at all—and though they did finally decide to come, they sat in the back. It’s just, all the terrible things they did to me, and especially that my mother did to me, they’ve never apologized. It’s not that I want them groveling or anything, but at this point they don’t think they did anything wrong. In fact, my mother still thinks I need to apologize to them, and tells me as much. It hurts, it hurts so bad, and I don’t see it getting better in the future.

      And worse, I have a handful of sisters yet to grow up. As the move through their teenage years approaching adulthood, I cringe as I wonder what will happen to them. And I can’t stop it. I couldn’t stop what they did to my close in age sister either, or to one of my brothers who now can’t go back to their house without having PTSD-like symptoms. And yet they act all syrupy sweet and and innocent as though nothing ever happened at all. And we just stare in disbelief. And it hurts.

      Anyway, that’s more than needed saying.

      • http://www.spiritualsoundingboard.com Julie Anne

        I understand completely what you are talking about, Libby Anne, because I could see that we could have gone that far, too (ouch!). As it was, my husband didn’t contact our daughter for 6 months until one day I literally threw the phone at him. (Can’t remember if that’s in the story or not.) I was already emotionally distancing myself from the abusive church (though still there) and my husband was still fully there. I actually think he was quietly upset at me for contacting Hannah. I’m so glad I followed my gut because as you know in a patriarchal home, I should have been deferring to him.

        Right now it sounds like you are experiencing what so many people who belong to cults experience. Have you been following the Phelps gals who escaped Westboro Baptist? I know it’s killing them that their siblings and relatives are still there while they are for the first time ever experiencing freedom. And the most difficult thing is you can’t rescue your siblings – you can only watch what was so destructive to you. It’s so painful.

        And you are right – - the sad thing is that you will not get the kind of closure that you desire until (if) your parents have the blinders pulled off. There are so many parents who are still “blaming the victim” not realizing they caused so much turmoil. And there’s not a dang thing you can do about that, either. So it’s kind of like you’re in a holding pattern and that’s not the best place to be, either. Anyway, enough rambling from me. I’m sorry that you have had to go through this, that you are reliving it through your siblings, and I hope one day you do get closure so that you can be free from all of this. Sometimes life really sucks :( I was just thinking that you might be very instrumental in their lives after they leave home – - especially having the knowledge you do. That is a gift that you can give them and it might bring you closer to them than you might have been otherwise. ~ja

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

        Thanks, Julie Anne.

  • Cristi

    It is definitely one small step at a time. I try to explain that to my homeschool friends right now, but it’s difficult for them to understand. Yes, I grew up in a bad homschooling environment, but it didn’t start out that way. It started out with Kindergarten and that part of homeschooling was pretty good. It’s when you wake up in 5th or 8th grade and realize that you’re in way too deep and you’ll never fit in with kids your own age and your parents are far enough down the path that they don’t see a reason why you should fit in with kids your own age. Then you’re stuck. Too young to get out on your own but too old to just blend in somewhere else.

  • saramaimon

    julie anne, rarely do parents ask forgiveness for what they have done for their children. i hold you in the highest eesteem. your daughter had forgiven you, perhaps noe one day you will be able to forgive youtself

  • Emily

    I realize this was a small point of a large article, but here it is: I’m a mother of an infant and read this while hooked up to a breast pump at work. HOW in the WORLD do you feed an infant only every 4 hours?!?! That had to have been painful for everyone involved.

    • Christine

      Your supply will adjust to the “demand”. If you only nurse every 4 hours, you won’t feel like it’s been too long. Also, I was able to go 3-4 hours (I expressed beforehand) with a 7-week-old with very few problems.

      • emily

        Engorgement is bad but I was thinking more about the pain of screaming from hunger and listening to my baby scream from hunger. He has growth spurts and cluster feeds pretty regularly. I would be denying him a lot of food and growth if I tried to put him on a 4 hour schedule.

      • Christine

        Ah, I was thinking in terms of it being painful for the baby alone. On the advice of a lactation consultant (I would not do something so drastic on my own, don’t worry) I put my daughter on a once-an-hour schedule. I agree that it was pretty hard to do. I read “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” because I wanted to see what the fuss was about, and at one point the author was looking to buy parenting books and her request for suggestions turned into a Sears vs Ezzo flame war. I’m amazed that no one made the comment that Ezzo goes against basic child welfare with feeding advice in that thread, without saying “no read Sears instead”.

    • Rosa

      there was a really good blogger who erased her blog (I assume for family privacy reasons) who talked about how hard the feeding scheduling was with her infants, and the way she described how she thought about it and convinced herself it was the right thing to do was really beautiful but also really chilling.

    • Nebuladancer

      Feeding a baby every four hours was old advice based on formula, not breastfeeding. The Ezzo’s are famous for promoting this feeding schedule with either. They did this to shape the child’s character, not because there was any value for the child’s physical health and well being (they are not nutritionists, nurses, or doctors of any medical stripe). Ever since a few children died from their parents following this program the AAP has been assertively encouraging medical personnel to teach and warn parents why this is bad advice. WIC programs also tell every parent they see not to follow this advice, but those who avoid any sort of allopathic medicine slip through the information cracks. When we were young home schools I had more than one “veteran” homeschooler tell me not to bother with the Ezzo’s baby book, just to start with the toddler one. So some people are learning, but I do not yet know if the Ezzo’s have edited their book to reflect healthy eating practices for infants.

  • http://www.spiritualsoundingboard.com Julie Anne

    Hi Emily:

    All of my babies were over 9 pounds at birth (biggest was 13 lbs – no typo) and they all could go 4 hrs between nursings as a newborn. I think that is because they were bigger. This is probably not the norm, however. I think smaller babies require more frequent feedings.

    • emily

      I guess I’m reiterating your point in your post: why the rigidity? Who said every newborn should need to eat on the same schedule? How could that possibly work for everyone all the time? It would be cruel of me to make my baby fit that mold because his needs are different. The range of normal is pretty wide so I follow his feeding cues. And for what its worth I’m following the advise of lactation consultants in doing so.

      • Anonymouse

        This is another case where a certain flavor of religious people require newborns to be more mature than grown men. Grown men get dinner on the table at their command, no excuses! Newborn babies are expected to wait to eat until the parent feels like feeding them.

      • Nebuladancer

        I mentioned it above in my earlier reply, but the feeding schedule was about shaping the child’s character. Babies were to learn that they cannot get whatever they want just by crying (even though this is virtually the only method they possess). They are to learn that food comes when it comes and they are to develop patience and trust and the parents absolute authority over their lives.

    • Noelle

      My grandma was alive to see a handful of her great-grands. Once, while I was nursing one if my babies, she remarked how things were so different now compared to the early 50s when she had her babies. She said she only nursed for a few weeks before putting together the formula as directed in the condensed milk can. And they were told they had to space feedings 4 hours apart. She said it was horrible, listening to her babies cry in hunger and thinking she wasn’t allowed to feed them. And here, her granddaughters just popped baby on the breast wherever he or she was hungry, time be damned. I miss her.

      I’m surprised that this bit of baby care advice has survived this long in any form as well.

  • Naomi

    I’ve been reading your blog with interest for over a year, and wanted to say that our four kids do a combination of homeschooling and public and charter schools, depending on the child. I used to be a public school teacher in a large urban district, and saw first-hand the stultifying drive toward teaching to a test. It took a lot of creativity out of teaching. My husband and I also wanted the freedom to spend time with grandparents, travel abroad, go to libraries and museums, etc, that homeschooling afforded. But each year we re-evaluate and choose the best option for each child (with the child’s input!).

    However, I must say that the kind of homeschooling in which you grew up, and the type that Julie Ann describes, is utterly creepy! Please know that there are large numbers of homeschoolers out here to whom this scenario would be completely foreign. I attended a homeschool convention two years ago, which is where I first met people who believed what Julie Ann describes. It was eye-opening and more than a bit distressing!

    Finally, in my experience as a parent, I know that there will always be good choices for our children’s educations, and choosing one good option over another will inevitably produce some angst as to the path we might have taken. At such times, we must appreciate that we do the best we can for each particular child, based on the information available at the time.

  • http://Love,Joy,Feminism Northstar

    My experience is much like Naomi’s — our county has over 200 families in its explicitly secular homeschooling group. It is open to all, so there is some amount of crossover from the explicitly Christian homeschooling group — so the “sucking in” can work both ways! But many of the cultural aspects of homeschooling Libby Anne discusses are absolutely unfamiliar to me, and I read about them with a kind of fascinated horror. (I didn’t even get about 90% of those cute homeschooling videos.) We are more than just the stereotypes… people homeschool for many reasons. I would love to see it much more socially acceptable, especially for non-religious reasons… there isn’t a teen suicide from bullying that I don’t wince and wish they (and their parents) knew they had other options.
    Also, and just to brag a little, I hope people don’t write off too easily what a concerned parent can rise to when homeschooling. My just-turned-17 eldest just got her SAT and SAT II scores back and whatever my failings as an educator, parent and human, she’s managed to get a world-class, elite-prep-school level education somewhere… and in fact she’s already been contacted by 3 of the Ivies. Wow. You cannot know how mind-blowing that is for people like us… And that without the enormous amount of stress that is put on high school students nowadays — or even much homework.
    I am very thankful I never had to teach to the test and could pace and do our schooling just as we pleased, when we pleased. It was (and still is) a very unique program.


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