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.

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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.