A Few Leave . . . but Others Stay

I recently read a post by Lana that made me think about everyone I left behind when I left my conservative evangelical patriarchal homeschool upbringing.

With all the [ex] conservative homeschooler blogs out there nowadays, people may be under the impression that homeschool fundamentalism has virtually disappeared among homeschool alumni. To be sure, this Christian movement among homeschool graduates is dying a very slow and painful death. But it is so far from over, and I have so many friends still trapped in the ideology that I constantly feel the tension with old friends and old hangouts.

I don’t spend as much time in my old hangouts as Lana, so I don’t feel quite as much of the tension that she feels, but I’d like to echo what she says about not assuming that the thriving ex-conservative-homeschooler blogosphere means there’s some sort of mass exodus going on. Sure, there’s an exodus . . . but in my experience most stay.

Out of the half dozen girls I was closest to in high school, only one has left. You know her as Kate. Two others are still living at home, under the authority of their father, having never left home even as they are now in their mid- to late twenties. One married young, going straight from her father’s home to her husband’s and has begun to fill her husband’s quiver with arrows. The final two left home with their fathers’ blessings and attended college in traditionally feminine pursuits, only to return home to live once again under their fathers’ authority afterwards. Both were Gothard girls; one now attends Vision Forum conferences with her family.

When I widen the net to the dozen or so girls I knew as acquaintances and saw only from time to time, the numbers don’t get any better. Of the four girls who were in a Gothard Bible study with me, only one has questioned and left. Others I don’t know about—they just drifted away after I left. Two girls I knew are divorced, having married early to men who turned out to be abusive. Others, I really can’t say. When I widen the net still further, to the teens I participated in debate with or saw at homeschool camps, I can point to a few more. One girl I met at a homeschool camp left home and would up pregnant. Things were hard with her family for a time, but she made it through and questioned some things along the way. Another girl I met at a homeschool camp also questioned and left. One guy I knew through debate turned out to be gay. He came out and headed for the big city. But of the dozens and dozens others I knew through these venues? I have very little idea.

Of the guys, it’s really hard to say, and for a very interesting reason. It’s easy to tell when a girl leaves. There are angry sparks and an extremely visible rift is torn. When a guy leaves? In my experience, the process is generally not quite so fraught with trouble, and is sometimes invisible on the outside. No one is going to be telling that guy that he is supposed to submit to his father, or that it’s his role to follow, or that he shouldn’t be pursuing a career. The family expects him to go off on his way and forge his own way, even if they also expect him to maintain a specific ideological viewpoint. When a guy leaves, 4 times out of 5, it just looks like he’s doing what he’s supposed to do—leaving home, going to college, getting a job, and starting his own life. When a girl does those things, she’s often seen as stepping outside of the box she was supposed to contentedly inhabit.

There really isn’t any way to get at exact numbers, but Lana is right. We left plenty of people behind when they didn’t walk the same path we did, and some of them are now repeating our parents’ patterns.

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.

  • AnonaMiss

    What percentage of the women who stay would you estimate go on to have children & raise them in that environment, and what percentage stays on as adult daughters in their fathers’ households?

    • Boo

      That was my first thought as well. If part of their belief system is women should have as many babies as possible, then wouldn’t it be wrong for a father to wait until his daughter is 30 to find her a match? Plus, what happens to women who become pregnant outside of marriage or if she is raped? Wouldn’t she be considered unfit for marriage and ‘useless,’ by their standards? And what happens to women who divorce? Do they go back to their father’s house? Or do all these women get chased out of the community, so that everyone can continue to live under the delusion of a perfect world?

    • AnotherOne

      I can’t answer this, but I think unmarried adult women are really the achilles’ heel of the movement. when you give boys much more latitude and agency in whom they choose to marry than you do girls, you screw up the numbers of available men vs. women within the confines of the movement. most of the homeschooled boys i’ve known have married christian girls, but they were usually mainstream evangelical girls who weren’t/aren’t all that interested in being quiverfull and homeschooling their kids. but most hardcore quiverfull parents i’ve known won’t let their daughters court mainstream evangelical boys. so you end up with lots of older girls/women who have no quiverfull/CP boys to court or marry. In the circles I grew up in, most of the unmarried girls got sick of waiting around by the time they were in their late 20s, and they got jobs, left home, their parents loosened up, and they either made their own life as single women or married evangelicals or whoever later on. That’s why this stay-at-home daughter horseshit chaps my ass so bad (not to put too fine a point on it). People in the movement saw this happen, and so they came up with yet another trap to hang onto the women.

      • Sally

        “That’s why this stay-at-home daughter horseshit chaps my ass so bad (not to put too fine a point on it). People in the movement saw this happen, and so they came up with yet another trap to hang onto the women.”
        That theory makes a lot of sense.

      • AnotherOne

        (I should probably apologize for expressing my disdain for the stay-at-home daughter movement in such impolite terms. I usually try to phrase things in such a way that my language doesn’t prevent certain circles from hearing my ideas, but it’s hard sometimes).

      • Boo

        But why? That is the million dollar question. Do they want to keep these young women home to help school the younger kids? What is the purpose of a society that keeps women at home for their fathers to provide for them forever? Do they have so little foresight that they don’t see what will happen when the father finally dies? I read a book about the polygamous cult in TX and women were kept very controlled and the young men were chased off. But that was because there wasn’t enough women for each man to have multiple wives, so it was necessary to keep as many women as possible. But that is not happening here. What is their purpose in having so many young women wasting their lives living at home forever while their sons just walk away?

      • AnotherOne

        I wonder that too. I think it’s more that they haven’t thought this through. To me it feels like a knee-jerk reaction to the fact that all the unspoken promises (follow the xyz of courtship and God’s plan and you’ll get married and have the perfect QF family) didn’t come true. People in the movement needed a way to explain why the thing that had been cast as God’s unchanging design for humanity just wasn’t happening for a lot of people who had followed the “right” steps. What do you tell these dutiful women who followed their parents every suggestion and command, who were on board with courtship, who did everything right, and yet found no godly husband to be fruitful and multiply with? What do you do when the thing you’ve told them is their whole purpose and worth in life just doesn’t materialize? And the stay-at-home daughter stuff is what they came up with. Of course, to the outsider, the practical ramifications make this strategy seem ridiculously nonsensical. But for now it’s a young enough movement that they don’t have to deal with the fact that one day, these women are going to lost their fathers and have no way of supporting themselves. I’m kind of scared to see what crap they’ll come up with then. Maybe stay-at-home daughter suttee?

      • Sally

        “I think it’s more that they haven’t thought this through. To me it feels like a knee-jerk reaction to the fact that all the unspoken promises (follow the xyz of courtship and God’s plan and you’ll get married and have the perfect QF family) didn’t come true.”

        This.

        (Sally here … because it looks like Discus is messing up the user names right now.)

      • Alix

        Disqus has a known bug where it screws up Guest names, unless you refresh comments. It’s really effing annoying.

      • Boo

        Okay, this makes more since now. A few years ago some people believed the world was going to end on May 21. When it didn’t, instead of admitting they had been wrong, they dug their heels in and refused to accept it. They changed the date to October. Now I remember reading about how people involved in these groups, usually, cling tighter to their beliefs when faced with reality instead of admitting they were wrong. Maybe this is what is happening.

      • CarysBirch

        Harold Camping’s folks? My dad liked to listen to him on the radio. I found it exhausting.

      • kisarita

        my guess is that their main purpose is to prevent those women from leaving the fold, at whatever cost

      • smrnda

        I think they thought they could create a whole new culture on their own, with new norms for forming relationships and marriages through ‘courtship’ and that it just didn’t work out. Part of it might be that fathers ended up being incredibly picky about what young men they would allow to ‘court’ their daughters, or that the movement is small enough that there aren’t enough potential mates who will survive a vetting process.

      • TLC

        This phenomenon extends to other evangelical churches, too. Women are told that they are NOT to indicate their interest in a man, let alone ask one out, because then you’re “striving” and “outside of God’s plan for you.” You’re supposed to sit at home and wait and pray, and then God will bring that perfect person to you.

        The pastor of the first church I attended did a two-part sermon about what the “perfect spouse” should be like. A couple of years later when I left, I realized that there was not one single man at this church who was like this! There were tons of single moms, but fewer than 10 single men in their 40s at this church. The singles group cut off membership at age 30. It was very difficult to meet single men in this church of 4,000+ members, let alone find the “perfect” one to date!

        I think this is much more about controlling women, and feeding the egos of the men who are controlling them, that it is about finding the right spouse.

      • Kit

        I actually read an interesting article about this some time ago, which I just tried to google and can’t find it :( The point being, however, that in evangelical Christianity, men don’t ask women out either, and women aren’t supposed to ask men out. Men don’t ask women out because dating has become such a high-stress thing – since you’re supposed to be pure and all that, trying a relationship and having it not work out (whether or not there was sex involved) is apparently really damaging. As a result, men don’t ask women out because asking a woman out is tantamount to a marriage proposal at some Christian colleges.

  • Sally

    Some may leave later in life. We were not as conservative, but of the kids I hung around in my youth group in high school, 2 out of 10 (including myself) left the faith later in life (late 20s and early 30s). I had even married a Christian (still married to him). Some may soften their views over time as real life happens. I have some relatives that that has happened to.
    My sister never was a Christian, and both my parents had crises of faith after their divorce even later in life (late 40s, early 50s). So the whole Christian family of 4 I grew up in is no longer Christian. We spent our time in a medium level conservative church when I was growing up, but my parents were open-minded and questioned things. So no huge surprise there.

    • Sally

      Oh, and one youth group friend turned out to be gay. I think he may still practice Christianity, but obviously not in a conservative setting.

    • Emma

      I think this also raises another interesting point: even if you have to wait a while for people to leave, I don’t think very many of those will ever go back to CP/QF. That’s just my impression though; others may have different sense of this. So, time is on our side, I hope.

  • Jayn

    I’ve been a little curious about birth order when it comes to people leaving. It seems to me that a lot of the ex-fundie bloggers, at least of those who grew up in the movement, are the eldest child/daughter–most of the ones I’ve read mention younger siblings, but it’s pretty rare to hear them talk about older ones, especially older sisters.

    • ZeldasCrown

      I agree. It seems to me that the vast majority of blogs I’ve come across are from oldest siblings. I wonder if this is a birth order thing, or if it’s due to the fact that the bloggers tend to be in the mid-20′s-early 30′s range, and thus tend to still have many siblings under 18 (and thus still at home, so perhaps in time there will be more younger siblings). I’ve also noticed that the bloggers also tend to be female. Could it be related to the fact that the oldest daughter often has to taken on the role of mother for her younger siblings (and other experiences that would be somewhat unique to an oldest daughter)?

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

        I addressed the age thing in replying to Jayn, but wanted to touch on the gender thing. This lifestyle affects the girls more than it affects the boys. Plenty of boys make it off scot free, launched into the world as independent entities and living their own lives. Even if they leave the lifestyle, it’s not like all that much changes for them. They weren’t bombarded with modesty teachings, they weren’t responsible for raising their younger siblings, they weren’t expected to stay home as young adults and give up any hope of a career, they weren’t told that their role in life was to submit. For the girls, it’s wrenching and it changes everything. And so we blog.

      • AnotherOne

        I used to think the boys got off scot free, too, and it was frustrating and confusing to me that many of the teachings and practices that were so harmful and painful to me seemed to roll off them like so much water off a duck’s back. It’s true that in many ways girls are more controlled, and more harmed, by the patriarchal system of QF/CP. But over the last five years or so I’ve started to see life meltdowns in some of the men’s lives who I always thought had gotten away so easily.

        These days I think it’s more that the ill effects of the lifestyle hit women hardest as they transition from adolescence to adulthood, while they hit men the hardest in their 30s and 40s. I’m seeing men struggling in lives where they carry the immense burden of being, and viewing themselves as, sole breadwinners in a depressed economy, when they were given no tools to make a good living. They work long, hard days for little pay, and because they were always told that their worth lies in being providers for their family, they feel worthless because they can’t really provide no matter how they try. They’re also getting to a point where they realized that they missed out on adolescence, on sexual experiences, on having a period of life where they weren’t crushed by stress and responsibilities.

        Sure, this isn’t so much the case with homeschoolers from higher socioeconomic strata. But among homeschoolers from less affluent backgrounds I see lots of men who never went to college and who have little idea how to navigate a career, having been fed lines about starting their own businesses. (Just follow Dave Ramsey’s principles! Everything will be great! What, the economy tanked? Everything’s not fine? Your kid needs an operation, neither you nor your wife have marketable skills, and you have no insurance? Well, just have faith and contentment! And remember, you’re responsible before God not just for yourself, but for your WHOLE FAMILY! Have fun with that!)

        Seeing these grown men go through the kind of emotional crises I went through during late adolescence (and emotionally, they’re adolescents) is exceptionally painful to watch, and the fallout is so much worse at that stage of life than it was for me at 20.

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

        Sorry, you’re right, I should have clarified a bit. My personal experience is with those in higher SES groups, and in those, yes, it looks like the boys get off scot free. However, I’ve heard enough stories from those in lower SES groups to know that this is not universally true. Thanks for pointing that out!

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

        I wonder if this means we could have a spate of people blogging on that in ten years or so?

        Is there a gender difference when it comes to blogging, I wonder? If women in general more likely to blog . . . that helps explain some things.

      • AnotherOne

        Well, I think there’s a stage of life difference in blogging. If your life meltdown is happening in your 30s and 40s, it often involves spouses and older children/teens, and you’re usually swamped with mortgage payments and neverending work and responsibility and maybe health problems or medical bills and . . . . . It just makes blogging a lot more complicated, interpersonally speaking, and there’s less time for it. Plus, for better or worse, men have more power, but often receive more social blame for life meltdowns. So, whereas my story as a young woman escaping cultic Christian patriarchy can sound kind of heroic, a 40-year-old man deciding he can’t take his life anymore sounds kind of assholish. Granted, sometimes there’s some assholery going on, but more often than not, it’s just too complicated anymore for blogging to be of help.

      • AnotherOne

        I should probably say that men receive more social blame in *certain situations*. Women get lots of blame for all kinds of stuff. But my main point is that the narrative is often so much more complicated in later life meltdowns, and in my experience, that’s when men from backgrounds like mine tend to have them.

      • tulips

        Yes, everything you just said here and more. The stigma surrounding anything that might actually help can’t be overstated as well. The double bind runs deep into the marrow of this cult. So many of these men are ripe for a midlife crisis whose visible fallout could tank the whole structure as the carnage of extraordinary human casualty becomes public. All the Josh Duggars of the world whose faces are less public and thus less deserving of rescue…they will find themselves under skilled with large families in a down market they were told would save them if they voted against their interests. Very sad.

      • Joykins

        And because of the QF teachings, their WHOLE FAMILY is of a size difficult to provide for in most socioeconomic groups.

      • CarysBirch

        I witnessed this hit my dad when I was about ten years old. It was NOT pretty. He has regained his equilibrium since then, and it didn’t shake his Fundamentalism at all, but he had a definite crisis when he finally realized he was going to work all his life so my mom could stay at home and spend his money.

      • AnotherOne

        Well, I think categorizing it as “his” money is problematic, since there’s a reciprocal aspect going on–the stay at home spouse is doing necessary work like raising children, cooking, cleaning, shopping, and lots of other stuff. Both partners share in the benefits of that labor, even though the benefits don’t show up as cold hard cash. So it’s unfair to categorize the benefits (pay) of the person who works outside the home as his/hers alone.

        But yes, often there’s a point after kids get older where staying at home gets a lot easier than having to go off to work every day, and it’s easy for the working spouse to resent that. (Just like it’s easy for the stay at home parent of multiple small children to resent the spouse who goes off every day to a job that is easier than staying home).

      • CarysBirch

        Right – I should clarify, it was clear to us that that was his thought process — that he resented her staying home while he worked and viewed it as his money. I was not intending to say that SAHMs aren’t doing worthy work.

        Also, my parents’ particular dynamic IS one where she demands and he produces. He works very hard to support her hobbies and her hobbies aren’t cheap (restoring old homes, horses, historical reenactment). His hobbies… I don’t even know what they are! He’s interested in the space program I guess, and occasionally gets a cooking yen and makes homemade cheese or bagels. But for the most part he just works and takes care of my mom, and like, I think at least some women in her position, she’s learned dependence so thoroughly that she’s helpless without him and totally in the dark about the fact that many women can’t live her lifestyle and might not want to!

        Watching this dynamic at work all my life has made me resent my mother’s attitude toward work and money too.

      • AnotherOne

        Yeah, actually I think one of the main drawbacks of the leave-it-to-beaver model of labor distribution is that there’s so much potential for each spouse to take the other’s contributions for granted. I wince when I see stay at home spouses who lack a sense of the hard work behind the money that’s there–who just take for granted that the money is flowing, and spend it without second thought (which seems to happen more often in cases where the working spouse has a good income, and there aren’t tons of kids, which gives the SAH spouse ample time to cultivate expensive hobbies). And then there’s the working spouse who takes for granted the fact that s/he comes home and dinner is made and the house in order and the kids fed and taken care of. Which becomes particularly egregious when there’s a lot of kids, and keeping the homefront together involves a crushing workload.

        Not that other models of labor distribution keep people from being jerks, of course. But my husband and I have had the good fortune in our early childrearing years to switch back and forth between who was doing primary breadwinning and who was primarily SAH. And after each transition, we each had multiple aha! moments where we realized we had taken the other person’s contributions for granted.

      • brbr2424

        Couty Alexander is an example of a male who wanted out of the lifestyle. Once he got a taste of what he was missing, he murdered his pregnant wife.

      • smrnda

        I’d imagine that boys might grow up and be able to sort of leave the movement quietly. If a young man isn’t really into it, I’d imagine he could just spout the right opinions around his parents to make them feel like he’s still in.

    • sarah

      From my experience, the oldest child suffers the most because she/he serves as the guinea pig for new, young parents who are especially zealous and don’t really know how to parent yet. My parents became less fundamental as they saw that their child rearing tactics were hurting me. This made things better for my siblings, and seven kids later I am happy to say that the crowd that is still living at home is experiencing a semi-normal childhood, though still being trained with the help of homeschooling to be submissive, homophobic, not worldly, etc. Nevertheless, my parents spank a lot less, the older kids are occasionally allowed to wear jeans to church, and the word “dating” (as opposed to courtship) no longer brings my mom to tears. I really appreciate my parent’s ability to soften some of their beliefs, because in fundamental churches/homeschool co-ops that is a big no-no and usually costs friendships, respect, and support. My siblings, and perhaps other fundie’s younger siblings, have less to say about how detrimental this upbringing can be because, thankfully, they haven’t experienced it at its most harmful state.

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

        Oh, this is so true too! Sometimes the younger children do end up having lives that are almost normal, or at least much MORE normal. The process is usually one of lightening up over time rather than one of doubling down. Also, if the younger siblings want to leave their have their older siblings to support them, which makes the process easier and less wrenching and therefore less in need of blogging about.

    • skyblue

      I’m curious about this too – and I’d add that, while it would be darn near impossible to collect data on this, I wonder how much the chances of a younger sibling getting out increase when they have at least one older sibling who’s already out. I would think that having that example showing “it doesn’t have to be like this for me” and knowing that you have somewhere to turn to would increase the chances of younger siblings escaping, but the parents might change tactics with the remaining siblings after one child rejects their ideology.

      • AnotherOne

        Yeah, I’ve noticed that about older/oldest siblings too, and I think all the things people have mentioned come into play–parents who are more fanatical and less experienced earlier on, older siblings being so piled on with the drudgery of helping with tons of younger siblings, and the fact that the movement is still relatively young, and so we’re dealing with the first crop of young adults who came of age in the movement AND have access to the internet. (When I left the movement as a young adult the internet was still in its nascent stage and i barely used it. though some of that may have been due to my socioeconomic circumstances and background)

      • skyblue

        I was surprised to read the comments about parents becoming less strict over time – I would have thought they’d get more fanatical, just based on the one strict homeschooling family I knew growing up. Seems other people experienced the opposite though.

        Given internet access now, perhaps in a few years there will be more younger-sibling ex-QF/ATI blogs around.

      • Theo Darling

        I would definitely categorize my parents as more fanatical now than when I was a young child. But Christian fanaticism has so much more aesthetic appeal now than it did then. Like it /looks/ less extreme, but wow, no.

      • victoria

        I actually wonder if it might actually *decrease* the chance of a younger sibling making it out:

        * If there was an obvious “mistake” from the parents’ perspective that allowed more outside influence to come in — outside schooling, a church youth group, a job — the parents will be unlikely to repeat that choice with future siblings. (Am I wrong here, or didn’t Libby mention that her parents really regretted sending her to a secular university and as a result would not be sending the other kids — at least the other girls — to a non-Christian school)?

        * If you’re the first sibling to get out, you might have an idea of how your parents will react but you don’t know for sure. You know they’ll disapprove but you might think/hope they’ll come around in time and at least accept you somewhat. If an older sibling leaves and is basically disowned by the family, it’s kind of a warning to the others.

        I’m not sure about any of that, of course, but it makes sense…

      • skyblue

        Yeah, that does make sense. Good points, the parents’ reaction would make all the difference.

        I would think that having an older sibling “leading the way” would be a huge help to the younger ones, but it really does depend on continued contact with the family. You bring up a scenario which I think is probably one of the worst possibilities- where the older sibling is disowned, and yeah, if the parents completely cut off contact between siblings, it doesn’t do much good to know that you have an older sister somewhere who got out, but you don’t know how to get in touch with her, and doing so will cause you to be disowned as well. And I think you’re right about Libby Anne’s parents and college, I think I remember reading that too.

        I suppose each family is different, so it’s hard to say for sure whether the advantage of having “someone on the outside” to help you out would outweigh the parental backlash.

      • Christine

        Your points make excellent sense, but I’m curious as to how that interacts with the family systems theory which states that the older (oldest?) child(ren) tend to be more like their parents, whereas the younger (youngest?) child(ren) feel more of a need to differentiate themselves. (What I know of Family Systems has been filtered to a two-child assumption, because that’s so standard). Maybe the theories just don’t apply to the super-large families, or if the oldest sibling does “rebel”, then the points you mention will change what the younger siblings do.

      • victoria

        I don’t know, but that sounds intriguing. Can you recommend any articles, etc., on that theory? I’d be interested in reading them.

      • Christine

        Unfortunately my knowledge is second hand – it was a required course for my FIL, and he was pretty much required to make my MIL audit it (they didn’t want to break up any marriages. I don’t know if it was mandatory that your spouse audit, but it was very highly encouraged.) They’ve been very careful to be explicit about things, but it’s still coming second hand.

      • Rosa

        The other part of this being a new movement is that every single one of these QF parents old enough to have adult children made a drastic, rebellious break from their parents. So deciding you can interpret reality/Scripture better than your parents and ought to go do something completely different is being exactly like the parents in this case. Doing what they did, not what they say.

      • The_L1985

        Hi. Older of 2 children here. Also the more “rebellious” one. Remember that trends are not absolute. :)

      • Christine

        Oh, I totally understand that. But you, I can see as an outlier. (I’m assuming that you get the implication there…) A different norm, on the other hand, is much more interesting.

      • Alix

        I think it depends on whether the parents interpret the older sibling breaking ranks as a wake-up call highlighting their unkindness* and extremism, or an alert that they aren’t doing the system “right.”

        Can they admit to mistakes in their ideology, or not? If the ideology can fail, they might swing to a less-extreme treatment of the younger siblings. If the ideology never fails but can only be failed, they’d swing more extreme.


        *not quite the right word, but I’m brain-dead.

      • CarysBirch

        A friend of mine wanted to leave the Mennonites (the slightly more mainstream Mennonites, not the near-Amish). He was dissuaded from it because both his siblings had left, and he couldn’t bring himself to re-break his parents’ hearts. As far as I know, he is still a Mennonite.

        He was the eldest, but his siblings were… uh… precociously rebellious?

    • BobaFuct

      My family is probably on the tamer end of the fundgelical spectrum, and my experience was the opposite. I, the only boy and the youngest, was always the least religious and I was the first to give up religion entirely. A few years after me, the younger of my two older sisters gave up as well…my oldest sister and her family are actively involved in the church and she’s just as religious as ever. She’s a little more “liberal” than my mom and many of my cousins, but that hasn’t stopped her from homeschooling her kids and only socializing with women from the church.

      However, that’s not to say that you aren’t correct about birth order…I think my family is unique enough in its background to be an outlier. But I bet the age spread has an affect as well. My siblings and I are each separated by about 4 years, so that probably skewed things a bit.

      • “Rebecca”

        I’m also on the opposite side– The three youngest are atheists now, the three oldest still identify as Christians.
        I suspect the fact that us youngest 3 had the most access to the Internet has something to do with it.

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

      Part of it is that this is still a relatively young movement. It would be rare to find a 25 year old today who grew up QF who has ten older siblings, because there really aren’t any. Mary Pride wrote the book in 1985. That’s almost twenty years ago. She basically started the thing. This is why if you look at the leaders and how many kids they have, and then at how many their parents had, there’s a discrepancy. We are the first generation.

      • Conuly

        1985 is almost 30 years ago. Is that what you meant?

      • Miss_Beara

        Maybe she doesn’t want to believe that 1985 is almost 30 years ago. I know I sure don’t.

      • KnBa

        In the context of a 25 year old in the movement with ten older siblings: 1985 is a whole 28 years ago. Their ten older siblings would have to be born in 3 years. Even if the book was written in January, that still leaves a whole 43 months, which works out to an average of one kid per 4.3 months. Odds are good that three a year would be necessary, if the book was published later in 1985, or the 25 year old isn’t 25.0.

        Basically, in the context of a movement regarding having lots and lots of children, as concerns adult children born into the movement, 30 years is really young. Even 40 or 50 years isn’t exactly old.

      • Lana

        Good thoughts though 4th and 5th siblings have graduated at this point. Of course, when someone is still in college, likely he or she is still questioning things. I rejected patriarchalism and purity by the time I was 18 or 20, but the rest of the religious movement not until I was 25.

    • Theo Darling

      I’ve noticed that a lot too, but it doesn’t always hold up. I’m the second (of four), and my older sister is still living with our parents, still very…complacent, and has expressed no desire to leave or seek further education (beyond her AA degree) or a career or even to get married. In my case, it seems that my sister’s status as the firstborn and consequently the Shining Light on a Hill, or whatever, for the rest of us little heathens has a real pull on her. She has often displayed the self-righteous, punishing attitude described by sister-mom bloggers (although without the beatings, and apparently not sanctioned by our mom), but has never backed down from it or apologized. Unless something major changes, I expect her to be living with our parents well into her thirties or even forties.

    • TheCarolineEntity

      In my case, my sister (the oldest of three) didn’t get out, but is more moderate in some ways. Still very fundy in others. My older brother and I got out at roughly the same time, so my parents didn’t have time to readjust their methods for me. My parents did become less strict with some things over time from my sister’s battles, but not by much. Meanwhile, the culture/churches we were in were getting more and more extreme. I think my sister stayed in the same culture because she got married and moved away before things got too crazy here. Now her life revolves around a similar church, and her livlihood depends on it, so I can’t see her ever getting out. I know she has struggled with some of the same guilt, manipulation, and cognitive dissonance that I did though. I often wonder why we got out and she didn’t. It was definitely easier for me and my brother because we had each other to talk to about it.

  • Mel

    It’s hard to get a firm grasp on how many CP/QF followers are in the USA let alone who is leaving and who is staying.

    • AnotherOne

      Yeah, I would really like to see some data on this. I would also be very interested to see what percentage of children from QF families have lots of kids themselves. Libby, I don’t know if any of your other siblings are married, but if so, are they on the quiverfull path? What about other married people you know who grew up quiverful?

  • persephone

    I can see several reasons why most don’t leave, at least physically. Most people follow in their parents’ footsteps without a lot of thought. They’ve been taught that they must obey their parents in all things, and even many of those with a spark of independence will cave, even if they’re unhappy, in return for that most insidious promise of Christianity: a happy life after death.

    They marry young, then stick with the program, afraid of what would happen if they left their spouse or children, as they almost certainly would have to do.

    The SAHDs, as well as many of the boys, have no real world knowledge or skills and do not even have a way to verify their knowledge to an employer if they do.

    Walking away from their homes is not just mentally but physically risky. They lose their safety net. If they leave without support they could easily end up living on the street, with all that entails.

    And the doubts, those creeping terrors that can keep you awake, because maybe you’re wrong and you’re going to hell; that you should have been a better Christian and everything would be fine; that you’re going to die alone; that security, even at a high price, is better. And on and on and on.

  • Elisia

    Interesting. We were not part of the Joshua generation, but were the wave of homeschoolers before that. In retrospect, my parents were not anywhere near as conservative as the blogger’s parents. At the time, we were really out there in conservative la-la-land. But, I think things got worse for a lot of homeschoolers after us. There were families in my group that were having large numbers of kids, but also many that weren’t. Out of everyone I know from my homeschool group, we ALL left the faith eventually. Even my parents lightened up as the years went on. I am now expecting my first child and my husband was very concerned that my parents would spank him if they babysat, since spanking had been so important to their childrearing ideas when I was a kid. We spoke to my parents about it and they said they don’t believe in spanking anymore. There’s a lot of other stuff like that. Most of my friend’s parents have lightened up as well.

    One thing that really strikes me as interesting is the few times I’ve gone to church with my parents as an adult. The church that once teamed with young families are now full of old people. Basically, our parents are still going, but their children have all left. I do think the ultra conservative Christians are dying out and that gives me hope.

    • AnotherOne

      I’m not sure what defines the Joshua generation, but I’m on the older end of people who were homeschooled all the way through, and my experience is similar to yours, Elisia. Most people have left, or have moderated quite a bit, drifting into mainstream evangelicalism or into mainline denominations, or just living average american middle class lives without giving much thought to defining themselves religiously. It might just be because I’m older, and thus the people of my generation have had more time to leave. But I also think, oddly enough, that it’s easier to stay in the movement these days. First, there’s now the stay-at-home daughter crap that keeps girls in the movement when courtship doesn’t work out. (The girls I knew who didn’t find husbands through courtship eventually gave up, left home, and got jobs, since being a stay-at-home daughter wasn’t a thing then). And, there are simply more homeschoolers, so it’s easier to find community in person or online, and homeschooling isn’t as freakishly strange as it was when I was a kid.

      Also, just give the boys time. In my experience they start melting down in their 30s and 40s. Sadly, when you start trying at that point to deconstruct what your life is based on and explore the life you’ve missed, you’re usually screwing with your spouse and kids’ lives too.

      • CarysBirch

        I’m (I think) a little bit older than Libby maybe 4-5 years older. My generation are almost all still in the church. Only a few who were “worldly” for our set have moved on, I am the only one of the “core” group of church kids I grew up with who has left the faith, and even I am not out about it. I am, however, an outsider because my lifestyle doesn’t match what they believe I should be. I’m unmarried, I have two degrees in ungodly things like philosophy, I have no children yet, and I’m “living in sin.” So despite not being public about not being a Christian (I’m a Pagan) it’s fairly obvious to that circle that I’m at best not-doing-it-right.

        A few of the kids who were what I considered “worldly” in high school — one womens’ studies major even! — have come back to the fold and are more conservative than ever raising their kids and homeschooling.

        The whole subject is incredibly alienating for me.

      • Elisia

        Yeah, I agree that it is harder for young people to leave now than it was for my group. One thing that I’ve noticed is that they seem to be able to isolate themselves more. Maybe that has to do with the fact that there are more of them and isolating themselves from the outside world is more feasible. I think the families involved in my group were a little more varied in their beliefs. My parents were quite conservative. For example, we used to stand outside women’s clinics holding pro-life signs and we never read any texts that supported evolution, but my mom was aghast at one of the other moms for having a half a dozen kids despite health problems and not using birth control. My mom worried that she was risking her life with each pregnancy and if she died, she would leave her already living children motherless. Clearly, to my mom, using birth control was the only moral thing this woman could do. My parents were also quite egalitarian and made all their major decisions together and no one ever suggested that my dad choose my future husband for me. It seems things have gotten more and more polarized within the church itself between so-called progressive/liberal christians and conservative christians.

  • MyOwnPerson

    Well! I only had one friend in high school, so I don’t have anyone to worry about! Lucky me! *cries*

    • Sally

      I think one of the things that’s so appealing about churches and homeschooling movements is that there can be a big community that just wraps you up and takes you into the fold. There’s something very appealing about that (at least to me). One of the huge things I lost when I left the faith was that community. Now, there are other ways to have community, but nothing has compared to the community I enjoyed as a Christian (especially Christian youth). I know Christian community can take a very dark turn and be more harmful than good, but that wasn’t the case in my experience.

      • MyOwnPerson

        I had friends who had that experience, but I had exactly one girl my age in my homeschool group (I had a couple of male friends, but my parents would get antsy if I appeared too friendly with them) and exactly zero girls my age at church. (Zero boys at church too.)

      • MyOwnPerson

        Edit: I had cousins who had that experience. I only had one friend.

      • Mary C

        Losing the church community was one of my big fears when I deconverted. I really didn’t think there was anything else out there like it. In general, I think there is a stronger sense of closeness with youth groups because as a child, you have more available time to get wrapped up in it – no adult commitments to pull you away. So I try to only compare my experience as an adult in church vs an adult without church.

        As an adult without a church I have really made the effort to become a part of other groups, and I have found an active running community, the Girl Scout community, the school community (by becoming active in the PTA), and a strong family community in my husband’s fire department (I joined the spouse’s organization to meet more people than are just at his station).

        And to my surprise, these people have provided me and my family with a great deal of friendship and support, easily as much as church people did – and bonus! without the judgement and guilt that can happen in a church environment.

      • Sally

        All good points. I’m in a weird limbo right now because I had developed a homeschooling community that I then lost as well when we stopped hsing (homeschooling). I went back to work but because of a family issue, I can’t commit to a job right now, so I had to drop that. So that part of my story isn’t typical. But if I had had a church community through the change from hsing to psing, and then through this ongoing family issue, well, that would have been a great support. Instead, I have to keep redefining myself based on circumstances around me. That said, I know I need to reach out again and find a group. It’s time.

      • CarysBirch

        The church communities were VERY isolating for me. I was not socially well adjusted and fundamentalist homeschool culture has very little to offer a geek who is neither mathematical nor musical. The girls were catty in the “perfect wife competition” model of enforced femininity [note: I think the roles we were forced into caused the cattiness, I do not think women are any more naturally inclined to it than men.] I never fit the mold and I was never accepted. Feeling freed from the stifling pressure to conform was one of the best things about leaving the church for me.

  • Joanna

    To connect the birth order line of thinking with Libby’s original post, I think many younger siblings see how difficult it is for the oldest to leave, and they end up staying to keep the peace. That is what happened in my family at least – my younger sibling saw how devastating it was for the family when I left, and he has actually said, “I stayed because it’s not worth the battle.”

    • MyOwnPerson

      The parents tend to make examples of the older children who leave too, telling the younger children that they’ve fallen away and that they’re in danger of hellfire now, etc.

  • Alice

    There is the larger mainstream trend of millennials leaving fundamentalism, organized religion, or deconverting to keep in mind. Like many people my age, I left fundamentalism because of how anti-intellectual, oppressive, and dysfunctional it typically is. Even many people my age I know who still attend conservative churches aren’t as conservative.

    Even if I had not been home-schooled, my parents still would have been /extremely/ fundie. I’m not sure I would have become a Christian in 6th grade if I had not been. It was a decision made out of desperate loneliness more than anything, and it ended up being extremely dysfunctional. If I hadn’t seen the damages firsthand, I wouldn’t be nearly as motivated to leave.

    Also, I wouldn’t have started reading ex-fundamentalist home-schooler blogs. As I read them for months, I finally started to ask the hard questions and understand the bigger picture. Meeting liberal professors at my conservative Christian college unlocked the door, but reading blogs this past year motivated me to slowly open the door and walk out. I am still figuring out exactly what I believe, but I feel so much free-er and lighter as a progressive Christian. All that fundie cognitive dissonance was exhausting.

  • Rachel Heston-Davis

    The girl/guy dichotomy you’ve described (of how people react when a girl leaves vs. a guy leaving) reminds me of the movie Paradise Recovered. It’s about a conservative homeschooled girl who is living with family friends in an abusive church. They want her to marry their son. She starts questioning and rebelling, and there is a huge, huge dust-up. Then later in the movie, she finds out that their son (the one they want her to marry) has been “playing church” and then living however he wants at college the whole time–basically he’s a big fake–but his autonomy as a man is so respected that either A. His parents haven’t questioned his behavior and don’t know what he’s up to or B. Are just ignoring it.

    • Jessica Boone

      I love that movie! Nothing of value to add, I just had to voice my love of Paradise Recovered.

  • Divizna

    So considering how many children these families have, if you add those who are born into it, and subtract those that leave, the movement is actually not “dying a slow death”, but growing rapidly, or isn’t it?

    • Sally

      That’s what I was thinking. Isn’t the QF concept working overall?

    • AnotherOne

      I don’t know–I think it’s too early to tell. My parents began homeschooling pre-Mary Pride, and though they had a lot of kids by normal American standards, they weren’t QF. I don’t think the QF part of the conservative Christian homeschooling movement started in earnest until the late 80s or early 90s, and in terms of those very large families (like Libby’s), the jury is still out, since a lot of their kids have not reached adulthood. The one family I know from my childhood who was an actual QF family (though they didn’t call it that then) had around a dozen kids, and the youngest of them is on the verge of adulthood. As far as I know they’re all Christians, and relatively conservative, but none of those who are married have more than three kids. In fact, I’m trying to think of my peers from large families (again, we’re talking 5-9 children, since quiverfull wasn’t really a thing yet) who have lots of kids, and I’m drawing a blank. Certainly none of my siblings, even the most conservative among them, have lots of kids or seem headed that way. Part of it might be the poverty, though. We knew mostly middle- and lower-middle/working class families, and having lots of kids and no money ain’t nobody’s idea of a picnic.

      • Rosa

        There’s also just the really common experience that kids raised in a group don’t have the fervor of parents who joined it as adults. There’s no conversion experience, there’s no reaction to the mainstream – instead you get reaction to the group itself. It would make a lot of sense if most people left, but by sort of drifting gently toward the center more often than making the big jumps a lot of the bloggers have made.

      • Alix

        Also, an awful lot of people tend to want the family they felt would’ve been “better” as a kid. Like, I have friends who are only children who are adamant they’ll have multiple kids themselves, and friends who had lots of siblings who want few or one kid (if any).

      • Rosa

        yeah, that’s a good point, and also not movement-specific – i have a number of friends who were oldest of large but not QF families and the guys all got vasectomies in their 20s because they were really, really over the kid thing already. Lots of people adore their family of origin and want to recreate it, and lots go completely the other way.

  • chi7

    I made a dramatic exit (as a legal adult) right as my parents were adopting Gothardism in its ’90s heyday, which makes me older than most ex-ATIers. The experience with my family is that there was one outright rebellion (me), then everyone did what they had to do to appease the parents and marry who they wanted to and then start their own adult journey. My parents tried over and over, but really only got to do one classic “courtship” for a daughter, though they try to define each one as a courting, even my 2nd marriage, which, ha! I was recently reunited (at the time) and didn’t want to have a problem, so I let my mom say “courting” when I was dating my husband (in another state – they really had very little to do with it), but I don’t anymore. Mainly what they had with all of us kids was series of dramas on the way to marriage – in my brother’s case, the drama he had to go through to please his FIL.

    Not one of us is as fundie as our parents. Most are still politically conservative, but now breaking libertarian. I went libertarian first, then started trending toward just plain liberal (I’m almost 40 and those words are still hard to say), and I don’t think I’ll be the last in my family. Luckily, none of us girls have classically domineering spouses in the
    Pearl mold. My sisters would probably claim to be complementarian, but
    in practice are very much in partnership.

    I think a lot of homeschool alumni technically don’t have a big dramatic exit, but that doesn’t mean they’re really “staying.” They try to please parents during young adulthood, but then slowly pull away to where they actually want to be. Being married makes this much easier (if as a girl you’re lucky enough to marry someone who will grow with you). I am kind of a secondhand observer, since I never went through ATI, but this seems to be the case for quite a number of my siblings’ cohort.


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