When Christian Homeschooling Violates Title IX

Bill Gothard has long been big in Christian homeschooling circles. Thanks to Jeri Loftland, I was recently pointed to a website on which Gothard lays out some of his ideas concerning education. I’m going to quote Gothard’s list and then pull out a select few items for further discussion. So without further ado, on to Gothard’s “Advanced Seminar Session 16: Successful Education.”

  • The ultimate goal of education is not to produce a degree, but to produce many godly generations.
  • God charges parents and grandparents, not teachers, with the responsibility to train their sons and daughters.
  • God established the home, not the school, as the primary learning center; the school and church must be recognized as extensions of it.
  • The most destructive force in school is peer dependence, and parents must constantly work to protect their children from it.
  • God wants the priorities of every family to be built around daily engrafting of Scripture, rather than accumulating man’s knowledge.
  • The ability of sons and daughters to stand alone is the result not of rules, but of principles thyat assure a superior way of life.
  • When knowledge is learned before godly character, it produces pride and arrogance.
  • Parents who teach sons and daughters at home must be accountable to a local church (Christian school and the government).
  • Sons and daughters thrive with appropriate responsibility, and it is God’s goal that they be mature in their youth.
  • God gave boys and girls differing aptitudes; when children are taught together, boys are programmed for failure.
  • When schools group children by ages, older examples are cut off and rebels usually rise to leadership.
  • When the Bible is separated from courses, the contents come under the control of human reasoning.
  • True socializing takes place not in the arbitrary groupings of school, but in the real world of children-to-adult relationships.
  • Valuable learning time is lost in school; two hours of home teaching is equivalent to six hours of school teaching.
  • The key to effective education is not just a trained teacher and a professional curriculum, but a concerned parent and a motivated child.
  • God has set a limitation on learning; thus, academic freedom is no justification for studying the details of evil.

Okay then, now to take some point by point.

  • When knowledge is learned before godly character, it produces pride and arrogance.

Or in other words, providing your children with academic instruction should take backseat to building their character. And yes, I’ve heard of this used to justify educational neglect. Who cares if the kid doesn’t know algebra? What matters is that the kid has a good godly character!

  • Sons and daughters thrive with appropriate responsibility, and it is God’s goal that they be mature in their youth.

This one is used to justify relying on teenage daughters for the family’s cooking, cleaning, and childcare responsibilities all the while interpreting any bit of nonconformity as “rebellion” and a lack of maturity. Teenage years? Who needs those? Best to jump straight to being hired help—with no pay, of course.

  • God gave boys and girls differing aptitudes; when children are taught together, boys are programmed for failure.

If anyone had doubts about whether there are actually Christian homeschool leaders who devalue the education of girls, look no further. In case you were wondering, in Gothard’s worlds girls have an aptitude for cooking and childcare and boys have aptitude for math and science.

  • When the Bible is separated from courses, the contents come under the control of human reasoning.

And this is why there are “biblical math” textbooks for homeschooled kids. You think I’m kidding? I’m not. The basic argument is that any learning that is not grounded in the Bible is an evil and temptation to be avoided.

  • True socializing takes place not in the arbitrary groupings of school, but in the real world of children-to-adult relationships.

This one is used to justify kids not having too many friends, or much social time with friends. Because what kid needs friends their age when they can just be friends with the adults in their lives, right? Having friends your own age is totally overrated! Or, you know, not.

  • God has set a limitation on learning; thus, academic freedom is no justification for studying the details of evil.

This one’s easy. It’s used to justify not actually learning about the arguments made by your opponents. Because, you know, if you actually studied evolution, like for real and not just through the distortion of creationist literature, you would be studying “the details of evil”!

Did I mention that Gothard has a pretty wide hearing in Christian homeschooling circles? I grew up on the outskirts of Gothard’s ideas, but my family still picked up some of them—umbrella of authority, anyone? Others in my circle attended Gothard seminars either in person or via video. These ideas aren’t fringe in Christian homeschooling, and Gothard is not the only one to hold or spread them, either. And yes, this should make you nervous.


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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.

  • lara

    Posts like this make it so much more obvious why homeschooling didn’t work for us. We went in just looking to provide a good educational experience to an advaced child. We never bought into the religious aspect. As the years went by, it became harder and harder to find rigorous textbooks (oy yes, religious math, religious science, religious revisitionist history…) And the bullying. So many talk about the bullying in public schools. I can tell you my son was habitually bullied while homeschooled for being Catholic, for celebrating Halloween, for reading Harry Potter, for agreeing with equal rights for women. Each bullet point was a reminder why shaking and nervous, I finally walked into our local school and enrolled my son.

    • Abby Normal

      This is a really good point–the wingnut element in homeschooling makes it harder for the moderate homeschoolers out there. My mom ran into the same thing with her homeschool group–no outright bullying, but she was viewed as “the weird one” by the other moms because she thought it was important that my sisters (gasp!) learn advanced math, and let my sister take dance lessons at a (gasp!) regular studio instead of the watered-down “liturgical ballet” that everyone else did.

      Being a “normal person” while homeschooling isn’t impossible, but it is tricky.

    • Sally

      I’m so sorry this happened to you. It’s really sad that some of the most “Christian” homeschool groups can be so unchristian.

  • http://yllommormon.blogspot.com/ aletha

    Isn’t this the guy who isn’t married or has kids? Why should people listen to him when he talks about what children need??

  • Trollface McGee

    That seminar should be retitled “Techniques by people who know nothing about child development or education who want your kids to grow up poor and uneducated so they will buy these materials for their many kids and we will continue to profit.”

    “The ultimate goal of education is not to produce a degree, but to produce many godly generations.”
    Um.. that doesn’t require much..education – if it does, then rabbits are among the most educated of mammals.

    “God charges parents and grandparents, not teachers, with the responsibility to train their sons and daughters.”
    God also gives us a brain so we can have the common sense to realise that someone with years of education in a subject matter and educational techniques will be better equipped to teach.

    “God established the home, not the school, as the primary learning center; the school and church must be recognized as extensions of it”
    There’s nothing in the Bible condemning schools or mandating homeschooling. The only verses I’ve ever seen regard a child’s religious instruction which I think most agree should be done in the home.

    “God wants the priorities of every family to be built around daily engrafting of Scripture, rather than accumulating man’s knowledge.”
    We’re all going to live in magic Bible land where daily prayer will pay your rent and build buildings that don’t collapse and do surgery without error.

    “The ability of sons and daughters to stand alone is the result not of rules, but of principles thyat assure a superior way of life”
    Unless those are fundie rules.

    “When knowledge is learned before godly character, it produces pride and arrogance.”
    Knowledge is clearly bad – knowledge leads to people realising that there are other ways of living and calling people on their crap.

    “Parents who teach sons and daughters at home must be accountable to a local church (Christian school and the government).”
    Teh gubmint? Aren’t these the same people who fight government oversight of anything?

    “Sons and daughters thrive with appropriate responsibility, and it is God’s goal that they be mature in their youth.”
    Appropriate – developmentally appropriate – not becoming de facto parents and homekeepers at the age of 12.

    “God gave boys and girls differing aptitudes; when children are taught together, boys are programmed for failure.”
    Because education only matters for boys. Also it isn’t true but I guess when you think knowledge is a bad thing, truth doesn’t matter either.

    “When schools group children by ages, older examples are cut off and rebels usually rise to leadership.”
    Yeah, democracy is clearly inferior to monarchy and tyranny.

    “When the Bible is separated from courses, the contents come under the control of human reasoning.”
    Who needs silly human reasoning. It’s much better to live according to standards set 2,000 years ago as interpreted by self-serving ministers like Gothard.

    “True socializing takes place not in the arbitrary groupings of school, but in the real world of children-to-adult relationships.”
    Lack of peer relationships is very developmentally damaging for children.

    “Valuable learning time is lost in school; two hours of home teaching is equivalent to six hours of school teaching.”
    Because Jesus magic.

    “The key to effective education is not just a trained teacher and a professional curriculum, but a concerned parent and a motivated child.”
    Who needs something that has been developed over thousands of years by millions of professionals.

    “God has set a limitation on learning; thus, academic freedom is no justification for studying the details of evil.”
    Actually, lots of professions require you to study the details of evil (real evil, not teh gheys and teh wimmins).

    • Jayn

      “Um.. that doesn’t require much..education – if it does, then rabbits are among the most educated of mammals.”

      Well, that would explain why Saint Peter was a rabbit. (Dammit South Park…)

    • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

      My interpretation is that the reference to “Christian school and government” is that the church should fill that role, i.e. Gothard wants the power to enforce his wingnuttery on others.

  • Jayn

    True socializing takes place not in the arbitrary groupings of school, but in the real world of children-to-adult relationships.

    *headdeskheaddeskheaddesk*

    If this were true I’d be way better at social interactions than I am. Child-child relationships and adult-adult relationships are between relative peers–child-adult relationships are not. Though I suppose they’re not really interested in letting their kids even have any peers, so maybe this is a feature, not a bug.

  • http://aaatheist.wordpress.com/ AAAtheist

    Thank you again, Libby, for your detailed analysis of the mindset behind a philosophy I find completely alienating.

    [Bill Gothard] “… The ultimate goal of education is not to produce a degree, but to produce many godly generations. …”

    Or, in other words, produce generations of ignorant citizens that believe Christianity is the remedy that will solve the world’s problems. Gothard and other fundy leaders would be oligarchs in that world; their followers would be deluded, distracted minions (and future voters).

    [Libby Anne] “… These ideas aren’t fringe in Christian homeschooling, and Gothard is not the only one to hold or spread them, either. And yes, this should make you nervous.”

    I am sufficiently unnerved.

  • http://nwrickert.wordpress.com/ Neil Rickert

    It may be contrary to title IX. I see it as also contrary to Christianity.

    Back in my religious days, I used to say “God gave us brains; he intended us to use them.” Much of what happens in home schooling seems to be contrary to that principle.

    • Sally

      “Much of what happens in home schooling seems to be contrary to that principle.”
      Coming from both the non-sectarian homeschooling world and having spent many years on the homeschooling forum of a rich, literature-based Christian curriculum, I think we have to qualify this statement with by saying, “Much of what happens in *some* homeschooling circles seems to be contrary to that principle.” I stopped homeschooling at some point, and I have my concerns about the movement and the individual children in various types of circles, but I can vouch for the fact that not all homeschool families want their kids to follow anything like what Gathard says, let alone have even heard this type of teaching.

      • Baby_Raptor

        No offense, but can we please stop with this “We’re not all like that” whine?

        We know. We hear it every single time one of these posts comes up.

        But the posts aren’t discussing all homeschooling, nor does Libby claim that what she says applies to every single family who homeschools. Thus the discussions that happen in the comments aren’t talking about every single home educating family.

        The constant “We’re not all like that” posts are off topic, derailing and frankly kind of old. They don’t add anything to the discussion, and if you’re taking offense to what’s being said, you’re reading something that’s not really there.

  • Mel

    “Two hours of home-school teaching are equivalent to six hours of public schools”.
    Perhaps. With highly motivated students or parents who can plan everything in detail ahead of time, I think that could be true. Based on many of the CP/Q websites I’ve browsed, most families have to set up bare-bone schedules around the three R’s and an occasional unit project and hope for the best.

    • Sally

      In my experience with homeschooling for 8 years and frequenting a homeschooling forum, 2 hours is totally unrealistic. Maybe if you’re just cranking out workbook pages, maybe- maybe. But if you’re using a rich curriculum that has any hope of being rigorous and even slightly interesting, you can’t do it in less than 4 hours a day. We took about 5-6. Mind you, at the end of that time, there was no additional “homework.”
      Ah, maybe that’s how he’s getting his number. Two hours of teacher (parent) contact in homeschooling for every 6 hours in school. Don’t count the time where the child is completing any assignments in that ratio (because that can be compared to homework time). If that’s what he’s doing, then he’s discounting the fact that kids do work on assignments in school (the younger, the more time spent on work in class). Also he’s completely misleading homeschooling parents. The last thing on earth we need is a parent who tends towards rules and rigidity to expect their kids to complete a whole school day, assignments and all, in 2 hours because Bill Gothard said it was expected (and didn’t qualify his statement explaining exactly what is and is not included in that 2 hours)!

      • KarenJo12

        My older son’s public high school classes are about 90 minutes each. He has eight of them, four each on MWF and the other four on TTH. They spend almost all of those 90 minutes on instruction. That 2 hours might just barely work for elementary kids in very basic classes but its idiotic for high school kids in subjects like chemistry and geometry.

      • Sally

        My kids are in ps now too (for several years). Get this, our middle school has 9 classes a day, each 38 minutes long (2 days/week) or 43 minutes long (3 days/week). While there’s 3 minutes passing time, you still have to account for the logistics of settling in and packing up in each class. They’re really trying to pack it in (!) and keep those middle schoolers on their toes, but you’re not getting much quality instruction time out of each class doing it that way. I think the kids are getting at best a “mini-lesson” and then doing their real learning at home with their homework for some of those classes. My current middle schooler recognizes the incredible inefficiency and waste of time as compared to when we homeschooled, but he still prefers it because of the daily human contact with peers. Community is a powerful thing!

  • John Kruger

    That was quite the link. Math works because of god. Wow.

    The most destructive force in school is peer dependence, and parents must constantly work to protect their children from it.

    True socializing takes place not in the arbitrary groupings of school, but in the real world of children-to-adult relationships.

    I have found that the most telling aspect of a cult is the degree to which it isolates inside members from outside members. This is very cult like. When we grow up, many of our relationships are with peers. If all our childhood relationships are with adults, we will be very unprepared for practically all healthy relationships that do not have an active power dynamic to them (which will hopefully be most of our relationships!).

    Clearly a lot of people are drawn to homeschooling to isolate and control their children. I am very concerned.

    • Sally

      And if the model for these child-adult relationships was treating the kids with respect, and included the child’s interests, and relating to each other with a sense of mutuality, at least it wouldn’t be all bad. But if the model is authoritarianism, seen but not heard, fear-based, switching kids for slightest infractions kind of stuff, how does the child learn how to relate- especially if the family doesn’t happen to have many kids? I have a relative who is a boy growing up in an extremely isolated family with a bunch of siblings, but he doesn’t have one boy sibling anywhere near his age.


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