This may be the most important and most scary post on homeschooling that I have ever written. It feels like something out of a Margaret Atwood novel and I am numb as I write this, so please bear with me. The title of this post is not rhetorical. It is a question I am actively pondering at the moment. (Also, HSLDA, if you’re thinking of suing me over the headline, bring it on. I’d love to go to court for this!)
“Is there a ‘Homeschooling for Dummies’ book that all of our parents read or something?” my formerly homeschooled friend asked me. We both knew plenty of homeschooling parents who had got caught up in stuff that in their hearts they’d had no intention of doing and no understanding that that was in fact what they were doing, and my friend and I were discussing it. These parents were anxious people, preoccupied with doing “the right thing,” the “Christian thing,” the “Godly thing” and yet they’d failed spectacularly, raised kids who despised much of what their parents held dear, and who felt damaged, mistreated, left adrift as immigrants in their own culture, struggling with strange emotional problems. My Grandma had actually even described my Mom as becoming “brainwashed” once she met my Dad, as in not the same person afterwards. “There’s gotta be something like that,” I answered my friend, “or all this garbage wouldn’t look so much the same. It’s systemic. Couldn’t be any other way, really.” But I didn’t know how it was systemic, or why. It made no sense. It felt like I was conspiracy theorizing, making wild associations, being a bit crazy just to think like this. I couldn’t shake my gut feeling that I was right though. I just had no proof. Well, today I have proof.
Today I have an answer to that question of why and how, and I can tell you unequivocally that its neither right, nor Godly, or Christian. It’s also not about homeschooling. It is instead something that seems quite horrible, ugly, dark and evil. So what happened? What am I all upset about? Why did I have insomnia all night last night after reading this? Well I think I just found out why my homeschooling looked like it did and why it looks a lot like that across the nation for other kids. I also saw how this is much, much bigger than just homeschooling. The people who run HSLDA, NHERI, Vision Forum, ATI, and others apparently have an agenda, a shared horrible one.
Today I will just quote Doug Phillips, a former HSLDA attorney, from a transcript of him speaking at a 2009 all-male Christian Home Educators of Colorado (CHEC) “Mens Leadership Summit” and you can see for yourself. This was apparently an important summit, with lots of big names in attendance, including HSLDA’s late director, Chris Klicka, and this is the only written transcript known to exist of this speech (the record of this whole conference suddenly disappeared off of multiple places on the Internet) so if you happen to have a tape of it – as they were apparently sold at one time – please share! This transcript came from a little known blog called John’s Corner Of The World, where John, a Christian homeschooling Dad, writes about Christian homeschooling Dad stuff. John wrote a long and rather hard-to-follow post that I read last night, and it completely bowled me over. Suddenly 90% of the puzzle pieces fell into place. John was parsing apart a speech given by Doug Phillips, so I too got to read what Doug Phillips had to say. Yes, that Doug Phillips of Vision Forum, stay-at-home-daughter infamy, the guy who idolizes and peddles his library full of racist authors as “curriculum,” and insulted Sarah Palin for her political candidacy since he said that she was too liberal and “women were to be keepers of the home.” It just so happens that this speech John was dissecting contains some of the most important information I’ve ever seen as to why fundamentalist Christian homeschooling was what I and so many others had – a cultish people-controlling tool, an abusive farce, and not an actual education method at all.
First off, I am not sure I have fully wrapped my head around it and maybe I never will, but these things were definitely all part of a pattern I saw in my own childhood though, and in the research I did as a grad student. So Doug Phillips seems to have singlehandedly explained how all the major issues in homeschooling that I found in the course of my research apparently came straight from the leadership of the movement on purpose:
Patriarchal Men On A Power Trip About Homeschooling
There is this congratulating one another on a brotherhood and an inflated sense of accomplishment, combined with fearmongering about “government schools,” “evil CPS,” and “unbelievers,” when it’s unspoken that these demonized outside people are the most likely to provide a check on this kind of insanity, this kind of quest to take over the world and intentionally set society back to how it was 200 years ago or more. There are also “doomsday prepping” undertones where they prepare for economic collapse or end times.
“I am friends with Kevin Swanson. Voddie Baucham is my pal. Scott Brown is my bosom brother. We work together. We fight together. We have been engaged in battles together. Our sons are spending time with each other. And there are others in this room that we can say the very same thing about. I’m looking across the room: There are pastors that I can say are my friends. My sons are spending time with you and your families. We spend time together. And you have friends in this room that you have spent time with.”
“I’d love to die with my children and grandchildren and great grandchildren around me so I can speak to the future generations, so I can talk to them, so I can prophesy over them, so I can pray over them, so that they can be standing before me and see the last breath and watch as the spirit leaves the body and goes into eternity.”
“Gentlemen, we stand here today at a time when the homeschool movement is in a state of potential disaster. That’s strong words. But I really believe that we’re looking at potential disaster, unless we get a few things right. And so many of these things hearken to our view of leadership and our perspective of how we will navigate into the future. So let me step back for just a moment and let me offer you a little bit of historical perspective on the legacy of fathers preparing the next generation for victory in difficult times. And then I want to speak specifically to the homeschool movement. I want to talk about us. I want to talk about our role in history and how we navigate so that there will be another generation that comes after us.“
“…We had the 1980s and the birth of the modern homeschool movement. The birth of the modern homeschool movement gave us a generation of mighty ladies–ladies that fear the Lord, ladies that wanted to see great things happen to their families, ladies that walk beside their sons and their daughters and their men as well. But it was predominantly a woman’s movement. And the absence of fathers, men so tied up in the things of the world, without a vision for discipling their children: It was just obvious that God was not done, because . . .By the time we reached the 1990s, men began to turn their hearts toward home. And you remember the 90s, don’t you?…The demographics began to change. More and more men turned their hearts toward home, and you are the progeny of that time period. This wonderful room filled with men, home educating men, are the children of the spiritual work that began in the 90s and has blossomed and brought us to where we are today.
But brethren! If we do not continue to grow and advance further on toward where God would take us next, we will become worse off, we will become like Massachusetts, like Boston, like New England, which, having had the glory and the blessing of the Gospel, ultimately rejected it and became one of the darkest places imaginable.
And that’s what I want to talk to you about, because I see right now two trends, one of which is threatening the future of leadership and the other of which is a hope for future leadership.”
“Friends, I want to tell you that the greatest threats to home education are not legal. I served as an attorney for Homeschool Legal Defense and I’m keenly aware of the legal problems. I believe they have to be fought. I support it a million percent. But I’m quite confident that Chris [Klicka], my brother in HSLDA, . . . We all stand unified in recognizing that the greatest threats are not legal. Those are real and they have to be addressed, but they are not the biggest ones.
The greatest threats are not societal. They are, each and every one, internal. They are spiritual. They relate to vision. They relate to theology. They relate to character. They relate to accountability. And so, when we look at the threats, the threat is not first and foremost the economy. This is not the first economic crisis in history. There have been other ones, there will be other ones. There have been famines. Bad things have happened. Remember crisis is opportunity in disguise.”
“We must be involved in godly, family-integrated, orthodox, sound churches. Without accountability, without the love of brethren, without the nurturing and the teaching of the Bible, we will fall apart, and the homeschool movement can no longer tolerate, it can no longer handle, unassociated Christian members that are simply not willing to be part of formal biblical associations.
We need it for accountability and you’re going to need it for a lot more. I pray this never happens, I hope it never, never, never happens. But you could very well see a day in which there is judgment and persecution on the church, in which people are willing to turn in their brothers and sisters to the coliseum, turn them in to the state, and get goodies from the state, be appreciated by the state, and things like that. We will need churches to protect one another. If we ever find ourself in a state of martial law; if somebody puts anthrax in one of our major water supplies; if there is a suitcase nuke, which is opened up in a major city, we could very well see panic break out.”
“It will be a truly mature movement if we see grandfathers, if we see men that are able to gather their children around them when they die, discipling them, teaching them, leading them and giving them the hope of the Gospel. We need grandfathers in this movement. And that’s your role. That’s who you will be. That’s part of your future as we prepare to give a multigenerational vision, as we prepare to train for the rebuilding of Christian family culture, as we prepare to cast a vision for our sons of biblical manhood and biblical womanhood, as we seek to see unity between the church and the family.”
Poor Quality & Extremely Ideological Education in Homeschooling
There is the issue of indoctrination of kids in general with extreme “biblical” ideology rather than a science-based curriculum. Indeed, if there is no curriculum and instruction at all (or facilitation) aside from biblical stuff, some of these people really don’t seem to mind that much. After all, the kid may not be able to hold a paying job but they’re going to heaven.
“I told you about Darwin. I mentioned that he had a five- and even six-generation legacy of apostasy and atheism which was so infectious it polluted England and the theologies and philosophies of the world.”
“In my father’s library, I met and grew to love the men that my father respected. There were shelves dedicated to the writings of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, to the life of George Washington, and to the great reformers and heroes of Christianity. In my father’s library, I met Shakespeare, Tacitus and Blackstone. They were all there. And I knew they were important to my father; they needed to be important to me.”
“In some cases [my father, Howard Phillips]–with his copy of R.J. Rushdoony’s Institutes of Biblical Law, [for instance]–[I could] flip to the back cover and reveal notations on the date when he completed the first, second, and even third reading of the same book: “1976–Howard Phillips”; “1983–Howard Phillips.” And I would see my father’s notes. Here’s the red pen that represents this reading, the blue pen that represents this reading. Here’s the notes on the side of the page.”
“‘Son, this essay just really doesn’t cut it.”
Red pen, red pen, red pen. He sent me back down.
The deal was, I wasn’t allowed to leave the house or do anything until the essays were done. It took me 17 essays and more than 35 days. I was in that house, locked in that room, and I kept going to my father until I finally heard from my father, “Well done, Son. This is a worthy essay.”
Guess what I do today? I write essays.
I’m so thankful for that miserable experience today!”
“Is every homeschooler that goes through a state conference getting a heavy dose of vision and presuppositional apologetics in the area of education? Because if they’re not, we are actually training them to be apostate. We are training them to have a humanistic vision of education unless we are actively training them to have a biblical vision of education which is far more important than what books they pick out.”
“Dear friends, if the Bible is our standard, then this means that neither the content nor the methodology of education is neutral. This means that every subject from math to history needs to be reformed to incorporate distinctively biblical presuppositions about facts and the interpretation of facts. This means we can never separate the biblical objectives and process of discipleship from the end result itself. It means that all matters, every bit of it, and we should be talking about this. We should be explaining to people that mathematics makes no sense in an atheistic universe. We should be telling them that Genesis 1 is the very first primer on basic arithmetic: God told them to be fruitful and multiply, and He divided the night from the day, and He had added to them greatly. All those things and much more in a sequential, time-number system of the first day, the second day, third day, and a 24-hour clock-calendar system, all given to us, expressing the wisdom of God in a mathematical creation, a reflection of who He is, Himself, the very person and character of God. And if you remove that from mathematics, you destroy it, making it impersonal. This means falsehood. We’ve done this.”
“…I’d never heard anybody say this, and I wrote it down several times to make sure we’re quoting it accurately and it kept being said–that faith is finding empirical evidence and being persuaded by it . . . which is exactly opposite of what faith is!
And while we were told about the Big Bang and how we need to be reasonable and how unreasonable it would be in the universities if we accept the simple truths of Scripture . . . And I was watching all these college students and everybody saying, “Oh. Okay. So there were proto-humans that existed before man. The Flood didn’t really happen as the Bible says. Dinosaurs existed millions of years before man, and the Big Bang created the earth and the earth is millions of years old, and that’s what it says in Genesis . . . –’Oh! Okay! Is that really true?’ And walking out of there with their worldview destroyed. Grievous!”
“How I thank God for Brian [Ray]‘s faithful evaluation of our testing scores. I think Brian would agree with me, failing test scores is not a problem, it’s a symptom; it’s not a cause. It’s a symptom. We are returning to Egypt to eat the leeks and garlic of humanistic textbooks, we are going to have problems.
If our mission is simply to get us the credential or degree, we’re going to lose our heart. But, if our mission is to be more and more presuppositionally biblical, and our methodologies and the content of our education . . . –Guess what’s going to happen to our test scores? They are going to go out the roof. Because when you have the right motivation and the fear of the LORD, we have the beginning of knowledge! And without that, we have nothing. “
Child Abuse and a Rejection of Children’s Rights in Homeschooling
There is the issue of child abuse being passed off as “biblical discipline” where “obedience” means being an unquestioning automaton with a smile, and a “spanking” means getting hit multiple times with belts, sticks, or quarter inch plumbing line. Vision Forum sells its own alternatives to the now-infamous “To Train Up A Child.“
“If the Bible is our standard, dear friends, then we reject, at least principially . . . we understand that the core problem with Child Protective Services is its existence…The Bible establishes the government to bear the sword against evildoers, and it gives us principles for prosecuting criminal behavior. Criminal behavior should be prosecuted. Child Protective Services is based on quasi-criminal understanding, namely, “You’re not guilty of anything criminal, but we are going to claim the right to have jurisdiction over you to regulate you and possibly take away your children.” The state has no biblical authority to do that. It is unbiblical. It is unjust. It is wrong. And at the end of the day, the problem isn’t simply Child Protective Services to get better; it is eliminating it altogether. And you know what? The children of America would be safer.”
“I am deeply concerned about the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child…When I worked for Home School Legal Defense more than 15 years ago, I wrote the booklet. I was the guy tasked with the responsibility of studying it and preparing the homeschool movement to fight against it. I am keenly aware of how devastating it is. We need to fight this one. It’s a bad, bad deal. It could leave unbelievably challenging circumstances and, for the first time in 20 years, there is a real significant possibility of its passage. It needs to be taken very seriously. But can I tell you something? If the Christian community were not tolerating the evils of feminism, we wouldn’t have to be publicly tolerating the evils of the child’s rights movement. It is our embracing of principles of feminism, which has led to broader societal acceptance of principles of child’s rights.”
Gender Discrimination in Homeschooling
There are many stories coming out of gender disparities in homeschooling, with lots of girls getting the “home ec and no college” track. There is this idea that women, with their female hormones, taint everything and that men always need to lead and always need to be on guard against this effeminacy seeping into anything outside the sphere of pregnancy and nursing mothers. It is the most mysogynistic thing in the world. It is filled with hate and I know it because I felt it.
“Dear friends. I am concerned . . . that we as a movement are missing the blessing that God is giving to us and we are beginning to be divided, and elements of effeminacy are once again beginning to creep in.”
“If the Bible is our standard, then it is the fathers who have a duty of lovingly leading their family, and fathers, not moms, will be overseeing the home education discipleship of their family. “
“If the Bible is our standard, brothers, then there is both overlap, but there is also great distinction in the educational goals we have for sons and for daughters. That means that boys and girls are different, and we train them with much similarities, but also with distinctive objectives. And the movement within home education circles of creating an androgynous educational system where we view boys and girls as having the very same outcomes of careerism and world independence is contrary to the principles of the Word of God, which teaches that we should be training our daughters, ultimately to prepare themselves for the assumption . . . –and the assumption is, they will be married, they will be keepers at home. If God blesses them, they will bring forth children. And the older women should teach younger women, even before they’re married, the principles of what it means to love a husband, to care for children, and to guide a home, since this ultimately is the normative pattern for where we want our daughters to grow and prosper if the Bible is our guide.
This is going to affect our home education. And if we are not willing to talk about this, what it means is, we have been usurped by feminism.
We have been so afraid of what other people will think, that we have become effeminate ourselves. We may be finding the prophecies of Isaiah 3 which speaks of a day when “my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err,” “children are your oppressors, and women rule over you.” [Isaiah 3:12–JAH] This is a shameful thing!”
“And we have problems with feminist theology. Oh, it’s a big one! It’s a huge problem. And it’s a problem which God is using right now to help our movement. Because the wheat is being divided from the chaff within our movement, within homeschooling.
Broadly speaking, there are those that never did embrace biblical foundational principles. There are those that do not want to see fathers leading their homes, and a genuine abject hatred for principles of male leadership within the family. And they have an influence. It may not be much. But it’s enough to cause confusion to the sheep and they do not know their left-hand from their right-hand. And it’s significant. We need to be wise about this. We need to understand that God directly addresses these sorts of rebellious theologies.
Bad theology isn’t our only problem. The fear of man is a problem.”
“What do you say to your children when they say, ‘But, Mommy . . . but Daddy: I thought that you said that mommies are supposed to be keepers at home and be with their children. Isn’t that what you taught me, Mommy?’”
I will now end this debacle with this last quote. It’s a Doug Phillips screed against Beacon Press, ostensibly for publishing Kathryn Joyce’s book “Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement,” and includes Phillips’ assessment of the threat of the growing “survivor blog” network to which I proudly belong.
“We will lose this movement and this work of God, men, if we do not govern our households. And that means lovingly shepherding our wives. The less you love your wife and the less you shepherd your wife, the more you create an open door for the female sin of the internet. The male sin of the internet is pornography. The female sin of the internet is gossip-mongering…Dear friends, we don’t live in the type of communities where our wives tend to go from house to house gossiping. They tend to go from blog to blog gossiping. And they spend their day going from blog to blog gossiping. And some of you are letting them. Some of you are encouraging them. And guess who they’re gossiping about? It’s not the world. It’s Pastor Joe. It’s homeschool state leader Sally. It’s Charlie. It’s my friend John.
Guess who’s watching? The world is watching. When the lesbian, feminist, transgender publishing house Beacon Press decided to release their exposé this month on families that believe in large households, they knew exactly who to go for. Go to the internet assassins. Go to the blogosphere gossips and get the information to denounce and divide the homeschool movement directly from the wives who live on the internet, gossiping 24/7. It’s a bigger problem than you realize, men. And it is causing heartache. It is creating problems.”
Yep, Doug Phillips, former HSLDA attorney and current “pastor,” your views are insane. Your views are un-American, and your brand of “homeschooling” has nothing to do whatsoever with education, God, or the wellbeing of families, and neither does HSLDA’s if (as it seems was happening) all these guys were sitting in a room, slapping each other on the back while you gave this “speech.”
Fact is, the leaders who attended this summit are not real homeschoolers. Real homeschoolers homeschool because they think it would be good for their kids. These faux homeschoolers on a power trip found a way to harness homeschooling as a tool, check off the boxes, play the part, and in reality be a Trojan horse in our society (that’s right – not just to homeschooling, but a Trojan horse to the fundamental freedoms of American society that most of us hold so dear). This mess has everything to do with a last-ditch effort for men who liked the era in which their wives and children were chattel and decided they wanted it again, and practically nothing to do with responsibly raising the next generation or Christianity.
Well, this sick and twisted dystopian dream where women like me don’t exist because we can’t and men like that dominate the world is not going to happen. Homeschooling needs to be reclaimed by those who believe in it as an education method, not a mind control tool and these people using it as a mind control tool need to be exposed for what they are and stripped of power. I imagine real Christian homeschoolers will be appalled to learn that they paid dues into a “homeschooling” organization that was ostensibly a front for something that looks a lot less like a homeschool support structure and much more like a cult that worshipped patriarchy, took advantage of vulnerable people, and used the bible to do it.
That’s right. This HSLDA/NHERI/Vision Forum/Bill Gothard ATI thing is not a Christian thing. This is not a homeschooling thing. This is an extremist thing. It may even be a cult thing. Yes, as in “new religious movement.” So please, homeschooling parents, run from this crazy stuff so it doesn’t do to your family what it did to mine. Stop supporting these extremists, stop inviting them to speak before congress, stop allowing them to suggest what laws and politicians you vote for or against, stop buying their flawed explanations and liar statistics, stop letting them tell you how to live your lives and raise your children.
What has HSLDA done since we asked them to address child abuse in homeschooling? They put up something pretending they’re into human rights and respectful of women. Yeah, those pictures go real good with the above words that one of their favorite people said to them and a roomful of other “homeschool leaders” in 2009, words that were received with applause, don’t they?
See this for what it is and stop drinking the kool-aid, because if you are a homeschooler or a Christian, these are not your people. They are a false friend, a Trojan horse, a snake in the grass, and you need to get them removed from your lives, right away. This kind of perverse ideology has hurt too many unsuspecting families, too many men, women, and children already, including my own family. We all need to take notice and recognize HSLDA’s lies, stop their power grab.
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Heather Doney blogs at https://becomingworldly.wordpress.com/
Heather was raised Fundamentalist Evangelical in South Louisiana until she was 13. At that tender age she was introduced to the world at large and starting her journey away from home schooling environment.
Her blog is primarily about Quiverfull lifestyle, homeschooling culture and politics, child welfare, PTSD, education, poverty, big families, gender issues, and maybe a few bits of south Louisiana or New England culture and a recipe or craft project or two thrown in, just for fun.
She is a member of NLQ’s The Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network
NLQ Recommended Reading …
‘Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich
‘Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland
‘Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce