Stiff-Necked Legalism

by Chris Jeub  cross posted with his permission from Homeschoolers Anonymous. Introduction by R. L. Stollar of Homeschoolers Anonymous

HA note: I am truly honored to share the following thoughts with you from Chris Jeub. I have known the Jeub family for over a decade. I remember meeting them at the first national homeschool forensics tournament that was held at Point Loma Nazarene University. When I created and sold my debate resource books, I usually had Chris in mind as my main “competitor” in the market. I also had the pleasure of teaching at one of Chris’s Training Minds debate camps in Colorado years ago. (Also, in case you didn’t catch it: when Kevin Swanson recently talked about homeschool speech and debate and “homeschool apostates,” the only person Swanson mentioned by name was Chris.) It may seem odd to some of you that we are featuring a post by Chris. He has a bunch of kids and his family has appeared on reality TV. He might seem like one of “those people.” But I have immense respect for him and I personally believe that he understands a core part of HA’s message: that ideology should never take the place of love and humanity in either family or education. This is a vitally important message, and I appreciate beyond words that Chris is willing speak up on this matter. ~Ryan Stollar

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Stiff-Necked Legalism: By Chris Jeub

This Homeschool Anonymous group is fascinating. I’m very much enjoying your articles. As an educator of 20+ years, HA seems like a hot bed of pedogogical information that I would have loved to have years ago.

I must be honest, though.

My first impression was you were acting like troubled teenagers.

Hyper-dramatizations of your upbringings, lashing out at your parents, edgy poetry, obvious attempts to rattle my cage. I thought you were 20-somethings who are upset with the world and were determined to force a change.

Yeah, a lot like me in my 20s.

Most of my homeschool friends were this way. We didn’t appreciate the way we were raised, and we set out to change it. Some of us are still irked at our parents. But in our youth, we pressed on with our divine calling, separated ourselves from the public schools, and pressed through new ground called homeschooling. I considered myself a radical, still do. And that is good. (You can read of my homeschool journey here.)

After spending a good amount of time reading your posts, I began to see my first impression was not accurate. You’re a very interesting group of young people. I know, I know, you’ve been called “apostates” and rebels of an ill sort.

I’m sorry that some people — including me — jump to judgment.

Don’t let that get you down. I am seeing a very raw and needed message to the homeschool community brewing, and much of it is coming from you.

I’m not sure if you know me, but I’ve been a homeschool leader since 1992 when I started. A couple of the board members on HA (Ryan and Andrew) are former alumni of my speech and debate program. If you don’t mind, would you like to hear a confession of mine? I think you will be surprised. I also think you’ll find a lot of hope in how similar confessions are sweeping through families, and it may bring about the change you are looking for.

Legalism Is Poison

I have many friends in the homeschool movement, and some of them are still stuck in a legalistic, judgmental rut. Perhaps your parents are in this, too. Legalism was a poison that, early on, stole many fruitful years away from my family.

Back in the day I entertained the idea that perhaps following the Law of Moses was worth the pursuit, thinking pride was a noble quest for my family, and it produced nothing of value in our home. It is like we believed we had a secret potion that we fed our family, that if only we followed some legalistic formula, we would most certainly process perfect kids.

Parents like Wendy and me didn’t realize the poison until later when the outcome shocked us awake.

I hesitate to call this “religious” legalism. I prefer “stiff-necked.” I know many religious people who are gracious, loving individuals, just like I know some non-religous jerks. I can’t tag religion with much blame when it comes to legalism. I view legalists much like Jesus viewed the Pharisees: sure, he talked with them and ran in similar circles, but Jesus found them arrogant and annoying. When the legalists started dictating how people should live their spiritual lives, Jesus got extremely upset.

I think legalism has much more to do with the lack of love, not the law.

Love in the House

I wish more homeschoolers would read my family’s book, Love in the House. It’s a confession that exposes a weak area in our parenting. For years we modeled the homeschool expectation of raising kids right, and our older children didn’t appreciate it. The book has helped counsel thousands through the faulty idea that their legalism would pump out “perfect” kids. In a nutshell: Jesus had it right from the start.

The only law that you need to get right as a parent is love. Miss that mark, and you miss them all.

Since 2007 when we were featured on TLC, my family has enjoyed rich exploration in the deep relearning of love that has made our lives — and our homeschooling — more valuable and wholesome. Wendy and I are more patient, kind, and caring. Our children are more joyful and carefree. As we explain in Love in the House, love came crashing in and it was like we were reborn into a relationship with God that we were blind to when we were attempting to reach a spiritual perfection.

Spiritual perfection. Some try to clear this bar. I had my share of trying, and, in a way, was encouraged by my legalistic friends.

Such legalism quickly turns sour, judgmental, and creepy, and it is wrong.

Hope for Homeschooling

Those who grew up in the homeschool movement in the past 20 years remember such things as fiery sermons at homeschool conferences, segregation from community activities, the rise (and bitter splits) of “homeschool churches,” and other sub-cultures that homeschool communities created. A symbol of the homeschool legalistic code: the denim jean jumper. There wasn’t a women out of uniform at a homeschool conference in the mid-90s.

I’m pleased to report that this has changed considerably. I see a wide array of homeschool curriculum available to families. Parents are more trendy and diverse than ever before. They aren’t led along by the nose, they’re more selective of their choices, and I see very few denim jumpers at homeschool gatherings anymore.

This gives me hope.

Our family has changed, and I believe others will, too. There are still strongholds — I’m thinking of quite a few friends who will find me a heretic for posting on this website — but all in due time. It has been seven years since my family walked out of our legalistic stronghold, but I still have sacred cows to slaughter. That’s okay.

Love is patient and kind, and in the end, He wins out.

And this is why I find you so fascinating. Reading of your pains and trials here at Homeschool Anonymous has captured my heart and attention. I’m encouraged, largely because I see many parents “liking” your work, not to spy or prowl, but to better understand a fatal flaw in the homeschool movement, perhaps one they sympathized with too much.

Stiff-necked legalism is poison.

As mentioned, my family’s story is represented in our book Love in the House. Perhaps your parents are still knotted up, judgmental, and unloving. I invite you to forward this article to them — even if you’re estranged from them, perhaps for healthy reasons. The life of love is incredibly liberating, and I encourage you to keep your hope for resolution for you and your family.

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About the Author

Chris Jeub.

Chris Jeub lives in Monument, Colorado and is the author of Jeub’s Guide to Speech & Debate and co-author of several books with other debate coaches and his wife, Wendy. He currently serves as president of Training Minds which includes setting up camps, classes and curriculum for schools and home schools across the country for academic speech and debate. He also owns a publishing company, Monument Publishing, that publishes curriculum and resources for public, private and home schools.

Chris is father to 16 children, all from his dear wife, Wendy, of 20+ years of marriage. They’ve been on TV — featured in Kids by the Dozen on TLC in 2007 — and published books about love in the house.

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