The Many Men and Women Behind The Curtain: Noah’s Story

The Many Men Behind The Curtain: Noah’s Story

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Noah” is a pseudonym. 

"There is a homeschooling machine, whether some people want to admit it or not. There is a Man Behind The Curtain."

“There is a homeschooling machine, whether some people want to admit it or not. There is a Man Behind The Curtain.”

My family started homeschooling because they didn’t like the public schools.

This had nothing to do with God or the feared specter of Marxism. There was no prophetic mandate from above, no urge to add more offspring to Michael Farris’ cultural Illuminati. No, my parents’ reason for homeschooling was really that simple: they didn’t like the public schools. They thought the public schools were a failure.

But my story is a common one. It has a theme mirrored in so many of my friends’ stories. As time went by, my family got slowly but surely sucked into the vortex that is a particular type of homeschooling: the conservative Christian type. While a lot of people want to lay the blame at my parents’ feet, that’s not really fair. And it’s disingenuous. Because the people wanting to blame my parents are specifically not wanting me to blame homeschooling. But those people don’t know my parents. And they don’t know what my early homeschooling looked like. Those people don’t want to acknowledge that it was the homeschooling machine that changed my parents.

There is a homeschooling machine, whether some people want to admit it or not. There is a Man Behind The Curtain. Or, rather, many men (and women). Call me crazy or a conspiracy theorist. But why do all our stories bring up the same names? Gregg Harris. Michael Farris. Mary Pride. David Barton. Ken Ham. Little Bear Wheeler. Michael Pearl. Josh Harris. Etc. Etc. Etc.

You do realize that that a shit ton of money is being made by all these people, right? There is literally a homeschooling industry that is profiting off these peoples’ ideas. Their ideas are being pedaled at homeschooling conventions all over the country, month after month, year after year. Their books are being promoted in every edition of every homeschooling magazine (well, the conservative Christian magazines, but I think you know I’m talking about a particular subsection). Their ideologies are reinforced in state and local support groups, where parents that don’t follow the line get ostracized, just like the so-called “Four Pillars of Homeschooling” have long ostracized the secular homeschooling movement.

It’s really, honestly, a type of bullying. My parents experienced this from the beginning, when they tried to get into a local homeschool group when we were young. We weren’t “Christian” enough (even though we were Christians!). The other homeschooling moms talked shit about my mom until, in tears, she almost gave up on homeschooling us entirely. She eventually found a more supportive homeschooling group, but, as the years went by, she started turning into the moms she originally hated. It’s, strangely enough, just like peer pressure. As one “cool thing” like courtship became a fad, as soon as the “cool” family picked it up, everyone else had to as well. If you didn’t, if you weren’t into courtship, you became that kid in public school who got his shoes at Goodwill. You were ostracized and made fun of, rejected and abused. It’s no wonder that my parents slowly became what originally almost turned them off from homeschooling.

That’s not to say people aren’t responsible for their own actions. But my parents have honestly tried to do their best for me. I respect them and love them. But they respected and loved me not because of the homeschooling community. They respected and loved me despite the homeschooling community.

It’s really ironic, that homeschoolers hold up their practice as this alternative to the evils of bullying and peer pressure in the public schools. Because there is so much bullying and peer pressure between homeschooling parents, it’s ridiculous. Watching homeschool moms tear each other apart with their words is really scary. They’re brutal to one another.

I’m deeply grateful that I had parents that stood up for me. And I’m glad finally people are standing up for people like my parents (and in a sense, against what my parents later became), by standing up against the systematic bullying, peer pressure, and brainwashing that pervades the homeschooling world.

The conservative Christian homeschooling world, that is. I know I already said that.

But sometimes people are tone deaf.

19 comments

  • There is a quote that goes something like: every great idea starts as a movement, becomes a business, and turns into a scam. Based on what little I know about the homeschool industry, I think that this quote fits.

  • Great article. I remember when “I kissed dating goodbye” was published and everyone in my homeschool group went nuts. A bunch of my friends and their parents got together for a “Bible Study” to discuss the book (because don’t you know? IKDG is the 5th gospel). My mom asked me if I was going to be a part of the study. I said, “Um…no thanks.” I wasn’t even much of a critical thinker back then but something just seemed off about everyone jumping on the bandwagon (including my parents…though they didn’t push me to be a part of the study at the time).

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      IKDG is the Fifth Gospel (superseding the other four)?

      Suddenly I feel so old. In my day it was Late Great Planet Earth and nobody bothered with “courting” or homeschooling because Ye Ende Is Nighye (any minute now… any minute now… any minute now…)

      And regarding IKDG itself, its author recently revealed he’d been sexually abused/molested as a kid. Given how bad that can mess up your head, how much of that baggage made its way into IKDG?

  • Brilliant. I love the connection to bullying. You are very right. I remember my mom being a sort of call center for troubled moms. Her advice was usually that the women NEEDED to SUBMIT to their husbands and God would work through that. If the domestic sphere suffered in a home, my mom was one of those “bullies” who pressured women into going against their gut, staying in often bad marriages, and blaming it all on a “rebellious” wife.

    • Nick – That saddens me and angers me. So abusive husbands can continue their bully ways with no accountability, but women need to submit and pray that their husband’s hearts will change. I’ve been there and done that. My question is . . . . submit until what? Until harm or death?

  • Ex-homeschooler.

    Thanks for your great article! I also grew up in the conservative homeschooling movement, and I have nothing good to say about it. It sucked. I can’t think of a single person in my church who got a decent education. It makes me sad to think of the crap they were force fed. Makes me really angry, actually.

    HOWEVER, now I’m living in liberal, athiest San Francisco, and surprisingly enough, there is a HUGE secular homeschooling movement that is taking off because the public schools out here really and truly suck. Parents want their kids to pursue creative passions, dive deep into curriculum, have a custom-tailored learning enviroments… yada yada yada. All good things.

    My kids are in a secular private school, but I would consider homeschooling them for the above reasons. Take religion out of it, and homeschooling has a lot going for it!

    Actually, a lot of tech entrepreneurs are homeschooling/unschooling/world schooling. It has absolutely nothing to do with religion and I hope to God (ha!) that is stays that way!

  • Really similar to my experience as well. My parents weren’t Quiverfull and in their everlasting defense they believe Bill Gothard is out of his mind, but the mainstream Christian homeschooling movement is innately paranoid and insular, and that did a number all on its own.

  • You are absolutely right. If you do simple Google searches on some of those “pillars,” you can see their bully tactics from decades ago. Why these bully tactics are hushed in the Homeschool Movement is beyond me. Well, no it’s not. The patterns in the Homeschool Movement resemble a cult. I was part of a church that I found to be spiritually abusive and the pastor acted like a bully. He sued me for $500K defamation lawsuit for exposing him. These folks are acting just like him. It’s time to get them exposed. Why is it that there are so many lawsuits among these pillars? Christians aren’t supposed to be suing people in courts, right?

    Don’t get me going . . .

  • Home-school Mom

    Hi, I’m a long time home-schooler. Thanks for sharing your story. I started out just your average Christian who wanted my children to have a superior education and love for learning. I, myself, hated school and likened it to a prison. I didn’t want that for my children. I started out with a pretty normal support group but that changed as the years passed, got sucked in to the machine too. The home-school conferences in our area had speakers like Doug Philips, Little Bear, Greg Harris, etc. Ladies at these conferences always wore dresses and had large families that looked perfect in every way. We would hear how our children didn’t need friends, we should keep our children in our presence or within earshot, never let them be alone with other children, even exclude family from their lives. If your child didn’t go along with the program (not listen to secular or contemporary christian music, girls wear dresses,etc.), they had no friends. But, the friends they had, were not truly friends. They never hung out together by themselves. It was always the families getting together and the gossip that would go on about other families and children was horrible. I too became what your mom became and for the last several years have been making my exit. I need to find a balance because I can’t stand being around most home-schoolers and I still home school. I have no desire to go to church and can’t stand the fake church lingo. I don’t speak it anymore but have a hard time expressing myself and my new found freedom. My children were all forced to be what they were not. They all deal with depression and very low self esteem. It really breaks my heart and I have profusely apologized for what I did to them and we have a great relationship today. They know I always loved them with my whole being and would do anything for them. I was just sucked in to a program that promised my happy, obedient, well adjusted children. A program that told me if I do A B and C, I’m guaranteed these results. And now, I let my children be who they are and don’t try to control every aspect of their lives.

    • It is awesome you are listening to feedback from your kids and getting out of that community. I think with understanding and willingness to change it’s never too late to turn a homeschooling experience around. (And of course, it’s also nice for kids to hear their parents will not be hurt if they want to try out public or cyber.) It’s refreshing to hear you were able to realize the gossip and forcing kids into neat boxes was wrong even while you were in the midst of it. As a homeschool grad, it would have meant so much to me if at ANY point in my struggle with depression my mom affirmed me, acknowledged it, and was willing to make some changes. I’m sure your kids are very proud of you for hearing them out and being willing to realize things weren’t ideal.

  • This is wonderful. Thanks for distinguishing between your parents’ homeschooling in theory and in eventual practice. I always get people telling me, “Yeah, but that’s just the Lunatic Fringe(tm),” but in no way is that the case, judging by my observations and all the bloggers coming out of the woodwork. We used Vision Forum and all that shit, but my parents themselves weren’t Quiverfull. I’m not even sure they really, fully knew the content of the textbooks they chose for us (hey, if the title says “biblical,” it MUST be good, amirite?) It’s not like they set out to insulate us, it’s just something that happens so /naturally/ in the Christian homeschooling movement. The “fringe” is mainstream.

  • Exactly. Why is it that almost all religious homeschoolers have read the same books and know the same names? Its contageous.

  • I’m a homeschool mom who found this blog a few days ago, and I can’t stop reading. I have cried and languished over so many of the stories here. This one in particular hit home. Our family moved about a year and a half ago. I’ve realized how I could have been on the road to getting sucked into the mainstream homeschooling culture there. For some reason (God gave me good critical thinking skills and a will to stand on my own?) I never caved. I let my kids go to youth group (gasp!) and Sunday School. They had public school friends and even spent lots of time at their houses. They listened to secular music and watched Disney Channel!! 🙂 I never really felt a part of the group, and now I guess I’m glad for that. My husband was very instrumental in keeping me from being hurt by the whack jobs!! Our homeschooling community here is so much more grace filled. Before I always felt like homeschooling was my only choice. Now I know that each child has his/her own choice and the best thing needs to be chosen for each one. My older three all want to continue at home. But we’ve never been a family to push anything down their throats. They have their own voices, thoughts, ideas and the ability (and our desire) for them to use those things for themselves. I think that’s how God intended it to be–for them to be respected as individuals and real people–not little robots of our making.

  • My wife and I decided to homeschool our kids after she did some research into early childhood development for her masters degree and we agreed that what goes on in public school K-3 is probably counterproductive for the education of most kids.

    We found ourselves sucked (briefly) into a charter school in our area that caters to homeschoolers. The promise of socialization, art and music classes and technology all paid for by the public seemed like a dream come true.

    But we soon found out that unschoolers who have taken their kids out of public education simply because they thought they could do a better job at home were not welcome in the Christian homeschooling community. If you didn’t think the “government schools” were out to steal your kids and brainwash them into being gay socialist vegetarian atheists, you apparently didn’t have the right motives.

    We soon figured out that the whole charter school was a scam that funneled public dollars into the founding family’s business, and laundered money through a third party nonprofit to get around the church and state issues and buy sectarian homeschooling materials with pubic funds. We also found out that the decisions were all made behind closed doors by a few insider families and things like board meetings, policy changes and deadlines for applications and other key items were only shared by word of mouth and only with the desired families. When my wife began hinting at blowing the whistle, a policy was drafted that placed our family in violation because of the type of educational reporting we were doing and it was applied retroactively to our son during the summer and he was expelled from the charter school without a hearing or even notification. When we went to sign him up for elective classes in the fall, we found that he was ineligible because of this expulsion.

    This turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to our family, in terms of our homeschooling efforts. We live in a fairly remote region of the country and the only alternative for support that we could find was a cooperative school about an hour’s drive away for secular homeschoolers that was started by hippies back in the 70s and was still alive and vibrant and populated largely by the grandchildren of the original hippies.

    By contrast with the Christian homeschoolers, these people were welcoming, open, non-judgemental, friendly. helpful, not to mention about 100x more interesting. Instead of spending hours sitting around gossiping about who was or wasn’t pure enough to be part of the group, these people actually would spend hours making music together, eating great food, drinking home brews and talking late into the night about philosophy, art and big ideas.

    Our kids got exposed to some genuine cultural, ethnic, philosophical and religious diversity and we had many very good discussions about what ways our family was a little different and what ways our family was the same and about how the kids from the co-op were different from the Christian kids. It really helped our kids come to understand their own Christianity and opened their (and our) eyes to the fact that the most Christ-like people aren’t always the ones who claim Christ’s name.

    • You know, I was thinking about this the other day. If I were to homeschool, it would only be for the first few years. I think there’s a good case to be made for the first few years and most of the bad teachings seem to crop up for adolescents and teenagers. Hopefully, your kindergartner isnt courting. 😉

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        Hopefully, your kindergartner isnt courting.

        Well, Mohammed arranged his second marriage when the bride was nine years old…

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    If you didn’t, if you weren’t into courtship, you became that kid in public school who got his shoes at Goodwill.

    You were the Defective the other chickens pecked to death in the barnyard.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s