Saturday, June 5, 2010

Bait and Switch

When I first met a home school mom, she was so full of enthusiasm and information. She touted the many benefits of home schooling, such as:
* "the world is your classroom"
* you can tailor studies to your student's interests (delight directed learning)
* plus they will have the freedom to learn at their own pace
* you are only limited by your creativity as to how you teach/what you teach/when you teach

The first home school convention I went to was filled with speakers lauding these advantages and others:
* no undue amounts of peer pressure
* freedom in the school day to go to the bathroom without seeking permission in a public forum
* freedom to choose whatever PE and/or art your student was interested in, or none if it was not their aptitude
* more relaxed family time, less rushing to make the bus/bell on time
* less overall performance anxiety that so many children needlessly suffer from
* you could touch on all learning styles in your classroom as each child had need
* you were not limited to lectures and workbooks like classroom teachers

On and on it goes. The advantages all had one theme in common: liberty!

But at those same conventions, and oddly enough sometimes promoted out of the other side of their mouth by the same moms who raved about the Colfax's and Konos and delight-directed learning, were the boxed curriculum vendors. You all know them if you home school: BJU Press, Abeka, Rod and Staff, Alpha Omega, etc.

The appeal of these types of curriculum probably depended on the person. I can only speak for myself. I used them at the beginning as a sort of multi-vitamin, to make sure that my students didn't miss out on anything I might be weak on in my unit studies. Also, on a day mom wasn't feeling well, or a student wasn't feeling well, the workbooks ensured that some learning was still happening.

But let's be honest, all of these canned programs are religious in nature. Now I'm a religious person so that didn't bother me much at all in the early years. In fact I wanted to teach respect for all people, regardless of religion, and that no matter your branch of Christianity we have things in common. The problem is that all the boxed sets are from a strict, fundamentalist doctrinal position. At least all the ones I found were. (I have heard that the Catholic home schoolers have their own boxed courses. I haven't ever seen them so I wouldn't know.)

For the first year readers, it was not that big of a deal to me that all the women in the pictures and stories wore dresses. It was easy to explain to my young daughter that dressing that way was a religious requirement, not a Jesus requirement. I even used some Anabaptist materials for Bible, simply skipping the chapter on the importance of "being plain". But as they grew I used the canned stuff less and less, relying on secular materials and using real books from the library instead of carefully chosen readers.

And it wasn't only the religion on the side that was objectionable. I picked up a workbook set for high school that was supposed to be Biology. It was abominable! It talked about animals in anthropomorphic terms you would expect in an elementary child's story book. And it was extremely simplistic; not at all acceptable for high school science. Yet I knew more than one family that RELIED on this provider for their entire school year, all subjects!

In fact, many of those women who had touted home schooling as this great nurturing, learning adventure into freedom were instead relying more and more on boxed curriculum. I think that was because they kept having more and more children, and so the exciting adventure of learning together that they set out on was not possible anymore. They were too busy with nursing, baby care, more laundry every year, more mouths to cook for every year and not one more hour in a day than they had when they started out.

They also began to be stricter about their families dress, what they could watch, and what they were allowed to participate in as far as community programs. Creation Science became a sort of sub-religion, not just one possible reconciliation between reality and the creation account in Genesis but THE TRUTH!

Many of the home school families I knew were becoming choosier and choosier about what was acceptable and what was not. Far from freedom and acceptance, they started circling the wagons over all sorts of non-essential issues. Talk about your bait and switch. These same people would still list all the liberty leaning benefits of home schooling while defending it publicly. But at home, they were practicing just the opposite!

There was a great educational resource in our community, but because the museums they toured contained statements that dated the earth and the existence of humans as older than Creation Science teaches, people not only didn't go, but complained to leadership that it was even promoted as an opportunity!

Our monthly skate was already limited to playing only contemporary Christian music, bot others boycotted skating because they thought we should only play hymns or classical music. They made a point of letting leadership know why they would not be attending.

When my children were little, G rated Disney movies were wonderful family fun. Now if you mentioned one, or wanted to plan an outing to a Disney movie, it would be a source of huge contentious debate. On the one hand, there were all sorts of arguments against the moral fiber of whatever the movie was, and on the other hand, you were considered endorsing homosexuality as a Christian norm if you were not boycotting Disney!

And then as our children aged, there was the courtship/dating controversy. Oh my! Many of these young men became arrogant and opinionated, puffed up with oversize egos because they knew they were the prize! A Christian home schooled man was the only acceptable choice for those in the courtship frenzy. And the boys knew that they were the ones who got to choose from all of the available girls- what power! (Yuck! Dear God save my daughter from such a horrendous fate as being married to one of those courtship only home schooled "men"!)

The gap between the kind of home schooling I was sold on, and the reality that was being practiced by the Christian home schooling community just kept getting wider. I knew which side I wanted to be on, and so it was inevitable that the Christian home school community and I would have to go our separate ways.

I haven't been to a convention since, oh, 2004? I went to a retreat for home school moms in 2005, and what was actually taught openly was really good. It was all about relationships in the family, and how important it is to be loving to your children.

But the personal practice of the speaker was Creation Science only, family integrated church, dresses only (though she allowed herself make-up) and I'm pretty sure courtship, patriarchy and keeping adult daughters at home. She talked a great talk, but I could not reconcile it with her walk.

Are there any other Christian home school moms out there who feel like I do? Who feel that they were brought into Christian home school support groups with bait and switch tactics? So many of the women who started out around the same time I did have wound up in very different places- in reality the opposite of what they set out to accomplish.

Or is it just me? =)

20 comments:

  1. We are Catholic-Christians and yes some of the "Catholic" curriculum options are what some would consider to be "too Catholic". Although I don't view it that way. Perhaps I've found "balance" in the fact that I choose to belong to a local homeschool group that is "secular". There are other fellow Catholics, Methodist, Lutherans in the group. Our group has also have had some Jehovah Witnesses as well. Some belief in an "young Earth" others accept evolution. It's a nice balance, although Religion is not a topic that is discussed. It seem as if it's taboo subject. We are all very respectful of each other and it's not bad, but its not a subject that is discussed. Similar to I guess don't ask-don't tell policy that the military has.

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  2. How do you see Romans 14 fitting in with your description of the convention speaker in your second to last paragraph?

    Is it possible to discuss the freedom of homeschooling while having your own personal convictions? Do you see loving your children as mutually exclusive from teaching Creation Science only, or attending a family integrated church, etc?

    Richard

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  3. Richard,

    I see no contrast with Romans 14 (accept one another just as Christ accepted you, and not to argue about disputable matters) and my above post.

    I am not in a personal relationship or correspondence with the speaker from the home school retreat I attended. If I were to ever be introduced to her socially I would accept her as a sister in Christ and not start an argument with her about her doctrinal/lifestyle positions.

    I have in no way disparaged anyone's name or given details that would point to a particular person, so I am clear on that account too.

    And yes, I do see loving children and controlling their access to information so that they grow up denied the truth about so many things: the greater church beyond their congregation, the physical facts about the world in which they live and the truth about the many other people who share the planet that live outside their faith. Such strict milleu control is not loving. Not at all.

    Limiting your student's experience and knowledge of the world beyond your "like-minded" borders is NOT LOVE. It is a cult tactic to control what you want them to believe about life, and therefore control the choices they will make the rest of their lives.

    It causes great pain to the children growing up in such homes. I have read of the deep depression, suicide attempts and serious psychological/spiritual torment that children from these type of homes experience. The fact that many of these children are still in denial, or too young to put a name to their malaise, or kept too ignorant to know there is a happier life out there, is no ringing endorsement of isolation and milleu control.

    Yes, I am saying family integrated churches are tools for isolation and milleu control.

    What I am not saying is that these parents lack affection for their children. I am sure they have strong feelings of affection for their children.

    But yes, I am saying they do not agape their children. No matter how well intentioned they may believe themselves to be, isolation and total domination of teens is not agape.

    I disagree with family integrated church and teaching only Creation Science in the strongest possible terms.

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  4. SAHMinIL,

    Sounds like you have a good home school support group with a good mix in the membership. =)

    I too belong to a secular group. It has been a huge blessing to us in our lives.

    I couldn't imagine ever going back to a "Christian" home school support group in my area. They do NOT represent the Christ I read about in the New Testament well at all! It's so ironic.

    Also we stay involved in our neighborhood, which has all kinds of people from all kinds of religions and nationalities. We are well known in our cul-de-sac, and I like it that way.

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  5. "And yes, I do see loving children and controlling their access to information" as being in direct opposition to one another.

    That's what it should have read. Sorry for the run-on sentence. I'm in a bit of a rush.

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  6. I agree that really loving your children (defined as, among other things, wanting them to grow up to be thoughtful, creative, funny adults who serve their communities wisely) is incompatible with teaching only one right way to see anything. If there is only ever one truth presented or allowed, then you are not raising adults as described but duty-bound drones.

    God allowed Adam and Eve free-will in the Garden. We, the parents, have exercised our own free will to make the spiritual, social, educational choices. And by not allowing exploration of the world as it is (albeit with the hopefully mature advice of a trusted parent), our children are denied the opportunity to exercise their free will. Who are we to limit the free agency of our children more than God limited us?

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  7. Yes, this is what I have experienced too. Big time. At first the homeschooling support groups felt so good. I belonged somewhere! Other people validated my choices!

    But over the years, things have changed. Homeschooling has become much more controlling. Less about true freedom or liberty, and more about group think and rigid conformity.

    I don't want the patriarchal/courtship thing for either my girls nor my boys. It is awful for boys, too. There really is a very high and specific set of rules and requirements that a young man must meet - and if he doesn't fulfill even one by a slight margin, then he is not considered good enough, mature enough, nor spiritual enough to marry "their" daughter. Devastating for a young man, really. My heart breaks for the young men and women raised this way. (As aside, rather snide, too, may I say...but have you seen some of the pictures various prominent families post of the perfect courtship? Sometimes, the groom looks to be over 30 and is scrawny and balding and has bad teeth - and the bride is very plain and has been taught to never focus on her looks. Not that physical perfection is a pinnacle of ANYTHING...because it's NOT...and yet - this couple is usually touted as being desireable for emulation and so pure and SUCH CATCHES for the other. They usually share their first kiss at the altar...and I think...well, yeah. There is a reason for that. Nobody wanted to kiss that fella in 30 years. But to him, because he performed well and jumped through all of their hoops - he is good and perfect and desireable. And there was really no room for God, because, the parents had engineered the perfect life (of their dreams, not of their kids' dreams) and who needs God when you've got is all figured out so well. I think that translates into many, many areas of homeschooling these days.

    I am not a young earther. We are the only local homeschooling family, that I know of, out of over 300 families who does not believe in the necessity of a literal rendering of the Genesis account. I have left behind Apologia and AIG, and have moved back to secular science textbooks. Homeschool science is NOT science. It is propaganda, and a real lacking of scientific facts. They can't and won't and don't use current research. They try to pretend that the decoding of the genome made no medical progress whatsoever, that the study of evolution has made no impact on medical research. (That was in the most recent issue of the AiG news email.) And yet, they make use of the latest medical technology when their lives are in danger and they need it. They have no idea that the very advances in medicine came about because of things learned due to the study of evolutionary theory. That's what gene therapy is all about. That's what some of the most promising new treatments for horrible diseases is all about. Scientists have learned how specific markers evolved - and with the unraveling of the human genome, they can tell who is going to get what, and then, how to treat and perhaps cure that specific marker. We want the benefit, but ignore the science and hate the scientist. Bizarre. It's disingenuous, and not fair to bright homeschooled kids to withhold the truth from them. We want to keep our view of God in a box, and control everyone around us so that they, too, stay in the box, and never see how big and beautiful God really is.

    I'm going to comment as anonymous, if you don't mind. I've said to much and spoken too sarcastically. :) But yeah....I've seen what you've seen.

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  8. Thanks for leaving your thoughts, anonymous! I appreciate it.

    My son wants a career in medicine, and I am definitely sending him to community college for those courses, or doing them via the web with university programs. He is doing Beginnings Publishing chemistry at home right now. The author is a Christian Ph.D. with a strong dose of humility and a love of science. It is the best "Christian" science program I have found for high school. It is not preaching on every other page, like some other programs.

    As far as the whole courtship thing, I never thought about how bad it was for boys. What is wrong with these parents? How did they get so full of pride, to believe that they have the wisdom to make these kind of life decisions for their children? It's not about godliness, it's about the sinful human tendency to dominate other people (for their own good, naturally!).

    Case in point: the Pink Floyd song "Mother". It was written in the '70s by someone who grew up in the 50s/60s. It was not written about FIC/courtship, but it sure fits! Son's words in italics, mother's response in bold:



    Mother (Waters) 5:32

    Mother do you think they'll drop the bomb?
    Mother do you think they'll like this song?
    Mother do you think they'll try to break my balls?
    Mother should I build the wall?
    Mother should I run for president?
    Mother should I trust the government?
    Mother will they put me in the firing line?
    Mother am I really dying?


    Hush now baby, baby, dont you cry.
    Mother's gonna make all your nightmares come true.
    Mother's gonna put all her fears into you.
    Mother's gonna keep you right here under her wing.
    She wont let you fly, but she might let you sing.
    Mama will keep baby cozy and warm.
    Ooooh baby ooooh baby oooooh baby,
    Of course mama'll help to build the wall.


    Mother do you think she's good enough -- to me?
    Mother do you think she's dangerous -- to me?
    Mother will she tear your little boy apart?
    Mother will she break my heart?


    Hush now baby, baby dont you cry.
    Mama's gonna check out all your girlfriends for you.
    Mama wont let anyone dirty get through.
    Mama's gonna wait up until you get in.
    Mama will always find out where you've been.
    Mama's gonna keep baby healthy and clean.
    Ooooh baby oooh baby oooh baby,
    You'll always be baby to me.


    Mother, did it need to be so high?

    The wall was meant by mother to protect her son. But what it did was isolate him, fill him full of fear and anxiety about the outside world and insecurities about his own ability to live successfully in that world.

    Mother did it have to be so high?

    I say no.

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  9. Your statement...

    "Limiting your student's experience and knowledge of the world beyond your "like-minded" borders is NOT LOVE. It is a cult tactic to control what you want them to believe about life, and therefore control the choices they will make the rest of their lives."

    ...hits the nail squarely on the head.

    Anyone who plants a seed in a jar has no intention of the resulting plant growing into anything outside of the shape and confines of the jar, because, quite simply, it can't. It's been given a mold it must accept or wither. Many kids in the Christian homeschool movement are given the same spiritual/emotional choice - accept or wither.

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  10. Great analogy, Lewis!

    When I started home schooling, nurturing young seedlings in starter pots was a common theme. They cited the proof that plants started out in a greenhouse were healthier and flourished greatly in contrast to seeds planted directly into garden soil. This was the advantage of home schooling, said the speakers. When our students were transplanted into the greater society, they would flourish! They would thrive! They would outperform all of those other children who were put out into the garden of society too soon (day-care, preschool, institutional elementary education, etc.).

    Great analogy, for what it's worth. But as you point out, if that seedling is never planted out in the garden, it will become root bound and wither!

    A lot of moms I knew originally planned to stop home schooling at high school. Then came the seminars about doing high school at home.

    Many moms were all about schooling for college prep. But then the seminars began telling people that college was dangerous and unnecessary. They touted apprenticeships and college at home by correspondence.

    After that came the ideal of family based businesses to trap their young men at home and grown woman stuck at home "serving the Lord by serving her parents".

    And so they just kept their seedling students in their home school jars way beyond the proper time to transplant them into society at large.

    They eventually came to openly declare that the jar was God's will, the best life ever!

    They are so incredibly, selfishly WRONG. :<

    That was the bait and switch. Yes, we listened when they exhorted us to nurture our young students at home. That was the bait, so sweet and wholesome.

    But then the switch. Don't ever let them leave. Don't ever plant them in society to thrive; keep them at home forever!

    If you don't, parents are told, your children will get pregnant out of wedlock, have abortions, become atheists, suffer from depression (all things that I have seen happen in patriarchal home schooled teens). If you let them go to college, parents are told, you don't love God or your children.

    I hate what the religious zealots have done to our home school community and to their students. It is sooooooo wrong.

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  11. ps I home school for high school through my student's own preference. Yes, they have a REAL choice! See my post about our high school for more info.

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  12. Shadowspring,

    What is your experience with a family integrated church?

    "And yes, I do see loving children and controlling their access to information so that they grow up denied the truth about so many things: the greater church beyond their congregation, the physical facts about the world in which they live and the truth about the many other people who share the planet that live outside their faith. Such strict milleu control is not loving. Not at all.

    Limiting your student's experience and knowledge of the world beyond your "like-minded" borders is NOT LOVE. It is a cult tactic to control what you want them to believe about life, and therefore control the choices they will make the rest of their lives. "

    I agree that as parents we should not control our children. We are commanded to train them.

    How do you feel the information should be given to children? Should they discover it themselves? Should you provide it to them without comment? Should you walk them through the information?

    Is it loving to instruct your children to avoid things? Physical? Spiritual? Thoughts?

    I included Romans 14 to suggest that we can speak of freedom and have preferences so long as our preferences come from our faith in God. I hope you saw that. Do you think it is impossible to speak of the freedom we have in Christ and then speak of our convictions we have because of our faith in Christ? Is it wrong to try to persuade people to agree with our convictions? Do you see that as violating Romans 14 or some other portion of Scripture?

    For disclosure, I am part of a Home Discipleship Ministry and so we are family integrated.

    Richard

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  13. Milleu control is the total control of the information presented to the cult members, so that only information favorable to the belief system is allowed to be presented, or other information is presented in a negative light.

    Isolation is when cult members are only allowed to associate with other cult members and are not allowed to be in public without cult supervision.

    Family integrated church/patriarchal home schooling practice both cult standards of domination.

    Many hundreds of thousands of people have come to faith in Christ without living under milleu control and isolation. Many thousands of Christians continue to worship Jesus Christ around the world without practicing milleu control or isolation.

    All parents share their faith, warn their children of dangers, pass along hard won wisdom and instruct their children.

    All parents do NOT dominate every aspect of their families lives: clothing choices, educational materials, pleasure reading, music, friends,food preparation techniques, media consumption.

    It is pretty obvious you are FIC, Richard, as your "questions" are merely a pretext for arguing.

    You are hurting your kids by dominating every aspect of their lives. It is unnecessary.

    I am not sinning by pointing out these truths.

    Please do not post here again. I have no interest in engaging you in debate. You are hurting your children with your "ministry". I want no part with FIC "ministry".

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  14. "I included Romans 14 to suggest that we can speak of freedom and have preferences so long as our preferences come from our faith in God."


    I would be sure that my preferences actually were being based on my faith in God and belief in what His word speaks - and not in some man or movement's sociopolitical vision of the Christian way of life.

    Keep writing the truth, shadowspring.

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  15. This post was very affirming for me, in that it verified that I'm not the only one unhappy with what public schools have to offer, AND what homeschool curriculums and groups have to offer. I have absolutely no intention of sending my daughter (now a toddler) or any future children to elementary school because I believe much of their time and effort is wasted and pointless and frankly counterproductive. On the other hand, I intend to enroll my children in public school around 4th or 5th grade for the social part of life. Before that, while children DO have a society, it doesn't seem (in my opinion) to have much influence on later relationships. At this point, I feel the social needs will be more than I can provide at home and that the educational foundation that I have hopefully provided will be a strong spring board for the rest of her/their education.
    BUT as you pointed out - all the homeschool groups and curricula out there are generally from a very restrictive part of religion, which I very firmly do NOT believe in. I don't want to take my child out of an ineffective learning environment only to put her in one that will be willfully robbing her of information!

    I can only hope that someone fixes this problem in the next 3 years or so...

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  16. "The gap between the kind of home schooling I was sold on, and the reality that was being practiced by the Christian home schooling community just kept getting wider. I knew which side I wanted to be on, and so it was inevitable that the Christian home school community and I would have to go our separate ways."

    AMEN! I AM a Christian, I do choose to use some Rod & Staff materials because they are good, but do only the parts we need. That said I've never been accepted to any Christian homeschool group I've ever applied to [two states 5 groups] Why? I'm a single mom! A single mom who ADOPTED. I nearly got sucked into a home church till one of the husbands/fathers objected [thank you, thank you thank you] I quickly wised up! The whole Patriarchy/Gothard/Vision Forum thing is sucking the life out of homeschool groups everywhere IMHO. I'm for FREEDOM and choices galore in what we do in our homeschool! GREAT POST!

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  17. Jamie, not all the home school curriculum available it so dogmatic. You should be able to find good stuff out there if you look.

    Plus there are all those workbooks available at traditional education supply stores, Sonlight catalog has good books, the library itself and the programs they offer, museum bookstores, Teacher's Discovery catalog for fun with foreign language, Science in a Nutshell for unit studies elementary science- you'll find more than you can use if you keep asking around.

    Hopewell,

    In my urban area in the South, newer home school groups are starting up every year because they reject this mandate to raise uber_Christians and just want to raise children. They accept everyone, regardless of religion.

    Maybe one is coming soon to your area! You could always try to start one yourself (not easy, I know =).

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  18. YES, I FEEL EXACTLY THE SAME WAY! It is so religious! My relationship with God has/had (I'm on the upswing now - praise the Lord) become so brittle and stale. My husband has not been on board with any of this stuff (except homeschool) and it has been such a wedge between us. God is saving me *again* from myself and leading me back on the path. HE is the sanctifier of me and my children and my husband, we are in HIS care. Thanks so much for sharing!

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  19. And rock on Hopewell! I think it's wonderful that you chose to adopt children as a single - what a great way to use your life! I'm sorry that you've been rejected by Christian HS groups - that makes me mad and sad. :(

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