Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Conservative Christian Home School Culture and the Men who shaped it.


   I have had quite a few readers ask my opinion on the recent Bill Gothard scandal. (link at the end of this post) My family was a part of his ATI home school program from 1994 until 2006.    

   In eerie similarity to Doug Philips Vision Forum,(link at the end of post) these two men lead multimillion dollar ministries that did not begin or end with, and yet for many, overwhelmingly dominated and defined home education. These ‘ministries’ produced books, seminars, and all encompassing ‘bible based teaching’ that was intended to instruct followers how to approach every area of life.

   This phenomenon is something that I not only often noted in my writing, but was one of the motivations for writing 10 Reasons not to Home School.  It was in fact part of the focus of #5(here) and #3 (here)  the fact that most home school conferences in the past thirty years have NOT been created by educators, but by ‘life style and bible based living’ teachers who promote home education as necessary way of life to successfully raise academically and spiritually strong (even advanced) children.

   The vast majority of tracks taught in any local home school conference cover topics that vary from courtship, home birth, herbal healing, home business and just about everything under the sun other than how to actually TEACH reading, writing, and standard subjects. Only in the last few years in fact have tracks which focus more on child development, learning disabilities and teaching techniques (which you would think would have been core all along) been introduced to conferences that in many cases are the only outside support offered to teaching parents.

   It is interesting what a difference a year can make.

    Last year I began writing on controversial topics, challenging the very core topics that form the foundation of the conservative home school culture.  I have written on home schooling, child training and more. For every post I have published I have written at least 5 that I have not.

    From the start I have tried to walk a delicate balance. I want to be open and honest about my experiences and past, without making my blog a sob story, or a bitter rant, or tale of glowing goodness. In writing on topics I intentionally did not address any particular leaders or teachers by name but instead have tried to write on the aspects of a culture that I believe to be advertising glowing ideals that are either a naively optimistic dream, or an intentional misrepresentation of reality, but either way is known to those of us who have lived it to be toxic and destructive.

   I have been asking questions that no one in my world has asked, and challenged assumptions that have long been accepted as the foundation of our cultures choices. (Like avoiding sex ed here, or  raising daughters to be home makers here)

 I have felt that I have been trying to take down a mountain with a toothpick.

       When I began writing last year, I never dreamed that within months, the bulwarks of not one, but two of the most influential organizations in the conservative Christian home school culture would fall. I simply could not have fathomed last year that both Bill Gothard, and Doug Philips would both resign in the face of allegations of lies, secrecy, manipulation, sex, and far reaching betrayals of everything for which they stood.

    To those of us raised in and of the culture built in great part by these men, it is an incredible thought.  Although incredibly sad, I am not surprised by the allegations themselves, although I am surprised that they were revealed and actually addressed by both ministries. 

       So where do we go from here?

    Last year I was trying to tell everyone that I saw termite damage, gaping holes and dry rot in the foundation of the culture in which I was raised; and in my world it made a lot of people angry.

   This year the roof fell in.  

   Last fall I wondered if there was a need to write any more. Was I being vicious in pointing out what was becoming more and more difficult to deny?

    There were and are major problems in the conservative Christian culture, specifically within home school conservative Christian culture.

  If my goal was to celebrate human failure and misfortune, then to belabor points would be heartless. If my goal was to re-enforce negative stereotypes than to write more would be hurtful.  But these have never been my goals.

     One of the most destructive aspects of the conservative Christian culture is the idea that there is really a formula to perfection. That if you just read this book, listen to this speaker, discover these nine steps, - that you will have the answer to your parenting insecurities, that your marriage will be strong, and your family will avoid the problems of our fallen world. I addressed that my post (The Myth of the Christian Family here.) In this culture, image is everything.

   Because this is a culture that inherently depends on appearances, families who have experienced things that are considered unacceptable have often just quietly slipped away, as the parade of excited devoted eagerly took their place and pushed forward.

  As a home school graduate who grew up in and then out of this culture, I have seen the trail of those left behind. I know that the happy, successful, public face of conservatism has not been an honest representation of the vast majority of experiences.

   My Home School Graduate Survey taken by almost 130 home school grads last year  (found here) from my world revealed what I already knew; the vast majority of home school graduates are not home schooling their children. Not only could this provide a wealth of information if we are brave enough to ask why, but even more important is another fact.

    The vast majority of those who are home schooling are new. They did not experience home school themselves, nor have they seen the movement begin and change. The conferences, books and information have been overwhelmingly written, taught, and presented to those who have been caught up in following one of very few leaders.

     As a new home school Mom, surrounded by first generation seekers, I have felt a moral obligation and imperative to honestly address the issues of the past and present that are NOT pretty or pleasant.

     If the sense of shock, grief and betrayal are not enough through these scandals, there is one point which is by far the most painful.
The undeniable fact is that without the conservative Christian home school community these two men could have never become what they were; wealthy, well staffed, and unbelievably powerful.

    That fact is significant. It is not an accident, and it is only a matter of time before it happens again.

        As surreal as the stories of these men are, even more shocking to me are the comments of young conservative Christians whose lives or beliefs are similar with those of both ministries but who are fairly new to this way of life and were not personally impacted directly by these men.

  Their flippant dismissal, - the way they seem so easily to nod sadly and say, “Well, that is what happens when people are legalistic / follow other people / get proud…” terrifies me.
They are what we were, and they have no idea.

    I look around at those who are beginning home schooling who have never attended Bill Gothard’s Basic Seminar or listened to Doug Philips but who are excitedly telling me about large family ideals and patriarchy, doctrines of submission, strict modesty, Old Testament guidelines or zealous protective parenting, isolation from current modern culture and my stomach curls. They are the next generation, and already they do not fully realize what is behind them.

   I look around and see thousands of home school graduates who of those who have finally faded and blended into society; I see those like me; jaded and skeptical beyond our years, who were raised in harsh and legalistic intolerance and given a warped view of God. I listen and hear the chorus of our voices rising to; weep, and rage, and or scoff, or mourn and I wonder how many of my generation will emerge with any faith at all. We too, are equally as vulnerable, ready to reject any and everything that even remotely reminds us of the spiritual bondage from which we’ve worked so hard to break free that has cost us so much.

    It was several years ago that I actually said out loud ‘I was raised with cult mentality’.  And I wasn’t referring simply, or exclusively to my family’s involvement in ATI or Vision Forum. I was talking about the way I was raised to, or more importantly NOT, to think.

   In the past two years I have studied deeply topics that in thirty years of Christianity I have never heard adequately addressed, or in the case of both of these ministries, even acknowledged; spiritual, emotional and physical abuse and cult formation. It has been healing, incredibly informative, and a driving force in my life, the reason I write.

    I have studied the factors that are necessary for cult formation, and the indicators that can help us recognize those who sound good, and often are in some ways good, but who intentionally develop power and influence and can only bring damage to those who follow.

     I have also studied what factors cause us to respond. I have been learning how to identify, to support recovery from and to prevent further promotion of for abusive, controlling or cult like environments and relationships.

  I write because I know what it is like to have everything in your life change. To realize that much of your world has been built in lies. To embrace the truth even when it hurts and wrecks your world, to find healing and freedom.

    I write because there are many who are hurting. There are many who are confused. I write because there are even more who were not personally impacted and  already see this as an unfortunate past, and have no idea how it affects us each today.

     I write because I dare to hope, that if we are brave enough to ask, and really listen, we can learn, we can change, and we can thrive.

  Join me. 
This Present Mom,




    For more information on the Bill Gothard, ATI scandal please go here, or here.
    For more information on the Doug Philips scandal go here.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Are Christian Parents More Susceptable to Abusive Tactics in Parenting?

      There is a popular method of child training that basically says that most child expressions are a child vs. parent  battle of the will, which a parent must win at all cost.

   Speak a command? Your child should obey instantly, fully, and cheerfully.

   Lay down rules for the house that you’ve decided are best? Enforce them to the letter. Your child doesn’t know yet what is good for them, and your job as parent is to convince them of this.

   Serve a super they don’t like? Your child should not be given other food options until they have submitted to your choice of cuisine, no matter how many meals you must withhold other food, and offer the original plate of food.

   Your child has a sweet tooth, desire for money, or social events? Be sure to use that against your child when trying to win other battles. Withholding what they love most is sure to break down their resistance to you and ensure compliance.
   Of course, spanking liberally is an easy method to ensure obedience and subjection.

  Above all, - a parents job is to enforce their will upon the child, and hone the skill of making a child’s resistance futile, or at least FEEL futile to the child.

   Just writing this out I feel a wave of stomach knotting anxiety.

   Like so many things in the last couple of years, I have a vague sense that I think I actually thought some of this made sense at some point in my life. Like waking up from a dream, when I think through some of these things, I have the feeling they were part of the alternate reality that seemed so vivid and real that I unconsciously accepted as true. Thankfully this has changed.

   Now you would THINK that Christian parents would be the least likely candidates on earth to accept these notions. However, - to understand why Christian parents are paying big money to buy books that teach these ideas, and pay for speakers to demonstrate the most ‘effective’ punishment techniques you have to understand that there is a bigger underlying philosophy at work.

   It isn’t just a desire to beat their children or make their lives miserable that draws most parents to this kind of teaching (though clearly there are parents in this world who do both and enjoy it)  but I believe a larger underlying mentality that is fueling the acceptance of this kind of teaching.

    I know some would say it is desperation, ignorance, fear even; parenting is the hardest thing on earth so what SHOULD you do when your child will not sit still/ throws tantrums/ will not eat/seems impossible?

   I believe all parents search for answers. I think many of us are susceptible to anyone who lays out a list, or can make us believe that THEY have the answer.  But what fascinates me is that certain kinds of child ‘training’ (harsh disciplinarian tactics especially) are dominated by those who claim to believe in a loving God.
  If you think about that for a second it seems extremely counterintuitive.

   So why it is that it there are so many Christians who seem attracted, maybe most attracted to this philosophy? I believe that many Christian parents have one major disadvantage to many of their unbelieving counterparts; a wrong and deeply distrustful view of God. They believe he exists, and they fear him. They believe his wrath is real and that pleasing him is impossible, but they are determined to spend their life trying.

   These parents face a formidable  conundrum.
  First, They do not know God’s grace in their own lives, there for they feel there is little to no room for them to ‘screw up’ their job of parenting. Any ‘wrong’ actions of their child are personal reflection of the job they’ve done; in other words a child’s failure is not just a child’s failure, it is their own failure as a parent, and to be sure there are always observers for your child's worst breakdown.
   Secondly, they may see this life in many ways as not just something to be lived, to learn from, fail, and try again, but as a test for an eternity determined by todays actions. Unbelieving parents have to deal with the consequences here and now of their kid's mistakes, but a religious parent see's every single action as charting an eternal course, with eternal consequences. Without a focus on what is happening internally, they may find themselves obsessed with their child's appearance and behavior.
Third - in an attempt to do a good job safe guarding their child from wrong, they may believe that their job is to enforce their will onto their child, which is best way to prepare a child to become an adult who will submit to God’s demands in the future.

   That tantrum? It isn’t just inconvenient, embarrassing, and probably because their kid is tired, hungry or bored. That tantrum represents an unbroken will, - the inability to submit to even the cruel ‘justice’ of God that demands perfect righteousness.  These parents do not just see a child who didn’t get a nap. They see a human soul in which they feel obligated to literally ‘put the fear of God’. But short of that, - a fear of their parents, and their actions consequences.  They may also feel shame and guilt. If they were ‘raising’ their child properly, - surely there would be no tantrum.

   I have heard parents make quiet snide remarks when seeing another family’s child melt down, ‘Looks like someone needs to spend more time disciplining at home so things like this don’t happen.’

   These parents do not know a God of grace; they have no grace to themselves or anyone else.

  So here is the thing.

  If you look up the definition of abuse, - it says this:


to use wrongly or improperly; misuse: to abuse one's authority.


to treat in a harmful, injurious, or offensive way: to abuse a horse; to abuse one's eyesight.


to speak insultingly, harshly, and unjustly to or about; revile; malign.


to commit sexual assault upon.


Obsolete . to deceive or mislead.
rape or sexual assault.

   If abuse in action is mistreatment, I think a major reason for abuse can be summed up in a single idea.  One person trying to exert personal power, control, or force their will onto another person, essentially being willing to hurt the other person if necessary to accomplish their goal.

    Can I ask; is this how you view God?

  He made a incredible techni-color sweeping and vast mysterious world, he created imperfect humans, demands perfection,  and when they screw up he nods in satisfaction as he sends them to hell (unless they hide under the loophole of Jesus and fearful right living).

Do you believe God’s desire is to force his will upon us?  Do you believe he is willing to do anything, take anything; to hurt you in any way ‘necessary’ to accomplish his plan?  Do you believe you are just eternal collateral in the big scheme of things?

 Do you think he cares if you are happy, healthy or whole? Do you believe he imposes a moral standard on us out of cruelty just because he can? Do you believe he willingly withholds good from us?

    I realize that I’ve just asked some pretty deep theological questions. So quick, before you think too hard let me ask one more; having just read this, how do you FEEL about God?  Not the pat answers you know, - not the bible verses or particular story examples your mind is racing to recall and organize in response; how do those questions make you feel?

    Do you feel like God likes you? Do you feel like his heart is full of delight and good toward you? Do you FEEL confident in his presence? Do you feel that he will always treat you with respect and that he adores everything about who you are?
  Those feelings you have right now, - THOSE are affecting your parenting. Your parenting reflects your view of God. Not necessarily the mental catechism, - the right answers you have filed away; but the real core of who you see God to be; THAT shows up in your relationship with your child every single day.

   My abusive childhood, my painful past, - they affected my parenting. Even though I was determined not to make the same mistakes that hurt me, and in outward ways I haven’t,  I quickly came to realize that some of my biggest struggles came from a place I thought gave me a parenting advantage; my faith in a Heavenly Father. (Since it was biblically unsound.)

   Thankfully through time, counseling and loving healthy relationships in the last couple years I can say that I am in a very good place in life, and feel at the best position in my life to parent. Not that I am perfect; far from it. Not that I have all the answers. I don’t. Not that I am not still learning and asking questions with each new age and new stage my children reach, I am and I do!

   But here are some specific mindsets I finally can articulate as how my perspective was always different than my past, or some ways it has changed over time.

   My goal as a parent is not to decide ‘how thing will be’ and enforce that upon my child at all cost. My goal is to do my best to provide a safe, loving environment for that child to grow, learn, explore, make mistakes and learn to express her thoughts, feelings and emotions and handle conflict in a healthy way.

    My goal as parent is not to make my children submit to me personally (or their father as ‘head of the house)but rather to respect the rule of love to which each of us in the house submit.

     My goal is not to strictly enforce manners, a code of conduct, or social expectations upon my children, but rather to help them learn to understand, empathize, appreciate and respect others.

     My goal is not to make sure they know how to submit to any earthly ‘authority’s’  ideas, desires or will for them; but it is it to teach them to hear their heart, and God’s voice for themselves, encouraging them to make their own decisions.

    I believe my children are capable of hearing from God things that I do not (like child prophet Samuel) and I act accordingly.

    My goal is not to decide what I think are healthy things for my child to eat, wear, etc. and religiously enforce what and how much and when; but it is my desire to make choosing what I see as good things as easy and appealing to my child as possible, giving them ever growing autonomy to practice making those choices on their own, and within reason to allow them to experience the effects of choosing otherwise.

     My desire is not to stop and silence all fits, temper, whining or defiance, but to use real, adult world perspective to practice and teach understanding, sympathy, and proper expression of anger and frustration, and setting and respecting healthy boundaries.

     I am determined not to expect of my kids what I cannot reasonably expect from myself. Sometimes I have bad days, say something stupid or mean, act selfishly, or have overwhelming emotions. If at 32 I experience those things, - I am banking on my 3 year old will! When I expect my kids to act like kids, I am never disappointed.

   Thankfully at this point in my life while I do not have the all the answers, - I DO have something to offer them that I didn’t before. As a recovering conservative I inadvertently discovered something that not only changed my life, but changed my parenting as well.

    I found grace.

    I found a heavenly Father who looks at me with love and delight and sighs in deep joy at my wild hair, awkward exuberance, my insanely deep thinking, and over analyzing mind that is never ever quiet, and my deep desire to share those thoughts with everyone and says ‘Isn’t she the most precious thing you’ve ever seen!? Don’t you just love her!!?”

     It is the same feeling I have for my children when I’m not worried about OUR behavior as a reflection of my personal score card with God.

     I’m banking on the fact that I am making parenting mistakes. I am banking on the fact that they will make dumb choices. I am banking on the fact we will both make ourselves and each other look stupid. I am ok with that.

   I am also counting on the fact that they will see me resting in the love and grace of a heavenly father, and that they can count on the same from me.
  How do you believe your faith has affected your parenting?
  If some of these ideas strike a nerve; if you wonder if your past has tainted your view of God, can I recommend a few links?  They were helpful as I processed how my past affected my present.  Do you wonder what domestic violence is? How do you know what is 'normal' levels of anger or control between spouses or parents and children? Click Here
Were you raised in an ultra conservative family? Are you questioning your view of authority, parenting, and God? Click here

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Tin Coffee Can DIY

So this project has been in process a while.
I kept letting it sit between steps, but I FINALLY finished it and couldn't love it more!!!!
 I should begin by saying that my husband and I are huge coffee and tea drinkers.
In fact we are kind of coffee snobs, and usually have at least two different roasts opened at a time.
I was itching to try my hand at some coffee storage, and decided to use these cookie tins.
 My mom loves these cookies and after looking at the tins I realized they could actually hold quite a bit of coffee (we buy big bags of beans!!) I decided to try them out!
I picked up some cheap knobs and sprayed the tins with a couple coats of primer/top coat combined white spray paint.
Then I brushed some chalkboard paint on the cured white tins. I actually tried not to be neat, and leave some brush strokes visible.
To attach the knobs to the tops I used a hammer and nail to create a hole for the knob screw.
I kind of eyeballed center and thankfully they all look right, but I'm sure you could measure if you are patient and mathematically inclined, unlike me.
Beware that you may need to swap out the screws for shorter ones and also use washers, since they were designed to go through thick wood, and the tin lid is so thin.

 I then cut out a label shape I liked out of a file folder, and used it as a guide to paint the outline in place. I then 'seasoned' the chalkboard paint with chalk.....
The next step is to wash out the insides one more time before you fill them with heavenly coffee beans!!!
 Our favorite coffee in the whole world comes from Blacksmith Coffee, which is tucked in the tiny Swedish/American town of Lindsborg Kansas, and sells AMAZING roasts.

Our favorite day to day coffee is the mild yet flavorful Morkrost but the darker Skanrost is also awesome but anything from Blacksmith Coffee is outstanding.
 The tin labeled French Roast is a Starbucks bag of beans.

This is our coffee station, and though you can't see in the picture there are mugs hanging below it for easy access. The Kahlua and Carmel have been there forever (since when you drink good coffee you don't really need to add anything) but it is a good spot to keep them available.
This project may have taken months between steps to actually finish but I love the outcome!
Have you repurposed anything ordinary into fun storage lately??

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Cost of Community

                                                               The cost of Community

    Have you ever driven through an Amish area? Americans seem to have a certain fascination with the plain people. If you have ever been to Ohio or Pennsylvania it is easy to become enchanted with the sweeping fields, the white picket fences, the clothes lines blowing with hand stitched works of art. But perhaps the thing that draws you most as you slowly drive by is the quietly dressed figures animating the scene.

    Their simple lives seem so far removed from both modern comforts and modern struggle that they seem almost other worldly. Like a beautiful piece of history brought to life. The children especially: dressed as miniature figures of their parents, captivate. Even more astounding than a group of people who live without electricity or other modern convenience is the sense of unity that is apparent in all that they do.

  At first glance they seem to represent the best of a tight knit committed community that both rejoices and sorrows together. Difficult tasks, or tragedies, and great blessing are born together by those whose lives are intertwined. It would appear that simple dress and living, and adherence to community ideals allow a society where mutual support and care can flourish in ways that is enviable.  These families live and work in an environment completely created and preserved by unconditional loyalty and unwavering adherence to the traditions that bind their lives together. In some ways it seems so appealing.

    Until you consider the cost.

 This simplicity and conformity does not come cheaply.

    For each family to find its place of acceptance and love, and care from the others in the group, one thing is nonnegotiable. It requires human sacrifice.

  We were not created the same.

   Achieving a community of conformity and unity where individuality is suppressed and outward expression of uniqueness is erased can only be achieved one way. Every child born into an Amish family knows that the incredible loyalty, love and acceptance we see are only offered to those who conform.

   The only way to create a community of those who are the same is to cast out anyone who is not.

    Family, friends, love, acceptance, a community; paid by denying the unique, majestic identity that is not just each person’s undeniable right, but their divine responsibility. It seems like the ultimate choice. Actually it is no real choice at all. The right to live here; can only be paid with your life.

   Parents raise children who know they are a ‘worldly button on their shirt’ away from losing everything and everyone they know. If this sounds like an unhealthy way to grow up as a child, imagine living this way as a parent. The price of having a place in a community that provides the structure for all they know in life requires that they are willing to cut off anyone in their life who does not perfectly obey.

    All relationships hang in the ultimate balance; because an individual’s value will never be greater than conformity.

    Acceptance and love are by definition conditional and for the express purpose of accomplishing a goal; compliance.  Nothing matters more than the edicts, the standards, and the idea of what each person is supposed to be.

   To live in such a system requires regular and necessary death. It means the death of hopes and dreams, death of relationships based in fear of loss, death of individuality, death of unconditional love and acceptance.  Death of the very core of the beings God created in his image.

    Death to the pursuit of love and connection no matter the cost (God’s very nature) traded for a deceptive sense of conditional belonging and acceptance. The counterfeit of approval and acceptance based entirely on outward, mindless compliance replaces the power of the only force on earth can reach beyond barriers, differences and all resistance. To live in a world that seems to practice such incredible devotion means rejecting everything that is true love.

     I don't know what it is like to grow up Amish. But I do know something about growing up in a closed community.

   Growing up, my ‘Amish’ did not live in picket fence homes within buggy distance of each other, instead we were scattered far and near and our homes and lifestyles varied considerably, which added to the illusion of diversity. We did not reject all current advancements, just random ones that we considered a threat; mostly books, music, television, or things that made us feel too knowledgeable or connected to modern culture.  We definitely had a dress code; pretty much anything that was a few decades behind current fashion, or a mixture of styles, like dresses and sneakers under the label modest.

   We did not have a council of elders in buggies, but here and there sprang up leaders who effectively used fear of living anything less than a much expounded ‘best’; of disappointing a gracious God who was trying to be patient in our progress toward real victory and holiness.

  There is a kind of comfort in being part of a group. There is an excitement in feeling that your commitment and perseverance is stronger than others, and believing that like in other areas of life, extra effort means bigger payoff. There is a false but alluring sense of purpose in developing and protecting a tightly defined culture.

    If you don’t know who you are, you do not feel that you are sacrificing anything to become who you are ‘supposed’ to be. After all, - perhaps it is true. Perhaps that sense of longing and emptiness is because you hadn’t fully applied the ideals of prescribed holiness to your life.

    We thought we believed in love. We thought we knew about acceptance. After all, - we accepted each other! We were intensely loyal. We wouldn’t hesitate to sacrifice for each other. We tended to be polite and respectful to those who were not ‘like minded’ but would never allow them too close. We considered it our duty to confront others (or at least condemn behind their backs) the parts of their lives that were farthest from our convictions with the weight of punishment, consequences and rejection waiting in the wings. Ironically we called that love.

   We thought we knew God. We thought we knew how to make him happy. We thought we were standing in grace (obviously; we were committed). We tried to convince others that God really loved them; he just hated everything about them and wanted to change everything about their lives from top to bottom. After all, that is how we loved others.

   That actually made sense if you grew up in a culture where love was really just the word you used to describe enjoying your reflection in someone else’s carefully scripted nearly indistinguishable life.

   After all, isn’t that what God wanted in us?

    Or maybe not.

    Sometimes we are blessed to be broken by life, and then through the cracks we are able to see the light for the very first time. At this point in my life I met a God I did not know before. This God was not concerned about controlling my life, nor did he support confined, controlled communities.

  “This is a fundamental principle of freedom. We were designed to be free. How do we know? God put two trees in the garden. He gave us the choice. Without a choice, we don’t have freedom, and more importantly, we don’t have love, which requires freedom. God chose us, loves us, and wants us to love him in return. So he gave us a free choice even though it meant necessarily risking our rejection and devastation of a disconnected relationship. The tragedy of the fall actually proclaims that he doesn’t want to control us. He didn’t want to control us in the garden, and he doesn’t want to control us now.”

   “Many people find this hard to believe. If you were raised with a powerless, fear driven mindset based on the belief that you can control people and they can control you, then you will naturally perceive God as a controlling punisher. You will take the laws of the Old Testament – all the verses and stories about wrath and judgment and the fear of the Lord and conclude, ‘see, God wants to control us, and we need to be controlled. Our hearts are desperately wicked and we can’t be trusted, so God uses the threat of punishment to maintain the distance between us and Him’.”

   “God’s number one goal with us is connection, and nothing, neither pain, nor death, will prevent him from moving toward us, or responding to us with love.”

   “His perfect love toward us is fearless. He is not afraid of us, and never will be. His Gospel message is: I love you no matter what. I am not afraid of your mistakes and you don’t have to be afraid of them either. You don’t have to be afraid of other people’s mistakes. They may be painful; many things in this life may be painful. But pain and the fear of pain no longer have to control you. You are always free to choose. So what are you going to do? Remember, I love you no matter what you choose.

  God is continually moving toward you in love and giving you the choice to love him. He never takes your choices away. 2 Cor. 3:17 – “where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty’.  The more God fills your life, the more freedom you will have.”     ‘Keep Your Love On' by Danny Silk

        The thing about tight community living and ‘love’ is that connection and relationship can only happen when any and everything that seems to stand in its way is erased. When there are no major differences, and when individuality and personal choice are silenced.

    God’s love is an irresistible force that makes everything standing in the way insignificant. Nothing is a match for God pursuing connection with us.  We were created for love.

     Without understanding the nature of God’s love we become obsessed with looking for anything (sin) in others as a legitimate reason for separating and rejection, which is often the only way we know to handle hard differences in life. When in an attempt to maintain ‘unity’ personal expression and choice are seen as sinful, it is not hard to find.

   The whole point of the gospel is that a powerful, holy, perfect, sinless God acted out of love (that cost him everything) toward those who were very far away and could not be more different, no strings attached.

   He even sent his son to tell us in his own words.

   So you think you are a good person because you love those who are in your group – the people who think and look and believe like you? Even the people you think are the most sinful do that. That isn’t God’s love. I tell you to love those not only who just politely disagree with you, but those who hate your guts. I tell you to give freely, not just to the deserving, but  even those who take more than their fair share.  Be kind to those who treat you badly, pour graciousness and love on everyone around you and embrace those who you have every reason to reject. Know why? Because that is what my Father did for you. It is what he does every day; he pours out his love like the rain on the just, the unjust, the humble and unthankful. That is love.   (my paraphrase of Luke 6)

   One thing I love about Jesus is his commitment to connection. He pursued connection with individuals, even those that horrified the ‘good' people of his community. Even the evil were still worthy of his love and forgiveness.  I’m glad. In my past, I’ve been part of (theological) mobbing, and (verbal) stoning.

   –Father forgive me, I knew not- I really, truly knew not -....... (of so much- but especially love).

    Each heavy stone of judgment hurled, landing on battered heart, simultaneously destroyed my own. Human sacrifice; the cost of appeasing a holy God, which I believed to be barbaric in other cultures seemed totally justified when it was the only way to protect my own carefully, community endorsed  view of God and righteous living.

     Thankfully, even modest, submissive, and lovely murderers (whether in heart or in flesh) are forgiven by the God I now know.

 Through love. Because of love. Love that didn’t back down at my fear, my hate, my shame, my righteous indignation.  Love that didn’t push me away; ever. Love that stayed. Love that was willing to do whatever it cost, even if I never said yes. Love that was so pure, so clean, so real, that eventually I could do nothing but turn toward its white hot light.

   My hands bruised and stained with the blood of the wicked, the vile, the undeserving, who I in righteous fury had destroyed so I could live a right life, feebly reached out and found healing, and forgiveness.

     Perfect love casts out fear.

Fear of difference. Fear of rejection. Fear of unworthiness. Fear of shame. Fear of loneliness. Fear of others mistakes. Fear of my own. Fear of the depth of my own darkness. Love.

   Much of my life has been in community that believed it knew what love was.
   The thing that completely wrecked my world?  The real thing. I am forever changed.

This Present Mom,

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Frozen; Winter Prairie Beauty

 A few days ago our world became perfectly still.
The land was transformed into a enchanted state of frozen, shimmering, beauty.
Sulking clouds hang heavy.
The air cracks with cold.

                                        Not a blade of grass blows, not a branch stirs.
                                                           The wind does not sigh.
                                    The land holds its breathe, perfectly motionless and exposed.

                                                     Summer's glory encased.
                                               Perfectly preserved relics of life.

                                                           Nature's crown jewel.
                           Carats of light surrounded by slender prongs of faded glory.

                                      Suspended in space hang intricate crystal chandeliers.

                                             Strands of diamonds shimmer in regal beauty.

                                                             Humble grasses bow.

Elegance and beauty in every curve.
Next year's new life sleeps.

The stillness of the air is only broken by my warm breath.

                                       Slowly the light melts into pools of purple and gray.

                                                     Evening comes to the prairie.

This present Mom,

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Survey Release #4 Additional Comments


   So several of the questions of the survey gave respondents a chance to offer more information. A surprising number of grads did take the time to express their own experiences and thoughts, so I decided to make these a separate post.
 Some shared criticism of the survey itself, which is fair. I do feel there is a variety of both positive and negative comments, and that each one helps us get a bigger understanding of this thing called home school from a student's perspective.

   All the numbers in the survey can make us forget that behind each statistic lies a very personal story. I wish to honor those who took time to share even parts of their story, whether good or bad.
   These are the faces of home school, now adults, raising our own children. If you asked these students and they really felt free to speak, this is what they would say.

If College was not something your parents encouraged please check the box that best describes why
(---Additional comments…)

*Mennonite, and my sister went because she wanted to be a RN

*I was needed/expected to help with my younger siblings, as both my parents were in poor health.

*College was not encouraged at first as it did not seem to fit with my interests at the time, and my parents strongly encouraged me to work for at least 1-2 years after high school before deciding.

*They encouraged me to go to Christian college. They would have discouraged me from picking a non-Christian college.

*Just didn’t care. They would have been fine either way.

*Influence of Bill Gothard’s anti-education philosophies.

*I choose to start working and making money right away.

*Bill Gothard taught against it.

*They only were in favor of me attending colleges that met their standard standards or I was to live at home. They prepared academically, but were not highly involved in my education after middle school. Almost all of my high school learning was done through distance learning programs or through tutoring.

*They let me decide. They told me if I thought it was necessary for the occupation I chose they would be happy to help with the cost. And they encouraged me to use my time wisely.

If you do not favor home school for your child
---( Additional comments.)

*My wife and I will be working, we will have no time.

*There are other things I want to do besides homeschooling.

*It varies child to child! If I have one that HSing will work for, we’ll probably HS. If not, I feel no guilt about public school since it will meet his/her needs much better.

*They need outside structure and motivation.

* I am not 100% confident that I can be the wife and mother I need to be as well as give them the education they deserve.

*It’s a lot to ask of one parent- and I hated having a mom who was run down and needy all the time. I don’t want to be that Mom.

*I want to have a healthy family. My job as Mom is to be Mom, not school administrator for my family. The role confusion in my family due to home school nearly ruined every relationship in our family and it has only been because the children have fought tooth and nail to save our relationships with each other and repair relationships with our parents as much as they will allow that we have any contact at all. Having a teacher for  a Mom and not having a Mom was extremely dysfunctional.

*I don’t want them to be isolated and socially inept, sad, lonely, and depressed.

*I plan to home school when I have children.


Do your parents say they wish they’d done anything differently?

·         They wish they hadn’t been quite as strict in certain areas
·         By the time they learned some things about grace in their lives (new believers when I was born) we were pretty far down the road of life. It takes much more work to undo damage and habits you previously thought were healthy than it does to learn it the right way the first time. My parents always said they wanted to give me a better chance at a good start than they had so I didn’t have as much to overcome.
       ·         I think their divorce was the downward spiral. Before that, it was great. After that, it     
               became a struggle, they both regret it.

·         More structured academics

·         No actual regrets but they have mentioned that there were some things they would do differently. 

·         The have mentioned that they wish they would have done different educational method and been more involved in the discipling us kids, and worked more on character/ attitude of the heart.

·         I think all parents have regrets as in no one is perfect. My parents have never expressed regrets concerning homeschooling though.

·         Mom feels they were not able to give enough one on one time. I disagree.

·         Mom regrets our involvement in ATI, Bill Gothard’s home school program.

·         They realized they were to far into conservative, religious camp and that we kids were given a false idea of God.

·         Mostly from my Mom saying she’d wished she had focused on specific needs more instead of what she thought she should be doing. 

·         They see the legalism was detrimental, but they don’t fully understand grace.

·         My mom realized she made a mistake and cries about it. We were in the Bill Gothard ATI program which is a cult.

·         My mom has said she wishes she had done things differently, my dad has zero regrets.

·         Certain things they wish they had taught differently, but none of the fundamentals.
Do YOU wish your parents had done things differently?
* Are there some minor things I would go back and tweak? Certainly. But overall, I am not disappointed with what I got and what they did.
*More college emphasis was needed.
*My math proficiency was highly deficient and I struggled in college math. This deficiency prevented me from pursuing a math/science career.
*I wish that they would have updated their curriculum, so that when we went to college we actually understood what we were supposed to do, not by something it was called 20 years ago.
*I feel so far behind and like I am trying to play catch-up in life.
* I think I would have done very well in school; I asked to go to high school, and was told no.
*I was basically abandoned to work on my own. It was awful. Boredom and inactivity consumed me.
*I feel like the homeschooled for them, not for us and as a result didn’t always put our best interests in mind or think about how certain things, (lack of social interaction, lack of experience with things like sports, etc.) would effect us. I wish they had thought about the potential long term impact of homeschooling instead of just using it as a way of keeping their children home and under their wing longer.
*Stronger academics in high school; less cloistering in just the HS community.
*I wish for a stronger academic focus in high school. Only what I was interested in was pushed after 8th grade.
* This is a two edged question. Once again, I think ATI turned into more of a cult than anything else, but we made neat friends and I loved some of the experiences, so…life is what it is. You take the good and bad and move on. It wasn’t perfect, but nothing is.
*I am struggling through college; my one brother is suicidal and has no hope for good future. Mom refused to provide transcripts for him to join the military, he wanted to do many things but was ONLY allowed to work in the cult training center and go through ALERT.
*My parents loved to learn, but at the same time my mother downplayed the importance of a solid well round education and school beyond 8th grade.
*I got an AMAZING educational experience that has benefited me tremendously in my field even now. However it was wrapped up in the early conservatism of the movement, which I’ve completely broken away from. However, to their credit, they allowed me to be with other ‘liberal’ people and I benefited from the true diversity in my homeschooling.
* Nothing major, but there is always room for improvement.
*More social interaction.
*I wish we had a more stricter school plan in high school.
* I think had they been consistent with education it would have set my siblings and I up for better success as we entered the real world.
* I wish they had pushed me more academically since I was gifted, but I do think they provided a good academic balance. I do agree them being a little too strict. I wish I could have been allowed to reach my own conclusions a little more as a teenager instead of being forced to agree with them in public all the time.
*Maybe we should have gone back to high school earlier but it worked out ok.
*There was little reasoning behind peer-oriented activities. It seemed as though my extracurricular activities were very limited, and mostly because my parents feared ‘worldly influences’ and didn’t seem to actually trust that they had raised me in the way I should go. Being treated as untrustworthy fostered a spirit of frustration and I responded with anger and minor rebellion.
*I wish they had only adopted the children that God ‘brought’ to us instead of seeking out adoption opportunities.
*I wish they would have stayed together. Their divorce has clouded my perspective on a lot of things. They could and should have finished strong.
*More structure; academics math/science were not taught consistently.
*Academic focus was good, but not as strong as it could have been. My current direction is very heavily science based. However the lack of strong science base in high school has not hindered me in the least, I was give the tools to learn what I needed and I have excelled in college.
* The only thing I would change, is that now there are more home school support groups and a wider variety of extra –curricular activities available to homeschoolers. I would have liked to have been more activity in a wider variety of events.
* In a few areas, yes, but over all I have a lot to be thankful for how I was raised!
*They did a lot of things right, it’s just that as the kid you see the mistakes and want to change these while still doing the good with your kids.
*Yes and no. I wish we were not sheltered so much and I wish we got a better education.
*I wish they had been more accepting of different views.
*My upbringing resulted in extreme social awkwardness that was completely unnecessary.
*I feel that homeschooling was the only way they could keep us kids from being ‘tainted’ by the world, and it did not matter that we were crippled in our social, academic and mental abilities because of it.


Additional Comments?
 *For me, if homeschooling had just been about academics my life would have been fine. I got a very good education. It was every other area of my life that was lacking. I wonder if Mom had sent us somewhere else to get a basic education if she would have had more time and energy to fulfill the other needs of her children.
* Many of my answers seem to conflict, partly because I have almost 2 very different experiences. Before Dad left and after. It was more cloistered/performance based before, and more balanced after. I didn’t have to live exactly like all the other super conservative families because my parents were divorced and I was left with re examining all my beliefs and had to choose if I really believed it or if I was just doing it because I was supposed to be a good home school girl.
* I had a wonderful childhood, I wouldn’t change anything.
*I would home school because my Mom had so much fun doing it, and at one time I wouldn’t have considered a husband that wouldn’t do that but I specifically felt God tell me one day that I might have to give that up, so I am open to not home schooling. Another odd thing is the way my parents have changed so much from who they were when I was young, sometimes I have to accept that as well. I value my heritage and I was part of the culture. It was Mennonite though, not American.
*I think this is placing a lot of importance on homeschooling that I don’t place. I am successful, both in school and social life because of how my parents supported me. Yes, they chose to do that by homeschooling but I still feel it was less their educational choices for us and more their parenting choices that made the difference. They were involved, they were there. Any one thing, (i.e. home schooling) did not make the difference, who they were made the difference, that is my thought anyway.
* the problem is not homeschooling, it is modern parenting.
* It was hard to answer some of these questions, in many ways homeschooling was a blessing but sometimes I wonder if my Mom wouldn’t have been happier if we would have gone to school. My mother is a very unhappy person and the additional stress I think just made it worse. If I would have gone to school I may have had more positive adult role models. However I don’t blame homeschooling for the dysfunction in our home, sending us to school wouldn’t have made our home a happy one.
* I wish these questions were more specific; my mother was conservative but my father wasn’t, so that colored things considerably – my parents had different convictions about college/higher education/career/ etc. so I just had to pick one. For example my mother emphasized being a home maker, while my father emphasized college. But I love what you are doing on your blog, I’ve seen the trends as far as lack luster educational standards, gender based standards and I am absolutely horrified by it.
*I know I have some conflicting responses but I really feel conflicted about my childhood. Homeschooling in and of itself was ‘not’ the problem. Maybe it contributed, but I think if I had been in any other setting, with family relationships the same I would have ended up in a very different place than I am now. I’m happily married with 5 children and are homeschooling. It looks nothing like the way I grew up though. J
*So much has changed for us over the years, but we’ve all worked to grow together and honor the Lord and each other. I feel incredibly blessed….both among homeschoolers and publicschoolers.
* My home school experience was good save for the no social preparation for the outside.
*Survey is a bit skewed. Questions and answers force the survey takers to select within the line of the beliefs of the survey maker.
*My sisters loved being homeschooled, both want to home school their kids, neither works in a technical field and their social group is limited to church.
*It worked out pretty well for us but we home schooled out of necessity not desire and that may have factored in a lot. It didn’t take over our lives and we went back to Christian school in high school.
*I am really interested in the results you get.
*To clarify on two questions, My Mom has breast cancer, but has always had excellent emotional/mental health. I am open to other options, but would prefer to home school.
*This is an excellent survey, it is a little biased on bad experience which I don’t suffer from as much as it seems others have. I would have answered these questions so much differently before I left home, before I started homeschooling my own kids and before I started learning about how grace, the brain and the ability to learn alongside your kids enables them to learn.
*After being away for a year at college I have seen how homeschooling greatly enhanced my academic experience. Even though our homeschooling was not strong in certain academic subjects I acquired the work ethic to know how to study well and learn. Not being proficient in the area of math has hindered my progress at college, but it is something I am working through. My experience working for my Dad during high school helped me to get a good job as I work through college.
* I had a wonderful home school experience and was successful in college and am on a career path that I enjoy. Of course it wasn’t all perfect, but overall it was great. I would do it again if I had the chance.
*Clarifying on some questions; My mom has had serious health issues for >10 years. However she remains absolutely positive on her outlook on life and will, Lord willing, see you youngest child graduate high school next year after homeschooling for more than 25 years.Q-33-34Although I still occasionally feel lost on some topics – I do feel properly prepared to respond. One will never see eye-to-eye with peers or have the same social experience and I feel no pressure to try and obtain the experience of my peers.
*I did not answer 2 questions because there was  no appropriate answer; n5 my parents motivation was to give me the freedom in education I was begging for(I started HS in 6th grade)n15 They encouraged me to seek God’s will for my life and pursue whatever that may look like, knowing that He had given me interests and talents in line with his plan for me. Another thing I would like to add having done research on a graduate level I feel your survey is incredibly biased.
*Very interesting.
*The questions about profession were hard because I am a stay at home mom, I do enjoy it and felt a little prepared, but even though I had the ‘proper training’ to be a wife and mother, I still go crazy sometimes and feel like I have no idea how to run a household. I also feel I was never really prepared to get a real job though because of my lack of training. Yes I enjoy being a mom, and felt a little prepared, but no did not feel prepared for work in the real world.
* There were many aspects of homeschooling that worked for our family, academically our parents were very rigorous and I feel I got a good education. I also feel that being as sheltered as I was truly did keep me from bad influences that may have led me to do things I would regret. I don’t feel that my home school experience was good overall. I missed out socially and struggle to keep up now. I wasn’t allowed to mess up and I wish I’d been given my freedom to live my own life.
* As my mother died of cancer I did not answer questions about her health or my parent’s marriage. (My father is happily remarried)
*My home school experience per se did not prepare me academically for college at all, however my own drive to study for the GED test(which I took at age 19) probably helped a great deal.
*Some of my questions are ‘yes AND no’ because in some ways my education was good and in other ways it was lacking. Socially I had to overcome a lot of preconceived ideas about ‘the world’ and people outside of my home school community when I graduated from high school. I had a lot of fear about the unknown. I faced a lot of trepidation and guilt in my romantic relationships too,- my parents were not supportive at all.
* The question about being able to relate to peers seems a little biased because sometimes I can’t relate to people socially, not because of homeschooling but just because of differences in the society and people themselves. America is broad and there are often social and cultural differences from one state to another.
* When I was 13 and going through identity questions I wanted to assert my independence from my mom by not doing math. I absolutely refused to do math and even dropped out of every math coop class I took – Geometry, Algebra 1 and 2. My mom basically threw up her hands and allowed me to graduate with a core40 high school diploma even though I had not completed 80% of the textbooks to technically complete these courses.
*Underlying the idea of homeschooling seems to be a sense of pride in doing things ‘right’. I was raised under the teaching that it’s important to wait for God’s best, if it’s not right then it must be wrong. That we have to fear the culture because it’s worldly and so many other twisted truths. The mindset of waiting for God’s best has paralyzed my 30 year old sister so much that she is worried about even looking at or having a brief conversation with a guy for fear he will think she likes him.
*Homeschooling done right can be amazing – customized  education and experiences to suit each child’s needs. Homeschooling done poorly is horrible and very detrimental to the child’s future. Of 3 children I am the only one who got a halfway decent education and that was because I was self motivated and self taught. One sister still doesn’t know the multiplication tables and she has 2 young children that she’ll be homeschooling in a few years.
*Some of the questions you ask are compound questions making it difficult to answer.
*I think it is important for children to be taught to think, to find solutions and to interact. It’s important that they learn to handle situations in which they are uncomfortable, how to interact with all sorts of personalities. It’s important that they hear differing views so they can come up with their own set of beliefs.
*I felt unprepared for life in the real world.
*I feel like my home education would have been much better if my mom hadn’t had so many kids. She was trained as a teacher so she had good methods, just got overwhelmed by babies, toddlers, and the younger kids, that once I reached a certain age I was on my own. I’d be fine for a while just skipping over stuff I couldn’t grasp, and then feeling like a failure when I did finally ask for help, and my Mom would realize how little I actually knew. She would teach me until she got to busy.
*My parents were good at making sure we were on –track(or even above average)academically. Their need to prove themselves as home educators trumped just about every other need we had as children or as a family unit. It was very destructive. My mom suffered from extreme mental illness and my parents had a terrible marriage. Homeschooling children in that environment is not healthy at all.
*My parents were abusers and used parental rights and HSLDA to justify their abuse.
*There were only 2 children in my home so some of the questions did not apply. My entire family has walked away from the strict legalism of our pasts – none of us hold to the beliefs that we had back then. I do not have any children yet, but would love to home school. However my reason would be to let my children learn at their own pace and style, so that they will love learning, not so they can regurgitate facts.
*Thanks for this survey
*Homeschooling was never so much about control as preparedness for adult hood.
*I think home school done right can be good, my mom was overwhelmed, received little to no help from my dad. Towards the end, mom wanted us to go to school but he refused to let us. I think with both parents involved it would have been much better.
* I enjoyed being homeschooled while I was in school and thought I was lucky to have a mom that was willing to do that for me. I was homeschooled all the way from K-12 and while I think it was probably best for me at the beginning, I would have been better off if I had been put in school by middle or high school. Yes, it would have been more difficult, but I would have been better prepared for life.
*A lot of the questions I left blank because there was not an answer I agreed with. I love learning, but I never loved school. Home schooling was a good fit for me, but there were definitely areas I wish I knew more about.
* I realize that many may be taking this survey as homeschoolers only and that is the only way they know, but as for me I was started in public school and never really cut all ties with the school, my sister and I were able to take some classes there like band and drafting and anything the school offered so in some cases we had interaction and in many cases we were just another face in the crowd. The other thing is where we lived we were the only home school family for thirty miles.
* I only took a test once in 2nd grade and tested out far above my peers in many subjects.(Reading comprehension was at pre-college levels) Realize that I don’t have room to explain all answers, but I feel like the qualifying factor in my positive experience was a joyful and peaceful home. We homeschooled on principle, yes, but it was held with joy and not drudgery. Happiness was a natural by-product of a great home life.
*I feel that my parents did a great job of having balance in our home. They raised us the best way they knew how, but did not force their beliefs on us. We were taught to strive for excellence in all things, and our academic studies were most important with music, athletics, and other extra-curricular activities also. Overall I feel that being homeschooled was a positive experience for me.
*It was not a negative experience. I feel it could have been so much more than it was, and I feel a lot of resentment/regret around that.
*Thanks for doing this survey! I don’t mean to bash my parents. They are highly educated (teacher’s license and PHD) so did a good job with academics, I just think in general the whole idea of home school and isolation is flawed.

    I want to thank every person that gave time to share their experiences.