Several decades ago, political activists on the religious right began to put together an “ideology machine”. Home schooling was a big part of the plan. The idea was to breed and “train up” an army of culture warriors. We now are faced with the consequences of their actions, some of which are quite disturbing.
According to the Department of Education, the home schooling student population doubled in between 1999 and 2007, to 1.5 million students, and there is reason to think the growth has continued. Though families opt to home school for many different reasons, a large part of the growth has come from Christian fundamentalist sects. Children in that first wave are now old enough to talk about their experiences. In many cases, what they have to say is quite alarming.
“The Christian home school subculture isn’t a children-first movement. It is, for all intents and purposes, an ideology-first movement. There is a massive, well-oiled machine of ideology that is churning out soldiers for the culture war. Home schooling is both the breeding ground – literally, when you consider the Quiverfull concept – and the training ground for this machinery. I say this as someone who was raised in that world.”
Too frequently, Stollar says, the consequences of putting ideology over children include anxiety, depression, distrust of authority, and issues around sexuality. This is evident from the testimonials that appear on Home schoolers Anonymous, the website that Stollar established, along with several partners.
Stollar’s own home schooling experience started off well. But over time, as his family became immersed in the world of Christian home schooling, his “education” became less straightforward and more ideological. “I particularly remember my science curriculum,” he says. “We used It Couldn’t Just Happen, which wasn’t really a science textbook. It was really just an apologetics textbook which taught students cliché refutations of evolutionism.”
Many parents start off home schooling with the intention of inculcating their children in a mainstream form of Christianity. However, as many HA bloggers report, it is easy to get sucked into the vortex of fundamentalist home schooling because extremists have cornered the market – running the conventions, publishing the curricula, setting up the blogs.
As HA blogger Julie Ann Smith, a Washington state mother of seven, says:
“If you are the average Christian home schooler with no agenda, and you have the choice between attending a secular home schooling convention and a Christian one, chances are you’ll choose the Christian convention. But they only allow certain speakers who follow their agenda. So you have no clue. What you don’t realize is that they are being run by Christian Reconstructionists.”
I know that whenever I touch on this subject I irritate a rather vocal part of my audience who are homeschooling their own children and feel immediately on the defensive whenever I bring up how homeschooling is being used by Fundamentalists to bypass more secular lessons plans in favor of those that help to indoctrinate their children more fully into their faith.
So I will apologize ahead of time for those who I might offend. However it is important to face the reality, that despite your experiences, there is definitely a vast subculture that is completely not interested in getting the best education available for their child but instead with controlling the information available to them for as long as possible.
And remember I speak from experience as my ex-wife used homeschooling and Christian textbooks to drive a wedge between my daughter and I. Fortunately for me my kid is a genius, and all it took was for her to read "Origin of Species" and she was deprogrammed virtually overnight. (Though I must say her animosity toward Catholics, who were vilified by members of her church, took a little longer to overcome.)
So I am interested in hearing about the experiences of some of you who home school. My experience with my daughter was horrible, and my interactions with home schooled children while I was coaching gymnastics left me less than impressed, so I would be interested to learn of the positive side as well as if there appears to be more of a focus on religion now than when some of you first started.