I’ve held my tongue for a while now. Through the Bill Gothard/ATI scandals. Through the Doug Phillips/Vision Forum scandal. But now the new story that has everyone upset is that Josh Duggar, one of the oh-so-famous Duggars from 19 Kids And Counting, sexually molested several young girls when he was a teen.
I’m not going to get into the whole thing. There’s so much stuff going wrongly from both sides of the argument that I don’t even want to go there. I haven’t even said anything about it on social media, because it’s bothered me so much.
Instead, I’m going to focus on something I see cropping up–something that I also saw when the VF and ATI stories were circulating. In almost every one of these stories, I’ve seen a lot (A LOT) of comments about how religion and homeschooling are terrible for kids, especially girls. How they’re not safe. How it’s just a breeding ground for abuse. On and on and on.
This is to the folks who are saying that. Yes, there have been a lot of cases of abusive homeschoolers coming out in the past few years. Yes, it’s absolutely terrible. In no way, shape, or form do I condone any of this kind of evil.
But you’re not seeing the whole picture.
See, I was one of those homeschooled, Christian kids. My family primarily interacted with other Christian, homeschooled families. I married a Christian homeschooled guy from a large family (11 kids). And we both turned out fine. In fact, we plan on homeschooling our son.
I’m not denying abuse can happen. It can. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that rule-driven legalistic, patriarchal beliefs that some of my peers’ families subscribed to could be classified as a form of mental abuse. I thank God almost daily nowadays that my parents saw fit to keep us away from getting involved in ATI (at all) or deeply involved in Vision Forum (we ordered a few books and things from VF, but I was never completely sold on any of their teaching that I heard from DVDs and nonfiction.)
And that’s the key, I think. We were actively encouraged to engage culture, to watch movies, to attend college (though I chose not to go, much against my dad’s wishes), to pursue careers, to treat men and women as equals rather than believing women must always “submit” to men. I will admit that for a while, we fell into a bit of the “modest is hottest” crowd, but still never fully subscribed to some of the more radical beliefs, such as that it was all on the girl’s shoulders for making sure her Christian “brothers” never thought inappropriate thoughts by dressing “modestly”. No did we belief that covering up completely made people modest–I remember having a discussion with my mom in which we concluded it was more attitude than dress that made people modest.
In short, my family avoided the stifling legalism associated with the homeschooling cults. Were we perfect? Heck no. We had our issues. But the thing that I’m getting at is that you cannot lump all homeschooling into the “unsafe” types who blindly follow cults who promise perfect families. And to be honest? My family’s type is probably in the majority.
See, you hear all this cases being publicized about how homeschooling families and organizations are being felled by sexual scandals, or abuse, or neglect, and all sorts of terrible things. But what you don’t hear about are the stories of the hundreds–thousands?–of people like my husband and me, who were raised in homeschooling, Christian environments, were never abused or neglected, and are happily doing well in jobs, raising families of their own, and secure in the belief that they had a good childhood.
Homeschooling has it’s flaws, just like public schooling or private schooling, but one right, I think it can be a wonderful way for kids to grow and learn without an overdue amount of peer pressure or distractions.(some of those flaws do need to be addressed, I think. But that’s another post entirely.)
I’m confident that most of my fellow homeschoolers are turning out to be well-adjusted individuals. I won’t say all, because from the scandals and from personal experience, I know that isn’t true. I personally know a couple of kids who have gone off the rails. I know a few others who are a ticking time bomb. But the majority of us? We’ve turned out okay. We have jobs and families and normal lives.
Overall, I’d say I’m generally pretty proud to be a homeschooler. All I ask is that before you start making claims about homeschooling, maybe you should get to know some folks who have grown up in the community–the normal community.