I was a Fundamentalist Homeschool Father

QuiverFull_2

Or is it, “Men need to be like rabbits?”

I hesitate to share this.

In my original series about my oldest son’s lost faith, I didn’t share much about the environment that my kids grew up in. However, I did recently share that my deconversion played a role in the end of my marriage.

Looking back, it’s now a queer thought for me, but for roughly 20 years I was a Christian fundamentalist, pro-homeschooling father. I also felt favorable to the quiverfull (Psalm 127) ideology for a short period of time which, if you’re not familiar with it, the quiverfull movement promotes giving up on birth control and allowing God to bless you with as many children as God sees fit. But after 5 kids, my faith ran out of gas and logical thought took over.

The various Christian labels from above now embarrass me except for the label of ‘father’. I’m proud of all of my kids. But I’m truly sorry for what they went through and for what they endured while growing up, which includes indoctrination and far too much sheltering.

My ex-wife and I raised 5 children. Our homeschool journey started when our oldest son was 6 and we discovered that he was having significant struggles in school. He was diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), which came about after having a teacher at our private Christian school tell us that our son was “the worst student she had ever had“. If you’re a parent, you can understand how much that hurt to hear.

ritalinAs a result of his diagnosis, we started the common treatment at that time, which in the 1990’s was Ritalin, the “miracle ADHD drug”. Ritalin did work surprisingly well to calm our oldest son’s brain down for better concentration, but the side effects were heart breaking and frustrating. When he got home from school each day, the Ritalin had worn off and he would frequently turn into a puddle of tears over trivial matters. His appetite was also very suppressed. We couldn’t get him to eat anything until about 8 pm when it was close to bedtime. At that point, he was famished but dinner had long since been put away. As parents, it was heart breaking to see our oldest son come crashing down, reduced to tears, “thanks” to a drug we were giving him.

This wasn’t working. So after much contemplation, my wife decided that homeschooling was the solution. She had a bachelors degree and a mild love for education, and my job in IT was going pretty well. So I focused on earning a good income and working many long hours so that she could stay at home. Thus began a journey that had both positive and negative consequences – – for the children and our marriage.

Since the kids were home and together so much, they were pretty close with each other and usually played well. Most also inherited a love for reading that their mother nurtured. Unfortunately, all of them were typically 2 or 3 years behind their friends in terms of grade level (by age), and that was one of the negative results.

frazzled_mom

If someone were to ask me today if homeschooling was a good idea, I would tell them “no“, unless the circumstances were truly severe to warrant that strategy. Mothers typically assume the role of homeschool teacher, and I truly admire any parent who can effectively handle the very difficult task of homeschooling plus everything else. The personal energy requirement for it all is incredibly steep, to put it mildly.

As a parent in the homeschool movement, it became my impression that a majority pursue it for religious reasons. Now in hindsight, I believe that religion and homeschooling together creates a far more unhealthy environment for kids than does homeschooling, for non-religious reasons, alone.

In later years, my wife and I were routinely in strong disagreement about homeschooling. It became a very touchy topic between us, because I felt that our children were not receiving an adequate education. I felt that a good public school could provide a more extensive education along with an environment that gave far better opportunities for building social skills. Unfortunately, our kids were getting intentionally isolated and sheltered, largely fueled by religious paranoia.

public-schools-harm-children-sign

My wife held very conservative beliefs and strong fears about many things, and those beliefs compelled her to homeschool. In her mind, all public schools were utterly evil and God-less, and our children would be severely and eternally harmed if they were put into public schools.

Unfortunately, my wife’s identity was completely wrapped up in being the stay-at-home mom and teacher, and any discussions we had on the topic would naturally feel like a direct attack on her as a person. I tried hard to not come across in that way. I felt it was a superhuman undertaking — an impossible job — but in the end, I suspect that reasoning on my part perhaps motivated her stubborn nature even more to stay the course.

As I shared before, our marriage eventually ended but homeschooling wasn’t the cause. However, I can’t help but have disdain for homeschooling nowadays. I am hopeful that my kids will ultimately survive and overcome the environment that I helped raise them in. I am hopeful they will one day, forgive us for what they went through.

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14 thoughts on “I was a Fundamentalist Homeschool Father

  1. I feel the weight of this for you, and I remember the early years, issues with schooling, 2 years in a Christian school, then public school (me praying like crazy to know if it was the right thing to do). Short for time right now but wanted to acknowledge reading this and identifying with your struggle and your hope.

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  2. I homeschooled mine for about seven years and I would not recommend it to anyone, unless there were just no other options. There are pros and cons, of course, but I feel as if I did my kids a disservice, something that gives me much guilt. I so understand what you are going through. Thankfully, my husband and I both decided that the course we were on was not working at about the same time. I am so sorry about your marriage, Logan.

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    • Thanks Alice. I totally agree, there are pros and cons but it’s not a good option, especially in middle school and high school. Glad you and your husband were on the same page!

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  3. My wife homeschooled our five children even while I was a public school math teacher. Although I do not think I would be brave enough to do it by myself, I would emphatically recommend it to those who are able. I have one warning though: it is an extremely hard enterprise, as you are the school board, the principal, the teacher(s) besides being the wife/husband, the mother/father that you normally are. Our two older ones are now in college, and they are doing very well. I think it all depends on the caliber of the instruction you give at home and the sacrifice you are willing to make. This is not something you should do either just because other people are doing it. You must have a plan and trust God. You must also work past those myths concerning homeschooling. For instance, many people believe that homeschooled children are socially inept. Well… They will be if you raise them to be. No one can ever guess that our children are homeschooled, for they are very sociable. Some people say that we are just lucky. We are not. We are just realistic in our approach. It would take me too long to describe everything we have been doing, but our formula is a Bible verse that says: “Bad company corrupts good manners.” As a high school math teacher, I also know that when you add negative to a positive, you end up with less [Eg. (+10) + (-3) = +7] Therefore, we believe that their exclusion from interaction in the public school system is beneficial rather than detrimental. There is much teaching going on in the public schools, but there is no learning. While there are many great teachers, most students fell that they would rather not be there. That is why the system is so disruptive. I am so sorry that your marriage did not work out, but if you hang on to God, you may be able to see a miracle in your life. God can turn anything around: He is God. After all, Adam and Eve’s marriage was in trouble for 130 years and they reconciled (read Genesis 4 & 5).

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  4. I agree with many things you’ve said. I’m not anti-homeschooling per say, but I do think it takes a truly incredible parent to pull it off successfully. Anyone considering it should take a long hard look at what’s involved, and as you said, solid planning is very important, personal sacrifice is important, and ensuring that a person’s kids are not socially isolated is important. It’s a very hard job! I think it’s rare indeed for a parent to succeed as well as you guys have and my hat is off to you!! I’ll add too that many live in larger cities or areas where the public school systems are failing and/or the environment is very dangerous and toxic, so I understand when parents look to homeschooling as an option. Where I live, our public schools are actually quite good hence my feelings in the post.

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    • I see. Thanks for your reply. I am still sorry that your marriage did not work out. As an assistant pastor for marriage and family at my church. I feel for anyone whose marriage broke apart. That kind of situation tends to make an emotional wreck out of kids who get stuck in the middle, and of the spouses themselves. God be with you.

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  5. Hi Logan. I sure can relate with the physical and emotional fall out from having a child medicated for ADHD, having lived thru that with my oldest son. It’s really hard work, for all involved and an absolute roller coaster of a ride! And home schooling. Well, I found dealing with the homework demands enough of a challenge. I simply couldn’t imagine home schooling my 3 kids, never mind 5 of them! Also, reading your blog, I’m again reminded how very fortunate I was that my husband (a Baptist minister at the time), and I both deconverted around the same time. Thanks for sharing your experiences so honestly. I can only imagine how painful it must be having some of your children shutting you out of their lives. I truly hope one day they’ll understand your journey.

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    • Thank you eolandeeliva, I appreciate your message. And an “absolute roller coaster of a ride” is a good way to put what it’s like to raise medicated child with ADHD! Lol. I’m happy to hear that you and your mate deconverted around the same time! That had to have been quite a story too!

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  6. Thanks for sharing this story. Despite having left religion, I kept my oldest two out of public school out of fear, because I had such a bad experience. It only put them behind academically and socially. It took my oldest years to recover (if he has). It’s hard to expect forgiveness, I’m still hoping for it.

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  7. Thank you Ronna for sharing your story, both on your blog and by comments. In regard to our kids, I suppose I do take solace in thinking that we’ve all had some pretty fucked up child hoods and most of us survived. My oldest needed extra years to find his way, but he’s now excelling.

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  8. I enjoyed reading this. I homeschool, but I appreciate and actively seek out other perspectives. I do not homeschool for religious reasons, and the main thing that keeps me from putting my kids in public school is the “socialization” that occurs at school. My oldest wanted to try public school, and so we let her go for a semester, but we were unhappy with how her attitude turned from a loving, helpful child, to a catty personality with a chip on her shoulder due to whatever that day’s girl-drama was. I also tired of spending so much extra time in my evenings trying to help her through a math curriculum that made no sense to me. We re-think homeschooling every year; re-evaluating whether or not it’s “working” for me and for the kids. I wish there was some way of neutralizing the negative social structure (especially at recess and lunch time). I am looking into some hybrid school options so that my kids can have a few classes a week outside the home. Just trying to do what’s best for my kids. Sometimes it’s hard to decide what that even is!

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    • Thank you for sharing your experiences and perspective! I’m now helping to raise a teenage girl and I totally get what you’re saying (girl-drama and attitude issues). Perhaps there’s a good balance to be found for some families in all of this? I can also imagine that introducing a girl to public school, around the ages of 13 – 15, would be the most challenging or potentially troublesome.

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