Last week I wrote a blog post at top speed, for me, the fastest I’d ever gotten a post up. It was David and Louise Turpin: the picture-perfect homeschooling family.
If I’d had a warning ahead of time that this post would receive over twenty times as many views as my previous most popular post ever (which was my Michael Pearl post, in case you’re interested), I probably would have slowed down a bit when I was writing and given it more thought.
Here’s the cryptic sentence that got some people upset:
“Don’t just defend homeschooling for the sake of homeschooling.”
And so, because it wasn’t as clear as it could have been what I was intending to communicate, the post was seen as anti-homeschooling. Later I added an addendum to explain I wasn’t in favor of more government intervention but was instead urging community vigilance and care.
So I’m going to tell you a story.
No, actually, I’m going to ask you to read a story.
It has to do with the very popular Christian school movement of the 1970s and 1980s, wildly popular, in fact, if you’re old enough to recall, because it was going to be “the answer” to the problem of young people from Christian homes going astray. Anyone remember that?
A couple of years ago on BJUGrace, a blog I administrated with some friends, some survivors of sexual abuse wrote articles to name their alleged abuser, a principal of one of those Christian schools. Here is the link to what might be the most compelling of those accounts, showing how the principal allegedly abused his students right under the noses of the school’s faculty and staff. You can take a minute to skim it; I’ll still be here.
Now imagine that story became news back in the 1980s when Christian schools were popular, and I blogged about it saying something a little too cryptic like, “Don’t defend Christian schools just for the sake of having Christian schools.”
You might then hear people say, “The problem isn’t about Christian schools. Christian schools still shouldn’t be regulated by the government. The government needs to keep their noses out of Christian schools.”
I would actually agree with that.
But could you help those 1980s Christian-school-protectors see that they’re missing the point?
This is not about protecting the right for a Christian school to remain in unregulated operation.
Don’t just focus on the Christian schools, I would say to them.
Look at the children.
Do you see what’s happening to the children?
Do you see that Christian schools were allowing evil wolves, nay, often welcoming them, into the sheepfold?
Do you see how naïve those faculty and staff members were? How heartbreaking it was that they could have become educated about wolves in sheep’s clothing, but didn’t. (And I was also a clueless Christian school teacher in those days, so I definitely include myself in this group.)
So this is what I want to say regarding homeschooling. I loved my homeschooling years and would never claim that homeschooling itself is “the problem.”
But Christian homeschoolers, don’t be naïve. Don’t assume everyone “like you” is just doing the best they can to love their children well. Don’t be all about parental rights and ignore the rights of the children to be safe.
On the Homeschool Freedom website, Israel Wayne wrote,
We all want to see children protected and violence against children stopped. But we should make sure that we use methods that actually work, instead of creating needless government red-tape for parents who love their children and want to teach them at home.
In my comment I responded to him:
[Methods] that actually work: Other homeschoolers not turning a blind eye away from homeschooling families in which something seems off, but actually asking the children some key questions (and often the mother as well). Teaching homeschool children, in their co-op and church environments, what abuse is and when and how to ask for help. Listening to and providing help for the children who speak about abuse, even when it’s from ‘such a good Christian family.” Listening to the young adults who have come out of cruel homeschooling families and being there for them instead of turning away from them. These are answers that require no government intervention and show that we do indeed care for our own.
If we insist that the cruelty that sometimes occurs in homeschooling families is ‘not my problem,” then the people outside of homeschooling—and often outside of Christianity—will be the ones who will embrace the ones escaping the abuse. We want them instead to see the love of Jesus through us.
This last statement is very near my heart, since I hear so many stories of abuse from the abuser survivors themselves, on a very personal level. Yes, stories of abuse come from the formerly wildly popular this-will-solve-our-problem Christian school movement (and that story I linked to was only one of several I know). Yes, stories of abuse come from public schools and from families that have nothing to do with homeschooling. Yes.
But my plea in that post was to homeschoolers. That’s my background. And I grieve for all the former ostensibly-Christian homeschool students who have walked away, not just from the way of life their parents claimed to be pursuing, but from Christianity.
From Jesus Christ Himself.
I’ve blogged in a number of posts about the problems that have been happening in the homeschool world. Here are perhaps the most significant:
Here’s what I’ve been told: Ninety percent of the former Christian homeschooling young people who walk away from their home environments are leaving God behind too. [Edited to add: I mean “walk away” in the sense that they’re severing ties.]
Do you think that’s just because of “rebellion” from their picture-perfect homes?
No, something is wrong.
Does it break your heart? Does it make you weep in the night? Does it make you want to reach out your arms to them? Does it make you cry out to Jesus to rescue them and be their good Shepherd?
When Christian homeschoolers stand tall against their fear of the government and instead, in the name of Jesus Christ choose to help and protect the vulnerable, needy, and hurting around them . . . when they choose to become educated about abuse and abusers, about tactics and red flags . . . when they choose to focus on loving each other and seeing and knowing Jesus Christ rather than trying to present a picture perfect front . . . I’m confident we will see far fewer leave Christianity behind and would even see some of those ninety percent return.
And for those Christian homeschoolers of my generation who were sure this would be “the answer” to the problem of young people from Christian homes going astray . . . well, I want to point out that really Christianity is about receiving the Living Water from the Wellspring of Life and then pouring that Living Water out to others, including our children and others around us.
Always, always pointing them to Jesus, the Shepherd of their souls.
That’s what I wanted to say.