Monday, July 17, 2017

Why I am Not a Quivering Daughter

If you haven't figured it out, I was raised conservatively.
ATI, Vision Forum, small Baptist churches, and big homeschool families were all a part of my childhood.

Since then I've seen many "coming-outs" -- mostly women telling stories of the trauma inflicted in their childhood by one or all of the above things -- and it got me thinking.* I have also seen many of my fellow homeschool graduates grow up and systematically do the opposite of everything their parents did, not because of a horrific back-story but nevertheless making a definite statement about how they feel about their upbringing. Despite what you might suspect from the title of this blog post, I'm not here to say HOMESCHOOLING IS THE BEST or to defend or argue certain things. Rather, I want to explain what I've seen that drives people from their background {and many times from Christianity itself}, and why I'm not running, despite what I've seen of these things.

my favorite place in this town...and a place that reminds me of my childhood

*I should probably pause here to say that I/my family personally know several people who say these things, and some of them I believe {because I was there or close during their younger years and what happened is either obvious or clearly hangs together} and some of them I do not believe {because I was there or close during their younger years and their story does not match up with what I know of their life/church/family and, more importantly, does not match up with itself in multiple places}. For those who I do not know, I would similarly never dream of saying their story is not true unless they are caught in a lie in multiple places {the story of Razing Ruth is possibly an example}. 

Starting mom was never afraid of calling the Emporer naked. When the Duggar scandal happened, I was not shocked...we'd seen and discussed an episode once and thought it unwise of any family to so set themselves up for a fall, and while it hurt watching sometimes-verified accusations nearly destroy my own church and then in about one year's time crash through ATI, Vision Forum, and a "high-profile" family like the Duggars, it did not horrify me.

We'd always been taught that putting people on pedestals was asking for disappointment and disillusionment, and searching for truth was far more important. We bought things from Vision Forum -- because who doesn't find dress-up fun? -- and were immediately displeased by their shoddy workmanship. You don't end up respecting people too much when you buy their [very expensive] stuff and it looks terrible when you open it up or falls apart when you first use it. My grandpa {a fairly conservative Christian introduced to homeschooling through our family and then several families at his church} saw some of Vision Forum's teachings and very bluntly called it as he saw it --a business taking advantage of poor families with very expensive teachings that shouldn't have to be bought, i.e. wrong. We got through 3 Elsie Dinsmore books before my mom said This is so stupid and the characters do not make sense. We started going through Wisdom Books and there was the whole "Do the curriculum this way or it will not work" and my mom was like...for dumb. We'll do the parts we want and take what we find interesting out of it. She mentioned to some friends that the teaching we got from ATI was fascinating and could be gotten nowhere else, and those friends said EXACTLY. You can't find that stuff anywhere else, which gave us all another reminder to not embrace it too fully. We went to several Basic Seminars, but when my mom heard about people being sent to work at Headquarters she nearly laughed. Why would she send her children to go work for strangers for free? The idea was ridiculous.

Was I hurt by some of those things? Yes, because for a while I actually believed that the Civil War was completely over States' Rights and slavery was barely part of it...{thankfully my family's focus on going to the source led to reading quite a few original documents and a better understanding of history.} Yes, because I poured over Character Sketches like they were the Bible, and it took me a whole lot of Bible reading later in life to realize that the Bible was misrepresented in quite a few places, and my understanding of several stories had been entirely skewed. Yes, because my understanding of the world was being formed and some things that went over my mom's head stuck in mine and later had to be dealt with, unfortunately. Yes, because I desperately wanted to pretend we had the perfect type of Christian family that was held up before us all the time and I knew we didn't. {And saw repeatedly that being open about hurts, pasts, and realities made other Christians distance themselves from whoever was dumb enough to be vulnerable.} And Yes, because for a while I resented my dad for not being the archetypal VF/ATI father with a home business I could help out with and that he did not have the leadership qualities so praised by so many around me. The fact that he wasn't the type was another protective factor, however, because even though many of his goals created their own set of issues, the fact that he insisted we all attend college and encouraged me to be a doctor {when the "acceptable" after-high-school-paths  for girls around me appeared to be limited to photography, teaching, music, or nursing, despite an incredible lack of any Biblical support for that view} was obviously key.

Also, a huge factor was that we were not raised with the Forbidden Other as a mysterious marvel. Yes, we had restrictions on the books we read, the movies we watched, and the music we listened to, far more than most people we knew -- restrictions which were explained and which loosened as we grew older. I was raised on a steady diet of classical music, hymns, old novels, and an occasional black and white movie -- I never remember feeling deprived that I couldn't watch something my friends were watching. {Except maybe Phantom of the Opera, because my cousin raved about it and because it introduced me to a new type of music. XD Given the movie is a lousy adaptation of that music, I clearly didn't miss much.} We played sports and knew people who weren't homeschooled and got [carefully vetted] jobs in high school -- I saw enough of public school to know early on that I wouldn't enjoy it, and easily saw the problems inherent there. Which isn't to say there weren't issues -- when one of my younger siblings began taking more and more classes at the local high school, my mom was the one to say "I feel like we always hear horrifying stories about trying to work with schools, but these high school counselors are pro-homeschooling and amazing to work with." She definitely felt the one-sidedness of the message we had been receiving. The fact that she clearly didn't listen to it explains a lot. XD That, plus the fact that my dad is rarely convinced of anything with which he doesn't already agree. And of course, my own silent attitude, which led me to refuse to wear a white blouse and blue skirt for years, lest I be mistaken for following ATI dress-code {the whole matching group thing creeped me out just a little as a child}.

There were quite a few years where I felt absolutely rejected by many in the community in which I was raised. In college, nobody understood where I was coming from or why my life and life goals seemed so foreign, while going back home to baby showers and high school graduation parties led to a whole other set of subtle snubs and dislike of me as someone "clearly" stepping outside the bounds of female order and God's will.
These were from outside my family, however, and I was dead-sure that God was calling me to what I was doing -- the rest hurt, but couldn't affect me that much. Rather, it made me search the Scriptures more and become far more wary of ever again putting God in a box.

Basically, my parents did it right, and things that have been blamed for giving a completely warped view of God and His will managed to mostly slide past me.

What good did I get from these things, though? Would I use them in teaching my own children?

I think to start -- I adore homeschooling. I fully understand that there are times and places that it is impossible...but that was why public school was originally invented. {Although, honestly, at this point, I'd think that finding another homeschool family able to teach your children would be better than public school. My grandpa worked in education for years. Both my parents went to public school. I and my siblings have all interacted with the public school system in some way. It's a lousy way to learn for soooo many children.} I loved being home with my family, I have awesome memories of adventures with my siblings, I had opportunities to train horses, to fly airplanes, to work with incredible ski instructors, to make a house-cleaning business in high school, and to read and create and do a million things I never could have done if I had been forced through the ridiculousness of the public school system. I took an AP chemistry class in 11th grade, and while I learned what I needed to and very much enjoyed my teacher {who happened to be a great guy with 7 kids who wrote me an awesome recommendation letter for college}, having to GO TO CLASS EVERY DAY AT THE SAME TIME was torture. XD {The worst of my homeschooling: it prepared me for an alternative lifestyle of not one of being told what to do all the time.} Of course, my view of homeschooling is the end result of educated parents, and an incredibly skilled mother wholly dedicated to us learning everything we could. Yes, in our homeschool, some mornings we did nothing but read the Bible {which actually teaches you a million things, despite what some claim}...and as years went on some of us got through calculus and some of us struggled with algebra...some of us were reading by age 5 and some of us read slowly even in high school...but all of us were easily on track where we should be nationally...and none of us struggled with transitioning to "normal" classrooms when the time came to be a little more in the world without being of it.

Not VF approved, clearly...

I always enjoyed reading through Vision Forum catalogs, looking for books recommendations and costume ideas...I read a ton of Henty books and fell in love with To Have and to Hold {though my ancient copy was definitely not from Vision Forum...}. ATI's focus on character was not a bad thing -- learning character qualities and practicing Wisdom Searches wasn't the end goal it was sometimes treated as, but it was a useful stepping stone. The people who I watched treat it as a stepping stone were the ones who benefited, while those who viewed it as The Way were the ones who got burned. {We only have One Way to follow, and He does not require a stack of workbooks or a chart of rules to follow.}
Would I use ATI materials in home schooling my hypothetical children? Probably not. I think I can take the good I learned from them and apply the good without making my hypothetical children sift through the bad. Which is exactly what my parents tried to do. Will I miss something that will end up negatively affect my hypothetical children in whatever I do choose to use in raising them? I am sure I will, because I am human.

Everyone goes through a growing-up time. {Called growing up.} They adjust what they believe and what they grew up with and how they want to order their future life. I've seen it on both sides of the conservative/liberal spectrum, and found it fascinating how that adjustment plays out.

For every homeschool/conservative upbringing horror story, there are an equivalent number of horror stories from public school/liberal upbringings. {So far, in college/medical school, I have seen multiple instances of absolutely horrendous childhoods, all of which so far have been incredibly worse than the bad childhoods I have since recognized among my homeschooled friends.}
I think the reason people react so violently to ATI/etc in blaming their upbringing is that they can link it to a "movement" or a lifestyle...when something is mainstream {like public school} it's a lot easier to link it to one bad teacher, a terrible school, or a completely dysfunctional parent, rather than to GOTHARDISM as a whole, something that corrupted their parents and destroyed them.

I do not want to minimize the pain that verbal abuse, that a false view of God, that an attitude of constant judgment or a surrounding micro-culture of condemnation will bring to a child, or how that will continue to affect a person's life throughout their entire adulthood. I can't. This is absolutely devastating. I've seen it and I've seen the effects. It destroys. There is little worse than insisting you have light and instead pouring darkness into someone vulnerable. I cannot fault vitriolic backlash when it comes because a person has held themselves up and pretended they are wholly right and stand with God beside them when they are not actually following Him. Do not dare to give God the lie and hurt His children. It has been done, is being done, and it must be condemned. 

But I also have to say that when I am standing over a child's bed in the PICU, watching the machine that is keeping them breathing following their drug overdose, hearing from their weeping parent how this child followed their own footsteps since they went to jail and how the child has been doing meth since barely old enough to read and that this overdose is following a sexual assault two days ago...I see the other kind of damage. I know what my parents wanted to protect me from and I know why I am standing beside that bed and not lying on it. 

As the children of an experiment, we do need to give grace to our parents, to recognize that they were trying something counter-cultural, and to value the good they gave us and what they sacrificed to do so. And, if your parents "did it right" and you got only the good in your have that much more to give. I hope you can recognize others may not have had your experience and not give them more rejection or deny their experience. If your parents didn't and you got only the bad...I hope you can separate it from the truth and find how to change where you are at and meet people who truly walk the talk you may have heard but never seen and who can personify love for you. (And I mean that in the most serious I-hate-what-has-been-done-to-you-and-am-terrified-lest-you-read-what-I-have-written-here-as-condemnation-of-you sense.)

Everyone's parents make mistakes...some of which are far harder for children to deal with than others...and yes, some parents, including those who call themselves Christians, make other than mistakes and willfully damage the souls in their care. Speaking from another angle, one not associated with homeschooling or Christianity, though very much associated with my life, we can all find the pain in our past. We can all blame people for who we are, we can all find an excuse for our personalities, our situations, our issues. 

But that's the thing. They are our lives. I am not going to reject everything in my past over certain pieces. I am not going to blame certain people for who I am {well, maybe I will, but I will also move on and work to change who I am ;) }. This is not their life; it is mine. It is Christ's. 

I am not a quivering daughter because there were people in my life who followed Christ more than man; I am also not a quivering daughter because I am a child of the Healer and He defines me, not any pain of my past.
There is so much damage in the world, so many broken and hurting...we can all focus on our own wounds or we can find someone more wounded and seek to strengthen them and find ourselves strengthened in turn. 

11 thoughts shared:

Miss Dashwood said...

I feel like I want to say a hundred things in agreement with this post but I find I can only say, "this was FANTASTIC." I grew up in a family very, very similar to yours (conservative homeschooling but not sucked into any particular VF or ATI-like cult) and I've been very thankful that my parents didn't fall under the spell of the Quiverfull movement or any of the other nonsense spinning around out there! Ultimately Christ is to be our authority no matter what kind of education is chosen for our children, and other (fallible) people shouldn't be dictating that. (Full disclosure: I loved being homeschooled and would like to homeschool my own kids, too.) I liked that you mentioned the parallel between homeschooling and public schooling horror stories - just as for every horror story one one side of the fence there is another on the other, for every child who turned out well after being homeschooled there is also a child who graduated with honors and a clean record from public school, too. The fact of the matter is that there is no such thing as a One Perfect Way outside of what we're specifically commanded in Scripture, and I think it's dangerous for either "side" to set themselves up as inherently better than another (whether it be homeschoolers deriding the "evil government brainwashing" of the public schools, or public schoolers scorning the "inferior socialization" of homeschooled kids).

Wow, that got ramble-y. Sorry about that. TL;DR version -- great post! *applause*

Katherine Sophia said...

Yes, exactly! Addition to God's word is always dangerous, even when it's regarding something we both so much liked as homeschooling. :)
Thank you for your comment! <3

wisdomcreates said...

I am another woman, raised in a conservative Christian home with good results. Yes, my parents made mistakes and they'll admit it quicker than I will. My dad says the only reason any of us (his children) turned out well was because God took care of us and made up for my parents' shortcomings.

My family, like yours, took a stand that didn't follow ANYONE around us. We were not conservative enough for those who believed that any girl wearing pants was secretly unhappy. And we were far too conservative for everyone else. But my parents firmly believed in studying the Bible wholeheartedly, believing it, and practicing it. The Bible has no rules about whether it not men's pants can have pleats. But it does forbid playing with magic. And so forth.

I agree with you that no outward, man-made set of rules or programs is going to make your life right. Only a direct relationship with God through Jesus can do that. Which is why you will have horror stories from any sub-culture in the world.

Like you, I've seen some legitimate claims of "semi-abusive" conservative upbringing, as well as some children who just seem to be looking for someone to blame. But regardless of what your childhood was like -- whether you are on a hospital bed recovering from an overdose or you are still wearing a black dress because you think God will smite you if you wear a yellow one -- you still have a choice to make and a responsibility to find the Truth. It's not too late or too far away for anyone, no matter where you come from.

Arielle Melody (Muffin) Bailey said...

All I can say is HECK YES to all of this and THANK YOU for saying it. It's a WONDERFUL post. And I'm proud of you for saying it.

I will forever be grateful for the day we became friends which led to best friends.

Katherine Sophia said...

It's good to hear from others who walked that strange place between camps while following the Bible as closely as possible...
And exactly - it's knowing Jesus, not following any specific steps. Which makes me say Amen to your last paragraph. It's Him. All the rules or lack or rules in the world don't matter in the end, because only He does, and regardless of where a person is, He is able to meet them there.

Katherine Sophia said...

<3 thank you, Arielle. I am so glad.

And same. If the only thing this blog ever did/does was bring us together, it's more than accomplished something incredible.

Keturah Lamb said...

Wow! First you did an amazing job!!! Not only did you express every frustration - you didn't go "extreme". Or at least from your post it sounds like. You learned from what you were gave and GREW. And then you found balance (continuing to grow instead of run from what was horrible). Love this post and your thoughts and words and conclusions!!!

Ashton said...

Oh my word. Yes. I can totally relate. I was raised in a conservative Christian home as well (while mild VF influences, never the whole ATI thing..) and my parents know as well as I do they were sucked into the ideas VF had and a more legalistic view (dare I use that word?).

But while I never enjoyed that phase in our life, we learned from it. We grew stronger as a family from it. And once my parents realized what we'd become, we stopped and redirected ourselves.

I was also raised with restrictions too, with music and movies, but as you, they were explained and loosened as my siblings and I got older. (and now as an adult, I can do whatever I want ;) )

It didn't surprise my mother and me either, with the whole VF and Duggar scandal. It really didn't. It just made us.... very sad. We talked about how everyone thought it was a shocker and how we knew we shouldn't put anyone on the pedestal. *sighs*

I liked reading the VF magazine too, and to be bluntly honest, the "daughters" section wasn't nearly as exciting as the boys. Why did the boys have all the fun and the girls was stuck with tea parties, dresses, and dolls? (I was kinda a tomboy back then, and I did enjoy dolls and tea parties, but I couldn't understand *why* the girls were basically defined by just those standards)

I read those books tailored to daughters who were supposed to be staying home after high school, and how they should be helping their fathers, and mothers, etc. etc. I could never, ever relate. My dad didn't have a home based job. He's a military man, and I love my daddy for it, and wouldn't have him trade his job for that, unless he wanted it. And helping my mother I already did. But the staying at home part that seemed to be required by *every* Christian daughter in the universe (yeah, kinda a stretch I know) wasn't something I felt called to do. Especially as I got older. (I am called to be a missionary overseas, and I can't say no to what the Lord has placed on my heart and soul.)

If I think correctly, I don't believe my parents ever did curriculum by VF. If they didn't I doubt we kept it for very long.

I don't want to bash the whole company/movement either. I liked some things from them. Like Jonathan Park was great and a few other books and things.

Gosh, that got long. Lol. Hopefully it makes sense? *sheepish grin*

OldFashionGirl said...

You did my heart good by writing this. I have always wanted to write some thoughts on this subject but never felt I could do it in a God-honoring and respectful way. I was raised in a safe, loving, conservative family like yours. My parents were not really into the VF stuff, but unfortunately I got ahold of some material my last year of high school which side-tracked me a few years before the VF scandal broke. It was indeed hard to hear, but I thank God He was able to lead me out of the movement and restore so many things to my life after that. I still feel that I am too conservative for some, and not conservative enough of others. However I realize that probably means I am doing the whole "balance" of walking out my faith circumspectly but not legalistically in a good and healthy way. Thank you for broaching this subject in the way you did. I pray that some of my dear friends come out of the trap they are in and live a more fulfilling life/faith than which they experience now.
God Bless

Katherine Sophia said...

Thank you for reading and commenting, Keturah!

Yessss, that absolutely makes sense, Ashton! And I think as I grew older the stay-at-home thing was definitely one of the things that bothered me most - by both VF and ATI standards, I could not see where Amy Carmichael, Mary Slessor, Gladys Aylward, etc. /fit/ into that pattern, and I saw an entire generation of young people being encouraged /against/ following God wherever He called, sometimes without family support.

Katherine Sophia said...

And somehow your comment did not show up until now, Lexi! Sorry about that. I appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment...and I'm so glad this post helped.
I know, ohhh, so well, that feeling of being too conservative/not conservative enough - but we are called to walk as others, but to walk according to the convictions God gives /us/. And to do so carefully, weighing everything we do to see if we are walking pleasing to God. We've got the ground-rules for the relationship in the Bible...beyond that, it's a /relationship/. We can bar ourselves away from Him with our own rules if we try, and it is hard to see friends falling into that danger.


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