For a long time I have been privately calling for a more nuanced leadership of the homeschool movement. In the early days our party line was “Homeschooling is perfect. No regulation needed.” This line of argumentation was good and helpful during our infancy. We needed to sweep internal problems under the rug so we could focus on external threats.

The good news is that we won that initial battle. The academic community respects homeschooling and homeschoolers are rising to positions of prominence throughout society. The bad news is that there are new battles to fight and what won the first battle will not win the second.

We need leaders who can respond to internal issues while still defending us from external threats.

Thankfully, one of the Founding Fathers of Homeschooling has started to respond to our most glaring internal issues. Michael Farris has now come out against the abuses of the Patriarchy Movement. I applaud Michael Farris for his courage to take a stand on this issue.

To be fair, Michael Pearl spoke up about these same abuses 6 years ago, but it is Farris’ article that is getting attention and making waves.

Homeschool Alumni – The New Internal Threat to Homeschooling

We are entering a new era as a movement where our biggest threats are no longer external but internal. Homeschoolers Anonymous (HARO) poses a bigger threat to homeschooling than any teacher’s union. These are homeschool alumni who understand homeschooling from the inside out and who often point out legitimate problems.

What gives HARO power is not that there have been abuses in homeschooling. All communities have bad apples. It is that those abuses have not just been ignored but in some cases encouraged and condoned. If I had experienced those kinds of abuses I would be angry too. I thank God that I did not have Dragon Parents.

The problem is that HARO is calling for the government to solve these problems. And may God save us from the government trying to solve a problem.

But Thomas, The Abusive Patriarchs are Just a Small Minority…

I often hear moderate Muslims say “Islam is not a violent religion because it teaches peace.” My response is not to get into Muslim doctrine and debate what the Koran does and does not say. You can derive the practical doctrine from the fruit. It is true that most Muslims are not violent. But the non-violent Muslim majority does little to stop the violent minority. Where there is smoke there is fire. Where you find Islam you find violence.

As it is with Islam so it is with Patriarchy.  Where you find Patriarchy you find abuse.

The Patriarchy movement has sheltered, hidden and protected abusive parents for years. It gives abusive and controlling men moral and even biblical legitimacy for their abuses. Michael Farris’ points were not strawmen, as the Patriarchs claim, because those beliefs are what some people in the movement live out.

Power corrupts and the more power you give a father the stronger that corrupting influence is. For more on this see The Problem With Power. It is easy to see that is wrong for a man to get drunk on wine and beat his wife. But what about when he gets drunk on power?

Typical Abuses With Dysfunctional Patriarchy:

  • Sons are sent to college and the daughters are kept home.
  • Daughters are physically spanked for wanting to grow up to be college professors rather than wives and mothers.
  • Adult daughters are kept at home as domestic servants and only allowed to work low wage jobs for other Patriarchal families or family businesses.
  • Adult daughters who are not allowed a higher education, a drivers license or even access to Facebook.
  • Adult daughters who are not allowed to marry or even spend time with single men.
  • Adults who do not feel they can hear/follow God on their own but must instead derive God’s will only through a man (the father).

Are these abuses common? It depends on the community. Some homeschool communities are dysfunctional while others are healthy.  I don’t have enough data to make a general observation.

Most Homeschool Parents are not Dragons

One criticism of my post on Why Courtship Was Fundamentally Flawed, is that I unfairly paint all homeschool fathers as “Dragon Fathers.” I think that is a fair criticism and it was not my intent. Since writing that post, I have been sent hundreds of stories of homeschoolers growing up in conservative communities.

Some of them are stories of heartbreaking parental cruelty. But, many others were stories of young men who had positive, encouraging and loving encounters with fathers who were both gentle and kind. One man said that his interactions with the father of the girl were some of the most beneficial of his life and that they are still friends even though the courtship ended.

What is interesting is that I have received few accounts of homeschool parents who were “so-so.” They seem to be either dragons or doves.

From my experience, most homeschool parents are doves.  They love their children and want them to thrive as happy and healthy adults. They want them to grow up and move out. Most fathers are not “Dragon Fathers” but are rather loving coaches who daily lay down their lives for their families.

We Must Police Our Own

Saying that something is uncommon is no excuse for inaction. Even one bruised and battered girl crying herself to sleep is too many.

In the ‘90s there was an outcry against violence and other objectionable content in video games. There was concern the government would start regulating video games. So in response, the Video Game Industry created the ESRB to monitor and rate video games.  The industry policed itself. This self regulation and transparency negated the need for government regulation.

If we do not police our own, the government will step in and do it for us. We must not allow that to happen. Government regulation is poison. Self-regulation is like manna from heaven. We must stop marginalizing the minority of abusers and do something about it instead.

It is time for those loving fathers within the Patriarchy movement to start challenging the abusive fathers to love their wives the way Christ loves the church. Parents need to challenge each other to not provoke their children to anger.

We need to hold each other accountable and no longer look the other way when a man becomes a dragon to his own family.

My mother has been very concerned about some young women who she feels are trapped into abusive circumstances. How do we help those who have been brainwashed into accepting abuse? I don’t know. They are trapped in their own minds so I don’t think the police is the answer. I don’t have all the answers. But I would love to see the Church play a larger role.

A Bright New Future

I think homeschooling has a bright future. I suspect the movement as a whole will take heed of Michael Farris’ warning. People may be able to ignore Michael Pearl but it would be hard to ignore Michael Farris.

I hope less extreme elements of the movement can start getting control back over the conferences. I hope we can have a healthy conversation about what we need to do in this next season to respond to the HARO threat. As we address their legitimate concerns, the homeschool community will grow stronger and healthier.