As a homeschooled child/adult/person, I’m really tired of being called a weapon. Last week I read an article that compared homeschooled students to “firearms in private hands.” I grew up hearing that I was an “arrow” in a “quiver” (Psalm 127:4), that I was a culture warrior being “equipped to positively influence the politics of tomorrow.” Look, people! I’m not a rifle or a pistol or an AK-47 or anything like that. The difference pertinent to this article is that I have a brain. All the programming in the world is not going to turn me into one, either.
Unfortunately, the idea of your children being culture-changers is inbred in Christian fundamentalism homeschooling circles. It’s everywhere. Libby Anne at Love, Joy, Feminism writes about it frequently. It’s considered good practice, and often the reason that parents keep kids home. My parents kept us at home partly because they wanted to give us a firm foundation (read teach us to think exactly what they thought and be able to reason and argue and defend that mindset). They thought that this was their duty, encouraged by the likes of Michael Farris and others. Raise your children in a Christian home, teach them Biblical principles, have them memorize entire books of scripture, homeschool them, shelter them from any outside influence possible, and teach them that their role in life (secondary to their complementarian gender roles) is to propagate those beliefs in the world. If you do this, your kids will become perfect little clones of you, and they will “withstand the devil’s fiery darts.” It’s like a math equation.
There are so. many. problems. with this. It harms everyone. It hurts parents–they feel like they have not done something right. The gurus of their community promised perfect little clones, but now their kids are rejecting the values that they tried so hard to instill. They are thinking for themselves and choosing their own political standpoints. They may not go to church all the time, they may not be gender binary, they may associate with people from all areas of life and value their beliefs, and they may not homeschool their kids. Parents (like mine) end up feeling like they have failed at raising their kids. Unfortunately, this often morphs into anger directed at said children. I was extremely lucky that my parents did not cut me out of my family, even though they think I am probably not saved. Others, like Cynthia Jeub and her sisters, are not so lucky. Expecting your human children to actually be robots hurts parents.
It also hurts kids. Obviously. Now, while I totally believe that parents cannot turn their kids into robots, they can permanently scar them by treating them like cloned automatons or putting too much responsibility on them. Expecting children to be able to parrot arguments for pro-life and pro-traditional-marriage and other pet views of the parents only hurts kids. It only leads to cognitive dissonance when said children grow up and start to want to think on their own. While you can’t totally control your kids’ brains, you can screw them up pretty royally and give them what amounts to a diminished version of Stockholm syndrome by trying to control them.
I was trained to be a perfect evangelical Christian fundamental quiverfull culture warrior. I wasn’t going to make the same mistakes my parents did. I was going to change the world because I knew what was right (the Christian far right, of course) and I was prepare to defend it.
Only I’m not. And even as I have broken free from my parents domineering control, I struggle with the PTSD-like brain memories whenever I try to do something differently. I struggle with guilt because I’m not in church every Sunday, even though going to church is pure torture to me and not something that I am convinced is necessary or good for me. I have frequent crises of doubt when I realize that my more and more left-leaning views are only going farther and farther. What if I’m going to be eternally damned because I don’t believe abortion is sin? Or that all LGBTQI individuals are going to hell? I’m weighed down with guilt and shame, constantly reminding myself that I don’t believe that stuff anymore, but not yet able to freely move from under it.
I am not a weapon. While I know this, and am learning to live with more freedom from those expectations, it still haunts me. I hurt for the many still being raised this way, who don’t know that they have every right to an opinion and their own beliefs. For the sake of our children, quit treating them like robots.