A Review of “Homeschool Dropouts”
Posted January 20, 2010
A very kind review of our family’s latest documentary:
For Christmas 2009, I asked for the new DVD Homeschool Dropouts: Why The Second Generation is now Headed for a Spiritual Wasteland. And I got it! I was so excited to receive this DVD and I watched it that day. I was shocked, convicted, humbled, pricked, challenged, filled with despair, brought to tears, filled with hope, and awakened to a growing movement: Homeschool dropouts.
Why write a review of this product?
First off, I want to say that this DVD will anger and possibly cause division among those who view it. Certainly one of the purposes behind this project was to call the second generation of home educators to a renewed sense of duty and fulfillment. This film is not for the faint hearted.
I believe that this is a much-needed message that is not being widely circulated among the homeschool movement. As I have been a part of this movement for nearly two decades, I have seen major changes in the way people are “doing homeschool” and some of these changes are frankly, frightening!
The time to act is now, the time to keep silent has passed. The Botkin siblings do a gracious job of communicating hard truths to my generation (the second generation) of homeschoolers. A message long overdue.
Childish Homeschooler Syndrome, Part Two
Posted December 31, 2008
Is growing up in a Christian home an advantage to us, or a disadvantage?
We pointed out in our last article that children from Christian homes are beneficiaries of many advantages. The danger is when we let this privileged life make us spoiled rotten. In other words, instead of using our advantages humbly, gratefully, and diligently, we can let them make us lazy, proud and selfish.
This is the danger that always faces the second generation. After inheriting the fruit of our parents’ labors, we grow fat on them; we become indolent coasting on their spiritual capital.
This is a serious sin. The Lord thundered against the Israelites, “As they had their pasture, they became satisfied, And being satisfied, their heart became proud; Therefore they forgot Me.” – Hosea 13:6
We don’t often realize how serious this is, because we can be guilty of these same things and still seem “good kids,” unblemished by the wicked things “other” children do.
When many of us “good kids” think of the sins of Sodom, we think of flagrant debauchery and perversion (no danger of going there, we reassure ourselves). But this is what God actually condemned them for: “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.” – Ezekiel 16:49
And these are the most common sins of the second generation. This is why we have met Christian parents who thought it better not to teach their children about God or Christianity at all, so that they could “find God for themselves.” (Of course, this is not only an unsound, pragmatic hermeneutic, but contrary to the biblical model of multigenerational family discipleship, and the mandate to “Teach them to your children,” Deuteronomy 6:7).
Instead of throwing our inheritance to the wind, we need to identify our own weaknesses that keep us from going further than our parents. Here are the seven weaknesses that we believe are the most common and and debilitating to our generation.
We don’t fear God
We can sometimes rely on something else be “the voice of God” in our lives – pastors, leaders, Christian friends, even parents. God has established an important place for all of these in our Christian walk, but we cannot put them in the place of God. (And if we do, it’s not their fault: it’s the fault of our own idolatrous hearts.) If we only do right “because Mommy and Daddy said to,” we don’t fear God. It is the fear of God alone that should drive our lives. When that is in place, we will honor our parents, learn from the wisdom of our elders, and keep company with others who fear God.
The fear of God is what puts zeal in us. If we don’t have fiery zeal for righteousness, for spreading the gospel, for reformation, for serving others, for discipleship, for sanctification, and for every other Christian duty, we don’t fear God. If we wait for someone else to make us do right, we don’t fear God. If we complain that our parents’ strong Christian involvement in our lives makes us less eager to seek God and study His word for ourselves, we don’t fear God.
“You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.” (Deut. 13:4)
We don’t study the Scriptures to develop convictions on our own
“Man must think God’s thoughts after Him if he is to know anything. How does one know whether he is thinking God’s thoughts? To the extent that God’s thoughts are revealed to us in Scripture, to this extent can we think His thoughts after Him.” – William Blake (Foundations of Christian Scholarship)
Many of us are blessed with wise, biblically-literate parents and other leaders, but we still need to fervently study the word on our own, remembering that the ultimate goal is to understand the mind of God.
“…No one can get even the slightest taste of right and sound doctrine unless he be a pupil of Scripture.” – John Calvin (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book VI Section 2)
Too many of us wait to be spoon-fed our beliefs by people who have already studied and have strong convictions. When it comes to our beliefs, we can’t let others do our work for us – God wants each of us to personally seek Him through His word.
“But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.” (Isaiah 66:2)
We don’t take our sin seriously
We all know that those who have been forgiven much love much (Luke 7:42,43) and protest that that’s why converted criminals, prostitutes, communists and such often have more zeal than we. They had “dramatic conversions” and know what life on the other side was like. No wonder they love God more than we do. We make the mistake of thinking we weren’t just as depraved and doomed as they. God may have spared us the opportunities to defile ourselves as much as they, but we had the potential within us. We must not think of ourselves as “those who have been forgiven little,” and love little. (Luke 7:47)
When tempted to compare ourselves self-righteously with “bad people,” we should also consider (in the light of the verse about Sodom above) that God might be more angry with our pride than with their perversion.
“Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.” (Proverbs 3:7)
Thomas Vincent, age 31, was one of the few Christian leaders who survived both the Great Plague and the Great Fire that struck London in 1665 and 1666. People asked him why good Christians died in those back-to-back judgments along with London’s most profane and rebellious moral criminals.
Vincent said, “If these judgments have fallen upon God’s people, we must know that they have their sins, which have deserved them; possibly some have begun to comply with the wicked in their wicked ways: it may be they were grown more loose in their walking, and formal in the service of God, and their hearts more set on the world. The sins of God’s people have more heinous aggravation than the sins of the wicked, being committed against clearer light, dearer love, sweeter mercies, stronger obligations, and therefore provoke God the more to wrath; thus he threatens his people, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth, and therefore I will punish you for your iniquities.” Amos 3:2 – Thomas Vincent (God’s Terrible Voice in the City, emphases added)
We are “good” rather than righteous
Growing up in Christian homes, we’ve learned some pretty good theology and some wholesome family practices. We’re pretty good kids! Unfortunately, obeying the rules and repeating the vocabulary isn’t the same as being righteous. Even more unfortunately, being around a godly family and other mature Christians will not make us righteous. Righteousness is not contagious and it cannot be absorbed. It only the result of God’s individual sanctifying grace and our own strenuous personal effort from within.
We may appear exemplary young people, reflecting the mature beliefs and practices of the people around us, but it is only an empty reflection if there is no deep conviction inside.
We are comfortable
It’s sometimes hard to remember there’s a battle raging, when we’re safe in our cozy homes, surrounded by like-minded friends. If we insulate ourselves from conflict, risks, hardship, enemies, and the world’s needs, we simply relax in smug satiety and apathy. God called it “fullness of bread,” and judged Sodom for it. Being comfortable is death to the Christian’s effectiveness.
We don’t know how to respond to “the world”
We grow up knowing we are different – we weren’t raised to be “of the world” – but on reaching adulthood we don’t always know what to do with those differences. Too often, we respond one of these two ways:
1. We try to minimize the differences, so we won’t stand out. We want to be normal, “in spite” of having been homeschooled. The older we get, the more we push to be reabsorbed into the world, until we’re virtually indistinguishable from its own children. (Sometimes we say our goal is actually to infiltrate it and sneakily change it “from the inside” – so we learn to play by its rules, on its turf, using its standards, and always as the underdog.)
2. We try to escape from the world, rather than challenge it. Once we recognize our modern world as ugly, dark, cruel, and anti-Christian, we run from it and bury ourselves in fantasies of prettier times. We often retreat into romance novels and obsolete “romantic” pursuits, rather than embrace the battlefield we have been given and study to meet the challenges of our times.
Both of these unbiblical responses are a result of fear of the world, forgetting that our job is to judge it (1 Corinthians 6:2), disciple it (Matthew 28:19), and overcome it (1 John 4:4).
“Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” (Romans 8:37)
Our vision rarely goes further than “holding the line”
We often think our parents have already done all the pioneer work; all the excitement and adventure and discovery was theirs. The truth is, our families’ Christian warfare has only just begun. Our parents had to fight for the right to raise their children to be soldiers. Now it’s our duty as soldiers to win the war. Everything our parents have done doesn’t give us less to do — it gives us more to do. Luke 12:48 says, “…For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”
The duty of all second-generation Christians is to take their advantages and go further to conquer new ground — to make new biblical discoveries, to disciple new nations, to reach greater heights of theological precision, to root out even more worldliness of thinking and living, to have more obedient Christian families, and to extend Christ’s dominion into every nation. It’s not enough to not retreat – it’s not even enough to hold the line. We need to advance.
The motto of the “Great Christian Revolution” in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was Semper Reformanda – always reforming. We should adopt this maxim, picking up where our parents left off, and then where the reformers left off. We are advantaged to have received their legacies as gifts and tools, and God will require more of us than He did them.
Childish Homeschooler Syndrome, Part One
Posted November 26, 2008
It’s been exciting to watch the homeschool “movement” grow up. The firstfruits of this effort are adults now, and we have a sizable army of exemplary and remarkable young leaders. The greatest, most successful young men and women coming out of this movement have this in common: Like the good stewards in the parable of the talents, they made good use of the advantages their parents gave them, and gave a tenfold return on their parents’ investment. They stood on their parents’ shoulders to go even further, learning from their mistakes, and being grateful for their sacrifice.
But not all of us have been good stewards of the home education experience. Our family has had the privilege of knowing homeschoolers from all over the world, and have noticed three common weaknesses of homeschooled youth:
We sometimes use the advantages our parents gave us as an excuse to become spoiled and complacent
We dwell on the disadvantages we may have had in our particular families
And then, worst of all, when we arrive at adulthood still acting like children, we blame our parents
Thanks to these three tendencies, there is a new stereotype of the homeschooled adult: Passive, undisciplined, frumpy, fearful, and directionless, content to merely exist in the comfort of his childhood bubble world, never looking beyond self or comfort to disciple and serve others.
Many observers have recognized a problem, but not everyone agrees on the cause, or the solution. What exactly is it that needs to be fixed? Parents? Children? The family-discipleship model itself?
We Have Found the Problem, and It is Us
Of course, none of us were raised perfectly. Our imperfect parents, many of them first-generation Christians, often had to work out biblical marriage and parenting and family from the ground up. Homeschooling was an intimidating experiment for most. And yes, parents make mistakes. However, once we consider ourselves adults we need to take responsibility for our own shortcomings.
There comes a point where every person must rise above his circumstances, for no circumstances are perfect. Each of us stands alone before God, individually responsible for his own deeds, misdeeds and lack of deeds, and God (we know from Scripture) does not accept blame-shifting. When we realize we are lacking in areas, the childish response is to deny responsibility and blame Mommy and Daddy.
How to Blame Your Parents
We can blame our parents in several ways. Some of the most common tactics we’ve heard:
Blaming our parents for not making us be perfect (Counting on our parents to be our brains and our consciences)
“My parents never made me become a responsible, thinking adult… My parents let me become obese… my parents didn’t make me talk to people who were different from me… my parents didn’t force me to take initiative… my parents didn’t make me read the Bible every day…”
Blaming our parents for “backward” policies we presumed they had, without asking (Misjudging our parents to excuse our own laziness)
“I don’t think my parents would want me to help people outside the family… I doubt my parents would let me start a business… My parents might not want me to bother keeping up with current affairs…”
Blaming our parents for “backward” policies we misinterpreted
“My parents found problems with a business idea I had – they just don’t want me to do anything!… My Dad said he doesn’t like this style of top – he just wants me to look like a frump queen!… My dad once told my sister to stop flirting with this guy – I don’t think he would ever let us talk to boys…”
Who is actually being unreasonable here?
It’s easy to blame chronic childishness on an over-cautious parent, an over-protected upbringing, a controlling mother, etc. However, nothing will keep an adult from acting like an adult, except his own childishness — just as nothing will keep a Christian from living like a Christian except his own sin. If we say our circumstances make us think and act like children, the solution is four words: Repent and Grow Up.
“Thou wicked and slothful servant!”
The parable of the talents, Matthew 25:14-30, holds a sober warning for homeschooled children. A Christian, homeschooling family provides the many advantages needed by leaders-in-the-making: books, freedom to study, time to study, a Christian foundation for thinking and living. We need to take what our family has given us – whether it be five talents, two talents or one talent – and invest it in a way that will multiply for the Kingdom. All too often, though, we are like the lazy and fearful servant, saying “I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.” We don’t use these advantages to fight against the gates of hell – we just sit on them and keep them secure against attack.
Even worse, we sometimes use those advantages our parents gave us as an excuse to become soft and apathetic. We didn’t have to fight the same battles they did; we didn’t have to desperately study out basic Christian thinking the way they did; we didn’t have to face the same worldly snares they did, because our parents gave us a stronger foundation than they had. We didn’t have to build a foundation, because we inherited one. What we now have to do is build on that foundation. The danger is that we can become lazy consumers, used to having our parents spoonfeed everything to us, instead of gratefully and boldly moving forward with initiative and zeal of our own.
It’s time for us to grow up and take our places as the next Christian leaders of the world. Let’s start by being thankful for the gifts – the life, the family, the circumstances – the Lord ordained that we would have. Let’s follow up by using them dynamically for His glory.
“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.” – Colossians 2:6,7
Authoritative Parents, Adult Daughters, and Power Struggles
Posted May 14, 2007
We received a letter recently asking about the balance between a father’s authority and a daughter’s independence. Knowing that this question is a common one among girls making the transition from childhood to adulthood, we have decided to post our response to this family.
Dear damsels thinking yourselves in distress,
Your parents have both written to us to ask us our advice and encouragement on your situation (parents and maturing daughters striving to understand the balance between authority, liberty, maturity, submission, and responsibility.). What we would mostly like to do is share some of our thoughts on family dynamics in a household of adults.
Many stay-at-home girls believe that, as they become adults, their fathers’ jurisdiction over their lives will lessen. They feel that, in order to mature into individuals able to think and act for themselves, they must be “liberated” from another’s input into their lives. This is because we’re drowning in a culture that doesn’t understand what the Bible says about individualism vs. unity, autonomy vs. authority, or license vs. liberty.
Dear girls – don’t be afraid of losing your “individual personhood” or the ability to think for yourself, and don’t think that those are the signs of an adult. Any two-year-old girl has a mind of her own and most certainly thinks for herself. Every woman knows her own mind – it’s part of being Eve’s daughters. It’s not a sign of maturity to struggle for autonomy – that’s toddler stuff. The sign of our maturity and adulthood is when we willingly submit ourselves to God-given authority and therefore to God Himself. This is a struggle, and it requires strength, wisdom, responsibility and spiritual maturity.
Here is the difference between a child and an adult: a child has to be told what to do. An adult should have the intelligence and maturity to take the responsibility to pro-actively look for ways to further the father’s vision. From a child, a parent can’t expect much more than obedience. An adult son or daughter in a household should have a lot more to contribute to the family mission than mere obedience. An adult daughter, raised well by conscientious parents, will be able to think, will know how to live sensibly, will be discerning and self-controlled and self-disciplined, and will be wise and have understanding that may, in some areas, exceed that of her parents.
The sign of maturity isn’t that we simply “obey” our parents’ commands, but that we understand deeply what our parents’ hearts and goals are, and can anticipate and even exceed what they expect of us. A mature, adult daughter who deserves her parents’ trust most certainly isn’t the one who says, “I’m not a child anymore, Dad! I’m an adult! I’m old enough to decide for myself when to get up, and it’s not something you have authority over anymore!” (Literally, “I’m mature enough to demand my own way, and throw a tantrum and threaten to run away if I don’t get it!”) But she also isn’t the one who says, “Ok, ok, Dad, I’ll get up when you tell me to.” The mature daughter is the one that takes the initiative and says, “Dad, what time would you like me to get up? I know that spending time with your family before you leave for work is important to you, and I love that about you… so how can I help make it happen?” This is one thing that makes us different from mindless automatons with no wills of our own (which some girls seem mortally afraid of becoming.)
Once we’re adults, we shouldn’t always need to ask our parents what they want us to do, but that’s not because we shouldn’t care what they want; it’s because our judgment should be grounded in an understanding of their ultimate desires. However, Proverbs tell us that it’s a sign of wisdom to seek counsel from others wiser than ourselves. Even the most mature adults still make mistakes, which could have been alleviated through “a multitude of counselors.” (Proverbs 11:14)
As we become older, we shouldn’t become more independent of our families; we ought to become more involved with our families. After all our parents’ years of investing in us, we finally have something substantial to contribute to their mission. Now is when we need to throw ourselves, our minds, our skills, our gifts, our passions, and our identities behind our parents’ success. (For a parable about the duties of those under authority to carefully steward the best interests of those over them, see Matthew 25:14-29. To those girls who have unbelieving parents: for an example of a young believer dedicating himself to the success of the pagan authority God placed over him, see Genesis 39:1-6, and for an example of another discerning young believer who understood his duty to zealously advance his King in everything except his unbiblical decrees, see the book of Daniel.)
In our household, five of our seven children (all unmarried and living at home) are adults; four of us are in our twenties. Three of us have written books. Four of us have begun our own business. Two of us have our “own” ministry. Five of us speak at conferences. All of us have education and expertise in areas that exceeds that of our parents in multiple areas. But we don’t use these facts as an excuse to “outgrow” our parents. We use these things as tools to advance our parents. To build on their vision. To establish their authority. To proclaim their names in the gates. We all have taken our father’s vision and made it our own. This knitting together of our minds, hearts, and gifts has forged us together into one powerful weapon for Christ’s glory and Kingdom. Together, we are ten times more fruitful and effective than we each would be, separated from our parents’ unifying vision.
Giving glory to our parents, of course, isn’t our ultimate goal. We do all this for the purpose of giving glory to God. We only invest time in developing those gifts that will render us most useful to our Creator and King. This means dying to ourselves; it means sacrificing our personal interests and agendas. Ultimately, it means losing our lives so that we may find them. But that is the Christian life.
We need to see the liberty inside this grand vision, rather than looking for license outside it. Instead of repining all the things we may have to give up (e.g. “my life,” “my space,” “my time,” “my dreams,” “my schedule,” “my way,” “my friends,” etc.), we should say “good riddance” to useless, selfish, autonomous “adulthood,” and mature into loving the joy, productivity and adventure that is life in a Christian family unit.
Communicating with our fathers
Your mother mentioned that communication is an issue. This is an issue in every family, including our own. Women need to have a realistic understanding of how men – even the best men – communicate. It’s not the way women do. It’s not the way women expect them to or want them to. Every father has a hard time knowing how to communicate with his daughter. But there are ways that a daughter can help her father communicate with her.
Observation one: Daughters often need to initiate, especially at first.
Observation two: Daughters need to be really, really careful about the tone in which they pour out their hearts to their fathers. A father’s protective, shepherding instinct will make him naturally feel that every problem distressing his daughter is his fault. Daughters have a tendency to think sharing her heart = dumping all her frustrations and burdens and emotionalism and accusations on the shoulders of her poor dad, and then feeling even more emotional and distraught when he responds by acting bewildered and defensive. This doesn’t actually nurture the father-daughter bond.
Observation three: A father can’t communicate properly with a daughter he cannot fully trust in. His heart can’t fully trust in you until he knows he has your hearts.
Giving our hearts to our fathers
You’ve probably heard many times that you need to “give your heart to your parents.” What does it actually mean to give your parents your heart?
The heart, called “the seat of the affections,” is the source of all passions, desires, loves, interests, likes and dislikes, convictions and opinions. Proverbs 23:26 says, “Give me your heart, my son, and let your eyes delight in my ways.”
God wants our hearts and all that they contain to be surrendered to our parents – and ultimately to God – to be molded and directed. Making yourself vulnerable in this way requires Trust. You must trust your parents, that they ultimately desire what is best for you, and that they are qualified to lead you and guide you simply because they are your parents chosen by God to raise you.
It also requires Faith. Faith that God will lead you through your parents, imperfect though they are. And faith in God’s promised blessings for your obedience.
When your parents have your heart you will truly “delight in their ways.” You will love what they love, hate what they hate, and desire their approval and company and even “think their thoughts after them.”
This is called “seeking after the hearts of your parents” just as King David was “a man after God’s own heart.”
Similarly, your parent’s hearts should be able to trust in you, as it says in Proverbs 31, “The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her…” This means that they will have confidence in your obedience, when they are watching and when they’re not, that you will demonstrate loyalty to them and to every thing they have taught you, in what you speak and do, in public and in private.
“My son, keep your father’s command, and do not forsake the law of your mother. Bind them continually upon your heart; tie them around your neck. When you roam, they will lead you; when you sleep, they will keep you; and when you awake, they will speak with you. For the commandment is a lamp, and the law is a light; reproofs of instruction are the way of life…” Proverbs 6:20-23
Preparation for Marriage
Don’t be impatient for Prince Charming to rescue you from your father’s “heavy hand,” thinking that once you’re married to your perfect husband, your authority problems will vanish. It’s folly to think it will be easier to respect and submit to a husband than a father.
We’re not ready to consider ourselves eligible for marriage until we’ve learned to trust an imperfect individual with our lives. To communicate with a man, which will always be a struggle. To submit to an imperfect man’s “whims” as well as his heavy requirements. To order our lives around another person. To accept the burdens a man places on us cheerfully. To esteem and reverence and adore a man whose faults we can see clearly every day.
These are things we will face every day as wives, just as we face them every day now as the daughters of our fathers. We need to practice now, trusting our heavenly Father to lead our earthly fathers, and our earthly fathers to lead us, even though we know they’re not perfect.
Dear girls, if you have a father who wants to be your Christian authority and protector, and lead you in paths of righteousness, you are three of the most blessed girls in America. Most the girls who write to us after having read our book beg for help because their fathers still don’t have the vision, and aren’t really comfortable with their daughters trying to live the biblical model at home; or that their fathers don’t have their own businesses and don’t have anything for their daughters to do; or that their fathers are indifferent to them, and uninterested in their lives. You have a father in a million. Let him know how grateful you are for him.
We hope this email will be helpful. If you have any more questions for us, don’t hesitate to send them!
God bless you and your family.
Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin