Sunday, December 5, 2010

Homeschool dropouts

About a year ago, Vision Forum produced the movie, "Homeschool Dropouts." It is described as a movie discussing the alleged problem of second generation homeschoolers choosing different educational options for their children.  It is written, directed and starring the Botkin young adults.
The documentary begins with quotes from numerous young people citing dire statistics from their lives, stating how many(or few) of their friends plan on homeschooling.  "Many of my friends would look at homeschooling as a...scholastic option," one young lady says.  This seems to be the basic viewpoint, that homeschooling should not be viewed as an option, but "Biblical homeschooling and education" should instead be viewed as mandatory.  However, there is no source for these statistics, and it seems to be nothing more than anecdotal evidence.  After this, they attempt to make the documentary scholarly by looking at history. However,they once again drag out the old idea that "up until 150 years ago, home education was the norm." This is a
myth perpetuated constantly by homeschooling proponants.  The Botkins discuss early American colonial education, saying that "they had a vision for family education that was faithfully perpetuated by the Puritans."  They then go on to blame humanism, atheism, socialism and transcendentalism for the decline into "statist" education.  In all actuality, colonial children were not educated in the way we think of now.  Boys were taught how to read and write, and sent to dame schools taught by uneducated women in order to teach them basic literacy and prepare them for the town's school.  The reason for the dame schools was that the town schools would not accept students until they could read at least two-syllable words.  As for girls, if they were lucky enough to be sent to the dame schools, that was where their education would stop.
(Monaghan, E. Jennifer. "Literacy Instruction and Gender in Colonial New England." American Quarterly 40 (March 1988): 18–41.
Sugg, Redding S. Motherteacher: The Feminization of American Education. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1978.)
Historical inaccuracy aside, Homeschool Dropouts never addresses the real question: what are the reasons for homeschool graduates for not homschooling? If it is such a superior educational method, then wouldn't second generation homeschoolers be the most likely people to homeschool? In fact, however, Elizabeth Botkin actually states that this documentary is not going to explore why second generation homeschoolers are not planning on homeschooling.  That doesn't matter.  What does matter is that we "look at our own sins and infidelities," according to Benjamin Botkin.  "If the ball falls, it is because we dropped it," he says.

Six traps that await the second generation:
1. We Don't seek God for ourselves
Benjamin Botkin blames "false piety," people who are not moral reprobates, but not "good kids," either.  From what I can tell, this means people who not feministic, atheistic socialists, but normal Christians who don't buy into the Botkins radicalism.  Audri Venier, now Benjamin Botkin's wife, states here that it is not enough to love Christ, but that one must live a life according to Christ's word. 
2. Deliberate lawlessness
I am not entirely certain what they are discussing here.  They attempt to differentiate between "good" and "righteous," but again they simply seem to say that if you're not desiring to live like them, you're good, but not righteous. Anna Sophia does seem to say that you can dress a certain way, think a certain way, and do certain outward activities, but if it doesn't come from a conviction from God, it isn't real.  This I actually agree with, but she doesn't go far enough to actually come out and say it. Ezekial 16:49
3. Pride
A focus on superiority because one was homeschooled as opposed to their public schooled peers.  Here, I could actually agree with it, but it goes against what they stated early, which was that second generation homeschoolers are ashamed of having been homeschooled. They also state that homeschoolers, since they may be more educated than their parents, may think they know more than their parents.
Another interview with Audri.  She states that recently she developed a theology that allowed her to pursue her own interests, in her case, performing cello.  She felt that she needed to go to a big name school in order to do that, since God has given her a musical gift.  Audri thought that using her talent and performing cello would bring glory to God, but has since realized that dream was prideful and self-glorifying.  She has, presumably as she is now married to Ben Botkin, realized that the only thing she can do to bring glory to God is to be a stay at home wife, submissive to her husband, and homeschooling a multitude of children. 
4. Not knowing how to engage the world
Becoming distracted and absorbed by a fake world, so we can get loss in fake action, fake dominion and fake battles.  They cite video games.  They also cite music, and homeschoolers who listen and perform what is popular and cool, instead of...what? The Botkins never say, but I can only assume classical music and hymns.
5. Laziness and complacency
Pursuing a liberal arts education, wage slave employment, and a non challenging church environment.  They cite these as the "easy way out."  They interview a friend, Jordan Muela, who was public schooled.  He blames public school for him not knowing time management as an adult.  David Noor then states we are to glorify God with our bodies, and that we have to be completely committed...but to what? They keep using war terminology, but they never say what they are at war against.
6. We are bitter instead of grateful. 
Audri, again, states that she had an atittude problem, since she despised and resented the homeschool culture(look, community, and activities).  She realized, she said, that there was a standard and it was not what she wanted.  But again, this is never drawn out.  From what I can read between the lines, they are decrying children who think differently from their parents, children who want to "leave their parents and chart their own course."  One of the Botkin boys adds on, "We think that by not following in our parents footsteps, we are not in total support of them." And this is not biblical according to the Botkins, and will have consequences, which according to them will lead to the destruction of the third generation of children. Their point here requires quite a stretch of logic--if by not following our parents' lives in all decisions, then we are not respecting and honoring our parents.  How can this possibly even make sense once thought about rationally?  It doesn't.  God never once calls us to be clones or even obey our parents as adults; the word He uses is honor.

Besides throwing around the word "research" but never citing sources or explaining their methods, this documentary makes some very grandiose claims. The first, as referenced in the beginning of this article, is that they sidestep the whole question of why. If someone is choosing something different than what they grew up with, whether it is a different homeschooling method, different lifestyle or whatever, the first question should be why?  What complaints and issues did you have with homeschooling?  Did you find that it didn't prepare you educationally and socially for life?  The vast majority of parents want the best for their children, and if a homeschool graduate decides that a private or public school is the best choice for his or her children, then I would ask, what went wrong in your homeschooling experience?  But the Botkins blatantly refuse to ask this, perhaps because they are afraid of the answers. 
 The second issue I have is that academic homeschooling takes quite a beating in this film, deriding those homeschoolers who win spelling bees and get into selective colleges.  The Botkins and their interviewees keep referring to "principled, visionary, Biblical homeschooling," but not much to the actual process or goals of education.  The goal of homeschooling is not to produce a child of good character, strong values, or similar religious beliefs.  That is the goal of parenting, not education. But the Botkins don't see that, instead, they retreat back to their all or nothing position--either you homeschool their way, or your child will grow up to be an atheistic, feministic, socialist adult.  The goal, which Kevin Swanson repeats multiple times during the documentary, is not to give your child a solid, academic education.  Early on in the film, he laments, "Early on, parents were concerned about concerned about a biblical education. Now over time the movement has...drifted towards a more secular, humanistic approach to educating children.  The initial movement was not so much interested in educating children, nurturing character in the lives of their children...preparing their children for Heaven, not for Harvard."
And perhaps, in that last statement, the Botkins answer the questions they blatantly refused to ask.  Maybe the real, underlying reason that many second generation homeschoolers are refusing to homeschool, or refusing to homeschool the Botkins way, is because they discovered that the Vision Forum and ATI form of education did not lead to a solid, academic education.  Perhaps they have discovered that the way they were brought up is a lie straight from the pit of hell, and desire something far greater for their children than the childhood they remember.  Perhaps the truth of the whole matter is simply that the experiment of character-based, legalistic homeschooling has failed, but in order to keep from admitting that in this documentary, the Botkins, once again, neatly sidestep the hard questions.

1 comment:

  1. I just enrolled my son in public school kindergarten after homeschooling him for the first half of the year. We decided to send him to public school because had a few acquaintances, but not any friends he saw on a daily basis. Driving 30-45 minutes to actives isn't very practical either for us. It's unfortunate that in public, most homeschoolers obsessively talk about how socialized their kids are. I've found that behind closed doors, many of them worry that their kids haven't really made any close friends. You can read my post about going from homeschool to public school at