Homeschooled to Hell and Back
Evangelicalism tore my family apart; death brought us back together
If I could trace the years of my childhood in the warm, Sacramento sun back to a single name, it would be R.J. Rushdoony — the father of Christian Reconstructionism, and, by many people’s definition, the strongest inspiration for the modern Christian homeschool movement.
In 1963, Rushdoony launched his ideas about the American educational system with a book titled, The Messianic Character of American Education. In 1965, he started the Chalcedon Foundation, an organization that would, eventually, go as far as to say that home education is the only model for education given in the Bible. In 1973, he wrote a book called The Institutes of Biblical Law, which referred to the biblical 10 commandments as the ordering principle to be applied to modern life, and offered that civil government must be dramatically shrunk to meet biblical standards. With that, he’d launched the Christian Reconstruction movement that sent my parents — among so many others — running from America’s private and public school systems and into an entirely different kind of educational design.
In 1989, the year that I was born, Bill Gothard launched his Institute in Basic Life Principles — an organization that would later be riddled with sexual abuse allegations and set in motion an online support group, Recovering Grace, where people could openly share the damages they incurred by being part of what they refer to as a “cultish ministry.” But, for me, Gothard was another name that drove my father’s insistence that missionaries, homeless men we met in San Francisco, and anyone else we encountered along the way who might need to take up our living-room floor in order to find a deeper form of grace, should be given a seat at our table and told to stay.
By the time I began kindergarten, the number of homeschooled children in the United States was estimated to be between 500,000 and 750,000.
We received national attention when, in 1997, homeschooler Rebecca Sealfon of Brooklyn, New York, won the National Spelling Bee. We received it again when, in 2012, Michael Farris was featured on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360° as a leading opponent of U.S. ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of…