All Good Things Come to an End

Sunset Over Patricia Lake Marlin and Laura Hum

It’s hard to believe, but after 25 years of homeschooling, this season of my life has come to a close. What a journey it’s been! So much fun, yet so difficult. So time consuming, yet so relaxed. So enlightening, yet so humbling. So rewarding, yet so disappointing at times. Seemingly endless, yet now a thing of the past. My feelings are just as mixed: happy, sad, proud, doubting, hopeful, wistful, outward-looking, reflective, etc. They are prone to change from one minute to the next. I guess that’s all part of the transition from homeschooling for so long to being…..retired.

Can I use that word? It has been defined as “to leave one’s job and cease to work, typically upon reaching the normal age for leaving employment.” Its origin is from the French verb retirer, meaning “to withdraw to a place of safety or seclusion”. Well, I didn’t get paid to homeschool; I still have plenty of work to do; and I’m not ready yet to become a hermit! I’ve come to the conclusion that I am being repurposed for God’s glory. I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve had and the lessons that the Lord has taught me during my homeschooling days, and I know that he will continue to lead me and give me his grace for whatever I will have to face in the future. If there’s one thing that this homeschooling journey has taught me, it’s that I have a loving heavenly Father that I can trust. It’s his faithfulness that has kept me steady all these years, and his faithfulness is the rock that I will continue to build my life upon.

Let me take this opportunity to wish my readers a very blessed Christmas season with your loved ones. If you are a homeschooling mom or know one, my devotional book Stress-free Homeschooling is available online at Amazon or Barnes and Noble in ebook format, or if you prefer to flip pages, I still have some copies in softcover format. (Fill out contact form on this blog to order). I wrote it to encourage other homeschooling moms. It would make a great Christmas gift for yourself or a friend!

Encourage a Homeschooling Mom Today

Homeschooling can be a very rewarding journey, but at times, the mothers who invest in their children’s education can feel discouraged, inadequate, or anxious about their children. May I suggest something to encourage them?

  1. Tell them that you appreciate what they are doing for their children.
  2. Treat them to some self-care time (a spa gift certificate; watching their children for an afternoon while they do something they enjoy; arrange with hubby a surprise girls’ getaway)
  3. Pray for them regularly. Ask what their specific prayer requests are and pray with them.
  4. Make yourself available to listen to them and be a friend.
  5. If she is struggling with negative thought patterns, consider buying my devotional book  Stress-free Homeschooling: 31 Days to a Healthier Way of Thinking. It will help her to focus on the truths of God’s Word instead of the lies that she is being tempted to believe.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

A Prayer for the New School Year


Dear Lord,

As a new school year begins, we acknowledge our need for your wisdom, grace, and guidance in our lives and those of our students. We thank you that you love us, have a wonderful plan for our lives, and are working all things together for our good. Thank you for the new things we will learn this year. I pray for both students and teachers, that you will open our eyes to the marvelous things you have created, bring us to a greater realization of how precious we are to you, and help us develop our God-given abilities to serve this world that you love dearly. Let us know your direction when we are confused, your comfort when we are grieving loss, your power in our weakness, and your reassuring presence when we are feeling anxious. We love you, praise you, and pray that you will be glorified in our lives. Amen.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And don’t lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, And he will direct your paths.” (Prov. 3:5,6)

Homeschooling and the Winter Blahs

evergreen for blog

I’m planning a kitchen reno and my writing time is limited these days, so here is a reblog of last winter’s post. I hope these suggestions are helpful to you!

As a homeschooling mom, late winter is the time of year I dread the most. I’m usually okay until mid-January, then I often descend into this tired, touchy, wanting-to-hibernate state until the end of March. Then when spring arrives, I get that second wind to go on. It’s very predictable. It doesn’t help to be living in the Great White North where cold, snow, and gray skies wreak havoc with your emotional well-being!

Fortunately, the last several years have been considerably better for me. As I reflect on why that is, I’d like to share some things I have done that may help you as well.

  1. Unless you’re fortunate enough to be living in some warm, sunny location, you could probably benefit from Vitamin D supplements, especially during the winter. The ideal source of Vitamin D is through regular exposure to sunlight, but if that is impossible for you because of where you live, you will probably need supplements.
  2. Winter would be a good time to have a more relaxed schooling schedule. Let the children sleep in (within reason). Sleep in yourself if it makes you feel better. A rested mom is going to be a nicer mom 🙂 Plan your academics so that the more intensive study times happen earlier in the school year when you have more energy and enthusiasm. Leave more room for fun learning activities, reading books, or watching movies together.
  3. Take a walk outside every morning. If I can do it with the nasty weather we get here at times, you can, too! Enjoy the scenery; listen to the birds; take time to commune with God. It’s amazing how a short walk outside can lift your spirits! If you have little ones, take them with you, or plan some other outdoor activity with them such as tobogganing, playing in the snow, or going to the park.
  4. Plan for more days or weeks off in the winter. We start our academic year mid to late August, but then take time off throughout the school year. This is especially important in winter, when a break is needed the most!
  5. Start a fun personal project in January eg. learn to paint; start a blog; plan your summer vacation. Do something just for you, that you will enjoy. Carve out a time slot for this activity every day.
  6. If you’re living in a cold place, this would be a great time to take a vacation to somewhere warm if finances permit. It’s low travel season, so flights are not so expensive. You could plan your family vacation for the winter instead of the summer; better yet, plan a getaway for you and hubby if there is someone who can watch your children.
  7. Refrain from making any life-changing decisions if you are more emotionally vulnerable at this time of year. There have been many February’s in which I have wanted to give up homeschooling, but by April I had changed my mind 🙂
  8. Last but not least, take time to read your Bible and inspiring devotionals. Pray through the Psalms, read Streams in the Desert, or read the devotional book I wrote especially with homeschooling moms in mind (Stress-free Homeschooling: 31 Days to a Healthier Way of Thinking.)Win the battle against those negative thoughts by building yourself up with the Word of God!

What about you? Have you struggled with the winter blues? Has anything helped you cope?

First Anniversary!

in print1st anniversary blog with url resized

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been one year already since I started this blog. It’s been interesting to see how people from all over the world have visited, read, commented, liked or followed the blog posts I’ve written. Thank you so much for taking the time to visit my little corner of the blogosphere! I hope that something has brought you insight or encouragement.

I’ve been surprised at the wide range of people that have viewed and read my posts. I see that my audience is much wider than Christian homeschool moms! But if you are a homeschool mom and are needing a little extra encouragement right now, why not consider buying my homeschool devotional Stress-free Homeschooling: 31 days to a Healthier Way of Thinking? It was highly recommended by Old Schoolhouse magazine and is available in print and as an e-book. Even those who do not homeschool have found it to be helpful. Happy reading!

Wrapping up the Homeschool Year and Thoughts on Tutoring

Every year when we finish our homeschooling session, I archive my children’s work, write out a transcript if they are in high school, and take off my teacher’s hat for a couple of months. Normally my scope and sequence chart for the following school year is planned and the curriculum and resources needed are ordered by mid-May. Then I can just enjoy the summer and not have to think about school.

I guess this year is going to be different. Due to various circumstances, I still have some planning and purchasing to do before we are ready for the next school year (which starts the 3rd week of August for us). In addition to that, I took on a tutoring job for part of the summer. I wasn’t really keen on it, but the Lord opened the door and I kind of got pushed into it! But I see that the Lord has a plan in it all…

Anyway, I wanted to share a couple of thoughts on homeschooling. One thing I did differently this year was to ask my child to evaluate all the courses/activities we were involved with this year. What did she enjoy the most/least and why? It was a profitable exercise, and I received some insights, surprising at times, that will help me in planning future educational endeavours. I think it would be a worthwhile exercise for any homeschooling mother to do with their children.

My tutoring experience has been an eye-opener so far. Let me tell you, tutoring is *much* more challenging than homeschooling your own child! When you homeschool, you choose the curriculum; you set the objectives; you know your child; and any learning difficulties can be corrected on the spot. Tutoring is a whole different ball of wax! You are given a child to tutor that is not your own, has followed a different curriculum, has been taught by a different teacher, and probably has numerous gaps in his learning that you must somehow discover and fill. In addition, the preparation time for tutoring has been much more extensive in my experience than what I take to prepare for homeschooling my child.

I must say that it has given me a new appreciation for the methodical, thorough way my children have been educated compared to the seemingly piecemeal approach used in our public schools. If I may use an analogy, homeschooling has been like building a house a little at a time on a solid foundation; whereas tutoring has been like trying to repair a house that has been built on a shaky foundation, with crooked walls that could contain mold or other unseen defects in them. It’s so much easier to plan and build a house from the ground up vs. repairing someone else’s poorly-built house!

Take heart, homeschool mothers. Your one-on-one investment in your children in those early years, teaching them to master those foundational math and language skills, will pay off in the long run. They will have a firm foundation on which to build more advanced knowledge and skills. Your diligence when your children are young will make an enormous difference in their future.

1 Corinthians 3:10 “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care.”

Great Review of my Book Stress-free Homeschooling by The Old Schoolhouse Magazine!

I received this very positive review of my devotional book Stress-Free Homeschooling: 31 Days to a Healthier Way of Thinking by Kelly Burgess of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine!! Thank you so much, Kelly and TOS Magazine! I wrote this devotional book specifically for homeschooling mothers, but any parent who struggles with negative thinking or discouragement could benefit. I pray that it will be a blessing to you! Stress-free Homeschooling: 31 Days to a Healthier Way of Thinking by Laura Hum is available in print and as an e-book at Barnes and Noble Nook, Lulu, and the iTunes store.
Update: ebook now available at Amazon and kobo as well.

Stress-Free Homeschooling: 31 Days to a Healthier Way of Thinking Review by Kelly Burgess

This product is essentially a thirty-one-day devotional journal that helps the homeschooling mom regain positive thinking and thereby reboot what may otherwise be a stressful homeschooling environment. It’s printed in a compact, easy-to-carry, spiral-bound booklet that is easy to keep at hand for daily encouragement.

I’ve been homeschooling my children for fourteen years now, and I can honestly say that I’m feeling a bit weary and battle-scarred in this home stretch with five more years to go until the youngest child goes to public high school. Each of my three children are so different, and each one has presented their own set of challenges, both in their education and in their behavior. at home. Homeschooling is a full-time job, and full-time in this case means around the clock. It’s a lifestyle that requires an ongoing commitment that involves continuous self-sacrifice. There’s no escaping the fact that it can drain your reserves on the best of days.

Because of that, I’ve really been longing to find something that would recharge my batteries and help me have a more positive outlook on this monumental task of homeschooling. I don’t want to feel like giving up on this important commitment, and I can honestly say that this book has given me lots of positive messages to ponder and internalize. It has helped me see things in a new light.

Each day’s message begins with a concern or feeling of discouragement about which you might find yourself praying to the Lord. Then the author shares how that same negative thought has plagued her in her homeschooling journey, but she goes on to use scripture to explain how the Lord wants us to view the situation. She helps guide the reader into a more positive approach and helps you find ways to see the issue with fresh eyes and a biblical perspective. Then at the end of the explanation, she leaves the reader with a scripture reference for further study and blank lines to record your thoughts and reflections on the topic.

As I read through the book, I felt encouraged that the author has experienced the same frustrations and worries that I have experienced in my homeschool, which let me know that these negative thoughts and feelings of discouragement are not unique to me only. I’m not having them simply because I’m a bad mother or a poor instructor. Instead, she reminds me that Satan is always ready to use these down-times to bring about self-doubt and to try to lead me away from leaning on God for his mercy and direction. As I read each day’s message, I felt a sense of calm and was reminded that God has called me to this task and will see me through it. I learned how to take a negative situation and view it as a building block that can result in a positive learning and growing experience in both my life and the lives of my children.

I highly recommend this book to every mom who has let doubts, fears, and frustrations creep into her homeschool. The positive perspective and scripture references brought me to a place of peace for the first time in a long time. I can do this! In Him, all things are possible.


-Product review by Kelly Burgess, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine®, LLC, May, 2017

Part 4: After legalism, then what?

Perhaps you’ve read Parts 1-3 of Homeschooling and Legalism, and you’ve become aware of the damaging effect of legalism in your own life. Perhaps you’re a homeschooling mother, or one who was raised under legalism, or both! Where do you go from here? Is homeschooling still a viable option? Is Christianity really the truth? I can understand the many people who have been burned because of legalism, and it has made them skeptical and disillusioned. Sometimes that disillusionment has led them to reject Christianity altogether. I can understand that. Healing is a process that can take quite some time. Sometimes the pain is so great, you just can’t bring yourself to do anything that remotely reminds you of that other life, including reading the Bible, going to church, or believing in God. Something’s been taken from you; your trust has been violated; and you don’t want to get hurt again. While in the short term running away from the Lord seems to be the easiest option, true healing and peace will only come as you dare to draw near to God and learn who he really is.

I want to tell you that the abuse you suffered, the wrong teachings you received and lived by, grieve the heart of God. He feels your pain; he longs to show you his love, restore you, and replace those lies with truth, truth that will set you free. What you lived through was a distorted view of Christianity, a false gospel, that could not deliver on what it promised.

Under legalism, you were made to feel ashamed, condemned, inadequate. You were always striving, never attaining the goal. You were judged, not loved unconditionally. You were given a false hope: that if you strive hard to be righteous according to the rules of the organization you were with, you might be good enough to earn God’s love and acceptance. But if you fail, you will lose God’s protection and blessing, and Satan will destroy you. That is not biblical Christianity! The gospel is good news. Good news is something that has already happened; not something that you have to do. The good news is that Jesus has done it all for you. He has fulfilled the requirements of the law on your behalf; he has paid the penalty for your sin; God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21) You cannot become righteous by following the law. Jesus, having fulfilled the law, now offers you his righteousness as a free gift! Just by asking for it! No, we don’t deserve it, but’s that’s grace! You would have to obey every single bit of the law for your whole life to be considered righteous, but you can’t do that. In fact, no one can, except for Jesus! If you are a Christian, you are righteous in God’s sight, simply because you were given the righteousness of Christ when you believed in him. You did nothing to earn it, and you can do nothing to lose it. You can’t add to it, either! What can you add to perfect righteousness?

Furthermore, God’s love for you is not conditional upon your obedience or behaviour. His love, agape, is unconditional. The Bible says that God is love. [God] is patient, kind, doesn’t envy, doesn’t boast, isn’t proud, does not dishonour others, isn’t self-seeking; isn’t easily angered; keeps no record of wrongs; doesn’t delight in evil but rejoices with the truth; always protects; always trusts; always hopes; always perseveres; never fails. That’s the God of the Bible! He loves you not because you perform so well, but because he created every detail about you. You are his workmanship; you belong to him. His very essence is one of unfailing love. Nothing can ever separate you from his love, including anything that you do or don’t do! Rest in his love for you, and you will find emotional stability in your life.

Perhaps what drew you into a legalistic lifestyle was the need to be significant, to achieve something, to be important. Again, legalism cannot meet that need. The best it could do was give you a pharisaical sense of self-importance if you compared yourself with other “less godly” Christians, but that’s not the real deal. It falls so short of the humble confidence you can have when you are following the leading of the Holy Spirit in serving others with your God-given gifts. He has a plan and purpose for you, and he knows how to expertly weave together both the good and the bad experiences of your life to reveal his heart to you and make you a blessing to others. Serving God is not a burdensome, impossible obligation as portrayed by legalism; it is a joyful opportunity to participate with him in making a difference in someone’s life.

What about homeschooling? If you have homeschooled under legalism, should you put your children in public school instead? There is not one right answer to that question, other than to seek the Lord for his will for each of your children. Homeschooling is a very good option if it has a foundation of grace rather than legalism, but it is not an obligation. Perhaps that child will thrive in a different setting. If you do homeschool, don’t put your trust in it to achieve a certain outcome. Recognize it as an opportunity to love your child, help them to discover their God-given talents, and model faith in Christ. Learn to lean on the Lord’s direction rather than blindly following some homeschooling guru.

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 5:13

Part 3: How we got into (and out of) legalistic homeschooling

In Part 1 and Part 2, I defined legalism and gave some history of its relation to homeschooling in North America. In this post, I’d like to share our journey into and out of the legalistic homeschooling program ATI (Advanced Training Institute).

When our eldest child was a preschooler, we started praying about where to send him for school. We had heard about homeschooling through a family that had spoken at our church, but I didn’t think I would ever be able to do it. At that time we were seriously considering a private Christian school, because we didn’t feel comfortable with sending him to public school. There were two families in our church that had begun homeschooling, and one of them was using the ATI curriculum. The father was very persuasive, telling us that this curriculum was the “cream of the crop”, and that homeschooling would be the best thing for our children. I was not convinced, but my husband felt that homeschooling would be an effective way to disciple our children in the Christian faith. One day as I read my Bible, I felt the Lord leading me to homeschool, and that he would give me the ability to do it. I told my husband, and we began the adventure. In those days, there was no internet to peruse for homeschool curriculum; everything was through word of mouth. Most homeschoolers were using Christian school curriculum such as A Beka or BJU, or following the Moore’s method. I believe it was around that time when the first homeschooling curriculum fair/conference was held in our city. We were encouraged by our friends to attend a Bill Gothard Basic Seminar, which we did. It was impressive. He was a charismatic teacher, who came across as well-studied, sincere, and having Biblical solutions to common conflicts. He was a visionary. There were tons of scripture quoted. Certainly, this man spoke for God! He told many stories about God’s supernatural provision for IBLP, thus validating his ministry. The Basic Seminar was enlightening, and sounded like solid Biblical teaching.

We had to attend an Advanced Seminar, then apply to be accepted into the ATI program. In the Advanced Seminar, some red flags went up. I took offense to some of what he taught, but still felt that there was enough good teaching to not dismiss the program altogether. In applying to ATI, you had to answer many personal questions and agree to a certain lifestyle. Men could not have beards; no rock music or alcohol was allowed in the home; television was a no-no as were movies; women were to dress modestly and in dresses, etc. We were keen to follow the Lord and took our responsibility as parents to raise our children in the Lord very seriously, so these commitments didn’t seem like a big sacrifice. In fact, we were already living by most of those standards anyway (not because they were required, mind you, but because of the changes God had wrought in our hearts.) We applied, and were thrilled to be accepted! When we attended our first ATI Conference in Knoxville, Tennessee, a few months before we began homeschooling, we were wowed. Coming from Canada, where homeschooling families were few and far between, it was overwhelming to see thousands of homeschool families gathered in one place. Everyone’s neat appearance, the visionary speakers, the bright-eyed students, the testimonies, the exceptional talents displayed: all left us with quite the impression. Surely the Lord’s blessing was on this ministry!

Actually implementing the program, however, was not quite as glorious as those annual conferences! I did my best, but it was hard work. As a young, inexperienced mother, my patience quickly wore thin. I felt the burden to do it right, to not ruin my children! The vision was to raise sons and daughters who were godly in spirit, warriors against the evils of our secular humanist culture. A big calling, indeed! Both the curriculum and the Christian culture of that day put a lot of emphasis on obedience on the part of children and submission on the part of wives. The “standards” that we were required to live by aimed to make us godly Christians, as opposed to carnal Christians. These were the measuring sticks given to us to evaluate ourselves, our children, and others. Everything was spelled out to us in black and white as to how to live a life pleasing to God, including what music to listen to, what to wear, courtship vs. dating, even what kind of feminine hygiene products to use and when it is best to have sex with your husband! Everything that proceeded out of Bill Gothard’s mouth was framed as a commandment of God. If you didn’t follow it, you were told that you’d be out from under God’s umbrella of protection, and Satan will wreak havoc on your family. There was much fear and control in this program, not to mention misuse of Scripture. There was a Pharisaical mentality that seemed to justify these ridiculous standards. If you were serious about following God and sparing your children the evils of this world, it would take a radical lifestyle, right?

As the years went on, I began to have some doubts about the theology presented in the Wisdom Booklets (the ATI curriculum). Verses were quoted out of context, and sometimes used to support conclusions that didn’t sound right. Every now and then I would get into a theological crisis, but I couldn’t imagine leaving the program. There was enough good in it to not justify throwing the baby out with the bathwater. After all, our children were learning and memorizing God’s word and learning to see life from a supposedly biblical worldview. They were learning life skills, my husband was having daily family devotions, and we got to spend much time together as a family when they were little.  The program was age-integrated, multidisciplinary, and didn’t require many hours of formal teaching like A Beka or BJU would. There was still plenty of room in the schedule for chores, leisure, and family time.

After 5 or 6 years in the program, however, I began to crack. Now with the increased responsibility of teaching 3 children and the daily indoctrination into a legalistic, condemning version of Christianity, my mental health began to suffer. My self-esteem was at an all-time low; I was battling depression and fatigue; my church was not particularly supportive of homeschooling; and we were really isolated. I knew that something had to change. The Lord led us to change churches at that point, to a grace-oriented church that taught us who we were in Christ and the value of the finished work of Christ. It was a lifesaver for me, and we began a process of discovering the true gospel and the grace of God, instead of being in bondage to legalism. It took some time, but the Lord began to heal me from depression and negative thinking as I was exposed to and meditated upon the freeing truths of God’s Word. My outlook began to change, as did my husband’s, and while we did not yet leave ATI, we adjusted our teaching to be more balanced. Sometimes we skipped sections of the Wisdom Booklet that we disagreed with, or as we read it, we would qualify what it said with a more balanced interpretation of scripture. Now the children were getting grace-oriented teaching in church, and we felt that it would balance out the more legalistic elements of our homeschooling program.

After being a few years in our new church, I had begun to understand the grace of God much more. The Lord had restored to me the joy of my salvation, and I wrote the devotional book Stress-free Homeschooling specifically for other homeschooling mothers to help them discover the truths that set me free from depression and negative thinking. They have continued to provide me with a solid foundation in the midst of trials since then. The Lord revealed to me wrong concepts that I had held onto and brought me to a place of peace and rest in Him. A few years later, we finally let go of ATI.

As I mentioned, there were times when I wrestled with the question whether or not we should leave ATI. There were a few incidents that confirmed the decision for me. One of the earliest ones was when I went to a women’s conference. (At the time, I was still wearing dresses every day.) The worship team, which was all-female, were obviously loving and worshipping the Lord, but in pants! I know that sounds ridiculous, and it was, but that’s where I was at the time. I couldn’t reconcile how these women seemed to love the Lord so much, and yet be wearing clothes that I was taught were not pleasing to God. This caused me to question what I had been taught in ATI. Another moment came when we were in a family crisis and everything I seemed to have built over the years came crashing down. The Lord used that time to reveal to me that the vision that Bill Gothard had given us, that we had been so dedicated to, was the wrong goal. The ATI program required us to commit ourselves to “train up sons and daughters who are mighty in spirit and able to impact the world for Jesus Christ”.  While on the surface this looks like a laudable goal, its pursuit takes the focus off the children’s needs and instead pressures them to be culture warriors. The last incident that clinched it for me had to do with the principle of authority that Bill Gothard taught. One day I asked myself, “Why are we following the leading of Bill Gothard and organizing our lives around his teaching, when he isn’t even our authority? He’s not our father, pastor, or government leader. Yet, he’s dictating everything about how we should live.” He usurped the authority that our leaders supposedly have over us! We finally said goodbye to ATI and began to follow a more grace-oriented approach to homeschooling and parenting.

When we finally left ATI, it was for theological reasons. We had no idea back then of the decades-long history of sex scandals, deception, and abuse that had plagued the IBLP ministry from its early days. Had we known what was really going on behind the scenes, we would have left much earlier. It was easier to cover up scandals back then because there was no internet. Furthermore, the support of prominent Christian leaders like Elizabeth Eliot, Gary Smalley, David Wilkerson, Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar, etc. validated his ministry. We heard many of these speakers at ATI conferences. Because of the millions of Christians that attended his seminars over the years, including annual pastors’ seminars, his teaching has been disseminated throughout North American churches and even worldwide. Many Christians and pastors probably don’t even realize that the origin of some of the concepts they are teaching is from Bill Gothard. In 2011, the website was launched to help those who have been negatively impacted by his teachings. He is currently being sued by 10 women that claim he sexually abused and/or harassed them. May justice be done, and may the Lord restore the years that the locust has eaten for everyone who has been harmed by his false teachings.

Galatians 5:4-10 “You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.  “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty.”


Homeschooling and Legalism: Part 2

A brief history: How did legalism become associated with homeschooling?

The modern homeschooling movement in America began in the last century with such pioneers as John Holt and Ray and Dorothy Moore. Both Holt and the Moores advocated more of an unschooling approach. They believed that formal education was harmful if undertaken too early, and instead they encouraged warm bonding experiences with parents and other adults, chores, natural learning experiences, and community service in the early childhood years.[1]

By the 1980s, however, the American homeschooling movement was heavily influenced by Christian fundamentalism. The writings of Christian reconstructionist R.J. Rushdoony advocated traditional formal education in the home and curriculum based on a Christian worldview.[2] Although Rushdoony fought tirelessly for the rights of parents to homeschool their children, he held extreme views concerning education, politics, racism, etc. He sought to reconstruct a nation where all of life would be governed by the Bible, including harsh penalties for many crimes as set out in the Old Testament Law. [3]His ideas were foundational to the emerging Christian homeschool movement.

Much attention was given in that era to the dangers of secular humanism and its growth in public schools, and Christians were encouraged to protect their children from this faith-destroying philosophy and homeschool them instead, using Christian curriculum. Francis Schaeffer, Dr. James Dobson, Bill Gothard, and other prominent Christian leaders reinforced this idea that a cultural war is going on, and that the only way we could win this battle was by raising our children according to God’s Word and equipping them to be salt and light in this evil world.[4] The climate was one of fear but also hope, as visionaries such as Bill Gothard persuaded thousands of families to enrol in his homeschooling program The Advanced Training Institute (ATI). In keeping with the reconstructionist philosophy, he taught that every aspect of life should come under the governance of God’s law, and that following the so-called Biblical principles that he taught would bring success in life and result in godly children that would be a great positive influence in the world.[5] What Christian parent doesn’t want that?  As I wrote in Part 1, however, “Legalism is a false system that promises righteousness/acceptance/purpose, but cannot deliver. It is totally inadequate to meet those basic human needs that only the Lord Jesus can.”

The ATI program taught among other things that following God meant homeschooling your children; not eating pork or seafood; dressing modestly and in the case of women, never in pants; distrusting allopathic medicine; not using birth control; rejecting dating in favour of courtship; not listening to rock music, watching secular movies, or reading worldly books; and so on.[6] Unlike other homeschooling programs, you had to apply to ATI and be accepted in order to enrol. Detailed personal questions such as how many hours the father works outside the home, how many hours the TV/internet is used and for what, if the couple has prayer together, if there has been a divorce, and so on, are asked on the application form. The parents must agree to live in accordance with “the goals, responsibilities, and standards required of ATI families”, which included no rock music (Christian or secular); no alcohol; the entire family must be enrolled in the program; no one outside of the immediate family was allowed to live in an ATI home; limited (and preferably) no TV or internet; clothing must be modest.[7] There were even recommendations given in the Advanced Seminar concerning “God’s view” on sex within marriage and what type of feminine hygiene products to buy!

In addition to the required standards, there was a heavy emphasis on authority and not questioning it. Instead of walking by faith according to the leading of the Holy Spirit in the freedom of grace, which is true biblical Christianity, a false gospel was promoted where you would supposedly achieve godly success by adhering to its many rules and separatist lifestyle. Participants would sometimes evaluate their righteousness based on how well they were measuring up to all these expectations, and others were sized up that way as well (including their children). It was a lose-lose situation, because homeschool parents were under great stress to live up to the unrealistic expectations, not the least of which was “getting it right” so their children could turn out right! This resulted in unhealthy emotions for the homeschooling mother, in particular. There was a goal to attain that always seemed out of reach. There was always another family that seemed to be doing things better than yourself. It fostered competition, not cooperation. Legalistic homeschooling put an undue emphasis on rules/obedience, which was detrimental for family relationships. It replaced faith in Christ with a manmade system that dictated personal choices in many areas of life with no recognition of Christian liberty. Standards were not discussed or debated; you were expected to blindly obey them because they were supposedly an expression of God’s will. Everything was taught in very black and white terms. The seven non-optional “biblical” principles taught by Bill Gothard, which are the foundation of the ATI homeschooling program, were presented as God’s will for every person. According to Bill Gothard, “the root causes of life’s problems can be traced to a violation of seven non-optional principles. Every person, regardless of culture, religion, race, education, or social status, must either follow these principles or experience the consequences of violating them.”[8]

In the 1990s, the homeschooling movement grew; it was legal across North America; and groups such as Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) were key players in defending the right to homeschool and reinforcing the Christian fundamentalist mindset. When HSLDA alerted homeschoolers in the U.S of the pending HR-6 bill, they flooded the phone lines of Capitol Hill. [9]Thus, a powerful political base formed which would be called upon to support other fundamentalist goals.[10]  Those whose faith differed from fundamentalist Christianity were pushed out of the limelight, and sometimes were not allowed to participate in homeschool support groups because they didn’t agree to the statement of faith of that group. Homeschooling families were encouraged to separate themselves from others who didn’t share their values, resulting in much division in churches as families left to join the house church movement. Even the homeschool community became very divided, as Christian fundamentalist homeschoolers separated themselves from other homeschoolers with different beliefs.[11] It’s no surprise that many house churches eventually disbanded, since the legalistic foundation of those churches produced the fruit of pride, division and judgment, rather than the love and unity that is supposed to mark followers of Jesus.

Thankfully, with the proliferation of the internet, many more options became available to homeschoolers in terms of curriculum choices, educational methods, support groups, conferences, etc. The internet has also exposed scandals affiliated with well-respected Christian homeschool leaders such as Bill Gothard, Doug Phillips, and the Duggar family. Websites such as and www.homeschoolersanonymous  have arisen to give support to families and students that have been negatively impacted through legalistic homeschooling. Unfortunately, many who were raised in the Christian faith have come to reject it because of the experiences they had while being homeschooled under legalism. The homeschooling culture today is vastly different from that of 20 or 30 years ago, with people of all faiths and persuasions taking on homeschooling for a wide variety of reasons. Overall, there is much more balance, but there still are homeschooling circles where legalism reigns.

“For the kingdom of God does not consist of food and drink, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. For the one who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by people.” Rom. 14:17,18







[6] Advanced Seminar Textbook, IBLP






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