Box Bashing

This is a hard post for me to write. I’d much prefer to be talking about organization or  celebrating with your kids or getting along with your hubby or perhaps offering some fun and funky giveaway.

However, there has been a buzz out there lately; a bad buzz.

It involves a group of people I am closely linked with. This group is often stereotyped in a particular way. Usually, I can laugh off parts of the stereotype since I really don’t fit the mold entirely. But what has transpired lately is no laughing matter.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me back up.

I first heard about homeschooling way back in the mid 1980’s. One of our college professors was doing it.

I thought it was the strangest thing I’d ever heard of.

Fast forward to 1996 when our oldest was kindergarten age. By this time, we had met and interacted with many families who educated their kids at home and were impressed with how their offspring were turning out and with how many opportunities were out there for them: sports, band, choir, field trips, co-ops, even a homeschool academy for many classes and activities.

My husband also was working a job on the afternoon shift. We quickly discovered that if our kids were in a traditional public or private school setting, they’d say goodnight to their dad on Sunday evening and wouldn’t see his face again until he woke up just after noon on Saturday.

The decision for us was clear cut. Although I had been a substitute teacher in three public school districts and had just turned down a position at a Christian high school, we’d homeschool Kenzie for kindergarten. And we decided to reevaluate how our kids are educated each summer.

Now, many times those women who homeschool are portrayed in a particular light. They are thought to do all of the following:

  1. Have a boatload of kids.
  2. Wear denim jumpers and their long hair knotted up in a bun.
  3. Grind their own wheat.
  4. Bake their own bread.
  5. Enjoy memorizing geography and spelling rules just for fun.

And many other such “homeschoolish” activities.

Now, I must tell you that, as I mentioned yesterday, I hate boxes. When others have tried to put me in the homeschool box, I haven’t quite fit.

  • I look horrid in jumpers and my husband wouldn’t ever want me to wear one.
  • I look much better in a shorter hairstyle and again, the hubster (as well as my fashion consultant Shari) doesn’t like long hair on me.
  • I was only able to have three kids, although I wanted at least six.
  • I am a flop at geography and spell check is my constant friend.
  • However,  I do have a wheat grinder and love to make my own whole wheat bread!

Now, please don’t read into this that I have a problem with those women who do all of the above. I have several dear, precious friends that do!

However, there is another stereotype that often comes with the homeschool label.

It is the one I loathe.

It is the assumption that homeschoolers also parent in an over-authoritarian, strict and severe corporal punishment sort of way. In fact, when our oldest was just a toddler, I came in contact with a few families who did just that.

They had all read the same book that told them how to crank out perfectly obedient children. It involved corporal punishment; administered with a plumbing supply line commonly purchased at hardware stores.

I am not joking.

These parents were encouraged to do the following: “If you have to sit on him to spank him then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher, more patiently enduring and are unmoved by his wailing. Defeat him totally. Accept no conditions for surrender. No compromise. You are to rule over him as a benevolent sovereign. Your word is final.”

One woman I personally knew said she spanked her pre-schooler when he disobeyed to the point that his bottom “looked like hamburger meat.”

Another whipped her 3 year old child’s legs repeatedly because she refused to sit next to me in their vehicle on  a garage sale outing one afternoon. (The child did not know me at all and was timid and scared) It happened numerous times over the course of about three hours until this sweet and shy girl had raised and painful welts all over her little legs.

I had no children at the time. I retrospect, I should have done something other than sit silently in disbelief at what my eyes and heart were witnessing. However, I was intimidated. I was also was often in awe of how “outwardly obedient” these small kids were. I had no idea it was because of how much they hurt when they got out of line.

Oh, it gets worse.

Last week I received an email from Virginia Knowles, a cyber friend and popular homeschool blogger. It told a tragic tale; yet another case where recently, a child had actually died as a result of following the advice of those who advocate this type of “discipline”.

On February 6, seven year old Lydia Schatz who was adopted from Liberia, was murdered.  Her 11 year old sister Zariah was also wounded and is in critical condition with kidney damage.  Who hurt these children and caused one of them to die? Their home schooling parents did. The “offense” of the murdered child was that she mispronounced a word during her  lessons that day.  She was beaten repeatedly with a plumbing supply line.  Another brother has been found badly bruised. And yes, her parents read and followed the advice in that same “child training” book!

And this child isn’t the first to perish. It has happened other times as well. You can read Virginia’s opinion and the news account here. (Please note: I have not had time to thoroughly check out the many links her post contains, so I don’t know for sure if I can agree with the content contained within them all. However, she does a fabulous job chronicling this tragic topic.)

Oh sisters, this breaks my heart!!!!!!

Please, I want you to know that not all homeschool parents severely beat their kids into submission with hoses meant for plumbing purposes or other household objects.

However, some sadly do.

And some non-homeschoolers do too.

And it is an awful, horrid disgrace.

Please join me in praying for those children who are trapped in such a home. May Jesus rescue them somehow very, very soon.

‘Fathers, do not irritate and provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to resentment], but rear them [tenderly] in the training and discipline and the counsel and admonition of the Lord.” Ephesians 3:4  Amplified Bible



  1. I heard about this, and it is horrible, awful, unspeakable. And that the evil one would use this to darken Christianity is also horrible.

    Another consequence has come of this. Liberia shut its doors to adoption about a year ago, wanting to stop any corruption there may have been. Friends of ours were just weeks away from traveling to get their little boy when the doors were shut and they were told to wait. Heartbreaking. Just recently, they have been opening the door slightly to those adoption cases that were in the works before. Until now. Now all of Liberia is furious that one of their own little ones was murdered. And because of it, orphaned children will yet again wait longer for a family. And their families will wait for them.

  2. Thank you for adding your voice to the growing number of those who are horrified and grieved by this case. I hope more Christian and homeschooling mothers and fathers can band together and help create a world where this teaching of abuse-in-the-name-of-Christ is not tolerated.

  3. This is so tragically sad! I have several friends that homeschool, they have wonderful homes and children and I don;t see any of that kind of behavior. I have been around many homeschoolers and at one time wished I could homeschool, although I am not cut out to do that and have to work, but they are wonderful happy families, and their children love being homeschooled, my kids have even expressed, at one time wanting to be homeschooled. I never heard about hat kind of stereotype. I am so sorry to hear it and will pray.

  4. Karen,

    This was such a sad story. I homeschooled my kids until this year and I’ve never seen anything like that in our homeschool groups. I had homeschooled for ten years. It’s so sad that people judge all homeschooling families by the worst scenarios they hear about. We really need to pray for the people that judge everyone because of what they hear in the media. Some people are truly ignorant to think that all homeschoolers are like those that did this horrible thing.

  5. Oh my Karen, Thank you for the words and stories. I know it gives homeschooling a bad name. My husband and I will be starting homeschooling with our Daughter this Fall and know that we are far from perfect. As she learns, so shall we! Thank you once again!

  6. Thank you for bringing this horrible disgrace to our attention. I will pray for these families…but it will also be on my mind – is there something more I should be DOING?

  7. Thank you for this message today. I have to admit that the longer I have been visiting the blogger world the more I have seen about homeschooling families and you answered some of my questions about why they decide to homeschool. I also understand that as you pointed out some homeschoolers follow this kind of “discipline” and some non-homeschoolers do too.
    I will join you in prayer for all children caught in this horrible situation. One of my mottos has always been, “Protect the children.”

  8. Oh, my word! What a sad story. I know several home schooling families and NONE of them behave in this way. Just, wow…I don’t know what else to say.

  9. Karen, thank you for your kind words of support. The outpouring of encouragement this past week has been heartening. I am calling on all home schooling moms and leaders to take a stand and spread the word.

    Salon Magazine, a secular site, just posted an article called “Godly Discipline Turned Deadly” at at noted that it is the Christian bloggers who are taking up the cause to end child abuse in the home school movement.

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