Homeschooling is a Lie

Oh ho ho, a provocative title! (Though that’s the very point of a headline, you pedantic philist—)

“Homeschooling is a lie” in that the term is extremely dishonest. The giant elephant in the homeschool room is how rare it is for a kid to be tutored entirely within their own home throughout K-12 or whatever, and usually those kids are, how did Liz Lemon put it, crazy. (As one would expect.) Rare is the homeschooled kid that hasn’t stumbled through some variation of what is, for all intents and purposes, some form of traditional education. This is what my own experience was like. We did, what, two or three years of Abeka VHS training in our house? Even then we had a school day and homework and a curriculum. Then I started taking college classes at 11 and did a simultaneous co-op (a mini private school based on social circles) for most of what we’d call “high school.” How is that “homeschooling?” Because that’s what we called it so we could avoid talking about the elephant.

Think about it. It’s impossible for your parents to provide you what we consider a modern education. By definition, a modern education is a very broad knowledge base taught to you by specialists, either in how to educate and handle a mob of tots or subjects like math and geography, a base we expect everyone to have just to be a productive member of society. Such a thing didn’t exist in 1620. We created an education system to make that happen. It’s incoherent to try to do that, but differently. You can try to make paper on your own, I guess. Most of the time it’ll be crappy; some people might get lucky and get it right, but the reason we systematized it is to take luck out of the equation and make crappy paper a rarity. We want the most number of people to as educated as best they can. Trying to homeschool kids is missing the forest for the trees in perhaps the most pristine way possible.

Now, setting aside illegitimate reasons for wanting to homeschool your children—namely religious/ideological ones hiding behind legitimate complaints about the public school system, or a wicked desire to control every possible aspect of the rearing of ANOTHER LIVING BREATHING HUMAN LIKE YOURSELF as if they’re some pottery vase you’re trying to perfect, or laziness, or sheer fear and ignorance—, the most common reason for parents to “homeschool” their progeny boils down to something like “I think they could do better in a different environment.” Schools, private and public, specifically those common in the developed world (YES, I KNOW FINLAND EXISTS, BUT IT’S 5 MILLION WHITE PEOPLE WITH A CRAZY LANGUAGE. WOULD YOU STOP TRYING—) are kind of zoo-like, often stifling children’s creativity, focusing way too much on metrics, tests, and the quantifiable aspects of education, fostering bullying, cliques, bad social habits, etc. Legitimate, as I said, although please make sure (really, seriously, no honestly, check yourself) that those are your actual concerns for trying to wing one of the most important parts of your child’s development. Being worried doesn’t qualify.

As an aside, it should be noted that, indeed, some children with learning disabilities might not do well in a more traditional classroom. That’s a thing, yes. Still, A) go back to the previous paragraph and make sure that’s relevant to your concern, B) a highly developed school system with a long history and lots of resources is a lot more likely to be able to find a happy medium between educational needs and specific learning limitations than your own household. This isn’t an argument against the traditional school system per se, only for expanding its ability and performance in accommodating such needs. Stick to your lane.

Now back to the lane. You know those issues are par for the course, right? Parents have been complaining about them since public schools came into existence. Nobody likes seeing Junior struggle with multiplication tables they couldn’t care less about. Fine. But…what are you going to do? Not have them know their multiplication tables? Do you think they shouldn’t know multiplication tables? Then make that argument. (I’ll wait.) If you do think they should know them, how are you going to teach them then? Wait around for them to decide they want to? Great parenting, that. If not when their five, at the most crucial time in their physical and mental growth, then when exactly? And how are you going to structure your approach to this? How are you going to organize their day? How are you going to get them to stick to task when their mood swings? In short, how are you going to get s— done? It’s not going to do itself. Walk down that path and you’ll find yourself making many of the same decisions as those evil, soulless teachers who just won’t leave those kids alone.

No matter what, schooling requires some amount of rigor, some amount of scheduling, some amount of discipline, some amount of control, some amount of focus, and some amount of give-and-take in what things you want the curricula and philosophy to emphasize. Yes, kids don’t react to that as well as adults—because they’re kids. They’re full of energy, their bodies and brains developing at an astonishing rate. You can’t just let them run around in fields sniffing flowers all day. They won’t learn anything in the end. Learning is a skill. It’s work. You have to do sit down and do it. It’s the same thing as teaching them how to sit still quietly, to take no for an answer, and be nice to people. They don’t naturally learn these things. They have to be taught. Being taught is more than worth it.

One larger motif in this line of thought is that we’ve recast growing up and “adulting” as some sort of miserable injustice that shouldn’t be foisted upon innocent young souls in the prime of happiness. One, that’s projection—your early years aren’t coming back—, and two, it’s called infantilization. Childhood is not the point of life. It’s supposed to go away. You can’t build a civilization on children. My God, man. Think of what you speak. The mess, the chaos! When Junior is in first grade or fifth or whatever, they’re not even remotely mature. They’re useless. They can’t function on their own. They don’t know enough about the reality around them to make sense of it, to go out into the world and own themselves. That’s why we sit them down in these zoo-like buildings. Left to their own devices, kids don’t magically turn into scholars, engineers, writers, or even worthwhile laborers. Education is a massive infusion of worth. It’s not all they amount to, yes, but yikes, it’s pretty crucial, don’t you think? Please, argue this point with me. I’d love to hear about how being school-smart is somehow a bad thing. No, an overemphasis on school-smarts isn’t healthy, but neither is eating French Fries at every meal. This is obvious. Debate class was ages ago.

It’s good to be an adult with a broad scope of knowledge and capability. It’s good to be be able to do your own laundry without (much) griping, to socialize and interact with people of very different backgrounds and worldviews, to be knowledgeable, smart, and wise. These things are virtues. We as a society have spent untold amounts of effort making sure the next generation receives the fruit of the toil of the previous one. Kids don’t do that. If we’re being honest, they’re mostly little idiots who haven’t learned how to behave. That process never stops, by the way. Remember the kind of person you were ten years ago? Wow, were you stupid. So was I.

Back to homeschooling, it should be pretty obvious a better term for it is “ad hoc schooling,” as my friend Rob put it. No two homeschooled kids have the exact same experience, because the crux of the enterprise remains throwing different books, programs, teachers, and schools at the wall and seeing what sticks. You don’t want to shove them through the traditional system (boooo! hiss!), so you form one by the seat of your pants, yanking them in and out of stuff that doesn’t seem to work (far too often just based on a gut feeling or how much you’re pitying them in the moment), ignoring the serious downsides to that approach, then hoping your socioeconomic status will take care of the rest.

Yep, that’s the gist of it. Don’t lie. Do you see lots of single black mothers among the ranks of homeschooling apologists? No. Most glowing stories are of kids who would’ve almost certainly come out fine going through the public school system anyway, because their parents had the ability and, just as importantly, the desire granted by that ability, to guide their child’s development with a strong, steady, loving hand. Just as war is mostly determined at the outset by those boring macro-factors of economics, demographics, and logistics, just as parenting comes down to mostly how stable and loving a home environment you can create, the range of your educational outcomes for children are determined overwhelmingly by your socioeconomic status. Parents like to concoct Great Men Theories about how they were the deciding factor in why their Junior is so special and awesome. Individual actions do have an impact; sometimes they can be a deciding factor. But scale is a thing, and scale brings all valor and cowardice low. Sorry, Eustace and Margaret, but putting kale in Junior’s cereal and deciding to enroll him in the Parkside Afterschool Program for Excellence did not make or break his path to success, just as one more bayonet charge didn’t decide WW1. I know you know this, Homeschool Success Story. If you don’t, that begs an inconvenient question.

Aye, sure, there are lots of great homeschooled kids out there. There are also, what, eight billion people on planet Earth at this point? If you’re a homeschooler or parent wanting to tout the virtues of your tribe (that’s what it is) and the esteemed caliber of your education, maybe, I don’t know, avoid making such basic scholarly mistakes in public. It doesn’t matter how many potential scripts for a Lifetime movie you can reference off the top of your head. What’s relevant is the overall breakdown of success and who benefits from it. Spoilers: we don’t have that. All we know is that homeschoolers represent maybe 1-2% of the educational population in the US, i.e., a very small fraction. The rest is largely speculative nonsense, tainted by a mountain of pro-homeschooling organizations with every impetus and motivation to inflate the prowess of their particular shtick. The HSLDA is notorious for playing up every possible public school horror story, protecting parents blatantly guilty of abuse, and tainting the whole idea of public schooling for their own obvious selfish gain. They aren’t looking out for you, and they sure aren’t making sure whatever literature they publish extolling the virtues of their cause are rigorous and accurate.

Speaking of which, are you citing rigorous studies in your defense of homeschooling? No, because there basically aren’t any. And if you aren’t citing rigorous studies, then cease and desist. If you really are an amazing HS student who’s As Good as the Rest, odds are you got lucky. That’s not an argument for an educational paradigm. There are just as many (if not far more) homeschooled students whose parents didn’t make a combined $250,000 a year and who had serious gaps in their upbringing, adults who will now carry that burden for the rest of their lives. Those kids are ignored, forgotten, and outright erased from that gilded narrative. If you don’t take into account the full horizon of outcomes, to include the failures—the myriad of abused, neglected homeschoolers—you’re doing yourself, them, and your cause a disservice, not to mention selling someone else’s snake oil. In this day and age, you have no excuse. Their stories are a Google search away. Here’s one. Now go find another. Do your homework.

Finally, if you want your child to be raised in the Finnish education system, just move to Finland. Here’s a chart of all fifteen Finnish grammatical cases. You’d better start Junior on them now! They grow up fast, after all.

Watching God’s Children

Christianity is so sad.

The psychology of it is on full display in this video. Behold how stupid these people are. They have no idea what they’re talking about. They’re completely oblivious to the reality of what the Bible is, where it came from, and the innumerable interpretations of it. There’s nothing resembling a consensus on Christian eschatology, and it’s pretty clear why if you actually read the material cited. Ezekiel? Zachariah? Hezekiah? Revelation? It’s all a bunch of rambling nonsense. Many clutch at very specific verses as examples of fulfilled prophecy (ergo, credibility), glossing over the 99% of the text that’s chock-full of incomprehensible references and predictions that never came true. The Bible is fantastic literature, but the idea that anyone would take it as some sort of concrete roadmap is beyond me.

I’m lying. Of course I understand, since I was Christian until the beginning of my third decade, but I also get why the uninitiated might be baffled. Of particular interest might be why Evangelicals are so obsessed with the Apocalypse. Well, they’re not. Obsession isn’t the right word. Yearning is. Once the Apocalypse comes, the grave tribulation they’re suffering–banal economic turbulence, liberals gaining more and more power and influence, young people falling away from the Church, gays everywhere, brown people finding a voice, other brown people blowing up white people on rare occasions–will disappear. All will be right with the world. Never mind how many people will die or suffer in the process by their own admission. Two thirds of Israel will die, but they’re heretics or whatever. Logically, it’s vital that they try to accelerate the timeline of prophecy (don’t think about it) as much as possible. Why would you want to sit around waiting for all this chaos to work itself out? If you donate $5 and vote for Republicans who “love” Israel, you’ll get you brownie points with God and make your salvation extra secure.

People wonder why I have such venom toward the religion that I came from. To be honest, I can’t understand why anyone who lived through it wouldn’t be a tad bitter toward this corrupt, broken institution, infested from top-to-bottom by charlatans, zealots, and bigots exploiting even greater bigots below them. Once you realize it’s all comforting lies for privileged special snowflakes whose fragile worldview can’t handle the slightest bit of nuance or discomfort, it all makes perfect, painful sense. These people are so insecure and frightened by anything and everything different or inconvenient that they’ll channel untold amounts of money into aiding and abetting a brutal policy of occupation against innocent people. It’s disgusting. There are two emotional conclusions you can draw from the modern state of Christianity in America: disgust or pity. Put any respect, admiration, or even empathy out of your mind. What you see in this video is an evil that needs to be defeated and buried. It’s scared people abusing the world because they can’t handle their own inner fretting, nothing more. Going to Israel and taking some tours of dusty rocks and hills is merely a highly elaborate ritual of masturbation. It’s a way to blow off steam and keep silencing those nagging thoughts.

I speak from experience. I spent much of my teens pouring over Christianity’s essence, studying apologetics, studying the Word, studying various outlooks and analyses of it, but the cold truth was I just wanted some certainty in my troubled life, for everything to make sense, for the constant gnawing doubt in my head to just go away and leave me alone. I couldn’t turn my brain off, so I took the only logical path available: finding satisfying answers. The only problem, as I realized far earlier than my conscious mind knew, was that Christianity didn’t have them. I hung onto the trappings of it for a while, but in my heart I’d given up a long time ago. I would force myself to go to Sunday-night church before raiding in WoW as a stiff ritual, hating every bored minute of it, tired of trying to socialize with other teens that I didn’t understand. That was the last ember of it all, somewhere when I was 18-19. The whole thing fell apart very quickly the moment the social and emotional impetuses ran their course. I can remember a quiet period of a few months in 2009-2010 where I my deconversion rapidly completed itself. The whole thing clicked. The door shut behind me.

Again, try to understand this through the frame of emotion. Intellect has naught to do with it. Unlike me, the people you see here can turn their brains off, can run headlong into comforting scammery, can embrace the most immoral and reprehensible behavior imaginable so long as you say the right words, make the right gestures, and use the right imagery. They’ll jerk off in front of Palestinians whose land has been paved and planted with suburbs. They’ll hoot and holler and cheer for a slimy scam artist like Trump. Anything. Anything to keep the thoughts away.

But Caesar, for God’s in His Heaven

Another day under Trump, another journalist wonders how it’s possible for white Evangelicals to support him with such zeal and passion.

One of the enduring puzzles of contemporary American politics is why white evangelicals, who loudly proclaim their devotion to the teachings of the Bible, continue to support the thrice-married, six-times-bankrupted, multiple-times-unfaithful, chronically lying president, who has, at the very least, violated three of the Ten Commandments (“Thou shalt not commit adultery,” “Thou shalt not steal,” and “Thou shalt not bear false witness”) and arguably several others.

As someone who came from the Church, what’s far more remarkable to me is how people continue to be shocked by this.

Look, kids. Here’s the dirty secret about Christianity: there are no real Christians.

First off, this is something you can infer directly from Scripture itself. The Bible speaks quite plainly to how only God will be able to separate the “tares” from the “wheat” when Judgment Day comes, whatever “Judgment Day” means. It was precisely these kinds of verses that led me down the blessed path of full deconversion, away from Calvary: nowhere is complete, 100%, absolute, foolproof salvation ever stipulated within Christianity. None. It’s not there. You can be as virtuous as Christ Himself and still be a tare as far as He’s concerned. You might even earnestly believe you’re among the saints, but only God will truly know when the time comes. Salvation is a complete crap-shoot by Christianity’s own standards. There’s no way you can lock it down, no way you can believe and/or work hard enough to know you’re among that number. That’s why Calvinism gained any sort of popularity in the first place: it solves this fundamental problem, only at the expense of Christianity’s soul. It’s the fundamental downside of an omnipotent, omniscient Creator: He can do whatever He wants, pick whomever or whatever He wants to be in His particular 700 Club, and if He decided at the last minute to just change all the rules and condemn you, earnest, fearful believer, to eternal damnation, there’d be nothing you could do about it, because you’re a tiny gnat before your Maker.

All of that is neither here nor there, of course, because God doesn’t exist. But even if He does, God doesn’t matter, which is why the bickering over His existence is a giant waste of time. We can still measure the impact His ostensible touch has on human behavior–rather, the complete lack thereof. Christians are indistinguishable from their heathen brethren. They eat, drink, sleep, pee, poop, and fuck. They like socializing. They like having things and they like enjoying things, especially that sex thing. There is no behavior of any subgroup of Christianity, from the poorest to the elite of the elite, that falls outside the confines of anthropology. Scientists can detect variances and draw strong conclusions about the nature of the universe based on the tiniest variations, the most infinitesimal specks in a picture of the observable universe. Whatever Few True Christians out there would be very noticeable, even if the success rate of Christianity was something pathetic, like 0.0001%. That would still get you into the millions based on sheer math.

Now, Christians know this, far better than anyone. They have eyes, ears, mouths, and functioning nervous systems. It’s the reality they have to deal with, one with a complete absence of God in any practical, useful sense. They have to work with a Church and culture inhabited by and run by those same humans from top to bottom, no exceptions. Nope, not even Sir Awesome Hat up in Rome, despite two millennium of writing on the topic that boils down to a giant yuh-huh. The Pope is elected from within a tiny group of men who dutifully worked their way up the corporate ladder, complete with paper-trail. It happens on camera in front of the whole world. He’s just some guy. God has nothing to do with it. Any of it.

That means Christians–every last one of them, just like everyone else–are making this shit up as they go along. 

See, the crux of Christianity is Witness. Christians are supposed to be different from other people, to be distinct and undeniable, to reflect God before the world. But you can’t do that without, you know, God. There has to be some Divine Spark somewhere: your friends, your pastor, his superior, whoever, somewhere, someway the Spark has to trickle down so people can work off it, no matter how small.

Here’s an example: Christians buy insurance. Why? Because there’s risk in their lives.

“But wait, why is there risk? God is God. I should be protected if I’m saved.”

“Weeeeeeeeeeeeell,” says the Church, “I know we sold you on that, but reaaaaaaaaaally, there’s no way to guarantee either your salvation or God’s protection at any time.”

“Why not?”

“Well, for one, you’re not living up to the standard.”

“How am I not living up to the standard?”

“Well, I mean, come on, you’ve gotta be doing something wrong.”

“No, I didn’t. You know I didn’t. God as my witness.”

*God bursts in like the Kool-Aid Man* “BITCH ARE YOU QUESTIONING ME?”

“No no no, of course not! I love You!”

“Oh, cool, just checking. Here’s some more stuff now, ’cause I feel like it.”


You know what that’s from?

The Book of Job.

Yep. The whole point of the Book of Job, since none of you bothered to read it, is that Job is sinless but God can, surprise, do whatever He wants. The Book’s lesson is that no amount of righteousness, even complete perfection, is any basis to presume you’re shielded from bad stuff from happening to you. Conversely, your commitment to Him shouldn’t be contingent on whatever material boon He deigns to grant you, as that’s just not gonna work out well. “The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.” So why is such a depressing lesson even in the Biblical canon, not that far from Ecclesiastes? Because practical experience informs us of this. Job is Christianity’s answer to a very simple question:

If God’s on my side, then why is He still fucking with me?”

Well, because He can and does. It really undercuts the whole Witness thing, which would logically lead to you forgoing the concept of insurance altogether. There are some Christians who do this, but 99% of the rest of the Church severely criticizes them for being fools, and rightfully so: they all end up being struck by normal disaster and get screwed. Job was right.

But this is a minor example. If God were really on your side in any appreciable way, then Christians would appear absolutely nuts to all other humans. They wouldn’t care about money, or politics, or what society was doing, or what anybody was really doing. They wouldn’t even care about particular moral foibles like premarital sex or lying. They certainly wouldn’t invent a cosmic travesty like Contemporary Christian Music to try to attract fellow kids. They would be radically different, their Witness completely undeniable, which would also mean it’d be very effective. It’d work. Christianity wouldn’t be beleaguered or in trouble or even remotely concerned by anything temporal. They’d be a supermajority born out by simple effectiveness. Who wouldn’t want to be Christian if the Fruit of the Spirit were real and demonstrably attainable by an average person? Who doesn’t want love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance, against such there is no law?

That’s what the Faith insists, but reality is completely different. Christianity is beleaguered. Christianity is marred. It’s inhabited by weak, filthy, shameful, disgusting, greedy sinners who have never had any right to lecture anyone. It attracts televangelists and charlatans. It attracts hypocrisy and deceit like flies to honey. It promotes abuse and pain. It’s unpopular and lame. Most devastating of all, it’s helpless. The Rock is tossed about by the vagaries of the World, its most hated Foe. Christians know exactly how much Christians suck, and Christianity most of all. What is God if He can’t step in and squash these icky gays and keep our kids from bumping uglies together in the woods? What is God if He can’t let me pray in schools? What is God if He can’t fix my marriage? What is God if He can’t tell me how to get my kids to like me? What is God if He can’t pay my rent? What is God if He can’t make my bones stop hurting?

Christians want an answer to these questions, relief from the immense burden of cognitive dissonance they carry every second, the cross that makes them all so miserable deep down inside. They just want something tangible for their struggle, not just Sunday promises and platitudes. Like any sane creature, they want some results. Everything should be going their way, easy peasy lemon squeezy, but it’s just…not. They pray and God doesn’t answer. They preach and no one listens. They try to stand up for their faith and no one respects them. You can’t call black people the n-word anymore. You can’t keep those Muslims out of the public square. The gays are everywhere. Everything and everyone is changing, but God sits up on His throne, silent as the grave, and I’m down here watching it all, waiting.

What’s that?

Mexicans are rapists? Yes, finally someone speaks the truth. Muslims are dangerous? Yes, a man after our own heart. He’ll put our people in the courts and put them back in their place? Yes, sign me up. Yes, Caesar, strike back in God’s name. Yes, do His will. We’ve been waiting for you. Yes, yes, yes, yes, YES!

How is that surprising?

How is that shocking?

How is that puzzling?

Christians are people. And people, if given a choice between power or principles, will always take the former. Power gets you what you want. Principles get you nothing, except some vague salvation some way off in the future after death, but I’m here now and my heart’s in the right place. After all, Jesus didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword.

What’s a little blood?