Don’t snicker. A lot of kids are hurting.

It’s unusual, difficult, and downright weird for the X-ATI girl to stray in any way from satire and/or humor. 

It’s important to do so every once in a while even if it’s out of my comfort zone.  {Thank you Chantelle for posting this.}

Many thanks to Michael and Debi Pearl for an article so well written that it tells the story of almost every X-ATIer’s life.

The good news?  Most of us have been disowned, denied, or distanced by the family cloister and were forced to go out on our own because of their disappointment and disapproval.  Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gifts.  We survived.  In fact, we did quite well.  Maybe our parents don’t like us, but today we are successful, intelligent, educated, and normal people who live very regular lives.  We have left it behind us.  We can begin to laugh now.

Warning: this is long.  It is well worth the read.

Cloistered Homeschool Syndrome

 Article by Michael & Debi Pearl, August 2008

The Foger family came to stay with us one spring about 12 years ago while they were on furlough from Mozambique.

Their eighth child was soon to be delivered. Although I had just met the family, I was highly impressed by them. The oldest daughter, 19 years old, was a joyful, hardworking, energetic, blue-eyed beauty. The next, a 17 year old son, was cut in the mold of his father, dedicated, reserved, and very mission-minded. The five other children were 13 years old and younger. The family sang together with strong, forceful voices, no bashfulness among them. The two oldest children provided the instrumental accompaniment. It was an experience just listening to such a group.

They all understood and spoke two languages. The oldest two children spoke three languages. The father had left South America after ten years of mission service to move to another country, which meant learning another language. The parents still stumbled around slowly learning the Portuguese language. The two oldest children were invaluable in the new ministry, which was already showing promise.

While we sat around one evening, the mother casually asked us to pray that their daughter find a husband before they left for Mozambique in the Fall. I asked in a shocked manner, “Why on earth would you want her to marry now? She is such a blessing to you and knows the language. Surely you need her to help you with the other children.” The mother lifted her arched brows as she pondered how she would answer me. Her look conveyed her surprise at my lack of understanding. “We will be in a foreign country for the next 4 years. All that time she will be at the prime of her marriageable age. We feel it is best for her to marry an American. God called my husband to Mozambique as a missionary…not our adult children. We have obeyed God and raised them up to serve HIM…not US. We don’t add; we multiply. It is time for her to live her life.”
That next year we received a mission card with their picture. There were only six children in the picture. The mission letter briefly stated that the oldest son was in Bible school and the daughter was married.

Over the years I received their missions update. I noted that the parents were growing fatter and grayer. The children disappeared from the picture, one or two every year or so. It was sad to see the diminishing of such a magnificent family. The mission letters were filled with gospel film presentations to prisoners and villagers, church camps, protracted meetings, people getting saved, and only a brief mention of their now grown children. They would write something like, “Joshua and his wife are in Romania serving as missionaries; Peter and his wife are in Russia working with the something ministry; Sara married this year. Her husband is the pastor of a church.” And so it went.

Today we receive mission letters from their now grown and ministering children. I see their families expanding. Their joyful, energetic, blue-eyed beauty of a daughter is now the mother of six children. Her family is growing up in Cajun country. I know if I meet them I will be very impressed. I heard that they sing like soldiers…with power and command.

I am thankful for the testimony of the Foger family as well as other families that have come into our lives. They are a prototype to help us understand the problems that are arising among some older homeschooling families. We call it by different names. Today it is the Cloistered Homeschooled Syndrome. Briefly, it is the failure of the parents to understand, appreciate, and respect the individuality of their adult children. They sacrifice the individual identities of their children on the altar of their own emotional needs, making them nurse when they should be killing and dressing their own food, making them obey when they should be learning to command. They seem to think that grown children are God’s gift to them rather than their gift to God. Through letters and personal contact, we see more and more of this cult-like isolationism, parents demanding absolute allegiance to the family group, and fearing outside contact might break up their “fellowship.” Adult kids who want to launch out on their own are told that they are rebellious and disloyal and are causing grief to those who have nurtured them. Emotionally needy parents manipulate their grown children into remaining loyal to the unit. Thirty-year-old daughters sit at home acting as surrogate mothers, watching their prospects to ever be a mother dwindle.

You cannot stop a tree from growing without killing it or deforming it. Likewise, every year of one’s life up until about the age of twenty-one or twenty-two is a year of radical change and development. Some parents are trying to stop that development, clinging to their teenagers like they were six years old. We have observed the victims many times. They either flee their chains in anger, or they are slowly smothered into inordinate submission, and their personalities die as they merge into the ego of their dependent parents.

This medieval hierarchy is preached as Bible doctrine. Father and Mother as King and Queen of their little kingdom preach the divine right of Kings and parents—“Obey me without question, for it is your manifest destiny.” Their “patriarchal” status is the only expression of their significance in an otherwise disconnected world, and they milk it until their children are dry and lifeless in spirit, or until they fly away to breathe fresh air.

For over a year we have been discussing this subject, thinking about how to address it. We have talked with many young adults who are, or were, held captive, the rebellious and the subdued, those who are disciples of Christ and those who are worldly and lost. We have spoken with families who lost their children early, in their teens, and families who lost a child to the world in their twenties or later.

How did this happen? It is the old pendulum at work. Thirty to forty years ago Christian parents were losing their children to the world through public schools, public churches, and public play. The family was disconnected and dating was the norm. We rebelled against the soul eating monster and took charge of our lives. Our children would not be raised on the TV. They would not lose their virginity in a school bathroom or under the stairwell. No more evolutionary philosophy and godless history and science. We took our children home and taught them from used books and the Bible. We created culture anew, abstaining from mega churches with their youth groups and revolving boy-girl relationships. We parents became the principle influence in our children’s lives, selecting their friends and ours with care. No overnight sleeps or backyard playhouses with closing doors. Family worship and Bible study took the place of Television. Once again parents were in charge and there was hope.
It felt good to be in control of our own destiny, to not be a victim, to know that our children would escape the sin and shame that some of us had to go through before we came to Christ.

There was a vacuum, a need for leaders to arise and define what had become a movement, to clarify our journey and give us direction through uncharted waters. First, curriculum was written, then seminars. Sub-movements arose to flesh out the new culture, specialists addressing every conceivable issue—head coverings, dress, doctrine, spanking, scheduled nursing, Kosher foods and Jewish practices, and the list goes on. Books were written, some good, some not so good. Then someone pulled from ancient Chaldean and Sumerian culture, also practiced by Jews of that day as reflected in Scripture, a system of Patriarchal rule. It was the way nomadic clans were held together, a necessity of the times, but never taught by Moses, the prophets, or Christ as God’s divine plan.

I laughed the first time I hear of the Patriarchal Movement. “It will never fly,” I said, “People are not that gullible.” But they were. Daddies who were never in charge of anything, maybe not even their wives, were finally given justification for assuming the throne. Yippee!

It is now become a disease of epic proportions. We call them PDFs, Patriarchal Dysfunctional Families. The children are treated as permanent property of the parents. If they don’t marry, and many of them never have the opportunity, they remain at home as a sort of indentured servant, never rising to the status of an adult, always under authority of the head of the clan, the Patriarch Daddy. Don’t snicker. A lot of kids are hurting. And if you want to see something scary, try to conduct a betrothal with two patriarchal mothers involved. It is uggggly.
Daughter sits at home serving the younger children and doing Mama’s chores—waiting for God’s choice. Daddy and Mama hold their merchandise guardedly, waiting for a buyer who never comes.

What is pitiful is the whole process is done in hopes of getting the perfect will of God, but one vital ingredient is missing—encouraging your children to become responsible, autonomous, well educated, and experienced adults as soon as possible. You should have trained your sons to be men by the time they are fifteen, independent by the time they are eighteen. Your daughters should be capable of living apart from the family by the time they are eighteen and should be allowed to make their own life’s decisions somewhere between the ages of eighteen and twenty. Unmarried, grown (18 years old) children may remain at home; it is good if they do; but the parent-child relationship should evolve into an adult-adult relationship by the time they are sixteen to eighteen years old. Parents should have earned the right to give advice, and kids should have grown in wisdom enough to ask for it. But a parent should never invoke his parental authority on a grown kid. It is demeaning to both and akin to not being potty trained.

To teach a student to drive or fly a plane and then always make him be in the company of his parents is degrading. You teach them so they can become independent of you. Whose need is being met when a Father treats a 22-year-old girl like a child, dictating the parameters of her choices?
 The glory of a parent is to work himself out of a job, to stand back and see his kids fly solo. I expected to have supplanted myself by the time my kids were eighteen. And so it was. Long before that, I began to confer with them adult to adult. I have stepped back and allowed them to make decisions that I knew were not the best choices, and sometimes I was wrong; they were wiser than I.

Space does not allow us to say more at this time. More will come later. Sit down and talk with your nearly grown kids. Ask them what they want, feel, aspire to. Don’t express hurt, and don’t emotionally manipulate them. Encourage them to pursue their dreams and support them in their effort.

In 1996, our daughter Rebekah Joy, then a 20-year-old in training to be a linguist, wrote this poem. At the time, the poem was the future; it was full of promise and hope.
There is a mighty army
Being trained to stand and fight.
A Battlefield of soldiers
Learning what is right.
A Company of warriors
That will boldly take the Word
To every tribe and nation
Til every soul has heard.
There is a mighty army,
I’ve seen them everywhere.
Most are wearing diapers
And dragging Teddy Bears.
Infants in the training
Drilled in right and wrong.
Mom and Dad are making
Soldiers brave and strong.
There is a mighty army

Trained in righteous war.
Cheer them on to victory,
Children of the Lord!

At 22 years old, Rebekah went into a remote mountain range of Papua New Guinea to study the language of a tribe who had never even seen a white person. Her 19-year-old brother, Gabriel, went for a few months, then was replaced by Nathan, her 17-year-old brother. Nathan stayed for a few months until he believed that she would be safe. She was left alone on that mountain with the unreached tribe. After two years, others came to help, and she came home.

It was her understanding of languages that gave us the information needed to pass on to veteran missionary Tom Gaudet. He is a publisher of Bibles into obscure languages. He sent out an appeal on the web for any translator that might have been working on a common language of that area. He received 14 replies. One was from a missionary who had spent 35 years translating the Bible, but when he went home he couldn’t raise the money to get it printed. Tom pulled together all the translators, had them correct each other’s work and settle on a finished manuscript. We raised the money to get 20,000 printed and shipped.

Sending a beautiful, unassertive, young woman is not God’s usual way. He was proving a point. He was making a statement to her, to us and to you. “If I can protect and use this young girl to win a remote tribal people, then I can do the same for you.”

Rebekah kept a diary of those years, which we read when she came home. We wept at her courage and resolve. We wept that we had the honor of being her parents. We published Rebekah’s Diary in 1997. She was such a regular, normal girl until God gave her the vision of reaching a tribe. A few years ago, missionaries contacted us and told us that there are now seven strong villages of believers on that mountain and that the village men proudly carry their Bibles under their arms.
Because a young girl went willingly…
Because we, HER PARENTS, didn’t say no.
Because she would have obeyed us and stayed home.
But we cheered her on to victory…
There are new names written down in glory.



11 Responses to “Don’t snicker. A lot of kids are hurting.”

  1. DragonKat Says:

    Written in 2008. Too little, too late, Pearls.

    We knew Rebekah’s story in 1997. That was 2 years after I graduated from high school, three years before I would be “allowed” to venture out of my family’s home and five years before I finally told my parents I was a responsible adult and would not be moving back home, ever. I don’t know if they still read the Pearl’s website (they did at the time), but they have told me and my now husband, that they will always regret letting me leave the protection of my father’s house in light of my obviously immature and independent spirit.

    The same spirit that moved me to take responsibility for my education, my adult life, enabled to me to overcome lack of college to find good, meaningful jobs I loved, to meet people from all walks of life who are my friends, to meet the man I love who is my partner and friend.

    I appreciate the spirit in which this article is submitted, but come on. And what the heck was Mr. Pearl doing looking at that girl’s blue eyes?? I’m offended by his attention to her beauty. 😉

  2. xatigirl Says:

    DragonKat, you are completely right.

    Way too little, way too late.

    I, too, am reminded of how they should never have let me leave the nest. (I’m not really sure how they thought they would have kept me…) This is a very common theme isn’t it?

    Again, yeah, you are totally right.

  3. Vision Care Says:

    Most students may not have addictions like Stephen, but their hurt is real. Vision Care

  4. aussiemama Says:

    The Pearls are a MAJOR part of the problem! Why reprint this crap when all it is is them trying to cover up the mess THEY have created?

  5. shadowspring Says:

    “encouraging your children to become responsible, autonomous, well educated, and experienced adults as soon as possible. You should have trained your sons to be men by the time they are fifteen, independent by the time they are eighteen. Your daughters should be capable of living apart from the family by the time they are eighteen and should be allowed to make their own life’s decisions somewhere between the ages of eighteen and twenty.”

    I am pleasantly surprised to read this quote of the Pearls, as I have found their ideas on child training and home schooling repellent. To read such sound counsel attributed to them is welcome.

    Way to go, X-ATI and DragonKat, for taking what is good from your upbringing and rejecting what was, uh, less than helpful. I think that is the kindest way I can phrase it. 🙂

    I am a home school mom of 13 years and counting, and I am very proud of the both of you. Independence, creativity, self-motivation, organization and the daring of a pioneer to do new things and blaze your own path- THESE are the values that were at the core of home schooling as I embraced it. And these values you exemplify well.

    In all these years, I have seen more shocked parents of grown students than I can count! In the earliest of my memories, parents were shocked that students were starting families so young, and often out of wedlock. these were usually the most religious families of all.

    I pondered why this might be and came to this conclusion: in these families, only parents were allowed to control their own destiny. So in order to be in charge of your own life (be a grown-up) one must be a parent. In reality the WAY they were living subconsciously encouraged their children to start a family young.

    I think it is response to this phenomenon that the courtship movement sprung up. Obviously, to control freaks seeing unintended outcomes in their paradigm, what was needed was MORE CONTROL.

    The blamed these young families on young romance and dating, not on their family dynamics, and so they had to take control over that aspect of their children’s lives too.

    Well, sad to say, more and more control over a young person’s life is a recipe for disaster. The web is sprouting up new stories from wounded young people every week, it seems.

    As a home schooling mom, I am saddened by all you have suffered. I regret that a method of education which could have been so nurturing and memorable was used instead to deny you freedom. Know that many of us home school parents wish you only healing and success and joy for the rest of your days.

  6. DragonKat Says:

    Thanks for the kind words. I don’t consider myself wounded however. I consider myself healed, refreshed, and grateful to have found my voice and my place. Actually, my life is a thousand times better than I would ever have thought — and soo much better than what I imagined and was encouraged to believe was the “right” lifestyle when I was a teenager and young woman living at home. It’s such a vast and complex world we live in. Engage it!

    • Angela Says:

      so right. not wounded anymore! healed up and happy, raising a family and enjoying life. i’m definitely puzzled by this response, and i get it on other sites too. not just about ati but about leaving the church altogether.

  7. Amy Says:

    I find this story very interesting. While not familiar with the Pearl’s, I am familiar with their extremist ways of thinking. It seems they have covered both ends of the spectrum. Parents who believe it is their responsibility to move heaven and earth so their children will not lose their virginity until it is ‘time’ and then believe their children should be adult and independent at least by the age of eighteen exhibit a lack of balance which is damaging no matter which end of the stick you may find yourself.

    I wonder if the Pearl’s would be bragging about their daughter if she were a gracious humanitarian who had decided that Christianity wasn’t her cup of tea or realized, between the mature ages of 18 and 20 :-), that she was more attracted to women than men? Would their parenting philosophy change? What type of parenting label would they attach to themselves? Somehow, I doubt it would be ULPOAFL (Unconditional Loving Parents of a Free-Thinking Lesbian).

    • Angela Says:

      No, joke, Amy! In reading their account of their daughter, I couldn’t help but think they were being nothing short of worshipful. It’s as if they have carried on that willingness to be “impressed” by families like the Fogers to its usual conclusion in ATI circles… the belief that in being “righteous” enough, people earn an almost other-worldly status.

      It’s that “never been touched by the world” worship you see in so many patriarchal cultures where sexuality is NOT seen as a healthy a part of normal life (and is owned by someone other than yourself), and if you can avoid it in favor of living for God, etc you achieve sainthood. (Helloo, Gothard!)

      For the record, the only way you would be impressed by a family like the Fogers is if you have a standard by which everyone around you falls short. Every family is flawed, flawed, flawed. Learning to deal with those flaws in yourself and others in a loving home is the greatest gift a parent can give their children. Pretending that long skirts, loud singing voices and linguistic accuity saves you from the pain of separation and life itself is, frankly, ignorant.

  8. guest Says:

    What i don’t understand is how can christian’s follow a man who makes these statement’s: the flood would never have happened had courting been practiced. Job was indeed punished by God and Gothard expound’s Job’s failing. Didn’t Gothard read how God rebuked Jobs friends for their unfair assessment of Job’s troubles?And then there is his faulty defination of God’s grace ‘it must be earned’ After God tell’s us it is ‘He that works in us to WILL and to DO of His good pleasure’. And the statement.girl’s should not ride horses’ and should wear long curley hair.There is SO much emphasis on ‘clothes’ that that in itself is prideful. His teaching on authority is downright frightening. He states those in authority are on a higher plane of spirituality than you and I. And to obey them makes us closer to God! What? Those who have worked with Gothard and come away disallusioned speak of a man who refuses to live by his own rules and refuses accountibility and correction. When those who go to him over concern in his mishandling of God’s word. He turns on them and slander’s them and accuses them wrongly. It’s almost as if he think’s he is as important as God. I have to wonder if he ever discover’s that God not only saves us by His grace but conform’s us to the image of His Son by GRACE(not work’s) i wonder if he would try and tell God He is wrong and christians need to work. But my confusion..where is the discernment of God?!

  9. Grace Alexander Says:

    Ouch. The Pearls have been directly responsible for teaching child abuse and indirectly responsible for at least 3 child deaths from beating and neglect as well as influencing the Texas judge who beat his disabled daughter for an interminable amount of time screaming SUBMIT at her. I would be wary of posting anything attributed to them at all, no matter how “good” it seemed – and yes, too little too late and part of their own reputation crisis management effort.

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