Friday, May 10, 2013

The 2013 CHAP Convention and the Christian Homeschool Movement

With the debut of Homeschoolers Anonymous and Homeschooling's Invisible Children, as well as recent attention that blogs such as Love, Joy, Feminism and No Longer Quivering have given to homeschooling, a post on a Christian homeschooling convention seemed timely. The Christian Homeschool Association of Pennsylvania (CHAP) is holding its annual conference on May 10-11 at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, PA. I infiltrated the CHAP convention for Republic of Gilead in 2011 and found that patriarchy, distrust of "the world", and a burning drive to keep children in the Christian fold were prominent themes.*

The annual CHAP convention is geared toward Christian homeschooling parents with a decidedly conservative worldview. Answers in Genesis founder Ken Ham and Vision Forum founder Doug Philips spoke in 2011, and other past speakers delivered talks on creationism, purity culture, and homeschool legislation.

CHAP encourages parents to bring their teenage children, having creating a teen track geared toward young people. "We applaud parents who are striving to give their children a vision of being adults rather than the cultural norm of prolonged irresponsibility," the website states, a common stereotype that fundamentalist homeschoolers have about mainstream culture.

This year's schedule includes workshops on the alleged errors of skeptics, male "headship", purity, and generational continuity.

- The Walls of Jericho: The Skeptics Come Tumblin' Down

- Keeping Your Kids Pure in Mind and Body

- Dating or Courtship: Choose God's Best!

- Teaching Your Children With Your Grandchildren in Mind

- Boys to Men: Growing our boys to be leaders in the home

- Follow Jesus and Lead Your Family: How to be the Spiritual Leader God Wants You to be

CHAP, however, is about more that education and home life. A workshop by Mike Donnelly entitled "International Homeschooling: Why Should American Homeschoolers Care what Happens over There?" suggests that the Christian homeschool movement is paying attention to the global scene. Mike Donnelly is director of international relations for the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), a Christian homeschooling organization with its own political action committee. HSLDA's international page suggests that the global homeschooling movement is clearly on its radar.

Fundamentalist homeschoolers in many ways the Religious Right's vanguard. The messages that fundamentalist homeschoolers instill in children -- problematic messages about sexuality, stereotypical gender roles, pseudoscience, ugly caricatures of the outside world -- say volumes about their vision for future generations. If what we teach children reflects our values, then the values of fundamentalist homeschoolers are very retrograde.

While I have faith that many homeschooled youth will question the messages of their upbringing upon exposure to real life, the fact remains that their parents still embrace these values. Those parents vote. Those parents lobby. And, if Donnelly's workshop is any indication, those parents and their support organizations network globally. If we are concerned about the Religious Right, we must pay attention to the Christian homeschool movement.

For more information about CHAP, click here.  

* I intended to infiltrate this year's CHAP convention, until an unfortunate accident occurred. A tanker truck fire damaged an exit ramp off of I-81, and parts of the highway have been shut down for repairs. (No fatalities, thank goodness.) My usual routes to the Farm Show complex are inaccessible, and nearby roads are congested from diverted traffic. To reach the Farm Show Complex, I'd need to drive through parts of Harrisburg I'd rather avoid, so I decided to scrap my CHAP plans this year.


  1. Ahab, while I always look forward to your undercover reports, I'd rather you not risk life and limb to get there.

    Homeschooling has been a concern of mine for many years. When I worked at a library in TX, I was shocked by what the homeschooling mothers would use as texts for their children--math and science books published in 1950, etc. It was clear that many (not all) were focused on an agenda, not education of their children. Also, the kids' only social exposure was other homeschooled kids, leaving them unprepared to mix in the real world, IMO.

    1. Donna -- Don't worry. I won't be risking life and limb by driving through Harrisburg's bad neighborhoods. I just hope the area around I-81 goes back to normal soon.

      You're absolutely right -- for most Christian homeschoolers, education is more about a right-wing agenda than anything else. I have a feeling that, for sheltered fundamentalist homeschool kids, interacting with an outside world that did not share their worldview was a nasty surprise.

  2. Should you or your readers want to help us exert pressure on HSLDA to stop hiding child abuse in homeschooling circles, please sign our petition:


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