Part I: Ready for What?
Part II: Are Your Children Ready for Real Life?
Part III: Arts and Culture
Part IV: Science and Medicine
Part V: History and Law
Part VI: Vocations
Part VII: Q&A Session
Part VII of "Ready for Real Life" was devoted to answering listener questions about Christian homeschooling. In the final installment of their webinar series, the Botkins responded to listener questions about family vision, interactions with outsiders, support systems, tensions with relatives, and children's' role in the family.
First, in response to a question about what guided his vision for his children, Geoffrey replied that he wanted his children to be "mighty" leaders, not merely surviving or living in "Christian ghettos". After citing Psalm 127:3-5 ("Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth; blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them"), he outlined his vision for the Botkin children at the 4:57 mark.
"I want them to be able confront their enemies, the enemies of Jesus Christ at the highest points of the land, the places in the country where decisions are made. The gates of nations happen to be where leadership happens, where decisions are made on law and jurisprudence, medicine, literature, the arts, science, business, agriculture, many of the things we've spoken about here on the webinar, military affairs, family culture, politics, public policy. I wanted my children to be able to grow up and stand in the gates, so that guided the kinds of things that we told them, but foundational to all of it was understanding that they needed first to begin with a fear of the Lord and an attitude of respecting and delighting in the Lord's commands."At the 6:08 mark, Geoffrey explained how he warned his children that they must serve God and transcend "worldly success".
"I wanted them to know they were growing up to serve a living God who had a will for them, an ethical system he wanted the entire world to live by. I wanted them especially to realize if they lived in the United States of America, they could not give their lives to serving wealth, not worldly success, not the traditions of men. And so, we steered them by trying to define for them the Kingdom of God, and then thinking about how to strengthen the Kingdom of God, and said, 'Children, this is your responsibility. This is what you'll be doing all your lives. This is what you are called to do in the Great Commission, to to make disciples of the nations.'"One listener submitted a question about what to teach children about people in the outside world. Should they be on the lookout for potential threats and ministry opportunities? In response, Geoffrey claimed that he taught his children to recognize other people as "eternal souls" and to help them interpret those they encounter. At the 7:37 mark, he had this to say.
"When we go into the world, let's say we're on a trip to Wal-Mart and we're surrounded by people from many different backgrounds. What are we teaching our children to think about these others that they're seeing? How do they look at these people who are around them? Well, number one, we teach them theologically that these people are eternal souls. Every single one has an eternal soul. We need to interpret the world for them when we're talking about people, when they're looking at people. Many parents say, 'Well, we homeschooled our kids to keep them away from bad influences and the rabble that are out there, and so we just put little blinders on our children, we march into the store, do our business, and get out.' Well, we never had that attitude toward people. We wanted to interpret what was going on, and if we saw a guy covered with tattoos, we'd probably talk about it."Geoffrey stressed the importance of teaching children to love people, help others, and share truth. At the 8:54 mark, he warned that homeschooled children could grow disdainful of outsiders without good parental guidance.
"If we're not careful, our children will develop very confused ideas about what they're seeing in the world, and in fact, if we don't help them, they will tend to be proud and arrogant and have a naturally contemptuous attitude toward other people because, of course, they're perfect little homeschool kids who are upright and not like those other people. We don't want them to have that kind of prideful attitude. We don't want them to be hostile or disdainful to people."Soon thereafter, Geoffrey shared a story about how he responded when his sons met people who were different from them. On a hot day when he and his sons were visiting the University of Monterrey in Mexico, they noticed several young women in "Mexican chic undress". "They didn't have many clothes on", Geoffrey complained. Later, he instructed his sons to pray for the women and their future husbands and children. "They're like sheep without shepherds," Geoffrey told his sons. "They need someone to look after them, to protect them, to lead them."
The irony was not lost on me. Geoffrey condemned judgmental attitudes toward people who are different, but a few seconds later, he judged women whose clothing choices he disliked. I found it unfortunate that the Botkin sons were taught to see women outside their subculture as lost "sheep" who needed a (presumably male) shepherd to tell them what to do.
Another listener was concerned about those who exhibit outward Christian conduct without inward transformation. In response, Geoffrey lamented the "conformist theology" in many churches that encourage "friendship with the world", as well as the influence of "America's materialistic culture". At the 16:14 mark, he dismissed the idea of going to college, getting a good job, and joining a "comfortable church" in favor of serving God's law.
"If the entire goal of life is getting a good job and then just affiliating with a comfortable church on Sunday, then life is about pursuing the American Dream and not seeking first the kingdom of God, and so you don't really need holiness, righteousness, knowledge of the scripture, knowledge of the law of God and the commandments of Jesus Christ ... There is a dominant cultural trend in the churches and in the homeschooling movement to get into a worldly college so you can get a bigger salary and then bigger benefits. This will not lead your children into holiness, righteousness, and fruitfulness and fulfillment. This is serving Mammon, and when people pursue security through Mammon, Jesus Christ will be dishonored."One listener asked what advice the Botkins would give to homeschooling families without support systems. Geoffrey encourages husbands to encourage and assist their wives. However, he seemed distrustful of support systems outside of the family that could potentially hold different beliefs. He admonished listeners to avoid any homeschooling groups that are (1) overly focused on "trends", (2) tied to "state organizations", which he accused of being "humanistically oriented" and obsessed with the "college agenda", and (3) associated with churches that have strong youth groups with large numbers of public school children. This insularity, it seemed, was to shield fundamentalist families from outside forces that could introduce undesirable influences.
Victoria offered commentary, explaining that while it is nice to have support from other Christians, homeschooling families shouldn't lean on other people to support them. With less support, the Botkins were in a better position to monitor the ideas that their children were exposed to, she explained. Also, if the Botkin children wanted friends, they had to be friends with each other and work though sibling quarrels. The family didn't spent time driving to homeschool activities that weren't productive, she said, allowing the children to use that time for productive activities.
One listener asked the Botkins for good strategies for encouraging children's gifts while cultivating a "cohesive family identity". Geoffrey replied that too many parents feel that they're obligated to identify children's gifts and do something special for each child. Over time, this approach causes the "cohesive family identity" to disintegrate because each family member is something different. He reminded listeners that gifts are tools bestowed by God to advance his kingdom, not as sources of personal aggrandizement.
The Botkins had much to say in response to a listener question about how to respond to "hostile" in-laws and relatives. Citing Deuteronomy 13, Geoffrey reminded listeners that no earthly relationship can trump one's relationship with God, and that believers can't indulge or "subsidize" a relative's rebellion against God. Christians can love their relatives, but always on their terms, he explained, adding that Christians must let family members know what the rules are in their home. At the 41:20 mark, Geoffrey told the audience that they have no moral duty to honor or care for relatives to reject God's law.
"Don't surrender your principles. Practically, you don't have to have any moral responsibility to honor or subsidize relatives, including parents, who reject the law and righteousness of God. Your duty of honoring them would be very different, and you can explore scripture to find out what that would be. You don't have to care for them and take care of them if they will not submit to the rules of your household."Victoria added that believers can still express love and honor to nonbeliever relatives, but from a distance. It's acceptable to pray for such relatives and send them cards and gifts, even if one cannot spend time with them anymore. By doing so, parents set a good example on how to respond to nonbelievers with love, she said.
Geoffrey turned to family roles, outlining expectations placed on children. For example, fathers must make it clear that their children are never to disobey or dishonor their mothers. If a child disrespects their mother, the father must quickly and firmly defend the mother's honor. Not only does the Bible command this, but the children need to respect their mother if she is to teach them effectively, he argued. Even a child is a few months old, it will lash out and try to hit its mother, but for an older child "than can become a capital offense", he said.
What!? I thought. Your talk of children and "capital" offenses is making me very uncomfortable.
To boot, Geoffrey's insistence on respect for the mother was ironic, given that his teachings and those of the Christian Patriarchy Movement are inherently disrespectful to women. Treating women as men's subordinates, denying women a voice, and barring women from meaningful life paths are not respectful to women.
Regarding the role of daughters, Geoffrey relegated girls to subordinate roles. At the 1:05:34 mark, he instructed parents to train their daughters to help their parents and brothers. He warned that if the men around them do not strive for meaningful lives, girls will reject their helpmeet role.
"What you're training your daughter for has a lot to do with what you think you are for, okay, and what you think your sons are for. Your daughter's biggest job is to help you in the direction you set for your whole family, dads ... This really is her scriptural, biblical job, to help you dad, helping the family. And she will help her mommy, you know, learning to be a mother by helping her mother, and this helps you and it helps your family. She helps her brothers. As she helps her brothers and learns to respect her brothers, she's learning the skills and attitudes she'll need to be a wonderful wife. So, her role will be as big or small as you set it to be, and if your role as a man is to have just a very quiet, insignificant existence, and to be a pew warmer at church and not really do anything for the kingdom, then she's going to see--what good is a woman if men are not doing anything and there's nothing to really help a man do, then being a helpmeet hardly even makes any sense. And so they will be exasperated by that, and they'll be thinking of other things to do. If the men aren't doing anything, how are we going to reform society? 'I guess I've got to go out there and be prime minister or something!'"At the 1:06:58 mark, Geoffrey instructed parents to raise sons as leaders and daughters as followers and helpers.
"You should be raising daughters to be the female counterparts of what your training your sons to be. That's what you need to be doing. Training your sons to be leaders, dominion men, and training your daughters to be helpers of men like that."Anna Botkin fielded a listener question on what a girl's role should look like after high school if she does not marry. Anna asserted that marriage isn't a given for a woman, and that singleness isn't outside of God's plan for women. Women lives include more than wife and mother roles, but can also include serving the church, caring for the poor, and assisting with the home economy.
Elizabeth Botkin fielded a question on whether parents should teach their daughters a trade, or only teach them vocational tasks such as cooking and cleaning. In response, Elizabeth argued that all girls should contribute to the family economy, citing Proverbs 31. While men are responsible for providing for their households, wives who strengthen the household economy are important, she said. At the 1:13:14 mark, she explained how daughters are to balance entrepreneurship with submission to men.
"How does one balance being entrepreneurial and being a submissive daughter who has a family vision? Well, a girl will actually be able to be a much more helpful submissive daughter and be more beneficial to the family vision if she does have an entrepreneurial spirit. The conflict comes when a daughter has her own independent entrepreneurial agenda and that comes first, and is more important to her than helping her family. But if she has the heart of a servant and she has the best interests of her family at heart, and she's making that making that her top priority, she can cultivate just as much initiative and diligence and creativity and resourcefulness and business savvy as she wants, and it will be nothing but an asset to her family. See, right now, a lot of our fathers are trying to figure out how they can leave the workforce and come work at home, and a lot of our brothers are trying to figure out how do they start off on the right foot instead of getting stuck in a system they don't want to be stuck in. And I believe that right now, all of we unmarried daughters who are still at home are the secret weapons of this movement to rebuild the home economy. A daughter can be her father's greatest asset while he's trying to make his transition from working a job to starting a home business ... or maybe she can focus on just helping her brothers get started in whatever businesses they're trying to start."One listener asked how women without college degrees could support themselves after divorce, abandonment, or the death of their husbands. Elizabeth admitted that parents should train their daughters on how to be economically productive in good times as well as bad times. "Doing economically profitable work from home should be part of every woman's life, obviously more in some seasons than in others," she said.
Churches often offer support to women facing difficult times, but what if a woman doesn't have that support system? Elizabeth dismissed the idea that a woman would need a college degree so that she could get a job in such a situation. Rather, she claimed that a lone woman without a support system could support herself (and homeschool her children) by working at home. At the 1:16:25 mark, she had this to say.
"In the event that you were stranded as the only breadwinner with a house full of little children, practicing for this kind of situation by spending four years and 40 or $50,000 training exclusively for a job and getting the qualifications for a job that you could only do outside the home would be exactly what you don't want to do. So instead, if you took that time and used it to learn marketable skills that you could use from home or start a business that you could be running on the side and to invest that $40,000 into some thing else, it would be a much better situation if you were at home and suddenly had a lot of little children that you don't want to suddenly put in public school so you could go out and get a job."The problems with Elizabeth's approach were numerous. Where would the capital come from? Where would a woman learn the business knowledge and specialized skills she would need for a home enterprise? If her children aren't in school, day care, or the care of her support network, where would she find time to carry out business tasks, such as production, marketing, and networking with other entrepreneurs? How on earth could a woman make enough money to support a large family AND set aside enough time to raise and homeschool her children while running a full-time home business? What if the home business fails? The Botkins' ideology makes emergencies harsher than they need to be, and in failing to prepare young women for real life, may precipitate those emergencies in the first place.
Geoffrey Botkin concluded the webinar by quoting Titus 2:11, encouraging listeners to serve God and live godly, sensible lives. At the 1:32:15 mark, he told listeners that if they follow God, they will benefit the surrounding world.
"The grace of God is benefiting even those who are still in darkness. If you are doing what you need to be doing in your family, your community, and in your churches, you are helping bring peace and order and stability to your nation, and other people are benefiting from it because of the grace of God in your lives. This grace of God has appeared, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age."* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Part VII of the "Ready for Real Life" webinar featured the following themes:
- Family identity over personal identity: Geoffrey placed great value on "cohesive family identity", warning that excessive attention to children's gifts and individual identities could undermine this cohesion.
- Vacillation between love and contempt for outsiders: One one hand, the Botkins instructed listeners to show love toward"hostile" relatives and other people outside their belief system. On the other hand, Geoffrey spoke of outsiders (such as scantily-clad women) with condescension, and outright stated that believers have no moral duty to honor or care for relatives who "reject the law and righteousness of God."
- Insularity: The Botkins' attitudes toward connections outside of the nuclear family were mixed at best. They did not place great value on support networks, and outright rejected support networks (i.e., homeschool groups, relatives) who espoused beliefs that differed from theirs. Girls were encouraged to funnel their talents into the home, rather than seeking university educations or jobs outside of the home.
- Unrealistic economic expectations for women and girls: Women and girls were expected to make economic contributions to the family that did not involve employment outside of the home. Elizabeth Botkin encouraged widowed, abandoned, or divorced women to sustain their households with home businesses (all while keeping their kids at home), oblivious to how onerous this task would be without a support system.
Stay tuned for the conclusion, in which I'll reflect on the webinar series as a whole.