Home Schooling in Tri-Cities Virginia-Tennessee
by Lewis Loflin
Update March 2013: as Christian and conservative values are under massive attack in our school systems many parents are electing to home school their children. Since I wrote this several years ago I've come to the conclusion they are right and considering the dismal results of public schools more interested in indoctrination and social engineering.
In May 2005 the Bristol Herald Courier did a excellent series of reports on home schooling in the Bristol region. But their scope was narrow and the articles failed to point out several underlying issues. Their view seemed overly positive and they didn't ask certain critical questions. What is really behind the homeschooling craze in this area? What would make even private Christian schools undesirable for some Christians? That is what I'll be looking at here.
Religion seems the overwhelming criteria in homeschooling. These parents want a "Christian centered" education for their children and feel public education is hostile to their beliefs. Tri-Cities Christian Schools for example pledge their allegiance to the American flag, the Christian flag and to the Bible every morning. But homeschool parents also set high standards in academics as well. Education and learning have always been a cornerstone of the Protestant ethic.
Are homeschool kids "smarter?"
The news articles show homeschoolers outscore both public and private school students on college entrance exams. Every year since the tracking began (1997), homeschooled students as a group have earned a significantly higher average composite scores than the national average. Less than 1 percent of all ACT-tested students are homeschoolers and they have no idea whether homeschooled test-takers are representative of the entire group.
The comparison to public school is unfair. Private schools can be selective and weed-out many problem students where a public school has to take everyone. If a public school could reject the bottom 20% that are disruptive or low-scoring and get free of multiculturalism, their scores would climb to that of private schools in my opinion.
That is what the news articles suggest. But according to one homeschool advocate, "While the articles may have presented homeschooling families as above average income, the truth is that most homeschooling families are at average income or below, because the wife does not work, and because they tend to have larger families." Homeschooling parents have an advantage in taking a direct part in their children's education.
Who pays the cost for homeschooling?
Note that as of March 2013 www.tricitieshomeschool.org has closed down.
Washington County, Virginia has about 222 homeschooling students costing the system $1,020,0000 per year ($4600 each) in state funding. Bristol, Virginia has 28 costing them $130,000. The students register with the school system, their curricula must be approved by the division, and they must be evaluated yearly.
The big loser is private Christian schools. Many have suffered from enrollment declines with Tri-Cities Christian Schools suffering a cash flow problem. But is this enrollment problem due to the region's bad economy or homeschooling? That wasn't answered, but the news articles indicate it isn't about money for homeschoolers, in fact just the opposite. The Blankenbeckler family for example hired their daughter a personal trainer.
According to webmaster of www.tricitieshomeschool.org, "You should consider going into Tri-Cities Christian and spend some time. They are scarcely different than government schools apart from a set of legalistic rules that the children resent. So, Christian parents that have their eyes opened by Christ get them out of these "Christian" schools just as quickly as possible."
Finally, we should note the articles showed homeschoolers do well in college, but these tended to be small private and/or religious colleges such as Emory & Henry or King College in Bristol, Tennessee. A home schooler can go through their entire childhood and college life and never even meet anyone outside their own church or social class.
But according to www.tricitieshomeschool.org, "Nearly all homeschooled people I know are highly successful in the "world" and among other social classes quite often. In fact, homeschooled people are the most balanced and well-rounded people I have ever met." This I must agree with. I've known some very successful Christian people that do fit in the outside world very well. That have confidence and an outstanding work ethic.
On the www.tricitieshomeschool.org website there are 20 or so support groups for homeschooling. While the press claims there's about 1000 students registered, advocates say otherwise; "The number of homeschoolers...quoted is grossly inaccurate because you are not taking into account the homeschoolers that are registered with umbrella schools and not through the public school system.
In these articles the parents have above average income and most can easily afford private Christian schools. Most had college and professional degrees themselves, so were qualified and their higher income also gave them the free time to accomplish the task. One article suggested this could be useful for low-income or problem students to get ahead, but this isn't realistic when most problems in the public schools originate in the home to begin with.
Socialization or isolation?
The most extreme case here is that of the McRea family. Their main reason is "other children had a negative social effect on their children." They didn't like the school telling them what to do or having their lives revolved around the schools schedule, they claimed. "We do not specifically get them involved in a social setting so they can meet other kids...we really don't think children have a good influence on one another." Quoting their daughter Donna, "I don't know how to act when I'm around other girls..." While the McReas complained that academics weren't rigid enough in a private Christian school, it's obvious isolating their children was the main motive.
Isolation from the mainstream public seems the rule, except in the case of the Blankenbeckler family. (The Catholic school their daughter attended only goes to the 6th grade I believe and their daughter never lost contact with her classmates.) These people have their own 4H Clubs, Scout troops, etc.
The Tennessee Baptist Convention is one of ten state conventions advocating removal of children from public schools they see as hostile to their brand of militant fundamentalism. This was soundly defeated in June 2004 at the national SBC convention in Indianapolis. A similar effort was turned down flat by the Presbyterian Church of America. (PCA) Westminster Presbyterian's Rev. Steve Warhurst in Kingsport, Tennessee was behind that effort at the PCA convention.
Warhurst believes the Bible requires parents to provide their children with a Christian education. And he says they're not getting it in public school systems. However, the PCA's General Assembly in Chattanooga voted to reject Warhurst's resolution that encouraged parents to home-school or place children in private schools."
He continues, "I'd say that's a good reason to home-school children...I'm not really interested in the socialization...When I see the effects of socialization on children, it seems to promote rebellion...30 hours of public, anti-Christian education a week are hard to override in an hour of church..." But what's the problem with private Christian schools?
His negative views of Jews, Muslims, and just about everyone else is apparent. One news article Opportunities, support for homeschoolers have grown concerns the "founder" of the local homeschool movement, a Pastor Brent Bradley. He started the region's largest support group and lobbied for home education laws that would make it easier for parents to homeschool. Nearly everyone at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Kingsport, Tennessee, which Bradley pastors, home schools their children.
It's no surprise that the most notable case in this group, the McReas who live in Bristol, Virginia, attend Bridwell Heights Presbyterian Church in Kingsport Tennessee. It's certain these churches are affiliated and all of this isolation from the mainstream public may seem cult-like. This could create an isolated often-hostile subculture within mainstream society. I see no evidence of it myself.
So let us be blunt about it: we must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.
So says Gary North. But is it an enemy of God or an enemy of their control in the name of God? Also according to Gary, "The long-term goal of Christians in politics should be to gain exclusive control over the franchise. Those who refuse to submit...must be denied citizenship." But what does he define as "Christians" when even most Protestants aren't even Christian enough? Gary North operates www.freebooks.com/ the largest distributor of free literature for home schoolers.
Theonomy (Greek for "God's Law"), Dominion Theology, and Reconstructionism refer to much the same thing. To quote Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance,
(Dominion Theology is) the most extreme forms of Fundamentalist' Christian thought...Its goal is the peaceful conversion of the United States government to a theocracy...They intend to achieve this by using the freedom of religion in the US to train a generation of children in private Christian religious schools...
Ralph Reed, formally of the Christian Coalition, calls Reconstructionism "an authoritarian ideology that threatens the most basic civil liberties of a free and democratic society." While the group doesn't advocate terrorism, they can incite extremists anyway. Their rhetoric in the hands of others has been linked to abortion clinic bombings and has attracted so many neo-Nazis that www.chalcedon.edu had to put out disclaimers to disassociate themselves from them. The rhetoric from Warhurst and others is Reconstructionism almost verbatim. They have heavily influenced the Southern Baptists and conservative Presbyterians in particular. Mainstream Christians including many conservatives such as Ralph Reed is concerned over this group.
But this isn't as simple as it seems. Is this "infiltration" in reality returning to what they once represented? I've been in contact with a few Reconstructionists myself and they aren't as individuals Nazis, racists, or extremists as their detractors make them out to be. They are not a church, some could say a hyper-Calvinist Christian think-tank.
Dominion Theology in Tri-Cities
I've dealt with Reconstructionism since 1999 when I became aware of their broad influence in Evangelical circles. I'll stress they don't support violence to gain power, but make it clear they are prepared (at least on paper) to use violence if they gain power. Many Evangelicals share their goal of a Christ-centered society, but I don't believe they would invoke Old Testament Law over the New Testament as Dominion Theology advocates.
I seems the reporter used www.tricitieshomeschool.org and the people it links to for her stories. This accounts for the very positive view of homeschooling. In my opinion, this website is largely Reconstructionist, while those that link to it for furthering homeschooling might not be themselves. I was right.
Jeff Forrester did the webpages and did a very good job designing them. He also owns the website. In their book list he reviews Advancing the Kingdom: Declaring War On Humanistic Culture by Donald W. Schanzenbach, which Jeff gives a ringing review. Schanzenbach heads something called Mission To Restore America. Jeff clearly states this is an adult book, but presents it in a section devoted to books for homeschooling.
ITR is Reconstructionism. Also listed is The Chalcedon Foundation (www.chalcedon.edu) founded by the late R.J. Rushdoony and now headed by his son Tim Rushdoony. Tim's brother-in-law is none other than Gary North.
Also listed as a Reconstructionist resource is www.hushmoney.org whose banner adorns the www.tricitieshomeschool.org website and is operated by something called Heal Our Land Ministries. Their contact page gives a mailing address of PO Box 220 Bristol, Virginia 24203. The ITR page says this is operated by a Peter Kershaw.
Jeff and Peter do know each other. His website is a useful resource for home schooling, and Jeff clearly stated his position on Reconstructionism.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. May 15, 2008 (AP) - A proposal that would allow the state Department of Education to develop a curriculum for the academic study of the Bible in public schools is on its way to the governor's desk...
Ten years ago I would have been on the side of banning the Bible, but here is my view today as published as a letter to the editor. My views are keep all religion out of schools, politics and religion out of science.
Re: Teaching the Bible in Public Schools. As one who openly opposed hanging the Ten Commandments in the Sullivan County Courthouse, and who has written openly against Christian theology in the Herald Courier, I say yes, teach the Bible in school. Shocked? Here's why:
First, many schools are teaching a white-washed introduction to Islam, a violent religion far worse than anything today outside Marxism. Christians don't practice violence, outside an occasional lone individual. Islam openly teaches violence against non-believers.
Second, school material in general is highly anti-Christian, with underlying tones of Marxism, liberation theology, and Humanism. If they want to promote these pseudo-religions, it's only fair Christians get an equal hearing.
Third, so-called "environmentalism" is another pseudo-religion, an irrational, pagan earth-worship that holds Nature as somehow divine and is equal to man, a theological view. This pantheist/New Age nonsense too holds many anti-Christian undertones and it's followers are often just religious fanatics that misuse science to promote a political/religious agenda.
Finally, the misuse of evolution to undermine the Christian faith. I'm an evolutionist myself, but the evidence is clear there's no "natural" mechanism to explain the Creation of the universe. And I do mean Creation unless one can supply verifiable scientific proof the atheist view is correct. There is none. They need to teach the scientific method so one understands just what a "theory" really means in science. Darwin believed in God, and warned when an intelligence was involved, natural selection was voided.
It's time schools get back to academics and away from politics and social engineering. But if they want to keep promoting anti-Christian and often anti-Western themes, then I must stand with Christians and demand they get equal treatment.
What many home school parents try to escape:
Religion versus Science
Religion and History