Patriarchy on Trial, Part Two

How did homeschooling convention planners and support group leaders come to accept the patriocentric agenda and even help advance it through their events?

Let me share my perspective as to when it did actually begin, how it grew, and how and why patriarchy jockeyed its way into control of Christian homeschooling. (This is so important because, again, some people believe that, in fact, the patriarchs were the founders of modern homeschooling.)


In part one of this series, I attempted to simplify what I believe are the central problems in identifying and understanding the patriarchy movement. As everyone who has studied or been touched by this group within the homeschooling world knows, this is a large beast that has many tentacles and my few short paragraphs cannot do it justice! Combined with my patriarchy/patriocentricity podcasts, I hope to whet your appetite just enough for you to dig further!

In part two, my goal is to present a simplified version of the history of the patriarchy movement within the modern homeschooling culture, in part, to demonstrate that the teachings advanced in the patriarchy movement were not part of its founding. Again, it is very condensed and I encourage you to research even further!

During the late 1970s when Clay and I were formulating a plan for our future after nearly four years of military life, the topic of homeschooling surfaced in our discussions for the first time. Amazingly, we had never heard of anyone who actually taught their children at home and didn’t know if it was legal or not but it seemed like something we might want to consider.

Like many people who grew up in the 60s and came of age in the 70s, we already had an anti-establishment mentality and were not inclined to embrace something just because it was “normal.” Though initially we didn’t teach our children at home, we soon realized that we really wanted to be with them and, as we grew spiritually, also knew this desire was God-ordained for our family. Though many other homeschooling parents of the 80s did begin homeschooling with the goal of discipleship of their children in mind, I think it is too easy to consider that era as the beginning of modern home education.

It really is not.

Let me share my perspective as to when it did actually begin, how it grew, and how and why patriarchy jockeyed its way into control of Christian homeschooling. (This is so important because, again, some people believe that, in fact, the patriarchs were the founders of modern homeschooling.)

John Holt, an elementary school teacher, was one of the earliest promoters of education at home. His first two books, How Children Fail, published in 1964, and How Children Learn, published in 1967, challenged the very nature of formal education itself. He believed that “children who were provided with a rich and stimulating learning environment would learn what they are ready to learn, when they are ready to learn it”. Beginning in 1977, Holt’s Growing Without Learningmagazine was the first homeschooling newsletter to ever be published in the US and in 1981, this outspoken advocate of homeschooling wrote Teach Your Own, a standard for learning outside the classroom.

During this same time, educators Raymond and Dorothy Moore researched brain development and used the results to produce what is still known as the Moore formula of homeschooling, incorporating work, study, and service to others. Their books like Better Later Than Early, encouraging parents to not rush children into formal work, were well received by families who were concerned about the uniformity of public education and became interested in alternatives, including homeschooling. Their 1979 radio program with Dr. James Dobson, the first of 21 such broadcasts with the Moores, is still listed as the first introduction to homeschooling many families of now-grown homeschoolers received. Appearing on Phil Donahue, the Moores were received as controversial, in spite of bringing along two homeschooling families to share how it was done.

However, Jessica Hulcy, author of the popular KONOS unit studies, keenly observed, “Dr. Raymond Moore legitimized homeschooling as a viable educational option by publishing research and data that gave credibility to a fledgling movement. The entire homeschooling movement is deeply indebted to him for opening people’s minds to the benefits of returning education to a natural, home based, tutorial method between parent and child. We have immense gratitude for these two pioneers and the legacy they have bestowed on the homeschool movement, and think every homeschooler should begin homeschooling by reading their books.”

It is important to note that until the Focus on the Family radio programs featuring homeschooling and the Moores, Christian evangelicals, for the most part, placed their children in public schools and Christian fundamentalists continued the tradition of hosting small Christians schools in their church basements, mainly for their members. Though there were a few instances of children being educated at home, some using distance learning services like Calvert, homeschooling was practiced mainly by parents who were students of Holt or missionaries who ordered materials from Christian school suppliers such as Bob Jones Press or Christian Liberty Academy. It should be noted that at this time, no one was marketing a patriarchy agenda.

Then in 1984, Bill Gothard made the decision to expand his Basic Life Principles seminar into a curriculum for K through 12th graders based on the Sermon on the Mount. Among other teachings, Gothard’s chain of command view of authority, a presentation he taught as the only biblical approach, was presented throughout. A couple years later, he introduced the Advanced Seminar and along with it a plethora of ideas and lifestyle choices whose applications were based on his original seminar. These served as a stepping off point for others who took his basic teachings and expanded them, especially when it came to a structure of hierarchy in the home. (It can be argued that both Phillips and Gothard were originally influenced by Rushdooney.)

Jonathan Lindvall, a pastor from California and one of those whose teachings reflected these views, practiced and taught what he called “betrothal,” “an irrevocable and publicly announced commitment to marriage, only terminated for infidelity, during which the cultivation of a romantic relationship is permitted. Betrothal is instigated by the young man and woman with the full approval of parents. No physical contact occurs until after the wedding.” The role of the father of the bride or both fathers of the bride and groom became central to homeschooling family life in choosing life partners, thus patriarchy itself was also central.

By 1993, Phil Lancaster, a PCA pastor, also became a well-known patriarchy apologist, publishing a magazine called Patriarchy, which also promoted many of Gothard’s views on men and women. His magazine was shared by homeschooling fathers and was distributed through homeschooling conferences.

In 1998, Doug Phillips left Homeschool Legal Defense to move to Texas and begin Vision Forum Ministries. Originally, Vision Forum provided a catalog of fun toys and books based on promoting the value of US history and civics. Though I am unable to document this, as the Vision Forum website has been scrubbed, as I remember it, they really didn’t build up their patriocentric steam until after the Y2K kafuffle left them with a void needing to be filled.

We cannot underestimate the affect Y2K had on the patriarchy movement. Prior to this time, within mainstream Christian homeschooling circles, those who followed Bill Gothard or Jonathan Lindvall were considered fringe. (It is important to note that secular homeschoolers or Christians who were not homeschooling for religious reasons were increasingly offended by groups like HSLDA speaking for them with public officials and attempting to make laws to “protect” homeschoolers. This opinion continues today.)

Though Lancaster’s magazine was seen at conferences, its content was pretty mainstream, encouraging fathers to be actively involved with their families and to take spiritual leadership in their homes. Then, as Doug Phillips began more and more of his promotion of a patriocentric lifetstyle, others joined him in laying out this agenda.

In his book Family Man, Family Leader, published in 2003, Phil Lancaster uses the true biblical concept of Jesus being prophet, priest, and king as a word picture of the roles of fathers in their homes. Although he states that the father is not the mediator between Christ and his family, but rather is a representative, the impression that is created from reading his book, along with the writings of other patriarchs, is that there is a fine line between being a representative and being a mediator. If this is troubling and confusing to someone like myself who questions all these teachings, could it be even more bewildering to those who seek to apply the patriarchy teachings in their own lives?

Along with Lancaster, R.C Sproul Jr. and Voddie Baucham began promoting patriocentric views, Baucham also expounding on the prophet priest, and king doctrine and Sproul describing his own wife as calling him “lord.” In the early 2000s, James and Stacy McDonald climbed on the same patriocentric bandwagon, publishing under the title of Patriarch’s Path, originally promoting a Lindvall type of betrothal model where breaking up with a betrothed was considered to be a divorce. Eventually they introduced 160 plus courtship questions for suitors and continued to speak on the courtship model at homeschooling conferences.

In 2007, Stacy authored Passionate Housewives Desperate for God, published by Vision Forum, which painted what she and co-author Jennie Chancey called a “fresh vision” for women, making it the handbook for patriarch wives. Along with her book, the Botkins’ So Much More, also a Vision Forum publication, outlined a vision for patriocentric daughters and all of them, along with Kevin Swanson, promoted what became known as the stay-at-home daughters’ movement.

It was also during this time that Phillips started the National Center for Family Integrated Churches, providing a place for the doctrines of patriarchy to be advanced even further. Joined by Scott Brown, another advocate of patriocentricity, the NCFIC was soon being promoted at homeschooling conferences and insisting that all homeschooling families were members of a family integrated church was one of the key points in the manifesto being advanced at the 2009 Homeschool Leadership Summit.


So how did this happen? How did homeschooling convention planners and support group leaders come to accept the patriocentric agenda and even help advance it through their events? I believe there is one motivating factor: fear.

Fear of the world crashing to a halt via technology, aka Y2K.

Fear of a feminist agenda taking over our country as demonstrated by the 2008 presidential election when Hillary Clinton nearly won the Democratic nomination.

Fear of the increasing homosexual agenda that has made tremendous headway, into even the evangelical church.

As a result, half of the Christians, the women,who could be engaged in spiritual battle against those things that really threaten our families, have been devalued at best and immobilized at worst.

So what are the ramifications of the patriarchy movement? Where is this going? Is Doug Phillips’ fall from grace the end of it?

Karen Campbell is a wife of 39 years, mom, grandmother, speaker, and author of The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling ~ when the one anothers come home. This article appeared on her blog, That Mom, and is used with permission.