Thursday, July 28, 2011

My History in the Conservative Quiverfull Home Schooling Movement: An Introduction to the Gender and Authority Series

Dear friends,

I've been posting articles and web links for my series on Gender & Authority this past week, and just compiled them all into the July edition of my Hope Chest e-magazine which is sent to about 950 families around the world.  This is the introduction I gave to those who don't know me, and I thought it would serve well as an introduction to the blog series, too...

As most of you know, I am a home schooling mom of 10 children, ages (almost) 6 to 24.  My oldest daughter is married with a one year old son and expecting her second baby in February; she is a writer for Wycliffe Bible Translators.  To care for her son, she works from home two days a week, splits shifts with her husband the other three days, and gets a little extra help from me and a family friend. My second daughter works full time in an office and is engaged to be married this fall; she and her fiance have both been active in mission trips to Bolivia.  My third daughter starts nursing school at UCF next month.  My fourth daughter is a Disney World photographer and a student at Valencia Community College.  Both my third and fourth daughters spent three months in Italy earlier this year helping missionaries with outreach through teaching English in the community.  They are now living at home again while they are in college.  My fifth daughter returns to public high school for her junior year this fall; she had a very successful and happy year there. The younger five children, in first through ninth grades, will continue in our home school; this year we are rejoining the Providence co-op after a year off and I will be teaching 7th-8th grade English (with an strong emphasis on Bible and missions) as I have in the past.  I have been home schooling my children for about 20 years, and learning about it for 25.   (Update in 2014: Two more grandsons on the way. Third daughter is now an RN.  More kids in public school this past year. Teaching in a private Christian school.  One home schooled next year.)

That's because shortly after Thad and I married in the mid 1980’s, we moved to Maryland, where we joined a conservative yet contemporary church that was filled with large home schooling families.  One of my earliest mentors in marriage and motherhood was a sweet lady named Vickie Botkin, whose husband was our home group leader.   Vickie taught me how to make log cabin quilts in her sewing room.  She continually modeled a heart of simplicity and contentment to me.   She is a lot more well known now than then. Victoria (as she is now called) is the wife of Geoff Botkin, and mother of seven young adult children.  The books, audios and DVDs that the Botkin family produces are published by Vision Forum.  Probably the best known of these are the Elizabeth and Anna Sophia Botkin’s book So Much More and their DVD Return of the Daughters. (I own both, read & reviewed the book years ago, and watched the DVD.  I may eventually write more about them, but no promises.)  Back then, one of the books that either Vickie or of our friends introduced me to was The Way Home by Mary Pride.  Then I read the sequel All the Way Home when it came out in 1989.   For about a decade, I subscribed to and wrote articles for Pride’s magazines HELP, Big Happy Family, and Practical Home Schooling.  (For a 2009 update from Mary Pride, please read her article Patriarchy, Meet Matriarchy.) About 20 years ago, I also started subscribing to Above Rubies Magazine by Nancy Campbell.  I have attended several three or four of her retreats (and helped organize one of them), written many articles for her magazine, and have had many personal conversations with her either while driving her to the airport or when she would call me on the phone with her delightful New Zealand accent.  I also read and posted on Teri Maxwell's very conservative Titus 2 Mom's web board for quite some time.

All this to say, I was quickly and deeply drawn into the “full quiver” (large family) and home schooling lifestyle that my new friends and Mary Pride’s and Nancy Campbell’s books and magazines espoused. I don’t regret that at all.  I wouldn’t trade any one of my 10 kids for anything!  And I love home schooling them!  I was still in my twenties when my oldest officially started kindergarten and I’ll be nearly 60 when my youngest graduates from high school.  That’s quite an investment in my own family, but I have also written home schooling books and published an e-magazine for the past 13 years.  

My husband Thad is also very involved in our children's educations through working with me on curriculum planning and record keeping, tutoring them, taking them on field trips, chauffeuring them to classes, working out dual enrollment in college, encouraging me to keep going strong, and of course, paying $$$ for everything!  With the older ones who are beyond home schooling, he helps coordinate college and scholarship applications,  overseas travel arrangements, car purchase and maintenance, wedding plans, financial planning and other adult life skills.  :-)  Kudos, Thad!  You are quite the veteran dad!

But back to the theme of this month's e-magazine... As the years have rolled by and I have closely observed the full quiver / home schooling movement and where it’s gone, I’ve seen some disturbing out workings in certain segments of it, especially relating to gender and authority.  Anything good can be distorted, sometimes very badly.  The ones who seem to suffer most are the moms and the daughters.  I’m certainly not the only one who has taken notice, hence the Manifesto and three book reviews I will share in this issue.   A little later, in the second review, I will share more on why I wrote this blog series. 

The other recent posts in this series, which I included in the e-magazine, are:

I would love to hear your thoughts.  Leave me a comment on this blog post or any of the others, or feel free to send me an e-mail!  Please note that I do not have the time or inclination for extended debates.  :-)

Virginia Knowles


  1. Hi Virginia,

    I saw a post you left on another blog. Nice to "meet" you. I have been doing missions overseas for three years, and I grew up in the QF/Christian Patriarchy homeschool movement. I'm still "sorting" it all out. Many blessings.

  2. Were you a member of the Great Commission churches? I was! Just wondering. (I'm not now)

  3. Yes, Holly. We were in the Silver Spring and Gaithersburg, Maryland churches from 1986-1993. I knew many of the main GCI leaders, and also was an employee - computer programmer working from home.

    1. We were also members of a Sovereign Grace Ministries church for 8 years.

  4. Hi Virginia.
    I have spent a few (enjoyable) hours the morning reading through many of your articles (following your link on Tim Challies' blog post!). I am so grateful for your perspective :-)
    I actually subscribed to your Hope Chest for some time (I unsubbed from it and most of the emails I subscribed to a while ago - too many distractions in my inbox!), but always enjoyed it.
    With 6 kids 10-20, and homeschooled for 15 years (with older kids going to school for the final 2 years), I can relate to so much here.
    I was an avid reader of momys and the titus 2 stuff years ago, and own a variety of books (including the Raising Maidens of Virtue - which my girls hate! - and When Sparrows Fall).
    Such a journey for me too of watching the patriarchy movement move from possibly good intentions to scary.
    Here is Australia, we are somewhat removed from that culture, and my own very healthy Christian upbringing and faith meant that I have chewed the meat, spat out the bones and enjoyed pondering along the way :-)
    Anyway, I just wanted to say hi keep up your writing - so lovely to see your family all growing up!