Thursday, January 31, 2019

Teri Maxwell's Holly Homemaker Series: How to Amplify a Negative Comment a Thousand Times

A running theme for people who read the Maxwell's blog and articles is the fact that the Maxwells have blocked commenting on the vast majority of their sight.  If a blog post is fairly innocuous, the commenting feature is left on.  For most of the family's posts that share a point of view, there is no chance to make a comment.

Personally, that's never bothered me much.   Titus 2 Ministries is well within their rights to choose how they want to present themselves to the world.  The fact that they do not want to deal with any negative comments says plenty in my opinion.

And let's be honest: the Maxwells do not have the emotional boundaries to deal well with negative comments.   Steven Maxwell threw a tizzy in response to what I read as curiosity from a reader.  I've always pegged Teri Maxwell as the calmer partner in their marriage - but I may have misread her based on her reaction to a pointed jab from a reader.

Let me give you some background.  The Maxwells finance their lives through computer-based businesses and selling a series of books on how to organize and run a homeschooling home.   The Maxwells big invention is a chore organization system called "ChorePacks" debuted in "Managers of Their Homes".   The ChorePacks* themselves are a laminated name-tag that each kid can wear.  Inside the laminated name-tag are index-card size reminders of the chores each kid needs to complete in the order that they need to do it.    I have no opinion on "ChorePacks" themselves.  I'm sure they work well for some families - but there are a lot of options available to help readers and non-readers finish their chores.  I've already got a plan to create hanging pictures on a strip of velcro when Spawn's a bit older, but that's just my personal preference.

Anyways.... the Maxwells shared a picture of a 5-year-old in a dress and pinafore using her "ChorePack".  I think it's a cute picture and I don't see anything particularly offensive about it - but someone left a comment that got Teri's dander up:
“That poor little girl. She’s happy because she’s pleasing mommy—like all children do. She should be out playing with friends, playing dress up or let’s pretend, MAYBE a few small chores here and there—but CHOREPACKS? You people are going to kill that child’s spirit before she’s 7. God forbid she wants to be anything other than Holly Homemaker—do they have ChorePacks for future lawyers? Or Astronauts? I hope that she grows up to realize that she’s worth more than just an unpaid scullery maid/nanny.”

This comment hopefully made the reader feel a bit better - but the person was so angry that their two points are not terribly clear.  I think the two points the reader was trying to make was 1) small children shouldn't do excessive amount of chores and 2) girls in CP/QF deserve a chance to train for advanced careers outside of being a wife and mother.

Now, there are three ways of dealing with negative commentators.  First, the author can moderate comments and delete negative ones.  Second, the author can choose to interact in the comment section.  Third, the author can write FIVE separate posts that include the negative comment prominently and highlight the series in the article section of their website.

Ironically, if Teri Maxwell had done one of the first two options, I would never ever had read the comment.   Since she went for option three, this post was born.

The best part about the five posts is that they are pretty much comments written in support of the Maxwells put into a list.   To save time, I'm just going to summarize Moms A - M plus the Mom who sent in the picture and attach the post links if you want to read the original comment.

Holly Homemaker Part One (posted 01/01/2011 - Happy New Year!)

"I was a chiropractor.  I sold my practice to another doctor.  I really like being a stay-at-home mom!" - Mama Bones (the Maxwells didn't give her a name so I'm giving her one)

Good for you, Mama Bones!  I'm glad you like staying at home with your kids.  Can I ask you a question that's a bit rude?  How much did the other doctor pay for your practice?  I imagine receiving a fair amount of money from the new chiropractor has eased the finances of your family while you stay at home.  To become a chiropractor, you completed a bachelor's degree plus a four-year doctor of chiropractic degree.  You rock!   How does the education that the Maxwell daughters receive compare to yours?  Very poorly. 

Holly Homemaker Part Two (posted 02/01/2011; Teri Maxwell is still annoyed)

"I love my life as a stay-at-home wife and mother!" Moms A and E.

Good on you!  I was grateful that my husband could support me when I was a full-time SAHM for the first 18 months of my son's life - but I really enjoy being a part-time SAHM and part-time teacher even more.   My concern - and the concern of the negative commentator, I think - isn't that the girl will enjoy being a SAHM, but rather that she would be a discontented SAHM who always wonders if she'd be happier as a teacher or astronaut or lawyer.

"I have an advanced degree and worked in a serious job.  Since we adopted two kids from foster care, I've been a SAHM.  I've had a hard time, but I feel like this change is worth it." Mom B.

You deserve lots of hugs and support for adopting kids out of foster care because that is a big step!  Now, the Maxwells and their ilk believe that most of your discontent comes from the fact that you are highly educated and were competent in the work world before you adopted your kids.  Do you think that is where your discontent stems from?  Many people I know who have adopted from foster care deal with stress during and after the adoption - but none of them have chalked the stress up to the mother's education level.  The people I know generally ascribe the stress to the chaos of kids plus the lingering effects of disruption, grief and trauma - but I'd love to hear your take.

"I worked in a well-paying job with travel and was close to earning a doctorate in education before I married my husband at 37 years old.  Since my lifelong dream was to have a house filled with kids, I dropped my career like a hot potato when I married.  We had one son who is now 15.  I'm working to make sure he gives me a heap of grandkids to make my dream of a lot of kids come true." Mom C.

I'm glad you achieved most of your dream.  Based on the Maxwell Family blog, Sarah Maxwell has a similar dream at age 37 - however - she doesn't have a well-paying job, international travel experience, two completed post-secondary degrees, a third mostly completed advanced degree or a romantic partner.   Shouldn't the little girl in the photo be allowed to pick how much education and career interests she wants to pursue in case her wedding date happens when she's 37?   I'm also really curious how interested your now 22-year old son is in marriage and reproduction.  What happens if his dream is to pursue a career that is a poor fit with early marriage and child-rearing?  Is it fair to expect him to fulfill your dreams rather than mourning the dream parts you were unable to achieve?

"I love being a SAHM and have taught my daughters to want the same thing!  Working outside of the house sucks with kids!" Mom D.

I don't have a daughter - but I want my son to be happy in his adult life.  To help him achieve that,  I want him to understand that all work has value.  Paid wages are important for a family - but so is the unpaid work that goes into raising children, caring for adult dependents and keeping a home.  This next bit might be a bit mind-blowing - but hang in there with me, Mom D.  I also want my son to know that I will be proud of him if he's a full-time stay-at-home dad or works part-time while being the primary caregiver to his kids or if he's the main breadwinner of the family while helping out during time he's off work.   I plan on teaching the same lesson to any daughters I am blessed with - because we can never see the future.  I don't want to teach my kids that working while they have small children is terrible or a bad situation because plenty of parents who would rather be a full-time stay-at-home-parent need to work.  I also don't want to teach my kids that only women make good primary caregivers because plenty of parents who wanted to be the primary breadwinner end up being a full time caregiver for at least a season or two due to unemployment.

Holly Homemaker Part Three (published 03/01/2011; that's longer than I can focus on most topics)

"Chores teach kids to respect the work that it takes to run a home.  Completing tasks well is the first step on the path to be a lawyer, astronaut or any other career."  Mom F.

Mom F, I totally agree with you!  My parents gave me a reasonable number of chores for my age while making sure my responsibilities at home did not interfere with my education.   The Maxwells prioritized chores and working in the family businesses over education for their daughters; their sons received fewer chores but were expected to run personal businesses starting in their teens.  Now, the Maxwell sons seem to be employed in various ventures - but their daughters have never worked outside of family businesses.   Let me say that again: the Maxwell daughters are 37, 25 and 22 years old and have never worked for anyone outside their family.   Does that strike you as a good outcome for homeschooled girls?

"Kids need to learn how to do chores to run their own homes when they leave the home - boys and girls.  Women who have careers deserve the base knowledge of how to do chores." Mom G.

I love you!   You realize that the Maxwells despise higher education for sons, right?   Like....they wrote a whole book about how people can raise sons without needing college educations.   They've never written a book about raising daughters.  I wonder why that is?  Is it because they think girls are easier to raise or because they realize that they are 0 for 3 in raising daughters to become married mothers which is the only form of womanhood that CP/QF followers accept?

"My husband is an engineer who hired 5 retired professionals and 2 new guys who didn't have the right credentials.  I'm sure the good guys had chores as kids and the reason my husband can't find enough hard workers is because peeps don't do enough chores as kids." Mom H.

Um....I don't know what to tell you.  Maybe hire a few women?  People of color, perhaps?   Let me know how this all works out in 3-5 years when the retired guys...retire.

Holly Homemaker Part 4 - (published April 1, 2011, but not as an April Fool's joke, alas)

"When my mom tried to get me to do chores, I was a brat.  Mom decided to do the chores rather than deal with my entitled brattiness.   As an adult, I had to learn how to do the chores myself.  Since Mom screwed up royally with me, I'm doing it different with my kid."  Moms I and J.

And yet - you turned out ok.  Yup, it would have been easier to learn the chores as a child or a teen - but you decided to mouth off to your parent.  Oh, and you are joining in the CP/QF habit of failing to honor your parents to make yourselves look better.  Classy.

"My husband has to train Marine recruits to clean their rooms and do laundry.  My 7 year old and 3 year old can do better!"  Mom K

Well, training recruits in how to specifically clean everything - including how to do laundry perfectly - as part of boot camp. your husband a drill sergeant?  If he is, that's awesome.  If not, why is he going through the process of retraining people rather than telling them to do what they are supposed to do and moving on?   I am perturbed that your 7 and 3 year-olds can clean to a military standard. 

"I like ChorePacks!" Mom L.

Sweet!  Glad you like them!

"I had different cleaning standards than my college roommates.  I never said anything about that to them while I was living with them.   I don't want my kids to be like that so ChorePacks!"  Mom M.

Living in a house with your roommates would have been less stressful if you spoke up about how often you wanted to do chores instead of just waiting for the roommates to read your mind.   Teach your kids chores - but teach them to communicate, too!

Holly Homemaker Part Five  (published May 1st, 2011; the mom of the girl in the picture weighs in!)

"My daughter wants to be a mom when she grows up because God.  Hey, you realize that most of the 'chores' in the ChorePack are things like 'brush your teeth', right?  My kids do a reasonable amount of chores for their age.   I didn't know how to do laundry when I went to college and my mom is glad we're raising our kids differently."  Original Mom.

Yeah, that's the downside of ChorePacks.  Laminated name-tag holders are meant to hold a single piece of paper.  When you need to fit 8 pieces of paper in one, it looks absurdly stuffed.  In preschool classrooms I've subbed in, a lot of classes are trained to do 5-8 things at the beginning of class using something like a ChorePack so I don't think the idea itself is bad. 

I'm kinda thrown that so many parents didn't teach their kids how to do chores or laundry.  On the flip side, none of these women seem permanently stunted by that oversight either.

And let's be honest - at least Teri Maxwell got five posts out of one cranky comment on a picture!

*Don't worry, peeps.  It's not an affiliate link.  I'm too lazy to do that and I doubt the Maxwells would pay me anyways.

** Oh, God.  We are so snowed in right now.   Clearly, humans were never meant to live in Michigan.  Thankfully, we are all safe, warm and healthy.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Joyfully At Home: Chapter Three - Part Two

In one of the great ironies of Michigan winters, we didn't receive enough snow for me to cross-country ski last week.  The good news is that we're finally getting the few inches of lake-effect snow every week that I remember from my childhood winters.  Plus, we've got two solid storm fronts moving out way - including heavy snow with accumulations of 6-12" on Monday.   Hopefully, I'll be out on my skis or snowshoes soon.

Reading this chapter in Jasmine (Baucham) Holmes' book "Joyfully At Home" causes me to think back on what my life was like in the years between when I finished college and when I got married.  I was able to start teaching as a long-term sub within a few weeks of finishing student teaching and that job turned into a full-time position. 

Once I had a full-time position with the security of having a contract for an entire year, I got my first apartment.  Even the process of picking an apartment was quite a learning experience!  I figured out how much I could spend on rent.  My job had a really weird schedule where I was working from 7am-9pm three days of the week with a few random 3 hour periods off, one day where I was working from 7am-3pm and one day where I was working from 8 am to noon.   Because of that strange schedule, I wanted to live within a 10 minute drive to the school so I could run back to my apartment during my 3 hour down times.   There were three complexes that I looked at.  One was lovely - but it was at the top of what I could afford and I was nervous about that.  The second one got thrown out when the sales people refused to understand that I was serious that I would only consider building with secured internal stairwells - and all of the "special" rent discounts are not worth the stress of going up dark stairwells that anyone had access to at night.   I moved into the third place - reasonable rent, pretty grounds, decently maintained and internal stairwells behind a locked entryway door.

Living myself was cool and tiring.  I had to balance a fulltime job and keeping my own place.  My cooking skills improved a lot because I could make whatever I wanted - but I had to eat whatever I made.   I learned that I liked batch cooking all of my lunch and dinners at once on the weekend so I could just pop the meals in the microwave during the crazy week.   I became an excellent budgeter.  My teaching job paid ok - but not great.  My bigger issues was that my therapy bills had to be reimbursed by the insurance company.   The teacher's insurance company was awesome - but there were times where I had a few thousand dollars that I was waiting on from MESSA.   That lead to some sucky months where I had something 60 dollars available for gas and food for two weeks - and I needed $40 for gas.   In those two week periods, I fell back on ramen noodles with lots of  frozen veggies broken up with pasta mixes along with lots of veggies.

I benefited greatly by living independently of my parents prior to marriage.  In CP/QF lore, living independently prior to marriage turns your first years of marriage into a battleground between spouses - but that was not my experience at all.   My husband and I were able to set up a combined budget for our new household that covered everything without any surprises because we were both living on independent budgets before.  We both had enough experience in romantic and platonic relationships to know what our personal needs were within a relationship.  I had moved through the hardest first years of establishing a career.  My husband was more inexperienced in that area - but my experience has been helpful as he's switched careers.   We had both been around enough kids as adults that we knew we wanted and could care for kids of our own.

The good news is that Jasmine (Baucham) Holmes agrees with me as a real adult that never living independently before marriage can be harmful.

That change in opinion shows massive growth because 19-year-old Jasmine Baucham had a whole raft of reasons for encouraging girls to live at home:

Part of being a good daughter to our fathers is submitting to their protection and guidance in the area outlined by Scriptures. We can do this by seeking their advice in our everyday decisions. We shouldn't become pests, expecting our busy fathers to have the time to micromanage our every move (part of helping our fathers is being confident enough to do so without constant supervision); however, we should develop a habit of evaluating our decisions as a team.

This is in so many ways counterintuitive in our day. In the time where a potential suitor seeking a daughter's hand in marriage from her father has become no more than an empty tradition that smacks of the same insipidness as roses and chocolates, or a father giving away his blushing daughter at the alter (sic) is merely an empty symbol, a daughter who truly submits to her father and delights in his protection is going to be a strange sight. (pg. 48)

My parents understood the importance of having adult children moving towards independence on all fronts.   I lived at home during half of my college experience and while I was student teaching.  My parents expected me to help out around the house, be either going to school or employed and to be respectful of the other people in our house.   Outside of that, my parents did not expect me to bounce my everyday decisions off of them - or to make those decisions based on the 'vision' of my father. 

Dependence on my parents' vision would have been bad for me, but I believe it often fails in the CP/QF world as well. 

In the modern world, women marry men who work in different careers than their father all the time.  The Botkin Family always blathers on about how many skills the girls have gained by working in their family's media/ministry business - but what's the likelihood that either daughter would marry into a media/ministry family?  The Duggar daughters who have married have not married into a commercial real estate business and there are four married daughters.   Similarly, the Maxwell daughters are probably not going to marry computer security or website design gurus.  Jasmine Baucham was raised in a ministry family; she married Philip Holmes who works in financial planning and insurance.   Heck, when we married, my husband was a farmer - a business where family members working on the farm together is part of the American mythos.   My husband was very clear before we got married - he had no expectations that I would ever work on the farm.   Or - as he said in his adorably blunt way - "I'm looking for a wife, not a milker."

"But" - a random person might object - "most CP/QF women will be mothers within two years of marriage.  Shouldn't they be ready to submit to their husband in the ways he wants his house run?"

In answer, I laugh derisively. 

Has this CP/QF husband been spending his life learning how to keep a house, cook and raise children?   Does he have your personal housekeeping quirks filed away in his head?  Does he know which recipes are your go-to recipes when it's a busy day?  Or when you have a sick kid?  Or a recovering toddler who needs to make up the calories he missed? 

More importantly - did he marry a wife or an employee? 

Spouses need to be on the same page about the big issues in life - but marriages work best when they contain two adult partners.  I assume my husband can manage his career; he trusts I can manage my own career.  He assumes I know more about cleaning than he does. I know he's a better cook than I am.  I'm more experienced in child development and medical communication; he rocks at home remodeling and sussing out what model of equipment will work best for us.  At no point do we need to discuss all the details of how we get things done or how said things expand our family's vision.   Ms. Baucham's views when she was a teenager will set young women back in terms of becoming women ready for marriage.

As for the second paragraph, that's standard CP/QF snobbery.   Flowers and chocolates may not be the most unique gift - but they show that a man is willing to spend money on a relationship.   Having my dad walk me down the aisle was a sweet moment in my life - and that sweetness had nothing to do with the state of my hymen, thank you very much.

The next post in this series discusses the importance - and pitfalls - of really understanding your family's vision.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Joyfully At Home: Chapter Three - Part One

Jasmine (Baucham) Holmes' third chapter in "Joyfully At Home" focuses on how stay-at-home daughters (SAHDs) can be useful to their fathers.  I do believe that a teenage or young adult daughter can be helpful to her father - but I do question how helpful a teenager or young adult can be. 

Let's use the most optimistic outcome where a young lady has completed a rigorous homeschool curriculum that included the basics of college prep.  That's a strong start for a college education - but in my opinion, a high school graduate daughter is trapped in a strange donut hole of education in terms of helping her father in part because she is a daughter.

Under the rigid gender segregation of CP/QF rules involving employment, a teenage boy or young man is more than eligible to start working in a variety of jobs that have on-the-job training like the Bates' family tree removal business, the Duggar's car sales business, or the Maxwell sons' lawn mowing business.  For the rare families who use some more advanced skills like the CNC work by the younger Botkin sons or the computer security work done by Nathan Maxwell, the sons have a few years of training ahead of them to reach full competence but they will be bringing in useful income while learning a new skill. 

Girls, on the other hand, need to be sheltered far more from the external malign influences of the workforce.  The Duggar daughters who have worked are Jill and Jana Duggar who received haphazard and subpar training in midwifery and labor support.  Sarah and Anna Maxwell work remotely for their brothers' businesses.  Those are the only four young women who I can think of who work.  The Botkin Sisters keep house.  The Mally Sisters try to convert people.  Most of the Duggar Daughters either keep house for their family of origin or are stay-at-home mothers. 

Keeping house and working in a family business are both respectable options - but the issue is that these are the ONLY options available for young women rather than a choice from a wide variety of careers.   That's a big regression even from the restrictive standards of the 1950's.  I'll never forget an elderly teacher of mine in high school mentioning how when she was a teenager girls had five career options: be a nun, get married and stay at home, be a nurse, be a secretary, or be a teacher.  (Well, five options if you were a Catholic girl...).  For SAHD, they are down to two - secretary (which is pretty much how most SAHD are used in family businesses) or an under-maid-cook-nursery-worker for their mother or married sisters.

On the flip side, I question how much help a recent homeschool graduate is if her father has a job that usually uses helpers who have more education or experience.   Both 19-year old Jasmine Baucham and a few years older Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin brag that they worked as research assistants for the men in their family.  I don't get how that worked.  When I need research done, I either hit the stacks electronically myself or ask a reference librarian.    These three young ladies sound like they did half the legwork for their fathers (or brothers) in that they flagged items of interest in materials that they read.  That's kind of helpful...I guess...but I would expect their fathers to be fully conversant in the major works on a given topic.  Once you are knowledgeable in a topic, determining if an article or book is worth including doesn't take very long.   A quick skim of the abstract, introduction and conclusion is plenty for a paper.  For a book, a speed-read of a chapter does the trick.   That's not very time-consuming and it's not a step that Geoffrey Botkins or Voddie Baucham should skip.  (In fairness to Baucham since he has earned multiple degrees from real colleges, I suspect he doesn't skip that step.)

Now, Jasmine Baucham and Sarah Maxwell both were given the same job in their family business: running the online store.

Blessedly, because of the similarities in our personalities, my dad and I have been able to work together on several projects-- I have worked full-time as his research assistant, was the online coordinator of his online store for two years before it outgrew the confines of our garage, have written articles for a family newsletter when he didn't have the time to do so, and have recently taken over his booking.


When I was running the online store, there were days when I had to turn down outings with friends because I had fifty messages waiting on my answering machine at home (sometimes, they will come over and help, and we'd make a day of it). I knew that supporting my dad was more important than a trip to the mall.


For instance, when Daddy needed someone to step in and run the online store, my hand was not the first to go up. When he asked me to come on as Voddie Baucham Ministries' first and only employee, I was nervous about the huge responsibility. I was relieved when, after it outgrew our garage, the store passed from my hands and into more capable ones, but in that 2 years I juggled the store with my other responsibilities, I learn self-discipline that I would not have learned otherwise, and my dad was given the aid that he would not have otherwise had. (pgs. 50-51)

Jasmine Baucham was 20 when this book was published and 19 when she was writing it.  I'm going to assume, then, that she was running the store when she was a minor for at least one year and possibly two.

I am always curious about homeschool graduates who can pull off running an entire wing of the family business while still in high school.   Personally, I hope that the family business is new and fairly low volume so that the daughter - and it's always a daughter - has time to study challenging material along with caring for a mob of smaller siblings and doing the packing/shipping for the family business.    I worked during my junior and senior years of high school but since I was taking a lot of classes state law limited me to 8 hours of work a week until I turned 18.   I was overly busy - but I did manage a full college prep course load along with working and afterschool activities. 

The Bauchams do seem to value education and Jasmine earned a college degree so I suspect her education was not curtailed unduly to run the store.  (Her afterschool promises about that.)  By comparison, Sarah Maxwell was slated to spend at least 4 hours a day working at Titus 2 Ministries or her dad's fledgling computer business when she was 16. 

I just feel like both women could have been better occupied in learning career skills with an outside employer during that period.

The next post in this series explores the drive to keep daughters dependent in the SAHD movement.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Maxwell Megalomania: How to Drive Off Blog Readers and Daughters

I'm excited today!  We've gotten real snow again here in West Michigan!  I know that lots of people don't like cold weather - but I thrive in chilly weather.  I love cross-country skiing and if we have snow, I can strap my skis on outside my back door and escape across the mile of fallowed agricultural fields behind us.   Even if we don't get enough snow to ski, the landscape looks much better with a fresh clean blanket of snow than it does with grey-brown dead annual vegetation.

In my last post, I discussed how I was triggered by a letter a Maxwell blog reader sent to Teri Maxwell that Teri Maxwell published in her weekly newsletter.   That type of personal discomfort is very rare for me when reading CP/QF blogs; having lived outside of CP/QF society for my childhood and adulthood I'm much more likely to be confused as upset.  The Maxwells, on the other hand, often give me second-hand embarrassment from their habit of ignoring basic social and family conventions.

This week has given us two separate examples of Maxwellian awkwardness.  The first example is a blog post written by Steven Maxwell in a snit about a comment from a blog reader that seemed pretty innocuous to me.  "Erica" had a question about whether avoiding entertainment could lead a person to become a workaholic.   Below is "Erica's" comment and the first few sentences of Steven Maxwell's reply:

I concur with the idea that entertainment detracts from more useful application of one’s energy, especially since time can so easily slip away when you’re distracted. My question for you is whether there comes a point in time when one is too focused on serious pursuits, i.e. being a “work-a-holic”? How do you balance focused learning or on-task time with relaxing fellowship time? Erica

Hi Erica,

First, I’m not sure it follows that the opposite of loving entertainment is being a work-a-holic. It seems like there might be a subtle inference of that in your question. That aside, maybe there are some who become too focused on serious pursuits. However, our personal experience and observations of others is that the natural pull/tendency is toward wasting time, particularly through various forms of entertainment, versus too many serious pursuits.

I'm honestly curious what spectra exist in Steven Maxwell's world involving "overly involved in pursuing entertainment" and "overly dedicated to working at the expense of others."   I think it's a bit messy - but I think people can visualize "entertainment hogs" and "workaholics" as opposite ends of a spectrum.   Maxwell never bothers to clarify what the correct oppositions are in his world besides "following Christ". 

Personally, I think Erica hit a nerve without meaning to.  I think Erica wanted an answer about how the Maxwells make sure they have enough fellowship.  Since Sarah Maxwell posts pictures of the Maxwell Families hanging out all the time, I'd suspect that a simple response about the holiday parties, memorized Bible recitations by the little ones and a run-down of how fun working together as a family on rebuilding homes. 

 Instead, Steven Maxwell starts by arguing with a reader about an implication in their question before launching into Bible verses.  That's a great example of control freak behaviors leaking out.

Erica - I think you deserve a real answer to your question. 

To me, a workaholic is someone who uses work to ignore or avoid problems in their personal life.

 I don't know if Steven Maxwell is a workaholic, but there is a theme in Steven Maxwell's writings of needing to control the lives of his family members to a pathological degree. 
  • His family sells "Managers of Their Homes" and "Managers of Their Schools" which encourages people to schedule the entire day of all dependent family members including wives and adult children.  The Maxwells believe that intensive scheduling "helped" Teri Maxwell through her periods of postpartum depression.  Personally, I wish that the Maxwells had sought out medical advice for Teri instead.   
  • Steven Maxwell pulled his oldest two boys out of organized sports at age 13 and 11 because he couldn't control exactly which peers they spent time with.  
  • The Maxwell sons are encouraged to purchase their own homes, but discouraged from living in those homes prior to marriage.
  • Seven out of eight adult children work in Maxwell businesses.  
  • Four Maxwell sons are married.  Two of those sons had previous public engagements called off after concerns surfaced over how entangled the adult sons were with their parents.
  • Steven brags about the fact that he purposely rejected chances for his kids to do fun activities like downhill skiing and flying in small planes so that the kids could not become addicted to these activities.  The fact that Steven flew small planes to an extent that affected his family financially and logistically is minimized on the other hand.
Personally, I find the Maxwell habit of disdaining nearly all written literature short-sighted. The world is filled with great works that strengthen and challenge adults.  By hemming the family insight to the Bible and carefully selected biographies of Christian missionaries, the Maxwells are missing so much of the glory of God.   I find their blanket ban on television and movies equally bizarre.  There is a lot of trash on TV - but there's a lot of really good, educational shows as well.  I've watched my way through plenty of history and science documentaries while crocheting replacement dish towels or sewing quilts for local foster kids.  A show about helping homesteaders showed me some techniques to maximize heat retention in a cold frame so hopefully we can grow some greens next winter.   I feel like the Maxwell disdain for media is a form of elitist snobbery as much as a form of sheltering.

The second example of Maxwellian awkwardness is Teri Maxwell's post celebrating Sarah's 37th birthday.  Feel free to read the post yourself but I can summarize it for you: "You thought you'd be married with kids by now.  Silly you!  Good thing your work review for the family business is positive. We'll review again next year." 

Obvious questions here: who raised Sarah to believe that her main mission in life was being a wife  and mother? 

Who structured Sarah's life to be so sheltered that the likelihood of her meeting a potential suitor was nearly zero? 

Who has used Sarah as the primary administrator of the forums on Titus 2 Ministries and as the shipping department for Titus 2 Ministries for the last 21 years? 

Who has benefited from the profits of the twelve children's books that Sarah has written?

The answer is Steven and Teri Maxwell. 

Sarah and I are in the same age cohort. 

We graduated high school in the same year.   I have a college education and an established career.  I'm finding unexpected pleasure in working as a substitute teacher in Special Education classrooms.  Sarah has been used as an underacknowledged laborer in her parents' and brothers' businesses while writing books about the joys of childhood.

My parents raised me with the expectation that I could marry and have children if I wanted - but that my life would be meaningful regardless of how I structured my family.   Sarah was taught that women should be wives and mothers; any other path was substandard.

My parents taught me that some people in the world were untrustworthy, but they trusted my ability to choose who I wanted to date and marry.  Sarah was taught that most men are predators and only her father could safely determine which men she should safely interact with.

My husband and I have been married for six and a half years.  I have a toddler boy who looks like my husband from the front and my younger brother from behind.  Spawn's got my nose and laugh as proof of maternity.  The two years since Spawn was born have pushed me in ways that I would have terrified me if I had known what was coming in advance - but I have grown into my own skin in ways that will benefit me and mine all my days.  Sarah has a gorgeous lab named Ellie.

I hope that Sarah finds her life as fulfilling as I find mine to be.  I hope that this year moves her closer to her dreams.  And - if nothing else - I hope this year her family learns to describe her with adjectives besides those used in job assessments.

Monday, January 14, 2019

I hate when the Maxwells get under my skin....

This doesn't happen very often, but I'm having a solid emotional reaction from reading a Maxwell article. 

Let me backup a bit. 

I've discussed my son Spawn's birth at 26 weeks due to rapid-onset preeclampsia with HELLP syndrome.   The 28 hours between when I received the news of my diagnosis and when Spawn was born by C-section were horrible.  The medication I was given to keep my blood pressure down and to protect Spawn's brain caused me to feel like I was running a fever, shake uncontrollably, and have the most gruesome hallucinations every time I closed my eyes.  I was more thirsty than I can describe, but I couldn't take anything by mouth because I needed an empty stomach in case they needed to knock me out and do a crash C-section.  Well meaning OB/GYN residents kept coming in and offering to talk about how I was feeling - but my BP spiked hard every time I acknowledged the terror I felt that my son who was kicking at my bladder might die when he was born - so I kept saying "No, thanks.  I'm fine."

I think the only reason I remained sane that second sleepless night was that I reminded myself that they would knock me out during the C-section because my platelets were so low that an epidural could paralyze me so if I could hang on that long, I'd either wake up from something like sleep and feel a bit better or I'd be dead...and that would probably feel better too since I'd be off magnesium sulfate. 

And then at 4am the nurse let me know that my blood work was good enough that they could put off the C-section until at least 6am which was the magical 24 window that no one thought I could make it too - I was really, really sick - and that my platelets were high enough they could do an epidural! 

So now I got to be awake during major abdominal surgery that was expected to involve enough bleeding that the doctors were planning on at least one transfusion for me and probably multiple transfusions.   I disliked that idea immensely and let my preferences be known - until the docs told me that it would be better for Spawn to not have anesthesia in his system while they tried to get him breathing.    One epidural later and I got to see my son cuss me and the world out after an uneventful birth. 

Spawn's time in the NICU was amazing - and sucked immensely.  I fell in love with Spawn fast and hard.  He was amazingly adorable with the tiniest fingers and toes.  Spawn lived to drive his nurses batty - so much so that I threatened to find Nurse Ratched - or someone trained by her - to be his primary nurse if he refused to let nice Nurse Jackie touch his isolette.  I also knew that Spawn would win out over Nurse Ratched or her followers because he's that kind of stubborn.    I loved him fiercely - but I had to sit with the fact that he had no metabolic reserve and his lungs were touch-and-go.   If another body system developed problems, he'd die.  There was nothing I could do beside waiting I waited.  I comforted myself that once he got home from the hospital things would get easier.


I really needed that fantasy while he was in the NICU - and struggled pretty hard when he was about 38 weeks gestation.  That's the point I could no longer pretend he was going to go home "tube-free" off of oxygen and a feeding tube.   By the time he was ready to go home at around 42 weeks gestation (or 2 weeks adjusted), I had readjusted my expectations - and the layout of my home.

Spawn's infancy was amazing - and sucked immensely.  Newborns are exhausting.  Medically complicated kids are exhausting.  Communicating with four medical practices and two home visiting therapists is exhausting.  Anything involving multiple insurances is exhausting.   Combining all four at once made me into a highly efficient zombie. What little bit I remember of his infancy before about 9 months of age adjusted is either feeding him, washing bottles/feeding tube equipment, calling doctors, and setting up support from my parents to move him to and from the doctors' offices.

I had a very colorful prayer life during this time.   Like all parents, I had a golden dream of having a healthy term baby I could effortlessly breastfeed while I prayed my way through the Liturgy of the Hours. 


Honestly, I much prefer my spit-fire Spawn to that completely unobjectionable fantasy baby - and my prayer life as Spawn's mom was a whole lot more honest.   There were plenty of prayers that involved a whole bunch of swear words directed at God followed by "Pick someone else for once. I'm so sick of overcoming the dumb shit life gives me."  My other favorite was "If you want to have a conversation with me, God, I need more sleep or fewer doctor's appointments.  Your choice.  I'm taking a nap."   On the other hand, I was deeply grateful for the medical teams who cared for my Spawn-baby.  I don't know if the in-home nurses realized how much I needed to hear them say that Spawn looked great for a baby who was born so early - and that we were doing great with him, but I thanked God for them.   Watching Spawn yawn and stretch or suck happily on his paci made me feel the insanity was all worth it - and I was so grateful that he survived and was happy.

The reason I bring my prayers up is that angry, frustrated, bitter prayers are no less a prayer than prayers of joy, contentment, or trust.   That's biblical; read through the Psalms if you doubt it.  Teri Maxwell wrote a 5-part series called "Unwanted Feelings" that I can sum up as "Lie to God about your emotional state".  Part 4 is the part I found triggering.  Teri includes a letter written to her by a woman who gave birth to an extremely premature boy at 25 weeks who died. 

I have no problems with the letter; anything that a parent needs to survive the death of a child is pretty much ok with me.

The problem I have is that I can't tell if Amy E. - the mother in the story - has the right to show anger, frustration, sadness or distrust in God's Goodness without being rejected by her faith community. 

 Plus, including the letter in its entirety feels like a bludgeon to use against any woman who feels inconvenient emotions like anger, frustration, bitterness or loss of faith.   After all, Amy E. managed to trust in God - no, she managed to rejoice in God's plan! - when her baby died.  Why are you so hung up over (pick a problem)?

Thanks for listening.  I'm feeling a lot better. 

Plus, I managed to bounce a crocheted hat off the top of my husband's head when he fell asleep on the couch.  I've been threatening to do that for a while because his sleep apnea makes him snore and stop breathing if he's not wearing his CPAP.  Listening to him snort, snore and gasp is not relaxing for I've told him to go to bed when he's tired or risk having soft objects bounced off his head.   That was fun.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Joyfully At Home: Chapter Two - Part Two

 As I write this, I am listening to the sounds of late fall in Michigan: a steady rain and a gentle wind.

Since it is January instead of October, the rain is alternately freezing and melting depending on the fluctuations in air temperature.  The rain last night had left a half-inch of frozen ice on my windshield  and driver's side this morning and nothing on the other two sides. 

I'm short and my minivan is tall so physics is working against me applying effective force to remove the ice from the windows.  Fear not; I simply filled two liter pop bottles full of hot water from the tap and used hot water to de-ice the windows in less than 5 minutes.  I love science!

We made a trip safely to the local town to get a handful of documents notarized to finalize my husband's exit from the family farm.  Our son was remarkably good during the time we did a bunch of odd-and-end jobs that needed to be finished at the bank - and he got a branded toy football out of being ridiculously cute while wearing glasses to boot.

Once my adorable toddler went down for his nap, I attempted to use my transcription software to enter some more material from "Joyfully At Home" by Jasmine (Baucham) Holmes.  Alas, another quirk of living in the country foiled my plans.   Our internet is fast enough during good weather but slows WAYYYYYY down if there is wind...or rain...or snow...or intermittent freezing rain.  I found out in no short order that our internet speed was so slow that the transcription program was losing entire chunks of sentences during processing.   Thankfully, there is no more new material in this chapter written by Ms. Baucham to go over - but there is one doozy of a letter.   Now, Ms. Baucham answers the letter in roughly the same way that I would, but very politely and kindly.  Mine tone is somewhat different....

Let me give you the pertinent part of the letter to read before I go farther:

I have tried to become more supportive of my parents' vision as a result of convictions springing from the documentary [ed: Return of the Daughters]... (I was already a stay at home daughter and all)... and to be a helper to my dad. Which usually goes over pretty well since my dad and I are very alike, have the same "love languages" etc.

So my question comes here.

My mom started to feel a little "jealous" because she felt like I was taking her spot of helping my dad, making his favorite foods, walking next to him while shopping, and all of that.

And that began my wondering...

How can I be a loving helper to my dad when my mom is his true help-meet and he is designed to only have one, and I am designed to have my own man to support and help but (in God's timing) he hasn't showed up yet? (pgs. 35-36)

*side-eyes teenager with her eyes all aglow*

Hell, no.  Shut that shit down.  Now. 

I would rather run into my daughter making out with the idiot, bad-news neighbor kid than having my same imaginary daughter start fawning over her father.  I would literally rather watch my kid be Tina Belcher to the neighbor's Jimmy Jr. from Bob's Burgers than have her start pulling that crap with her dad.   See, falling in love with a twit who is roughly the same age as you - and NOT biologically related - is normal.  Totally, completely and marvelously normal.   Teenage crushes are cliched for a reason; it's such a universal experience.

Aping your mother's relationship with your father instead of being around boys your own age?  Messed up.

And as worried as I would be on the psychological and emotional implications for how I was raising my daughter,  I have another issue as well - it's massively disrespectful to the woman of the house. 

All of the CP/QF emphasis on male authority in a home and marriage undermines the traditional understanding that children are under the authority of both their mother and their father.  The adult married woman of a household retained the unspoken right to run her own home, garden, dairy or small business as she saw fit.  Yes,  this woman was theoretically under the authority of her husband - but ONLY him.   There was never a time where an unmarried daughter received the same level of authority as her mother while the mother was still alive and able to run the home.

The examples given by the letter writer don't have much pull in my family - but if I had tried to sit in the front seat of the car (which would make Mom sit in the back), Dad would have told me to get in back.  Mom would have ordered me to get in back if she was already there.   I can't imagine interfering with grocery shopping - but if I did, I would have been put in my place by my mom...or dad.  When I wanted to help out with quilting when I was a pre-teen, my mom put me to work ironing.  I grumbled a bit because ironing is the least fun bit of quilting - but I would never have set things up so that I took the sewing part that my mom liked best.  My mom would have taken that part back.

I think my family experiences are why I'm a bit boggled by the fact the mom felt jealous.  Dude - it would never get far enough in my house for the woman of the house to feel jealous!  My imaginary daughter steps over a line and I tell her to step back.  I assume she'd step back across the line - but if not, I'll put her back across the line. 

As for the letter-writer's sensible question about how to be a helpmeet when you are not a helpmeet, that one should be self-explanatory.   You are not a help meet.  You may be a help meet someday - but that day is not today.   You may never be a help meet. 

What should you do in the meantime?  Get educated.  Learn how to be an asset to your family, your community and your church.   Figure out how you personally can make the world a better place.  All activities benefit the world around you - and they benefit you, too. 

Young unmarried women without much life experience are in a dangerous place if they become fixated on marriage.  Being overly focused on becoming a wife puts a young woman in danger of marrying the wrong guy. 

Don't get me wrong; I don't believe in soul mates or that everyone has one specific person whom they must find or will be unhappy together.  No, I believe that most people run into several people in their lives that they could be happily married to.

Far more importantly, people need to avoid marrying the people who cross their paths who are impossible to marry happily. 

Most of these people are genuinely benign like the guy I dated who didn't believe in lifelong learning at all.  He was a nice guy - presumably a good husband for plenty of women out there - but I am a lifelong learner and we'd have been miserable together.

Some people are malignant.  They have untreated personality disorders.  They are mean.  They are selfish.  They are raging narcissists.  They refuse treatment for mental illness.  When I describe people this way, it sounds so easy to avoid them - but these people often seem fascinating at first.   They shine.  They attract.  They make you feel important.  They lavish attention on you.  And the one that got me the most - you are the only person who really understands them.  (You know, deep down inside behind the obnoxious prat they are in public...) 

Keep your eyes on the prize of being the best person you can be.  The right person for you will want to support you in that goal...and not have to compete with that weird crush you have on your dad. 

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Homeschooling Badly: Maxwell's "I Just Want To Be A Mommy"

Thanks to the wild 'n crazy cold that's working its way through our family right now I haven't had time to transcribe more of Jasmine (Baucham) Holmes' book "Joyfully at Home".   Instead, I picked an article from my favorite rabbit hole of lost time: the articles section of the Titus 2 website.  Back in 2003, Teri Maxwell wrote an article meant to encourage home schooling moms who were thinking about quitting. 

As I was reading that article, I wondered about paradox of feelings in CP/QF belief.  In the article, Teri Maxwell describes a relationship with a Christian mentor she worked with during the first year Teri homeschooled.   As the unnamed lady and Maxwell met, the two women gained a lot of spiritual insight and the mentor decided that she wanted to homeschool her kids, too.   In describing her decision - which Maxwell calls 'justifying' - the other mother explained that she simply wanted to be her kids mother and not their teacher as well.   Interestingly, Teri Maxwell's emotional response to the woman's decision was an overwhelming desire to place her three children back in school so that she could be a mother to her kids and not their teacher.   In standard form, Teri Maxwell ignored her feelings and decided to continue homeschooling.

Personally, I get a feeling of impending doom at the idea of homeschooling my son - and I take my feelings seriously.   Teri Maxwell's feelings on hearing that a friend had placed her kids back in school weren't a single moment of nerves in an otherwise happy home schooling environment.  Teri Maxwell has been open about discussing her painful postpartum depression that she was struggling with when she started homeschooling her kids.  She's described being routinely angry and frustrated by the behavior issues of her two sons when they started homeschooling.   In all of her writings about homeschooling, there are precious few stories that involve positive feelings while she is actively teaching her kids.    None of these feelings means Teri Maxwell is an incompetent mother; it just means she's not a natural teacher of her own kids.   And guess what?  Very few people are!  Even professional teachers strive to keep their own offspring out of their classroom because being a parent-teacher can add all sorts of chaos to a functional classroom.

The next section struck me as both a fantasy and a form of shaming on women who send their kids to school:

In my mind, I pictured my friend’s children coming home from school in the afternoon. She would have spent the day in personal Bible study, prayer, exercise, housecleaning, reading, ministry, sewing, and cookie baking. As the children bounced in the door, they would be met by a beautiful, smiling mommy. I was sure she would have taken a long shower and blown her hair dry too. The children would smell the freshly baked cookies and scramble for a seat at the table. There they would happily discuss the excitement of their day in school. Finally, they would head outside to play while my friend started supper in peace and quiet. I just want to be a mommy too!

Let's discuss opportunity costs for a second.  CP/QF leaders and mommy bloggers seem ignorant of the idea that by making one decision a person accrues costs by losing opportunities that would come from other choices.   Homeschooling advocates rarely look at the full spectrum of opportunity costs.  First, the homeschooling mother loses a chance at having a different career.  The severity of that cost varies a lot depending on the educational and vocational skills of the mother, clearly, but all homeschooling mothers are choosing to teach without pay for a full-time job. 

Second, the children in the family lose the benefits of having professionally trained teachers in funded school systems.  Yes, some professional teachers suck.  Yes, all school systems are underfunded.  Even with those caveats, the likelihood that one parent can bring together enough educational resources to provide an equivalent education to the local public school system or local private/parochial schools is slim.  Replacing the number of potential business and romantic contacts that the average student gains through enrollment in traditional schools is hard as well. 

Third, a parent who wants to homeschool in a way that differentiates curriculum for their kids, protects the student from non-approved ideas, and has a large family quickly finds that homeschooling eats up all available time.  I think that's part of what Mrs. Maxwell was responding to in her glorious dream of a SAHM who has time for extras like exercise, sewing, cooking and ministry!

Finally, how does homeschooling - especially CP/QF homeschooling combined with extreme sheltering - fit within the larger purview of Christian ministry?  I've known many women who worked in low-paid or volunteer ministry jobs for years once their children were school-aged - and they were the rocks on which wonderful programs were built!  Some of them worked as personal aides for students with disabilities that were severe enough that the students needed 1:1 supervision.  The patience and understanding of child behavior that these women gained in raising their families blessed other families who had kids who needed lots of support to learn.

What about the time we spend in homeschooling? Have I taken off my “mommy” hat and replaced it with a “teacher” one? I am taking the place of a teacher in a classroom in my children’s lives, but I am still “Mommy” in the fullest sense of the word. My mommy role as a teacher began from the first words I quietly whispered in each newborn baby’s tiny ear. Almost everything my children have learned in their young lives, this mommy has had a part in teaching them. Being an official teacher in our homeschool is simply an extension of this natural teaching relationship that exists between a mother and her child. Really and truly, I just want to be a mommy!

Yes...and no. 

Parents do teach their young children scads of important lessons about self-care and how to interact with other human beings.   Humans are born at such a helpless state - and with such plasticity on how to do things like gather food, communicate, and play - that the first five years of life (at least!) focus on teaching kids the very basics of staying alive.   That is a huge part of development in young children and a core piece of human education.

Having said that, modern education quickly ramps up into areas where humans don't have a strong instinctual basis.  Humans have instincts around learning to eat, learning to speak/communicate, and use tools.  Humans don't have a strong instinct around interpreting abstract symbols for words.  Humans have an instinctive understanding of number sense - but peters out for most people beyond addition and subtraction.  Humans love sharing stories - but we tend to miss the broader scope of history unless we are actively taught it.   Humans love to explore natural phenomena - but we are subject to some fascinating logical gaps that can lead us down strange ways.   Once humans move beyond the basic and universal skills that all people have a desire to acquire, more specialized educators begin to appear.

To be blunt, professional teachers would not exist if all people were naturally at similar levels of teaching skill.   There are people who are born teachers.  There are also people for whom teaching is nightmarish in spite of their best efforts.   Most teachers are made from a combination of some basic talent combined with lots of hard work.  My heart goes out to all the women who are homeschooling in spite of the fact that they lack the desire, skills and training to do so because they falsely believe Jesus requires it of them.   Hint: there are NO verses in the Gospel about the importance of home schooling - because even then the idea was surreal.  Yes, women taught their daughters how to prepare food and make textiles - but I suspect that girls learned skills from other women as well. Likewise, boys learned careers from their fathers - or the man they were apprenticed to.

I thought about what it meant to be a mommy teacher beyond simply teaching my children facts and figures. What teacher in a school loves their students like I love mine? What teacher’s main goal in life is to see their students grow up to love the Lord Jesus Christ with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength? What teacher is going to cuddle a sick student on the couch, tucking that student in with extra pillows and blankets, while loving and consoling him through his misery? Hey, I just want to be a mommy!

Um. Yeah.  No, you really don't have to worry that your kid's high school math teacher has set her primary goal for the year as "Have all the students saved according to Steven Maxwell's requirements by the end of the year."  I feel quite confident in that point.  I feel equally confident that teacher is capable of teaching high school math - and that is the reason I'm sending my kid to interact with them.

And sadly enough, I have consoled sick students through days that they just plain weren't feeling well.  Morning sickness and final exams always made for a few rough days for unlucky female students.  But - and I feel like this should be obvious to Ms. Maxwell - most kids stay home when they are sick to be coddled and nursed by their parents since that's a natural part of parenting and family life.  Dropping "caring for kids while dealing with the normal run of illnesses" into the middle of an essay on homeschooling worries me quite a bit.  On the other hand,  I'm starting to see how CP/QF homeschool bloggers can blithely switch out basic life skills for advanced academic content if they all share such muddy logic skills.