Is it harmful to teach kids “first-time obedience”?

girl s white and gray crew neck top holding gray wire fence

In the fall of 2o15 I began reading blogs that confirmed an idea I had been formulating the previous few years:  that is, that some homeschooled kids were raised in “boxes;” homes with no freedom of choice and no freedom of religion. Next, I found Eleanor Skelton’s site – she was homeschooled, and the subtitle of her blog is, “a girl who was raised in a box”! (Well, it was in 2015.)

I also spent a lot of time reading the posts at Homeschoolers Anonymous. My heart went out to these dear people. 😦 I myself have completed 15 years of homeschooling, and I understand that I could have easily ended up with three bitter bloggers with horror stories like the ones we read at that site.

But I had discovered the grace of God in 2006/2007, and my life took a radical course in the direction of FREEDOM. So, in an effort to share the grace of God with home-school teens and graduates, in December of 2015 I created this Mom For Freedom website.

The liberty we Americans have to home-school our kids is extremely important, and I highly value and support the homeschooling movement.  I really enjoyed the 15 years I spent homeschooling my own three kids; I am so thankful for the close relationships that were produced!

Despite my love for home education, I do acknowledge that there are some huge problems out there. In some cases, the title of “homeschooler” is simply a front for abuse and control. That is a serious issue, and is not the subject of this article. Today, I am talking another big problem: “First-time obedience.”


Were you taught first-time obedience? To obey your parents immediately, cheerfully and thoroughly? Was your home filled with open-ended discussions with various viewpoints, or did your parents view you as a robot whom they would program into an exact replica of themselves?

If so, you may now be quite bitter. You may have given up on God.

If you did not get to know Him personally in your childhood, please do not give up on Him now. He does exist; He is good; He is a God of grace and mercy; He is actively pursuing you. He is calling out to you. He wants you to believe Him. He wants to give you His Spirit, His very life.

Seek after Him and you will discover that He is quite unlike your parents! Once you believe in the gospel and are born again by His Spirit, He has no expectations of you; He is more gracious than you can imagine. Once in a relationship with Him, your only job is to live a life of rest, peace, trust and freedom.

There is a reason why parents can be so hard on their kids:  it is because they believe God is hard on them; they are living under the curse and the weight of legalism and that pressure to be perfect spills over onto their kids.

When I was ‘under the law’ I was pretty hard on my kids at times. I used to get furious when they messed up, acted sinful and made me look bad.  For ten years I tried to mold thme into obedient little Christians just like their mother. Problems ensued. What I once saw as my stellar obedience to God, I began to see as vanity. I was forced to give up. Jesus was right there waiting for me.

This is what bothers me . . . all three of my children accepted the Lord around age six . . . but, was that a real conversion? No; I don’t think so. So when we talk about the large number of Christian kids who are “leaving the faith,” well, what if they were never truly part of the faith to begin with?

What do you think? When you got saved at age five or six, was that real for you? Maybe it was, and if you were truly saved, that’s awesome. But perhaps it was not real. Perhaps you were just going along with the family culture in an effort to be an obedient, good little child. Perhaps the good news remains hidden to you? Have you ever truly believed in the gospel?

Christian parents teach their kids to obey them. Homeschooling parents teach obedience as a school subject! We buy “character building” curricula to teach our kids to obey “immediately and cheerfully.”

Is it any wonder that our six-year-olds accept Jesus at our urging?

“Oh, Johnny! Jesus wants to save you from hell; you just need to accept Him and believe in the gospel. Will you accept Jesus?”

“Yes, Mommy.”

“Praise God! You got saved, Johnny!”

Johnny was taught “first-time obedience.”

Johnny has needs; he needs to be accepted by his parents, for one. His strong need for acceptance causes him to act the part for the next 10 or 12 years . . . but when he is old enough to think for himself, will he discover that he doesn’t know the Lord Jesus personally? How many homeschool graduates do you know who have turned to drugs, to atheism, to the homosexual community, to ANY community that will accept them!?

However, the worst outcome happens when the homeschool graduate remains religious. They like the lifestyle presented by their church; they fit in there. They are now confirmed legalists, who may or may not actually be born again believers – new creatures in Christ. They will be the most difficult to reach, but I want to try and help them too.

March 28, 2016

Note: Eleanor Skelton’s site no longer has the subtitle “A girl who was raised in a box,” but she does have a link to her “Unboxing Project.” (December 2021)

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