Indoctrination, Brainwashing vs Educating

Share this post via email


I don't get to talk with many Sonlight students in my job. I read your amazing blog posts, but I'm rather out of the loop when it comes to your kids. I've chatted with graduated Sonlighters only a few times.

The first I remember was a brother-sister duo who had used Sonlight for a year. "But it was sooo boring!" they told me. That didn't jibe with my experience, so I asked what they liked instead. "Oh, we're doing A Beka now." ...uh-huh. Interesting. It is nice that there are options out there to meet your needs if Sonlight is not a good fit for you. ...but boring? Really?

This week I got to give a high five to a guy who showed up at my house with a friend. He used Sonlight all the way up and seems to be doing great. (Not surprising. <smile>) We didn't get to chat about his experience, but it seemed like a positive one. I would have liked to know more.

But then this one guy, who used Sonlight off an on over the years, told me that he had been brainwashed by his parents. I disagreed. We ended up looking up the definition so we could have a common starting place: Indoctrination that forces people to abandon their beliefs.

"Wait a minute! This completely ignores what your parents push on you." He was irate.

"I don't want to discredit your experience," I told him. "I know you feel like stuff was pushed on you. But you weren't brainwashed. You chose to believe things very different from your parents. The education they gave you came from a certain slant, to be sure, but it didn't put you on a track from which you couldn't break free."

Homeschooling allows us to transfer, not impose, our values. You can communicate why you have certain beliefs. But no system guarantees your kids will accept them. Indeed, they may harbor a longstanding wound, feeling as if they've been brainwashed. Pushing ideas can push away.


Do I have any suggestions? Sure. But I don't know much about this as I had a great experience growing up and felt very free to challenge ideas, do research, and question stuff. Here are my two cents, but I'd love to hear yours, especially if you've had a child abandon core values you tried to impart to them.

  1. Ask questions. I really like what my New Testament professor did with Luke 2. Sometimes the most powerful ways to demonstrate why you believe what you believe is to first use the best arguments against your side. ...and only later provide the answers. Don't just give answers. Let your children wrestle with the difficulties and encourage them to weigh in.
  2. Be open about your own struggles. Does a particular doctrine, practice, passage, or emphasis rub you the wrong way? Did a troubling question nag at you for years? There are probably good times to bring these up, to let your children see that you've wrestled with things yourself. Even if you haven't figured it all out yet, letting them see your own journey can be a great way to encourage them in their own.
  3. Relax. A missionary recently quipped that she needs a tattoo on her forearm that says, "You are not the Holy Spirit!" I know I tend to get more pushy the more disinterested someone becomes. But this is likely the opposite of what I should do. Let God do His work. Let peace and grace and love be what you offer, not pressure.
  4. Pray. Once we've surrendered our lives -- and the lives of our family -- to God, we need to keep our focus on letting Him do His work. Aligning ourselves with Him and His will is a good practice to keep.

You are working to educate your children. You want to share things that matter to you. This is good. Don't let the lies creep in. Remain faithful. Act in love. And allow the loving-kindness of Christ draw your children to Him.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Pseudo-Dad

Share this post via email

Filter by
Post Page
Sort by

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.


  1. Pingback: Want Your Children to Reject Your Teaching? Do This | Sonlight Blog