Blog Archives

Movie Monday: Captain Fantastic

Affiliate Advertising Disclosure

I waited a long time to watch this movie and I really, really wanted to like it. I thought initially it was about a father homeschooling his children (and to some degree it is) and I very much support homeschooling. These days, I think as polytheists, if it’s at all possible given one’s family circumstances, to do anything other than homeschooling one’s children is unfortunate. Turning children over to public schools is turning them over for indoctrination into a modern, secular culture that is actively hostile to religion, to the development of virtue (in the classical sense), to common sense, not to mention just terrible from an educational perspective.

More and more families of all class, racial, and religious backgrounds are choosing to homeschool – and were well before Covid. I recently learned that the biggest reason people homeschool isn’t actually either of those things (Covid or religion), surprisingly, but rather because of bullying in schools (that, I might add, is rarely dealt with effectively by administrators). There are two main worries I hear constantly about homeschooling, that as an educator myself, I want to put to rest and then I’ll get into the movie. The first is that it’s more difficult for homeschooled children to get into college. That actually is not true at all and I work with several successful Phds who were homeschooled right up to their first year of undergrad. They took the SATs, the GREs and had no problem at all. Statistically, homeschooled children tend to score higher than average on these tests. The second concern is socialization. One does have to take care to provide opportunities for socialization for one’s child when homeschooling but there are homeschooling leagues and afterschool programs, hobbies, and activities (just like with any other regularly schooled child), and like anything else, it takes proper time and care. For those wanting more information, here is a link to the HSLDA, which gives state by state guidelines on homeschooling and requirements. Now, onto the movie.

So, this movie starts with a father and a passel of children (I think six – a lot). For the first half of the movie, I loved 90% of how he was raising them. They learned survival skills, self-reliance, languages, math, science, music, literature all at very high levels (at one point, we learn his kids speak six languages fluently)—his eldest son gets into like half a dozen ivy league colleges. The parents taught them how to hunt, live off the land, fight hand to hand and with weapons, and plan strategically. They lived well away from civilization. They also lived well off the grid and sans social media. There is a wholesomeness to their lifestyle. The father even did a sort of initiation rite into adulthood when the eldest boy killed his first deer (with a knife). At one point, he gifted all his children with weapons. It was beautiful and absolutely how I think children in a proper community should, in part, be raised.

As the movie progresses though, we see the downside. They aren’t as disciplined as they should be and freely argue with their father far more than I find appropriate. They’re being raised without religion, (and in fact, the father at least articulates opinions that are openly hostile to religion,) which I personally consider a step away from abuse. They’re being raised in a way that allows the children to explore Marxism and communism (though at least the father points out that genocide is as likely to happen under communism as under any other system. Historically, we know under communism genocide is even MORE likely). Most concerning of all, they aren’t socialized and we really see that as the movie progresses with the eldest son and especially with the father’s response to learning the son has applied to college. We also see the Buddhist wife’s Christian parents violating her wishes and behaving in ways that would have had me personally sending the one of them to the ICU. This is not an easy film to watch.

I won’t give away too much of the plot. I will say that I was sick, physically sick at the end of the movie because it ends with the father betraying his children by sending them to school. It angered and sickened me. My husband pointed out that it really highlights how necessary it is to have a focused, committed community when raising healthy children, that a single parent can’t do it all him or herself and that once the mother was no longer in the picture, the family’s way of raising the children wasn’t sustainable. I can see that but I disagree. I think the father caved. I think there were plenty of other ways to engage with the world and socialize his children than subjecting them to what is inevitably a subpar education. I don’t think one should compromise on the quality of education for one’s children, and it seemed by the end of the movie that the two youngest weren’t going to receive the type of focused life and survival training of which the eldest four had benefit and it made me nearly vomit. The public-school system in this country is designed to create mediocrity, not nurture excellence. It’s a travesty. The viewer is given a clear comparison of the more or less healthy (minus the points I noted above) way the father is raising his kids versus a typical American middle class upbringing when the six homeschooled children encounter their two soft, “normal” (and poorly educated and shallowly brought up) cousins. The contrast is really quite something to see:

Obviously, I have strong feelings about this movie. It evoked quite a bit of conversation in our home. I will say that the comments on homeschooling made in the movie are not accurate, at least not in the states in which I have lived and I encourage people who are interested to do their own research.

Defending Courage

Two weeks ago as I was driving home, I saw something seemingly innocuous but in reality very disturbing that has stuck with me since. I wasn’t going to write about it but I can’t get it out of my mind and I think it highlights something important in what we’re teaching our kids. Let me first describe what I saw and then I’ll tell you why it so disturbs and even angers me.

I live about a quarter mile from an elementary school. Driving home as parents were picking up their children, I saw two kids, at most maybe five years old, one boy and one girl playing on what passes for monkey bars these days. An anxious father was there holding his arms out under the girl in case she should fall. That’s all and I can’t stop thinking about it.

He’s teaching his daughter to limit her world, to be afraid. He’s teaching her that she can’t get hurt and get up again and conquer. He’s teaching her to not be bold or curious or adventurous, not to push herself to her limits and beyond. He’s teaching her that she needs a man to rely upon in scary situations, that she can’t problem solve, and he’s teaching that boy that the girl is so much more important, that he is expendable in relation to his sister (and if you don’t think that message has a part to play in man on woman violence, think again).

Years ago I read a psych article that posited that by age five a child has learned whether the world is a good place, or whether it is a scary and dangerous place and that whatever message they have internalized is almost impossible to fully unlearn later. The message the father was sending his children is clear and I understand a parent wanting to protect a child from hurt but as hard as it is sometimes those children need to be allowed to fall.

It is not a gift to a child to teach them that their world needs to be limited by fear, that they cannot cope, that stumbling or hurt or injury is the end of the world, a catastrophe from which they cannot possibly hope to have the internal resources to overcome. We do them no favors by instilling not just caution (which would be sensible) but anxiety, fear, and dependence.

Fear should not be what defines a girl or a woman. Fear should not be what defines any human being.

The past two months, I’ve read at least half a dozen articles of parents who had child protective services called because they let their children play unsupervised in their own back yards, let them walk home alone from a local park close to their home, and so on and so forth. Barely a week goes by where I don’t read something similar, parents harassed because they are raising independent children.

The result of this helicopter parenting? We have children who need trigger warnings whenever they encounter an idea with which they disagree. We’re harming our children by stifling and over-protecting them. We’re raising children who lack emotional resiliency (sooner or later we all fail, we all get hurt, we are all confronted by ideas that offend us, we all have to learn to pick up the pieces and get on with things without being utterly crushed when life doesn’t go our way). We’re raising children who can’t handle differing opinions and ideas sanely. We’re raising children who lack the baseline ability to thrive in a diverse and often divisive world. We’re raising children who will be crushed by life. That’s what I fear the most: that in wanting to protect our kids from everything that might ever hurt them (I get that. I don’t have kids but I have a god daughter whom I love dearly, and a pacel of nieces and nephews and I would give my right arm to spare them pain, but when I pray for them, I pray that they be given only the amount of suffering needed to make them capable and compassionate human beings) we are in reality crippling them.