Consider the spider who spins a web and yet begins with no thread. My friend, Margaret, told me that a long time ago. I’ve considered it many times. I’ve considered other sorts of webs through the years, too. Webs of good intentions. Webs of ignorance. Webs of deceit. Webs of understanding. Webs of desires. Webs of guilt. All sorts of webs in our lives… these are the webs that connect good things and blessings to other blessings, lessons learned, desires realized, etc., etc. But there are also a lot of tangled webs that only eternity can sort out. ATI/IBLP is probably one such web.
What’s to follow is sort of a synopsis of some aspects of our ATI days. Man was it a sticky mess sometimes. Problem with good things is that they are so often a substitute for best things—good things are so often the enemy of best things —– we see the good things and grab onto them, not taking the time to fully weigh them to see if they are best things. So we settle for good things… thinking they are best things. This analogy breaks down, of course, but thinking in analogies is one of the good things in the tangled web of ATI/IBLP [Advanced Training Institute / Institute in Basic Life Principles]. Thinking in analogies (life situations seen in light of Scripture) was a valuable life lesson for us and a critical thinking method or understanding we needed to learn to implement in our lives. Sincerely, there were many valuable lessons and benefits for our lives personally and for our family as a whole. This blog entry gives the mix of ’em.
When we were planing to attend the ATI conference in Knoxville, Tennessee and a few people asked us, what about the facial hair? What the heck? Facial hair? What do you mean? You’re not allowed to have facial hair in ATI. I can’t remember what my mustached husband’s reaction was, but it was probably something like, so send me home. Or something like that.
So we got there. And upon filling out the student application form for our son, we stumbled over different questions and statements. What the heck? Boys must this…? girls must this…? wait, what? Long, soft curls? I’m thinking, well, this is a strange thing. What happens if you’re not able to grow long hair and/or have soft curls. A curious mix of what I believe about hair and this
requirement suggestion. There were all sort of things on that student leader in training application—I sincerely cannot recall what they are today, but at the time we noted the odd questions.
We enjoyed our time together… additionally, we received valuable instruction. While I was already using a pretty good day-planner method, I received many tips and suggestions for ordering my days, family’s schedules and meal planning. Couldn’t go for the “playpen in a purse” method of blanket training babies, but I did glean some valuable training on helping young children learn to do their chores. This is also where we first learned of the cool teaching method of making Lap Books for different subjects and Scripture memory helps — in addition to hearing Ray Comfort and a few others who’ve proven to be reliable teachers. Many of the teaching tools are ones we would keep utilizing long after the ATI materials were added to landfills. We were accustomed to dumping things in landfills… you know, most all of our hundreds and hundreds of record albums, tapes and CD’s were dumped one day after an extended music fast. But that’s a story for another day.
Then there was that dream fulfilled of seeing our boy sing in the homeschool choir. I didn’t know what a high place that was for me… the sight of all the bright and smiling faces, hearing the beautiful music and seeing right before my eyes, youth who didn’t *seem* to be concerned with worldly things. Only later would I recognize this potential red flag concerning outward appearances masking inward hurt, rejection or rebellion. All I could comprehend at that time was the breathtakingly beautiful voices and attractive students. I’m still Polyanna-ish about this one sometimes. It really was beautiful to me… but at the time I didn’t know what was going on behind the scenes. I’m glad.
We worked on our Wisdom Books (the numbered homeschool materials/books that each family received, one for each child, covering a myriad of subjects all centered around a specific theme based on the Sermon on the Mount) faithfully each day. We’d get “wrong answers” which were puzzling to us sometimes. Again, I hoped to one day gain enough wisdom and spiritual maturity to understand the questions and get their answers. After awhile, my husband began to say—I believe this other answer is the better one, so, you may mark your answers accordingly, even though “they” say it’s incorrect. At first it felt like we were sneaking around the institute’s rules… but, Ah, our first taste of freedom (though it would be a few more years before we dropped the program entirely).
Regarding the “academic” portion of ATI (not all things ATI were academic), we truly did see the wisdom in the method of tying all the subject matter together around the basic theme or word from the verses contained in the Sermon on the Mount—that aspect (but not the specific material) is something I very much miss today. It’s what made us interested in the program in the first place — thinking it was just a homeschool curriculum instead of a new way of life. But as we studied, and sifted through all the different aspects that were ATI, the lifting and twisting of Scriptures became intolerable — unbearable, really, bcz we so highly value the preserved Word of God and the bizarre or conveniently rearranged Scripture was painful to endure. I can’t even go into the giant 3 volume Character Sketches. While we can glean from animals/nature (Consider the ant, thou sluggard…), to attribute reasoning/motive/character qualities or wisdom to animals/nature… bleck.
We developed the suggested activity of having daily family Bible study every morning — a practice we’ve kept to this day. We called it Wisdom Searches in those days. We do not call it that today.
We didn’t finish all the allotted books each year. We never went back for the annual pilgrimage to Knoxville. We still paid $675. for the privilege to be in ATI. And for the newsletter. Eventually we qualified for our next box of Wisdom Booklets. We never made it to completing WB 49. Another high-place.
Only one of our children went to headquarters and to the Oklahoma Training Center. While he was there, strange contradictions began to spell the beginning of the end—-though his invaluable education seemed to outweigh the questions we had at the time. We began to see the attention to outward appearance (trainees wore specific clothing *if* they were going to be seen by parents/others who might be visiting the training center), they could not go to the mall — but on occasion they were sent to the mall so that visitors could tour the facility. I know this all sounds so petty today… but I share it simply to say, it took little things like this to open our eyes to the duplicity…
The end-end came after the last Seattle seminar… when none of it made sense anymore…