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Interview with the Botkin Sisters: Part 2

Q: Where did you get all your ideas about the role of daughters? What groups did you grow up around? Were you raised in a particular group of conservative homeschoolers?

A: Some Americans presume that we grew up in a very conservative, sheltered, homeschooling crowd, and were never confronted with people who believed differently than we. Actually, the opposite is true. Until two years ago, all our friends, save one, had been college girls or were/had been in the military. From the time we were little girls, many young women like these new Christians have loved coming to our home to learn from our parents. The girls we spent the most time with while writing our book were Christian girls from non-homeschooling, often non-Christian backgrounds, sometimes abusive backgrounds. Since our father has ministered to so many different kinds of people – Muslims, political leaders, college kids, military veterans, television and film professionals, journalists, non-Christian public school kids, businessmen, missionaries, refugees – these were the people we grew up around (though always supervised and overseen by our parents. We spent time with these people as a family). Until traveling to the States two years ago, one of the crowds we were most unfamiliar with was the conservative American homeschooling crowd.

We both spent our most formative years in New Zealand, an island paradise and spiritual wasteland. Militant feminism got a foothold in NZ at least a decade before it did in most Western nations, giving us a chilling picture of what America may look like in ten years. More clearly than any book, sermon, or lecture could have done, seeing feminism’s natural, devastating aftermath in a more developed stage revealed to us just how terrible are its ravages. It was obvious even to many of the secular pundits. Even many of the most liberal college girls were disgusted with the feminist “utopia” they had inherited — particularly by the men it produced. We heard “Where have all the men gone?” everywhere we went. Women had long ago charged forward to seize the authority they were not meant to bear, and led in the churches, the government, the workplace, and the family. The result was a society of families in shambles.

This is the world we grew up in, and these were the people that we ministered to. We were never able to rely on homeschooling support, like-minded friends, or ministries to help us develop our convictions. The principle of being directed by Scripture alone was something our parents had always made important to us; our circumstances made it essential. We had nothing but Scripture to tell us how to live (the foreign culture around us, to which we had no loyalties or inundation, didn’t attract us at all), and as we both approached our “graduating” years, we plunged into our personal studies of the role of daughters in earnest. Our sense of urgency to find the real answers, and share our findings, was largely fueled by our hundreds of hours of serious conversations with both college students and college faculty, both on and off campus. We became intimately familiar with the litany of issues and crises that affected girls in NZ, Australia, Britain, Europe, Asia, South Africa, and America.

We realize that “experience” is not a pre-requisite to being able to read, understand, and exposit the Word of God, but this background, coupled with the benefit of having two extremely wise parents who’ve been around the block and have the stories to prove it, helped us cement our thinking.

And after we were established in our convictions and well into our book, we were astonished to find that there were people on the other side of the world who had come to many of the same conclusions, long before we did. Guess they must have been reading from the same Bible…

If you have a question you’d like to add to the list of questions we’ll be answering, please send it to damsels (AT) visionarydaughters (DOT) com.

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Interview with the Botkin Sisters

Stacy McDonald, co-author of Passionate Housewives Desperate for God, recently conducted an interview with us about our book, So Much More, soliciting questions from women all over the blogosphere. We are pleased to be able to post the first Q&As from the interview now: it can also be read on her blog, www.yoursacredcalling.blogspot.com.

Stacy: You were very young when you wrote this book. Do you have any regrets about anything you said? Have you changed your mind on anything?

Botkin Sisters:
In the two years since So Much More was published, we have had countless emails and numerous conversations with girls all over the world. Though the majority of the response to SMM has been overwhelmingly positive, we have also been berated; we’ve been misrepresented; we’ve been challenged; we’ve been sharpened. During these past years of intense study and travel, we have become very familiar with a litany of positions, misunderstandings, and misinterpretations of Scripture concerning the role of daughters.

Our positions have not changed. They have been strengthened. Now, at ages 22 and 20, we believe more firmly than ever in the positions we took as teenage girls. However, we understand more fully the need to be very, very careful in introducing potentially explosive concepts, ensuring that our wording is theologically precise and unmistakably clear.

Our few regrets about the content in So Much More pertain to weaknesses in wording and our abilities as writers, which we are determined to improve by God’s grace and for His glory.

After almost seven years in New Zealand, we were a bit out of the loop on how some words had become loaded (e.g. patriarchy, headship) and many ideas had taken on negative connotations, and we neglected to use the additional definitions and qualifiers that may have been necessary.

So Much More, like its authors, has flaws. But God has used it in the lives of more young women than we had ever imagined, and we continue to get beautiful testimonies of repentance and renewal, of transformed lives and families. In spite of its failings, we are thankful we went to press with it when we did. Even if the book were perfect, there will always be critics who willfully misunderstand what is written and others who criticize the content without reading it.

Stacy: To some degree, I bet we can all relate to what you’ve said here. I know I’ve said and written things I wish I would have worded a bit differently. Sometimes we don’t realize how someone is going to take something we’ve said until after we’ve said it. It’s all part of the art of good communication, which takes time to master; and which also brings us to our next question.

Q. Are you, as teenage girls, setting yourselves up as teachers of parents?

Botkin Sisters: Not at all. We recognize that we are unqualified to teach those who are in a later season of life than we. Our intention was never to instruct fathers or mothers, husbands or wives, but only single young women in the same stage of life that we find ourselves. We wanted to encourage unmarried young women everywhere to honor their parents and live each day in a way that glorifies God, serves others, and advances the Kingdom.

We have tried to be very careful to not direct any of our teaching to fathers or mothers. When asked by parents for parenting advice, we either direct them to our parents, or address our advice to their daughters instead, for the parents to pass along if appropriate. In our book, we even included in the appendices an interview we conducted with our father, so that any instruction that might be helpful to parents would be coming from him, and not us.

Stacy: Are you ever concerned that by being at home you are potentially missing out on “opportunities” or other “good experiences?”

Botkin Sisters: Not a chance! Now, we should probably state that we did not choose this life based on the “experiences” and “opportunities” it would offer us. It’s bad epistemology to build our orthopraxy (the practical application of our orthodoxy) on the foundation of pragmatism. We must base our decisions on the patterns, principles and precepts we see in Scripture, rather than on how much “fun” or “self-enrichment” they will afford.

That said… no, we never feel like we’re missing out on anything that God wants for us. We have had many other opportunities offered us, but we have foregone them for better things. The way the Lord has blessed our family, and has brought us incredible opportunities to serve Him, leaves us no time to lament that we are not professional concert harpists (for example.) The experiences we are living now fill our lives to overflowing. Our cup runneth over.

Stacy: How did you learn to write? What general methods, philosophy, or curricula did your parents use to teach you the art of writing?

Botkin Sisters: Well… we are by no means great writers. Our medium has always been less important to us than our message. The main thing our parents did was encourage us to have something to say. Teaching us how to think was much more important to them than teaching us how to diagram sentences. Even though our mother did teach us the mechanics of writing, it didn’t make much sense to us until we had something we passionately wanted to say, and knew the importance of saying it well.

They didn’t use a curriculum, but here are a few things our parents did to help us develop our writing skills:

· They both speak very well. They are conscientious about what they say and the way they say it (and are both always working on improving their grammar.)

· Our mother read to us a couple of hours each day when we were little, and our father always read aloud to us at the dinner table – Scripture, and also other books, articles, letters, news items, etc.

· They encouraged us to read extensively from the best writers.

· They taught us to recognize and appreciate what makes some writing good, and some poor.

· They had us practice. Each day we would synopsize what we had read in our history, theology, science or literature reading (which had the added purpose of forcing us to pay attention, understand, process, and remember what we learned in our reading).

· They are both excellent and ruthless editors. Thanks to the high standards they held us to, we rewrote So Much More over nine times.

Incidentally, neither of us ever wanted to be writers, or, for that matter, filmmakers. We only wrote our book because we saw that there was a need for it. After it was published, we saw a need for a documentary, so our family created “The Return of the Daughters.” Both projects had the blessing of our father.

Stacy: There was a rumor circulating that your book says that girls who go to college are harlots. Did you say this or is this what you believe?

Botkin Sisters: Of course not and of course not. We are astonished that anyone would circulate such a false and destructive accusation. No, we do not believe that Scripture teaches that a woman who goes to college is a harlot. To read what we actually said and what we actually believe, click here, where we have posted our answer to this rumor in full.

Stacy: Will your own homemaking, when the time comes that you marry, be less exciting and stimulating to you than your present life? Is the life that you’re living now really going to prepare you for the roles of wife and mother?

Botkin Sisters: Those who know us only by our public appearances see only a tiny part of our life, and can’t know how much we enjoy doing the “unglamorous” work that makes a family thrive. We have laundry to wash, hungry people to feed, floors to mop, families to reach out to through hospitality, and men in the family who can always use an organizer, stenographer, editor, or someone to iron their shirts. This is our real life, and we prefer it. A few times a year we have opportunity to, in a sense, reap the harvest we have sown by writing, and it often involves going public, but to us it’s just another privilege of service, like taking a meal to a needy family. We and our parents believe this is the kind of life that will best prepare us for marriage to any kind of man.

Certainly, in several ways marriage will still be a transition, but that’s exactly what we’ve been trained to deal with. Our life has been a roller coaster of transitions from one season to another. Our parents wanted to give us an education that would prepare us for any position of service in the real world, and our life experiences have ranged from composing an orchestral score for a WWII documentary to milking cows in the mud. We don’t really see some tasks as more “glamorous” than others. All work is noble, and with the right attitude, all work is fun. We look forward to the season of morning sickness and changing diapers, as another avenue of service to God.

Our mother’s example, and the example of the Proverbs 31 woman, teaches that being an excellent helpmeet, mother, and homemaker requires training and expertise in countless different fields. Our mother excels in all the arts of homemaking, but she is so much more than a housekeeper. In order to be a real helpmeet to her husband, she needed to be ready for anything he would need her to do to help him govern their estate and disciple the nations. The Proverbs 31 woman is the model example of a woman whose activities were much broader than housekeeping – she did many works from home that praised her in the gates, in addition to keeping the house and training her children. This is the balance we are trying to strike now, to prepare us for our future roles, Lord willing, as helpmeets.

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Interview with the Botkin sisters

Stacy McDonald, author of Raising Maidens of Virtue, will be conducting an interview with us in a few weeks, and is soliciting suggestions for questions from her readers.

From her blog, “Your Sacred Calling”:

Several weeks from now, I will be interviewing the Botkin sisters; and in a way, so will you! Starting today, I’m inviting my readers to send in their questions regarding the Botkins’ book, So Much More. In addition, if you have questions regarding the everyday lives or beliefs of Anna Sofia or Elizabeth, this is your time to ask them!

All questions should be sent to me at Botkin Interview Questions by October 23rd. Please note, questions will be compiled, integrated, and edited as needed for space and brevity. Please keep your questions direct, brief, and gracious. Questions will not be accepted during or after the interview. Please send your questions on or before the aforementioned date.

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