2. Homeschooling and the Search for the ‘Perfect’ Curriculum

The small fellowship my husband and I were part of, in addition to espousing Young Earth Creationism (YEC), also strongly favoured homeschooling.  I had never heard of anyone doing homeschooling in modern times.  I thought it was something of the past – pictures of rich English children sitting at a table being taught by a tutor, that sort of thing.  Or, country chidren sitting around a kitchen table being taught by Mother.  Certainly, in this day and age with schools within close proximity homeschooling was, well…strange?

As my oldest turned 3, I began tentatively researching homeschooling.  A friend from church told me about the curriculum she was using and that she could help me order the worktexts and that I could borrow her Teacher’s Guides.  And so, in 2000, we began our first year of homeschooling.

The curriculum was not a good fit.  I ended up ditching the Teacher’s Guide and just winging it.  If my son wanted to do five pages instead of the scheduled three, I let him.  If he found listening to stories featuring talking animals boring, I skipped it.  (Honestly, I found some of those stories rather contrived and moral-driven.)  At the end of that year, I decided that while I liked the idea of homeschooling very  much, I could not continue with the same curriculum.  I had to look for something else.

The internet was still fairly new to me at the time, but one day I decided to give it a try.  I typed in “homeschool” into the search field (“I’m feeling lucky!”), and was overwhelmed when it  came up with over a million hits!  After a bit of searching, I found Sonlight Curriculum.  I was immediately impressed with its position that homeschooling was not for every child, and that it may not even be right throughout a child’s education, ie, it may be right for one season, and not for another.  They were also very comfortable with the fact their curriculum was not going to suit everybody. After reading several homeschool curriculum websites that basically said that if one were a Christian, then the only right thing to do was to homeschool and that one ‘had to’ use  a Christian curriculum (and implying that theirs was the best), this was a total breath of fresh air.  Who were these people at Sonlight?

It turns out that Sonlight is a Christian homeschooling company that aims to provide education through good literature.  I won’t talk too much about it here, but rather, I will let Sonlight speak for itself.  Below are some of the Reasons Families Love Sonlight:

7. Sonlight helps your children gain a balanced perspective on controversial issues.

8. Sonlight gives your children a broad and godly view of the world.

11. Sonlight trains students to listen to differing points of view with gracious humility.

The reasons above really resonated with me.  As I read through the reasons for buying Sonlight, I kept thinking, “Yes!  This is what I want!”

Now at this time, I was still very much leaning towards the Young Earth camp.  The Science books that Sonlight provided were mostly from Usborne publishers, which are secular, but it was mostly straight science with little mention of ‘millions of years’ or evolution.  The little mention that was contained in the science books and the history books were not scheduled to be read, so that was okay.  Sonlight felt that the information contained in the books was good, solid information and therefore worthy to be read.  Also, the idea of homeschooling was so that our children could be exposed to ‘different’ ideas and that we could be there to explain to them, “This is what some people believe.”

One thing that intrigued me greatly, however, was that John Holzmann (the founder of Sonlight Curriculum) wrote an article which was added to the Science K Instructor’s Guide Notes: Young-Earth Creationism, Old-Earth Creationism, and Biblical History: When Did It Occur? He started with the usual premise that one would expect from a Christian writer, ie, that the Bible is the final authority.  But how one interprets the Bible is important, especially when confronted with physical evidence.  I skimmed to the conclusion (it was a very long article!) and I will admit to being dismayed to see that he said that he was willing to be identified as someone who believed in an old earth.  This feeling of dismay is what being exposed to and convinced of YECism does. I am not the only one to have been dismayed by his article.  Many people on the Sonlight forums wanted to know exactly where Sonlight stood on the Young-Earth/Old-Earth debate.

YECists tell its adherents that anything that does not accept a young earth model (less than 10,000 years) is just plain wrong and anti-Biblical to boot.  Yes, that’s right.  Those scientists have it all wrong.  Instead of looking at the Bible and making the the world fit what it says, Science, so goes the argument, ignores the Bible and makes the world fit what it wants to say.  Ultimately, anything that is not YEC is seen as elevating man’s wisdom above God’s.  There is no room for a dissenting opinion.

<< 1. My Introduction to YECism| Creation/Evolution Page | 3. Instilling Fear >>
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Posted on Wednesday, April 7th, 2010, in Church, Creation vs Evolution, Education, Home Schooling, Religion, Young Earth Creationism and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. This article being about homeschooling nearly caused me to skip it, but I’m glad I didn’t.

    “This feeling of dismay is what being exposed to and convinced of YECism does.”

    Huh? How on Earth is this confined to YEC (as is the clear implication)? Are you saying that the evolutionist teachers who are finding students questioning evolution more and more are not dismayed? If they are not dismayed, it’s only because that’s not a strong enough word for their feelings.

    “YECists tell its adherents that anything that does not accept a young earth model (less than 10,000 years) is just plain wrong and anti-Biblical to boot. Yes, that’s right.”

    You say this as though it’s self-evidently false. But why?

    “Instead of looking at the Bible and making the the world fit what it says, Science, so goes the argument, ignores the Bible and makes the world fit what it wants to say.”

    No, that’s not the argument. First, the argument makes a clear distinction between /operational/ or /empirical/ science, and /historical/ science. Most of the things we think of as science (modern medicines, chemical analysis, modern technology, putting men on the moon, etc.) are the former. It is only some of the latter that is disputed by biblical creationists (YECs).

    Second, it is not science per se that ignores the Bible, but the /scientists/ many of whom are atheists, or else have been convinced that the Bible should be ignored when conducting historical science. Take for example Richard Lewontin (http://creation.com/amazing-admission-lewontin-quote) or Todd Scott (http://creation.com/a-designer-is-unscientificeven-if-all-the-evidence-supports-one). I have /repeatedly/ been told by evolutionists that science /must/ ignore the Bible.

    “There is no room for a dissenting opinion.”
    Oh, please. Tell me, in government schools, are both views taught, or just evolution? Just evolution, of course. Dissenting /evidence/, let alone opinions, are not allowed. In evangelical Christian schools, are both views taught, or just creation? Both views. So which side is it that’s actually not allowing dissenting opinions?

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  2. ‘I have /repeatedly/ been told by evolutionists that science /must/ ignore the Bible.’

    Mainstream scientists ignore the Bible in the same way that they ignore the Qur’an, the Hindu Scriptures, the Buddhist Scriptures, and other religious and cultural myths and folklore. You don’t begrudge scientists for ignoring those writings when carrying out their work, do you?

    ‘Tell me, in government schools, are both views taught, or just evolution? Just evolution, of course. Dissenting /evidence/, let alone opinions, are not allowed. In evangelical Christian schools, are both views taught, or just creation? Both views. So which side is it that’s actually not allowing dissenting opinions?’

    If the govt school has RE, then the children will be taught the Creation Story, yes?

    Also, teaching ‘both views’ seems somewhat narrow-minded considering that there are more than two views. Does Creation mean YEC only? OEC as well? ID? TE?

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  3. “Mainstream scientists ignore the Bible…”

    So if you agree, why did you say that “Science, so goes the argument, ignores the Bible…” as though that claim was incorrect?

    “You don’t begrudge scientists for ignoring those writings when carrying out their work, do you?”

    Of course not. They are books of false religions and cannot be relied on for accurate information. As Christians, we believe the Bible to be true, and therefore the same doesn’t apply. (And, of course, the Bible’s reliability can also be demonstrated by comparing it to other historical sources and archaeological sources.)

    “If the govt school has RE, then the children will be taught the Creation Story, yes?”

    No, they won’t be taught the scientific evidence and arguments for creation, like the supposed scientific evidence and arguments for evolution are taught. Secondly, teaching one in (etc.) classes and the other in RE is hardly the same thing.

    “Also, teaching ‘both views’ seems somewhat narrow-minded considering that there are more than two views. Does Creation mean YEC only? OEC as well? ID? TE?”

    What are you suggesting? That because some people claim that there are more than two views that therefore only one—the one favoured by atheists—should be taught? In any case, the others are merely variations and/or combinations of the two main ones. And, I’m talking about teaching the scientific claims/arguments/evidence. How are the scientific claims of Theistic evolution different to materialistic evolution? ID is not, in this sense, a separate view. ID is essentially the design argument, which creationists have long used. So it would be covered by teaching creation.

    In any case, this argument is a red herring, allowing you to sidestep my point that it is the evolutionists rather than the creationists who don’t allow dissenting opinions.

    I’ll say that again. Not only is it the evolutionists who won’t allow dissenting opinion in government schools, there have been moves to not allow dissenting opinion (i.e. not allowing creationism to be taught) in /Christian/ schools! So again I ask, which side is it really that’s not allowing dissenting opinions? Which side should you /really/ be criticising?

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    • Philip,

      You said:
      ‘So if you agree, why did you say that “Science, so goes the argument, ignores the Bible…” as though that claim was incorrect?’

      Okay, here is the quote in context:
      YECists tell its adherents that anything that does not accept a young earth model (less than 10,000 years) is just plain wrong and anti-Biblical to boot. Yes, that’s right. Those scientists have it all wrong. Instead of looking at the Bible and making the the world fit what it says, Science, so goes the argument, ignores the Bible and makes the world fit what it wants to say. Ultimately, anything that is not YEC is seen as elevating man’s wisdom above God’s. There is no room for a dissenting opinion.

      It was clear in my mind what I meant when I wrote it 17 months ago, but I see now that it isn’t clear to others.

      Let me try to say all that again, hopefully clearer this time:
      (1) YEC says that any ‘theory’ that does not accept a young-earth model (less than 10,000 years) must be wrong.

      (2) The reason for (1) is because the Bible says that the earth is young.

      (3) YECs look to the Bible for answers and this is the right and proper way to do things.

      (4) Scientists do not look to the Bible for answers and this is wrong.

      (5) Because of (4), scientists’ theories that are not in line with the Bible are the ideas of sinful man.

      (6) Many aspects of mainstream science are ungodly (because of (4) and (5).

      (7) Right-thinking Christians would agree with all the above. There is no room for dissension on these points.

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  4. So which of those points (1 to 7) do you disagree with, and why? I’m not saying that I completely agree, but there seems to be a tendency on your part to point out some facts as though they self-evidently prove your point.

    Here’s my comments:
    (1) I would change the last bit to “is wrong” rather than “must be wrong”.

    (2) The Bible doesn’t state this explicitly, but neither does it leave room for evolutionary time.

    (3) Agreed. If it’s God’s infallible testimony, this makes perfect sense.

    (4) This is a generalisation (some scientists do), and it only makes sense to look to the Bible for things the Bible speaks about (which doesn’t include scientific explanations of physics, chemistry, etc.), such as unique past events that scientists can’t observe or reproduce, such as the origins of things like the world and life. How many scientists do you know who will not look to history books for “answers” about, say, World War I? These matters of /history/ are best handled by (records of) eye-witness testimony, not by scientific investigation which is extremely limited in such cases. How, for example, would you use science to determine the starting date of World War I?

    (5) Obviously, if fallible, sinful, man’s ideas are not in line with God’s, they must be wrong. This makes perfect sense.

    (6) No, not “many” aspects; only those that deal with the unobserved (by science) past.

    (7) If the above points are correct, then any totally-objective person who knew all the relevant facts would agree, surely? And therefore if they don’t, then by definition they would not be “right thinking”. But I’m not suggesting that Christians are perfect in their understanding that they will necessarily realise all that. As for dissension, I’m not sure what you mean by “room for” dissension? If you are suggesting that they are not /allowed/ to dissent, then I don’t agree. If you are suggesting that a different view might be /correct/, then that begs the question of whether it /is/ correct. The debate should be about which view is correct, not about whether dissension is allowed.

    Yet, as I have pointed out, it is the evolutionists who, as far as they can, won’t allow dissent. Yet you have criticised creationists for this.

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    • Hi, Philip,

      You said:
      ‘As for dissension, I’m not sure what you mean by “room for” dissension? If you are suggesting that they are not /allowed/ to dissent, then I don’t agree.’

      It’s not so much lack of permission to disagree as it is a statement that if one does not subscribe to YEC then one is not a right-thinking Christian.

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  5. Given that I’m sure that’s not a direct quote, what do you mean by “right-thinking Christian”?

    Christians would say that other Christians who do not believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, did not really die on the cross, etc. are incorrect in their understanding. Similarly, creationists say that other Christians who do not believe what the Bible says about creation (e.g. that it happened in six days) are also incorrect in their understanding.

    But “right-thinking” seems to imply that Creationists are claiming that such Christians are not merely wrong, but somehow lacking in their ability to think straight, or something along that line.

    Do you agree that it’s okay for some Christians to say that they believe that some other Christians are incorrect in their understanding of some matter? If so, then why do you believe that creationists are not merely doing this, but something worse?

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    • “Given that I’m sure that’s not a direct quote, what do you mean by “right-thinking Christian”?”

      Um, I cut and pasted. It is a direct quote.

      Fair enough. If YECs want to say that people who don’t believe in a literal Creation are incorrect in their understanding of the Scriptures, then fine.

      Then it is a theological issue, yes?

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  6. The quote I am assuming you are referring to is:
    ‘As for dissension, I’m not sure what you mean by “room for” dissension? If you are suggesting that they are not /allowed/ to dissent, then I don’t agree.’

    I quoted you.

    Were you thinking of a different quote?

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  7. No, I was referring to your use of “right-thinking Christian”. I was meaning that I’m sure /that’s/ not a direct quote. According to you, creationists claim that one is not a “right-thinking Christian” if one disagrees. I’m arguing that creationists claim that if one disagrees one is /wrong/ (as you do regarding creationists), but you seem to be implying that creationists go further than simply disagreeing, by claiming that those who disagree are somehow worse, by not being “right-thinking Christians”, whatever that means exactly. But I’m disputing that they do that, or that they do more than claim that if you disagree you are wrong (as you do regarding creationists).

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  8. ‘I’m arguing that creationists claim that if one disagrees one is /wrong/ (as you do regarding creationists), but you seem to be implying that creationists go further than simply disagreeing, by claiming that those who disagree are somehow worse, by not being “right-thinking Christians”, whatever that means exactly.’

    I feel you are reading too much into those words.

    If one has wrong thinking then one is not right-thinking.

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  9. If I’m reading too much into them, does that mean that when you say, “It’s not so much lack of permission to disagree as it is a statement that if one does not subscribe to YEC then one is not a right-thinking Christian.”

    Then all you are saying is that, /like everyone who believes they are right/ (including you), YECs believe that others are wrong? Is that all? Because that was your justification for criticising YECs for claiming that “There is no room for dissension” (your reply of 6th September).

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  10. Philip,

    On 9th September, you said:
    But “right-thinking” seems to imply that Creationists are claiming that such Christians are not merely wrong, but somehow lacking in their ability to think straight, or something along that line.

    My answer:
    No, that is not what I meant by ‘right-thinking’.

    I will restate what I said earlier: If YECs want to say that people who don’t believe in a literal Creation are incorrect in their understanding of the Scriptures, then so be it.

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