Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Dangerous Mix of Religion and Education - More on the Christian Homeschooling Movement

It may be more accurate to say "fundamentalist religion", but even so, I'm no fan of the mix of religious ideas (of any kind) with an academic education. I want to use this post to pool a few of the thoughts I shared in the comment thread of my last post, hopefully providing some clarity as to my own thoughts, even though I believe I've been fairly clear already.

One final time - I have no problem with homeschooling, or with Christians who homeschool. I have a HUGE problem with the Christian homeschooling movement. If you're not a part of the Christian homeschooling movement, what I'm saying here doesn't apply to you, and there's no need to defend your educational choices. They aren't under attack. If you choose to lump yourself in with the Christian homeschooling movement, don't expect me to change my language to suit your choice. I won't.

Homeschooling itself isn't the problem. It's merely another mode of education - and a good mode when done right. When homeschooling becomes mixed with religion, or becomes a religious endeavor, it becomes a gateway, and that's the problem.

Homeschooling makes up a small percentage of the educational process in America. A small percentage. Yet, probably 75% or more of my readership, here on a blog where I write about spiritual abuse, patriarchy, quiverfull, the irrational positions of the religious right, and Christian fundamentalism, are either graduates of homeschooling or are currently homeschooling. That's VERY telling. Speaks to a connection, I'd say.

Ideas like patriarchy, quiverfull, purity promises and pledges, super-rigid roles regarding gender, and so on, aren't entering the Christian arena through the mainstream. Most mainstream Christians don't really know what those things are. I didn't in any detail until 4 years ago when I encountered a Christian homeschooling cult - my former future in-laws. Those legalistic ideas are entering the Christian arena through the world of Christian homeschooling. I don't think there's a rational argument against that, and I don't think anyone reading this would deny as much. 

As far as what constitutes being a part of (or having been a part of) the movement? Here's a few of my own parameters...

If your curriculum introduced ideas of patriarchy - you were/are part of the movement.
Quiverfull - you were/are part of the movement.
Purity pledges or promise rings - you were/are part of the movement.
Connected to HSLDA - you were/are part of the movement.
If your curriculum stresses YEC - you were/are part of the movement.
If your materials came from Vision Forum, Bill Gothard, Bobby Jones, A Beka, any similar materials, or any individual or group associated with the aforementioned  - you were/are part of the movement.
If your curriculum mixed and intermingled faith and patriotism - you were/are part of the movement.
If you were homeschooled because your parents didn't want you exposed to things like evolution, feminism, or any other "liberal" or "worldly" ideas - you were definitely part of the movement.
If your homeschooling brought you into contact with, and encouraged the reading of, literature from people like Elizabeth Elliott, Mary Pride, the Pearls, the Ludys, et cetera - you were/are part of the movement.
If your homeschooling placed heavy emphasis on words like "honor" and "character" (usually only definable with "obedience to authority") - you were/are part of the movement.
If you were homeschooled, and "missions" was or is one of your primary interests - you were/are part of the movement.
If you think homeschooling is the only "godly" way to educate - you're definitely part of the movement.

Maybe you measured and rejected some of the ideas in the list above (and I applaud those of you who did), but just the fact that your homeschooling experience brought you into contact with those things says that you were/are part of the movement. Maybe you rejected THOSE parts, but the money spent on the materials or events that introduced those things still went or goes into the industry that promotes those things. In other words, your money was/is funding the movement.

This doesn't make you a bad person. Perhaps you didn't or don't know these things. Now you do. It's easy for the toxins to sneak into the mix. I think things like the Christian homeschool world might be one reason that Christ taught us that while we're to be as harmless as doves, we're to be wise as serpents. I look at how mainstream Christianity is embracing the movie "Courageous" - and it's chock full of anti-Christ ideas and teachings! Chock full of sneaky little Vision Forum ideas and concepts wrapped up in ideas of "honor" and "godliness" and "responsibility"! Heck, Vision Forum is even marketing a line of "Courageous" merchandise. It snuck right in under the noses of most mainstream Christians. Gradualism usually reveals Christians to be more wise like doves and harmless like serpents than anything else, and it's a shame.

When homeschooling becomes a religious endeavor it becomes a gateway. Mainstream churches don't generally promote or mandate it. Authoritarian churches and groups do. They need to indoctrinate the young to keep them in the fold and continue the fundamentalist cause. Homeschooling is the perfect method. From that, we have the Christian homeschooling movement. "Courageous" is evidence that these cultic groups are seeking out new gateways, and given how successful it's been, how most Christians have gotten caught up in the religious emotion of the movie and decided to not discern the actual message and undercurrents, expect to see more of it.

Teaching about Jesus doesn't need to color every aspect of education. For instance, if you start mixing the Christian faith into teachings about American and world history, and your method shines a positive light on the practice of the Christian faith in history, you're failing your child. History shines a poor light on the practice of the Christian faith. Jesus doesn't need to be forced into every equation. Why not just educate your children, while loving them as Jesus loved and instructed us to love, and when you want to talk about Jesus with them, then talk about Jesus. It's nearly impossible to use Christian homeschooling curriculum that doesn't bring a heck of a lot of baggage with it, and practically all of it opens a gateway into some ugly, legalistic stuff.

I'm don't foresee a change in my ideas on mixing religion with education. I'm not going to be changing my terminology regarding the Christian homeschooling movement unless and until there's good reason to do so. Right now, there's NO reason to do so.

To paraphrase my friend shadowspring, homeschooling is an educational choice, not a divine mandate. If you think it's a divine mandate, or part of your "godly" obligation or duty, it's become positively unhealthy - and likely your religion in and of itself.

I strongly encourage you guys to invest the time to read Raymond Moore's "White Paper". He's one of the pioneers of home education, and gives a detailed account of where "Christian homeschooling" went off the rails. From that derailment sprang all of the craziness I write about here.


  1. *thank you* especially the part about history. yeah....I had a long conversation about christian text books with my inlaws, and my MiL makes *sure* they have christian history books and I'm like, um.... *sigh*

    thank you.

  2. Although I plan on homeschooling my children (when that time comes when I have kids and who are ready for school), I am aware that there is the possibility of being exposed to the legalism that is going through the homeschooling crowd. Exposure could come through other parents, curriculum (which I suspect is primarily how the ideas are carried to various families), movies, etc. I would have to be on guard for legalism and that comes through a good understanding of law and gospel.

  3. I still don't like the *term* you use, but I definitely understand what you are saying. And, this is your blog. *I* wouldn't use that term, but I understand why you do.

    I disagree in what seems to be a very nuanced way about "mixing" faith and other parts of life, but we agree that dogmatic indoctrination benefits no one.

    For the record, I wasn't homeschooled for religious reasons. I went to a private school, and I hated being constrained and having to sit for hours on end being bored because I already knew the stuff they were trying to teach me. THEY thought I was dumb and dyslexic, and told my mom that I was so severely dyslexic I'd never learn to read. Which was quite a surprise to her, as it definitely wasn't true. She pulled me out because she realized that I was bored and it was the method of school that was the problem. :) She liked it so much, she ended up homeschooling the rest of us. I was homeschooled until 10th grade; some of my sibs went all the way, and others entered school in 6th or 7th grade.

  4. These posts have been especially interesting for me. I was in a Christian private school through the sixth grade and it fit several of your criteria. I remember expressing frustration to my mom as a kid that even our math equations were structured to fit in with Bible stories or relate somehow to verses. So much effort was put into making the math relevant to the Scripture that far too often they failed to teach the building blocks we needed. While I absolutely loved the A Beka approach to reading, that's about the only good thing I can say about the curricula I dealt with (A Beka and BJU). I'd love to see you broaden this to include the many, many private Christian schools out there making a fortune off of well-meaning parents who are convinced that somehow it's a better education for their children. I've known parents who put their kids into private schools to keep them away from the ungodly, unchurched kids of the public school system and it drives me up the wall. I suffered so much more mental and verbal abuse at the hands of my private school peers and teachers than I ever did in public school and in the grand scheme of things, I learned far less.

    This is off-topic but I'm curious. Have you ever heard of the STARS program used by the A/G? If so, what is your opinion of it?

  5. Lewis, I understand that you are trying to wake up homeschoolers who are Christian and get them to see how far quacky fundamentalist ideas have sneakily infiltrated things they hold dear.

    But I confess I don't see the point of holding on to terminology that alienates the very people you are trying to reach. Homeschoolers endure a lot of criticism from the general public already. Those who actively think and choose their curriculum and methods (no YE, modesty issues, etc.) may face it from their more wacky religious homeschooling peers as well. Why pour salt on the wounds and insist on a label that causes so much confusion? They are the ones in the trenches, right now, who have the access and power to change things; to me that seems like a hell of a good reason to change unnecessary terminology.

    I don't understand the "missions" issue. Sonlight supposedly had a missions focus, but all that seemed to mean was a good deal of international and multicultural study, which was a good thing.

  6. @Victoria...

    "Have you ever heard of the STARS program used by the A/G?"

    I haven't. Sorry. I have some relatives involved with the A/G. I'll ask them about it when I get an opportunity.

    @Final Anonymous...

    "I understand that you are trying to wake up homeschoolers who are Christian and get them to see how far quacky fundamentalist ideas have sneakily infiltrated things they hold dear."

    They didn't sneak in. They came in like a German blitzkrieg. They took over Christian homeschooling decades ago. They control the convention circuit and the curriculum. They control the homeschooling industry as a whole. While no one may be able to pin down any exact numbers, it isn't hard to determine that the majority of homeschoolers who are Christian have a fundamentalist bent and are part of the movement. Not all, but the majority.

    I'm trying to wake up mainstream Christianity - cause that's where the sneaky infiltration is happening.

    But I confess I don't see the point of holding on to terminology that alienates the very people you are trying to reach.

    It fits the people to whom I'm applying it. If it doesn't fit them, they shouldn't be alienated by it.

    "I don't understand the "missions" issue. Sonlight supposedly had a missions focus, but all that seemed to mean was a good deal of international and multicultural study, which was a good thing."

    The Christian homeschooling movement presents mission work, particularly overseas, in such a way as to create lots of young people within it growing up with a works-based mentality concerning it, giving them almost a fantasy or fairy-tale perspective of it while feeling that doing mission work will make them "good Christians."

    There's plenty of "mission work" to be done right here at home. If we're truly of faith in Christ, the way we live our lives - loving God and neighbor, helping those in need, et cetera - is "mission work". But that doesn't seem to be enough for fundamentalists.

    I'm not knocking overseas missions, particularly not those doing it from a pure motivation. At the same time, it isn't coincidental that the majority of overseas missionaries come from fundamentalist movements, and a lot of them are homeschoolers.

  7. Mrs Taft and Final Anonymous, seriously...get over it. His terminology is correct whether you like it or not. And homeschoolers face a lot of criticism because they should. Refusing to socialize their kids and refusing to give them a decent education ought to be criticized and be unacceptable to society. Many homeschoolers don't even homeschool legally, and I'm glad that's taboo too. I'm glad it's criticized, maybe some will wake up and smell the roses and quit homeschooling.

  8. I see what you're saying, but I do agree with Mrs. Taft - that I think another term would be more appropriate. No hard feelings though, I agree with everything else.

    I was homeschooled from the 5th grade through to high school. I personally loved it. We were not involved in ATI, other than to attend the Basic Seminar twice I think... we had seen too many families and churches literally ripped apart by Gothard's teachings that it warned my parents away. I fit exactly two of the points you listed - HSLDA (most homeschoolers are...) and my curriculum for about two years came from Bob Jones (because they had a satellite instruction program). I did have a "purity ring", but this wasn't connected with my homeschooling, the mega church we attended announced that later in the month they would have a time in the service where parents could present their daughters with "true love waits" rings. It was my choice, and so they gave me one. It was a verbal promise, no contracts or anything, and I liked the ring because it helped keep guys from bugging me when I wasn't interested.

    I am married now, no kids yet... I have really struggled with homeschooling... I am a Christian. I want to homeschool my kids because I think it will give them the best possible education. I do not like the idea of my kids spending more time during their formative years with other people than they do with me. I don't want to parent "strangers" who don't know me any better than I know them. My motivation is not to "protect them from the world", but to give them a strong foundation and prepare them to go out into the world. I plan to explain both Creationism and Evolution, and tell them that I and their father believe in literal 7 day Creationism but that many people don't, and it doesn't impact their salvation. Etc, etc. But I struggle with the idea of finding curriculum that isn't steeped in legalism, finding a support group that isn't filled with ATI/Vision Forum robots, developing friendships with other homeschooling mothers who won't shun me because I have tattoos and don't spank and let my daughters wear shorts. I realize that legalism is fully steeped in pretty much every area of homeschooling. I do think that because I am aware of these issues now, I will be better able to avoid them in the future, and I will teach my children critical thinking skills so that they will be able to recognize these things when they are interacting with other homeschoolers. That is the best I can do. It is a struggle as I think about having kids (sooner rather than later hopefully, I'm ready to be a mom. :)) and how we will raise them.

    Has anyone dealt with these issues and still come out on the homeschooling side? I would love to hear about curriculum choices from those who are actively trying to avoid fundamentalism and all its gremlin friends...

  9. A lot of new homeschoolers buy into the HSLDA out of fear--I know I did. I soon learned it wasn't necessary to be fearful when you follow the law!

    It can also be difficult, again especially if you are new, to find materials that aren't Christian. In time you learn how to work around that.

    Same with homeschool groups and conferences. When you go to one and instantly know you chose the "wrong" one--you're the only Mom in pants, your kids are the only ones who haven't a clue how to cope with a baby or change a diaper, your kids are the only ones who [admit they] know about and enjoy Harry Potter/Disney Princesses and don't know who or what is at "the Pond" or with Mr. Whitaker.....It's like the old Arlo Guthrie "Alice's Restaurant"--"and they all moved away from [us] on the bench..."

  10. "There's plenty of "mission work" to be done right here at home. If we're truly of faith in Christ, the way we live our lives - loving God and neighbor, helping those in need, et cetera - is "mission work". But that doesn't seem to be enough for fundamentalists."

    Amen to that! :)

    Glad to see the link by Ray Moore....we really liked his book!

  11. I don't think it's any coincidence that many of these fundamentalist homeschooled missionaries go to countries that already have a long-standing Christian culture. It just isn't U.S. fundamentalist Christian culture. But they already share some basic religious vocabulary, so it's easier to skip preaching the Good News and just rant about the usual. I recently read a post by a woman who went all the way to Costa Rica--you know, tropical, humid, hot--and one of her main messages was trying to get the women to cover up like her. There aren't little kids shivering for lack of coats here at home? How many pairs of glasses could the money for that mission trip have paid for?

    It isn't mission work in the sense of preaching the Good News. It's just dominionism again. Be like us, exactly like us, or be cast into the outer darkness. My church (Anglican) calls this sheep rustling and forbids it. It also savors unpleasantly of the notion that going somewhere "exotic" is a rite of passage, as if the rest of the world were a theme park set up for Our Kind of People to enjoy. Again, dominionism.

    About those curricula that force Bible passages into every single textbook: I've seen one of those math books. It put "Now With More Bible Verses!" on the cover as if that were a selling point. I flipped through it: lousy production, lousy organization, lousy teacher's notes, lousy review. I saw it, BTW, on the shelves at my local public homeschool resource office, which cannot pay for religious material due to separation of church and state, but accepts donated material that homeschooling parents can pick up for free. No judgment. NOT ONE WORD ABOUT RELIGION. Public school, people, DOES NOT TEACH ONE WORD ABOUT RELIGION except in a general historical context, such as explaining that certain classic American authors wrote from the perspective of XYZ religion or certain famous personages came to the U.S. to freely practice ABC religion. The person who posted on the last thread about public school teaching "many paths to God"--who spreads these lies around so that poor over-sheltered people believe them?

    Jenny Islander

  12. Okay, thanks.

    I agree with Victoria about the Christian schools. Ironically, one reason we homeschooled is we couldn't find a Christian school that wasn't exactly as you described (we looked solely at Christian private schools because that was all we could afford). I don't remember the SoF's from the homeschoolers, but I do vividly remember the pages and pages from the Christian school, including the part dictating that a wife must submit to her husband. How in heaven's name is that a SCHOOL'S business??? Another must have behavioral recommendations from a child's pastor and Sunday School teacher for admittance... in kindergarten.

    My son was homeschooled mostly for academic reasons, but he was kept out of Christian school for socialization ones.

  13. I'd be interested in your thoughts on Wisdom's Gate...

  14. The Real Final AnonymousNovember 10, 2011 at 1:05 PM

    Vanessa, we used Sonlight, which I loved, have absolutely no complaints about it. (My atheist friend also homeschooled using Sonlight, if that's any indication!)

    There may be a few other Christian curricula without a lot of legalism, but if I had to homeschool now without Sonlight, I would pick a secular curriculum and find a secular co-op. You could even ask your local public school for recommendations. A secular co-op is likely to have students of many different religions and even none at all, so there will be far less totalitarianism and more tolerance toward your -- and others' -- individual beliefs.

    Lewis makes a good point -- there is absolutely no need to use a "Christian" curriculum in order to educate your child. If you are living your beliefs, their Christian education will be happening automatically.

  15. Vanessa--We've ended up having to put our daughter in the public system anyway, but from the time she was born her father and I wanted to homeschool. I never did find a single curriculum I liked and the best advice I found online was to just pick and choose, a book on this subject from this curriculum, a book on that subject from this other curriculum. There's also the K12 option. They list all of the online public schools (my state has a great online school thing) as well as some private options. As far as I know their private option is secular. I was leaning towards this option for when she got older.

    Lewis, I hope you don't mind me providing her the information.

    Final Anonymous (one of them, anyway) mentioned homeschooling because of the way the Christian schools were run. Ours didn't have THOSE requirements, and there was nothing said about wifely submission or anything, but it was scary to run into those types during the course of my education and religious upbringing. I see it more now, as a matter of hindsight, and it makes me sad to think of what some of my classmates might have been dealing with at home.

  16. Um ...A Beka? A Beka does not support the 'homeschool movement', A Beka is an extension of Pensacola Christian Academy and PCC. I use A Beka virtual academy with my girls because it is a challenging curriculum for them, more so 'challenging' than a public school :) Considering we are a military family on the move, homeschooling was the best option for us. Yes, I understand you are not against homeschooling in general, but still... You could say the Bible supports fundamentalism, too. No, we are not a patriarchal family, far from it.... but, A Beka and the fundamental homeschool movement do not support each other. In fact, over the years I have been criticized by some fundies in saying that I should turn from A Beka and 'homeschool from the heart'. The difference is A Beka will prepare my girls for prep school and college, not a life of quiverful.

  17. @Anonymous 3:24...Anything associated with PCC is gonna be extremely heavily laced with legalism and fundamentalism. A Beka is definitely a part of the movement.

  18. From the PCC page...

    "A Beka Book produces daily curriculums and more than 900 character-building textbooks and teaching materials with more added each year."

    In its own description you'll find the language of the movement.

    I wouldn't recommend anyone study at, or through, PCC. Extremely fringe fundamentalist.

  19. A lot of families are in a pretty nasty spot when it comes to figuring out how to school their children.

    My husband and his sister were taken out of their public school system because it was a bad, bad school system--virtually every kid in their small town was into drugs and drinking, and there was no one their age at school to hang out with who wouldn't lead them into substance abuse. It was scary.

    However, once they got into the home school movement, they had a group of legalistic friends who hurt them in multiple ways over the years.

    It seems that too often, parents are in a no-win situation.

    With the ridiculous state of public schools nowadays (public schools worship homework like it's God Himself, and kids spend hours doing rote memorization from a tender age) I can't imagine sending my kids to public school. But I KNOW we wouldn't be good candidates for home schooling (sorry fundies, but I want to keep working and that's that), and I can't imagine finding a Christian school that wouldn't fall prey to all the creepy legalism that my husband experienced in his schooling.

    I pray that God provides a way for each and every family to do what's right for them.

  20. Vanessa, I appreciate your love for your children, but this:

    "I do not like the idea of my kids spending more time during their formative years with other people than they do with me. I don't want to parent "strangers" who don't know me any better than I know them."

    -- to me, seems based on some misapprehensions. I have always had to work outside the home (not chose to, had to, unless we wanted to go on food stamps, which we didn't) and my young children were in home-based daycare where they had one or two other adults with them during the day when I couldn't be there. My kids were not "strangers" to me, nor I to them. The additional adult input into their lives was a bonus, not a detriment. In most societies mothers don't spend 24-7 with their children, you know-- not even in Bible times, when women had to work out in the fields or at the spinning wheel or loom, and older extended family members (too old to do those jobs) would watch the children so the younger women could help contribute to the household economy. How is that really any different?

    Parenting is not a zero-sum game. Kids can know and love more than just their immediate family members; in fact, I think it's better if they do.

  21. I've noticed certain (more sheltered) homeschooled kids cannot think for themselves, or form their own opinions, and have very little or no self confidence. The parent is the 'conduit' to the child's heart and mind, nothing goes to the child except through the parent first :( I teach/tutor math/algebra and with a select few in our area who may have the opportunity for a higher education- when unsure of an answer or concept, instead of asking me, they go into complete "shut-down" mode or look to the parent to 'help' them communicate with me. I honestly believe this is because of parental control issues and lack of interaction with their peers, these kids are always around adults, and always strictly monitored the very few times they are allowed to be around their peers. These kids are taught they 'cannot be trusted' with their peers, they cannot be trusted with anything- so thus the parent must control everything. Why think or have an opinion if someone wiser can do that for you? Poor logic, but so true in the 'homeschool movement'. These kids are always in a 'group think' environment with no room to think or have an opinion of their own. Kids need to be kids- and interact within different 'social circles' and 'peer groups' during their formative years- this helps develop their character, social skills, learn differences of opinion and be able to form their own opinions, leadership qualities, the ability to work well with others etc. etc.

  22. My homeschool experience touched upon a few of these things but only in a mild way, thankfully. We got the HSLDA magazine, watched Little Bear Wheeler videos, and my parents were pretty strict about movies and secular music, but overall it was a good experience and my parents mostly homeschooled me for academic reasons anyways. I'm glad we shied away from the weird stuff even though we had friends who were really into it.


  23. @Anon 5:08...What you said was (and probably still is) true of my ex. She was taught to be a perpetual child. No logic, no ability to examine an issue and form a solid conclusion, just a parrot and a sheople - who would and will follow the herd right off the cliff for no good reason.

    It's sad to say, but away from her cultic family she was a beautiful, vibrant person. But, with them, or if she just got in the state of mind of "the family", she was in most ways a child, and in a lot of ways, not a very good person. A total product of a closed society with narrow, inbred concepts and a cultic mentality. Such is the movement.

    1. Okay, at this point, I think you need to kill her family. Painfully. Actually, tell me where they live, I'll get someone to assassinate them.

  24. Lolz! Skipping over all the later posts to tell Hopewell how much I loved reading an Arlo Guthrie reference! =D (Both my age and my Okie heritage on full display.) Okay, back to read some more.

  25. "Has anyone dealt with these issues and still come out on the homeschooling side? I would love to hear about curriculum choices from those who are actively trying to avoid fundamentalism and all its gremlin friends..."

    Yes, we exist.

    First of all, I am totally biased in favor of Sonlight, even though I never used it, because when I got their catalog, they used many of the same books I used. How can I complain about their judgement? =D Second of all, they have had the courage to take on the YE bs, so they deserve the support.

    Other great sources are text-book publishers (for higher math especially look for publishers that are listed on Interact Math Ditto for science. I cheated by looking at the textbooks for secular online high school courses, and buying those textbooks used from Amazon. Be prepared to either hire a tutor or do some serious personal study alongside your high schooled student.

    I actually like Beautiful Feet books history guides for the most part. They recommend some good books for US History, and one really horrendous book (The Welfare State by Clarence Carson)that is only useful to help your high school students learn to spot bias. Save your money, because you can easily accomplish that with a good library book.

    Finally, one really helpful hint is to blacklist anything you find on a Vision Forum web site. It is bound to be horrible. That's pretty much a given.

    Ditto what Lewis wrote about Abeka. I used some Abeka and BJUPRess for early elementary without too much harm, but ditched them by fourth grade for the most part.

    The exception was BJU Science through sixth grade, BUT here's how I used it. I used the science text as the skeleton of a much more intense, interest led science education.

    We covered every chapter in the books, but scoured the educational supply store, library and internet for supplementary material if my children showed any interest at all. If no one cared, we just read the text, did their basic labs and took the tests to check it off the list of "ideas my children should know exist". Most of the time, that meant doing more involved research and experimentation. Bible verses were not emphasized.

    Oh wait, I also used BJUPress Spelling through 6th grade too, because I loved the weekly journals. At some point after all the spelling rules had been covered, I switched to Wordly Wise vocabulary and did spelling tests off of those word lists. They are an excellent secular resource!

    My daughter would home school her own children, for the same hippified reasons I did: freedom for a child to grow, learn, create and even daydream at her own pace. I don't know if my son will choose home school, but I liked his answer when I asked: whatever my wife wants to do. =D So, he's not against it, but he understands its not the only way to raise a family.

  26. I began with Ambleside Online, which is a free curriculum based on the educational philosophy of Charlotte Mason, who disagreed with the assumptions underlying modern public education and ran schools of her own. I didn't agree with some of the group's book choices. Here's what I settled on:

    WRITING: Zaner-Bloser**
    'RITHMETIC: Ray's* with modern teaching manual**
    HISTORY: Combination of History of US by Hakim** and Child's History of the World by Hillyer** with revisions to first chapters in light of new archeological discoveries/more precise knowledge of conditions in Alaska than the author, with assorted supplemental materials
    FOREIGN LANGUAGE: Flip Flop Spanish**
    SCIENCE: Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding by Nebel** and many books about local wildlife and plants at the local wildlife refuge bookstore** plus interesting documentaries via Netflix
    ART: Art In Action** and 13 Artists Every Child Should Know** with lots of art supplies**
    MUSIC: Lots of music on TV, radio, and CDs on hand with guides bought on Amazon**
    LITERATURE: Children's classics bought new** or at garage sales
    PE: Class at local dance studio**
    SOCIALIZATION: Scouts, SCA, and Sunday school

    **Paid for through public school. Alaska is homeschool friendly; our school district registers homeschool students and allots the same funds as for public school students--parents just decide how to spend them, on anything but explicitly religious material.

    Jenny Islander

  27. Alaska sounds wonderful. Sounds like you survived the storm okay, Jenny. =)

  28. Hi, I am curious why Elizabeth Elliot was mentioned? I haven't read her books but they've interested me & I've never heard anything disparaging about her?

  29. @Lisa...Elliot is probably not as dogmatic as the others mentioned, and I don't think she buys into the P/QF stuff (or at least not religiously), but her book, "Passion and Purity", contributed to a lot of emotional dysfunction in the homeschool world, particularly when combined with the other "purity" poisons in the Christian homeschooling market.

  30. EE? Ugh. I find her highly offensive.

    My m-i-l gave me one of her books, and it was shortly after Judith Polgar became the worlds first female grandmaster at the age of 17- a Polish home schooled by her father, no less. When I got to the part of EE's book where she wrote about the inferiority of the female intellect- citing as her proof that there were no female grandmasters in chess- I tossed her book and never looked back.

    Finally, my husband and many missionary kids were deeply wounded by the wave of missionaries Ms. Eliot (still capitalizing on her dead husband's name, two husbands later) recruited with her new evangelical star status as the martyr's wife. It is heinously offensive to me that she felt perfectly okay to manipulate so many people's lives just to give her personal loss greater significance.

    My husband is in therapy and is still recovering from the abandonment of his missionary parents and boarding school abuse, not to mention the horrible doctrinal ideas planted in his young mind. God loves you but demands your parents abandon you, because he loves the Indians more and he will burn them in hell if your parents don't obey him and preach to them instead of parenting you. What a mess!

    Elliot is every bit as dogmatic as Stacey McDonald, and her ilk. I even watched a video once for young homemakers where EE shared the godly way to keep your sock drawer! It reveals so much about your character and God's plance in your life. You didn't realize that?

    That's because it's a pile of bullhocky. Stay far away.

  31. "Has anyone dealt with these issues and still come out on the homeschooling side? I would love to hear about curriculum choices from those who are actively trying to avoid fundamentalism and all its gremlin friends..."

    We use a Charlotte Mason approach to education too. A big part of her approach is using "living books" which means using good literature instead of textbooks. I am in my second year of educating at home and we are really enjoying this approach. I use a curriculum that can be found at The husband and wife who designed the curriculum are awesome. They are both trained educators and have a lot of knowledge to pass along to people. I have met them and as far as I can tell they are in no way tied to the fundamentalist, patriarchal, quiverfull etc. etc. movement. They are christians but the material used in the curriculum are generally not written by Christian authors. Much of the material can be found in the local library or on It is pretty mainstream in my experience. Just for full disclosure purposes, though, they do include reading the bible in the curriculum. However, there are no "assignments" attached to it besides maybe drawing a picture about what you read or narrating back what you read. It is in no way indoctrinating children. It is simply reading the Bible just like you read whinnie the pooh for story time or mother goose for poetry etc. Of course I have only used it for kindergarten and first grade so I can't say what happens in the older grades but it might be worth looking into.

    As for getting involved in a coop or something you can basically tell by the their website what the environment will be like. I am involved in one which allows anyone to join (though most are catholic and protestant but their are some families that I would say are just nothing or agnostic... ). And the purpose is clearly stated that it is to enhance the students' educations (not build their character etc.) I teach a world history class with a secular textbook that is used in the public schools. Kids seem pretty normal for the most part. I'm sure there are some families, though, that are more fundamentalist but as someone who wears tight jeans, prefers "secular" music and drinks I feel perfectly comfortable there. I did run accross some groups that were clearly promoting fundamentalism, patriarchy etc. But there are alternatives available. Anyway, that's just my twocents.

  32. I have to say this to Vanessa..and Lewis..
    As a homeschool mom of many years,I have to honestly say that many of the things that Lewis talks about here are very real.I have heard them,seen them and been influenced by some of them.I would just like to say to Vanessa that as a homeschool mom..that my kids were sheltered in a way but that was not my purpose for homeschooling them.I knew they would be out in this world someday and I along with my husband worked hard to prepare them.Four are now adults and with the exception of one who just graduated from high school they all work outside the home and are financially self sufficient.We have a big home and since none of them are married yet they still live here.We don't make them.They choose to.We still have two we are homeschooling.There really has to be some kind of balance in all of this.I truly believe that lots of Christians regardless of homeschooling or not have alot of fear.They fear their kids making the same mistakes they did.They want them to do things better so they hear these ideas and think..Oh!this sounds so good and they think that's the way it's going to be.We had heard the courtship concept..but when our 22yr.grown son found the young lady he wanted to marry..we were So uncomfortable with the conformity of courtship.We had NO RIGHT to tell a grown son how to go about this.He knew what to do..and you know works!! He is a Christian Man and she is a Christian Woman and if they make mistakes they are accountable to God.We give them lots of encouragement and we love them.We sure have heard the comments and I just don't care..hey..I'm just to let you know Vanessa that if you showed up at a homeschool get together and I saw your tatoo's and your kids had shorts on..I wouldn't care! If you have more questions feel free to email me at

  33. I think the only thing we are using that has any "religious" thought in it is Story of the World, and that's really just a jumping off point for us. It's by Susan Wise Bauer, so while there's nothing overt, I think it comes from that perspective.

    Other than that, we do a lot of library books, quality websites, etc. We borrow from Charlotte Mason, using good quality literature as someone discussed above, for science and social studies, and well really everything. We do a lot of experiential and hands-on learning. We love to explore!

    As far as actual curriculum, though, I've used a few things over the years I enjoyed. For math, I super love Singapore Math (not religious) and Math-U-See. I'm trying out math mammoth this year and I don't think it's religious at all. We do a lot of manipulatives and games for math overall, though. We pick things to investigate and then explore them, what interests us at the time. That might mean finding a class (if you don't want to or don't have a homeschool group anywhere, rec centers are great for this!), or extra trips to the library, or my favorite, hands-on field trips :) Right now, one of my best friends and I are teaming up on history and foreign language. Stuff like that is always fun. We basically learn about the topic of history on our own and read the history story together and do crafts and projects. She is originally from South Korea, so she is teaching all of us Korean. We've been focusing on Korean culture, so we've been to all of the museums near us that have anything to do with Korean art or culture, we've gone to a traditional Korean restaurant and practiced ordering in Korean (at that point it was mostly please and thank you, ha!) while also eating in a traditional Korean way. It was Chuseok at the time, which is a Korean holiday, so we learned all about that (Buddhist traditions included!)

    I am pretty eclectic, so I don't really use a lot of curriculum. Some other curriculum I've enjoyed and used is Handwriting Without Tears, Teaching Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons, the BOB books, Spell to Write and Read. We have never used a text book for science, and this is the first year we've had a 'curriculum' for history. But as I said, it's just a jumping off point. It's way not detailed, so I wouldn't use it as a stand-alone even if I wasn't the way I am.

    The world is full of possibilities! And I promise there is PLENTY of curriculum, good QUALITY curriculum out there that won't offend *anyone's* religious sensibilities. Furthermore, who says you have to use traditional curriculum? XD

  34. Just thought I'd mention Re: Abeka....their history books are horrible. Christian revisionist as it's finest. It's like reading David Barton. Very Amercia-centric. ABecka certainly is part of the christian homeschool movement. I also don't like how their science books are very Young Earth. They try too hard to fit "science" into their YE paradigm and you end up with bad science.

    My kids are in public school right now for kindergarten and most likely next year for 1st grade. One is autistic and I don't know how to give her the teaching she needs. Hopefully I can figure out something besides public school for the future, but for now that's what's working for her. I really don't want them going past elementary school in the public system. We'll just have to see what happens. I loved being homeschooled and really want that for my kids. I also love Sonlight and would like to do that for them in the future.

  35. hmm. I was homeschooled, but I luckily got to say no to every single one of those questions. I never heard of any of those people until about two years ago and it wasn't through my parents either. I don't even know why they wanted to homeschool us.

  36. If anyone wants to examine the issue of Christian homeschooling curriculum through the lens of biblical texts - like many, or most, instances in life, no biblical text deals directly with it. But, there ARE teachings of Christ and of Paul that can be applied.

    You guys know how I feel about the, umm, baby and umm, you know, ugh...bleh. I've also written about the "eat the meat and spit out the bones" mentality of a lot of Christians. Personally, the first bone I have to spit out, I'm pushing the plate away. I'm not interested in gagging on another bone just to find a little edible meat on the plate.

    Christ told the disciples, "Be wary of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." By their "leaven" he meant their "teachings". Paul went on to teach that "a little leaven will leaven the entire loaf."

    Apply that teaching to the "eat the meat and spit out the bones" approach. If you're considering Christian curriculum, and you discover any amount of the "leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducess" in it, well...

    I'm not talking about something you simply disagree with. I'm talking about genuinely legalistic, "character-based" or dominionist concepts. If there's a little of it in their's in their whole message.

  37. I think that sometimes it is good to learn to discern. :) No matter what you are reading, it needs to be read with discernment. I'd be hard pressed to find *anything* that I didn't have a few bones to choke on. So to me, here and there, things that make me go 'hmmm' or even outright reject is no big deal.

    That said, I'm inclined to agree with you that we need to be wary and we need to be careful that what we're chewing on doesn't give us constant occasion to spit out bones. I totally believe you that it's not always or often worth it. We stay away from anything BJU or A Beka for that reason. I feel like I'd have to wade through so much nonsense to find the nuggets of education and truth, it's not worth it.

    Or say, "On Becoming Babywise". There are like, five nuggets of helpful parenting advice in that book! But they are nuggets that I could easily get elsewhere, and 99% of that book REALLY is subversively dangerous and terrible. It's just not worth it.

    I agree we should be careful of what we expose our children to, and this INCLUDES Christian texts. Don't assume that because it's Christian it's safe!!

  38. Thank you so much for your encouragement and responses on curriculum choices, everyone! I have taken note of the recommendations mentioned and will keep them in mind when the time comes.

  39. Lewis, thanks for hanging in there and being so thoughtful. I get where you're coming from. I feel heard and understood, and yet I feel like I've heard and understood you as well. I appreciate what you're trying to accomplish, and find myself agreeing with you.

  40. FYI, there is a whole dimension to what you describe in the Catholic homeschooling world. Many of them are called "Traditional Catholics," but not all.

    Many of the points you make here apply exactly and directly to this Catholic crowd. And many of them mix in fundamentalist Christian concepts/ideas like the purity ring and group screenings of "Courageous." (Actually, one of the weirdest aspects of these "fundamentalist" Catholics is that in their obsession to strive for perfect Catholicism pre-Vatican II, which is decidedly anti-Protestant, these same Catholics dress in jeans jumpers, insist on the purity thing, and subscribe to American fundamentalist Protestant viewpoints, thereby being very "Protestant".)

    There are lists and lists of Catholic homeschooling curriculum that I could offer here which are essentially cultish. And I know for a fact, that some Catholics and Protestants borrow from each other's curriculum and sometimes hang out in the same co-ops.

  41. I went to a Christian school for a few years when I was small. They used A Beka, and looking back I realize how heavily they emphasized some very legalistic ideas about patriotism, etc. Even so, it never really bothered me. I was challenged intellectually, and their curriculum was amazing for reading. I was actually pulled out of the school and homeschooled, funnily enough, but not as part of the Christian homeschool movement. For legal reasons I won't go into, my parents were worried that I would be approached after school or followed by certain unsavory characters we were dealing with. They felt safer homeschooling, and it worked out fine.

  42. Some private christian schools aren't much better. When I was in my teens, I was friends with a girl from a fundy family. She went to her church's school. I flipped through her "science" book once. All that was mentioned about microbiology was this: "bacteria are so small, millions can fit into the space of a spoon." All that mattered at that school was becoming a good christian.
    The principal of that school gave a lecture to a girl and her mother about how interracial marriages weren't biblical (the girl was half black). This same principal was married to the church pastor's daughter. He gave the girls at the school the creeps. Later I learned he ran off with a 14 year old student and married her. It caused a big scandal at that church.
    I looked him up recently. He's had 5 kids with his second wife and they travel around singing and preaching.