There is no bigger proponent of home education than yours truly. I myself was homeschooled from the fifth grade through graduation. Although a somewhat shy, awkward kid, I somehow turned out completely “socialized” (whatever the crap that means), was accepted to both an undergraduate and multiple graduate programs, and am well on my way to a PhD in an obscure academic field. Most reasons homeschooling is criticized are, in my opinion, absolutely groundless.
One particular critique is generally unfounded and misleading: Christians are sheltering their children from the real world, to the effect that those children will be swept away once they get out from under their parents’ protection. One should ask, “Isn’t sheltering (a.k.a protecting) my child part of my role as a loving parent?” Indeed. I want to shelter my child from playing in the street — doesn’t make me a bad parent. In fact, quite the opposite: it makes me a good parent. Where I would be letting my children down is if I were afraid to tell them the reason I wouldn’t let them play in the road, choosing only to scare them out of any desire to play in the street by saying things like, “The road is evil!” or “The cars are out to get you!” To be sure, for children of younger ages, warnings unaccompanied by a cogent rationale will be sufficient; but when they get older, it will be behoove them on many levels to know exactly why the road is a dangerous place to play, if for no other reason than such lessons might be adapted anywhere and result in children’s ability to plan for their own safety in analogous situations. The right kind of “sheltering” explains to the child what s/he is being sheltered from, why, and what to do about it once the protection is lifted. I am grateful that this is how my parents instructed me. My parents taught me to learn, think, analyze, and evaluate new information on my own. This is the kind of homeschooling I can get behind.
This sort of homeschool methodology is quite popular, but there is either one particular glaring failure to consistently carry it out, or it is not being done properly at least. I have in mind one particular field of study: I know firsthand that one of the primary reasons Christians have for homeschooling their kids is a concern over mainstream science. In other words, parents are afraid that their children will be taught something other than young earth creationism. Now granted, not all homeschoolers are even Christians, so this is not the case across the board. But among Christians who homeschool, this concern is reflected in all the major Christian homeschool curricula. When my wife and I were researching curricula for our children, I only came across one provider whose materials allowed for the possibility of an old earth. The exception was the Sonlight Curriculum, a curriculum development and supply company that counsels parents to look at both young earth and old earth creationist material. From what we saw, all of the material was still thoroughly “creationist” (what is often termed “special creationism”) and therefore critical of evolutionary theory and approving of Intelligent Design, except where incidental mention is made in secular books they offer (such as the excellent Usborne series).
Inasmuch as the “teach to learn” approach is not the case in home and all other types of education, we have an interest in promoting its return. Unfortunately, the abundance of Christians who are homeschooling in order to promote creationism at the expense of mainstream science plays into the critique of homeschooling as “sheltering” children to those children’s detriment. Kids are being taught to live in denial of science as practiced by actual scientists in their fields of study doing actual research. This selective ignorance happens often enough, but as a case in point, I wanted to point out the following recent incident, which is illustrative of an endemic problem within the homeschooling movement.
The Christian Home Educators of Colorado (CHEC) just last year prohibited Sonlight from displaying their materials at a homeschool convention. When he pressed CHEC for an answer why, Sunlight’s co-owner John Holzmann was informed that it was because his company was negligent in protecting families from non-YEC origins positions. Unfortunately, the relative fair-mindedness Sonlight displays on this aspect of the origins question cannot go unpunished among certain groups within the homeschooling community. I like Holzmann’s response:
CHEC, apparently, can’t trust Christian homeschoolers in Colorado to do their own research, read what “the other side” is saying, and/or come to their own conclusions in these matters. CHEC feels the need to protect homeschool families from themselves . . . and from companies like Sonlight that don’t teach origins in quite the way CHEC prefers.
What really bothers me: CHEC’s behavior, in essence, answers my paper–Young-Earth and Old-Earth Creationists: Can We Even Talk to One Another?–in the negative: “No. We can’t. And, to the extent it is up to us, we won’t.”
The moral of the story, implies Holzmann, is that key leadership within the homeschooling movement is in many places too agenda-driven to serve the needs of parents who feel it their prerogative and even responsibility to determine which aspects of important issues their children should be aware of. He issues this warning:
If you’re involved in homeschooling, especially Christian homeschooling, I wonder if your state convention sponsors may be keeping you from hearing the “other side” in debates that concern you?