Christian Homeschool Curricula: How can we find safe and agenda-free material to use?
On the SSB Facebook page, I posted a link to an article, Duggar Family to Homeschool with Alpha Omega Publications). The Duggar family, as you may be aware, is the quiverfull family on the very popular TLC show, 19 Kids and Counting. The Duggars are a homeschooling family and previously supported and aligned with Bill Gothard and his teachings and used his ATI program for homeschooling. Lana Hope has a great article, The Duggar Family and ATI, which might help give a glimpse into this “curriculum.” It really is not curriculum, but character-based Gothard rules.
Although the Duggars have not spoken out publicly against Gothard or his teachings since his public sex scandal, they are starting to use new curricula this year.
When I started homeschooling in the early 90s, I went to listen to Christian homeschoolers speak and they would often sell curricula in another room. But one thing I didn’t consider was this: those running the homeschool conventions had an agenda and they only sold curricula which matched their agenda. At that time, I did not know about Reconstructionism or Patriarchy. Slowly, I found myself following and adopting some of the dangerous ideologies which I believe contributed to my family getting involved in a church that functions like a cult.
Interestingly, the path of ideologies took me away from what my original intent of homeschooling: academics, but instead focused more on extra ideologies. What is strange is that I didn’t realize I had gotten on board this train until it was too late.
Now there are a variety of homeschool conventions. But those who are starting out are rightly concerned when they hear of Patriarchy and some of the dangerous ideologies.
A future homeschooling mom wrote a great comment on the Facebook page which is the basis of this post:
I have a question. I’m considering homeschooling next year and I want Christian based material but I also want to stay far far away from the creepy patriarchy stuff. Any recommendations towards a general direction would be helpful for materials. Thanks so much!
So, I thought it would be good to have a post dedicated to homeschool curricula. Let’s use this post to identify curricula that has bad ideologies and ones that are free from ideologies. I’m going to start of with a few examples of older homeschool material and how to dig deeper to find those ideologies which may be hidden.
Bad Homeschool Material
It’s important to be very careful with history. David Barton is a prime example of one who has infiltrated the Homeschool Movement with his revisionist history. His materials were sold at homeschool conventions and he has been a popular speaker as well. The article, Why you need to know about David Barton, will help explain what might not be so evident by simply picking up his curricula.
Watch for words like Providential, generational, or visionary. That language is used by Reconstructionists. An example of this is in the book, America’s Providential History, which is used in Beautiful Feet materials. I loved Beautiful Feet guides and the selection of reading materials they used in studying history; however, when combined with America’s Providential History, it then becomes tainted with Reconstructionism. So, if you use Beautiful Feet materials, look carefully at the assignments and ditch the America’s Providential History portion.
This is an example of how you can pick and choose material. The bare bones of Beautiful Feet is good, just throw out the junk. Homeschool moms have the freedom to do that.
Light and Glory for Children (See Amazon.com negative reviews) It’s a good idea to check out reviews. Amazon is a good place to get both positive and negative reviews. You might be getting the idea that your search for good curriculum is going to be a time investment. :)
These are materials which were sold by Vision Forum (Doug Phillips). Phillips seemed to want to find historical stories which he could use to push his agenda, a money-making agenda, which sounded godly and biblical and had elements of truth which encouraged people to jump on board. He made his money by pushing Patriarchy and elevating men as heroes. Interestingly, a lot of moms (like me) were the ones who promoted Phillips’ empire and bought his materials for their husbands. He made a big deal about the Titanic and godly men coming to the rescue of women and children. Yea, we saw the sinking of his Vision Forum ship when he used his position of authority and violated a young woman. If you see someone trying to add a Christian story into an historical story that you don’t remember, it likely was never there to begin with.
History is a difficult subject to find objective material. The best way to determine someone’s agenda is to research them first. Who do they promote and endorse? Who promotes and endorses them? Follow the money and campaign trails. I’m not just talking about campaign trails – some who push certain kinds of history books are indeed in the political arena pushing a political agenda as well.
Somewhat related with history, a popular interest among homeschooling parents is Christian worldview seminars. Again, I would definitely research the key people involved and see what their agenda is. Because someone identifies as Christian does not mean they promote your ideologies.
Reading is an important part of learning. I remember at homeschool conventions, they’d make a big deal about the content of the books our children were reading – telling us to make sure they were godly, pure, etc.
Elsie Dinsmore is an example of a book that made the homeschool circuit bandwagon in a big way at Patriarchal Homeschool Conventions (no, they didn’t have Patriarchy in the title, but that’s what they were). Is it any wonder that this book was sold and promoted at Patriarchal Homeschool Conventions and also at Vision Forum? I’m not sure what book is now being pushed, but I think this is a great example of one that certainly pushed a dangerous ideology that many of us were unaware of when we jumped on the bandwagon:
Take a look at this Amazon Review:
This is quite possibly the WORST children’s book ever written. Why?
1) The heroine is saccharine sweet and endlessly willing to let everyone in her family trample all over her. In fact, she seems to take some martyr-like glee in accepting every kind of scorn and injustice her family heaps on her with nary a complaint. Yeah, way to be a role model for today’s girls, Elsie – unless you think the proper social role for women is a sacrificial victim for…
2) …emotionally and physically abusive men. Yes, that would be her crazy father. The one who insists that his every irrational demand be met instantly and who also doesn’t see the value in showing any love whatsoever towards his (incredibly needy) daughter. This relationship plays out like a bad Lifetime movie. He’s the King of the Castle, and isn’t content to just let Elsie crucify herself in every chapter – he wants to tell her what kind of hammer to drive the nails in with. My bet: poor, sweet Elsie grows up and finds another domineering tyrant to marry (undoubtably a man chosen carefully for her by her father), which will allow her to be suitably emotionally abused the rest of her life. And let’s not forget the subtle eroticism between father and daughter (and other male friends of the family). It was very creepy in places. I found myself wondering several times while reading this book if he was going to start sexually abusing her when she got into her teenage years. And that’s not the right thing to be thinking about when you’re reading a children’s book. Ick, ick, ick.
3) Her disgusting, spoiled, racist, classist, sexist family. In one of the very first chapters, we find Elsie’s sweet “Mammie” discussing how even though she’s not white, she still can get to heaven. Well, isn’t that nice. But do you suppose Jesus will make her come in through the servant’s entrance? And every single one of her relatives is dreadfully spoiled and treats her abominably in every chapter (lucky for Elsie-Please-Make-Me-A-Martyr). Really, not suitable in any way for modern sensiblities. I wouldn’t let my daughter read this book just because of the racism alone. Yes, it was written in 1850 something. But that’s no excuse.
4) The over-the-top Christianity. Half this book is a religious tract. I found myself skipping entire pages just to try to find the plot again amidst the saccharine preaching.
5) Meekly accepting evil or injust behavior from others is NOT a good thing. That’s another message I would never want my daughter to learn. Regardless of one’s religious beliefs, the right thing to do in this world is to stand up for what one believes in, and stand up against injustice and unrighteousness, whether those acts are perpetuated against you or others. Frankly, the only admirable thing Elsie ever did in this book was to stand firm in her religious convictions against the disapproval of her family (falling off the piano stool and all that). On Sundays she was a heroine worthy of emulation. Too bad she was a meek little abused mouse the other 6 days of the week. (Source)
I hope this picture doesn’t trigger anyone. These are Bill Gothard’s materials. Some homeschool gurus have downgraded the importance academics and instead pushed character traits as the most important aspect of homeschooling. I disagree with this. I say to live your day teaching character traits while living, working, doing school, and your character training doesn’t need to come from some dude like Gothard. We all know right from wrong and the Bible has enough info on character.
I’ve written about homeschooling and science before. Here is my $.02 on the topic. In the Homeschool Movement, they push literal 6-day earth creation. In fact, if you are a curriculum vendor who sells anything but Young Earth Creationism, you may be banned from certain homeschool conventions.
Are you a believer in Young Earth Creationism? That’s fine and dandy; however, that is a secondary doctrinal issue. Let me rephrase that: you do not have to believe in 6-day earth creation to get to heaven. The Bible does not say that we must believe in Young Earth Creationism to get into heaven, does it?
What happens if you only teach 6-day creation and then you send your student off to college, even a Christian college, where 6-day earth creation is challenged? Will that compromise their faith? Ken Ham and others are so gung ho about 6-day earth creation, it’s an all-or-nothing deal. Here’s an example:
The majority of Christians in churches probably aren’t sure whether God really created everything in six literal days. Many believe it doesn’t matter whether it took six days or six million years. However, it is vital to believe in six literal days for many reasons. Foremost is that allowing these days to be long periods of time undermines the foundations of the message of the Cross. (Source)
Ham’s claim above is simply not true for me. I really am not a science buff, and frankly do not care how old the earth is. When the Bible says God created the heavens and the earth, I believe it – no matter how long it took, whether those 6 days were figurative or literal. And, I absolutely believe in the message of the Cross.
Now, you tell me, if you are a young earth believer and you want your children to also be young earth believers, what is more important to you, their faith or that they believe in 6-day earth creation? Yup, I thought so.
I think a better way to handle this is to show our children both young earth creation, and old earth creation, and even evolution. Show them what you believe from Scripture. This should not be a salvation issue, but it became one in my family and many others (despite what Ken Ham would want you to believe). I have a bit of personal angst about this topic because of this: Ken Ham, Young Earth Creationism, Young People Abandoning Their Faith: My Daughter’s Story. Yea, that’s my daughter’s story. Dang tears.
Be smart. Educate your children with a wide range of topics. Show them the love of learning. Show them a relationship with Jesus Christ. Show them how to read Scripture. Show them how to listen to the Holy Spirit. And then let them fly. Entrust them to God. This notion of controlling our children through curriculum backfires. Learn that from me. Please.
Ok, I’ve done enough talking about some dangerous ideological traps in homeschool curricula, and I would like to solicit your help for other homeschool moms as they are trying to sort through the myriad of curriculum choices no available.
I would like to open the discussion to specific homeschool material currently on the market (not my old-school stuff – lol).
If you know of some questionable curricula, please let us know and explain why in the comments.
Can you recommend agenda-free homeschool material? That would be helpful as well.
Thanks in advance for your participation.