Attention Homeschool Moms: A Potential Homeschool Mom Asks about Agenda-Free Christian Homeschool Curricula

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Christian Homeschool Curricula:  How can we find safe and agenda-free material to use?

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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.

Alpha Omega Publications is excited to announce that the Duggar family from the TLC reality show 19 Kids and Counting has chosen AOP as its choice for quality homeschool curriculum.

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

 

History

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 prov historyProvidentialgenerational, 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.

 

 

 

 

 

photo 1Light 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. 🙂

 

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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.

 

Literature

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.

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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)

Character Studies

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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.

 

 

 

 Science

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.  


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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.

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61 comments on “Attention Homeschool Moms: A Potential Homeschool Mom Asks about Agenda-Free Christian Homeschool Curricula

  1. I would so much rather have my kids read a secular text book on science, history, etc.. And they did. They also each have a faith in Christ that they live out quite well.

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  2. I know, JA. There are portions of the HS movement that are firm bastions of legalism/judgmentalism. Jesus said their gates will not be able to stand against his church.

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  3. Hi Julie,
    I am not online during the day while at my day job, but I will check in periodically in the evenings. I home schooled for 15 years, using varying curriculum. For the beginning years we were still involved in a very spiritually abusive church; (That story is for another day). so that dictated what type of curriculum I would use for the girls. I started out with A Beka video curriculum for my oldest daughter in 3rd grade. She used to get SO upset when the young boys in the class were shown favoritism. She brought it up enough that I sat and watched with her. It was appalling. We dropped that for the next year. We switched to the BJU Press primarily for English, History, and Math. Like A Beka, their Bible classes didn’t fit with our Holiness Pentecostal teachings (I was warned by our Pastor’s wife that it was damnable heresy.) As we were getting exposed to other Home Schooling families in our Home School group, our healing was beginning, and our curriculum choices changed also.

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  4. “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.”

    Can I just say a hearty amen? Our church used their own Building Christian Character curriculum. According to them, this was far. FAR more important than academics. (Which probably goes a long way in explaining why they were ok with my husband receiving a sixth grade education.) Having your kids apply themselves to the discipline of schoolwork can be very character building in my experience.

    I really didn’t want to be homeschooling again this year, but that’s just how it worked out for us. So I’ll give a shout out to the online curriculum we’re using, Time 4 Learning. My kids are progressing very well with it. The company is conscious of their curriculum meeting state standards, as we discovered when my husband had to call their support for help with some of our kids’ accounts. So far, the material my kids are learning reminds me of what I learned in public and private schools. Academics is the focus– not indoctrination.

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  5. Good topic! I remember seeing Reconstructionist books like those at homeschool conventions (I only went 2 or 3 times in the mid 90s when my oldest was just a toddler), and later at our kids’ Reconstructionist Christian school (I did not catch on until after they were there several years). Also noticed these books filling the shelves of almost all my homeschooling friends.

    When my kids were little, I did have brushes with all of these ideologies.. i recall reading some rather radical underground magazines “religiously” but I eventually dropped it– ie i rejected the ideology as rules and lifestyles and goals that do not have anything to do with following Christ in the real world, according to the New Covenant teachings of Jesus. I remember seeing these books in the homeschool cataologs, and even getting Vision Forum for many many years, but i never bought a thing; I just looked at it in confusion, awe and “wonder” (for it is a lying sign and wonder).

    I was always “eclectic” picking curriculum here and there based on what might work for each child. Our goal was to give them the basics, and lots of quality (meaning award winning) children’s literature. Lots of library books. My style was eclectic, classic and rather Charlotte Mason.. which really just emphasises good literature and learning science directly from nature. Timberdoodle catalog has some fun stuff.

    For literature I looked at the Sonlight reading lists and found lists of award winning literature online; that is what they read. Key To and Teaching Textbooks for math had no agenda. We also used some MathUSee. For grammar we used regular secular publications like the All In One English Series master book by Garlic Press and Editor in Chief and Building Thinking Skills by Critical Thinking Co. For writing we used The Write Stuff Adventure by Dean Rea. We used Khan academy videos online and lots of other free things we found online. We used mystery of history just as a spine because i need something to tell me what the major events were and when they were, but we always launched into our own research on favorite history topics.

    Science i admit we used Apologia because i like the way the scope is laid out topically and the non-controversial topics are well presented. But we always discussed all sides of the hot button topics and my kids were always made aware of all the differing viewpoints. And I emphasised that to me, it does NOT matter which “theory” is true because my faith does not hinge on that, and whatever turns out to be true, is fine. Just today I had a long convo with my 16 year old. He is taking Earth Science at the co-op with a teacher who is teaching it as he would for a public community college class– the standard scientific view. My daughter also took actual college biology in high school (meaning, we were never trying to “hide” from all the viewpoints about Geology, Astronomy, Biology, etc. I love science and have always encouraged my kids to learn all the theories and learn to think for themselves and to love the wonder of the natural world. Personally i taught my kids that origins or processes or how many years there have been, etc, is not the point or center of our faith and relationship with God. History is a tough one, I’d love to get ideas on what history to use that is not weird or agenda driven… I’ll be interested in anyone’s suggestions. We tried different Christian history curricula, they all had agendas and that made me squirm (but again, it is just fodder for some great critical discussions with the kids). Maybe Khan has history now? I’m going to go see. To me, the Patriarchy and Reconstructionism/ Dominionism agenda is more dangerous and scary than the “young earth” agenda. To me young / old earth is not an important issue. Bottom line: stay away from prepackaged “boxed”, all subject, Christian curriculum, be eclectic and pick and choose. There’s lots of good stuff out there.

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  6. “our Holiness Pentecostal teachings”

    (Waving to Cathy) I was in a Oneness church for 23 years. Nice to meet another “sister.” 🙂

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  7. I would recommend resources from Peace Hill Press. that’s curriculum like “Story of the World”, “Writing with Ease”, “Writing with Skill” and “First Language Lessons”. They do have a Bible curriculum – “Telling God’s Story” – but it’s decidedly un-fundy. In fact, it was written by Peter Enns who was caught up in a public conflict with Ken Ham over biblical interpretation.

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  8. Thanks for taking down the Elsie Dinsmore books. They are truly terrible and have zero literary merit. Kids should read real literature with actual stories and plots. Elsie Dinsmore should go back to the 1800s.

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  9. I’ve thought about this as well and some are better than others. I’m now done after 22 plus years of homeschooling, and definitely know lots of old material to stay away from now.
    Looking back, I realize the homeschool co-op support group we joined heavily influenced the curriculum we would choose, and unfortunately this group loved the patriarchy crowd. So, be aware of what your homeschool support group promotes.
    Unfortunately, when we started out, I was mainly focused on the 3 R’s, and didn’t consider the theological implications in some of our homeschool material as all that important or influential.

    I’m not reformed, so was baffled that so much time was spent on the reformation and Calvin/Luther in some of these curriculums (Veritas Press, Quine’s Worldviews high school curriculum). Also, these seemed like they promoted Young Earth more, so if you’re old earth you’d have to tweak those parts.

    One we used and could recommend would be Sonlight. I liked the literature choices for the most part. Now, we did use Tapestry of Grace for a few years, but the last year we used it I was becoming aware of the reconstructionism/patriarchy that had infiltrated our life. I was really turned off when I noticed they recommend a few books by C.J. Mahaney as optional teacher resources ☹ I don’t know if that’s still the case, but that really tainted the material for me after that.

    I second Sharon’s choice for Peace Hill Press material and would have liked to see/use Peter Enns science curriculum.

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  10. Here are some Math suggestions that have worked for our family that are agenda free: Teaching Textbooks (we loved this series), Life of Fred, and Singapore Math.

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  11. We didn’t homeschool but we have a lot of friends who have. Saxon Math is what most of them choose. BJU’s English curriculum is pretty good for the younger grades but it goes off the rails in high school. Not so much the Literature, which is pretty solid throughout, but the Grammar. For fun books to read, the BJU Press line is pretty good, especially the Derwood Inc. series by Jeri Massi. The first volume is part of the 5th grade Lit. curriculum. Just remember that, after a certain point, what the public school kids are reading and the homeschool kids read diverges greatly. If they go on to college, or even ditch homeschooling in high school, there are books their teachers will expect they have read. (The Great Gatsby, Of Mice and Men, The Scarlet Letter are just a few examples.) So keep that in mind.

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  12. Hey BeenThereDoneThat!

    Glad to meet you here! I have read your past posts when I first became acquainted with this site a while back. I immediately felt a connection with you!

    Our little independent group wasn’t Oneness, that was the only doctrinal thing that separated us from the U.P.C. That, and of course because we had the real truth and the rest of Christianity was on that broad road to destruction. Including other Pentecostals that weren’t under our umbrella. Thank God we received liberty from that mess in 2002.
    As I mentioned on the FB page, I worked in the home school buying department for the largest Christian online retailer. They have a little fish symbol next to the home school products that are primarily “Christian” based. This isn’t always the case for products that are new. New products are added constantly and sometimes they do not get the fish flag right away.

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  13. Sady I grew up on all the curriculum listed in the article. Bill Gothard’s wisdom booklets are the most agenda packed and a large part of my education.

    The curriculum I enjoyed the most was Apologia’s science and Saxon for math. My personal opinion – A Beka Books are terrible without some sort of supplemental education (videos for example)…

    As far as homeschooling as a general mode of education, it’s as good as the ones leading it and the curriculum they choose.

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  14. There is no such thing as “agenda free” curriculum of ANY kind…secular, Christian, Home or Brick and Mortar. They ALL have an agenda of some sort. In my own searches, I’m naturally inclined to disregard the “extremes”, like Ken Ham. There are many other scientifically accurate (or historically accurate, or factually sound) curriculum sources out there. A quick read of a chapter or two, usually available as free sample downloads from the publisher’s website, is usually enough to determine if there is an overarching “agenda” one way or another. Some curriculum, it is even easy to “skip” the paragraphs or sentences that mention creation in any way.
    For History, The Story of the World is pretty good. The authors are Christian, but they actually do a good job of exploring other religions as well, and do not “push” Jesus in any way. Mystery of History I would consider a counterpart, with equal historical accuracy and quality, but with a “stronger” Christian message. Not necessarily and “agenda” per se, but God and His plan for salvation is mentioned, and often God’s overall plan for man is tied into lesson topics, especially troubling ones. This CAN lead to good discussion with 5th/6th graders about the fact of evil in the world.
    Apologia science series DEFINITELY is “young earth friendly” However, it’s pretty easy to skip over those segments for the most part, and just focus on the amazing design of God’s creation, which I hope anyone who believes as you described, Julie Ann, would agree with.
    Anyways. In my experience, there ARE good “Christian” curriculum out there. Just learn some of those buzz-words to avoid, and you’ll be ok. There are also good conventions out there, that do NOT avoid even secular companies. You can see the list of invited speakers as well as a list of vendors at most convention websites. The “BIG” conventions don’t get so huge by being TOTALLY exclusive, usually. And if you don’t want to listen to speakers, you can usually just get a pass for the vendor hall so you can touch and read through curriculum.
    Hope that helps this mom.

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  15. Our youngest three started public school (grammar and middle school) this year after being homeschooled.

    We HS’d for 14 year now. My wife and I wish we’d stopped sooner. Kids are having a hard time adjusting/sitting/testing. It’s been very stressful.

    I’m a bit peeved. My wife has been overwhelmed for some time. I dislike the pressure to HS. I kn

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  16. (Sent too soon)
    I know many HS WELL. but we should not have been for as long as we had.
    We used Sonlight. Actually like it for the most part.

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  17. We used Singapore for math in the early grades, them Math-U-See and Teaching Textbook as we’ve entered middle school and high school

    For spelling, reading, and grammar I started out using a phonogram-based system similar to Wanda Sunseri’s. It was a lot of work, but really good for laying the foundations for reading and spelling. As the kids got older I switched to Spelling Power, Easy Grammar/Daily Grams, some Writing Strands, and supplemental writing classes through a solid co-op.

    We’ve used Apologia for science for several years, although my 9th grader is doing biology through a local school system’s online program. The other daughter did Apologia’s biology and loved it.

    For history, we really enjoyed Diana Waring’s stuff, because he enthusiasm and excitement are so contagious. Her stuff developed desire in the kids to seek out other history materials on their own, just because they found it interesting.

    I’ve used a lot of stuff from the Critical Thinking Company: logic, analogies, critical thinking skills, argument, etc. I don’t think those have any religious agenda, as far as I can recall. My oldest daughter also went through “The a Fallacy Detective,” and “The Thinking Toolbox.” We used them as the basis of a 9th grade logic course, and she loved it.

    That daughter is also currently working through “Grasping God’s Word,” an introductory college-level book on hermeneutics. I don’t remember it pushing any offensive agenda, but I haven’t looked through it for over a year.

    There’s probably more, but that’s what I can remember off the top of my head.

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  18. Oh, and my oldest daughter used a set of American history books that we’ve since repented of, authored by someone called Gary DeMar. They exaggerated the positive aspects of people from Columbus to the Puritans, while downplaying or outright hiding the really negative bits. Thankfully that daughter is the one really into logic, and questioned some of the claims from the start.

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  19. I really love both My Father’s World and Sonlight. They are both literature/history based and just make for a fun year for the kids. They both incorporate Bible, but from what I have seen it is non-denominational Christian and pulls from various resources out there. We used My Father’s World for my elementary children starting in 3rd grade and my highschooler has done all four years and loved it. I like the fact that the company is about giving and creating jobs. They are not out to be wealthy.

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  20. Horizons Math for Elementary was a gem. Saxon, Jacob’s Geometry, and Pearson Algebra II for High School worked well.

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  21. With regards to the Duggars, I would add that they’ve used Alpha Omega products for a long time. I think they were using Switched on Schoolhouse in episodes from several years ago. It is designed to be all done on a computer with little help from parents. I think the episode said they use it from 3rd grade up but did more intensive teaching with the younger kids (although that teaching was probably done by the older girls).

    I like the recommendations that have already been given for curriculum from a Christian viewpoint, but not patriarchal, providential or any of that weirdness. Sonlight is Christian and missions oriented but uses books from secular publishers as well (such as Usborne). We like Story of the World for history. For science, I would prefer something old earth but there isn’t much in that category! We have used Apologia and even though it’s young earth, it’s not done in as offensive a way as Answers in Genesis. We balance that with Prentice Hall textbooks (secular).

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  22. We used AO Lifepacs the first year of homeschooling. My daughter did not like them at all. The next few years we used some Christian Liberty Press. By the time my youngest was at that grade level, I trashed those books. I think by then we were moving away from Christian material rhetoric because of what was happening in our church life.

    That being said, I still stuck with some Christian materials, but chose to either skip some of the teaching, or use them as talking points. For example, we used Apologia’s science. I thought a lot of the material was good until we got to the Astronomy book. Talk about shoving y.e. down your throat! We skipped some of what was in the book and used some of it as talking points. “The book says this. What do you think?”

    I also used Tapestry of Grace for history, literature and writing. At the time I had no idea the background of the authors of the curriculum. I loved the reading list and I thought the writing program was decent. It became apparent in year 4 when studying the 1960’s and 1970’s where they stood on the family – feminism destroyed the family. *Sigh* we didn’t cover that either.

    Math was a bit of a struggle for us. We used Modern Curriculum Press (decent non-Christian books.) The kids hated Saxon Math. We used Life of Fred which was wonderful up until algebra – we got lost in that book. My youngest used Bob Jones’ for math, which I thought was good too. I got great laughs out of some of the word problems.

    My favorite grammar was Easy Grammar. It lives up to its name! We did that and Daily Grams every other school year. Sometimes one book was big enough to cover a year and a half of teaching. For spelling, I think we used Spelling Power. This worked very well with my struggling speller. We also used Wordly Wise for vocabulary (this can double up as spelling too).

    Last year we attempted an online public school with my youngest. I was very impressed with the textbooks that we received. I thought they were wonderful. I never looked into what it would cost as a homeschooler to go the big textbook route.

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  23. I have always been an eclectic teacher- I have dabbled in about everything, except heavy Christian materials (too boring usually). The Story of the World is good as far as history; now my kids are older I use Memoria Press. Greek history, Roman History and Middle Ages are quite comprehensive and seem to stay away from any heavy doctrinal stance. Have used Apologia, but found it is better taught in a classroom setting with a few students. All my curriculum has been pretty neutral, which is the way I like it- good olé’ fashion “the three R’s”.

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  24. The “editor’s help desk” section at Reasons to Believe has science recommendations from real scientists who are Christian.
    Consider some of the Catholic texts & booklists out there. [There is a reason that non-Catholic Christian parents chose to send their kids to parochial schools back in the days before home school]. Some of their stuff may not work for you, but that’s what this post is about. 🙂

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  25. I was at Goodwill the other day looking for some jeans for my daughter and had a look through the DVDS. I was kind of amused to see quite a few dvds from Botkins, Vision Forum, Voddie, and David Barton. Someone, somewhere did a brain cleaning. Let us hope they don’t sell.

    I heard David Barton speak at a seeker mega back in the 90’s. Anyone who reads a decent amount of varied American history knows he is a crank right away. That should tell us all something. Like the left, he wants to pigeonhole the founding into an agenda. It just does not work that way. History is very nuanced and deserves our attention to the factions and grueling process so we can seriously appreciate it.

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  26. I would add Shurley Grammar. It worked well for our family, our kids are well grounded in grammar and I credit it to this curriculum 🙂 We also did Latin for a couple years using Memoria Press Latin material and like that as well.

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  27. Charlotte Mason methods and her view of children (having minds and inherent dignity of personhood) were the saving grace of our education. Reading aloud together from a variety of good books, narrating, nature walks, handicrafts, discussing art and music with attention to detail rather than agenda.

    Thankfully our reading was not confined to Elsie-type VF-approved books. We read books our other Christian friends eschewed: Little Britches (language) and its sequels, Ginger Pye (children “play church”), Old Fashioned Girl (bit of feminism preaching), Lord of the Rings (*gasp!* fantasy). Little House series (believe it or not, these were not clean enough for some of our Christian friends).

    As I recall, before we got sucked into Patriarchy, the Sonlight reading list introduced us to a variety of delightful books.

    Yeah, we read a lot on the “approved” list, too. But our eldest and I found Elsie horribly tiresome, and put that book down after a chapter or two despite our friends’ gushing appreciation. We read a lot of the Robinson Curriculum books, though we discussed the cultural bias we ran across. (Our children had first-hand experience with cultural bias as white kids living in a predominantly black neighborhood (an economic decision; in our expensive city, we could afford to buy a house in that area, and coming from a culture where differences in race had been minimized, we didn’t think twice about it). They understand at first hand how hurtful prejudice can be. We had to discuss racism in old books in part because of their experience that taught them to be wary of people who looked different — and in their experience at park, pool and playground, likely to be bullies. Sad. Though we started out intending to raise children who would not judge others based on skin color, it backfired. It’s hard to live as an idealist in a real world.)

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  28. Lisa, I have not read his books, so I can’t recommend them without reservations, but I have run across books by Hugh Ross, who is an Old Earth creationist, if I remember correctly.

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  29. Oh, and again with reservations because I came across this book when we were deep in patriarchy at the time, though I couldn’t seem to make it work (Doug Wilson’s version of history was entertaining but didn’t ring true, and Doug Pillips’ VF materials just were too slippery to grasp — seemed like history, while listening, but evaporated without much impact. No meat to it.).

    Anyhow, I found Raymond and Dorothy Moore brought some balance back to our homeschooling. I was especially blessed by a notebook I bought used that laid out the “Moore Foundation Formula” — nowadays “formula” is a red flag for me, but in this case don’t let that put you off. It is really an approach for raising well rounded people, not so much an agenda.

    If you google it, there’s an article on the Moore Foundation website summarizing their ideas (delayed academics, lots of real life exploration, a balance of work, study, and service).

    Unfortunately, our church culture was so family centered and immersed in Classical Christian education as defined by Doug Wilson and Doug Phillips, that I didn’t implement the Moores’ ideas as much as I now wish I might have.

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  30. I think we just used Horizons for math and the alphabet workbooks. Our oldest liked them okay, although she eventually got burned out trying to do a page a day. We were also part of a coop that met in our church at the time. There were some great people there, although I remember a few children who were shocked (and perhaps a little envious) at finding out that my kids were allowed to read stuff like Harry Potter.

    Although they are in public school now, I’m once again considering homeschool curriculum as a supplement due to perceived gaps in the education some of them are getting. Two are struggling with spelling, one is still having issues with the multiplication tables in 4th grade, and the oldest is mostly bored in school–after having been in the gifted/talented program throughout elementary. I look at the various needs they all have, and wonder how I will ever be able to go back to work. 😦

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  31. Here’s my perspective as a homeschool alumnus.

    For math, I can second the recommendation of Key To… math–I liked those in elementary school, and they are very much “just the facts.” I used Bob Jones for high school math, and those books were also solid; they made sure to put references to Christianity in them, but nothing that should offend other Christians (unlike their history books, which Catholics probably shouldn’t read). My youngest brother likes Teaching Textbooks, which are pretty straightforward, and allow him to do a lot of his work on the computer.
    For handwriting, I’ll second the recommendation of Getty-Dubay italic, which made my handwriting readable.

    For science, it helps to have a dad who likes doing experiments with you. We used various resources through elementary and middle school, but I don’t have a strong memory of them. My high school science was Bob Jones, which is pretty solid as long as you are okay with young-earth creationism.

    Abeka taught me to read in kindergarten–their KJV-only weirdness doesn’t really show up until later. Once you’ve learned to read, I recommend going to the library frequently and getting real books–there isn’t much value in elementary-middle school reading curricula that I’ve seen or experienced. I used Bob Jones in high school, but they do have an agenda (albeit one that somehow let The Scarlet Letter get in).

    History–is it bad if I’ve read Abeka history, Bob Jones history, The Light and the Glory, some David Barton books, and a bunch of Henty books? Oh, and I’ve seen those Vision Forum DVDs you posted, though not until I was an adult. I’ve read a lot of other history, too, but I’m not in a position to recommend anything right now.
    Finally, to give further information on what a couple of commenters said: Gary DeMar is a Christian Reconstructionist, so your suspicions of his history are well-founded. Tapestry of Grace is published by a family that was part of Covenant Life Church, so it’s not surprising they would recommend Mahaney’s work. I’ve lost touch with them–I believe they moved to Tennessee–but it’s unlikely they’ve changed their views.

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  32. I should add some of my faves:

    I loved Miquon Math for the primary grades. It uses Cuisenaire rods – manipulatives. What I liked about it is in the very first book, kids are learning adding, subtracting, multiplying/dividing, and maybe even fractions and it does it with the use of the rods. Kids learning without realizing they are learning. You will need to supplement with some sort of match facts for drilling.

    We used Saxon for the rest of the way. There is lots of repetition.

    Modern Curriculum Press phonics – – it’s one I used as a kid, too.

    I loved Sequential Spelling. It’s a great program.

    Rod and Staff English was very good. It does use Bible verses (KJV) for use in the practice sentences. But there is no agenda – just basic Christian stuff. It’s tedious, though, but very thorough. Just like Saxon with the repetition, you might be able to work every other problem.

    I mentioned Beautiful Feet above. I loved their stuff, just ditched the America’s Providential History. The book selections are great. Their Early American History and Geography units were especially fun. The kids loved coloring in the map as they read stories.

    For middle school age history/science, we used TRISMS which is now called History Makers. My older 3 did this program and they rave about the book selections. It is a fantastic program.

    Even though my kids are now in public school, I just yanked the Victory Drill book out of a box to use with my youngest guy to help get his reading speed up. This book is great for that. It’s old school and works.

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  33. Our girls loved the Genevieve Foster Books that Beautiful Feet Books republished: George Washington’s World, Augustus Caesar’s World and Abraham Lincoln’s World. They were great read aloud books that helped put history’s timeline a little clearer for all of us.
    ***
    I have to chuckle a bit at Tim’s opening comment and Julie Anne’s response. My oldest finished her homeschooling experience with a Christian Online high school program and was asked to fill out a worldview questionnaire. When she was scored as having a “humanistic” worldview, one of the online teachers sent me an email with her scores. He suggested her father and I sit down and talk with her about her salvation, We told him we didn’t question her salvation-her only fault was she was a strong, independent woman.

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  34. Thanks Kathi! Her dad and I are very proud of her! The school didn’t appreciate her Berean attitude. She and I had to have several years of therapy after leaving our old church. (she was 14 when we left.) Her four sisters were younger, and didn’t have as much trauma to work through. She is now an office manager for a doctor’s office, and is going to college to become a psychiatrist. Talk about a nightmare for the patriarchy!

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  35. Julie Anne said “Tim, if you said that to some in the homeschool communities, they’d question your salvation. No joke.”

    I find this very sad, I wonder if they question people’s salvation when they read an algebra book.

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  36. Early Elementary

    Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons

    Explode the Code: phonics books

    Veritas Press Online History (Absolutely fabulous way to be “hand-off” and the kids feel like it is a fun game.) They are self paced 32 week courses.

    Just thought I would add those. Forgot about little kid stuff!

    Liked by 2 people

  37. I’m kind of late to the subject. But if anyone looks at this, here are some curriculum we have used. For old earth creationism – http://www.oldearth.org/homeschool.htm He has an introduction for young elementary grades. It says Day 1 etc but once you watch the slides you realize it really is old earth creationism. He also has a geology course and a dinosaur course for older elementary/maybe middle school. He also offers an historical geology class for the high school level. We haven’t done that one yet. We also like Real Science 4 Kids. She really believes that all children starting with the first grade can learn real science. We had a lot of fun doing biology and chemistry for Middle School. We have also been using Time 4 Learning. I think for Middle School age it is hit or miss. I haven’t decided if we will be using the High School program yet. I have an eclectic bent and hope we will be doing more Maker stuff and project based learning. For project based learning check out the facebook pages. This is the one for parents of teens https://www.facebook.com/groups/pbhteens/ There is also one for elementary kids.

    I would also recommend checking out pinterest. Lots of homeschool families sharing their ideas on pinterest. I have several boards with all the different subjects that we are doing. I am Linda Hug http://www.pinterest.com/beitchokmah/

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  38. I’m with the other commenter who noted that there is no such thing as an agenda-free curriculum, even in the hard sciences or mathematics. You rather want to train your children to recognize the agenda in the context of the facts, or lack thereof, in the book. To use history as an example, you’ve got David Barton on one side inserting orthodox Christianity into every bit of history, and on the other side you’ve got the “standard” assumption that the same Founding Fathers who prayed and invoked God’s blessing consistently in their correspondence were deists. Both are inconsistent with the evidence, and your kid is going to come into contact with them. Might as well teach him how to think, no?

    Along the same lines, another example is Elsie. Now what makes her book fit for the dustbin, and “Tom Sawyer” a school-days staple, is not that one uses “that word” and the other does not. For that matter, Twain’s use of it is more derogatory than Finley’s–Tom says repeatedly “Well I’ll be a ****** if….”

    Rather, what elevates Twain and lowers Finley is simply that Twain’s writing is elegant and Finley’s (esp. in the first 2 books) is stilted. Moreover, most readers identify with Tom Sawyer or at least Becky Thatcher, but nobody in their right mind says “yes, abolitionist pro-Union slave-owners in the deep South who don’t play secular songs at Sunday but are A-OK with the cousin going to Italy to learn sculpture from figure models sounds perfectly reasonable to me”.

    See what I’m getting at? And along those lines, there are a lot of good courses in formal and informal logic that will help you and the ones you love to learn to think. My family has been blessed by Isaac Watts’ book on logic, as well as the materials coming from Memoria Press.

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  39. Pretty sure the Duggars didn’t recently change curriculums. They’ve used “switched on schoolhouse” by AOP for years now.

    Switched On Schoolhouse is computer based curriculum which, as far as I’ve seen, is highly academic without anything Gothard/Patriarchial.

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  40. When I helped homeschool a family of eight, I stumbled upon a service provided by South Carolina PBS. For two weeks at the end of August, they aired, end to end, one educational series after another. I recorded one 5-part series that was “newscasts” from certain periods of history: major figures came on camera with the reporters for brief interviews, and major events were taped with a reporter in the foreground. All this to say, don’t rule educational television out of your curriculum. We used stuff I had taped (back in the days of VHS) to start unit studies or for enrichment.

    We used Saxon Math, but we also did order some type of kit from BJU Press that provided for hands-on practice with math.

    Meanwhile, I broke with BJU Press years ago and am trying to start my own line of books for middle school readers. If anybody here will agree to write a review, contact me and I can send you a free epub of HALL OF HEROES in return for a review on Goodreads. jeriwho@pipeline.com

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  41. My $.02: You are correct, most HS science curriculums are young earth and creationist/non evolution. But I have to say, every one I have used does present the other views, which is more than the secular textbooks do for creationism. You’d be lucky to get one sentence out of them. I am YE, but I think it is important to teach all views. I’ve seen whole chapters dedicated to evolution in Christian texts….of course refuting it….but that is at least something.

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  42. As noted by others, all curricula have an agenda of some sort. Some you will merely note, and move on with the business of learning, and others you will choose not to invite into your home. After 12 years of homeschooling, I’ve made my share of mistakes along the way as our family has learned to navigate the path to a custom education together. One resource that I’ve found exceptionally helpful is http://www.timberdoodle.com. They have a great common sense approach to learning (and are not opposed to making it fun!) with both secular and mainstream religious offerings + really helpful customer service.

    Liked by 1 person

  43. The Character Sketches book gives me the creeps. We had to listen to it growing up. I purchased it several years ago to read to our children. I think we read one part of a lesson, and I always felt guilty we didn’t read more. Gag!

    I am also reminded of Doug Phillips’ CDs. As my helpful husband was pitching in doing dishes, I would play one of these in hopes he could lead our family like Doug…. Help me, Lord! So thankful to have married someone who helps with the kids, around the home, etc. I could NEVER be married to a man who expects me to do everything for him.

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  44. What I use/have used/recommend:

    * Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
    * Explode the Code phonics workbooks
    * Getty-Dubay Italic handwriting series
    * Sonlight (the Readers and Read-Aloud selections)
    * Singapore Maths (all levels)
    * Story of the World for History

    What I have found difficult to find home schooling materials for:
    * Australian history from a secular perspective
    * Science

    I have used Sonlight for more than ten years and when I first started, I was looking forward to using the Apologia books in the high school levels. Then, I changed, and when the time came, I could not in good conscience use those books.

    What I absolutely cannot recommend:
    * Jonathan Park audio adventure series (formerly produced by Vision Forum, but now taken over by Creation Works of California)

    Although strictly speaking not a *curriculum*, the Jonathan Park is used as a supplement by many YEC/fundamentalist/patriarchal homeschooling families. Some of the information presented in that series is just flat out wrong. I have listened to eight volumes of them (96 episodes). Some episodes are better than others, but the YEC, anti-evolution ‘arguments’ get really old.

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  45. Thanks, Yewnique. I forgot about the Jonathan Park series. My kids loved the stories, but because I’m no science buff, I let all the YEC go over my head. Mom fail.

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  46. Pingback: How I Left a Cult | The Writings and Thoughts of Loura Lawrence

  47. hey homeschoooling experts :). i am brand new to all of this …we are solid Christians looking to begin homeschooling next year, yet I’d rather my kids learn the Bible from us than from a curriculum with a certain slant or doctrine. I don’t mind Christian influence, (Bible verses used in handwriting, Christian literature for reading)… but don’t want the Christian opinions/doctrines (Christianifying history, making science match what they think the Bible says, young earth, etc). So … does something like this exist? I’d rather not go totally secular … but haven’t outruled that. Any suggestions about where to start? My kids are just starting K next year … but interested in the long haul too.

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  48. I’m glad to see Sonlight mentioned in a positive light here (no pun intended) — that’s what I’m planning to use when we start homeschooling. This year I read “Building God’s Kingdom” by Julie Ingersoll, which exposes a lot of the Dominionist and Reconstructionist teachings that have made their way into the homeschooling world. At one point she mentions that the owners of Sonlight helped her track down some information for the book, so that gave me a good impression of them. At one point they included “The Light and the Glory” in one of their cores, but checking their website now it looks like it’s been discontinued.

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