Sunday, March 7, 2010

Homeschooling and Evolution

The headline was enough to make me cringe: "Top home-school texts dismiss Darwin, evolution."

The accompanying graphic, a line graph showing the growth of homeschooling over the last 20 years, is enough to incite yet another wave of anti-homeschooling sentiment -- because really, who wouldn't be against homeschooling if homeschooling means that over 1.5 million kids are being spoon-fed questionable science?

That, of course, is exactly what the article implies, thanks largely to an extremely short-sighted, ill-advised comment from Ian Slatter, a spokesman for the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). "The majority of home-schoolers self-identify as evangelical Christians," said Slatter. "Most home-schoolers will definitely have a sort of creationist component to their home-school program."

Oh. Good. Gravy. For a group that claims to support homeschooling, such a comment -- which will clearly turn off at least half of the general public -- is pure idiocy. Are they trying to convince the American public that homeschoolers are nuts?

Note: I am not anti-evangelical Christian. I support parents' rights to teach and instill religious values. But this Slatter guy has gone way too far.

What he doesn't tell you is that a lot of parents homeschool because they want their children to have a broader world view. I don't homeschool because I want to protect my children from evolution; I homeschool because I want them to question everything. I want to expose them to things they might not learn for years yet, if they were confined to a certain grade level in a certain school. I want them to have the freedom to think deeply, to make connections, to ask questions. I want to teach them how to analyze information, how to consider the source and how to come to a conclusion based on established facts. I don't want them to believe in evolution because someone tells them it's so, and I don't want them to believe in creationism because someone tells them it's true. I want them to understand the arguments and "facts" on both sides, and I want them to reach their own, reasoned conclusions. Because whether you believe in evolution or not -- whether you believe in creationism or not -- you darn well better understand the issues on both sides, because none of us lives in a world with one, accepted world view.

Except maybe the Home School Legal Defense Assocation, which has a long history of promoting evangelical Christian concerns at the expense of the broader homeschooling community.

I will tell you this: The HSLDA does not speak for me. And while the article would have you believe that homeschool parents are stymied, stuck in a system in which the only available textbooks are anti-evolution rants, the article overlooks the simple fact that many (most!) homeschoolers are extremely resourceful people. We haunt the library, checking out scientific books (even -- gasp!-- The Origin of the Species) and movies. We visit science museums and consult with friends, neighbors and associates who work in scientific fields. We read newspapers -- and let our children read along. We surf the 'Net. We watch the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet. We attend scientific lectures and sign our children up for hands-on, experimental science classes. We experiment and play. We arrange mentorships for our older children and enroll them in community college when they want a more formal educational experience. We are NOT restricted to a couple of questionable texts, just because they're the top-selling homeschool texts.

Call us the silent majority. We focus on our families while the Associated Press and HSLDA incite homeschooling hysteria.


  1. Well said! I've just found your blog and will keep reading. I rarely meet other homeschoolers in my area who are in it to give their kids a bigger worldview. Too many fearful, closed-minded parents who are doing their kids a great disservice by severely restricting their teaching materials.

  2. Followed you here from twitter -- the AP can't even get its statistics right. The most recent number of family *homeschooling* for religious/moral reasons is not 83% but 38%, and presumably that number is not just far-right evolutionists.

    I would hope that a survey of parents would turn up at least 83% who hope to instruct their children in either religion or morals.

    Going to the HSLDA as the primary representative of homeschoolers betrays either ignorance or a particular agenda.

  3. Amen sister!

    Secular Homeschool Mom

  4. I am Christian and I also appreciated your post. It's truly a disservice to show only one side of the coin, or cube- in the case of science! I commend you for exposing your children to both. There's actually persuasive science on both sides of the issue, and I intend to introduce my children to both perspectives so that they can see where the scientific method has been followed and where mainstream science or religion has clouded the issue for whatever reason. What people "know for sure" is often wrong. We should learn to research and learn for ourselves, which is what I believe home learning is all about.

  5. Great post Jennifer. I hope you don't mind I linked to it.

  6. I read that same article in yesterday's paper, and was also disappointed. My four teenagers have enjoyed learning all sides of the creation/evolution debate, and have made up their own minds on the matter. They can intelligently discuss the topic without sounding close-minded. Thanks for a great post!

  7. Oh you saved me so much writing! I am going to link to you here, because you have said it all for me. I recycled that paper so fast! My heart rate went up just remembering my reaction yesterday!! Thanks again for helping us all out.

  8. Hi Jen! A mutual friend's Twitter feed led me to this post. I think you were much too restrained. There is a difference between religious belief and scientific evidence. They are two different realms, and one cannot be equated with or judged against the other. If you are talking about biology, you must talk about evolution. If you are talking about evangelical Christian belief, then you can discuss a literal reading of the story of Genesis. There is no "two sides" of the question -- they are two different questions.

    For my take, see

  9. I am a Christian Homeschooling Mom. And I think I am the only christian homeschooler I know (in 'my area groups') that refuses to have anything to do with HSLDA. (which I think is part of the reason a lot of my 'fellow christian homeschoolers' won't have anything to do with us, LOL.
    And, I think most of the homeschoolers I know are not Christians. They homeschool for a better/broader education. or even for religious reasons, too.

  10. Thanks for sharing all your insights! It's been so good to see the conversations flowing around the Internet. The homeschooling community, in general, is a large, diverse, welcoming community.

  11. Unfortunately the statistics are not in your favor mam! You are the rare exception to the rule. The quote above that so incited you and inspired your post here is in fact the norm in home schooling. The predominant reason in a 2007 gov't study about homeschooling was for religious beliefs. The overwhelming majority of homeschoolers are being raised in evangelical christian homes. They clearly wage war on evolution, which is scientifically accepted to be as true and proven as any of Einsteins theories, because it has been tested and proven time and again. The homeschooling movement as it expands will continue to churn out indoctrinated naiive children who don't understand science. They may be considered intelligent and they may test well, and may be socialized sufficiently by their communities and families, but the goal is to raise them doubting evolution because it stands in conflict with christianity which is the backbone of the homeschooling movement! You are the exception to the rule. There are others like you out there, but you are the minority. I've searched the web for home school evolutionary materials, and if you do the same which you claim you have the agenda of home schoolers quickly becomes crystal clear. Indoctrination, not education!

  12. Anonymous -- Thank you for your comments. I take exception with your statement, "The homeschooling movement as it expands will continue to churn out indoctrinated naive children who don't understand science." You've now met at least one homeschooling family that doesn't fit that definition. If you've read the other comments, you surely realize that we're not the only ones. Who's to say we're not the future of homeschooling?

    Christianity isn't the backbone of the homeschooling movement. Education is the backbone of the homeschooling movement.

  13. Thanks so much for this post, this is exactly what I've always believed. Help your children have an open mind, don't close off opportunities to learn because it doesn't exactly line up with your beliefs. If they don't know both sides, they can't reasonably argue what they do believe. I linked to this post, hope that is okay.

  14. Why teach both sides ? Do we teach both alchemy and chemistry ? Both astrology and astronomy ?

    There are NOT persuasive arguments on BOTH sides. And telling your children there are is misleading. Teach evolution. Teach reason and the scientific method. The importance of evidence.

    Come down agnostic on religion. Neither atheism nor Christianity. But come down on the side of science when it comes to biology. Creationism/Intelligent Design does not deserve it have its case made to science students anymore than flat earth theory.