Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Stridency of Many Homeschooling Advocates

Once again life has caught up with me and I've dropped the ball on my blog for several weeks. My apologies to anyone who reads me regularly.

Dana has a great post over at Principled Discovery called, "Homeschooling Is Not the Gospel," which picks up on one of my pet peeves about our state homeschooling organization. Those of you who know me well are aware that I live in Colorado; if you know much about Colorado homeschooling, you know that our state organization is headed by Kevin Swanson. Now don't get me wrong, I like Kevin as a person, and agree with him about many things - but I strongly disagree with the tone he (and our organization as a whole) seems to take toward anyone who doesn't agree with him.

Dana's article is excellent and well worth reading in its entirety. She sums up her point with this statement:

Actually, I fear that some of these overzealous arguments against public schools do more to close people off from the idea of homeschooling than anything.

She's right.

I too get very frustrated at the tendency of many homeschooling advocates to make this a huge battleground. Our state organization is becoming more and more strident in tone - and the funny thing is, that’s in spite of the fact that homeschooling is becoming easier and more popular all the time. The criticism becomes more heated every year, and the range of those criticized becomes greater. This year, the state organization allowed only those curriculum providers who would sign a young-earth creation statement. Now I’m a young-earth creationist myself, but I think that’s just wrong!

Homeschooling does not benefit when homeschooling organizations become exclusionary: you must be a Christian, you can’t be enrolled in any kind of government schooling program, you must be a young-earth creationist - and it wouldn’t surprise me if soon you’ll have to believe birth control is wrong, too.

Unlike a previous commenter, I still like the seminars on Christian worldview, building up the family, and maintaining a vision for homeschooling - many of them are pretty good and help keep me going when things get stressful. But I, too, am beginning to avoid the general sessions - and there are certain speakers I simply won’t go hear, because they are far too contentious.

Why do we ask for war when it’s not necessary? And whatever happened to Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone”? Or Colossians 4:5,6: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders . . . Let your conversation be always with grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone”?

It seems to me it’s time for a little grace, you know?

22 comments:

Shauna said...

I linked over here from Dana's post. I'm in CO too. I didn't know about the YEC-only issue with CHEC, but that explains why Sonlight's application to be a vendor at this year's CHEC convention was rejected (I didn't attend, but I read on Sonlight's web site that they were not allowed to participate, which surprises me given how many Christians I know who use that curriculum and the fact that they're based in Colorado.)

The first homeschooling material I read before making the decision to homeschool was CHEC's guide to home education in Colorado, and it was well done and very helpful to me. I have used and recommended CHEC as a resource many times, so the exclusionary, my-way-or-the-highway vision that they're so stridently pushing in their newsletters and especially on Kevin Swanson's radio show and blog (see his July 7 blog post as an example) saddens and angers me. I can no longer support or recommend them to others.

Marcy Muser said...

Shauna,

Thanks for the visit and the comment! That's exactly where I'm coming from. I have been homeschooling in Colorado for 8 years, and have appreciated much that CHEC has done for homeschoolers here. But I am so frustrated with their current tone and emphasis! And the thing is, I generally agree with the majority of their positions (though certainly not all) - I just find the way they are articulating them to be harsh and unloving, and completely contrary to biblical teaching.

As for the issue with Sonlight, that is what I was told. I used SL for many years, and was shocked to discover they weren't at the conference this year. After some probing, the YEC issue is what I understood to have been the problem. I just don't understand what CHEC is thinking here; how can it be helpful to "Christian home educating in Colorado" to exclude prominent, unquestionably Christian curriculum providers because of a relatively minor doctrinal issue? They allow providers who are strongly legalistic - that would seem to be far more serious a danger than old-earth creationism IMO.

Anyway, I'm with you. I just wish there were some way to communicate this to CHEC (and to other homeschool advocates who are taking a similar tone) in a way that they could hear. :(

AmusedMomma said...

Marcy and Shauna,

Have you discussed your concerns with Kevin Swanson and those associated with CHEC, such as Bill Roach the President of the Board or Mike Cheney the Operations Director? It's very easy to lob opinions about the internet, it's another thing to take up a matter with someone personally and get to understand where folks are coming from, why certain decisions are made, etc.

For instance, your understanding about the YEC thing is off base as in this was a new policy from CHEC and all the curriculum providers had to sign on or not be allowed at the Conference.

I've always known each of these men to be approachable as far as discussing CHEC's policies, tone and "stridency."

There is and always has been divergent opinions about how to advocate for something without seeming to steam roll over the other options. I agree with you in principle that it can seem too much when people's advocacy becomes so strident that it begins to take away from what you're advocating for (that Kansas group who protests at military funerals comes to mind).

I would encourage you to speak to Kevin, Bill or Mike. I can get you their contact information if you like.

Also, I would encourage you to contact those other organizations or individuals who are representing views that you find objectionable and "unbiblical." I have found that it is easier to affect change when you engage others in a discussion.

Paula -- homeschooling mom in Colorado Springs for over 13 years and CHEC volunteer for over 7 years

Marcy Muser said...

Paula,

I appreciate your feedback, and even before you posted I have been thinking all day about how to handle discussing this with CHEC. I'm not generally one to just, as you put it, "lob opinions around the Internet" - I would much prefer to have a discussion with the individuals involved. However, I have to say that given the direction Kevin and CHEC have been heading, and the depth to which they appear to hold their convictions, I'm not at all sure they would listen.

For example, do you really think Kevin will listen if I broach the subject of whether "homeschooling for life" is the only "Christian" option? Based on his July 7 article, it would seem that he believes rather deeply that if I decide to send my 15-year-old to school, I am essentially surrendering her to Hell. I personally believe, that there's a tremendous difference between sending a 6-year-old to school and sending a 15-year-old; and I think God has left it to the parent to decide what is best for their family, rather than depending on some "expert" in the homeschooling community to tell them when it's OK to expose their child to world.

I also see that many - and I mean MANY - homeschoolers begin the process rather tentatively, with a "we'll try it for a year" mentality. I know I did. Now, 8 years later, I'm much more committed to homeschooling than I was - and CHEC was part of bringing me to that point. But taking a tone such as Kevin did in that July 7 post is more likely to scare away these tentative homeschoolers than to encourage them - and if they are scared away from the support, the odds are they're not going to homeschool for the long haul.

As for the YEC position, I understand that it's a new policy this year - and I think it's a terrible one. It seems to me that we ought to be promoting UNITY in the Body of Christ rather than dividing people based on whether they believe God created the earth in 6 literal days or a longer time period. (And I say this as a firm young-earth creationist myself.) It seems to me if CHEC is serious about convincing people about YEC, they would WANT to bring SL buyers to the CHEC convention, where they can be exposed to such excellent YEC teaching as Ken Ham brought last year. Instead, CHEC has excluded some of the very people who most need to hear what AIG is saying.

And that's what they seem to be doing at the moment - excluding more and more people. I've pretty well decided that I will try to find a way to communicate with Kevin, but to be honest, I'm not at all convinced that he's going to listen to me; it seems more likely, at least at the moment, that I will end up among the excluded myself. (After all, surely Sonlight had some type of discussion with CHEC when they found out about the new policy, but they were still excluded.)

Anyway, Paula, I do appreciate your feedback. I honestly hope CHEC will listen; I hate to see them becoming marginalized at a time like this when more and more people are homeschooling. CHEC is badly needed, but it's needed to be loving and gentle and to minister to people where they are, not to judge and exclude and criticize them.

AmusedMomma said...

Marcy,

I cannot speak for Kevin, but I do know that he has always been willing to stop and listen to others, even with his crazy busy schedule. He is passionately committed to homeschooling no doubt about that. But he's also, in my experience, been willing to talk to others who may have a different take on things.

As the head of a homeschool organization it's in his scope of duties, don't you think, to advocate strongly for that? Just as the CEA advocates strongly for public schooling? Wonder who advocates for charter schools, they seem not to have a strong entity behind them.

I have to admit that I don't listen to his radio program. Just don't have the time, and I've always assumed it was kind of like "preaching to the choir" kind of stuff, so I honestly don't know what is being put out by Generations.

I am glad that you will contact Kevin. Please also share your concerns about Sonlight. He has talked to several people about that.

Since I edit the Update, I hope you will feel free to contact me concerning the content of the newsmagazine. We are just putting the 3rd quarter one to rest so that it can arrive in mailboxes the first week of August. I'm always looking for good, well-written articles!

The YEC is not a new position. It's been a part of CHEC's Statement of Faith for a few years (I don't know how many, but at least 5). It doesn't sound like Sonlight is giving the full representation of how this all came about. Again, I urge you to talk to Kevin and see if you can't at least learn where CHEC's coming from in that decision.

Glad to have had this exchange and looking forward to hearing from you.

Paula

Dana said...

Thank you Marcy, and nice post. It is a difficult issue. On the one hand, so long as this is a private organization, they have every right to include or exclude anyone they want. But of course that doesn't mean they should.

It gets more difficult because how many real alternatives are there? And I wonder at this increasingly hostile tone you mention. I haven't charted it among single individuals or organizations so much.

Since these groups tend to view this more as a ministry than a business, I wonder whether or not they will adapt and become more inclusive. Or if they will just see the criticism and requests for change as "attacks from the enemy." I'm not saying they should necessarily respond to market forces. And I suppose if the market continues to grow, there will be more diverse conferences all the time in response.

Marcy Muser said...

Paula,

Please don't take my comments about the YEC/SL issue to reflect anything SL has said. In fact, I'm not even aware of what SL has said on the issue since I have not used their curriculum this past year and will not be using it next year. What I know came to me third-hand, via friends of friends (people I do know and trust), and was confirmed by Shauna's comment here that Sonlight said on their website that "they were not allowed to participate" and by your comment here that "was a new policy from CHEC and all the curriculum providers had to sign on or not be allowed at the Conference."

As for the Update, I have personally not had difficulty with most of it. I do occasionally struggle with the apparent underlying philosophy that if you're going to be a good Christian homeschooler, you must abstain from birth control or any involvement whatsoever in the government school system, you must commit 100% to homeschooling your kids for their whole academic life (maybe even college or career), you must be a young-earth creationist, etc. There are MANY Christian homeschoolers in Colorado; some of us are much like that, and some are very different. I personally struggle with the "quiver-full" issue, because I have only two children, one of whom was in-vitro and one adopted. We don't use birth control, but I often get the feeling that I am somehow looked down on (by CHEC) because I don't have a large family. Others may find they need to leave an abusive home situation and end up as single mothers trying to homeschool and provide for a family, and may decide they need to put their kids in school. Some of us may choose to put our children on a high school swim team - but then we are involved with government schools. Some of us have found significant support from public school enrichment programs, which here in Colorado are quite good and don't require our kids' mixing with public school students.

Obviously CHEC has every right to endorse any position they wish, and to promote it in whatever way they would like. But I dislike the criticism and judgmentalism, the superior attitude, that often accompanies these positions; as if somehow if you agree with CHEC's positions you are a "good Christian homeschooler," and if you don't, you're not. Do you understand what I'm saying here? I just don't buy that there's one "right way" to be a Christian homeschooler (though I most certainly believe there is only one right way to come to God).

I will definitely try to communicate with Kevin, and perhaps with Bill and Mike as well.

Thanks so much for the continued feedback. I really do appreciate it.

AmusedMomma said...

Marcy,
The quiverfull comments are interesting to me because those who are really involved with CHEC -- on boards, directors, key volunteers - do not have what I think most people would regard as quiverfulls. In other words, they have between one and 5 children. The person on the board with the most children has 6, other members of the board have 5, 4, and 2 children. I wonder what we can do to change this impression that CHEC is promoting quiverfulls as being part and parcel of Christian homeschooling. I will have to think about this for a while, but I'm willing to listen to suggestions!

Also, about the single moms -- there is NO other state organization that I am aware of that has a single moms ministry as CHEC does in the Casterline Fund. Many single moms in Colorado are blessed by contributions from this fund to assist them in continuing to homeschool their children. Were you aware that CHEC did this? I'm not certain that we're doing an adequate job of getting that word out about the single moms ministry. Oh -- and the reason the mom is single is not at issue, whether it be from divorce, never married, or widowed -- the fact of the matter is CHEC helps single moms.

The non-blurring of lines such as those who participate in public school programs and homeschool is a political stance. Treon Goossen, who co-wrote the Colorado homeschool law, and has continued to be an advocate for homeschooling ever since, also advocates not blurring the lines. Homeschool parents who serve IN the legislature also advocate this quite strongly. How could CHEC more effectively communicate its advocacy for homeschooling without assistance from the government without appearing to judge those who do choose to use assistance from the government? I am very willing to engage in discussions on that and learn how to do that better.

I am thrilled at this exchange and welcome you and others to continue to engage in conversations that hopefully will bring us peaceful resolutions to these issues.

Those who want to email me, if you don't mind me sharing this via your blog, can address me at paula@chec.org.

I am encouraged and hopeful that these issues can be resolved, or at least understood from the various perspectives that are being shared.

Paula

Melinda S. said...

I would like to add to the discussion that Kevin was here in UT at our (very small) homeschool convention this spring. I also felt he was very strong about "any other form of schooling is of the devil, etc." Really, this was a very strong position of his, all through that conference. (I have not listened to his radio show or read his blog.)

I have also seen this same idea numerous times, from many of the big-name homeschool speakers, and I think Deanna is also getting at more than just where CHEC seems to be right now. It seems that every year, the voices are getting more strident--we are doing the only right thing, public school will lead your child straight to h-ll, on and on. Not that there isn't some point to some of this--a lot of parents do need to think about these issues more than they are, but the stridency is a big concern.

Melinda S. said...

Paula, I would like to say to you,in particular, that I did raise these issues when I sent in my survey to CHEC. (I didn't get it done at the convention, and just sent it this week, along with a lengthy letter explaining my concerns.)

I don't know who reads those, so I will try to summarize here. (I made a second comment, so it wouldn't be too long :) ).

One of the things that really bothered me about the "sign a YE statement, or else..." issue is that so many other things are tolerated. Eg, it's OK to believe all women should wear dresses (which for many is a big deal) or it's OK to wear shorts to the convention. It's OK to say that God's plan for all Christians was to own their own business (as I heard Doug Phillips say in the opening session on Thursday). It's OK to say everybody who doesn't homeschool is responsible before God for sending them the short way to h-ll (which was clearly implied by Kevin's comments in UT, if not stated outright. I think it was, but for the sake of intellectual honesty I must admit that it was several months ago, and I don't remember the exact words, only the tenor of the sessions).
I presume (though I could be mistaken) that it's OK to say that when the Bible speaks of God's "wings" or "arms" that is figurative.
But somehow it's not OK to say that "days" in Genesis may be figurative. Here you have to exactly toe the line, or you are out.
(I don't have a problem with CHEC saying that they believe this is the case. I do have a problem with them drawing a line here, as to what they will or won't accept. This has been debated for centuries, since far before Darwin, and is not part of any denominational statement of faith that I know of. So I think it's just going too far.)

So, some of us with concerns have written to CHEC itself, though I'm not certain who will actually read my form, or whether it will go to those mentioned in this post and comments.

Melinda S. said...

And one more thing (sorry)--

I think that the quiverfull question is not so much what CHEC itself represents, but is the visible opinion of several key people this year. Eg, Vision Forum, I think, pretty much promotes this, and they were a very major part of CHEC's proceedings this year.

It may not be CHEC's position, it just did feel that way this year, perhaps by association. This may be an unfair assertion. I do know it's an issue that many in the homeschool community feel sensitive about, whether they have 1 child or 14. (Actually, I think many women in general feel defensive about their choices in this. I know non-homeschool women who also feel everyone is questioning their decisions.)

I also would like to say that I really, really did enjoy the CHEC convention, and I got a LOT out of it. I try to go to a bigger convention every couple of years, and I did think that, despite these issues that bothered me, this was very valuable.

Shauna said...

Yes, I do plan to express my concerns to Kevin Swanson and have previously attempted to do so with others whose views and products are promoted heavily on his site and at CHEC conventions. I *do* know what he is saying on his radio program and blog, and I grant that because of the nature of those media outlets, he probably uses more rhetoric and combative language there than he does in real-life, one-on-one conversations.

All Sonlight's web site announcement said was that they were in discussions with CHEC because their application had been rejected. The purpose was to inform their patrons why they would not be at the vendor fair although it was originally on their convention schedule and they have displayed there previously. If anything I said implied that Sonlight was trying to smear CHEC, I take full responsibility for being unclear, as that is not the case.

Marcy Muser said...

Paula,

I think Melinda has expressed my feelings pretty well in terms of the quiverfull issue. The more actively CHEC promotes and endorses those who both strongly and publicly advocate a QF position (especially those who seem to say that "all good Christians" do this), the more people like me, who don't have a "quiverfull" (whether by choice or by God's providence), feel excluded and judged. (As for the board, to the many Christian homeschoolers with only 1 or 2, those who have 4, 5, or 6 children DO seem to fit the QF profile.)

I don't have a great answer for you on this; maybe including articles and workshops on "Homeschooling the Smaller Family" or "Homeschooling Only One" might help smaller families feel included. There never seem to be shortage of workshops and articles on homeschooling a large family - and while I realize that is exponentially more difficult than homeschooling just one or two, there are unique challenges for the smaller family that bigger families don't deal with (social issues, for example; and how to teach P.E. to just one or two; and what to do when your kids are bored and want - and expect - more "mom time" because after all, they don't have to share as much; and how to distribute the workload in a smaller family where there is less work to go around; and so on).

On the single mom issue - I do know about, and I am so very thankful for, the work CHEC is doing to support single moms who are trying to homeschool. I think it's a wonderful outreach. However, what happens to that single mom when she decides she simply cannot manage the schedule that's required to work full-time and homeschool as well? How does she feel about herself when she finds it necessary to put her children in school? I have no problem with CHEC believing that homeschooling is the best, even the most biblical option for kids. But there is such condemnation of schools in the homeschooling community that, as Melinda said, one would think a parent who sent their child to school were consigning them to h-ll. Do we, or do we not, believe that God can protect our children if He leads us to put them in school? And can we honestly say that every other believer we know (including my associate pastor, who has raised 5 beautiful and godly young men and women) has done the wrong thing if they choose to send their child to school? And for that matter, doesn't it seem a bit presumptuous to say that God couldn't possibly lead a family to send their children to school?

Please don't misunderstand - I DO believe homeschooling is generally the best option for children. The longer I homeschool, the happier I am with the way my children are turning out, and the more I believe it was the right choice for us. But we have made that decision each year, relying on the Lord's leading of us for that year. And if at some point we believe He is leading us to send our children to school, we also intend to obey - regardless of whether others in the homeschooling community choose to judge us for that choice. I hope I'm making myself clear here. To believe that homeschooling is the best choice for the majority of kids, as I do, is unquestionably within the rights of an organization like CHEC. But to hold that homeschooling is the only viable choice for Christians; to insinuate that anyone who chooses to send their child to school, at any point in their lives, is stepping out of the will of God; to leave fellow believers feeling judged if they believe God is leading them to put their child in school - well, that seems to me to violate clear biblical instruction about acting in love for fellow believers, about judging people on "disputable matters" ("Who are you to judge the servant of another?" - Romans 14:4), and about doing what leads to peace.

And regarding the YE position, I agree with Melinda's assessment. I don't have a problem with CHEC advocating a YE position - I have a problem with them saying, "If you don't believe this, you are out - we can't even have you sell your product here." This despite the fact that other companies sell products at CHEC who also advocate positions I don't believe CHEC agrees with. The most notable of these would be one whose leader has said clearly and repeatedly that slavery was a good thing for Africans (I won't mention names, but I think you know which one I mean). There are also suppliers who are not Christians; why would CHEC exclude old-earth creationists but allow unbelievers to display and sell products?

Sorry - this has gone on longer than I would have liked. I hope it's helpful.

AmusedMomma said...

Hello Shauna,

I didn't think you were smearing CHEC's name. Much bolder things have been said than what you were saying Sonlight said. Perhaps we were talking past each other here. I'll hope you'll forgive me if what I wrote implied that.

The thing about the YEC is that CHEC has had that as part of their Statement of Faith for at least 5 years. Each vendor signs an agreement to honor that. Much of Sonlight's elementary grade material wasn't YEC. Each entity gets to decide what is appropriate for their venues.

For instance, this year at the Day at the Capitol, it took much wrangling to get permission to have the displays approved. Public schools have displays, many and various groups have displays at the Capitol. The Capitol hosts many groups and entities throughout the year who have displays. But CHEC was given a hard time, when we've done it for a few years now. So we worked through that, because ultimately it's the Governor's staff who decides who can and cannot have displays and how and what those displays can feature. Would it look anything like what CHEC would have liked to have been able to do? No. But we abided by their guidelines. They were the host, so that's the way it goes.

I feel as if I've taken over Marcy's comments section and I surely didn't mean to do that. I have greatly enjoyed learning more and hope that can continue through dialoging here or elsewhere.

Paula

AmusedMomma said...

I'm glad to hear that others have been sending in evaluations. I know that they are read by the Conference Coordinator and his family and various members of the Conference Committee. I just turned in the notebook and can tell you that I read every single one of them, around 435 the largest number received since 2002. Now -- if someone sent one in recently, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to see that.


Melinda -- was it you who said, "It seems that every year, the voices are getting more strident--we are doing the only right thing, public school will lead your child straight to h-ll, on and on."? If we took the ONLY out of that sentence, would that be better? Less judgemental? Or is your objection something else? I'm trying to understand where you are coming from, what your perspective is and what your objections are. I don't want to make assumptions.

I too would like to see people addressing the issue of homeschooling only one, as that will be me in one short year. Our 17-year old will graduate and then we'll be homeschooling our 8 year old only. Perhaps because it is me whose in this position, I notice lots of other families who are facing the same thing. I hope you suggested it on the evaluation form. Your suggestions make a difference.

The evaluation forms exist because CHEC wants to serve the needs of the homeschool community. CHEC needs feedback to do that. I have found that the evaluations are a good way to get a pulse on the homeschool community, which I think is something that changes all the time. There are so many different needs to be meet -- the new people homeschooling need different seminars than those who have homeschooled awhile. There are those barely hanging on and they need encouragement. Then there are those who need to learn how to teach science or math or language arts/literature because they lack confidence or their kids are learning differently then they learned themselves. It is hard to meet everyone's needs in one conference. But I think CHEC does a good job of providing variety and hitting most of the community's needs. What I'm hearing here is that we could do better and need to include different language. Does anyone have suggestions for speakers who can address the issues you've talked about (other than YEC, as I doubt that will change).

The debate about YEC, as old as it may be, isn't the issue here. CHEC as an entity has the right to believe as they believe. And as I pointed out in a previous comment, whoever the host is, they pretty much get to call the shots. Does YEC thought represent every homeschooler out there? Nope. But that's not the point either. I don't see on this issue where there is middle ground. And just for information's sake, I personally know of several denominations that have YEC as part of their basic beliefs, Statement of Faith or whatever you want to call it -- mine would be one of them (I'm a Missouri Synod Lutheran, LCMS for short). It's been there since the Reformation, as the old joke goes that Lutherans don't believe in change. :-)

I'd love to continue receiving feedback, ideas, suggestions about what things we, who work for CHEC, can help you with as a Christian homeschool family.

My prayer is that I haven't seemed confrontational, judgmental or critical of those who think differently or believe differently as that certainly is not where my heart is. If my written words have failed to convey that, please allow me to apologize and attempt to convey my thoughts better.

Thanks, Marcy, for letting us all use your blog to discuss these matters. I really do appreciate it!

Paula

Shauna said...

The more actively CHEC promotes and endorses those who both strongly and publicly advocate a QF position (especially those who seem to say that "all good Christians" do this), the more people like me, who don't have a "quiverfull" (whether by choice or by God's providence), feel excluded and judged.

I think this is a very good point, and for me it also applies to CHEC's endorsement of individuals and vendors who believe it's sinful for women to be in the workplace, that it's wrong for Christians to vote for a woman to hold a civil office and who question whether women should even vote, and who don't think single daughters should attend college or leave the home.

My guess is that the majority of Christian homeschoolers in Colorado don't share these extreme views, and likely not everyone involved in CHEC does either. I'm not suggesting that CHEC should promote a vision that they believe is not biblical for the sake of appealing to the majority. I don't have to participate in CHEC events if I don't share their vision, or I can skip the speakers and vendors who don't share my views, as I did when I attended the convention before. But CHEC is a statewide organization that claims to represent *all* homeschoolers in Colorado and that represents and speaks for the state's homeschoolers at the legislative level (for which I am thankful), so perhaps in the public sphere they could be more inclusive and tone down the rhetoric. I'm not sure what the answer is. :(

Marcy Muser said...

Paula,

I don't mind at all your "taking over" the comments section here - I'm glad people are reading and we are discussing the issues involved, because I do think many people are getting a feeling of contentiousness from CHEC these days (as from certain other strong homeschooling advocates).

While I agree 100% that every organization has the right to insist on whatever standards they like, I wonder if CHEC's view of SL and YEC is quite accurate. I used SL from the time my daughter was 3 1/2 until she finished fifth grade - all of SL's cores from PreK through 5, and all of their science except year 4 (which focuses on electricity, magnetism, microscopes, astronomy, etc.). I simply did not find your statement, "Much of Sonlight's elementary grade material wasn't YEC" to be an accurate representation of SL's position on this issue. What SL has said publicly is that the church ought not to be divided over the issue of YEC vs. OEC. What I found in their materials was that they occasionally use secular materials such as Usborne books (which are used and sold by many of your curriculum providers). A few of these include a brief references (maybe one or two two-page spreads in a book of more than 100 pages) to "millions of years." All of these references are easy to skip, and SL actually recommends skipping most of them as those few pages often describe a process of evolution SL does not advocate. In addition, SL makes a point of including in their curriculum: a) an article FOR PARENTS describing why they don't recommend splitting the church over this issue, along with scientific evidence on both sides; and b) materials for children from a young-earth perspective, including The Great Dinosaur Mystery and the Bible, Dry Bones and Other Fossils, Evolution: The Grand Experiment, and Apologia science for all older grades. As far as I know, they currently sell NO old-earth creation material (though they do sell some intelligent design materials, including The Case for a Creator, Darwin's Black Box, and Of Pandas and People). I'm a young-earth creationist; I used SL for 7 years; and I just don't see your interpretation as accurate. If this is what CHEC is basing their opinion on, I strongly encourage them to re-evaluate SL's curriculum in this regard, and compare it to that of any other supplier who uses Usborne books.

Anyway, that's only part of what bothers me about CHEC, and the other issues are at least as significant (I don't even use SL any more, due to other issues that have nothing to do with YEC). For example, I can't speak authoritatively to Melinda's perspective (though she is my sister), but I can tell you that taking the "only" out of the sentence you quoted won't solve the problem if you continue to leave the following sentence, "Public school will lead your child straight to h-ll." It is certainly within CHEC's right to hold that position; however, I seriously doubt that represents the position of most of the Christian home educators in Colorado. As I said before, I know people who have successfully raised lovely, godly young people despite sending them to public school. I'll grant you, it's been a challenge - it took a lot of prayer and effort - and I know many who have not succeeded, too. But to say that public school will send your child straight to h-ll is a strident and contentious statement, and if CHEC continues to make statements like that, they are going to continue to alienate people - even solid, conservative, Christian homeschool advocates like me and like my sister.

At the same time, I do think CHEC would benefit greatly in terms of public image by pointing out the tremendous variety there is among homeschoolers. There is no one "right way" to homeschool, nor will all Christian homeschoolers make the same choices - and most of those choices are good things. Reformed or "Reformation" churches are not the only godly ones (and some of us live to far away to attend one even if we wanted to); large families are not the only people who homeschool (we've talked about this before - and I agree with Shauna's most recent comment here); and not all daughters ought to be raised only to be wives and homemakers (God might call some to be single missionaries, you know?). It's not that I have a problem with promoting these kinds of positions; my problem is with the exclusionary language CHEC and other homeschool advocates use to imply that they are the only ones who are really obeying God fully, and the rest of us are somehow out of His will.

I'm not in any way implying that CHEC is the only organization guilty of this; in my initial post I tried to make it clear that Kevin was only one example of a homeschool advocate who was taking on a strident, judgemental tone. He is obviously one of the most visible to those of us in Colorado, and I find a substantial number of friends both in real life and online who are put off by CHEC's increasingly exclusive tone - but there are many in the homeschool community who are taking on the same tone. I believe that tone is harming both our ministry to believers and our witness to unbelievers, and I hope that CHEC and others will put some serious prayer time into how they can be less judgemental of others.

Melinda S. said...

Deanna said just about everything I wanted to say.

I don't think that taking out the "only" would be enough. A lot of homeschooler leaders these days preach that anything other that homeschooling (with the possible exception of a private, Christian school, though even that is doubtful) is unchristian, unbiblical, etc. I think it's fine to say, "we are working hard to do what we believe is best for our children;" "we believe God has called us to homeschool our children, and He is using it for some very good things;" etc. But it's very clear that many hs leaders think way more than that--this is the only godly way to raise kids--and they say it very harshly and regularly.

This leaves me as a homeschooler with two problems. One, I don't feel comfortable in such a negative, judgemental atmosphere. (I have to say again, though, that MOST of the CHEC convention this year was not like this--it was very good, and I enjoyed it. It's the general topic that Deanna brought up, about stridency in the hs community, where I see this being a big deal).

Second, it leaves the "average" homeschooler fighting a lot of battles they don't really wish to engage in. I have had family members accuse me of always saying they ought to homeschool, though I have NEVER even thought this. I feel like the stridency of some hs leaders has negative consequences in the ordinary hsers life.

Re. the SL vs YEC issue, I agree with Deanna here, as well. The only non-YEC materials I've ever seen in SL are the Usborne books they use. I've never seen those pages assigned, either. There are a couple of one-line references to "40,000 years ago" on one or two pages that are assigned. They do have the article for parents as Deanna described. All of their other materials are YE, including their entire 7-12th grade science program (which is Apologia), and at least 3 YE books used in elementary school. Though their statements allow for OEC (and always with the C), their teaching winds up squarely in the YEC camp--so much so that it is a constant issue for unbelievers who wish to use SL for other reasons. (That, and it's missions focus, which I don't think ANY other curriculum has.)

These Usborne books are also used by most other curricula (except Rod and Staff and Abeka). My Father's World and Tapesty of Grace have very similar book lists, including a lot of Usborne books. Both of these were there, with no question that I know of being raised about whether they had YEC materials.

Despite what you said about the policy being there for 5 years, I think there was some different criteria used this year for how it was applied.

At any rate, we have gone far and wide from the original blog, I think. (Which is OK.) The biggest point, which I still think is significant, despite all the details, is that it still does seem to me that the hs community is becoming more strident about less significant issues.

AmusedMomma said...

Marcy -- saw your comments over at Jane's blog. She and I know each other through a small community of homeschoolers that subscribe to a list for our denomination. I just thought I'd mention that I've been reading your blog for a few months now, and didn't get here because you used CHEC's name. I have enjoyed your posts, but I'm not a regular commentor on most people's blogs.

I was curious about the Sonlight issue, and so I visited their website and found that most of their material for grades K-4 used material that is not from a Christian perspective. I believe that's their choice. But as a parent who believes in YEC I think it would be hard to filter out all all the instances of other worldviews in the books. I only found a couple from a Christian perspective and those were in 3rd grade.

I talked to a friend of mine who has used (still uses) Sonlight and she told me that she tired of weeding out the other worldviews present in their science material and so stopped using. She's found that view in some of the history too.

Shauna said, "But CHEC is a statewide organization that claims to represent *all* homeschoolers in Colorado and that represents and speaks for the state's homeschoolers at the legislative level (for which I am thankful), so perhaps in the public sphere they could be more inclusive and tone down the rhetoric. "

I have never known CHEC to claim to represent *all* homeschoolers. No one that I know of in the organization claims to do that. We are well aware that we represent a segment of the homeschool population. So I wonder where this impression of yours comes from? Can you point me to instances of where CHEC has claimed that or made that pronouncement?

Since my daughter has worked for a state legislator for over 5 years, I think I state rather emphatically that CHEC is not the entity that is up at the Capitol advocating for homeschoolers on a regular basis. CHEC has participated at committee hearings *on certain issues* but overall, the legislative watchdog is Treon and it is to her that you owe your thanks for the homeschool law (she helped author it) and has defended it ever since in *every* legislative season. She is the tireless defender of homeschoolers at the legislature. CHEC isn't absent by a long shot, but they just aren't nearly as involved as Treon is.

The only way for things to change is to engage in dialog. I appreciate your graciousness Marcy in allowing all these comments.

Marcy Muser said...

Paula,

I'm sorry that I didn't realize you were a regular reader! I have enough times when life intrudes that I figure I only have a few who read my blog regularly - I generally assume most of my commenters read me thanks to Google alerts, as I do many who use the terms homeschooling and home schooling. Thanks for sticking with me when I sometimes don't post for weeks!

It's interesting you should say that as a parent who believes in YEC it would be hard to filter out material from other perspectives. I'm a pretty strong YEC, and I actually had very little difficulty with that issue in all the years I used SL. Now once you get into the older grades, I do have some challenges with the way SL handles controversial/difficult material; not because they use that material, but because I did not feel they gave me as the teaching parent enough support in discussing it.

See, I actually prefer to expose my kids to the secular theories at home, and the earlier the better. If we can deal with the theory of evolution at home in the first few years, for example, it's much easier to handle trips to the museum. My third-grader has a reasonably solid understanding of the basics of evolution - and a reasonably good grasp of how to respond to those arguments, too. Not that she doesn't have much more to learn, but I'm confident that if she should come across a friend who advocated evolution, or should pick up a book at the library, she wouldn't be stunned by it - nor would she respond with an anti-intellectual approach.

I'll grant you that I've always supplemented any curriculum I've used with additional good books I had in my library. So by the time we hit The Great Dinosaur Mystery and the Bible in second grade, we've already read What Really Happened to the Dinosaurs? And by the time we get to Dry Bones and Other Fossils in fifth grade, we've already read that one a couple of times, along with Skeletons in My Closet, its companion. This year when we used Tapestry of Grace, I also added Life in the Great Ice Age (which I really loved and learned a LOT from). At the same time, I found it very valuable to have the very occasional secular reference as well - we'll be reading and come across "millions of years" and I'll look at my kids and say, "Or so . . . ," which they recognize means, "That's what some people SAY, but that's not what we believe." We save our more in-depth discussions, most of the time, for the museum, where the theory of evolution is propounded along with its "evidence," and where their dad and I together can point out holes in the logic and ways the evidence does not support the conclusions.

It's interesting to me that while SL rarely (if ever) assigns the pages in secular sources that discuss evolution, while they specifically DO assign YEC books several times during the course of their science, and while secular and OEC folks criticize SL (and often don't use them) for their YEC materials, CHEC feels they are so oriented toward OEC that they shouldn't be at the convention. I think in part there's a misunderstanding of SL's philosophy. SL makes it clear in their catalog that they believe that "in the supportive environment of their parents' home, children should be made aware of false beliefs, foolish ideas, and questionable arguments. Parents have a unique responsibility not only to point out these ideas to their children, but to carefully explain why the idease are false, foolish, or questionable. Moreover, parents must teach their children how to respond to these ideas, beliefs, and arguments." The inclusion of an occasional reference, in a secular source, to long ages, in my opinion, is precisely this kind of issue - something children are going to encounter, in many cases while still pretty young, which they need to be guided to discern and counter.

And I agree with you the CHEC doesn't claim to represent all homeschoolers in Colorado. However, if they're going to claim to represent "Christian homeschoolers" in Colorado, it seems important to me that they correctly represent the cause of Christ - including love for other believers, a heart for ministry to all believers (even if they eventually put their kids in school, and even if we think that's unwise), and a spirit of outreach to unbelievers. I could be wrong, but I feel like instead CHEC is currently communicating a spirit of judgmentalism at the moment ("We have the truth, and if you don't agree with us, you don't, so get your act together.") I have to be fair and say you have represented a very different face of CHEC to me in this comment section, and I really appreciate your willingness to stick around and "take it" from those who would criticize an organization you clearly care deeply about. And I HAVE felt that CHEC has been helpful to me; I wouldn't still be coming to the conference every year if I didn't. I'm just concerned that every year I see more evidence of exclusion and judgmentalism, and I think in the end that's going to cost CHEC a great deal.

Shauna said...

From CHEC's web site (bold statements are mine):

Christian Home Educators of Colorado (CHEC), is a non-profit, Christian organization, dedicated to providing information, resources and leadership to all families involved in home-centered education. We believe that parents--committing time and resources to provide their children with an academically excellent education, grounded in proper values--have the potential to affect the very course of our nation as their children grow up to become competent Christian leaders in the years to come. Christian Home Educators of Colorado is committed to the advancement of home education, and consider it part of our mission to help ease the burden of this responsibility for all families across Colorado involved in home-centered education.

Shauna said...

Perhaps represent was the wrong word choice, but the statement in CHEC's About Us section and that also appears in the Statement of Purpose is what I was referring to in my earlier comment, as well as events like Homeschool Day at the Capitol.

I completely agree that Treon is awesome, and I greatly appreciate her significant contributions to Colorado home education. I also appreciate the willingness to discuss these issues and want to be reasonable and teachable while sharing my concerns.