"Christian" history and science vs "secular"


(Christy Hemphill) #1

Continuing the discussion from Discussion of experiences related to homeschooling and science education:

I thought Doug brought up some good questions that deserved their own thread.

@Homeschool_Forum What are your thoughts? Are you looking for science and history curriculum that reinforces the particular Christian worldview you want your children to embrace? Are you happy using secular materials and leaving the worldview part to be caught not taught? Have you found a separate Bible/Christian worldview curriculum that you like?


(Christy Hemphill) #2

I am pretty happy using secular science and history textbooks. What I would like is a Bible curriculum that does not approach the Bible in a way that I don’t think the Bible should be approached.

Has anyone read Scot McKnight’s Blue Parakeet? It talks about some of the ways we (‘we’ meaning Evangelicals, I realize not everyone here would claim that label) approach the Bible in less than helpful ways, and much of the children’s Bible curriculum I have used and looked at seems to foster those very approaches I am trying to avoid. I have the first three years of Telling God’s Story, but there is really only enough material to use once a week. I am trying Henrietta Mears’ What the Bible is All About Bible Handbook for Kids alongside The One Year Children’s Bible which is a fairly uneditorialized but in-depth Bible story book we have read through once before. The Mears book has aspects I really like (it does a great job giving a big picture of how the whole Bible fits together and introducing the ideas of genres and authors and audiences for different books) but I still edit some parts on the fly as I’m reading it out loud.

I made up my own catechism cards in a moment of inspiration after reading Scot McKnight’s The King Jesus Gospel (I do read other authors :smirk:) Being Baptist-ish, we don’t really do catechism, so I was forced to go kind of rogue on this. Then this year my kids begged and begged to go to AWANA with some friends of theirs at another church, and… let’s just say, my questions and answers were not kosher by AWANA standards. They asked my daughter what it meant to be a Christian, she told them a Christian is someone who believes Jesus is the risen Lord and his Kingdom is coming and who gives their life in service and obedience to the one true King. That was not the answer in the AWANA book and they told her she better pray the prayer in the back just in case she was going to hell.

I’m looking forward to my kids being older when we can read some of the great books that are out there, but more high school-ish in level.


#3

Christy,

I so hear you on the Awana thing. We trudged through for a year, and I had to stop for the very reasons you mentioned. And because they decided to start covering Genesis, lol.

As far as Christian worldview curriculum, I look back to when I was first homeschooling and that is what I thought I wanted. I was tired of the subtle and not-so-subtle anti-Christian messaging in the media and public arena. But, as the years have flown by, and seeing what kind of mindset can come from one-sided curriculum, I realized that was not an approach we wanted to continue once the kids hit middle school. I also carefully read through a bunch of well-regarded secular textbooks and realized that they were not as biased as I had thought:-)

Caveat: some public school materials are incredibly biased against Christianity or certain religious or political viewpoints. I do not think this is at all appropriate. Skewing history/science/literature to embed a belief system is not true scholarship in my opinion. This is a discernment issue, obviously. We are a living books family, and I seek to use good literary works to build character and foster meaningful discussion.

Biology this year was a Miller Levine text, and I like the Western Civ text by Spielvogel. There have been very few “Christian worldview” texts at the high school level that I am overly impressed with for history. Even fewer for science.

I think, as you mentioned, that the Bible education is a big player. I like the Positive Action materials, if it helps. We go to an Anglican Church. I think it is important to go deep rather than long while the kids are with us. So we talk, a lot:) When we hit a difficult subject in history or science, we use it as a springboard for discussion.

I am also a little leary of Providential materials. Assuming we know the mind of God is a little arrogant to me, so I have told the kids I would rather not assume God’s motives with my tiny mind. Job learned that lesson, and if it is good enough for him, it is good enough for me, lol.


(Marvin Adams) #4

did not even know that in the UK we could have done home schooling as the legal obligation to educate always made me think school, let alone I felt we were not qualified. Thus my respect to those who try.
Our oldest is just approaching six form and so it’s a bad time to consider that - the last thing he wants is teaching by his parents :slight_smile:
Regarding the distortion of science by religious interests would also be one of my worries but then the secular curriculum tends to distort religion in the UK. Having been educated in Germany in a school system that still supported religion at the time we had a very unbiased education and lutheran church catholic church in Germany are relatively moderate. Perhaps I am lucky to trust in God that my kids will turn out okay, but then my views on God are anything but conventional as I do not believe in magic miracles but in logic. After all, a worldview needs to be logic at its heart and if you insist on the literal interpretation of the bible which is clearly not describing reality in materialistic words but in poetic ones you are bound to fail so I would be sceptical about a sciece text book that feels the need to convey a biblical narrative as it is bound to distort things. So Ecclesia College teaching YEC would make me doubt it’s credibility in other science subjects. Tried to find how they try to disproof contradictory findings regarding the timescale but had no success.


(Dennis Venema) #5

Christy, in the book Scot and I have coming out in January, he has whole sections on how to approach the Bible with respect to science (in general) as well as dealing specifically with the evolution and historical Adam questions. It might be useful to you (or to other homeschoolers open to mainstream biology).


(Bruce Holt) #6

I read The Blue Parakeet a few years ago. I remember liking a good bit about the overall message, though I found the writing style too folksy for my taste. For several years I’ve been reconsidering approaches to the Bible that seem well-established and often unquestioned within the evangelical milieu, so the book was definitely helpful to me, but I don’t remember many details about it.

One of the things I’ve considered is the “age appropriateness” of some parts of the Bible. Several year ago—when my son was eight or nine, I think—my wife initiated a move for us all to read through the Bible in a year. It wasn’t really my thing, but it also wasn’t something I wanted to be contentious about. I remember one day reading with my son when we got to Genesis 19 (I think) (edit: actually I’m pretty sure it was Genesis 34), which I heavily redacted, and thinking, “In what way can this be considered appropriate material for a young boy? Does the fact that it is in the Bible make it indubitably so? Why are we so cautious about what our son is exposed to in all other realms, but not in the Bible?”

My son is twelve now. He is thoroughly interested in military history, and we’ve started to watch some war movies—including some that are R-rated, but always after I’ve done a lot of research and thought and prayer about what he will be exposed to. So, does it make sense that I would decide that he cannot watch Saving Private Ryan for several more years but that I would not give comparable restrictions about his exposure to the brutality and genocide in the book of Joshua? I know movies are different than books, so I’ll add that, though he read and loved The Hunt for Red October a few months ago, I’ve told him that other Clancy novels are off-limits because of some of the subplots that I’ve heard come up in them.

I also recall mentioning some of these ideas to a friend who was one of the pastors at our church, to which he replied along the lines of, “Yeah, I guess some parts of the Bible are PG-13.” I had to restrain a guffaw as I though, “Yeah, how about NC-17.”

I heard about the Telling God’s Story series a few years ago and was very interested in reading through it with my son. But I do the bulk of the math, geography, and history work with him, and there hasn’t been much time left for other things. He and my wife have done Bible studies through Community Bible Study for the past six years. I think it’s been a great experience overall, though I don’t know a lot about the approach to the Scriptures that the guides take. They did a study called Return to Jerusalem (Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, and several of the prophets) this year, and my wife has been on a big Zionist kick recently (which I am not in accord with, to put it mildly), though I don’t know if that was baked into the curriculum or more of a product of her background and/or the particular women in her group.

Christy (or others who have used it), how have you liked the Telling God’s Story series? My sense is that my son is too old for the target audience. It seems like the intent is to publish twelve parts that would go through grade twelve, but if they are only publishing one a year (at best?), that won’t really work for us.

Well, I have more thoughts, but that will have to be all for now.

Cheers,
Bruce


(Christy Hemphill) #7

Judges 19 and Ezekiel 16 come to mind. When I was in junior high and had to sit through three sermons a week, I asked my parents if I could please read a book from the church library during Sunday night service. Mom said no. So I read my Bible and kept showing all the terrible passages to my mom and dad and asking if they knew that was in the Bible. Ezekiel 16 was the last straw. My dad told me I could read Janette Oke books to my heart’s content.

I have been really happy with Telling God’s Story. It is worth noting that if you are familiar with Pete Enns from his blog or other books, these books will be different because they aren’t at all snarky or controversial. Sunday school teacher Pete Enns is a different persona altogether.

I personally learned a lot from the “Notes to the Parent” section before each passage in the Telling God’s Story books. They gave a lot of cultural background and information about how the passage tied in with big biblical themes and Jewish history. For example, one lesson we did last week was about Jesus sending out the 72 to spread the good news in the Gentile towns. Jesus told them twice to eat whatever was given to them. The notes pointed out that this was a huge deal because Jews did not eat with Gentiles because of the dietary restrictions of the Law. The fact that the good news was supposed to take precedence over keeping kosher was something everyone then would have been blown away by. I had honestly never thought about it.

The actual lessons meant to be read to the child would be geared too young, but if you could get a hold of a copy, it might be worth checking out if you could use the Bible selections and the parents notes as a lesson in itself. Also, there is a parents guide that gives an overview and rationale for what they were intending to pull together with the curriculum that you might find helpful. It deals with some of the issues you mentioned about age-appropriateness and has suggestions for what and how to cover different aspects of Christian education as kids mature. You could use it to inform your own thing. It is also called Telling God’s Story.


(Bruce Holt) #8

I haven’t actually read any books by Enns yet. I discovered The Bible Tells Me So while browsing in Barnes and Noble a while ago and thought it looked really interesting. Then recently a good friend recommended it to me (though she cautioned that my wife wouldn’t like it).

Thanks for the other notes about Telling God’s Story. It certainly sounds great, but I simply can’t see fitting it into our schedule any time soon. Perhaps I can find a copy to browse or borrow sometime, though.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #9

Hi, Cartophile.

As one who has somewhat recently read Enns book that you mention, and even more recently his latest one: “Sin of Certainty”, I can affirm that they should be worth your while if you are not the sort who is easily offended or scared away when some things may push you uncomfortably.

There was an open forum discussion here on “The Bible Tells Me So” that you could check out if you want to satisfy any curiosity before you read it. And I also recently had a discussion here about his “Sin of Certainty” … which is more general and has less scholarly and theological delving than what I remember getting from his “Bible Tells Me So” --which is the one of these two I would recommend starting with if you want “snarky Enns undiluted.” After reading that you should have a good handle on where Enns is coming from, and probably find his other work less threatening (as I speculate only having read these two of his books … but also based on Christy’s observations of the gentler “Sunday School Enns”). You can always take what you want from his “Bible Tells Me So” (and I think there is much of value there to take) and then leave the rest if it crosses lines for you. If/when you get them read, let us know what you think!


(Mervin Bitikofer) #10

P.S. …if you’re curious about what I mean by ‘snarky’, you’ll see it in Enns’ chapter and section titles such as “Jesus gets a big fat F in Bible” or stuff like that. Such things by themselves would send anyone with more fundamentalistic sensibilities scurrying for cover --never mind what the text underneath says — no longer interested!

But then you read on and you discover that such things represent Enns critique of us and how we insist on reading the Bible --his isn’t really dismissing Jesus at all; far from it in fact. He is just observing how a person like Jesus might get treated in a Bible class today underneath our modern assumptions about how we should treat sacred texts.

But he can’t seem to resist the ‘in your face’ captions and that shows through in his humor.


(Rosie) #11

Did you know that John Walton and his wife wrote a bible study book for Sunday School teachers and parents? We haven’t used it much yet but plan on doing so this coming school year. You read a story from the Bible with your child and the book has key points to discuss as well as typical interpretation problems to avoid. It’s not a “read this word for word to your kids” kind of book. More of a reference for parents.

For a while this past year I was just reading to my kids from The Message new testament and discussing. Of course, that requires that I do my own study and have something to say, but it worked out pretty well. My older two didn’t feel like they were being preached at or hearing the same old same old again.

We also listened to sermons together every once in a while. These were hit or miss. Sometimes they were over their heads, but other times they were helpful. We like podcasts from The Meeting House, Blackhawk Church (the Job series was good), and Woodland Hills. You might want to check out the Phil Vischer podcast #9. It is Phil summarizing John Walton’s work on Genesis. I think it would be easy enough for kids to understand, especially with discussion!


(Christy Hemphill) #12

Thanks for the link to the Walton book, I will check it out! (Edited to add that it looks really good and I just bought it. Thanks so much for the recommendation.)


(Simone) #14

You might like John Walton’s “Bible Story Handbook”… some similarities to Telling God’s Story, but gives you advice on how to approach 175 stories from the Bible within proper cultural context for children.


(Christy Hemphill) #15

Yeah, we used that when we ran out of TGS.