Tuesday, March 09, 2010

More Home Schooling Frustration

After a year and a half, Melanie and I are removing our two older children from the Christian school that they currently attend. The reasons for this are three-fold: first, it is eating us out of house and home. Even with financial aid, at my associate professor-equivalent salary, the bottom is dropping out. Second, Melanie feels that she has lost touch with them in some ways and wants to reestablish this contact. Third, I have a growing unease with the science curriculum and want to be able to control the kind of instruction that they receive in this area. The school is, otherwise, top flight and it is clear that Marcus and Madeline have been challenged and strengthened in their education and faith in most areas. For that we are very grateful and we have told the headmaster that we don't want to close the door on our involvement with the school, science reservations aside. It is clear that the children made a substantial positive impact on the school and he said that we will be sorely missed.

So, since we have never seriously considered public education, we are going back to the home schooling route, which worked pretty well before the private school. Welcome to the science minefield. Dylan Lovan, of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette has a story about what to expect from your average home school curriculum. He writes:
Christian-based materials dominate a growing home-school education market that encompasses more than 1.5 million students in the U.S. And for most home-school parents, a Bible-based version of the Earth’s creation is exactly what they want: Federal statistics from 2007 show 83 percent of home-schooling parents want to give their children “religious or moral instruction.”
It is worth pointing out that those are not necessarily the same thing. We want to give our children religious and moral instruction as well. We just don't want it to be young earth creationism. Therefore, it is not clear how many of those 83% are YEC-oriented . It is clear that this is part theology but part business as well:
The size of the business of home-school texts isn’t clear because the textbook industry is fragmented, and privately held publishers don’t give out sales numbers. Slatter said home-school material sales reach about $1 billion annually in the U.S.

Publishers are well aware of the market, said Jay Wile, a former chemistry professor in Indianapolis who helped launch the Apologia curriculum in the early 1990s.

“If I’m planning to write a curriculum, and I want to write it in a way that will appeal to home-schoolers, I’m going to at least find out what my demographic is,” he said.
So, is it about the science or is it about the Benjamins? When Jerry Coyne, author of Why Evolution is True, and Virginia Tech professor Duncan Porter reviewed some of the textbooks from Bob Jones University and Apologia, they gave them Fs for failing to teach basic biology and evolutionary theory. That brought this response:
Wile countered that Coyne “feels compelled to lie in order to prop up a failing hypothesis. We definitely do not lie to the students. We tell them the facts that people like Dr. Coyne would prefer to cover up.”
That's contemptible. What is Coyne lying about? Why would he lie? What evidence does Wile have that it is failing? My son uses an Apologia science book for his class at school. After reading that quote, I am sorely tempted to burn it the minute he has his last day at class! The book is called Exploring Creation with Botany and is part of the "day" series and I have blogged about my experience with this book here. The writer didn't just get things wrong, she got BASIC things wrong—as though she had no familiarity with what she was writing about. Is this academic integrity? Is this how we want our students and children to learn?

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  1. I understand your frustration. I've written on my own blog quite recently about my own frustrations in these areas.

  2. Great blog! Been lurking for a while. :)

    You've probably seen it, but in case you haven't, thought I'd point you in the direction of PZ's recent post on homeschooling:


    Unsurprisingly, he's opposed to it as a "substandard education poisoned with a falsified ideology."

    Surprisingly, his flock largely disagrees with him. I found the discussion on homeschooling in the comments section fascinating.

    As a former homeschooler (5th-12th grades), college grad, current biochemistry PhD student, former YEC-ist, current theistic evolutionist, and Christian, I of course disagree with PZ.

    Good luck with the kids -- and keep blogging!

  3. How old are Marcus and Madeline? Our kids (6th, 3rd grade) have been using Apologia's Exploring... Astronomy. Being that I hear many of the kids' science lessons, I can talk through some goofy parts over lunch. As I'm sure your wife will agree though, it sure is user-friendly!

    I don't know what we'll do for next year. My wife, who would be happy if I left her alone as a YEC, would also be happy to stick with Apologia. I've heard Calvert is better but we haven't tried it.

  4. Marcus is 10 and Madeline is 8. They have been using the Apologia materials at the school that they currently attend. I am not sure what we are going to use when we homeschool next year. I will have to check in to Calvert. Thanks for the tip.

  5. I am right now in a very similar predicament with my own family. Please post what curriculum you are/will be using for science when you find it. I was leery of the Apologia books myself, having the word 'Day' in the title and all :-)

    I did a little searching around on the writer, it's no surprise to me that it has the basics wrong...this is her "science" background quoted from her site:

    "...Though I began as a pharmacy major and completed three years under the University of Texas at Austin's Science Department, I later realized that my desire was to write and not fill prescriptions, so I switched majors. Thus, my degree from the University of Texas at Austin is in the liberal arts...
    ...My ability to write on science topics comes first from God, then from my obsessive love for research, and finally from my love for writing."...

    I am sorry, but I have a hard time being ok with a Liberal Arts major teaching my kids about anything related to biology, etc. (No offense to LA majors of course)

  6. One of these online education providers is the American Academy. We provide christian home school curriculum starting from Preschool to High School. We have individualized curriculum for our students in order to provide them with their needs. We make use of The School of Tomorrow curriculum and we are which is Christian based. We are a Christian home school curriculum provider that do not only fill your children with academic knowledge, but we instill in them the important values that they need to know and live by. Our core curriculum is composed of five major academic disciplines, namely: Mathematics, Social Studies, Science, English and Word Building. Our course levels are composed of 10-12 units per level. In our curriculum, we assess every student through various tests in order for us to identify their strengths and weaknesses. We do this in order to bring out the best in your child’s strengths and reinforcements in terms of his weaknesses.