Home Schooling and Scientific Creationism
Editor's Note: One of the ongoing problems for parents is what do you do about your child's education in a society that is increasingly hostile to those who have any kind of religious beliefs. For many parents, home schooling is the answer they have chosen. The problem with the home schooling situation in science is that denominational creationism has dominated materials available to home schoolers. As children get older, if that is the total science experience they have had, they are poorly equipped to deal with the real world. Angela Garcia saw this problem early and has worked to correct it in her own home schooling efforts. We felt that others would be benefitted by her work and asked her to write something, as a parent home schooling her children, about her struggles to give her children a quality, academically-valid scientific background.
How exhilarating for home-school parents to walk down the aisles of an exhibit hall during a curriculum fair! Knowing we have the freedom to choose the books and materials for our children's educational needs gives us a satisfying sense of purpose and responsibility. Our children will have the best we can provide--no humanistic or anti-Christian textbooks for us. No blind acceptance of the latest evolutionary theory.
If you are like me, you know a little bit about a lot of things, but not a great depth of knowledge in science. Perhaps you did well in school, even in science. But how many homeschool moms (or dads) are science experts? I am certainly not. However, that does not bother us much. We are confident, knowing whatever we can learn we can teach. So we set out to learn.
Which science books should we examine first? Well, obviously those written at our child's understanding level and preferably those written by someone with Christian values and ideals. What a relief to find dozens of choices which fit our criteria. What is more, they all claim to be biblically based. Hallelujah!
We enthusiastically plunge into a brand of science which was never available in the public school system. A new world opens its doors to us--a world where the Bible is taken seriously and Genesis is taken literally. As far as we can see, the only alternative to this very appealing world is the world of atheistic evolutionism. It is not a hard choice to make.
My own story does not end there. For 11 years, I have continued to search for the best science books for my growing children. As they grow in knowledge and understanding, I grow too. I have also relearned something that comes easy to children: when you do not know, ask questions.
Like many parents, when my kids ask questions, I show them how to find the answers themselves. I also teach them that not all information is equally reliable. We must consider the source and use the biblical principle of "test the spirits to see if they are true." Sooner or later, every parent learns he must practice what he preaches. So, in 2002, I began to take a closer look at the science literature I had used for so many years.
In order to test the scientific spirits, I went to my local library and checked out every book on the creation/evolution debate I could find, regardless of the source. Here is a list of some of the books on the subject:
Evolutionism and Creationism
by Ben Sander--a supposedly unbiased look at the history of the
controversy, but I found it to be subtly biased toward evolution. A
very interesting presentation of both sides of the story,.
Creation and Time by Hugh Ross--written by an evangelical Christian astronomer, in favor of an old earth but against evolution. Presents arguments against a young earth philosophy.
The Genesis Question by Hugh Ross--more of the same, but a more detailed hypothesis as to how he believes Genesis and modern science agree.
Science and Creationism--an honestly biased book in favor of evolution with essays by many of the big names of science. Many points of view are represented from Roman Catholic to atheistic. Essays range from easy-to-read to downright blasphemous. Enlightening and disturbing.
The Source by John Clayton--written by a former atheist and public school high school science teacher, showing the compatibility of sciene and faith
Whatever Happened to the Dinosaurs? by Paul Taylor--an overview of the young earth creationist point of view, written for children.
Science and the Bible by Henry Morris--written by the president of the Institute for Creation Research, a young-earth organization.
The Creationists by Ronald Numbers--a discussion of the leading creationists and what their perspectives are.
Most of those sources led me to a disturbing conclusion: almost all of the Christian home school science curriculum available is based on scientific creationism which is supported and promoted by dispensational creationists. Of course I was not surprised to find atheists in disagreement with them. However, it was a great shock to discover that a great many of their opponents are people who also call themselves Christians and believe in the validity of the Bible.
Scientific creationism has a stronghold in the homeschool and private Christian school communities partly because of the nature of its teachings. It claims that the only true Christian interpretation of Genesis is that God brought all of the creation into being in six 24-hour days, approximately 6,000 years ago, regardless of any historical or scientific problems. Most homeschooling families hold Christian beliefs of some kind, and what believer does not want to be a true Christian?
Until I began my recent search for answers to questions about the Bible and science, I knew of no other acceptable alternatives to scientific creationism. Reading Creation and Time by astronomer Hugh Ross brought me to the realization that I had allowed myself to be deceived for many years. I found out that the science which makes today's world a technological wonder we all take for granted is the same science which can tell us the age of the universe and the age of the earth. An old earth used to be equivalent to evolution in my mind. Now I know better.
I also learned there is more than one way to read the first few chapters of Genesis without taking anything away from God and His part in the miracle of creation. Mr. Ross does a good job explaining the fact that the ancient Hebrew of Genesis and modern English are two very different languages. They differ greatly in complexity and usage. A literal interpretation of the original Hebrew in Genesis may produce an alternate meaning to a literal English interpretation. Requiring a child, or anyone else, to put their faith in a creation creed based on fallible human wisdom can cause more harm than good. [The Does God Exist? program has a booklet titled Rock and Revelation that goes into this subject in depth.]
So what do we do with our science curriculum now? Well, I am not ashamed to admit I am basically starting over by re-evaluating my entire curriculum. I have removed some books from my shelves and am looking for ways to replace them. My children have been informed of the change and seem to be taking it in stride. "I think it makes more sense," said my 16-year-old daughter.
The books I have had to remove from my curriculum deal mainly with earth science, geology, and fossils. The prehistoric nature of those subjects lends itself to a great deal of theorizing and speculation. Whether it is evolutionistic or creationistic, speculation is hard to avoid. So I do not rule out using material with minimal prehistoric speculation as long as the author's terminology shows when he is speculating and when he has scientific proof. I have become aware that many evolutionists may be honest with their use of language, and some who call themselves Christians may not be.
Here are some books I have used which I believe are excellent science resources, especially when used in a unit study approach:
Let's Read and Find Out Science books
The Usborne Book of Science Activities, volumes 1-3
Finding Out About Everyday Things by Usborne
The Berenstain Bears Big Book of Science (great for beginning readers; contains one unfortunate quote--"Nature is all there is, all there was, and all there will be."
Exploring the Night Sky
Exploring the Sky by Day
God's Marvelous Works, volumes 1 and 2, Rod and Staff Publishers (in depth studies of many forms of plant and animal life for 4th-5th grades)
Archimedes and the Door of Science by Jeanne Bendick
Along Came Galileo by Jeanne Bendick
Weather and Climate by Usborne
It Couldn't Just Happen by Richard Lawrence
Experiment books For Every Kid by Janice Van Cleave
The Case of the Mummified Pigs by Susan Quinlan (a fascinating look at the interdependence of life on earth)
Good for Me! All About Food in 32 Bites by Marilyn Burns
Food, Fitness and Health by Usborne
The Oceans, A Book of Questions and Answers by Don Groves
The Book of Science by Usborne (Introductions to biology, chemistry, and physics)
The Microbe Hunters by Paul de Kruif (biographical sketches of some of the first microbiologists)
An example of a possible unit study on Astronomy for a 4th grade child: read Exploring the Night Sky and Along Came Galileo; locate constellations; write a report on a planet of his choice; create a model of the solar system; make a chart comparing the sizes, distances, rotation periods, and revolution periods of each planet; use Janice Van Cleave' Astronomy for Every Kid experiment book; visit a planetarium; watch a documentary on the first moon landing, etc. It takes quite a bit of parental planning and involvement to teach science in this way, but your child will learn so much more than a traditional textbook approach. You may want to switch to textbooks in the high school years, but in-depth unit studies are still an option if you are willing to spend the time looking for appropriate challenging material. As your children get older, it will become more difficult to find resources that do not encourage a belief in evolution. It is always a good idea to read your children's books before they do so you can be prepared to discuss any questions or problems that arise.
An example of part of a high school unit study on earth science: read Earth Shock by Andrew Robinson; take notes as it is read and write chapter summaries from the notes; or outline each chapter as read; keep a time line of significant events in a science notebook; copy and label important charts and diagrams; keep a vocabulary list with definitions for unfamiliar words; make scrap book pages of natural disaster current events; visit a natural disaster sight and/or provide aid to disaster victims; do an in-depth research report on one of the significant events on the time line; visit a television weather station or a National Weather Service facility. You may also want your child to keep a list of statements by the author which show when certain information is open to question.
Many aspects of science are changing as you read this article and will continue to change throughout the coming years. Maybe in the future, there will be no problem finding non-evolutionary old earth material to use in our homeschools. In the meantime, all children need to be taught some basic principles of logic and critical thinking to avoid being pulled into false teachings of any kind.
For example, teach your child to ask questions like: "Is this a primary or secondary source? Who is the author of this information? What is his educational background? Is this material based on the author's personal experiences or his opinions? What are his religious beliefs? Does he seem to deliberately avoid certain subjects? Does he present any alternatives or address any problems someone might have with his material? Does he treat his opponents with respect? Does he have a vested interest in maintaining his position? Does he use emotional or sensational language? Does he use words of uncertainty like probably, maybe, or could have been? Does he claim to have knowledge that is not possible for any human to possess? Do his conclusions seem reasonable in light of an examination of all available evidence?"
If we ask questions like those above, we need not be afraid to use scholastic material that does not acknowledge God, yet teaches the basic universal principles of science. We also must not relax our vigilance when using science material by self-proclaimed Christian sources. Their zeal to coordinate science with the Bible is admirable. However, most of today's knowledge labeled "science" is changeable and limited by man's physical nature. The Bible, on the other hand, gives us a special eternal perspective that no man could obtain on his own. Galileo summed it up well, "The Bible teaches us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go."
To teach science in the modern world is a challenge for any Christian, but it is especially challenging for homeschooling families. Because many of us react so strongly to the teachings of evolution, we unknowingly become enmeshed in another extreme. The next time I walk through the garden of books at a curriculum fair, I will take along a dose of healthy skepticism to counteract the temptation to believe every claim of biblical science.
Editor's Note: We have a list of home schooling ideas by Deborah and Joseph Brodnicki which we will be glad to send to you if you will mail us a stamped self-addressed envelope. We also have videos and our book The Source which many homeschooling parents find useful for grades 7-12 and curriculum materials for age 0 to grade 6. If you are not familiar with our materials, write or e-mail us for a catalog.
Back to Contents Does God Exist?, JulAug03.