thatmom

real encouragement for real homeschooling moms

what makes a homeschooling curriculum “Christian” enough for the patriocentrists?

A couple months ago I drew your attention here to the 2009 Homeschooling Leadership Summit to be held in March, expressing concern that the self-appointed homeschooling leaders who are planning this conference are setting an agenda and speaking for all Christian homeschoolers without being given a mandate to do so. Not only have the leaders denied homeschooling moms any input into their event but they have made it quite clear that they have no interest in discussing the concerns of moms or anyone else. (See the comments section at the above link from this website where Bill Roach, president of CHEC, sounding more like the president of the Kevin Swanson fan club, refuses to engage anyone in any discussion on the matter.) Today I am certain that the situation is far worse that I had originally thought since, thanks to an alert mom, I have discovered that the screening and weeding out of “undesirables” within the homeschooling ranks has been going on for over a year.

On January 20, John Holzmann, co-owner of Sonlight Curriculum shared the story on his blog of his company being banned from participating in a curriculum conference sponsored by Christian Educators of Colorado, the same group that is organizing the upcoming leadership conference.

John states “The letter that informed us of our having been banned was strangely uninformative. I am not at home right now, so I don’t have access to a PDF of the letter to show you. But, in essence, the author said, “You don’t meet our standards. We are unwilling to talk with you about it. Don’t ask.”

Happily, I have enough of a relationship with the president of CHEC (not much, but enough!) that I wrote to ask what was going on, what insight he might be able to shed on the subject. . . . I mean: It’s not as if Sonlight had changed in any fundamental way over the 13 years it had been in attendance at the CHEC convention. . . .

Ultimately, Sonlight received no written or full “official” explanation, but got the message: the convention committee was of the opinion that the company isn’t Christian enough . . . primarily because it isn’t strict enough in its young-earth teaching. It carries Usborne books that, as virtually all secular books that touch on issues related to origins, present an evolutionary perspective.

That Sonlight doesn’t schedule those pages, or that, when it does schedule them, counters those presentations with young-earth creationist material: Not good enough. Someone–a child, perhaps, without Mom’s or Dad’s permission, or maybe even a mom or dad–might find the offending books so attractive that they will read those pages and become convinced of their truth. . . .”

This has made me wonder how many more state homeschooling organizations or even Home School Legal Defense, for that matter, who is also participating in the leadership summit, are taking it upon themselves to decide who is and isn’t Christian enough to participate in conferences, conventions, and support services for homeschooling families. Will there be a check list presented as part of the “vision casting” of the summit, one that outlines the requirements necessary to be acknowledged as “Christian enough” for these men?

This is outrageous.

CHEC president, Bill Roach, perhaps you might like to grace us with your presence again and give us your perspective on this situation. The floor is yours.

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49 Comments»

  katiekind wrote @

Wow. Sonlight was a very fine source of Christian homeschooling curriculum. And quite conservative.

I have not paid attention to the world of Christian homeschooling leaders and conferences since our boys graduated from homeschool, but it sounds like things are becoming more ideologically polarized. That’s sad. I guess the homeschooling movement, when it was smaller, knew they needed one another in a “big tent” kind of way, which I think was probably ultimately better for parents, as they could learn from the many points of view.

  Kathleen wrote @

I’ve linked on my blog to the early years of homeschooling (1980’s) when these “leaders” started to form alliances and alienate those who didn’t share their protestant views. I’ve talked to the “leaders” themselves, with no good answer from them. They formed homeschool coalitions that were made up of statement of faiths and that caused some, like Dr. Raymond Moore wrote about in his “White Papers”, to be excluded because they didn’t hold to the same tenets of faith (in a homeschool, not church, setting.) It caused many to become concerned with the exclusivity within the homeschool circles.

Now, even more exclusionism is taking place. I see Christian homeschooling becoming more narrowly defined as these “leaders” with their agendas become more recognized. (talk about bully pulpit-ism) I’ve been in/around the homeschool world since the late 1980’s and it’s been amazing to see the changes. These “leaders” have left a wake of broken and injured and offended people, some of them believers, in their wake.

The one thing that many of these “teachers” tell their followers is to be separate; to not watch tv, to not date, to be different from the “world”. When these people use others and steamroll over others and threaten lawsuits and make every effort to become top of the heap, isn’t this the definition of “worldliness”?

  thatmom wrote @

Katie, it really was a different world “back in the day” and we WERE so happy to know people who truly understood our goals as homeschooling parents, even if they differed with us on some points of theology, lifestyle, etc. Sigh. Sometimes I long for those days!

  thatmom wrote @

Kathleen, I thought of the white papers as I was reading John’s story.

BTW, I have a series of podcasts with some lovely ladies from the Moore Foundation coming up next month. I have completed one interview and it was delightful. Three cheers for the Moores. Interestingly enough, medical science can now prove many of their theories, as we will discuss!

  Peaches wrote @

Karen,

Is CHEC “the” main home school organization in Colorado? If it is, I’m curious about what non-Christian home schoolers do for support. I would think a state’s primary home schooling organization wouldn’t necessarily have the word “Christian” in it. Our state’s organization is quite conservative, but states nothing about being for Christians. The website is specific about how their purpose is to protect the freedom to educate at home and support homeschooling families. So what’s the deal with Colorado on that?

I’m a little stunned about this. I’m going on my third year with Songlight and we specifically chose it because it doesn’t shelter children from the real world. I’ve encountered some of the books that have pages about evolution, but I think it’s great because WE want to be the ones to talk to our children about those things. It makes for some good conversations and the kids THINK. They are not merely spoon fed someone else’s beliefs.

Kicking Sonlight out of their convention is bull. Thanks for getting the word out.

  Cynthia Gee wrote @

“The one thing that many of these “teachers” tell their followers is to be separate; to not watch tv, to not date, to be different from the “world”. When these people use others and steamroll over others and threaten lawsuits and make every effort to become top of the heap, isn’t this the definition of “worldliness”?”

Well, yes.
And I’d say that it’s about time for some enterprising NON-WEIRD Christian homeschoolers to separate themselves from the separatists and start up their own mainstream, orthodox Christian homeschooling organization. There is no reason for these wingnuts to be the only homeschooling game in town, after all, and the curriculum companies that they are banning, such as Sonlight, just might be glad to have a more NORMAL venue from which to sell their merchandise.

  debrabaker wrote @

I homeschooled in the ’80’s, and I got judged by my former legalistic church members because I didn’t homeschool their way.

A lot of “their way” involved expendatures (sp) I couldn’t afford at the time. As a result, we had a very basic curriculum and supplemented it with a lot of literature from the library. The criticism grew so bad I lost heart for homsechooling and eventually put my kids in school which was a good choice for them and me.

Funny thing, my older kids turned out to have a pretty good education after all. They are all quite successful in their endeavours including my daughter, the doctor. Sometimes, I do wish I could go back in time and let my old picked-on self in on that little piece of future info.

  keebler wrote @

I have used Sonlight with all 6 of my children from the first year until the 8th year and have been very pleased. But, I don’t agree with all of the curriculum choices it offers. How do I deal with that? I don’t need someone “on high” to deny me the right to see or choose the curriculum. I simply do not read the choices that are offered, or read them and discuss them with the children, depending on their age and level of maturity. The “leaders” who are imposing their views are assuming that we are all too stupid or gullible to know better. Kind of reminds me of Rush’s caricature of those in the government who know better how to spend our money.

Our homeschool group is currently recovering from some years of the type of leadership that the CHEC represents. It is a type that puts the headship on the men, allows only one vote per family because the father is the one who should be making all the decisions, and expects that ALL the women in the group will defer to the “stronger” male opinion, even if we are a diverse group representing many different theological views. I don’t quibble with the idea of ultimate responsibility IN THE FAMILY for the father, but the reality is that the mothers do most of the work of homeschooling, spend most of the time with the children, know the children better in day-to-day situations, have more knowledge (in general) about what options are available, and have more connections with fellow homeschoolers.

Our board meetings now consist of the mothers in leadership getting together to talk over issues of the calendar and activities. As president of the group, I am trying to get the idea across again that we are a support group for homeschooling – not a church, not a discipline unit, not an advocate group for a particular doctrine. We exist to encourage one another in our pursuit of homeschooling. I wish that we had never gotten away from that view. We are having a fairly calm year and some people are coming back after dropping out because of the unpleasantness of the past few years. But we have been damaged by the influence of the “men above all” view.

To be fair, I will say that it was never actually stated as baldly as I have, but the issues really came about as one church exerted its views and influence through the board members that belonged to that particular church. The strife affected all of the board and it trickled down to the rest of the group. I don’t know that the influence was intentional, but it certainly was there.

  thatmom wrote @

I agree, this is only going to lead to division among homeschooling groups and I believe eventually either non-patrio groups will have their own conferences or the patrio groups will start their own, depending on which mindset rules the state or local groups.

The big question for me is what HSLDA will do with this.

  thatmom wrote @

Peaches, there are several Colorado homeschoolers who read here so I hope they can give us some insights, too.

  thatmom wrote @

Keebler, I think it say a lot about your leadership and graciousness that your group is healing now. I am thankful that you are hanging in there to see that happen.

I agree so much with this statement:

“I don’t quibble with the idea of ultimate responsibility IN THE FAMILY for the father, but the reality is that the mothers do most of the work of homeschooling, spend most of the time with the children, know the children better in day-to-day situations, have more knowledge (in general) about what options are available, and have more connections with fellow homeschoolers.”

There is much confusion about authority and where and when it is applied, some of those teachings being purposefully misrepresented, IMHO!

[…] revisits the issue of authority and dissent within the Christian home-schooling movement. “Ultimately, Sonlight […]

  Luke Holzmann wrote @

I have been very interested in the response my dad’s post has garnered. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and support!

~Luke

  Spunky wrote @

Interesting stuff, Karen. I’m not sure what to think about this. I saw this happen to a vendor years ago at a convention in Michigan.

It appears to the “tent” is getting smaller.

  thatmom wrote @

Think pup tent, Spunky.

  thatmom wrote @

Luke, thanks for stopping by. I am hoping that Bill Roach will stop in and leave some thoughts for us. I am wondering how this all fits into their agenda for the leadership conference and am certain that there is more to this story that will eventually be apparent. I also wonder how many other vendors have been told the same thing. Do you know if they have also prohibited others from attending, too?

  Susan T wrote @

How very strange and sad. I wonder if Marcia Somerville is still a top-selling Usborne Consultant and if she still incorporates Usborne books into her Tapestry of Grace curriculum and is TOG on the “acceptable curriculum” list? Does her husband Scott Somerville still have a connection to HSLDA… he was an attorney who worked for them??

  Shauna wrote @

Is CHEC “the” main home school organization in Colorado?

Yes, it is. There are inclusive and secular groups in different parts of the state, but CHEC is the only statewide organization for homeschoolers in Colorado that I’m aware of.

  Spunky wrote @

FYI, there is a homeschool convention coming up in Cincinnati that desires to reach a cross section of the homeschool community with varying interests and motivations. It is specifically located in Cinci to reach a broad cross section of the Midwest. The dates are April 16-17 and I’ll be blogging and speaking at it. So it must be a “big tent” event if I’m going to be there!

(Sorry if this sounds like shamelss self-promotion, it’s not. I just wanted others to know that not all homeschool conventions are the same.)

  thatmom wrote @

CHEC president, Bill Roach, didn’t respond but CHEC executive director did. Here is the link:

http://www.generationswithvision.com/blog.aspx?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1

The Reader’s Digest version…its all internet gossip and fodder for silly women. Continually refusing to honestly address issues only give these folks less credibility.

  thatmom wrote @

Susan, I was wondering the same thing about lot of vendors. What about Rainbow Resource? They carry lots of secular materials. And what about the Encyclopedia Britannica guy who comes to the APACHE convention? I would be curious to see who is and who isn’t on the Colorado CHEC list of approved vendors. There is more to this story.

  thatmom wrote @

Oops, should note that the Executive Director of CHEC is Kevin Swanson.

  joannabug wrote @

I cry foul.

Since when has it been “gossip” to ask for ethical and transparent behavior from a business on behalf of a consumer, investor, or share-holder?

Here, something unethical seems to have happened and covered up. In the secular world of business, this would be related to controlling the market/monopoly. I see no reason why consumers (homeschoolers) shouldn’t ask for open and above-board transactions by those who are being supported and paid by them (through the venue of the conference). In fact, that seems like the most ethical thing to do.

  thatmom wrote @

Here is a link to another interesting discussion from some people in Colorado.

http://marcys-musings.blogspot.com/2008/07/stridency-of-many-homeschooling.html

  Margie wrote @

This is sad. NO answer to the question asked by a well-known and highly respected curriculum provider – John Holzmann. Then they try to make it sound like frivelous gossip when this is serious. A group determining what curriculums are “Christian enough”? And the curriculum provider’s don’t make their stamp of approval without explanation? Completely illogical nonsense! Granted we are faithful Sonlight users and lovers. My hubby and I want the children to be exposed to other thoughts on creation. It brings about great discussion and thought. What is this group teaching the world by being so exclusive? Hmmmm….. I feel my feathers ruffling….

  sarah wrote @

There are plenty of fine Christians who are not 6 day creationists. Of course, they are probably not welcome in CHEC.

This patrio crowd is making all home schoolers look crazy. And stupid.

I’m gonna go bake some cookies. Perhaps I’ll add nuts in honor of this wackiness.

  thatmom wrote @

Margie, the sad thing you pointed out is the refusal to answer critics. We have seen this repeatedly, including in the discussion here a year or so ago about the Passionate Housewives book. And, again, when various homeschooling moms expressed their concerns with the Elsie Dinsmore books and Doug Phillips’ affinity for R.L. Dabney with Vision Forum.

I think the behavior of CHEC in Colorado is just the tip of the iceberg in the attempts to control the thinking and behavior of homeschooling families. Just wait until they have their “vision casting” conference. Their tent of orthodoxy will be even smaller.

  thatmom wrote @

“This patrio crowd is making all home schoolers look crazy. And stupid.”

Sarah, once again, you nailed it. It is bad when you have to tell people, “yes, we homeschool, but…”

  Julie wrote @

CHEC is the only state wide homeschooling resource, and since i’m one of two families who homeschool in my tiny remote colorado town, it’s even more discouraging and i feel even more alone that i don’t have a “Christian” state group I can look to for support. It’s really ridiculous and tiresome. I’m hoping it eventually fizzes out…

  Julie wrote @

ummmm..my comment got lost in cyberspace or is it being moderated by karen?

  Corrie wrote @

Having been a loyal Sonlight user since it began, I find this to be humorous. I think John Holzman should take it as a HUGE compliment that the silly men of Kevin Swanson and Company don’t want Sonlight at the convention.

Sonlight is too much of a threat to their whacky worldview. It might make someone actually THINK and EXAMINE what they are being told. Kevin Swanson would have far fewer listeners if more homeschoolers would use Sonlight. They would spot the overblown rhetoric for what it is. Sonlight teaches a child to think for him/herself. That is scary to patriocentrists. Can’t have children actually thinking outside of their patrio-boxes.

Does Kevin Swanson not understand how completely ridiculous he sounds when he labels discussion that is contrary to his own beliefs as being from “silly women” who “gossip”? Is that the best the manly men can do? How about reasonable and rational discussion?

Naaah…these men are far above any and all forms of reasonable and rational discussion.

  thatmom wrote @

Julie, I have heard from many homeschooling families who live in Colorado and who are absolutely fed up with the CHEC group. I hope one of these days one of you guys will start your own group! Wouldn’t that be awesome?

  thatmom wrote @

Corrie, I don’t think that they think we womenfolk could have reasonable and rational discussion and, frankly, I’m not sure I would use the adjectives “reasonable” and “rational” to describe Kevin on his broadcast. Do you remember all that nonsense about girls who go to college will end up with several abortions and illegitimate children?

  Corrie wrote @

“Practically every day now, somebody tells me of somebody or other who is venting his/her displeasure with Christian Home Educators of Colorado, Generations, Kevin Swanson, Vision Forum, or HSLDA, or the like, via the internet. They hand me a url, and I may or may not surf over to the site, stick my hand deep into the sewer pipe only to find more straw men, words out of context, outright lies, base calumnies, and the like.”

A quote from Kevin Swanson’s article….

Well, if he peaks his head into this sewer pipe could he please be so kind as to explain all his statements about college girls getting abortions and working women selling their flesh cheap to co-workers in one-night stands?

Talk about strawmen and calumnies…..that is what his radio show is based on.

Here at this sewer pipe we quote Kevin Swanson verbatim so there is no taking his words out of context as unbelievable as some of his words sound to the thinking person.

What this discussion has to do with “weak-willed women”, I do not know. Maybe it has to do with those male deceivers in the homeschool movement level of leadership who prey on homeschool moms with their manmade snake-oil bible doctrine.

  Corrie wrote @

peeks…… 🙂

  Corrie wrote @

Karen,

That is why I said that they are far above reasonable and rational discussion. 🙂 Listening to his radio program makes my brain hurt. I spend far too much time noticing the ridiculous assertions he puts forth as truth that I must be missing the “real” meat that attracts so many people? It puzzles me why he is considered a serious voice for homeschoolers. I can totally understand why people look at homeschoolers as goobers.

  TaunyaH wrote @

This is unbelievable!! I have used Sonlight for eight years and I consider myself to be a young earth, conservative Christian. How did we let a few misguided men hijack the entire homeschool movement in an attempt to line their own pockets by hawking their wares to unsuspecting homeschool moms who simply are searching for the best way to educate their children?

  Kathy wrote @

Guess I’ll take this opportunity to put in a plug for a new blogger, a Colorado pastor (and future homeschooler) who is not afraid to examine homeschooling and question some of the claims made by the so-called “leaders”.
Can’t remember where I got the link originally, but I have appreciated what he has to say and thought the readers here might, also.

http://www.christiannurture.blogspot.com

  thatmom wrote @

Kathy, I placed a link to this blogger on my sidebar here a couple weeks ago. He is a kindred spirit who has commented here several times and I appreciate much of what he has to say. Thanks for linking to him in this context. Since I often hear from Colorado homeschoolers who are concerned about Swanson et al, I know that will bless them.

  thatmom wrote @

Taunya,

You asked a good question…how did it get to this point. Here are some of my thoughts about that, having observed how these groups work.

In the early days of homeschooling (as in the last 25 years, though HS has been around much longer) as Katie pointed out above, we really needed each other and were more willing to overlook differences. Those people who hold to these extreme views have slowly and, I believe, very strategically, placed themselves in places of power, along with the help of HSLDA. Many of the planning summits are by invitation only and, as far as I know, no homeschooling leaders are placed in that position by any vote by local members. There is really tight control in the leadership which, in turn, keeps tights control over who speaks at conventions and conferences. You can look at the roster for some conferences, like this upcoming summit, and practically write the agenda yourself.

So, how can we change this?

Support conventions that don’t have patriocentrists in the keynote positions. I will be blogging about one that is coming up soon.There are some people who purpose to bring in sound and good speakers and we should support them.

Stop giving special authority to these people when they don’t have it. Doug who? Voddie who? Kevin who?

Don’t lend credibility to these people by participating in their websites, online forums, groups etc.

Go out of your way to support those vendors and suppliers like Sonlight who don’t share their take-over-the-world agenda and purchase your curriculum from them.

Remember that even a cup of arsenic in the well poisons the water. If you are reading and hearing things coming from certain speakers that change the Word of God to mean what they want it to mean, RUN. FAST. Become discerning and use Scripture as your guide for life and practice.

Please add to the list….

  Kathy wrote @

In Washington state, there used to be one primary secular homeschooling organization and one Christian organization (WATCH). I don’t know when this happened, but now we have Christian Heritage, the state organization which is “distinctively Christian and Bible based”. Lists of their conference and retreat speakers read like a Who’s Who of patriarchy: Phillips, MacDonald, Baucham, Swanson, et al.
We have a lot of homeschoolers here, but I don’t think enough to warrant two organizations competing for the same population of Christian families. I hope people will continue to support WATCH and let CH know that we don’t need to change to their patriarchal brand of multigenerational vision.

  Amy R. wrote @

John Holzmann’s blog, updated on this issue.

http://johnscorner.blogspot.com/2009/01/change-of-interpretation-on-chec.html

  thatmom wrote @

Amy, thanks for posting this. I will make a new blog entry this morning so anyone who is interested will be sure to see it!

  Lisa wrote @

hmmm…maybe those letters CHEC are a clue as to why I, a homeschooling single Mom, have not been given a response to my request to join our local Christian homeschool group?

Also–I do not need an “authority figure” to tell me whether materials are or are not appropriate for my daughter! I am LITERATE! I look, read, QUESTION what I see recommended. While I don’t use Sonlight, I do get a lot of good suggestions from their reading lists.

A bunch of jerks is what these wiseguys sound like. I feel sad for anyone misled by such false teachers.

  thatmom wrote @

Oh, Lisa, I sure hope that there is some other explanation for this! I can’t think of any mom who needs more encouragement from other moms than a single mom homeschooling!

Please drop by here any time and know you are more than welcome to share your thoughts and concerns and if I can encourage you in any way, please let me know.

  Lisa wrote @

Thanks for your encouragement. My experience has been very negative with Christian homeschool groups as a single mom. I’m a Bible believing Christian who adopted my kids, yet I get a very “interesting” response each time I apply. I’m fortunate to have my Mom nearby and, although she’s not a Christian, she is very, very supportive and helpful to me and my children. Your blog is a great source to help me keep really thinking about issues in homeschool. I really appreciate that. I like the intellectual back-and-forth in the comments and have found great stuff via links posted on the blog and in comments. I am not at all thrilled with the Patriarchy folks, but don’t want just “gripe”–I like see the facts, distortions etc. Thanks again.

  thatmom wrote @

Lisa, I think it is awesome that you have adopted and are homeschooling. I was adopted as an infant and have a soft spot in my heart for those who make this choice.

Thanks for the encouragement today, btw, and I look forward to getting to know you.

  Connie wrote @

Lisa:

You said, “I am LITERATE! I look, read, QUESTION what I see recommended.” Sad to say, that kind of thinking doesn’t set well with many homeschooling groups.

It’s my belief that you would have had a negative experience with that particular homeschooling group regardless of your marital status.

True, if you had checked the married box, you probably would have been accepted as a member. But sooner or later (probably sooner), you would have figured out that you really don’t have much in common with the group.

I have been a married, homeschooling mom for many years, and I have yet to find a homeschooling group whose purpose isn’t limited to advocating its own narrow brand of “Christian” homeschooling and touting its particular homeschooling gurus. Oh, the groups around me look pretty good on paper, but their unwritten rules and assumptions are there all right, and I just don’t fit.

Sometimes it’s a little lonely, but over the years, God has led me to a few like-minded people, and that’s been good enough. I have no doubt that God will provide what you and your children need, too. It just might not look like what you were hoping for or expecting.

  Lisa wrote @

Connie: I think you are right! We have been in a few “activities” in the nearby city with other “inclusive” homeschoolers and some shyly admit to being Christian–like we do.


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