A new trend has emerged in 21st century homeschooling: secular homeschooling. I first noticed random secular support groups popping up in my area; then secular homeschool bloggers appeared more prevalent, later supported by prominent secular homeschool curriculum companies. In a Facebook homeschool support group, I see repeated requests for secular curriculum (and disturbingly, some of these requests are by professing Christians).
I am fully aware that not all homeschoolers are Christians. This post is not to attack homeschoolers who are not Christians. But I’m concerned and saddened by the strong desire to leave out ANY mention of God or faith or Christianity.
In my research on secular homeschool groups, the two major complaints that I saw were:
- Most of the curriculum out there is written by Christians for Christians
- All of the groups in our area are run by and filled with Christians
Here’s why both of those are true. By and large, Christian parents are the pioneers of the modern homeschooling movement. That’s not to say that all early homeschoolers were 100% Christians, but the large majority were. One of the top reasons for this movement (and the natural need for new materials) was because of the complete removal of anything mentioning God from the public schools.
I am sad, and I am also astounded. Sad that parents choose a life without any mention of God. Astounded that parents would choose to leave out vital parts of history, science, and literature.
I understand that some people aren’t Christians. That’s a choice they make, and it’s a personal one.
But setting that aside, are they doing themselves and their children a disservice by excluding “religion” and God from all curriculum subjects? I believe so, and here’s why: Whether you believe in God or not, or you think religion is just a belief that only some people have, no one can deny that all down through history, people, events, discoveries, and inventions were impacted by their belief in God.
I’m a big believer in studying history (including science, literature, and the arts) with as many original sources as possible. I want to teach my children what happened without the opinions of a textbook writer. So, in doing that, I (and you) can see just how many events and people were impacted directly (and also indirectly) by the Hand of Providence.
[Although this is a homeschool-centered post, I’d like to say that the type of education described here is applicable for ALL children, and that no one’s children are getting it in a public school. You can see why so many of us have taken the road less traveled.]
J. S. Bach, one of the most talented and well-known composers, was a devout Protestant Christian. He was a private individual, but his faith in God was evident in the notes he left in his Bible.
Besides being the baroque era’s greatest organist and composer, and one of the most productive geniuses in the history of Western music, Bach was also a theologian who just happened to work with a keyboard. (Christianity today)
In this video (found here), you will learn the story of the discovery of Bach’s Bible and the personal notes written there.
Consciously, I am certainly an atheist, but I do not say it out loud, because if I look at Bach, I cannot be an atheist. Then I have to accept the way he believed. His music never stops praying. And how can I get closer if I look at him from the outside? I do not believe in the Gospels in a literal fashion, but a Bach fugue has the Crucifixion in it — as the nails are being driven in. In music, I am always looking for the hammering in of the nails. . . . That is a dual vision. My brain rejects it all. But my brain isn’t worth much. (From Faith, Atheism, and J.S. Bach — Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/362709/faith-atheism-and-j-s-bach-michael-potemra)
In his article “Why Suzuki Gets Bach,” Paul McCain states that renowned musician Masaaki Suzuki relates so well to Bach because they share a common faith.
I am sick and tired of discussions of Bach by secularists who do everything they can to avoid, dismiss, denigrate and intentionally ignore the fact that J.S. Bach was an orthodox Lutheran Christian. It is the height of intellectual dishonesty to do so.
A study of Bach is incomplete without the mention of his deep faith. He wrote:
“The aim and final end of music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.”
“Like all music, the figured bass should have no other end and aim than the glory of God and the recreation of the soul; where this is not kept in mind there is no true music, but only an infernal clamor and ranting.”
Many scientists throughout the centuries (who, by the way, did not refer to themselves as such) were devout Christians, and their discoveries of the earth and the sky only increased their belief in a Creator.
Isaac Newton is just one great example among many. He filled notebook after notebook with his thoughts and discoveries, wrote letters, and published books. There is absolutely no doubt that the father of modern physics and arguably one of the most incredible scientific minds believed in a Creator. He wrote:
“Gravity may put the planets into motion, but without the divine Power, it could never put them into such a circulating motion as they have about the sun; and therefore, for this as well as other reasons, I am compelled to ascribe the frame of this system to an intelligent Agent.”
He was a genius, and found evidence of a Creator in the earth, in mathematics, and the order of the universe. To study his discoveries and writings without acknowledging his faith in God and his belief that our world was created by Intelligent Design is to only get a partial education.
Newton’s most famous pronouncement on natural theology came in the second third editions of his Principia Mathematica (1713 and 1726), where he added a ‘General Scholium‘ to the end of the work that summarized his views on the religious purpose of science. He argued that the fact that the six planets that were then known (i.e. as far as Saturn) orbited in the same direction and in virtually the same plane indicated the existence of a creator. Newton wrote eloquently about this system in the early 1690s to his Trinity colleague Richard Bentley, and the letters were extremely influential when they were published in the middle of the following century:
- Letters from Isaac Newton to Richard Bentley
- 10 December 1692 [Read Text]
- 17 January 1692/3 [Read Text]
- 11 February 1692/3 [Read Text]
- 25 February 1692/3 [Read Text]
- as well as Bentley’s response to, and the relevant part of Bentley’s 1692 Boyle Lectures, The Folly and Unreasonableness of Atheism (London: 1693) that resulted from his exchange with Newton. (Read more here)
“Opposition to godliness is atheism in profession and idolatry in practice. Atheism is so senseless and odious to mankind that it never had many professors.”
All of Isaac Newton’s writings are available to read online through the National Library of Israel.
Johannes Kepler was a mathametician and astronomer who found evidence of a Creator in the heavens. He ‘described his new astronomy as “celestial physics”, as “an excursion into Aristotle‘s Metaphysics“,and as “a supplement to Aristotle’s On the Heavens“,transforming the ancient tradition of physical cosmology by treating astronomy as part of a universal mathematical physics. (Stephenson. Kepler’s Physical Astronomy, pp. 1–2; Dear,Revolutionizing the Sciences, pp. 74–78). Get a full bibliography of Kepler HERE.
This brings up a further point: mathematics and science are intertwined, and they are orderly. The pre-modern scientists knew this. They recognized that the universe was orderly, and that mathematical equations could explain creation. They understood that Creation, math, physics, and astronomy co-existed in the universe.
There are numerous famous minds who ascribed the beauty and order of the universe to a Creator God. These scientists, noted for their part in the Scientific Revolution, were not always believed for their discoveries by their contemporaries. Yet, their findings still stand to this day. How can we only take part of what they saw and wrote? It’s all combined.
The long list of people and groups who risked everything for the sake of freedom is too long to list here. There is a common theme running through many of these tales: freedom from tyranny. Often (in fact, most of the time) that meant religious freedom. Pick any century in history, and you’ll find a person or a civilization rising up to throw off the bonds of persecution and take their destiny into their own hands. Boiled down simply: the simple faith and belief in God impacted history time and time again.
How can anyone accurately study or teach about the Protestant Reformation without reading and understanding the differences between the Catholic Church and the convictions of Martin Luther? Numerous documents are available to anyone who would study them describing the practices of the Church and the reasons Luther opposed it.
How can America’s origins be examined without knowing the heart and intent of the Pilgrms? There are many letters, pamphlets, and books written by those very people (not written later by historians with a purpose) that give us the insight into what they hoped to accomplish.
Even the evolution of the Muslim religion and its impact today cannot be completely understood by a mere mention of Mohammed in medieval history. The nations where Islam grew were also nations with a wealth of libraries. The documentation is there, corroborated by multiple sources.
Trying to read the story of the American Revolution and the framing of the U.S. Constitution without reading about the founders’ devout faith in God is like…well…attending public school. Need I say more?
John Milton, famous writer of Paradise Lost, was a Puritan in 17th Century England. The themes in this book reflect the deep beliefs of the writer. Is such a work to be glossed over in a study of history and literature?
Jefferey Chaucer, author of the Canterbury Tales in 14th Century England, said, “Now I beg all those that listen to this little treatise [Canterbury Tales], or read it, that if there be anything in it that pleases them, they thank our Lord Jesus Christ for it, from whom proceeds all understanding and goodness.” Do we ignore the author’s personal beliefs when studying his great works?
In the 13th Century Divine Comedy, Dante explores the circles of heaven, hell, and purgatory. The detail in the tales, and the instant popularity of the book, illustrate the common belief in heaven and hell among the educated and the common people.
C.S. Lewis is renowned for his works, both in Christian and secular circles, but his in all of his writings there is unmistakable proof of his devotion to God. There is no way to read his many works and overlook God.
It’s safe to say that history, literature, science, and the arts in Western Civilization up through the 19th century cannot be studied without the constant reminder that humans almost exclusively believed in a Creator. The 19th century gave us the theory of evolution, and the turning point in education at large. The 20th century ushered in a new era of a need for all things without God, including education. The public schools and even private schools and universities in America have almost completely rid American students of any mention of God.
When homeschooling became a new option across America in the 1980’s, the first goal of most of the parents was to give their children a complete education once again. That meant going back to the old sources of information and teaching the whole story. The last 30 years in home education are almost like a microcosm of the last 2000 years in education.
In a discussion I read on homeschooling on a secular homeschool forum, I read:
SOTW (Story of the World) 1 is definitely problematic for secular users, but depending on your views, I found it pretty easily secularizable.
It’s “problematic” because Story of the World 1 is ancient history. And what’s in ancient history? Biblical history. How does one secularize biblical history? The Bible itself is as much a history book as it is a book about God. There are many similar discussions online about the “forcing of Jesus” into curriculum, or making everything about religion. But the point is that every subject we teach does involve religion or faith or a Creator, whether you believe in God or not.
Again, I do not write this to attack secular homeschoolers, or to convince everyone that my way is the only way. What I hope to do is open minds to this:
The hand of God is evident throughout history, and so is humanity’s relationship with God. Countless history makers wrote and testified that their accomplishments, discoveries, and survival were owed completely to Him. They had faith and hope and assurance of His existence.
So, if you are a secular homeschooler , I ask you to consider looking at the big picture. Removing God and religion from your curriculum removes part of the story. It denies the existence of the order of math, science, and nature, and it ignores the inspiration for art, literature, music, and most importantly – freedom.
If you are a Christian who has opted to use secular curriculum, I beg you to reconsider. The hand of Providence throughout history is an inspiration to future generations that cannot and should not be ignored. The God you worship has shown Himself to be concerned in the affairs of men, to direct the course of history, and the answer the cries of the oppressed. You can do your children no better service than to show them that the God of the Bible didn’t stay in the Bible.
In closing, I leave you with this tiny, profound statement from C.S. Lewis:
A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. – C. S. Lewis
You can read about how we study history (combined with geography, literature, art, music, and science) HERE.
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