Not All Homeschoolers Think Adam Had a Pet Dinosaur, Which is Good

Last week, The Atlantic posted a very balanced online article, “Old Earth, Young Minds: Evangelical Homeschoolers Embrace Evolution.” The gist is that homeschooling parents are turning to mainstream science for their children’s science education and doing their best to take care of the theological side of things themselves.

Homeschoolers are not anti-cultural isolationists trying to protect their children from the bad bad world. Well, some are, but by no means all. Families homeschool for a variety of reasons, and many hardly fit the caricature.

They have been a growing market for some time, and the article’s subtitle asks whether religious textbook companies will meet the needs of that market, i.e., to provide science curricula that don’t have pictures of Adam standing next to a dinosaur, but that embrace cosmological, geological, and biological evolution.

The hard part will be taking modern scientific models of origins and bringing them into conversation with the Bible. I say this is the hard part because it will require not simply better scientific education, or more clever ways of grafting science onto familiar theological categories, but some type of significant biblical and theological re-orientation. That is the only way to form a theological and spiritual “base” from which evolution, etc. can be discussed and embraced.

That synthesis won’t happen if one is operating from a theological base that says the Bible, as God’s Word, must provide accurate or reasonably accurate scientific and historical information. At this point, to my knowledge, I am not aware of a Christian science/faith organization that is willing, or sees the need, to engage on that level of theological re-education. The thought is too daunting for Fundamentalism and most of Evangelicalism, and other iterations of Christianity aren’t in the game because they have gotten past that impasse a long time ago.

At the end, the shift for Christians on the more conservative end of the theological spectrum may happen in part because of market forces that lead book publishers to provide resources that attempt to bring Christian thought and scientific integrity to their textbooks.


evangelicalism, evolution, and the facts
something this Protestant learned from a Jew about reading the Bible: a story
10th anniversary edition of Inspiration and Incarnation coming this summer
Here’s something new: Genesis is in “crisis” and if you don’t see that you’re “syncretistic”
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  • Lauren

    Yes, yes! Great post!
    We homeschool and are also what would be considered in non-believer circles, evangelical Christians. However we don’t vote the way most of our church friends do, and we don’t think the idea of social justice is an evil 20th century idea that has infiltrated the church. But I digress.
    Finding a science curriculum was hopeless, so instead I use a “new earth” curriculum alongside many secular supplements. My nine year old can critically discuss the fact that many Christians believe the earth is very young, and a great many others believe it is not. We’ve discussed the science that has led to those conclusions and the fact that our belief in God is not destroyed regardless of which is true. It’s truly awesome as a mother to see my little guy reasoning this out and deciding what he believes. He’s free to choose in this home.

  • Muzi Cindi

    ____ “other iterations of Christianity aren’t in the game because they have gotten past that impasse a long time ago”. —— This just means Fundamentalism & Evangelicalism just have to learn from others and stop demonizing them.

  • Judy

    As a parent just starting down the homeschool path with my 5 year old, and having been homeschooled myself, this is a big factor in my disappointment with curriculum, and partly why I’m engaging largely in DIY. If you ever hear of a curriculum that fits this bill, do post an update! (I shan’t hold my breath!)

  • unkleE

    I am not aware of a Christian science/faith organization that is willing, or sees the need, to engage on that level of theological re-education.

    It appears from this page that BioLogos has something that may partly fulfil what you are asking for.

    • peteenns

      Not really, uncleE. I am very familiar with BioLogos. They so some good things, but biblical/theological re-education is not their strength.

      • Ashleigh

        It’s interesting to hear you say this! Do you think that’s an area of improvement on their radar or is it not something they’re aware of and/or willing to prioritize?

  • Paul A.

    We plan on homeschooling and teaching consensus science, which of course includes evolution. We’ve already started by using “Telling God’s Story” as our primary Bible study material with our daughters.

    Sonlight kind of gets halfway to what you’re talking about by providing parents with science and history texts that speak about the consensus (describing the dinosaurs as being millions of years old), but providing talking points for more conservative parents who want to question it. Not great, but for parents like us, who have no interest in denying the findings of scientists, it’s nice to find a Christian-based curriculum unafraid of having the conversation.

  • doug

    We homeschool our kids for reasons unrelated to cultural war fears, and this issue has been one of our struggles. We know a number of evangelical-like families in this same predicament. The religious publishing companies that cater to homeschoolers do not offer reliable science curriculum, so we get this material from K12 and is essentially the same material that our public schools use.
    To note, it’s not just science that’s an issue: typically, history/social studies curriculum is unusable as well. Particularly american history is often portrayed in a “pro-white man’s conquest” , but supposedly “christian”view of history that ignores the sad realty and complexities of human history.

  • Mike

    I’m not sure if this counts as “theological re-education,” but it relates:

  • Marisa

    I would like a science resource that explains all of the prevailing origins theories, including the multiple theories within evolution, so that a person can compare and contrast. I would like homeschool conventions to accept publishers of religious neutral learning materials, and speakers of educational philosophy that doesn’t include theology.

  • kenneth justice

    The problem is that the national voice of the home school movement is dominated by conservative evangelicals.

    Even if the tide shifted one day where the majority of homeschoolers are like my wife and I who don’t buy into conservative evangelical philosophy, the national view of homeschoolers would remain unchanged because of organizations like Focus on the Family which has proselytized the idea that homeschooling is for right wing fundamentalists.

    I suspect there is a growing percentage of homeschoolers like ourselves who don’t home school as a way to hide our children from the culture, but rather we home school because the public schools in our area are a total failure when it comes to academics.


  • gingoro

    As someone with no formal education in biology the Komodo dragon seems like a pretty good stand in for dinosaurs, after all both seem kind of like lizards.

    “Dinosaurs are represented on every continent by both extant species and fossil remains.”
    But now that the nits are out of the way I agree with your general point.

  • Karen Bergey

    He is expressing what has become the angst in our curriculum. I have a 6th grade daughter who breathes science and a 2nd grade daughter who is passionate about rocks and ‘real dinosaurs’ and trying to find something engaging and challenging is impossible! What is put out there as ‘science’ by the faith-based publishers is insulting and embarrassing and I will not let them read it lest it trivialize their deepening faith. If anyone reading this has a suggestion of curriculum please please do post a link or even send me a personal email! Thank you for this article; we need so many more like it!

  • Joshua Tilghman

    Good points here. I know many home schooling families and Kenneth’s comment above is right on. Thank God for the charter school in our area.

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