Because I plan on homeschooling my children through high school, I have spent a lot of time thinking about educational theory (I also have a teaching certificate and I taught briefly in public schools in California.).
Is there such a thing as an LDS-based educational theory? Could there be? What would it look like? Do we need one?
Here are some of the issues that I have faced so far:
(1) There are four main paths for homeschoolers:
(a) school-at-home: replicate what is done in the classroom as much as you can.
(b) unit study: this week it is ‘the farm’, and everything we do (history, science, spelling, etc.) will have something to do with farms. Next week: outer space.
(c) unschooling: no curriculum is imposed on the child. The child chooses what, when, and how s/he wants to learn. (Yes, people actually do this. Lots of them.)
(d) classical education: click here for a description.
Would you say that our knowledge of the gospel would lead us to favor one of these options over the others? (I chose option D.)
(2) Because we are educating classically, we study a lot of history. Some of the history materials we use have a moderate (not fundamentalist) Christian bent to them. For example, the Exodus, Joseph in Egypt, and the life of Christ are taught as historical reality. Without debating the historicity of these events (and many people would–especially the first), I cringed as we covered these chapters. Why? I had no problem with them in FHE. I decided it is because I don’t like mixing secular and sacred history because
(a) the skill set is different: in history, we seek out the very best sources and apply strictly intellectual and rational standards to determining what is fact. With religion, it is a little different. We look for the point of a story without combing historical evidence to determine its veracity.
(b) the motive is different. In history, we want to know what happened. Occasionally, we might learn a moral lesson from what happened, but that isn’t the point of studying history. This is reversed for the study of sacred history.
(c) I feel an obligation to prepare my kids (yeah, my oldest is just six, I’m uptight) for an experience at a top-notch college, where intermixing Moses and Hammurabi in a history paper may not go over too well.
(d) I don’t want to convey the idea that Moses is just another lawgiver, just another Hammurabi in a different culture.
I wonder, sometimes, if my own (secular, public) education has blinded me to the benefits of integrating sacred and secular history and seeing them as an integrated whole. Do I need to get over my squeamishness? (My plan now is that, when the next kid goes through ancient history, the three topics mentioned above will not be covered.)
Another issue that comes up in teaching history is the underbelly: whether it is Pres. Kennedy’s womanizing or Aztec sacrifices. My children would watch local news only over my dead body, but we have read books written for elementary school students that show the blood of human sacrifices dripping down temple steps. Is this an awful thing to expose young children to? Or, is it a reasonable introduction to the nasty side of life that they must eventually encounter? My thinking is that they are better off starting with violence safely ensconced in history (that poses no danger to them) than stories of people being murdered, last night, twenty miles away.
(a) I will not teach my kids about creationism and you can’t make me (tongue sticking out).
(b) I will try hard to inculcate a sense of wonder, awe, and even reverence for the natural world. Instead of directly teaching about God in science (there’s that squeamishness again), I will try to share nature in all of its glory and allow that to lead to a respect for God’s handiwork and a desire to respect nature.
(4) I find it continually disheartening that only the most conservative LDS homeschool. You wouldn’t believe the things pushed as LDS homeschool curriculum i.e., replacing a Great Books program, commonly used by classically educated high school students, with a Great LDS Books program (gag). The most popular LDS homeschooling resouces catalog actually carries Fascinating Womanhood. No joke. Why are LDS homeschoolers primarily made up of the ultra-conservative among us? Where are the more liberal LDS homeschoolers?
Well, I’d be surprised if anyone has read this far. Then again, many of you heard out Nate on the sugar beets . . .