lead article from 3/06 HEADSUP

     Wayne Walker here.  There follows the lead article from the Mar., 2006, issue of my free monthly e-mail homeschooling newsletter, on the theme of creation versus evolution in homeschooling.  If you would like to read the entire issue, I would be happy to e-mail it to you.  Just send me an e-mail asking for it at wswalker310@juno.com.  I will probably post a few smaller articles from it later.


Monthly newsletter of general interest, encouragement,
and information for homeschooling Christians
% Wayne S. Walker, 9024 Amona Dr., Affton (St. Louis), MO  63123
E-mail: wswalker310@juno.com; phones: (314) 638-4710 home, 544-1612 office
March, 2006; Volume 8, Number 8
8. THE DAYS OF CREATION by Wayne S. Walker
9. QUESTION AND ANSWERS from the HomeSchoolers List
by Wayne S. Walker
     The Jan., 2005, issue of this newsletter had as it theme “Homeschooling and Evolution Controversies.”  Let me begin by saying that I am an ardent, Bible-believing, six-day creationist.  There was a specific reason for choosing that theme, but I had so much good general material on the subject of evolution versus creationism and/or intelligent design that I just ran out of room before I got to my main purpose.  My desire to explore the theme of homeschooling and evolution controversies was sparked by an article entitled “Homeschooling and Scientific Creationism” by Angela Garcia which appeared in  the July/August, 2003, issue of Does God Exist?, edited by John Clayton of Niles, MI, and published by the Donmoyer Ave. Church of Christ, 718 Donmoyer Ave., South Bend, IN  46614.  While Clayton's views differ from theistic evolution and even the “progressive creationism” of Hugh Ross, he also like Ross has written many articles in strong opposition to the “young earth creationism” view of the Institute for Creation Research, Answers in Genesis, and, though not mentioning them by name, Apologetics Press (see Does God Exist?, July/August, 2004, “Motives and Assumptions in the Age-of-the-Earth Question,” pp. 11-19).
     Therefore, it is no surprise to learn the gist of Garcia's article.  She begins, “How exhilarating for homeschool 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.”  So far so good.  She continues, “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.”  Again, most of us would agree wholeheartedly with this assessment.
     However, a change in tone starts to appear.  “My own story does not end there.  For 11 years, I have continued to search for the best science books for my growing children….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 the local library and checked out every book on the creation/evolution debate I could find, regardless of the source.”  She mentions several books, including some favoring evolution, two 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;” one by Clayton; one by Paul Taylor with “an overview of the young earth creationist point of view, written for children;” and one by Henry Morris, “president of the Institution for Creation Research, a young-earth organization.”  This sounds like a good mix.
     However, her conclusion is somewhat startling.  “Most of those sources led me to a disturbing conclusion: almost all of the Christian homeschool science curriculum available is based on scientific creationism which is supported and promoted by dispensational creationists.”  I begin to see several problems here.  First, she does not define her terms.  She just starts talking about “scientific creationism” without telling the reader what it means, or even what she means by it, although the gist of the article seems to be that “scientific creationism” is teaching a literal six-day creation of a young earth.  She merely says that it “is supported and promoted by dispensational creationists” which leaves the impression that “scientific creationism” is equal to “dispensational creationism” (whatever that is).  Here seems to be one of the main sticking points that Clayton has with young earth creationism–he almost always equates it with dispensational premillennialism, and I believe that this is a false assumption.
     It is undoubtedly true that a lot of dispensational premillennialists do support and promote scientific creationism.  But, what does that prove?  One could just as easily say, “Almost all of the Christian homeschool curriculum available is based on the Bible, which is supported and promoted by dispensational premillennialists.”  That is certainly a true statement.  So, should we reject the Bible because dispensational premillennialists claim to support and promote it?  The article also says regarding Garcia's findings on scientific creationism, “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.”  Again, what does that prove?  A great many people who call themselves Christians and claim to believe in the validity of the Bible actually believe and teach organic evolution too.  Truth is not determined by who teaches what or claims to be what.
     “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?”  She ridicules scientific creationism as claiming to present “the only true Christian interpretation of Genesis.”  No, my dear lady, it is not an “interpretation.”  THAT IS WHAT IT SAYS!!!!!  That is like the homosexuals who, when we read Romans 1:26-27 to condemn homosexuality, reply, “Well, that is just your interpretation!”  And what are all these “historical and scientific problems?”  Every view of origins and earth history–be it evolution, old earth creationism, progressive creationism, or young earth creationism–will have some “scientific and historical problems” simply because no human being was there to chronicle the beginning and everything that has happened since then (and even if someone were there, a lot of people would not believe him!).  But we must be careful that we do not accept as truth unproven hypotheses and theories that atheistic humanists claim as “facts” and try to fit what the Bible says into them, but accept what the Bible says as truth and filter all human assertions through it.  I have found that scientific creationism has far fewer “historical or scientific problems” than any other theory because it better fits in with what both the Bible says and what true science tells us.
     The article continues, “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.”  Or, perhaps, she now knows worse.  Science can actually tell us the age of the earth?  The “scientific facts” that do exist can just as easily, and in my opinion better, be explained by a young earth as an old earth.  In fact, as Jay Wile often shows in his “Exploring Creation” high school science textbooks for homeschoolers, there are many evidences that cannot be explained in any other way than accepting a young earth.  In any event, what the lady says here is a tacit admission that since the modern (humanistic) view of “the science which makes today's world a technological wonder” claims that the age of the universe and the age of the earth are millions and even billions of years (in order to make room for evolution), then Bible believers have to modify their beliefs to fit that. 
     How are we supposed to do that?  “I also learned there is more than one way to read the first few chapters of Genesis….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.”  Well, there are more than one way to read other sections of Genesis as well.  The modernists have found a way to read Genesis chapters 6-9 to eliminate the possibility of a world-wide flood, because they do not want to accept the conclusions of catastrophism.  The homosexual rights movement has found a way to read Genesis chapter 19 to mean that homosexuality is actually acceptable to God because they do not want to accept Biblical teaching that homosexuality is a sin.  So some have now found a way to read Genesis chapters 1-3 to mean that creation took millions or billions of years because they do not want to accept the limitations of a literal six-day creation but rather try to fit what the Bible says into a system devised by organic, atheistic evolutionists.  Actually, modernists have been mythologizing the creation account in Genesis for years.  And the view of an earth millions of years old may be just as much a “creation creed based on fallible human wisdom.”
     So, what did the author do?  “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.”  Interestingly enough, this is exactly what evolutionists want to do with all creationist materials–just remove them from the shelves.  It is also interesting that creationist materials, unlike evolutionary ones which only present the evolutionary side, almost always present both sides of the issue, giving the claims and supposed evidences for evolution, and then looking at the claims and the same evidences from a creationist viewpoint.  “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.”  Well, I have found that the writings of Hugh Ross, John Clayton, and others like them also contain a great deal of theorizing and speculation too.
     The author admits, “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.”  Her last statement may be true, but there is a great problem here because when we start giving more credence to someone who starts out from a position that denies God and constructs his view of science from that basis than to those who begin with God and construct a world view from there (even if we may disagree with some of their beliefs), we are treading on a very dangerous slippery slope.  Yet, I am amazed when I read statements like, “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.”  Listen to the evolutionists, but watch out for those Christians!
     The article concludes, “To teach science in the modern world is a challenge for any Christian, but it is especially challenging for homeschooling families.  Because many 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.”  It is certainly good to be have “a dose of healthy skepticism” regarding anything that we read from fallible men (and I will certainly do so with regard to the old earth creationists!), but it seems to me that the author is making the same mistake that the evolutionists make.  She concludes that Hugh Ross and John Clayton present “scientific proofs” whereas scientific creationists have only “theorizing and speculation” in the same way that the evolutionists conclude that evolution is based on “scientific proofs” whereas creationism is only the “theorizing and speculation” of religion.
     The beauty of homeschooling is that each family can choose its own curriculum.  If a family is atheistic, it can choose evolutionary scientific materials.  If the author of the article wishes to choose “old earth creationist” materials, she is free to do so.  I am not one to charge everyone who holds a slightly different view of some things from that which I hold as a false teacher or a compromiser.  However, it irks me to no end that these so-called “old earth creationists” seem to delight in charging anyone and everyone who simply accepts the Bible for what it says, that “in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them” (Exodus 20:11), as being guilty of deceiving others, depending on fallible human wisdom, presenting nothing but theorizing and speculation, and having become enmeshed in another extreme.  It appears to me that some honest evolutionists have more respect for scientific creationism than many of these “old earth creationists”!
     I realize that many ardent scientific creationists do have problems with theistic evolutionists, old earth creationists, progressive creationists, and even the intelligent design movement, and I understand why.  I do believe that in those areas where we agree we should be able to work together for a common goal and in those areas where we disagree we can agree to disagree without being disagreeable.  However, I also see the need to keep sounding the warning that once we have accepted many of the assumptions of the atheistic evolutionist who needs millions and billions of years for his theory to work as “scientific proof” when there is no real evidence for it, he will be more than happy for us to “throw God in there somewhere” because he knows that he already has everything that he needs.
     It is still my firm conviction that “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).  It is also my firm conviction that God did it exactly the way that He said that He did it, “in six days” (Exodus 31:17).  Others may choose a different course, but, while I may not necessarily deem an absolute heretic unworthy of any consideration everyone who differs from what I believe, for me and my house we shall continue to use homeschooling science materials, such as those from Apologia Educational Ministries, Apologetics Press, Answers in Genesis, and like organizations which uphold the Biblical concept of creation in science and do not compromise with the changing aspects of modern scientific theories, especially those that do not begin with God and thus do not view science as learning about God's creation.

Cardboard Kids

Wayne Walker here with an interesting note:

     In the January, 2006, issue of my free, e-mail homeschooling newsletter, reference was made to an episode of the television show “Wife Swap” in which one of the swapped wives was a homeschooling mother. On a homeschooling e-mail list here in Missouri, Rhyah Fletcher reported the following. “My husband and I were watching TV last night and saw an episode of that show Talk Soup. Anyway they were talking about this show Wife Swap…we don't watch it so not sure what it is. But anyway there was a mom on there that homeschools her kids, but I guess the kids in that family she had to stay with went to school so this woman cut out cardboard kids and pretended to play a game of cards with them. Did any of you see this? I thought it was funny but at the same time I thought it was also ammunition for all anti-homeschoolers to think homeschooling families are really wack. My husband has been trying to get me to agree to put Gavin in school next year but after he saw this he was like keep homeschooling…I don't want to come home to cardboard kids sitting around the table. I told him that just shows how passionate homeschooling families are……I said when teachers have a day off they don't cut out cardboard students and pretend to teach……we are dedicated LOL!”

An on-line educational service

       The Cram School: I received the following letter, dated January 28, 2006, from the English Cram School, 1311 Kapiolani Blvd., Suite 610, Honolulu, HI 96814, addressed to “Dear Homeschooler.” Please understand that I do not necessarily endorse this but am simply passing this information on.

     “We would like to give the members of your organization access to free language skills curriculum in exchange for feedback on its effectiveness. We have developed a series of products for homeschool students and need help in testing the material in the final stages of its development. The curriculum includes courses in grammar, writing, handwriting, spelling, reading, and vocabulary. Our goal is to place the curriculum on-line so that parents can have easy access at minimal cost.

     “All of the lessons have been posted on http://www.englishcramschool.com. All the parents have to do is go to the website, read the instructions and start using the material. We will be able to tell how many people visit the site, how long they stay, and how many pages they visit. This will give us the important statistics we need to determine if the site will pay for itself through advertising.

     “We do not require feedback from everyone who uses the site. However, those who want to respond may send their comments directly to Dennis Brooks at cramschool@mac.com and report errors, misinformation, and problems with navigation. Or your members can use the site and let you know what they think about it. Then you can send a report telling us what they think about using the site as a resource. That will be good enough for us, and it will help keep the volume of e-mail down.

     “If we can generate a high enough volume of traffic to the site, we will continue to keep the site open and provide resources to homeschoolers for free. If we cannot generate enough income from sponsors, we will have to start charging for site visits. In the meantime, we plan to keep the site open and give free access throughout 2006.

     “The curriculum has been tested by a large number of homeschoolers, who gave suggestions and recommendations. We made the changes and now we are testing the material on a larger scale. Your participation will be greatly appreciated.

     “Thank you for your time and consideration. Sincerely, Dennis Brooks, CramSchool President; Phone: (808) 593-2726 (kyd-cram); http://www.englishcramschool.com.”

One more item about the Dog at Night Time book

Since I began this thread, I might as well finish it up.  I received another interesting comment from an e-mail list participant where I posted my review. 


Connie Knudtson responded, “I would say, don't bother. I read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time after reading good reviews of it. I was disappointed. Aside from the language, it was just not a good story for kids. The boy's mother has an affair with a neighbor and runs off with him. The boy's father lies to him and tells him his mother is dead. The father kills a dog with a garden fork in a fit of anger.”


I received the following message from the editor of World Magazine, saying, “Dear Mr. Walker: Thanks for your letter to WORLD regarding the review of Mark Haddon's book. You're right. I should have mentioned the use of some foul language. It was an unfortunate oversight on my part. Cordially, Susan Olasky.”

more about the book

I sent my review of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time to World Magazine, which had recommended it.  I received word that they received it but have not heard directly from anyone there yet in response.  However, after posting the review on a couple of homeschooling e-mail lists, I did receive some comment.


     Notes on The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time: Did you read my review of this book in the the previous blog? If not, please do so. After posting it on a homeschooling e-mail list, I received several responses. I do not cite these to “toot my own horn” but just to show how important having accurate information about books for our children (and even ourselves) is. Diana Dow wrote, “That just goes to show that we can't trust other people's reviews. Use them for information, but look into it yourself. Thanks for all the reviews you present. I marvel at the amount of reading you must do.” Gerry Wright wrote, “Wayne wrote of the positive review of a book in WORLD which Wayne later found to be a very bad book. I had this problem with many of World's reviews. I enjoyed the magazine on some levels, but found that many of the movies, books, and music reviewed, and praised, were really bad news! I wrote a letter objecting to one review and, In fairness, I should mention that they did publish it. In fact, they published a few other letters during the year which objected to some of the reviews. However, the review policy was far too worldly for me, and I didn't renew my subscription (I often disagreed with the editorial views too.) I said all that to say I agree with Diana and Wayne – be careful of the sources of your reviews. I used to be burned occasionally on recommendations even from Christians for movies. Now I don't go until I check with http://www.screenit.com – that is to say, I haven't been to a movie in years! I just wait, try to pick one with very little offensive, and then watch it at home with my trusty, handy-dandy TV Guardian! I do trust Wayne's reviews completely, and read every word of every one. Thank you, Wayne.” And Joan Elder wrote, “I must also give my Kuddos to Wayne for his insightful reviews. Many times I have read the reviews from this list and located the book online at our local library. It is SO much fun when they have the books. Many thanks for this valuable service. Keep them coming.” Dawn Thompson wrote, “I guess your one small consolation is that you got the book free. At least you didn't PAY for the garbage! I just checked our library catalog. Curious Incident is the only one of his books our library has. I had wanted to see if they had any of his children's books so I could warn my kids to steer clear of his books. I agree wholeheartedly that the guy who writes a book for adults with that kind of language is not the guy I trust to write books for kids. This is the blurb our library's website gives for Curious Incident, btw: Despite his overwhelming fear of interacting with people, Christopher, a mathematically-gifted, autistic fifteen-year-old boy, decides to investigate the murder of a neighbor's dog and uncovers secret information about his mother. Knowing what I know of the book from your review, I believe I'd be afraid to learn what secret information he uncovers about his mother!”

warning about a book

     Wayne Walker here with a warning about a National Bestseller, Whitbread Book of the Year, New York Times Notable Book, and Today Show Book Club Selection.  This review will appear in the March, 2006, issue of my free monthly e-mail homeschooling newsletter.


     Haddon, Mark. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time (published in 2003 Jonathan Cape Ltd., London, England, and by Doubleday and Vintage Books, both divisions of Random House Inc., New York City, NY). Some time ago, I picked this book up on the free table at a used curriculum sale. However, before I could read it, a review of it came out in the Jan. 21, 2006, issue of World Magazine (why it took three years to review it is beyond me). The review said, “When a 15-year old autistic boy discovers his neighbor's poodle skewered by a garden fork, he determines to track down the killer. What sets this book apart os the narrative voice of Christopher Boone, the autistic boy who decides to solve a crime and write a book. His special way of looking at the world–he is unable to lie, to perceive other people's emotions, or to tell a joke–and his love of math (the chapters are numbered by prime numbers) give this book a cock-eyed sensibility and bittersweet charm.” Although Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times compared the book to The Catcher in the Rye, which would give me some caution, because it was about a 15 year old autistic boy who”knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057,” and the author “is a writer and illustrator of numerous award-winning children's books” who “worked with autistic individuals,” I thought that it might be something that would be interesting and good for young people to read, and especially after the encouraging word from World I was looking forward to it. BOY, WAS I WRONG! As I read the first seven chapters, the “f” word appeared TWICE on page 9. As disgusted as I was, I thought that if that was all, I would continue reading. However, as I began the next few chapters, the “s” word appeared on page 11. So I gave it up. While I do not like it, I can abide a little cursing in an otherwise good book. But I have trouble stomaching obscene vulgarity under any circumstances. I understand that this kind of language is more readily acceptable in England, but I am not in England, and even there I would oppose it! There might be something in the book that would help people be sensitive to autistic people, which was probably the intention, but as I am not in the habit of going through other people's garbage to see if I can find some “treasure,” I do not think that people should have to wade through language that is nothing but verbal garbage to find something worthwhile. I am a little disappointed that World did not give more of a warning about the language, because any way you slice it, no matter how “intelligent,” “moving,” “amazing,” and “superb” the critics may think that the book is, that kind of language does NOT represent a Biblical worldview. Perhaps the reviewers of World will now start telling us that maybe, after all, we can subscribe to Playboy for the good articles and just ignore the rest of it. Certainly, a parent who wants to raise his children with godly language would not want them reading a book with these kinds of filthly words. I also have one other concern, and it is that if an author feels that he should use such language in his adult novels, what kind of worldview is he presenting in his children's books? I think that I shall stay away from ANYTHING written by Mark Haddon. Language level: obscenity and vulgarity. Ages: ADULTS ONLY (if that)!  My rating: NOT RECOMMENDED.

lead article from the 2/06 issue of the HEADSUP Newsletter

Wayne Walker here with the lead article from the Feb., 2006, issue of my free, monthly e-mail homeschooling newsletter, HEADSUP (which will be moved to  yahoogroups later this year and be renamed Biblical Homeschooling).  If anyone wants to receive the whole thing, just contact me at the e-mail address given.  The theme for the issue is unschooling, and following my summary, there follow two other article, one for unschooling and the other against it, along with other items.


Monthly newsletter of general interest, encouragement,
and information for homeschooling Christians
% Wayne S. Walker, 9024 Amona Dr., Affton (St. Louis), MO  63123
E-mail: wswalker310@juno.com; phones: (314) 638-4710 home, 544-1612 office
February, 2006; Volume 8, Number 7 
1. UNSCHOOLING by Wayne S. Walker
4. POETRY CORNER: The Ballad of Trees and the Master by Sidney Lanier
8. QUESTION AND RESPONSES from the HomeSchoolers list
9. RECENT PROBLEMS SOLVED BY HSLDA from Home School Legal Defense Association
12. ANOTHER RESPONSE by Wayne S. Walker
by Wayne S. Walker
     Previous issues of this newsletter in earlier years (c. 2000) set out to provide some articles with information on all the major “methods” or “approaches” of homeschooling–the traditional “scope and sequence” method with textbooks and workbooks, referred to by some as “school at home”; the habitual method of Charlotte Mason with its emphasis on living books; the “classical” method following the trivium; the “project” or “integrated” method of unit studies; and the “principle method” whose curriculum is provided by the Foundation for American Christian Education.  One important approach that was not discussed was “unschooling.”  The reason for this is that although I had heard of it, I really did not understand it and so did not know enough about it to feel that I could say anything useful.  Since then, I have read more about it and met several homeschooling families who pursue what they call unschooling, so while not claiming to be an expert I do feel that I have a little better handle on it than before.   Some would assert that this method is actually the oldest form of homeschooling, especially in the modern homeschooling movement.  What is “unschooling”?
     The word “unschooling” means different things to different people.  To some, it simply refers to the process of taking children out of traditional schools and getting away from the “September to May, eight a. m. to three p. m.” structured classroom model of education.  The word “deschooling” is now more commonly used to identify this concept.  However, there is also a specific method or approach that is known as “unschooling.”  As we began making our plans to homeschool, some friends of ours gave us a copy of The Big Book of Home Learning, Volume I: Getting Started (copyright 1990) by Mary Pride.  Let me just say a word about that here.  In the years since we began homeschooling, I have seen many other excellent books on the subject–Cathy Duffy's Christian Home Educators Curriculum Manuals, Debra Bell's works, and others.  However, it was Mary Pride who helped us get started, and we shall forever be grateful to her.  As a result, we just personally tend to prefer the format and tone of her books to the others.
     Anyway, here is what Mary said about unschooling.  “Along with traditional and classic schooling, 'unschooling' is one of the most popular homeschool formats.  To avoid confusion, I should mention that the word 'unschooling' is used for two separate things.  Some people refer to the act of removing one's children from the schools, or refusing to enroll them, as 'unschooling.'  But 'unschooling' also describes a very popular homeschooling philosophy: that children learn better from doing real things than made-up exercises.”  Generally, those who identify themselves as “unschoolers” consider John Holt the father of unschooling, especially with his books, How Children Fail, in 1964, and How Children Learn, in 1967,
     Concerning Holt, Mary said, “John Holt is the prophet of real-world learning.  For years Mr. Holt quietly but insistently taught that children can learn all by themselves, without any well-intentioned adult interference.  He sees the idea of programmed learning as positively evil….[H]e fiercely defended the right of children to tackle the real environment….John Holt's motto was 'Trust Children.'  Based on his own observations of children learning and not learning, garnered in real-life situations, Holt believed children really want to learn and that they will learn what they need to know if left entirely to themselves.  In actual practice, Holt advocated involving children in our adult activities rather than begging them constantly, 'What do you want to do today?'  Still, his theory almost eliminates 'teaching' as a profession, other than a master/apprentice type of relationship where the apprentice is eager to learn a particular difficult skill.  What a person can learn on his own, Holt says, he should learn on his own–our teachers are not there to tyrannize us, but to offer the help we need.”
     In Searching for the Ancient Paths Resource Guide (Elijah Co.), Chris and Ellyn Davis wrote, “The Unschooling Approach is defined by John Holt, a 20th century American educator who concluded that children have an innate desire to learn and a curiosity that drives them to learn what they need to know when they need to know it.  Holt believed that both desire and curiosity are destroyed by the usual methods of teaching.  In his book Teach Your Own, Holt wrote: 'What children need is not new and better curricula but access to more and more of the real world; plenty of time and space to think over their experiences, and to use fantasy and play to make meaning out of them; and advice, road maps, guidebooks, to make it easier for them to get where they want to go (not where we think they ought to go), and to find out what they want to find out.”
     Many people today often consider homeschooling as a “right-wing Christian phenomenon.”  However, some of the very first encouragement toward homeschooling came from John Holt and his newsletter Growing Without Schooling, begun in 1977, and Holt was anything but a “right-wing Christian.”  He was a card-carrying member and supporter of the American Civil Liberties Union–that is, until he appealed to the ACLU to help defend the “civil liberties” of some of his followers who began pulling their children out of traditional schools and providing for their education at home.  The ACLU turned him down flat!  Still, for the most part, although there are exceptions, those who openly identify themselves as unschoolers tend to come from a more liberal perspective.  Holt died in 1985, and his newsletter ceased publication in 2001.  However Home Education Magazine, while not exclusively devoted to unschooling, continues to be the magazine of choice among this wing of the homeschool movement, and even has a regular column on the subject of unschooling.
     Concerning Holt's push for unschooling, Mary Pride wrote, “Unschooling is a far more radical approach to education than enrolling in a traditional home correspondence course or following a planned curriculum.  It requires more creativity and flexibility (some say this is also one of its rewards!).  Some people find unschooling more stressful, as they are constantly worrying whether Johnny really is learning all the math he needs to know, or whether someday they will discover that he is eighteen years old and still has never heard of George Washington!  Others, more confident, think unschooling is the most relaxing, friendly way for children to learn.”
     Not all unschoolers necessarily come from the left.  There is a book called Christian Unschooling: Growing Your Children in the Freedom of Christ by Teri J. Brown and Elissa M. Wahl.  Concerning the “better late than early” philosophy of Raymond and Dorothy Moore, former Seventh-Day Adventist missionaries who also were early promoters of homeschooling, Mary Pride wrote, “Followers of Dr. Raymond Moore adopt an 'unschooling' method for their youngest children.”  Chris and Ellyn Davis also wrote, “On the other hand, unschooling refers to any less structured learning approach that allows children to pursue their own interests with parental support and guidance.  The child is surrounded by a rich environment of books, learning resources, and adults who model a lifestyle of learning and are willing to interact with him.  Formal academics are pursued when the need arises.  Christians who favor less structured schooling, but with defined goals, prefer to be called 'relaxed home educators,' not unschoolers.”  Mary Hood, in her such books as The Relaxed Home School and The Joyful Home Schooler, takes the more unstructured idea of unschooling and approaches it from a Biblical standpoint.
     Therefore, there will be many different kinds and levels of “unschoolers.”  Mary Pride wrote, “Unschoolers are generally shy of tests–not that their children don't know anything, but because testing is one of the 'school' things they dislike….Experienced homeschoolers, even those who use curricula, often incorporate unschooling into part of their program.  'Total' unschoolers, those who use no set structure at all, seem to be a minority (this is my guess based on what I see homeschoolers writing about themselves).  Parents generally feel less nervous about unschooling 'skills' (e.g., carpentry, cooking, sewing) than academic subjects.”
     Like all other methods, there are strengths and weaknesses to unschooling.  Chris and Ellyn Davis suggest, “Some questions to ask before trying the Unschooling Approach”:  “Am I comfortable with few pre-set goals and little structure?  Do my children have strong interests in particular areas?  Does my family have a lot of natural curiosity and love learning?”  Under strengths of the Unschooling Approach, they list: “Takes little planning.  Captures the child's 'teachable moments.'  Children have access to the real world, plenty of time and space to figure things out on their own.  Children are less likely to become academically frustrated or 'burned out.'  Children can delve into a subject as deeply or shallowly as they desire.  Provides a discipleship model of learning.  Creates self-learners with a love of learning.”  Under weaknesses, they list: “May neglect some subject.  Hard to assess level of learning.  Lacks the security of a clearly laid out program.  Is extremely child-centered.  Difficult to explain to others.  May be overly optimistic about what children will accomplish on their own.”
     In the homeschooling movement, unschooling has had its proponents and detractors, even among those who identify with a Biblical worldview.  The September, 1990, issue of Family Times: A Newsletter About Homeschooling for New Testament Christians contained the following letter.  “Family Times has provided interesting stories of other Christian families and I appreciate this forum very much.  I am glad you are providing a way for Christian home educators to connect with each other.  Many homeschooling Christians seem to feel that it is necessary to set up a sort of school at home with mom as 'teacher,' purchased curriculum, assignments, tests, subjects, and textbooks (often denominationally produced), with encouragement from such publications as The Teaching Home.  I have no quarrel that these can be resources for home educators.  If these ways make a joyful family life for all involved, then wonderful!  These parents have removed their children from the amoral unbiblical influence of a humanistic school system.  They are also minimizing the effects of peer pressure.  These are extremely important reasons for Christians to home educate and certainly have played a part in our decision to avoid traditional institutional schooling.
     “However, I am concerned that a New Testament Christian whose 'educational philosophy' leads them toward 'unschooling' would feel a lack of support from other Christian homeschoolers.  It needs to be recognized that those who have come to think that traditional, commonly practiced educational methods are folly and harmful are exercising a responsible decision by not employing them in the home.  It is not unscriptural to say that John Holt and others with similar messages have much to offer a responsible Christian parent.  (Some books are Teach Your Own, Learning All the Time, and How Children Learn by Holt, and also David and Micki Colfax's Homeschooling For Excellence.  The newsletter Growing Without Schooling, and Home Education Magazine are also informative and encouraging.)”
     One of the editors, David Pratte, replied, “Family Times has no editorial policy regarding any particular format for homeschooling.  We can see advantages and disadvantages for both highly structured and unstructured approaches.  It is true, for example, that all teachers will find that the books they use contain some error, denominational or otherwise.  It is also true, we understand, that Holt held many humanistic ideas.  In either case, the advantage of homeschooling is that the parents are able to help children distinguish truth from error as we teach….Regardless of the teaching approach, we encourage Christians to obey the law, teach God's word, and give a good education.  Within that framework, there will always be differences of opinion and viewpoint.”
     Therefore, I do believe that those who want to please Christ should be careful in following the philosophy of unschooling so as not to be influenced by some of the humanistic presuppositions that underlie it, just as we must be careful in using textbooks, or unit studies, or “living books,” or any other resources provided by fallible men, so as not to be influenced by any error, denominational or otherwise, contained in them.  Terry Dorian, in Anyone Can Homeschool that she co-wrote with Zan Peters Tyler, called unschooling “existentialism,” and wrote, “John Holt, the well-known educator who is considered the father of 'unschooling,' 'free' and 'invited' learning, has written what many of us consider to be classic works in the areas of homeschooling and educational reform….John Holt's books were the first homeschooling books that I read.  I read them during my master's program in reading.  I recommend them to Christians who are rooted and grounded in God's word.  To those who are not rooted and grounded in the word, I recommend nothing except Colossians 3:6-9….Many of John Holt's ideas are inconsistent with the biblical principles, but if we walk by the Spirit we can learn much from this gentle man who loved teaching children.”
     So, with regard to unschooling, am I “fer it” or “agin it”?  The truth is, I am neither, at least in an absolute sense.  I am not an unschooler nor am I a proponent of unschooling.  As a result of what I have studied about unschooling, I see in it seeds of concepts which could be detrimental to many families' long-term educational goals and, if applied without great discernment, damaging to the spiritual upbringing of children.  Therefore, our family has rejected it, and I really could not encourage strict unschooling.  At the same time, there have been many families who have followed unschooling (or some form of it) quite successfully–David and Micki Colfax, mentioned earlier, whose unschooled sons were accepted to Harvard; Cafi Cohen, a well known and respected name among homeschoolers of all stripes, who unschooled her two children to scholarships at the Air Force Academy and Agnes Scott College; and an unschooling mother whom I know here in St. Louis with children who also received college scholarships.  The beauty of homeschooling is that each family can choose the path that is best for it.  Whatever path we choose, the most important question that Christians must ask is, “Are we doing what is pleasing to God according to His word, and will it bring honor to Him?”