Saturday, November 12, 2011

Charlotte Mason and Evolution

Even though I am happy with our current curriculum choices, I continue to consider the future and other curriculum alternatives. I am a student at heart, and love learning, so it follows that I love learning about methods of learning!

Anyway, I was browsing the Ambleside Online website the other day (, which I had apparently never been to before, despite having read other people's comments about the curriculum. It is quite fascinating, and I'm afraid I may end up spending quite a bit more time there, perusing the book lists. Basically, AmblesideOnline (AO for short) is a free online version of the Charlotte Mason approach to learning. The website has much more information about what this approach is, but it involves a lot of "living" books, a lot of nature study and active exploration of our world, hands-on productive craft work, and a somewhat freer approach to learning than textbooks, but yet more structured than student-led approaches, and can be quite rigorous and in-depth even through high school. At least, that's how I would describe it after my brief perusal. Charlotte Mason is the "no twaddle" approach that you may have heard described.

Sonlight, one of my other favorites, is partially a Charlotte Mason approach, so that explains why I am also attracted to AO. AO is cheaper (many of the books on the lists are available for free online - though if you wanted to buy them all, I'm sure the prices would come out close to Sonlight), but requires more planning on the parent's part. It sticks with one book for a longer period of time than Sonlight, and seems to use older texts. Anyway, that's a brief review if you're looking for a curriculum review.

What I mainly wanted to note in this blog is that I was surprised to read that Charlotte Mason believed in evolution and an old Earth. Most Christian adherants to Charlotte Mason homeschooling do not, nowadays, but apparently, in her time, around when Darwin first published his results, many Christians accepted evolution and easily saw how it could be understood as a method God may have used to create the Earth. That has always been my belief too - that God can use any method He wants to create the world, and to just categorically deny this possibility is to put God in a box, making Him smaller than He really is.

I have also read recently about how many Christians, raised with an anti-evolution mindset/worldview, fall away from their belief in God when they study more of the details of evolution in college, and find themselves among people who strongly believe in evolution. This is not surprising to me, as I have personally witnessed this "falling away" of other Christians at this stage of life.

What most Christian homeschool material suggests to prevent this from happening is to teach anti-evolution creationism so strongly in the K-12 years, providing counter-attack arguments to every evolutionary idea, that the student will never doubt their beliefs. One problem with this, however, is that evolutionists have come up with counter-counter-attacks for all these issues, and will continue to do so. If even one of these arguments makes sense to a Christian student who has always been taught that evolution equals atheism, then they risk falling away from God.

What I believe is a much better approach is to teach your young students that even evolution requires God. Even if you don't believe in evolution, you can still teach that those who do believe in it still need to (and can) have God in their equations. Even evolution, despite it making so much of "creation" possible without God's direct hand, still requires God at the beginning - at the very beginning, before time began, before the universe popped into existance. Exactly how much God "guided" evolution is totally debatable (and unprovable - it's just philosophies at this point) - you can go from no interaction at all after a first activating touch, up to frequent guidance at every genetic permutation.

The advent of Adam and Eve is still completely possible with an evolutionary viewpoint:  at a certain time, when the human form had become what God intended it to be, He breathed His spirit into the specimen He had chosen, making Adam the first true human, and quite distinct from all other "animal" forms (created from the dust, no less - from the very smallest building blocks of life - just over a longer period of time than generally assumed). I know - preposterous to many of you who believe evolution to be crazy. But for those whose scientific investigations force them to believe in evolution, would you rather they hold to such a possibility and still believe in God, or have them fall into atheism?

My point is that evolution does not negate God. Evolution does not negate the Bible. It may perhaps require a different interpretation that you are used to, but believe me, it does not negate even the first chapters of Genesis. Those who claim that it does are following tradition, not Scripture.

This is such a sore point with me because I see so many scientifically-minded people throw God and the Bible away, because they have been told so often that "Christians can't believe in evolution." Teaching evolution does not make students fall away from God. Teaching that Christians can't believe in evolution is what make students fall away from God.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Not the Best Week

Last Monday was one of those days when I seriously reconsidered home schooling. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), the child I really wanted to send away to school was my youngest, who won't be eligible to attend kindergarten until the fall of 2014!

My oldest, the main one I'm homeschooling right now, is doing great. She loves her school work this year, hardly ever complains, does her work quietly (well, she sings a lot while she works), and gets nearly all her worksheets, tests, and review questions correct. If I only had her at home, life would be so easy!

But I have 2 others, just turned 3 and 4, and they can cause so much chaos! I'm hoping they mature (just a little bit, please!) over the next 1-2 years, and start being more obedient and less destructive and noisy. It would be nice to be able to spend a few minutes helping one child without the others scattering legos all over the floor, dropping toys down the stairs once a second (it must have been a gravity experiment, right?), and turning my video camera on and leaving it to record (for a whole hour, no less!) face down on the kitchen counter.

This week has just been one of those weeks. Our science experiments haven't been going as planned either. We're studying sedimentary rock (like sandstone). One activity was to create our own sandstone by mixing sand and glue in a pan and letting it harden. It didn't harden. I even used (wasted) just about a whole bottle of glue. We did find a few harder chunks today, but they crumbled pretty easily. The main experiment was to use sand and crushed rock as a filter to clean dirty water. Well, the sand flowed right through the little pebbles I used (I didn't have any finer crushed rock available), and right out of the mouth of the 2-liter bottle, so we were never able to get the right layers to create our filter, much less try pouring muddy water through it. Today we painted with paint mixed with sand. I guess I put too much sand in, since it got really clumpy really fast. It worked, kinda, but not like I was expecting.

But despite all this, I really cannot complain. My daughter's self-confidence has greatly improved since I started homeschooling. Instead of hiding behind me whenever someone appears, now she sings hymns out loud as we walk through the parking lot and grocery store aisles, smiling at everyone. (She still has her shy moments, but they are definitely less frequent.) She is full of energy most of the day, eager to investigate her world, and not dragging her feet with exhaustion after a 40+ hour school (work) week, and then having homework to do on top of that. Instead of complaining that she doesn't like reading, she now reads books to her younger siblings in her spare time. Science and math are her favorite subjects. Her brother is one of her best friends, instead of being someone she hardly ever saw awake, and he follows her around like a puppy. She is inseparable from her sister (despite the pouting claims once a day or so of "I'm not your friend anymore!" that I hear from both - Ryan has taken to mimicking them when they say this, and then grinning really big).

So I can't really complain when I say this has not been the best week. Compared to what? There are much worse weeks possible. Yes, I have to admit - we are spoiled!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Birthdays and Cakes

I haven't written in a while, as the past few weeks have been a little busy. For one thing, my youngest daughter turned 4 last week, and my son turned 3 2 days later, so we had a joint birthday party last Saturday. They both love Cars, so we used that as our theme. So far, it's worked well to have "together" parties, at their young ages. My poor daughter didn't get much of a first birthday party, since I was just 2 days away from being induced with my son, and was feeling miserable! For their 2nd/1st birthday, we did a Mickey and Minnie Mouse theme, and for their 3rd/2nd birthday, we did a Team Umizoomi party. As they get older, I'm not sure if we'll always do a together party or not, but I'm going to try! It's hard enough planning and baking and cleaning the house for 1 party! Maybe we'll end up having 2 different themes someday, but still have the parties on the same day.

I have a goal of decorating birthday cakes for each of my children's birthdays. I'm not a professional, by any means, but I like being creative. Here's some pictures of past birthday cakes I've done. My oldest is partial to castles, so I end up using that cake pan for most of her birthdays. For her 5th, I took a chance to use a different pan (against her wishes), but fortunately, she still loved it!

November 2011 - Cars November 2010 - Umizoomi

November 2009 - for RyanNovember 2009 - for Reanna

July 2008 - Castle/Princess July 2009 - Castle/Princess

July 2010 - My Little Pony/Unicorn July 2011 - Princess