The New Christian Herald on 22 August this year, in a centre page article entitled "Who should educate your children?" highlighted the educational options available to Christian parents in the UK. It stated, "... there is in the region of 10,000 families who are home schooling in Britain. Of these between 1,200 and 1,500 are estimated to be Christians." The average number of children per home educating family is higher that the national average, so this probably means that at least 4,500 children from Christian families are being educated by their parents. It is almost certain that the majority of these families not only believe the Biblical account of Creation, Fall and Flood, but also see it as important to teach them to their children.
The same article estimated the number of 'new' Christian Schools to be about 100, (these are usually more openly Evangelical/Charismatic than 'Church Schools' etc.). These vary in size, but if the average was about 50 pupils, then an approximate total of 5,000 would seem appropriate. Again, many of these schools have curricula which teach Biblical Creation. By this time next year it is expected that Britain's first Christian Cyber-school will have enrolled its initial students. This Internet school aims not only to support Christian Schools and home educators in this country, but also missionaries and mission schools around the world. There is therefore today an open opportunity to provide good quality material which will assist many children from Christian families to be equipped to live in the modern world with a confidence in the God of Creation.
My own qualifications to address this field are not those of a professional educationalist. Rather they are those of a father whose 3 oldest children have been or are being taught in a Christian School which operates as a parents co-operative. Additionally, our 3 youngest children are being taught at home, and probably will continue to be so up to the age of 16, THE LORD willing. None of our children attended secular schools in the early years, though the oldest 2 did A levels at a local sixth form college. Our eldest son is now 20, whilst our youngest is 3½ - by the time he moves on we will have had almost 30 years of practical involvement in the education of our children. Both in Christian School circles and the growing support networks amongst Christian home educators there is opportunity to find out what resources are available and which are lacking.
In preparing this paper I did not want to rely on my own perceptions of the situation. I prepared a short questionnaire to research what others had found available/unavailable, helpful/unhelpful and so on by way of Creation educational resources. I also asked parents in which areas of the curriculum they considered Creation relevant, and what resources they felt should be made a priority. I specifically asked about history and science teaching, but gave opportunity for detailed answers in all subject areas. I circulated this questionnaire on 2 electronic mailing lists for Christian home educators. The first is subscribed to mainly by British families and does not have a particular lean towards Creation. This is the 'Hometime' <HT> list. The second consists mostly of North American families and was specifically established for the discussion of matters related to Creation. It is called the 'Creationists of Faith @ Home' list <CF@H>. I had 8 replies from <HT> and 9 from <CF@H>.
Respondents from both lists had to rely on American publications for most of their materials which related to Creation. Curricula produced by ABeka, Rod & Staff, School of Tomorrow, Konos Curriculum, and Weaver all, it seems, include a creation viewpoint. These curricula are widely used in the States, where 'Home Schooling' is far more accepted as normal. They are available in this country from specialist suppliers. As far as I am aware they are 'across the board' schemes and do not specialise in Creation. The other main source of Creation materials are the well known books by popular authors (e.g. Ken Ham). Some have found helpful material on the Internet, e.g. Exploring Creation with Biology by Dr Jay Wile.
It is important to note that parents at both sides of the Atlantic had more difficulty finding resources for teaching history than they did for science. In Britain, most found even the latter hard to find. Of <HT> respondents, 66% found it difficult to obtain suitable creation science materials, whilst all found it difficult or impossible to find resources for teaching early history from a Biblical foundation. (Figures from <CF@H> parents were approximately 10% and 40% respectively.)
Most parents felt happy with the material they used, but some expressed reservations about the confrontational style of creationist publications. In August this year the Washington Times (USA) carried a report of the International Creation Conference in Pittsburgh. It included the following paragraphs;
"One goal of a core of the scientists here is to establish a review committee to give seals of approval to a diversity of creationist books and literature, most of which they call flawed and yet widely used in Sunday schools or Christian schools.
'The poor kids are being taught garbage,' said Kurt Wise, a young-Earth creationist who earned a doctorate in palaeontology at Harvard University. 'We need a board of evaluators.'"
Whilst I would question the suggested solution to the problem cited, it should be a cause for concern to us that key creation scientists are moved to criticise a high percentage of creationist literature. Especially, when many readers of the literature are of the same attitude as one of my <HT> respondents;
"..... we are not science boffins, and I'm afraid we tend to take 'as gospel' anything published by Christian Scientists (not the cult of course)."
There is a need amongst those involved in Christian education, for reliable well researched material which considers all areas of the curriculum from a Biblical foundation.
My returned questionnaires provided quite a list of resources wanted, including a full Christian encyclopaedia! I believe whilst that may be out of our reach for some time, if each ministry represented at this conference recognises the potential demand for good resources amongst Christian educators in Britain, then perhaps we could get around to producing some. I want to give a few suggestions as to what I believe would be helpful. I deliberately start with history and not science, as this is a neglected area amongst creationists.
History: "A timeline, documented and cross-referenced" embraces many requests. There are many difficult problems which need attention in the area of dating before say 650 BC. Currently Christian educators have to work from secular books which contain conventional dating and are unsure how to reconcile the events so dated with the Biblical record. How many at this conference know what our "best attempts" are at reconciling these very different calendars? Not many people who responded to my questionnaire felt able to say if Abraham was contemporary with the events of Stone, Bronze or Iron Age as they are called. My own conviction is that evolution has taken out of the mind of men and women any appreciation of the shortness of life upon the earth. 6,000 years is frighteningly short by comparison with millions of years they are told we have spent coming from nowhere and going nowhere. We need to help others address the issues raised by conventional archaeological dating.
History also overlaps with some of the 'scientific' issues. Several respondents mentioned the need for material on continental movement. The ice age is also often asked about. Where do these fit into the Biblical story? Who were the key Biblical characters who lived through these events? A good number of similar questions as these would need to be addressed in a well reasoned 'timeline'. Resources which seek to help Christian Schools and parents to teach early history in a Biblical timescale are urgently needed. (Perhaps beyond the remit of those at this conference, but of interest to us I hope, is that several expressed a need for materials with a Christian perspective on the history of the last 2000 years.)
Science: There is no shortage of creation science resources, but how many are appropriate for use in Christian education? One comment I received from the <CF@H> list said:
"It would be good if they would explain the cavemen and dinosaurs, without sounding defensive against the evolutionist camp. Sort of 'here's how it happened'...... When you're teaching a child from scratch, you don't have to undo the evolutionist thoughts, and so there is no need for the defences against evolution which are pretty prominent in some material.... But for our little ones we need something just plain explaining the Biblical narrative of history, without confusing them by sounding like we're fighting against someone else."
This, I think, highlights one of the biggest needs in creation science resources as well as history. Creation materials are almost without exception counterattacks on evolution. There is a need to recognise that in Christian education there are large numbers of children who have not had evolution taught to them at school. These children have parents and teachers who want to teach them Biblical truth, but they need help to recognise the issues and to resolve them as far as is possible. This calls for a very different type of science resource to that which creationist are normally producing at the moment.
I have said above that most creationist publications and talks seek to counter evolution. The result of this is that those suitable for children and young people (and often adults) tend to consist of unconnected 'proofs' of creation or information which demonstrates evolution is just not possible. This can be well and good in some situations, but an educational curriculum cannot built on such material. Education calls for a much more thoroughly thought through approach, where reasoning is harmonious through every aspect. I have heard more than once, two separate 'creation' proofs which are mutually inconsistent being cited in the same talk! Good education requires thinking which is thoroughly worked through - many evolutionists are victims of an education which has not been based on this principle and so they too fall prey to its weaknesses. Christian children should not be exposed to the same error.
In science a good curriculum must start with a Christian understanding of science - what it can do and what it can not do. Our understanding of THE LORD will obviously be central to this. Many Christians, whilst recognising THE LORD as Creator, mistakenly think He has withdrawn from the daily routines of science leaving the world to run itself on tracks defined by the various scientific laws we have discovered. However, the Scriptures teach us that God not only created the world through His word, but also sustains it through the same word of power (e.g. Heb. 1:2-3). A truly Christian approach to science will recognise that what we observe, measure and classify are the regular events which THE LORD usually purposes, when to do so is for our good. When He considers the usual not to be for our good then material things act differently. Which was the miracle, the Manna going rotten overnight on 6 days or being preserved once each week? I would suggest neither - this is simply how God caused things to work week in, week out. Is it Biblical to think of God constrained by scientific laws? He does not seem to notice them if it is. He appears even not to notice that stalwart which we call 'The 2nd. Law of Thermodynamics' - for 40 years the Israelites wore clothing and footwear which did not deteriorate. Paul knew that it is THE LORD's love which motivates Him to continually sustain this world in an orderly way. He preached that even though all the nations have gone their own way for centuries, the Creator has continued to do good and to provide the regular patterns to life which allow us to produce food (Acts 14:15-17).
In summary I see, in the science curriculum, 2 areas which are foundational and must be addressed if we are to produce valuable resources for Christian educators. These are:
Other areas of study: History and science are the two obvious subjects to which Creation is relevant. Many of my respondents though believe it to be applicable to every aspect of education - I too am convinced that this is the case. However, other subjects were specifically mentioned and I list them here (in no particular order) to help stimulate your thoughts: Astronomy, development of linguistics, world view studies, geography (inc. geology), and 2 people listed art! Finally, someone suggested, "philosophical issues determining which sources are accurate." How we could all benefit from this!
I hope that this paper has informed you of the need and opportunity amongst Christian educators in Britain. I also hope that it has stimulated you, once back at home, to think through what suitable resources you already have or could help produce. What should the priorities be? Primary and secondary resources are both urgently needed.
Personally however, I think we should remember that we are only at the start of the journey and that it would be foolish to make furnishing the finishing line our priority. By this I mean we need to develop Biblical curricula in the relevant subjects before we think about examinations or other forms of accreditation.
My personal conviction is that what we should be seeking to nurture in children and young people are qualities which cannot be appraised by human methods (1 Cor. 2:14-15). The objectives of Christian education should not only be knowledge and skill, but wisdom, faith, hope and love. The latter cannot be examined by academic methods, methods which belong to the natural world - only THE LORD is able to test our hearts (Jer. 17).
Christian education and therefore Christian curricula should seek to nurture children in God centred thinking - thinking which views this universe from the perspective of eternity. From that vantage point not only will students come to appreciate something of the overall purpose of THE LORD in the history of this universe, they will also find a wonder and confidence in Him as both creator and sustainer of all that we see around us.
Practically, I don't think there is need for a committee or series of committees to be formed. There may be need for co-ordination and for sharing experiences in Christian education. Clearly, further 'market research' would be helpful. Certainly, when resources are produced which are intended for use by Christian educators, then there will be a need to make these known in an efficient way. I am in contact with Christian Schools, home educators and those groups which circulate information around both sets of people and so 'marketing' will not be the difficult part. It is everything which precedes that stage which will demand time, effort, wisdom (from above) and therefore much prayer.
I would encourage you to give the matters raised in this paper serious consideration. If you would like further discussion, advice or encouragement in this area please contact me, but let us not think this need can be met by a committee. The need is for each of us having now been made aware of the opportunity to benefit approximately 10,000 children, to seek THE LORD and ask Him if there is anything He would have you do to help Christian parents, teachers and children in the things which concern them.
Randall Hardy - November 1998
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