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Homeschooling, The Christian, & The Common Core Standards

In the last couple of weeks it seems the internet has exploded with homeschoolers up in arms about the Common Core Standards. I have spent the last two days pouring over blog posts, Facebook statuses, and websites, all claiming to be the authority on the Common Core.

These are some of the sentiments I’ve read (and I’m generalizing, not pointing to any specific person):

  • Homeschool curriculum providers should NOT align with the Common Core.
  • It’s OK if curriculum providers align with the Common Core.
  • Homeschooling families have a right to know where curriculum companies stand on the Common Core.
  • The Common Core is from the devil himself (I might be exaggerating that one just a little).
  • Public schools are tools of the devil.
  • Homeschooling parents are wrong to collectively push for a direct answer from curriculum companies as to whether they will be changing their materials to align with the Common Core.
  • The Common Core will help the public schools.
  • The Common Core will be one step in the direction of making homeschooling illegal.

There are obvious passionate feelings on both sides of the Common Core fence. And truth be told, I see both sides. I’m no fan of the Common Core standards. I think the standards are low, and I’m not generally a fan of that much government regulation in general. Common standards, whether these or other standards, also tend to lose sight of the individual student.

However, I’m also not angry, worried, or upset, and I respect homeschooling parents, even Christian homeschooling parents who think the Common Core is a good thing. What does worry me is the chasm that seems to be widening between the anti-common core camp and the “common core is not so bad” camp, especially among Christian homeschoolers.

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Diversity is Good, Even God-Ordained

Christians, from the beginnings of Christianity, have been a diverse bunch. At the moment, I’m taking Beth Moore’s bible study on the book of James. This week we touched on the lives of James and Paul, two respected leaders in the early church.

James was a Jew. He practiced the Jewish laws, went to synagogue, and ministered to the Jewish people. Paul was also a Jew, but had the privilege of being a Roman citizen. He lived among the Gentiles, ministered alongside the Gentiles, and saw the Holy Spirit work among the Gentiles.

In Acts we see that they came from completely different points of view. Paul advocated that the Gentiles were saved and were free from the Jewish law in Christ. James was Jewish to his core, and though he agreed with the freedom we have in Christ, he still fully practiced the tenants of the Jewish faith.

Two different points of view. Two undeniably strong Christians.

And so it goes with schooling. I will never fall into the camp that says homeschooling is the only Christian way to teach children. I have seen strong Christians come out of public, private, and homeschools. I have seen backslidden kids come out of all three types of schooling, too. Raising Christian kids is more about showing them how to have a true relationship with Jesus and less about the locality of where they go to school.

And though I believe there is merit to the point that public school curriculum indoctrinates our kids with an ungodly agenda, I also believe that God is bigger than that agenda. God will work to keep and protect His own. Some of the strongest Christian kids in my daughter’s youth group go to the public school and have their entire lives.

Just like Paul and James, today Christians can approach life from different perspectives. Neither is wrong. God works where we are. He cannot be limited.

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Knowledge is Good

I want to make sure to point out that I am not attacking homeschooling parents who just want to know where curriculum companies stand. Knowledge is a good thing, and while I will never choose curriculum solely based on whether or not it aligns to the Common Core, if that’s important to you, you have a right to know.

The Educational Freedom Coalition has been compiling lists of homeschool curricula providers who align and don’t align with the Common Core Standards. The lists are actually broken down four ways: Explicitly aligns, coincidently aligns, does not align, and has not responded.

The group states outright that they are against the Common Core, but Tina Hollenbeck, the group coordinator, has done an admirable job of contacting many curriculum companies about the Common Core and reporting back their positions without condemning companies that have chosen to align. The effort to inform homeschooling parents who are concerned about the Common Core is commendable.

Condemning Other Christians is Bad

However, as with any issue and movement this big, there comes with it a risk of condemnation. Even if the group leadership is trying to stay as unbiased as possible, I have already seen companies demonized for their decision to align to the Common Core (not necessarily within the Educational Freedom Coalition Group, but on other homeschooling sites).

Math U See, a program we used for several years, is one such company. I was concerned, as I love Math U See, so I read their position on their website. And even though I’m not a Common Core fan, I couldn’t see what the big deal was.

It seems Math U See is adding to their program to make it Common Core friendly. The things they mentioned adding were things I already thought would improve the program (more word problems, for instance). But in reading the site, I never got the feeling that they were lowering their standards to the Common Core. The feeling I get is that they are adding to their already great program to make it accessible to more kids (those in public charter schools, for instance).

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Who is in Control?

I understand the position of those who believe that supporting companies that have explicitly aligned to the Common Core will advance the agenda of those who support the Common Core.

I have a different position, though. Truthfully, I think we’ve already lost the Common Core battle. We have turned from a nation of mostly believers who trust God for provision and guidance to a nation of mostly unbelievers who trust the government for provision and guidance. And I don’t think we’re ever going back. If we’ve given the government that much power, the government will never give it back.

All great nations fall after their pinnacles, and I believe we’re on the way down. Lest you think I’m all doom and gloom, I’m not. I just look at the situation as a matter of fact.

My children, as Christians, will likely have it much harder than I did, as this nation becomes more hostile toward Christians. Of course I’m not happy about that, but I also fully trust that God will guide and equip them for the future.

In the future if the Common Core is instituted, even among homeschoolers – even if homeschooling becomes illegal, we will be OK. As long as I have my Bible and the wisdom the Lord has promised me if I only ask, I will be able to teach my children effectively and raise them to love Jesus.

Our Ultimate Goal: To Glorify God

Fellow Christians, I urge you to be kind to each other on this issue. Respect each other’s opinions. Act with grace and love, showing each other mercy. Respond by first asking God for wisdom, and know that what He asks of you may not be the same thing He asks of someone else. Above all, trust God and do not respond out of fear.

Nothing that is happening today is of any great news to God. He knew all about the Common Core before the words were ever uttered. And regardless of where our education system, where our freedom to homeschool, and where our government goes, it is ultimately God who holds our future.

So if you feel called to fight the Common Core, fight, but do so in a way and with an attitude that is glorifying to God. And if you feel called to support the Common Core, do so, but also do so in a manner that is glorifying to God. And remember that we are all God’s beloved children, despite our differences, and he loved and died for each one of us…even those fellow homeschoolers and curriculum writers who may disagree with us.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:34-35

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Comments

  1. These are very good points, Lynnae. I agree to some degree that the CCS isn’t altogether “good” or “bad” in its makeup. For math, the standards are actually tougher than many of the math programs in our area and similar to some of the programs we use here at home with the Singapore Math method. The language is disappointing, as our schools barely read enough good literature, and as a fan of the Charlotte Mason method, it always bothers me to substitute a good Dickens novel for non-fiction pieces like a menu or a piece of EPA legislation (both examples of items teachers can use.) It think my biggest issue with it is that I have heard personally from owners of curriculum sites that they are being pressured to decide where they stand with the CCS. I understand parents wanting to know “does my curriculum fit into the standards?”, but for some of the more classical training methods, they are not required, nor do they desire, to try to figure out where their lessons fit into each new passing educational fad that the government deems “the best” for that time period. I already buy curriculum that meets our needs and our style, and I do notice that some of it has indicated that it meets the “National Science Education Standards” for example. Now, that same very good curriculum has to go and update their books to either produce new content or change the endorsements on their packaging so that they can retain the “approval” of parents who need to know that the new standards are being met. This is all well and good for big curriculum providers — those that are essentially lobbying for these changes and getting exclusive curriculum deals with school systems AND federal funding. What about the little companies that just care about teaching kids and do a good job? They don’t have the funds to change with every whim. They should be pressured to decide. Parents should have enough confidence in their teaching to go with their gut on curriculum, regardless of a sticker in the corner that says it’s “approved.” And that’s where it gets sticky, IMO.

    • Linsey, I totally agree with you. I think compiling a list is fine, as long as there is no bias toward those who don’t want to respond. And unfortunately, it seems everyone is whipped into a frenzy and too willing to throw accusations and assumptions around.

      The bottom line is that as parents, we are responsible for ensuring our children are educated. It’s not the school’s responsibility. It’s not the responsibility of curriculum companies. Those things are tools (and can be great tools), but whether or not a company aligns with the common core shouldn’t cause so much panic and angst.

  2. I 100% agree with everything in this article, Lynnae. I’ve heard people state on Facebook that the CCS will cause parents to lose control of their children’s education in the public schools.

    Huh? When a child is enrolled in public education, the parent has already given control to the public schools to do that. I’m not being negative about that decision by the parents, but I think people do need to have an understanding that when they enroll their children in a private school, they give up quite a bit of “control.” And when they enroll them in a public school setting, the parent has given up all control.

    I have no problem with a Christian homeschooling company aligning their curriculum with the CCS. The homeschooling curricula is typically hundreds of times already better than what the public school is using, anyway, so I don’t see it making a difference. Obviously, these homeschooling companies are not going to water down their curricula. That would be irrational. But to tweak it here and there doesn’t worry me. Homeschoolers typically pick and choose what they are going to use within a specific curriculum, anyway. It’s the homeschool way, right? :)

    Whatever anyone believes about CCS, I do wholeheartedly agree that people need to respond to others with grace and tact. We’re all entitled to our own opinions. I don’t like the thought of a national curriculum or national standards, especially when many of the CCS goals and statements are vague and almost impossible to monitor or prove that a child has met that goal. But this is nothing new. This kind of thing has been going on for decades. I dealt with this in the early 1990s when I became a public school teacher.

    People need to realize that the textbook companies for the public schools look at what California’s goals and standards are, and they make their national textbooks to align with California’s standards. It’s been that way since the 1940s, at least, and maybe even before. Across the U.S., most schools are using the same “standardized” textbooks in most states and most classrooms.

    So while I don’t like the fact that the CCS is a nationally-mandated situation, the textbook companies have been spreading one standard nationally across the U.S. for decades.

    • Exactly, Julieanne. As you know, we use a public charter school, so we need to follow the Oregon state standards, and when the common core is implemented, we’ll need to follow that too (or leave the charter).

      I’m not a real fan of the standards (8 years of US history in Oregon?), but we jump through the hoops, because the charter school works for our situation. However, I also have the freedom to teach above and beyond the standards, which is exactly what I do. The standards can mandate the minimum we need to teach, but we parents get to decide the maximum, even in a public school situation.

      I think too often we forget that the buck stops with the parents, not the schools.

  3. I’ve just heard of of Common Core and have been skimming articles to try to familiarize myself with it. As a homeschooling mom, I’m not seeing anything alarming about it yet, but the one thing I’m trying to discern and hopefully you can help, is do you know if they’re incorporating any kind of teaching of “tolerance” for different lifestyles in Common Core? If that’s the case, I’d probably prefer curriculum that doesn’t align with it because I don’t want to have to be on guard with every workbook page or story my kids read. Do you know anything about that?

    • Connie, I agree with you on that issue. I would *think* those would be issues that come up in social science and science, which don’t have common core goals yet. I haven’t researched carefully, but I haven’t heard anything like that is included in the Language Arts and Math standards.

      I definitely think when the social science and science standards come out, it will be a whole new ballgame.

      If you want to look at all the common core standards for math and english, they are at the common core website. http://www.corestandards.org/ That’s probably also the site to watch for science and social science standards. I’m not sure when those are coming out, though.

  4. I am not a mom of a home schooled child but I am concerned that when I want to be, the home schooling may not be much better (quality-wise) compared to public. I look up to all the home schooling moms out there now and hope to become one when my kids are in middle school years. But since I have heard that Home schooling curriculum and standards will be like public school one, I am not sure what to think anymore. Also, this may be a downright lie, but could it be true that it will be harder for kids to get into colleges if they were home schooled with a curriculum not complied with CCS? Not sure I am getting the right info. Have you heard anything like this?

    • Liliya, there’s a lot of speculation right now, and nobody really knows how (or if) this will end up affecting homeschooling families. Right now, states have their own standards, and with the exception of the UC schools in California, I haven’t really heard of homeschoolers having a hard time getting into colleges without using curricula that meets state standards.

      Most homeschool students, no matter what curricula they use, are educated to a level far above state standards, and I imagine that will continue with the common core. The standards aren’t really high, so I imagine most colleges will still love to accept homeschoolers.

      My personal belief is that before the common core really begins to affect homeschoolers, it will probably fail like all the attempts at standards that have gone before it. The public education system is pretty broken, so I don’t think the common core is really going to be the miracle fix that the government hopes it will be.

  5. You said: [[I have already seen companies demonized for their decision to align to the Common Core]]…

    I prefer: Parent Education and Awareness to inform the homeschooling community of current trends.

    Btw, below is the “former” philosophy standardized” testing of Mr. Demme from MUS:

    “It is true that I don’t teach to the standardized tests. Most mainstream math curricula changes regularly to meet the demands of the latest test. It is the tail wagging the dog. Math skills in America are usually placed at the bottom of the industrialized world, a fact known to everyone. Why should tests, which are driven by the same education establishment, be the standard for the math curricula? Another result of the test mentality is that American programs, tend to cram more and more into their curricula, especially in the early grades. Instead of doing a few things well, they end up overwhelming the students by trying to teach too many concepts at once.”
    More at the link below:
    http://www.mathusee.com/pdfs/Stevetesting.pdf

  6. Thank you !!! I believe God led me here to read that. Thank you so much !!

  7. If you want to get to the truth of what Common Core is all about, I suggest you go to Youtube and type in: Glenn Beck, March 14, 20113, education.
    If you aren’t alarmed now about Common Core, you will be.

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