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.
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.
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).
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