Friday, September 28, 2007

Can you separate the wheat from the chaff??

I recently borrowed a new homeschooling book from my local public library, A Biblical Home Education by Ruth Beechick. I knew that I was likely to disagree with many of the theological ideas there in, but I had seen high praise for some of Beechick's books, such as The Three R's, on teaching reading, writing and mathematics in the primary grades. I've seen some say that this is all you need for homeschooling a child from kindergarten through third grade, apart from library books. The practical subject matter material in this book did not disappoint. I liked what Beechick said about reading, writing, grammar and mathematics, and I really liked her assertion that curriculum should be a help to the teaching that the parent was doing, not the basis of the child's education.

So what was wrong? Several assertions went beyond theology with which I disagree, to outright absurdities. She claimed, unsupported by any footnotes, that it is obvious from the text of the Bible that God physically wrote the first section of Genesis, to Genesis 2:4, and Adam physically wrote the next bit, then Noah wrote the next bit, etc. (The common understanding is that Genesis is composed of many stories that were part of the oral tradition of the Hebrew people) The tower of Babel was the first United Nations, so we know that God is opposed to the current one. "Heart thinking" takes the cake. This idea was so "far out" that I didn't even realize from the clues what she was leading up to. She quotes several Bible passages, such as Job 38:36, Luke 2:35 and Romans 10:10 which speak of the heart believing, or thinking, or understanding. She wrote that "Not one of the uses [of the word heart in Scripture] gives any hint of being figurative." I still didn't know where she was going with this. She gives a few quotes from Early Christians which seem to state that Greek philosophy is incompatible with Christianity, of course not mentioning that the majority of Early Christians, at least those who wrote about it, believed quite the opposite. I was still unsure what all this was supposed to mean until I read the sentence, "We know little about the physiology of the brain's thinking and even less about the heart's thinking."

Wow. The brain thinks in a reasonable, logical way, which is inferior to the literal thinking of the physical organ the heart, since God places His wisdom in the heart. Excuse me while I go find a wall to slam my head into.

Ok, I'm back. My dilemma -- I really, really liked what she wrote about actual homeschooling techniques for the basics, the "three Rs" if you don't know how to spell, or RAW (or WAR!) if you do and don't want to be cutesy. I've seen her book on this promoted in so many different homeschooling catalogs that I've been thinking of getting it for sometime. However, is it possible that someone so irrational in other ways can be trusted even in this? Do I want to support this kind of "ministry" even if there is no bizarre theological content in these books? I've seen it sold even in Catholic and secular catalogs, so I don't think there is much if any theological thought in The Three R's. What little information she had in this book on the homeschool process of these subjects fit my not quite schooling, not quite unschooling thinking perfectly.

Oh, I'll mention, as a side note, that Beechick thinks that Beowulf is a true story and Grendel was a dinosaur. My head hurts.


  1. She also has a real insane book about Adam and his life. I just don't see that what good she has to present is worth the garbage that comes with it. It seems like anything good she has to say can be most likely found from another source with less...chaff.

  2. Oh, dear! Well, I read one of her books a couple of years ago. I had heard such marvelous things about her methods, that I was prepared to completely wowed. But I wasn't. I honestly don't remember much of the book. No bizarreness like you describe. I just wasn't real impressed. I do remember her being big on copywork, which I think can be very useful to improve handwriting and learn to write well. I just had trouble imagining how I was going to implement her ideas without ending up in a big power struggle with my highly stubborn daughter.

  3. I've seen that Adam book mentioned elsewhere, I was sure it was one to stay away from. I just don't know of any other books that address "the basics" and ideas on how to teach them to littles, with nothing else in there. That's what I want! I'm no good at coming up with ideas myself, and I don't want a "curriculum." I am going to use some of the ideas she mentioned in this book.

    We are definitely not at a point where we're ready for copywork. Maybe next year or the one after.

  4. Yeah, the book about Adam is actually required reading for the "Learning Language Arts Through Literature" (LLATL) -- I hadn't realized until I noticed that exactly how heavily Beechick's stuff permeates LLATL. And even though the rest of the LLATL stuff seemed good on the surface, that was enough to make me feel too leary to recommend it -- after all, with any type of pre-packaged curriculum, feeling like I can trust the judgment of the people who put it together seems more important than almost anything else about it.


What do you think? Let me know.