Evangelical homeschooling in a pandemic

We did not homeschool our kids and never really thought seriously about it. I am not an expert on the movement, but I do know that people–even evangelical Christians–homeschool their kids for all kinds of reasons. Many of them use the materials Elena Trueba describes in her informative piece on homeschooling at Religion & Politics, and many do not. (It seems like everyone I know who is homeschooling is using some kind of classical Christian curriculum).

Here is a taste of Trueba’s piece:

The educational materials promoted by HSLDA [Home School Legal Defense Association] and its affiliates across the U.S. may not mention Rushdoony by name, but many of them carry his narrative of dominion-taking nonetheless. There’s K-12 curriculum produced by Bob Jones University, notorious for banning interracial relationships on its campus until the year 2000, which teaches that God gave the United States to Protestant Christians. There’s Accelerated Christian Education (ACE), which has seen an increase in demand for its materials during the pandemic and describes the history taught in public schools as “revisionist.” There’s Abeka, which denounces evolution, labels gay rights as a “radical social agenda,” and claims that enslaved people who “knew Christ” were better off than free people who did not. Besides being incredibly popular among Christian homeschoolers, what these curricula have in common is that they portray the United States as a nation belonging to Christians—and as a nation that Christians have to take back.

Christian nationalist narratives like these have existed in predominantly white and conservative religious spaces long before this pandemic, but their prevalence in homeschooling materials means these ideologies may infiltrate a new, unwitting audience. The pandemic-induced withdrawal from public schools poses what one homeschooling advocate recently called “the biggest opportunity for domestic victory the Right has had in 70 years.” Julie Ann Smith, a homeschooling mother and writer, explains it like this on her website: “When I started homeschooling in the early 90s, I went to listen to Christian homeschoolers speak and they would often sell curricula in another room. But one thing I didn’t consider was this: those running the homeschool conventions had an agenda and they only sold curricula which matched their agenda.” Later, she came to understand that the homeschooling materials and circles she encountered were embedded with patriarchal and Reconstructionist ideologies. It’s not difficult to imagine families facing a similar version of Smith’s problem, as they try to quickly cobble together a semester to a year’s worth of education for their student and opt for the materials that are the most heavily promoted and widely lauded by homeschoolers. They should understand that these materials come with an agenda.

In the era of Covid-19, homeschooling is, for many families, the only option. It has the potential to be a positive one, providing students and their families the opportunity to chart the course of their education. However, even in the midst of a pandemic and with so many responsibilities, parents have yet another fraught task on their to-do list: They must be mindful of the history and ideological backbone of American homeschooling. Many of the materials they may encounter have roots in Christian nationalism. Families who wish to take advantage of all the good that homeschooling has to offer are responsible not just for their children’s education but their own knowledge as well.

Read the entire piece here.