Christian homeschool science textbooks have long taught young earth creationism (YEC) almost exclusively. But observers say a growing number of parents want texts that also teach evolution.
"Homeschooling has broadened so much, and now includes many Christian groups who have never adopted [YEC]," said homeschool pioneer Susan Wise Bauer, a history professor at Virginia's College of William and Mary. "Also, there are a lot of younger evangelicals who have come to a different way of understanding Genesis, while still holding [on to their] evangelical roots."
Numbers on the trend are hard to pin down. Still, BioLogos president Deborah Haarsma says that it's "fairly common" for homeschooling families to request materials from her organization, which promotes theistic evolution. Some of these parents still believe in a young earth, says program director Kathryn Applegate, but they want their children exposed to different perspectives.
Doug Hayworth, coordinator of homeschool science resources for the American Scientific Affiliation, agrees. Inquiries to his Christian association reveal not a wave of old-earth converts, but instead frustrated young-earth believers who believe that "the standard [YEC] curricula ... are very strident," said Hayworth, who homeschools. "They're looking for some advice."
Curricula for such families have been hard to find, said Wise Bauer. "I am consistently frustrated when evaluating resources. There really isn't much."
Sonlight Curriculum is an exception. It offers a diversity of homeschool curricula that allow parents to teach various theories of origins. "The YEC position is strong and ingrained in the homeschool movement," said Sonlight president Sarita Holzmann, who homeschools her children and believes in a young earth. "That might be to our detriment." She says students need to be able to evaluate different positions.
BJU Press, one of the largest providers of Christian homeschooling resources, said demand for its YEC curriculum remains strong—and it already includes other viewpoints. "We don't hedge on [YEC] at all," said Brad Batdorf, who supervises authors of 7th to 12th grade curriculum. "We talk about other views … [and] even go so far as to give some scriptures they use. But then we present what we feel is the strongest, most supportable position."
Brian Collins, Bible integration assistant for BJU Press, acknowledges the "greater diversity" among evangelicals on origins, and said the publisher stays current as scientific discussion has moved from the age of the earth to newer topics such as human genomics. "We address changes in those fields and the proper Christian response to that," he said.
"It's important for Christian young people to know what they're going to be exposed to in college and universities," said Batdorf. "They'll need to defend their faith and give an answer."
Two professors at Bryan College, a CCCU school where 27 percent of incoming students are homeschooled, agree that curriculum should teach all viewpoints.
"Many homeschool parents contact me or show up at my office and quietly say, 'Is there anything besides [YEC]?' " said Kenneth Turner, a theology professor at the traditionally YEC college who homeschools.
With a recent grant from BioLogos, Turner and colleague Brian Eisenback, a biology professor, are writing a textbook that discusses the history of the science of origins, as well as different positions scientists have taken on Genesis and origins. They will include material on YEC, evolutionary creationism, intelligent design, and atheistic evolution.
A similar BioLogos project is underway at Wheaton College, where five professors are working on a textbook covering the current scientific consensus on origins.
Sonlight cofounder John Holzmann believes the books will find a market of homeschooling parents who perhaps aren't shifting views so much as becoming more polarized and public with their previously hidden positions. "At this point there is more 'coming out,' if you will."
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