Homeschooling

Deconstructing Fundamentalism (without Rejecting Jesus)

A Response to Josh Harris:

When it comes to breaking news in Christian media, I don’t generally write a hot take. I tend to mull over disparate issues, ponder how they’re all connected, then write a response. And as a second-generation homeschooler who’s seen the good, the bad, and a whole lot of ugly, my responses usually focus on the cultural and theological shifts within homeschool subculture. (My article “Christian Homeschooling is not a Formula for Success“, for example, was a result of years of conversations with those inside — and outside — the conservative Christian bubble.)

But Josh Harris’ recent “I am not a Christian” announcement isn’t a hot take. It’s connected to that larger story arc, that ongoing cultural shift, that wide expanse of connectivity between rules and rebellion, between legalism and losing faith.

Lest you think his story is an isolated anomaly, it’s not. It’s one I’ve seen played out over and over and again in the wake of an expansive movement which repeatedly elevated outside appearances — the condition of the body — above the condition of the heart. Morality culture harms; it doesn’t produce Jesus-followers. Courtship culture doesn’t produce pure people. A belief system built on rules and control can’t guarantee outcomes. In fact, a house of morality can only control moral behavior for so long, and then it all comes crashing down.

If you haven’t heard yet, Harris posted on Instagram, “I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is ‘deconstruction,’ the biblical phrase is ‘falling away.’ By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian.”

The whole evangelical and ex-vangelical world is in a frenzy, clamoring loudly, claiming exclusivity on rightness, practically frothing at the mouth to screech I told you so at the other side.

But here’s the thing. When the fundamentalists rise up to cling to the strongholds of rules and control — and when the deconstructionists whisper freedom without Jesus — they’re all falling prey to a false dichotomy.

It’s not an either-or.

There’s another way.

See, despite what it sometimes seems, it IS possible to deconstruct fundamentalist culture — and fundamentalist theology — without deconstructing Jesus right out of the picture.

deconstruct_fundamentalism

In American evangelicalism, everything needs an explanation. We’re far too quick to provide pat answers to difficult questions, and trade complexity and nuance for quick rules and formulas. Doubt makes us uncomfortable, so we sweep it under the rug, bury it, condemn it, and rush onward. We read the psalms and the prophets from the pulpits, but scurry away to silence anyone who asks the same questions or raises the same laments from the pews.

I sometimes wonder if this drive to have all the answers is also what drives people away. Explanations, after all, are what American churchianity is built on. Explanations drive Christian book sales, and pack the seats of mega churches.

When I read the Bible, I certainly can never pretend to explain it all. I’m not saying there’s no place for systematic theology and apologetics; I’m saying there’s also a place for crying out. I’m saying we would do well to embrace a little mystery.

Kallistos Ware muses, “We see that it is not the task of Christianity to provide easy answers to every question, but to make us progressively aware of a mystery. God is not so much the object of our knowledge as the cause of our wonder.”

Wonder is not the opposite of faith. Questions aren’t what crumble the foundations. Wrong answers are what cause it all to come crashing down.

It’s time to loosen our grip on all the wrong answers, no matter how attractively they’ve been packaged and marketed.

For those of us who have been deeply wounded by legalism, there’s another way. Deconversion, deconstruction, and losing Jesus are not the only ways out. We can lose our culture, and keep Jesus. We can sift through the lies we’ve been fed, and let go of the dross.

We can let this fiery crisis refine us.

We can throw out all the false crap we were raised with — and still hold on to Jesus.

We can throw out our old white-washed revisionist homeschool history books, the arrogant morality tales masquerading as literature, all the “try harder” sermon notes — and still hold on to Jesus.

We can throw out I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Boy Meets Girl, and Not Even a Hint — and still hold on to Jesus.

We can even raise a cynical side-eye to country-club churchianity — and still hold on to Jesus.

It’s absolutely possibly to be angry, without rejecting Jesus.

It is possible to be angry at courtship culture, and reject it — without rejecting Jesus.

It is possible to be angry at totalitarian and graceless parenting advice, and reject it — without rejecting Jesus.

It is possible to be angry at deception, deceit, self-righteousness, scandal, abuse, neglect, and reject the systems which propped up all the lies — without rejecting Jesus.

It is possible to renounce fundamentalism without renouncing Jesus.

God lets us ask questions. He lets us pound into our pillows and ask him why. While the rains are raging and the wind is howling, He invites us to cry out, to tell him we’re hurt, we’re confused, we’re angry, to tell him we don’t know which way to turn.

But there are two houses right now in this storm.

One is sinking, fading, crumbling, about to be washed into a deadly sea.

The other house stands as a refuge, built on the rock of Jesus. The storm will continue to surge, the water will rise higher and higher, but the rock never wavers.

He’s standing there, arms outstretched, strong, able to save.

But you have to let go of the crumbling house.

You have to let go,

and hold on to Jesus.

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Homeschooling

How to Create a Hands-off, Independent Morning Time

PIN IMAGE with text: How to Create an Independent Hands-Off Morning Time in your Homeschool

With the exception of coloring books, our homeschool morning time is designed to be nearly all audio. (And I’m talking tech, not read-alouds.)

Most homeschool morning times are family-centered, and are traditionally more teacher-intensive. But unlike the communal morning basket with read-alouds, I created this all-audio routine to be completed independently by my daughter, as a launching point for her day. She craves structure, and this set sequence of audio tasks calms her and settles her (and me!) into a great headspace for the day. We used this same routine last year, too, and it worked out so well for us.

While a morning time that’s not also family time might seem odd, the way I see it, we homeschoolers are together with our kids 24/7 — sometimes that even feels like 25/7 or 8. So I’m not too worried about letting go of some together-time for an hour or so in the morning. In fact, it’s been a lifesaver.

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All-Audio Morning Time, Part 1: Bible

The first part of morning time is Bible, comprised entirely of iPad apps which don’t require looking at the screen — just listening. I grouped the apps into a single iPad folder, in the same order they’re to be listened to, so there’s no distraction looking around for the next one in the sequence. This can also be done on an iPhone, or on some WiFi-connected iPod Touches, depending on age and app compatibility. Unfortunately, I’m not familiar enough with Android devices to know if these app developers offer an Android version.

Some of the Bible resources we use contain liturgical elements. If you wish, you can simply use the audio Bible app, and skip the apps with liturgy. But as I previously shared in 100 Essential Tools for Homeschooling Gifted Kids: “Structured worship…is especially meaningful for a routine-dependent, sequential, rigid-thinking child. The orderly format [of liturgy] calms her, and she knows what to expect from day to day. This speaks to her soul in a way that abstract, spontaneous worship would not. I think it’s crucial, especially for an easily-overwhelmed science-minded kiddo, to show that the world of worship can be just as orderly as the world of science.”

  • Mission St. Clare App (FREE)
    • This app allows you to listen to beautiful hymn recordings each day, according to what hymns are listed for that particular day in the Book of Common Prayer. It can be glitchy at times, but when it works, it’s lovely. When the app doesn’t play audio, we listen to a few songs from Ancient Faith Radio instead.
  • Ancient Faith Radio App (FREE)
    • This app offers free streaming Orthodox hymns, in various world languages (English, too.)
  • Mission St. Clare Website (FREE)
    • Providing different content than the Mission St. Clare app, above, the Mission St. Clare website website has a short (approximately 15-minutes) recording of a service at The Episcopal Church in Garrett County, Maryland. Updated daily with a new service.
  • BCP: Daily Office Readings by Logos Creative, LCC (FREE app)
    • This app utilizes the ESV (English Standard Version) and reads aloud from various books of the Bible, according to the Scripture references listed for that particular day in the Book of Common Prayer
  • The Bible App by Life.Church (FREE)
    • Another great resource for listening to audio Bible. My favorite feature? You can set a timer which automatically pauses the audio playback after the timer expires. And there are lots and lot of translations from which to choose.

Drawing / Coloring / Notebooking Resources to Accompany Morning Time

While my daughter listens the audio from these apps, she colors, draws, or notebooks quietly. Here’s what’s on our IKEA Raskog cart

If your kids hate drawing and coloring, you can always swap out the pencils for something like a jigsaw puzzle. In my experience, though, you’ll want a somewhat special hands-on activity that is reserved only for morning time, so the novelty factor stays strong.

All-Audio Morning Time, Part 2: Recitation / Memory Work

After the Bible app portion of morning time is completed, the second part of morning time is designed to double as memory work. Memory work is a foundational component of the grammar, or primary, stage of classical education. And setting recitation assignments to music is such a beautifully painless way to memorize!

At the beginning of the school year, I upload audio CDs to iTunes on my iMac, and use iTunes to select certain tracks from each uploaded CD to create a custom morning time playlist. I then sync this playlist, via iTunes, onto the iPad. (You could also, of course, simply create a playlist on a PC and play it from the PC, rather than transferring it to a tablet.)

My daughter listens to this same morning time playlist each day — and chants or sings along.

The history timeline song stays on the list all school year, since it corresponds with our year-long history curriculum, Veritas Press’ New Testament, Greece and Rome. But as other songs are mastered, I swap them out and update the playlist with new material.

This year, like last year, I’ll be pulling from the following list of audio resources. Since there are so many tracks from which to choose, it takes multiple years to get through all the CDs. And that’s great news for the budget!

(Although some are available via streaming services, I prefer purchasing the CDs or MP3s. This way, I’m able to launch the full morning time playlist in iTunes, without needing to access internet streaming.)

So that’s how we start each school day — with a tech-powered, independent morning time. You can see some of these resources on my Amazon Influencer Storefront, under the Memory Work / Morning Time board.

(An additional note on audio books: we personally haven’t added a chapter a day of an audio book to our morning time routine, because we tend to use audio books during afternoon downtime, while in the car, or while waiting for appointments. But you could absolutely include audiobooks if you wanted. We like the streaming services Hoopla and Overdrive, free with most library cards, for access to audiobooks at no cost. These usually let you download the audiobook fully while you’re on WiFi, so you can then listen from your device, without needing to access the internet. Edited to add: If you live in a rural area / have a small library, scroll down to the comment section to read Jen’s amazing tip about gaining access to these digital services!)

As your kids get older, don’t be afraid to set your kids up to do independent work. Don’t let the homeschool mom guilt get to you. (Audio books aren’t cheating.) More often than not, implementing some hands-off practices in your homeschool will make everyone happier. Plus, it’s a gentle way to begin teaching the importance of independent learning, self-motivation, and diligence.

Here’s to happy, orderly, peaceful mornings!

Questions about creating your own hands-off morning time? Ask away!

There’s also this fantastically helpful Q+A thread, all about the practical, nitty-gritty aspects of implementing an independent morning time like this. The discussion is in my closed Facebook group, so request to join!

(Pictured in this photo: How to Draw almost Everything, a bamboo Otis & Eleanor Bongo Speaker and Prismacolor Pencils.)

Homeschooling

Using Hands-on History to Teach a Global Worldview in your Homeschool

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary Hands-On History Project Kit from Sonlight Curriculum in exchange for writing and publishing this post. Aveline’s outfit is compliments of Mabo Clothier. All opinions are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Homeschoolers love to talk about the best way to teach homeschool history. Everyone has an opinion, right? If you’re new to homeschooling — actually, even if you’re not! — it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Searching Pinterest for hands-on history project ideas, for example, can be  like drinking from a firehose. Phew. 

Continue reading “Using Hands-on History to Teach a Global Worldview in your Homeschool”

Homeschooling

Why I Don’t Use THAT Popular Homeschool Booklist

That super-popular homeschool booklist? I don't use it. This is why.

You know that free homeschool book list? The one making the rounds across the homeschool world — along with the various free and low-cost curriculum offerings by the same author — the one which also includes a not recommended list dozens of titles long?

I don’t use that list.

I know, I know. It’s trending in popularity. It’s everywhere. It promises “wholesome” and “appropriate” titles, and ranks each one according to its “moral merit”. (It also provides a separate, but very lengthy, list of books which the author believes should be avoided.)

Don’t get me wrong. I do agree we should avoid certain books. Some books — like ones about the occult — aren’t even worth the paper they’re printed on. Libraries, too, are full of quizzically-named books like “Help! Haunted Werewolves ate the Cafeteria Lady*” — these always make me scratch my head. Literary merit? Moral value? Highly debatable! (*not an actual book.)

But the author of this particular recommended/not recommended reading list isn’t referring to books about werewolves and lunch ladies. When this book list decries books of questionable merit, it cuts out books like Clara and the Bookwagon (due to unkind parents who don’t value education), as well as Tirzah and The Year of Miss Agnes (because the main characters decide to pursue a path other than childbearing.) There are dozens more books similarly not recommended; this is just a sampling.

I’m taking a deep breath here.

Maybe you have parents who were less than kind to you.

Maybe you struggle with infertility.

This does not make you less than.

This does not make you “of questionable merit.”

Continue reading “Why I Don’t Use THAT Popular Homeschool Booklist”

Homeschooling

100 Essential Tools for Homeschooling Gifted Kids

100 Essential Tools for Homeschooling Gifted Kids - by Gina of the Oaxacaborn Blog

Are you homeschooling a gifted / twice-exceptional (2E) child with sensory-seeking tendencies? Me, too! Let’s navigate this wild ride together. I created this mega-post for you, a huge list of 100 resources, sensory tools, educational websites, digital subscriptions, apps, games, morning time ideas and tips for homeschooling gifted and advanced learners. Continue reading “100 Essential Tools for Homeschooling Gifted Kids”