My knowledge of human biodiversity is a constant comfort in my family’s homeschooling efforts. I’ve seen many parents stress themselves out about academics, and the sheer plethora of materials and teaching methods are overwhelming. By necessity, women like my wife are usually the primary homeschooling parent, and one thing I’ve noticed about Christian homeschooling mothers is the deep sense of guilt and anxiety they seem to have concerning their homeschooling competence. Add to this the selection of extroverted “Perfect Mommy” (if you believe their blog) homeschool bloggers and it’s enough to make any mother feel inadequate. Unlike men, women don’t seem to be able to write off obsessive outliers as weirdos (men, for better or worse, have stronger egos typically), but rather doubt themselves and their decisions based on a blog post she read about how someone’s four year old is supposedly learning calculus with play-doh while doing copywork out of the Westminster Shorter Catechism.
I try to comfort my wife with scientific reality. Among my conclusions:
1. All of these various methods of homeschooling, whether Charlotte Mason, Classical, Unit Study, whatever, NONE OF THEM have been subjected to a scientific controlled study documenting whether one or the other is better (and no study would likely show any difference between reasonably robust curriculums because of #2). All of the “evidence” presented is anecdotal and useless, or based on an elaborate system of untestable hypotheses about how learning is supposed to occur. My family chooses to do a more-or-less classical-based curriculum, but that’s based on a personal preference (specifically that my children are exposed to the heritage of their civilization and don’t become just narrow-minded Biblicists, i.e. Bible idolaters who reject the notion that all truth is God’s truth). I have no illusions that my choice of curriculum will make a difference in any child’s academic outcomes. I am also prepared to abandon our curriculum choice if it seems in the best interest of a child, the family or their mother.
2. Human Biodiversity: identical twin studies have pretty much proven that intelligence is about 70% genetically determined. Of the remaining 30%, about 70% of that is based on non-genetic developmental biology, i.e. proper maternal nutrition during pregnancy, breastfeeding, sufficient iron intake during childhood, a safe and stable home environment etc. That leaves 9% up for grabs for our homeschooling efforts, which is approximately the same maximum difference in IQ outcomes you see for identical twins (i.e. same genetics) raised in different homes. Do your best, as in all things, but there’s no need to shorten your life with anxiety over homeschooling. E. O. Wilson, the world’s foremost living biologist, put it this way, as summarized by Tom Wolfe:
Every human brain, he says, is born not as a blank tablet (a tabula rasa) waiting to be filled in by experience but as “an exposed negative waiting to be slipped into developer fluid.” You can develop the negative well or you can develop it poorly, but either way you are going to get precious little that is not already imprinted on the film. The print is the individual’s genetic history, over thousands of years of evolution, and there is not much anybody can do about it. Furthermore, says Wilson, genetics determine not only things such as temperament, role preferences, emotional responses, and levels of aggression, but also many of our most revered moral choices, which are not choices at all in any free–will sense but tendencies imprinted in the hypothalamus and limbic regions of the brain, a concept expanded upon in 1993 in a much–talked–about book, The Moral Sense, by James Q. Wilson (no kin to Edward O.).
Science is proving Calvinism, folks. There is no free will.
Don’t let the evolution word above scare you. That’s just Wilson’s worldview poking out (to the extent he is not talking about microevolution), not the nugget of his scientific work. Wilson is a brilliant Alabama native who did his research work on the world of ants. One of the results of Wilson’s work was his finding that ants exhibit extremely complex behaviors naturally, without any sort of training. This breakthrough research showed that genetics can not only determine physical characteristics of organisms, but also quite complex social behaviors, which culminated in Wilson’s theory of sociobiology.
Whether we believe it is by evolution or design, Wilson showed that genetics have a major impact on behavior. Wilson is hated by Marxists, for he destroys their social theory of the blank slate. If inequalities between people are due to inherent differences and not exploitation, then the whole Marxist theory collapses.
Interestingly, many Christians, under the influence of biology deniers like Ken Ham (who essentially denies microevolution in humans with his illogical and unbiblical assertion that we are all equal), have now adopted the Marxist theory of the mind’s development. I prefer to relax and know that God has taken care of the details in a genetic code that I and my children inherited through no effort of our own.
In short, you don’t have to “let go and let God.” You can let go because God already did. Your child’s genetic code has already been providentially decreed.
As I’ve covered elsewhere in my body of work, this reality of the overwhelming role of genetics also has implications for marriage and adoption. In short: genetics matter. Marry well and have your own children if you can. The Christians of Jane Austen’s world did not talk about “good breeding” because they were racist, atheist evolutionists. They simply noticed God’s design, in both animals and humans, before it was crimethink to recognize human differences.
3. Moral Development: This is the big area that your parenting efforts can impact. Again, this is subject to a Pareto effect. Assuming your family practices Christian morals, 80% of the benefit of homeschooling is that your children are not subject to the moral sewer of the public (and, for the most part, private) schools. 80% of what’s remaining will come from your direct instruction, discipline and your children’s observation of your moral behavior, and their genetics (see Dobson’s The Strong-Willed Child for references on how “difficult” children are hard coded that way from birth, and the distinction can only be mitigated by stronger parenting, not eliminated). When you walk out of a store with something you didn’t pay for, your child seeing you walking back in to pay for it is ten times more powerful than their memorizing the catechism questions on “Thou shalt not steal.” The Bible speaks of moral development as a casual, continuous and largely oral process of discussing God’s Law with your children just as a normal part of life. And this is yet another reason not to worry about their religious academic work. Make a reasonable choice based on your particular Christian beliefs and let go of the anxiety.
4. Political Economy and Worldview: This is an area where I feel a particular conviction. My comments above are based on an assumption of curriculum equivalence and reasonableness. Any popular homeschooling math book will probably be fine, as math is not a controversial subject. However, since so many Christians have huge gaping holes in their worldview when it comes to the Human Equality Delusion, and this delusion has such a serious impact on the structural rot of our society, I am largely on my own in developing antidotes to these delusions so my children can truly understand how the world works. I am working towards these ends. My best idea so far is to particularly avoid contemporary religious writers. When someone like John Piper writes with the authority of a minister of God, and presents ideas as true (for example, the Human Equality Delusion) which are not true and are outside the domain of his expertise, children can be influenced to believe bad ideas because they are coming from a religious source.
I would much prefer my children get their doctrine and instruction from theologians who lived before the Equality cult became predominant, or who actively fought it during their lifetimes. The best authors seem to be those from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, theologians like Warfield, Thornwell, Van Til, Dabney, Rushdoony and to some extent, even C.S. Lewis (Lewis’ epilogue to The Screwtape Letters, “Screwtape Proposes a Toast” skewers the Equality cult). While many earlier theologians were heavily influenced by the Enlightenment idea of the blank slate, these later men were exposed to a more developed theory of genetics and biology which better informed their worldviews, and had the luxury of digesting these truths of nature into a solidly Christian worldview before the current oppressive regime of political correctness took hold.
At some point I will publish a comprehensive list of recommended historical sources and textbooks for developing a proper worldview. Since my children are young (our oldest boy is eight), I do not want to recommend anything we haven’t yet used.