Art Carden  

By Request: Religion and Unschooling

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Zachary Bartsch writes:

I want to hear more about your religion or parenting beliefs and how your participation in either results in real actions that could be perceived as different from anyone else's.

Religion: evangelical Christian with a lot of questions and conscientious objector to the culture war. The heavens declare the glory of God, and so does the fossil record. Some of the best books I've read on the science-and-religion false dichotomy in the last few years are Francis Collins' The Language of God, Kenneth Miller's Finding Darwin's God and Only a Theory, and Ian Hutchinson's Monopolizing Knowledge (just to name a few off the top of my head). After reading Doug Stuart's review on LibertarianChristians.com, I read and thoroughly enjoyed Peter Enns' The Bible Tells Me So. Two of my favorite organizations are the BioLogos Foundation and the Veritas Forum. Possibly the best book I've ever read is C.S. Lewis's The Great Divorce. I discussed this and some others during my last EconLog stint here.

Parenting is really, really hard. We're unschoolers, which means we don't really follow a curriculum (though we do some math and reading stuff with the kids every day). It's wickedly difficult to fight the urge to compare our kids to Little Billy or Little Johnny down the street, but we let them direct their own learning. A lot of this happens by watching videos on YouTube of different things they're interested in (right now, a lot of it is Minecraft tutorials), and we make our library and entertainment selections based on what the kids are interested in. Last night, for example, we were talking about the solar system on our way home from my Dad's house, so before bedtime we watched a TED talk on the possibility of life on one of Saturn's moons. Last week, after our oldest badgered me into figuring out how to install mods for Minecraft and downloading one that allowed us to spawn a flying Kraken, we watched a TED talk about the first photos and videos of giant squid in their natural habitat.

I'm also working on setting up a few business-esque ventures that the kids can take over as they get a bit older and start learning more about computers. I have an online bookstore, for example, that needs an update, and the kids earn a few dollars here and there by doing simple tasks like shredding documents, scanning stuff, or fixing me a lunch I can take to work.

I've thought about framing our schooling decision differently. "Our six-year-old pursues a self-directed program of instructional videos that help him design structures and circuits in a computer program, and he receives regular one-on-one tutoring from a CPA and a PhD in economics" sounds a lot better than "our son plays Minecraft a lot, and we play with him."


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Tom West writes:

"Our six-year-old pursues a self-directed...

Thank you for that. I've laughed hard, but it is *so* true. Framing is everything when talking with others who know little.

And yes, video games can be quite educational. My 7 year-old learned a ton about ancient civilizations by playing Age of Empires and then getting curious enough to read further. Also, you get into a lot less trouble with teachers when your 7-year old is re-enacting cavalry charges and sieges than re-enacting gun battles...

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