Why LDS Homeschoolers Should Consider Secular Education

Recent conversations online and in “real life” have been replaying in my mind this week. For my readers who may not know, I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I was born and raised in the Church and am still an active member. While homeschooling is not particularly common within our faith, I live in an area where most of the homeschoolers I encounter happen to also be LDS. The reasons LDS families choose to homeschool are as varied and individual as the reasons any other family would choose to do so, but I feel somewhat…unsettled by the LDS homeschoolers I encounter who homeschool in large part because they fear secular knowledge or influence.

A scripture has been playing through my mind since Sunday afternoon (D&C 109:7):

And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom, seek learning even by study and also by faith;

Most of the “best books” full of “words of wisdom” were written by non-LDS authors. Many “best books” were written by non-Christians. Western civilization draws heavily upon Greek and Roman philosophies and discoveries. While there may be aspects of these ideas that conflict with Christian beliefs, the vast majority of them are secular. In other words, they have no religious component that would threaten spiritual beliefs. As a parent who has chosen to direct my children’s educations personally, I feel that it is my duty to help them learn both spiritual and secular wisdom. One cannot as easily and effectively navigate the world without an understanding of humanity’s past and potential future. I see the principle of eternal progression in the growth of humanity over the past thousands of years. If we accept this concept, we see that we need the wisdom of previous generations to further our own.

The Sunday School class I attended last week got into an interesting discussion about wisdom when we were talking about Paul’s visit to Corinth, and we concluded that worldly knowledge isn’t necessarily evil. Certainly it’s possible to steep oneself in secular wisdom only while shunning the divine. I suppose that this is what some LDS homeschoolers fear–that too much familiarity with secular ideas will cause their children to stumble spiritually. However, if children grow up suspicious or afraid of “worldly” knowledge only to discover as adults that there is little to threaten their faith, I wonder what negative impact this would have on spiritual strength. Agency is only possible when one has knowledge of one’s options. Deliberately choosing the right is more meaningful than blind obedience. The cost of intentionally restricting a child’s education is also a high one because limited education limits one’s future options.

Another scripture comes to mind (D&C 109:8):

Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing, and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God;

It’s possible to create a house, or a homeschool, that incorporates both faith and (secular) learning. You can teach God’s involvement in the creation of the world and evolution. You can teach your religious beliefs and expose your child to belief systems that may differ greatly from your own. I like how the mission statement of Brigham Young University (a private university run by the Church) explains why to meld the spiritual and the secular:

Because the gospel encourages the pursuit of all truth, students at BYU should receive a broad university education. The arts, letters, and sciences provide the core of such an education, which will help students think clearly, communicate effectively, understand important ideas in their own cultural tradition as well as that of others, and establish clear standards of intellectual integrity.

In order to foster an education that is celestial, one that furthers the growth of ourselves and our children and glorifies God, we need an intelligence comprised of both spiritual and secular wisdom (D&C 93:36):

The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.

Truth, both secular and spiritual, is worthy of pursuit.

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About Laura

I've been homeschooling since 2005. I have six children (born 2000 - 2012). We are eclectic in our approach with a bit more Well-Trained Mind philosophy over anything else.
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11 Responses to Why LDS Homeschoolers Should Consider Secular Education

  1. Jennifer says:

    Well said, I am LDS too, and religion is not on the top of our reasons to homeschool, many may find that odd, but I feel you can still teach religion to your children if they are in public school, we do not use any religious curriculum, though we do study gospel/scriptures during our school day, it is not embedded in every subject. There are many good things in this world that are not gospel linked. You make some great points here!

  2. Lise says:

    Yes, well said. We are LDS and religion didn’t have any thing to do with our decision to homeschool. We homeschool, in part, because we were underwhelmed by public school curriculum, not because we were terrified of it, if that makes sense.

    Maybe because my dad insisted the point of going to college was to get an education, not a job, so I got one of those “broad university educations” at BYU. It took me seven years because I dabbled in too many things, and I’ve never worked in my field, but it’s paying off now, as a homeschooling mom.

  3. blondeviolin says:

    Bravo! As another LDS homeschooler, I agree! In fact, in many ways our religious studies, if you will, aren’t considered “schoolwork” at all! The only reason religion sways my decision about a curriculum is actually when that curriculum is religious…because I know it’s pretty close to impossible to have a non-secular curriculum that would jive with our beliefs. I’d rather teach that separately anyway.

  4. tuzor says:

    I couldn’t agree more! I pre read a lot of material to determine if its something I wold like to use in our hs and much of the material available is too religious. I like bible study to be a seperate subject and not intertwined into every single subject. Furthermore many of the *religious* views presented are not in line with my own personal beliefs. So I am open to a secular education even though I am christian.

  5. Lyn says:

    I happen to be active LDS, and the main reason I homeschool is THE PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM SUCKS!!!!!!! It’s not to avoid “secular influences, per se. Race to the Top and Common Core have only made things worse. Math has dumbed down. We get our Math curriculum from Australia, it’s less stressful than Common Core Math, and the Aussie Math is superior. Same with everything else. My kids are way above public grade levels, and anything less than customizing their education would be a disservice to them.
    And we learn about everything.

    • Laura says:

      Yes, I also homeschool because I believe my children are getting a better education here than they would at school. πŸ™‚

      I wrote this post when “Celestial Education” was making its rounds. I don’t believe that a religious education should come at the expense of a secular one. πŸ™‚

  6. Lyn says:

    Duh–we already know all about that. The main reason we homeschool is because THE PUBLIC EDUCATION SYSTEM SUCKS. And my kindergartener reads at a 3rd grade level. They need a customized education. Race to the Top and Common Core have only made things worse– if that’s possible. we learn from the Australian Math curriculum–so much better than dumbed down Common Core Math that teaches to the standardized tests. Yes, we learn from all kinds of resources, but do you know why my kindergartener is such a good reader? It’s thanks to reading The Book of Mormon together as a family.

  7. Cherie says:

    Im LDS and have homeschooled for the past 7 years. We began homeschooling because of safety issues and lack of concern from the administration. (My daughter was shoved in front of a car after school by older (known) bullies. The bullying took place regularly. Anyway, we happily homeschool. I heard a talk given a while back (probably during General Conference- but can’t find it now) that education should be equally dispersed. If you are going to spend 6 hours a day learning secular information, you should spend 6 hours a day learning religion. I have tried since then to incorporate religious learning with our everyday secular learning. As an example, we studied the Creation for Science this year. We enjoyed learning all sorts of things from what light is and how it travels, to scientific classifications. Each time we studied a new concept, we also discussed how Heavenly Father knew it was important and how it fits into our eternal lives. I made connections this year that I never did before. My testimony (and theirs) grew from making these simple, yet profound, connections. I enjoyed your blog post. I recommend anyone reading, find a balance. Too much of anything can be bad. πŸ™‚

  8. suzanne72 says:

    Truth is truth. We are called to search for and teach truth. All truth is found in one great whole. This is freely taught in the scriptures, temple, etc. Half truths are frequently taught in government run education. They teach kids how to learn and tell them what to learn. We’ve even been doing this in church education. I think this new switch in YM/YW curriculum is helping tremendously!

    Our government run education system does and cannot teach kids how to think and haven’t done since about the 1920s when progressives stepped in to rule the US. I just finished my student teaching, secondary MAT in social studies. That is the worst subject for a person to find truth in! What they teach in History/Government classes out of the textbooks currently used is down right criminal! I received my education from an online university and I believe that the university system is also broken, or doing it’s job if you are a progressive.
    You don’t need to go searching very far to find good reasons to home school if you are open to the idea. Does anyone know of a good source for LDS based classical curriculum for high schoolers? If I can’t find one, I’m making it myself! The system is so broken. Those that have eyes to see and ears to hear can recognize it. I talk to a lot of moms that see it but are unsure what to do about it. I have friends that are scared to death to try home school, even thought they feel this would be best for their family. I wonder about creating a curriculum that could make it easier for them to jump in? There seems to especially be a dearth of options for high school. That system is truly a waste of time and a farce of an education. Common core is making things so much worse! Any good that individual teachers were able to do will no longer be possible.
    I think the LDS community needs to step up to the plate and lead out in education reform or restoration? πŸ™‚
    Anyway, thanks for the Blog. I stumbled on this while searching for LDS classical curriculum. I think I’m going to have a really busy summer. A few resources, but no organization, especially for high school age. Hmmm…have to ponder! Thanks for your insights! Really great!

    • Laura says:

      I haven’t seen any LDS-based programs that impress me, but maybe there are new things since the last time I looked. πŸ™‚ I recently heard some local (Utah County) moms mention two things that might interest you: 1. The NOAH Plan (Christian) and 2. Kindred Learning Four Year Plan (LDS)

      My oldest is finishing up seventh right now, so we haven’t done high school yet. I will continue to use secular materials and add in spiritual components as appropriate. πŸ™‚

  9. Mike says:

    Yes, we should use a diversity of materials to expose kids to all sorts of ideas. That is the wonderful thing about homeschooling — the ability to do this and not have an administrator breathing down your neck and forcing you to teach a certain way. Here is an interview with an LDS mother of 8 on the subject of homeschooling and its advantages: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGYh9KRB9LM

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