My husband and I get excited every time we hear about or meet a new homeschool family. It’s fascinating to hear their stories. Some started their homeschool journey during the pandemic because they were concerned for their child’s health. Some were frustrated with the uncertainty and crazy scheduling that accompanied pandemic schooling. And some were alarmed when they got a good look at their child’s curriculum. Parents have a host of reasons for homeschooling. But, in my view, there are no bad reasons—any reason to homeschool is a good reason.
If you are new to homeschooling, the myriad of options may confuse you. Some curriculum publishers have designed their curriculum for Christian homeschoolers, but there are a growing number of secular homeschool curriculum options as well. Let’s take a look at the differences between these options so you can understand what might work best for your family.
Understanding Secular and Christian Curriculum
Secular Homeschool Curriculum
Although many homeschoolers decide to homeschool because of a desire to provide religious instruction to their child, that may not be you. You may consider yourself to be a secular homeschooler—a homeschooler who wants to homeschool because of how great homeschooling is and not because of any religious reasons. Although there are differences among secular homeschoolers, most of them agree that they specifically want a homeschool curriculum that doesn’t mix religious faith and academics.
A truly secular homeschool curriculum promotes a secular worldview. But some secular homeschoolers also use a “faith neutral” curriculum, which is a curriculum that purposefully does not reference anything religious. Both secular and Christian homeschoolers may prefer these “faith neutral” curriculum as a middle ground for their children.
Christian Homeschool Curriculum
Christian homeschoolers desire to use homeschooling as a means to pass their Christian values on to their children. They may have started homeschooling for that very reason. Unlike secular homeschoolers, Christian homeschoolers often want a homeschool curriculum that will not only teach their children the academic content that they need to know but also will teach them about God and the Bible.
There are two main types of Christian homeschool curriculum. In the first type, the Bible is central to the curriculum—if you take out the Bible, the curriculum falls apart. In the second type, the Bible takes a less central role. It may quote or reference the Bible occasionally, but if you take it out, the curriculum is fine.
Differences Between Homeschool Curriculum Approaches
There are a couple of key differences between a Christian homeschool curriculum and a secular homeschool curriculum.
First, their focuses are different. A secular homeschool curriculum centers around the individual. A secular curriculum teaches evolutionary theory not only in science class, but it also uses it as a foundation for all other academic disciplines. On the other hand, a Christian homeschool curriculum centers its curriculum around God Himself. It teaches that God created the world and everything in it and that His Word, the Bible, is the foundation of all learning.
Second, their goals are different. A secular curriculum aims to prepare students to be successful (i.e. equipped to get a good-paying job) and fit into our society. A Christian curriculum primarily aims to equip students to fulfill the dominion mandate by exercising dominion over the earth to serve God and others.
Why would Christians use a secular curriculum?
Many Christian homeschoolers choose to use a Christian homeschool curriculum. They often do so because they want to avoid a curriculum that teaches evolutionary theory or addresses social issues. Many Christian homeschoolers also choose a Christian homeschool curriculum because they want their children to know how to defend their faith and develop a biblical worldview so that they can combat sophisticated unbelief.
However, Christian homeschoolers sometimes choose to use a secular curriculum instead of a Christian one. They make this choice for a variety of reasons. Some question the academic quality of curriculum from Christian publishers. Others want to expose their children to non-Christian perspectives so they can teach their children how to respond biblically. Also, some Christian families feel that their personal beliefs (such as Theistic Evolution or Old Earth Creationism) are not represented by Christian publishers.
Why would a secular homeschooler use Christian curriculum?
Secular homeschoolers usually want to avoid an explicitly Christian curriculum and prefer to use a secular curriculum instead. They don’t want to indoctrinate their children in a particular religious belief system. Instead, they want their children to learn to be accepting of people of all religions and lifestyles.
However, sometimes secular homeschoolers do choose to use a Christian curriculum, especially since Christian curriculum is so prevalent in the homeschool curriculum market. Secular homeschoolers often find the curriculum used in public schools unsuitable for homeschool use and have difficulty finding truly secular homeschool options. They find that they can adapt some textbooks by Christian publishers as long as the Bible is not a central part of the textbook but more of a component that they can skip.
How BJU Press Curriculum Is Different
Our children grow up in a secular world. Secular messaging is everywhere—at the mall, online, even in many of the children’s books you check out from the library. Many Christian homeschoolers choose a distinctively Christian curriculum to give their children a solid foundation from which to interact with the messages they will encounter for the rest of their lives. And that’s why my family has chosen to use the BJU Press homeschool curriculum for the past six years. BJU Press has offered my daughters an academically solid education while helping them develop a biblical worldview so they can evaluate the secular ideas that they encounter against the Word of God.
Some homeschool curriculum publishers claim to Christian. But if you look closely at their textbooks, you will find that there are no real connections being made between the Bible and the lesson content. The Bible may be referenced occasionally—they may make biblical analogies, use biblical examples, or quote related Bible verses—but students are not challenged to think deeply about biblical principles and are not encouraged to apply the Bible to their lives. Some argue that this separation of the Bible from academics is not Christian education at all.
BJU Press is unique among Christian curriculum publishers because they deeply integrate the Bible into their materials. They don’t just reference the Bible. They challenge students to apply the Bible to everything they are studying and to every part of their lives. In doing so, they hold up every academic discipline to the standard of God’s Word and make the Bible the foundation for all learning.
A Biblical Worldview
In “What is a Biblical Worldview and Why is it Important in Education?”, Arianna defines a worldview as: “a set of basic beliefs, assumptions, and values that arise from a narrative about the world and produces individual and group action that shapes human culture.” As Christian homeschoolers, we want our children to develop a biblical worldview by aligning their beliefs, assumptions, and values on the unchangeable Word of God.
BJU Press isn’t satisfied with debunking secular theories through logic or scientific or historical evidence. It wants students to know what the Bible says and how to use it to evaluate different aspects of our culture. It helps students develop a biblical worldview by teaching them how to view the world within the biblical framework of Creation, Fall, and Redemption.
The development of critical thinking skills—the ability to make applications, analyze, evaluate, create, and synthesize information—is an essential part of a quality education. Your children need critical thinking skills to function successfully in today’s world, but many publishers of Christian homeschool curriculum don’t develop these skills well. Instead of encouraging students to think deeply about what they are learning, some publishers train students to rely on the rote memorization of facts to be successful in school.
BJU Press uses leveled questioning throughout their curriculum to develop students’ critical thinking skills. They start off by asking recall questions to make sure the student is paying attention to the reading and is understanding it on a basic level. But then they go deeper and challenge students to apply, evaluate, create, and synthesize that information.
Joy of Learning
We homeschoolers don’t want our children to dread learning. Instead, we want them to experience the wonder and joy of learning because we know that students who love learning will become lifelong learners.
The people who produce the BJU Press homeschool curriculum work hard to foster that joy of learning and help you foster a positive learning environment in your home. They design their textbooks to be colorful and appealing, including multisensory learning experiences to make the learning memorable. They tailor their video course content to keep your child engaged. No wonder curriculum-unboxing day feels like Christmas!
If you are a secular homeschooler, BJU Press may not be the curriculum for you. Some secular homeschoolers have chosen BJU Press materials because they’re reliable and academically sound, but they do find it difficult to skip past the integrated biblical worldview shaping segments. But if you are a Christian homeschooler, you will likely not find another curriculum that offers the same degree of academics alongside strong biblical integration and biblical worldview shaping. Find out 006Dore about the BJU Press homeschool curriculum on “Why Choose BJU Press?”