Progressive Education for Christian Homeschoolers

More evidence that “progressive” and “conservative” labels just don’t fit when it comes to schooling: An interview with educator and filmmaker Micheal Flaherty of Walden Media in the conservative evangelical WORLD magazine.

Flaherty is best known for making films for a wide popular audience that include a healthy moral message. These are not niche “Christian” movies, but movies such as the Chronicles of Narnia series. Each film is based on a popular children’s book. In the longer interview, Flaherty describes the history of Walden Media. Nobody wanted to fund the project, until at last they met with a hearty welcome from conservative Christian Philip Anschutz.

Most interesting for us here at ILYBYGTH, Flaherty describes his reasons for homeschooling his three children. Though he is an evangelical talking to a conservative evangelical magazine, Flaherty doesn’t say he chose to homeschool to avoid sex ed, or Bible-hating, or evolution. Instead, Flaherty explains his thoroughly “progressive” reasons:

“We wanted to spend more time letting them read and not rushing them from bell to bell. We wanted to enjoy them and watch all of those lights go on—the first time they nail their multiplication tables or the first time they read a good book. At home we ask not, ‘What did you learn today?’ but ‘Tell me a great question you asked today.’ We want to keep it focused on the inquiry and on making sure the kids are asking the big questions.”

More evidence, if any were required, that slapping labels such as “progressive” and “conservative” around might only confuse things in today’s kaleidoscopic world of education.

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  1. Natalia Mehlman Petrzela

     /  December 13, 2012

    sounds more like the homeschooling rationale of the lefty unschoolers!

    • I know, right? But I don’t think this sort of “progressive” pedagogy is rare among Bible-based Protestant homeschoolers. Even among the more conservative, “fundamentalist” sort, there are plenty of parents who either latch on to “progressive”-sounding models on their own or follow the “progressive”-friendly language of Christian publishers such as Bob Jones University Press. As I argued in an article a couple of years ago, BJU School of Education has long promoted a very stereotypically “progressive” pedagogy, even as they insisted on a thoroughly conservative Bible-based theology. This has been embraced by both Christian schools and Christian homeschoolers.

  2. It’s funny how the simplest choice or approach is generally the best. Progressivism engages children and actually promotes learning rather than fear and the need for test scores.

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