If you have read my background story you will know the reason I am having this conversation with my creationist mum is my niece and nephew. My British born sister married an evangelical American and began home schooling their children in the US. They avoid telling me almost anything about it except to say they refuse to teach their children any science that conflicts with their faith. As I’m an atheist, I’m the last person they talk to about home-schooling. Nowadays the only news I get about my niece and nephew is through my mother who flies to the US and stays with them for almost six months of the year.
Then last month I was CCed in a round-robin email from my brother in law, Chris (not his real name). You know, the kind everyone gets from relatives containing a sugar-coated, annual round up of family news no-one usually gives a flying crap about? I don’t know if I was an intended recipient since every sentence mentioned god, Jesus, or the holy spirit. However, the most disturbing parts were where it mentioned my niece and nephew. I thought hard about posting those excerpts here, but in the end decided doing so would help me answer a burning question I have had ever since reading it. So here it is (names have been changed):
If you haven’t heard we home school our children, so those gifted children would be Jenny and John (hey, they’re my kid’s so I’m supposed to be bios right). [My wife] Mindy also teaches B.L.A.S.T. (Bible Learning and Spiritual Training) for the children ages 5-8 in our church. Now, and again I am able to finish up the class that I teach at Church early and if I am able to see Mindy teach just a little bit of her class, I consider that a real treat.
Jenny, who will be 7 in April, is now in her 2nd year of home-schooling, and is doing well in all of her classes; she especially likes writing, which I must say that her writing is very good. Jenny also loves drawing; her favorite picture to draw is of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Any family pictures that Jenny draws always has Jesus in the center, and many times has God and the Holy Spirit in them as well, which is the way it is supposed to be.
Jenny’s first love truly is God, and she is not shy about talking to anyone about it. I believe nearly all of the check-out ladies at Wal-Mart know Jenny by name as her favorite conversation starter is, “Hi I’m Jenny, do you believe in God?” I’ve been amazed at how when the few people who have answered Jenny by saying, “No”, that Jenny is not deterred at all she just tells them the gospel in her very simple honest way.
John, who just turned 5 at the end of November, is now in his 1st year of home-schooling, and like Jenny is doing well in all of his classes, he especially likes reading. He can not get enough of books and though he is only 5 his reading level is that of a 7 year olds if not higher. John has also become very good on the computer, and is able to get the mouse to move around and do what it is supposed to better than I can already. Also, it is hard to believe that John at one time hardly talked, because now if he isn’t talking he is either singing or humming. What is neat is that John is pretty much always singing or humming about God. Many times when John finishes his song that he makes up, he’ll say, “Did you like that song?” To which we say, “Yes” as we want to encourage him, and John will say, “That song was for God.” So, it seems that in Jenny we have a Pastor/Evangelist, and in John we have a worship leader.
The rest of the letter, which was emailed to over 50 people, continues in a similar vein. Perhaps I’m too close to this to be objective, but to me this seems like terrible parenting, bordering on child abuse. I feel just the same way about muslim parents who send their children to a madrasa or scientologists who sign their children up for Sea Org. Is religious home schooling in America that different?
So my question to any readers is am I overreacting? Or do you find this email deeply disturbing too? Please leave a comment and let me know.