Life on the border (a cross-post from my personal blog)

Whew.

Just finished two days of conferencing in which I talked non-stop about books, teaching writing, history, grammar, literature, my publishing company...and a thousand other things book- and learning-related.

I then slept for fourteen hours and just now woke up. This was a rough week. It started with a bad cold; then I spent three days with my father while he had emergency surgery (he’s much better, before you ask–home and recovering nicely), then got on a plane and went to a conference center, which (inevitably) produced bronchitis. I did the whole conference with almost no voice. The CDs of the talks sound like Gollum Does Grammar.

I spent a lot of time at this conference talking to parents and giving them personalized advice on how to get past particular educational challenges with their kids. I’m not concealing the fact that I get paid for these appearances, and that selling books at them helps keep my boat afloat. But believe me when I say that if it were just a matter of money, you couldn’t PAY me enough to do what I did this weekend. I like teaching. I like teaching writing. I love history. I want people to read more history–world history in particular. I am a Writing Zealot out to convert writers to good prose style and a History Emissary out to convince readers that they should know what’s going on in both southeast Asia and Europe during the Renaissance.

And in the middle of all this, people would come up to our booth and say, “Are you aware that other speakers are telling people in their workshops that Dr. Bauer is out to remove all Christianity from homeschooling and that’s she’s not even a Christian and that we shouldn’t buy any of her materials?” This was accompanied by Facebook and blog pots with big WARNING! headlines, explaining how I was part of a plan to destablize the kingdom of God.

Oh, good grief.

Stay with me for a little while here, because I want to say something about that.

First, for those of you unfamiliar with the home school world, let me give you a quick orientation.

PART ONE: HOME EDUCATION

There are thousands and thousands of home schoolers who teach their children at home primarily because they want to instill their faith in their children, and they are concerned that a classroom will actively discourage and destroy that faith.

There are thousands and thousands of home schoolers who teach their children at home for other reasons. Their school options are poor; their kids have particular needs that can’t be met in the classroom; they’ve had bad classroom experiences and are trying to recover; they’re travelling, or military, or just generally peripatetic; they like the flexibility and freedom of not being tied to a school schedule; they think they can do a better job than the available classrooms. (The latter two would be me. My kids are going to learn to WRITE, darn it, and I’m going to make sure they do.)

Although homeschool parents of both kinds attend education conferences, the conferences have historically been weighted heavily towards speakers and materials that teach particular forms of Christianity along with the academic subjects.

PART TWO: BEING CHRISTIAN IN AMERICA

Anyone who digs around in my website will quickly notice that I’m a minister’s wife. Yes, this means that I’m a Christian. (I guess that’s not always a given. But I am.)

This simple fact has opened me up to a ridiculous level of bashing from people who can’t see past it. Here’s an example. In The History of the Ancient World, I use stories from a number of different religious traditions–Sumerian, Egyptian, Indian, Chinese–in an attempt to reconstruct very early political history. This isn’t a perfect method, but since these texts are the only ones we have, I thought it preferable to simply ignoring very ancient political history altogether. I was pleased with the result. It’s highly speculative, but I point this out in the preface of the book; and it did produce a compelling, logical narrative for the very earliest years of recorded history.

Yet as soon as readers see anything from the Pentateuch–even though it’s nestled in there with stories from the Sumerian and Egyptian worlds–they go into high alert.

Let me quote from a couple of Amazon reviews (because those are always a great source of intemperance).

Then I got to the Hebrews in Egypt. With growing amazement I began to realize I was being treated to the story of Moses, lifted right out of the Bible, as though that were some sort of HISTORICAL document…..After having recovered from the considerable shock of seeing a supposed “historian” go to considerable length to throw her own credentials out the window, I radically revised my estimate of this book…I would obviously not be wise to trust this author with her gargantuan biases, and I would suggest that anyone actually interested in HISTORY find some other introduction to the ancient world.

Apparently he didn’t notice that Ra and Shamash make appearances in the same section.

Um, hey lady: the stories of Moses and the Old Testament have no place in a book about world history, as these things never happened. Some scholar of History you are.

(I have a book on punctuation for this guy.)

I have another book of hers on how to analyze classic literature and its fairly good but I briefly wondered if she was an idiot, just from some of the comments she made. This solves that mystery.

Oh. Well, good. (I’ll send you a copy of the punctuation book, by the way.)

What lies behind this level of invective?

PART THREE: CONVERT AS MANY AS POSSIBLE, AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE (OR, GOD AND THE FACTORY METHOD)

To be a Christian in America, particularly a Christian with any evangelical associations, is to be associated with a specific form of Christianity. Allow me to oversimplify (I highly recommend this and this for un-simplification, should you be interested). This form of Christianity has long been focused on one particular calling: converting other people.

Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen,
tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.
Rescue the perishing, care for the dying;
Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.

–Fanny Crosby, 1820-1915

Of course, it has long been part of the Christian faith that Christians should tell others what they believe. Early Christians did a lot of it.

But then came nineteenth century revivalism, in which “telling others what you believe” was transformed into “convert as many people as possible as quickly as possible because that is what God wants.”

And in order to convert as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, you have to use the proper methods.

Charles Finney stands at the beginning of this shift, but Dwight Moody, a businessman who brought business methods to evangelism, is probably the central figure. Let me quote from Paul Chilcote’s study of American evangelism:

Revivalism in many respects systematized the process of evangelism and conversion….Among the New England Calvinists of the First Great Awakening [1730s-40s], the means for revival rested with God. Evangelists might preach for revival, Christians might unite in ‘prayer concerts’ beseeching God to give revival, but ultimately only the sovereign God could grant the outpouring of revivalistic zeal….

By the Second Great Awakening of the nineteenth century, evangelists such as Charles G. Finney condemned those Christians who waited for revival while thousands remained unevangelized. Finney wrote that a revival

‘is not a miracle, or dependent on a miracle, in any sense. It is a purely philosophical result of the right use of the constituted means….There may be a miracle among its antecedent causes, or there may not.’

D. L. Moody, the great evangelist of the late 1800s, elaborated on Finney’s views regarding the means of evangelism. He urged any method which would lead to the conversion of a person, insisting, “It doesn’t matter how you get a man to God, provided you get him there.” Moody and company refined Finney’s new measures so that techniques for mass revivalism and personal witnessing were carefully systematized. Revival campaigns were planned in detail and Christians taught how to share their faith with “inquirers” before and after the nightly meeting.

Paul W. Chilcote, ed., Study of Evangelism (2008), p. 104

Let’s put this in context. By the beginning of the twentieth century, Americans had fallen in love with systemization–arranging an activity into a logical, standardized set of steps that were always carried out in the same way. Systematization was producing the factory method of manufacturing, the rigidly enforced system of K-12 grades in education, the standardization of medical licensing so that all doctors would receive more or less the same level of training, the current structure of the U.S. military.

And Dwight Moody’s method of evangelism, which so influenced American Christianity that we’re still living with it today.

This method has two presuppositions:
1. If you do everything right, people will convert.
2. The more people you convert, the better.

What’s wrong with that?

Well, I’m happy that all of my father’s doctors, this week, received the same level of medical training. But there are two big problems with standardized evangelism.

1. It’s impersonal.
2. Its success depends on getting everything exactly right.

Those two presuppositions, I think, account for both the invective I get whenever I dare to mention the Bible in my work, and for the invective I got from other speakers at this home school convention.

PART FOUR: WHEN BOTH SIDES THINK YOU’VE GOT IT WRONG

Let’s start with the invective from the secular side. Why did those Amazon reviewers (who are, unfortunately, representative of quite a few readers) react so strongly to my use of the Pentateuch and not even register a blip at my use of Sumerian myths?

Because they know I’m a Christian. An American Christian. An American Christian with an evangelical background. And so they assume that all of my work has a single purpose: it’s out to convert people.

In this context, every use of a Christian source takes on a sort of ominous quality. The assumption is that I’ve got an unspoken agenda. I’m not just writing a history of the world, I’m out to push a particular worldview on them, preferably without their noticing, so that they’ll be ready for conversion.

Why do they resent this so much?

Because it’s so impersonal. Were I trying to convert them (which I’m not; I was just trying to write ancient history), it wouldn’t be because I have a deep personal concern for their souls. It’s because I’m part of a movement that’s out to convert as many people as possible, by whatever means are necessary. That’s so…depersonalizing. And manipulative.

Thus the strong emotional reaction.

Now for the invective from the Christian side. (That would be, “Dr. Bauer is out to remove all Christianity from homeschooling and she’s not even a Christian, so don’t buy any of her materials.”)

Why on earth would this even matter to someone who’s buying a grammar book?

See Dwight Moody, above. The most important task for all Christians is to convert as many people as possible. Conversion only happens when all of the conditions are right. Influences which are not explicitly Christian (that would be me) mess up the conditions. Take that down to the unexpressed but logical conclusion: I am blocking the work of God.

Um…

Really? I didn’t know it would be that easy.

PART FIVE: FINAL WORDS TO BOTH SIDES

Dear Amazon.com reviewer: You’ve got it wrong. I’m not out to convert you. I’m not stealth-bombing you with Scripture. I’m just doing my best to write a good ancient history.

I don’t feel any need to stealth-bomb you with Scripture, because so far as I can tell, my faith doesn’t call me to convert as many people as possible. It calls me to live in love, compassion, grace, and forbearance. That’s what I’m doing down here in Virginia. I’m not plotting the most effective way to get you to be a Christian. Not my job. Hope you can relax and read my history now. But if you see any love, compassion, grace, and forbearance sneaking into the text, you can write another nasty review.

Dear worried speakers who don’t want parents to buy my writing and history books because I’m not using them to evangelize: You’ve got it wrong. If God can only reach people if all the conditions are right, he’s not much of a God. And if my grammar book can stand in the way of the kingdom of God, it’s not much of a kingdom. Please consider spending your time and energy talking about what you do and what you believe, rather than desperately protecting God from anything that might damage him.

PART SIX: AND NOW I HAVE OTHER THINGS TO DO

Now I will return to doing what I do–writing the most honest and accurate history I can, helping teach kids how to write, and trying to live in love, compassion, grace, and forbearance. That’s a pretty full plate, and things are always falling off the edge.

Usually the forbearance goes first.

UNFORTUNATELY NECESSARY ADDENDUM, March 24

If you’re indignant, read this.

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56 Responses to Life on the border (a cross-post from my personal blog)

  1. Sherry says:

    If you’re getting that much flack from both sides, you must be doing something right. Thank you for your books and for your commitment to truth, accuracy, and excellence.

  2. Joy Pullmann says:

    Dear Susan,
    When a homeschooled high schooler, I read The Well-Trained Mind and decided to follow it (at that point, I was picking all my own school books and even writing curriculum for myself and other local homeschoolers—not because my family was, in any sense, unschoolers, but because I was the typical oldest child, driven and decently smart, and my parents had never taught high school before but figured little could be worse than the local public schools).

    To make a long reply short: It’s been a decade since then. I still vastly admire your work and approach. We are also Christians so know lots about the nitpicking in that homeschool community, but I’m a populist-evangelical-turned-Missouri-Synod-Lutheran so also find your serious scholarship and non-hyped “evangelism” refreshing and delightful. (And what WERE those commenters thinking: of course Moses actually existed!) Our first son is 6 months old and I plan to homeschool him (and the others to come) as he grows using your books (and lots of original source materials) as our educational backbone.

    I follow your blog but haven’t popped up before because it never seemed necessary and I don’t know you personally. This time, I just wanted to say thank you for your hard work and clarity of mind, and don’t think crazies represent even most of your readers.
    Sincerely,
    Joy

  3. Anne says:

    Oh man! I cannot believe that you are copping this from both sides. I think your books are great and they have revolutionised my idea of how and why to educate.
    From the bottom of my heart, thank you!
    (I’m a PK – pastor’s kid -from way back, married to an MK – missionary’s kid)

  4. Kristina Taylor says:

    This is quite ironic to me, Ms. Bauer. I was at this convention and I thought about standing in line and thanking you for your article on the website entitled, “A Neutral Education? The Well-Trained Mind and Christianity.” It seems to speak to what you are saying in this blog post. One sentence of that article was so helpful to me: “The church of Christ, not textbook writers, should be responsible for providing the central Christian story that must inform all true education.” I think you could insert “not convention speakers” in there too. Why should speakers be able to speak with authority to those in attendance about Susan Bauer’s life and doctrine? Isn’t that her pastor and church’s job?

    I saw two interesting things this weekend. One was how diverse in viewpoint/method/paradigm (whatever word fits) one exhibitor was from another. You have Christopher Perrin, who spoke about the intellectual virtues such as perseverance and constancy, in his booth next to someone who spoke on “Academic Excellence without Sacrifice.” Huh?! I actually asked Dr. Enns one day what he thought about the implication from some speakers that if you don’t believe the earth is ten thousand years old you must be apostate. Some big differences are developing within the homeschool community just like the larger evangelical world.

    Second thing I noticed was how readily people are steered around by the speakers as if they have some kind of special authority. Poor Andrew Kern got accosted after one of his seminars because he commented that he thought young teens reading Sophie’s World is a terrible way to study philosophy. One woman said she was thinking of quitting her homeschool co-op and since she had to teach that book wanted to know if she should quit immediately. He seemed shocked at this reaction and handled it really well.

    We poor home school moms are having a hard time escaping the idea we dragged with us from the public system that the education authorities know best. I suppose that extends from curriculum to child rearing and theology. I really enjoyed hearing from you and the other classical educators I mentioned because you all are helping broaden my mind in the idea that I need to nurture my children’s souls instead of turning out educational “products”. I hope you can forbear a little longer. We really need you out there helping us “save souls” as we work to grow up human beings and not products.

    PS. I know my grammar and punctuation are probably as bad as the Amazon reviewers but I hope my comments were less obtuse.

  5. Emily says:

    We’re using your History of the Ancient World for kindergarten and first grade. I am very, very appreciative of your even-handed portrayal of different religions throughout the history. Our family is Christian, but we get worried about overall historical accuracy if Christianity is interlaced throughout a work in a heavy-handed manner. That kind of writing ignores the historical and political facts surrounding all the other religions of the time. I’m sorry that you’re catching so much flak from both sides. Please know that I think your work is truly stellar, and am grateful that it exists.

  6. Rachael says:

    One of the things I love about your books is that it gives us insights into other religions in a very creative way, through their stories and myths. I think it’s MY job to teach my kids what we believe and why and to let them know that everyone does not believe the same as we do. It seems to me that by giving a child a completely Christian biased education, I might be teaching them that whatever they are given to study is completely trustworthy. We should teach our kids to interpret things critically and use the spirit to discern truth rather than a particular curriculum.

  7. Sandra says:

    I have always wanted to write a letter to thank you for all that you do…and I’ve never actually heard you speak or met you in person!

    I will try to be brief.

    The Well Trained Mind book made a huge impact in my life for many reasons and someday maybe I will write you that thank you letter and tell you those reasons.

    My oldest will be starting first grade in Fall (I have 4 boys ages 6, 4 1/2, 3 and 1) and my amazon cart has the Story of the World series in it and I’m thankful for it and anxious to start reading and planning out our Fall 2011 & Spring 2012 school year.

    There is so much I want to say to you, but most importantly thank you and God Bless your family.

    oh yeah, I very much appreciate the Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading and plan on using your Writing with Ease and First Lesson’s books. I do use other sources for curriculum, but have been so very pleased with the organization and clarity of your work.

    So much for being brief. :)

  8. Ouiz says:

    I was at the Southeastern Conference as well, and I just want to say that I thought you did a WONDERFUL job. Thank you for bringing encouragement so many moms! God bless!

  9. Karyn says:

    Dear Susan,
    I’m sorry you are being attacked like this. It reminds me of Dr. Keller’s wonderful (and neutral) science curriculum RS4K and how many people immediately brand it as brainwashing propaganda when they learn she is a Christian. How unfortunate and ignorant; they are missing out on a great resource! Please be encouraged that your work is appreciated and taken at face value in many homes. I thank God He gave us the example of shaking the dust from our sandals and pray you can continue to do so with style and grace.

  10. Casey says:

    Oh goodness, how sad. I attended the conference this weekend and wanted to pop in here and tell you how much I enjoyed and was encouraged by your presentations. I didn’t realize you were having to deal with all this. I never heard any other speakers bashing your Christianity, but it was certainly bad form if they did. You have so much valuable information to share with us struggling homeschoolers – I hope you won’t let this deter you from speaking at future conferences, and of course, writing books for us! We have used Story of the World for several years now and it is one of my favorite resources. I admit that I was lured away once by another history curriculum with lots of extra bells and whistles (and books and projects), but after trying it we quickly returned to Story of the World because of it’s concise simplicity, engaging writing, and ease-of-use. Now, after the conference, I’m also looking forward to implementing many of your writing ideas for my kids (although I am still pouting over the idea of diagraming sentences :)) and am certainly anxious to begin my “20 minutes a day” of self-education. You are a brilliant speaker and writer and I am thankful for your passion to pass on your wisdom to others. Thank you! I hope you feel better soon (and I didn’t think you sounded like Gollum :)), and prayers for your father and his recovery.

  11. Janice in NJ says:

    I’m sorry. Please stay sane. Keep saying sane things. Keep doing sane things; I’m going to need the third volume of your History by the fall of 2012. So please ignore the folks who don’t have anything to do.

    I know it’s hard to think when folks are flapping their gums and saying non-sane things. One must bear witness to the insanity. Yes? Please know that I hear you , and I’m sorry. Very sorry. I can picture Galileo pacing around muttering. Let’s not forget that had to wait 400 years for an apology though. I hast not that kind of time. Onward and upward, eh? I vote with my dollars – or at least I try to. My thirty bucks is at the ready. Please finish the third volume so I can vote.

    Just an FYI: On Friday my soon-to-be 9th grader and I worked through the 2nd chapter in HoAW aloud. He missed most of your hard work on the initial narrative. Because we have been working on descriptive writing, I stopped to point out a couple of things. I reminded him of the three elements as listed in the writing handbook: factual details, sensory details, and figurative language. We read it again. We stopped. I asked questions. He answered. In the end, the eyes lit up, “Oh. I see it. That’s really good. I just thought it was a nice story.” He missed subtle things like the alliterative balance on both sides of the conjunction found here: “drops strengthen and stream down.” We discussed the dual purpose of “drop of water dents the dust on her arm” – figurative and sensory. We particularly enjoyed the swelling music found in the sentence length and word choices of the last paragraph. Nicely done. Choice of verb tense entered into the conversation. Etc. Etc.

    In the end he commented, “That was good. She was probably proud of that when she finished it.”

    “Yes, ” I said, “I’ll bet she was. Even though most folks won’t notice it.”

    We did. We noticed.

    Peace,
    Janice

  12. Joanna says:

    I cannot think of the best words to tell you how much of an impact your work has had on my homeschooling philosophy and confidence. My only regret is that I didn’t get your autograph when I talked to you face to face in 2006 at the Florida convention.

  13. Sunshine says:

    Both camps of people who rebuked you and your work without provocation are probably the same ones who shout expletives regarding President Obama being a so called Muslim.

    They want certain people to be or at least profess to being a Christian when it suits their strange agenda.

  14. Wendy says:

    Susan,

    Our family attended the convention this weekend as well. Hall 2 was horrible for the audience and speaker alike. I am certain the recordings of every speaker in Hall 2 will sound like “Gollum”. Shame on the coordinators of this event. Thank you for your perseverance and grit. Thank you for grinding out your pearls of wisdom as your already weakened voice was forced to strain even further above: the concrete floor warehouse-induced echo, the chilling draft from the doors, and the nearly intolerable noise from the exhibit hall. Thank you for sharing your gifts with the masses. 2 things I received from your lecture: ” We do that which is important to us” and “We do that which is rewarding to us.” Susan, your work is vitally important. We are following your countless hours of research, recording and re-writes. Our children will be blessed with a truly excellent education. This education will allow them to flourish in their respective gifts and work. Your work has an immediate impact on this generation and those to come. Yes, your work is important. Your reward will be all the generations of ” Well-Trained” and “Well-Educated” minds- and of course, your reward will be in heaven. Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. Be blessed today. My sincerest apology for poor grammar & punctuation.

  15. Joan in Geneva says:

    Susan, we could not have done it without you, your books and your forum; we’re overseas and there is almost no support here. I want my children to be able to think about and deal with difficult situations – your science CD helped me realize what they will face in the real world. My children thank you too! Milles mercis, Joan

  16. Sally says:

    Just popped in to see what you were up to since our family will be attending the Homeschool Conference in Cincy. I’m glad I did!!! Wasn’t expecting such a long exciting post!

    We get the same sentiment from some Christians when they find out our kids are reading abridged versions of the Odyssey or listening to Chinese CDs.

    Our 3 kids (grades K-3rd) attend a Classical Christian School and love to read SOTW in their free time. Our first grader commented when she first read SOTW that if you were a Christian author then how come you mentioned other religions (specifically the story of Muhammad and Allah). It was another great opportunity for us to talk about the monotheistic faiths and what our Christian faith was about.

    Atheists think being a Christian automatically disqualifies you from writing an intelligent book on history, science, politics or any topic unrelated to Christianity for that matter. Keep walking that fence. And looking forward to hearing you in a few weeks.

  17. RPL says:

    I admire you. Inspiration, love of your work, faith in God, yourself and others, these are the things that come to mind. We met at the WTM 10th anniversary conference & I am forever grateful for your words of advice, you have changed the lives of so many for the better.
    Thank you!
    sorry for the grammar, or lack of it! guess I know which book is next!

  18. Sara says:

    I so enjoyed hearing you speak this weekend at the conference. As a relatively new homeschooling mom, I was so challenged to learn how to think properly. Thank you so much for your direct, non-fluff classes – they were such a profitable use of time. I hope that I can become a more reflective thinker as I teach and as I grow as a person. (Oh, and you did NOT sound like Gollum…. more like Grover. No seriously, you sounded fine. It was the ROOM that was terrible!)

  19. I join with the other commenters in saying I am sorry you have been attacked. It serves the body no good.
    Interestingly the reason we decided to give home school a try years ago was to provided a better education. We were not anti public school. We were pro excellent education. We did want the Truth included and not ignored or negated. We wanted our kids to be thinkers and defenders of the faith with strong classical educations. In those days, we didn’t know those terms. We wanted them to have excellent educations. We did not want drivel or revisionist history. We did not want any weak scholarship in any text of any subject. It took years for our thinking to be expressed in home school materials. We did not continue homeschooling for many reasons; one main one…we couldn’t find the materials that gave us what we were looking for in the age / grade appropriate offerings. Years later, when preparing to home school our younger children (we were living overseas and had selected to not start them in the international school), I found your book, The Well Trained Mind and was thrilled. Where had you been before???
    Your contribution to the home school movement and to the arena of curriculum is invaluable. Thank you. I do hope you are continue to with stand the heat! We need educators and historians like you!

  20. WildIris says:

    Oh, good grief ! is right. What a way to spend ones time. At least you’re getting paid. I get the impression that many, many people look to others, to you, for the answer– “Solve my problem please” without looking to themselves first. You can’t be everything to everyone and remain true to yourself. No matter what you do, you’re going to offend or disenfranchise one group or another. This is one of those times when Sartre got it right, “Hell is other people.”

  21. Mary says:

    Mrs. Bauer,

    I am so disappointed that you received troubling comments at the convention this weekend. I never heard any of those negative comments and quite frankly would have laughed if I had. After reading your book, “The Well-Trained Mind”, I was ready to take on the challenge and adventure of home schooling. You thoroughly outline a classical education and make it attainable. Thank you for your ground-breaking work in this area.

    The opportunity to hear you speak in person was the greatest reason I wanted to attend the conference. You did not disappoint. I was greatly encouraged by your talks and challenged to improve myself both as an educator and a student. One of the remarks you made that I will carry with me is that we don’t need someone else’s stamp of approval on the curricula that we decide to use. If we have properly researched and made an educated and informed decision, that should be enough. That was truly something I needed to hear.

    Thank you again for your work and contributions to the home schooling world. Despite the challenges you faced this weekend, truly you have helped make my home schooling journey a better one because of the resources you have produced as well as your thorough and engaging talks! I am grateful you were there and you sincerely do inspire me.

  22. Brandy says:

    I was at the conference and thought you did a great job. I’m sorry to hear that you had to deal with all that. Thanks for all the work you do. Many of us are benefiting from it!

    • Brandy says:

      I have loved The Well Trained Mind and used many of the books from Peace Hill Press to educate my kids. Terrific work on all that! However, I was really disappointed to see the new Bible Curriculum you are promoting by Peter Enns. I understand that we all have different views and we can all get along in Christ. But, Mr. Enns espouses some pretty disturbing views. It is one thing to agree with him. It is quite another to endorse and market his views to a wide audience that trusts you. The bible affirms creation all the way through and gives us a chronology all the way back to Adam. Either the text is the supreme authority or our assumptions are. I don’t want my kids to wonder if Adam and Eve really existed, and I do want to explain sin, redemption, and the whole story of the bible to them at an early age. That stuff is not just for adults. As I said, I am not against you believing these things. I just think that many of his views are a little far from the beaten path for you to recommend them widely.

      • Susan says:

        Brandy, I understand your concerns, but many inaccuracies and quotes taken out of context have been published and repeated about this curriculum. I would encourage you to read the online samples for yourself.

  23. Lisa says:

    Susan,

    So many people have already said what I would say to you. You have inspired, challenged, and encouraged me in my home schooling endeavor as no one else has. I was at the conference this weekend and returned ready to finish our school year with a flourish rather than doing whatever it takes to (please!) get it over. Thank you so much for your written and spoken words. It was an honor and privilege to attend your workshops and talk with you briefly at your booth. Please do not be discouraged by all this foolishness!

    Lisa

  24. JD House says:

    This reminds me a bit of the similar situation that Madeleine L’Engle found herself in when she was writing her Wrinkle in Time series. From what I’ve read, her books had enough Christian themes to cause rancor on the Left, but she strongly avoided evangelical ideology and so many Christian bookstores refused to even sell her books. She found herself caught in the middle, much as you describe yourself.

    FWIW, I’m a secular homeschooling dad using many of your materials in teaching my two children. (My wife and I have opposite work schedules so that I’m home teaching in the early day and she takes over in the later afternoons.) I haven’t been put off at all by the mythological elements (Christian or otherwise) in your history books. Although we’re not Christian ourselves, we have a deep appreciation for how religion has shaped world cultures and recognize that you can’t tell the story of a society without telling the full story, including religion, politics, art, mythology, etc.

    I appreciate ideology but, like the Greeks, I have the greatest appreciation for ideology tempered by moderation. One of the things that I love about your work is that it reflects that temperance while still guiding towards a noble and valuable goal. Moderation is usually the most easily forgotten virtue, and I’m glad to see you standing your ground in the middle. My hat is off to you.

    Regards,

    JD House

  25. Greg Gick says:

    Ms. Bauer:

    While I agree with the most part that (regarding the critic on Amazon) such people believe you have an “agenda,” I must disagree that they find that agenda standardized and “impersonal.” They find it VERY personal–you (to their minds) can’t POSSIBLY be truly “educated” if you even mention a currently practicing religion without mocking it. No one cares if you mention Set or Thor,because no one seriously worships them today–they have been sent to the status of myth. Thus, anyone who does not do the same to Moses or Jesus must be a right-wing tea-partying Jesus freak whose goal is to tell everyone how to live their lives.

    In regard to those who say you are not Christian, I’m sure you know there are those who feel that if it doesn’t DIRECTLY have Christ as “overlord” of the subject, then it is of no worth knowing. In their minds, by even MENTIONING other religions or pagan cultures, you are denying the Lordship of Christ over all–you should rather, in their view, be lamenting these poor unsaved people and their demonic religions.

    Personally I think you’re right on the money–but who listens to me when these two sides are so much louder?

  26. Jennifer says:

    I came to (almost all) of your sessions this past weekend. Yes- that was me, the stalker-lady on the front row! :) My husband and I are devout Christians and, though we do want to teach our children about Jesus, your approach to homeschooling has been refreshing to us. We use “The Well Trained Mind” as a spine for our entire curriculum. I’ve found that 95% of the curriculums out there are laced with either a”throw a Christian word in there to make it holy” shallow tone or “every sentence must talk about Jesus” overbearing attitude. I grew up using a variety of curriculums like this in private Christian schools. It did not bring me closer to God. It simply gave me a watered down, boring education, devoid of many great books because they “might lead to bad thoughts” (rather than using those questionable phrases to teach the child about how the world really is). I love the objectiveness of both your works- “Story of the World” and the “History of the World.” I hate that others are being so harsh. You are blessing so many lives through what you do- thank you!

  27. Anne Goodrich says:

    I too was at the conference. I was really only there to see you! You did not disappoint.

    I would love to see you again ,but for a longer time. Thank you for all your hard work!

  28. Laura Turner says:

    “It must be hard for those who take authority as their truth, instead of truth as their authority.”

    I have a daughter who is a Type 1 diabetic. She was diagnosed when she was in 3rd grade. She missed a lot of school.

    She is now 11 (6th grade) and we are doing Math-U-See Gamma. She’s finally getting multiplication. She failed math in 5th grade in the public schools. Thanks to “The Well Trained Mind” we’ve finally found a program that works.

    We had her tested for everything from ADHD, Aspergers, etc., etc. She failed all those tests. She reads far above her grade level; in the reading test she was actually above high school level. The teacher actually stopped the test because she never spelled a word wrong nor did she ever not know what it meant.

    We moved from Michigan to Tennessee and the school’s here are so poor there was no alternative but to home school. We started in September 2010. I did not read “The Well Trained Mind” until December. I have just now purchased all the books I need to give her a “classical education”.

    I am NOT a Christian. I was raised Catholic, but I cannot and will not believe in a God that requires human and/or animal sacrifices. If he knows everything and still requires such things, then he is not above any of the cruel dictators whose goal it has been to “rule the world”. In other words, he is not worthy of worship. I guess I don’t really belive in worship, except in such things that give humans simple joy, like existence itself and the existence of those we love.

    I do believe in LIFE and I do believe that we do not know everything. That is my objection to religion, since most of them claim to know that you are either going to “hell” or “heaven” (or whatever your religion chooses to call it) by their criteria.

    I love home schooling my daughter; I love your books and hope you continue to write them. Since my daughter and I also study all the different religious beliefs mankind has come up with, it doesn’t matter all that much what you write about religious beliefs. In fact, it’s quite helpful, as it gives us a stepping stone for further study.

    Thank you for what you’ve done, and thank your Mother as well. She is truly an inspiration.

  29. Kat says:

    Dear Susan I am a homeschooling mum from Australia. We love your work and it is very much appreciated. The Well Trained Mind gets me very excited. At first it was a bit overwhelming but I find everything flows wonderfully now. We follow science as suggested in TWTM (though in a lapbooking style), SOTW, WWE & FLL. I find your work engaging and inspiring. My kids thrive on your lessons. So once again thank you very much. Oh and I do have one request please continue WWE & FLL up until Grade 12 as that will make my life so much easier :) (Yes I’m sure my grammar is terrible – lol). Warm Regards from Down Under

  30. Julie Morris says:

    Susan,

    I have been using WTM since 1999. We have used SOTW twice and have read both of your adult-level world history books. I’m a regular on the WTM forums. Our school is almost completely secular, but I will use a source from a religious author or publisher if it is a quality one. Your voice on the topic of religion is the most refreshing perspective I have ever heard, and I have heard you comment on it again and again in the very same way. You are living with integrity. Nothing less would make someone like me convert to any religion.

    So, even though you lose your physical voice from time to time, please know how important it is that you keep talking and writing. We need people like you out there to represent some sanity in the home educating world.

  31. Elizabeth Taylor says:

    Respectfully, Dr. Bauer, I don’t think this is as much about your materials or how the church does evangelism, as it is about the fact that you are publishing and promoting a “Bible” curriculum for children that, to those who take the Bible as inerrant/infallible, borders on heretical. That’s the issue.

    To Mr. Ham and others, this is akin to a “bait and switch” operation– trying to sell something for Christians homeschoolers to teach their kids the Bible that does not stand on biblical truth. I think there are doctrinal problems with his material nothwithstanding “Old/Young” earth interpretation.

    Just some things for you to consider.

  32. Susan,

    Can I add my voice to the appreciation fest? :-)

    When I read the Well Trained Mind, about one year into our homeschooling adventure (my oldest is set to graduate next year), I knew I’d found a priceless resource. My story could have been yours, in the beginning…until the part when your mom took you out of school and taught you herself. Mine had no clue–she was a teenager when I was born–and therefore went along with all of the school’s (well-intentioned but horrible) suggestions for me, and then everyone just gave up and let me muddle through and read whatever books I wanted to, on the side. (Thank God for that, at least.)

    Now I’m the person digging with my hands, that you describe when you talk about encountering college students who are bright, but weren’t ever guided, or given the precious tools of specific instruction.

    My kids won’t have to dig with their hands, thanks to you.

    (I’ve also shared The Well Trained Mind with other homeschoolers, and at least once, have been totally taken off guard when a woman came back to me and said, “Does she not believe in the Virgin birth?” ::Picture the needle scratching off the record here, and me tilting my head like the RCA dog looking at the phonograph:: She had fixated on a passage where you utilize a (fictional) debate about that subject…as an argument for logic. It was…surreal. Anyway, I *get* that you’re misunderstood on several fronts–and correctly understood and shunned on various others. I’m glad you seem to be rather resilient. ;-)

    Jill

  33. Lisa S. says:

    Susan,

    Sorry you are catching fire from both sides. My husband runs a Christian non-profit, writes and speaks and from time to time is put in the “heretic” camp. It is always puzzling to me that others have so much time that they can hunt people down and form such fast opinions of people that they do not even know.

    I just wanted to let you know that I really appreciate your work. I appreciate you doing what you do well. I appreciate how you handle your faith in the process of it all. Thanks,

    Lisa

  34. Great article! Just what we homeschoolers needed to hear! I had been turned off to classical education at first because, as a Mormon, I was barred from joining our local, classical homeschool group here in Virginia, and while Classical Conversations said that my children could attend their classes, I would not be allowed to teach any children there because I am L.D.S. (though to be fair, they said that I could work in the nursery). This left me with the impression that classical education was only for people belonging to certain faiths or denominations.

    Only after I discovered your book did I realize that classical homeschooling can be incorporated in the homes of people from all walks of life–that classical education is for everyone! So while I still cannot join any of the classical education organizations in my area, I still feel as if I am a part of the classical education movement, thanks to your book.

    Thank you, and keep talking. We ARE listening! :)

  35. Cindy Zimmerman says:

    Thank you for your posts, your writing & your work toward ‘well-trained’ minds in our culture. You have a wonderful grasp on the issues & I appreciate your focus to live out the verse in James. Hope to hear you speak in Cincinnati.

  36. Tammi says:

    I just wanted to say that I’m so sorry that you’re catching flak from both sides. I’ve recently purchased The Well Trained Mind as I am seriously considering homeschooling my grandaughter. She will enter second grade in the fall. I really like everything I’ve read so far (although it’s a little difficult, for me, to flip back and forth on the Kindle–might still have to buy the actual book, so I can use my trusty sticky notes!). I think I saw somewhere that you will be speaking in Houston this summer. I’m about 5 hours from there, so I’m now trying to convince my husband that we need to attend. Hang in there and keep up the good work.

  37. Kelly Gatz says:

    That was a really long read but well worth the time. Religion and education are both really polarizing issues. You are bound to catch fire from both sides on either issue.

  38. Lindy says:

    I really appreciate the work that you have done to make my life easier! :) My kids beg for history and I love it! That is so different then when I was young and history was just a subject to be endured. I can also identify as being someone in the religious crosshairs. As a devote Christian that many in the “Christian” community do not recognize, I can completely understand some of your frustrations. Thank you for being willing to put yourself out there and help those of us who want a better education for ourselves and our children.

  39. Erin says:

    The Well-Trained Mind is my go-to homeschooling resource, because I know that the materials you review and recommend serve their intended purpose- academic education. I am a Bible-believing Christian, but I am not interested in theology sprinkled into a grammar curriculum. Beyond being uninterested- this is something we actively avoid. We, as parents and in our church community, want the teaching of theology and the gentle imparting of faith to be our own responsibility. So thank you for your integrity in curriculum choices!

  40. Sydni Bamberg says:

    Susan,

    I just wanted to say thank you for all that you do. I love, love, love all of your curriculum and have been so thankful that you have made your speaking engagements available on audio to those of us who live on the other side of the states from you and won’t likely get to hear you speak in person! (Unless you come way out west sometime? Maybe?) Anyway, I’m glad that you are who you are! I’m so sorry that people will believe every single thing they read on the internet. Satan wants nothing more than to get us caught up in controversies such as this one to deviate us from our main goal of worshiping God and bringing Him glory.

  41. Danny says:

    Susan,
    The real question is: why Peter Enns? Why? Why? Why? I have listened to public lectures. Read his blogs at BioLogos. I think I have a good grasp on context. His insistence that Paul is the problem for “dragging Adam into the NT” is awful. Clearly Jesus believed in the Genesis account. So do we submit to Paul’s authority or on Peter Enn’s authority??? Theology matters. I know the current trend in the church is to devalue theological shcolarship…but it matters.

    • Susan says:

      Danny,

      I’ve answered these questions before, on this blog, and I will address them again if necessary. Before I do, though: you sound like your mind is made up. So is this a genuine question? If I answer it, will it satisfy your curiosity? Because it sounds more like an already-decided opinion placed, Jeopardy-like, in the form of a question.

      SWB

      • Danny says:

        We love you and we love WTM. We are not book burners and will continue to use your curriculum…just not curriculum associated with Enns. I am open to a changing of mind from the pages of Scripture. However, saying this gently. That seems to be where the battle lies-do the Scriptures have power. Did Jesus believe wrongly of a literal Adam?
        Here’s the problem, my problem. Your name and books carry A LOT of weight in our household. Part of the practice of homeschooling is parents get to choose a curriculum or cirricula that reflect our beliefs and philosophies. So we have been lazy-and that’s not your fault. It pains me to see your books and publisher’s books go into the “needs discernment” pile so to speak…and I’m not saying that to hurt. If you feel you have given this question or some like it your best answer, a link would be sufficient. If you think there is more you need to elaborate then, ok. I apologize for a previous post and ask your forgiveness. WTM was a breakthough, groundbreaking, worldview changing book…I stand by that.

        • Susan says:

          Danny,

          Thanks for the response.

          Let me just say three things.

          First, we have felt the need to put out a statement here: http://www.welltrainedmind.com/publishers-statement-olive-branch-books-and-telling-gods-story/

          Second, I addressed some of your concerns in the comments near the bottom of this thread, so rather than re-addressing them, let me give you the link: http://www.susanwisebauer.com/blog/the-raving-writer/life-on-the-border/#comments

          Third, can I just pick on you a little bit about your feeling “pained” that my books now need to go into the “needs discernment” pile?

          They should ALWAYS have been there. And no matter how trustworthy you might think I am in matters of history and writing, anything that I, or anyone else, publishes as an aid to understanding your faith should go on the “needs discernment” pile and stay there.

          I hear what you’re saying: It’s a relief to feel like you’ve found a “safe place,” an authority that can be trusted.

          Danny, there’s just no such place. I think you and Dr. Enns have serious disagreements, and this curriculum is probably not for you. I would venture that those disagreements are not on the core of your faith, but that, of course, is where the debate lies. The point I’m making is that you should never accept anyone’s word that any materials dealing with your faith are “safe” and do not need further analysis. Not mine, not Dr. Enns, not any of the leaders and public figures who are currently shouting so loudly.

          I hope you understand what I’m saying here. It isn’t meant to be snarky.

          SWB

      • Danny says:

        BTW, our basic reason for HS is that I cannot write well(but you know that already)….I want above all else, my kids to be proficient writers…that is all.

  42. Janet says:

    The WTM is the reason we homeschool. I’ve always appreciated your rational, balanced, well-thought-out approach to education and other issues. As for all the drama going on right now, I can only repeat the bumper sticker I saw recently, “Jesus…..save me from your followers”.

    (P.S. I am a Christian….but I still saw the humor in that saying.)

    Keep up the good work!

  43. Betania Neuman says:

    Beaumont, CA
    Your influence and mentoring through your books have revolutionized the way I think and homeschool. My children thrive using your books. This morning I told my kids that we were going to take the day off because we were sick. My 7 y/o son said, “But mom, can we just do Writing with ease?”
    Thank you!

  44. Stacey says:

    Susan,

    Just so you know, your voice really wasn’t that bad to your listeners at the Greenville conference :) Maybe it’s because you’re so amazing at teaching, that I just didn’t notice. Anyway, thank you for being there, because during your writing class I realized that I have been pushing my daughter way too hard. My expectations for her have been at least 2 grade levels higher than they should be. I’m sure if my daughter were awake right now, she’d thank you too. Since hearing your lecture, our homeschooling days have been a lot less stressful.

    And by the way, The Well Trained Mind is what made me want to homeschool in the first place. Thanks for doing what you do!

    Stacey

  45. Alicia says:

    We are secular homeschoolers and have used SOTW. I read the Amazon reviews you quoted before I bought the ancient book, and I appreciated them as a sort of “heads up.” We deal with heavy amounts of evangelism in our local HS community and I didn’t want to be blindsided.

    I think it is impossible to really hide our beliefs even when we try to be neutral. When my children and I read the accounts of ancient beliefs in the book, my oldest commented that they seemed to be told differently. The other beliefs were mentioned in a sort of “Isn’t that interesting?” way. The stories were sprinkled with language like “they believed…”. However, Moses seemed to be presented as fact. The tone was not that the Christians who believed these things were quaint or interesting. Yes, all the stories were included, but some seemed to be told as history and some as mythology.

    I mention this not because I have a problem with it, but to give the perspective of one secular HSer. I do understand what those Amazon readers were saying, even though I understand that you worked very hard to avoid what you were being accused of and probably cannot even see the nuances from where you stand.

    When I have tried to teach my children what various political sides believed, I have tried very hard to express the other sides in a neutral and positive way. Despite this, others have told me repeatedly that I need to have someone else explain those because I apparently do such a bad job of it. :) People are not machines, and it’s not a bad thing that our beliefs and values seep into what we do and say.

    I greatly respect you as an author and educator, and firmly believe that you have a right to write whatever you like! The more famous people get, the more they are attacked in our culture. It’s true for everyone from actors to politicians to writers. In a way, it makes me grateful to be one of “the little people.” :) I’m very sorry you (or anybody) has to deal with these attacks from people who expect you to share every goal and belief they do.

    I’m glad you wrote this and I hope the angry masses move on to some other outrage. You have always been a blessing to the homeschool community.

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