Creationism, home schooling, and falling away from the Christian faith

Warning: the following statement is anecdotal and not the result of any sort of formal research: Christian kids who are home schooled all the way from pre-school through high school are only about fifty percent likely to retain their Christian faith once they finish high school.

As I said, this “statistic” is not the result of a survey. Of the dozen or so kids I know who were home schooled K-12, roughly half of them still consider themselves to be Christians.

I know, that is a very small sample size. I would be interested in seeing some real numbers based on careful research.

All of these children were raised using young-Earth creationist materials. For their science curricula they used Bob Jones, Abeka, Apologia, or other young-Earth curricula. They watched AIG, ICR, and Dr. Dino videos. And despite this heavy dose of “creation apologetics,” they wandered from the faith. This is heartbreaking for the parents, of course, who have poured their lives into their children, with very mixed results.

The publishers of young-Earth curricula present glowing testimonies from families’ success stories. Billy and Suzy used Curriculum X and Billy got a 99th percentile on the ACT science portion and Suzy has been accepted to an Ivy League medical school.

The parents who somehow “failed” in their home schooling, on the other hand, are likely to keep to themselves and wonder what they did wrong.

I know that this is a complex issue, but perhaps part of the problem is with the science curricula. If young Earth creationism doesn’t work scientifically (and it doesn’t), then we are giving our youth a poor foundation for their faith. If it isn’t necessary Biblically (and it isn’t), then we are telling them that the Bible’s trustworthiness hinges on something that isn’t required by a careful reading of the text. The results in the lives of our children, whether they get their creationism from a home school, a Christian school, or from Sunday school, is tragic.

May God in his grace draw these dear children to himself.

Grace and Peace

P.S. I write this with great respect for many, many home schoolers. We home schooled through fourth grade with some of our children, and I appreciate the dedication I see in home school families. This is not an attack on home schooling. I do question the dominance of young-Earth creationism in the Christian home school community.

13 thoughts on “Creationism, home schooling, and falling away from the Christian faith

  1. Actually, you are wrong on both points. has studied homeschooling for more than 20 years, and found that compared to children raised by Christian families who send their children to public school, homeschooled kids are MORE likely to “keep the faith.” According to NHERI, around 94% of homeschoolers keep the faith, but 75-85% of Christian children send to public schools drop out of church and do not hold a Christian worldview after highschool.
    Homeschooled kids are also more likely to attend college, more likely to vote, more likely to be civically involved (and believe that they can make a difference), and more likely to say they are very happy.
    That being said, homeschooling families, like other families, and not perfect…and most of all, their children, like all children, are born with a sin nature and a free will. Homeschooling certainly does not ensure “success”. But since rebellious children can come from even the best homes, you cannot call those parents “failures.” Have a little compassion, will you? These parents have sacrificed to try to teach their children in the way they feel the Lord has called them to do.
    As to your second point: We will have to agree to disagree. I believe there is plenty of scientific evidence for creationism. But most of all, I believe that Bible and reject ANYTHING that disagrees or conflicts with it. That includes evolution.
    I wonder, too, what type of message it sends our children if we choose to teach them to reject the literal Word of God and believe that they are a product of chance, the result of the “survival of the fittest”, not a special creation of God.
    What else in the Bible will they choose to reject?


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  3. geochristian


    Thanks for your comment.

    I have no doubt that I am probably wrong on my first point. I suspect that the faith retention rate among those raised in a Christian homeschool environment is higher than my anecdotal evidence of 50%. I looked at the nheri site and couldn’t find the 94% figure you quoted, and it would be interesting to see how they did their research. As I said, parents who feel like they ‘failed’ as homeschoolers might not be as accessible to the polsters as parents who are happy to brag about their kids (and rightfully so).

    Which brings up your “Have a little compassion” statement. I do have compassion for parents whose kids fall away from the faith, and pray that these lost sheep would return to the fold. I don’t look at these parents as failures, and I don’t blame them for anything, but I do know that many parents whose kids have wandered from the faith can get rather introspective and wonder what they could have done differently. I know that if any of my children reject Christianity that I will struggle with the same “if-only-I-had-done-this-differently” issues.

    In regards to my second point—that young-earth creationism is part of the problem—I’ll stand by that one. I believe the Bible too, and reject anything that conflicts with it. Much of what is presented as Biblical truth by the YEC organizations, on the other hand, goes beyond what the Scriptures actually say. Does the Bible say that Noah’s flood deposited the sedimentary rocks? No. Does the Bible say that there was no animal death before the fall? No. But that doesn’t stop the YECs from holding these out as standards of orthodoxy. I do believe the Bible; I just don’t always believe Answers in Genesis.

    I do believe rather strongly that the “science” of the YECs doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. Click on “Best of the GeoChristian” up at the top of this page for some examples of what is wrong with “Creation Science.”

    Using bad arguments in defense of the Bible is always a bad idea. My concern is that many kids growing up on YEC materials eventually figure out that there are a number of problems with the standard YEC dogmas. Because they have been taught that if YEC isn’t true, then the Bible isn’t true, they stand the risk of throwing out their Christian faith along with their Dr. Dino DVDs. This is an unfortunate and unnecessary tragedy.

    Grace and Peace,
    Kevin N

    P.S. I see that you endorse Dr. Dino materials on your blog. Most young-Earth organizations keep their distance from his materials as his arguments are bad even by their standards. Much of the material on the AIG Arguments We Don’t Use page was originally written in response to Kent Hovind.


  4. I agree that sending kids out with a failed understanding of science can harm their faith, and I’ve seen it first hand and experienced some myself. That said, I know that some kids can accept Dr. Dino and not bother examining it, so it may turn out “ok” for them – but they are still misled. I understand Susan’s concerns, and I’m glad that she has examined the issue. I’ve come to different conclusions, as you have. I know Answers in Genesis and others seem to think doubting their Young-Earth interpretation leads to school shootings, but I think it’s unwise to leave children no other place to go when they see how weak these models are. (let me add that consequentialism is an invalid criticism) I believe you are trying to reach fellow old-earth Creationists with questions as I am working with theistic evolutionists with questions. There are plenty of pastors who would kick us both out of the Kingdom, but I’m inspired by thoughtful Christians who have been able to work with faith and reason – C.S. Lewis, Timothy Keller, Alister McGrath, N.T. Wright, Alvin Plantinga, Robin Collins, William Lane Craig, and many, many others. On a side note, my wife and I are currently homeschooling, but not for the purpose of hiding from Darwin ;-)


  5. geochristian


    Thanks for your comments, and for your blog.

    I know homeschoolers who definitely want to hide their kids from Darwin. Years ago when we were doing elementary school homeschooling, we were a part of a large homeschool group that met monthly. The leadership of this group came out with a warning that we shouldn’t take our kids to the new exhibit at the St. Louis zoo because of its talking Darwin statue. It would obviously be better to prepare our kids for the real world by completely shielding them from it.


  6. FYI–our faith and belief in creationism can stand up to strutiny and alternate points of view. We DO teach our children about Darwin and evolution–yes, including his theories. All homeschoolers that I know do the same. But we examine BOTH sides of the issue, and use creation SCIENCE to show that evolution is wrong.
    I know it’s been said before, but it’s so true: Evolution has so many holes in it that it takes more faith to believe in evolution than it does to believe in God. After all, evolutionists can’t even explain the “simple” cell.


  7. Anne

    As a homeschooler who was raised with creationist teachings, both in my home curriculum and in my church youth group, I agree so much with you, Kevin. I went off to college with the goal to study science so that I could better argue with evolutionist, but my in depth studies in the earth science department slowly convinced me of the truth of an old earth. I’m now a graduate student in paleoclimate, and during my senior year of college and first year of grad school, I went through a deep crisis of faith, along the lines of: I’ve always been taught that the only possible interpretation of Genesis is a young earth one, and if I no longer hold to that, can I hold to anything that the Bible says. I’ve thankfully come through it with my faith intact, and your blog has done a huge amount to help me, especially with explaining my views to my parents (I didn’t even tell my father what I was actually studying in grad school until several months after I started, since I was so afraid of how disappointed and upset he would be…). But being taught that a young earth interpretation was absolutely the only possible way to understand the Bible was a huge stumbling block for me in my faith, as I became aware of the ideas and facts behind modern geology.


  8. geochristian


    I am glad that my blog could play a role in helping you through your crisis of faith.

    This illustrates exactly what I am concerned about with much of what comes out of the YEC movement. Once people like you see that the whole system doesn’t work (with its dinosaurs on floating mats, accelerated radioactive decay that should melt the entire planet, and zillions of events squeezed into the flood year and its aftermath) they will question the truthfulness of their Christian faith, not because of what the Bible says, but because of the YEC additions to what the Bible says. Because the YECs teach that if YEC isn’t true, the Bible isn’t true, they are setting our young people up for a fall. They are well-meaning, but often do more damage than good.

    Paleoclimate is a fascinating topic, and I wish God’s blessings on you in your studies.


  9. Anne, I know where you are coming from – the “better argument” idea was part of my reasoning too. But I took many years to admit that I was defeated by the evidence – I made a little detour into Sophistry, questioning Reason etc etc. But it did not, it could not last.

    But although my folks know that I disgree with ICR, AIG & co., they only know of my forray into sophistry, not that I am no longer a YEC’ist of any stripe whatsoever. I am not planning to tell them – something that is a bit easier since they are over 15000 km away… Telling them could be the most traumatic thing between us ever, even worse than telling them I left the “evangelical” sect I grew up in, first to become a Calvinist, and eventually, Lutheran :)

    i do envy you your courage/ability to say as much to your folks.


  10. WebMonk

    Susan, you obviously won’t believe anyone here who points out that Evolution has VERY solid science behind it, far more truthful than any “science” YEC groups like Dr. Dino have ever used.

    However, perhaps you will take the word of a YEC scientist (genetic biology) who has written many articles for AiG and has submitted numerous papers with YEC science journals and conferences.

    I’ve only put in parts of what he wrote here, but you can go read his entire article at the link at the end. Remember, Dr. Wood is a through-and-through YEC scientist in excellent standing with groups like AiG.

    Evolution is not a theory in crisis. It is not teetering on the verge of collapse. It has not failed as a scientific explanation. There is evidence for evolution, gobs and gobs of it. It is not just speculation or a faith choice or an assumption or a religion. It is a productive framework for lots of biological research, and it has amazing explanatory power. There is no conspiracy to hide the truth about the failure of evolution. There has really been no failure of evolution as a scientific theory. It works, and it works well.

    I say these things not because I’m crazy or because I’ve “converted” to evolution. I say these things because they are true. I’m motivated this morning by reading yet another clueless, well-meaning person pompously declaring that evolution is a failure. People who say that are either unacquainted with the inner workings of science or unacquainted with the evidence for evolution.

    Creationist students, listen to me very carefully: There is evidence for evolution, and evolution is an extremely successful scientific theory.

    Evolution itself is not flawed or without evidence. Please don’t be duped into thinking that somehow evolution itself is a failure.


  11. Kathy

    Thank you, WebMonk for that link to Dr Wood’s blog. It is refreshing to see a YECist say those things.

    OT: How do I get my name as a link to my blog?


  12. JL

    Hi Geochristian, I just found your site and am going to start following it, as it is a good counterpoint to the YEC sites I also follow. I’m a former fallen-away Catholic, evolutionary geologist (BS,MS) turned YEC homeschooling mom, returned to the Catholic faith, and am trying to raise my kids to examine both sides of the issue. While I disagree with your assessment of YEC science, I appreciate your respectful tone. I try to teach my children that our Creator gave us the gift of reason for a reason, and to use it when investigating the subject of origins. I may add that years of discussing the subject with my skeptical attorney husband has also taught me to be very clear about my assumptions and precise about my definitions! My experience has been that the four of my eight children who are graduated or still in college have all retained their faith, and are all still skeptical of old-age-evolution. I look forward to reading more commentary on your site.


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