This is a general explanation of my personal philosophy and opinion behind choosing particular books for Guest Hollow curriculums, specifically for the high school levels.
First, a heads-up about who I am. I am a Christian who creates a lot of literature-based curricula. Most of that curricula is intended to be secular or neutral in its approach. Creating this curriculum entails scheduling a variety of books (both fiction and nonfiction) written by a variety of authors.
Some of the books or materials I’ve chosen may be considered controversial in some homes. Some materials may contain references to dark or mature themes. There may also be sexual content or curse words. In most cases I try to include notes or specific warnings about content we think may be objectionable, and you can see those notes in the online book and resources pages for our curricula.
An example of those notes are in the excerpts from some of our book lists below. I’m including books from several of our curriculums, so you can get an idea of what topics our notes may cover.
Note: This book mentions: violence, death, and sexual content (a girl’s breast is grabbed, and it is known that a woman is prostituting herself to save her son’s life)
Note: There is cursing (via quotes of famous figures) and violence (including factual descriptions of torture and/or killing) in this book. Rape is mentioned, but not described. The persecution of homosexuals is mentioned in the chapter about McCarthyism.
Note: This book contains: a brief mention of sexual attitudes in Scandinavia – Look in the section about family life or click here to see a screenshot of the entire section of potential concern. It also contains the fact that people use the sauna naked (and that this isn’t seen as sexual), a curse word in the idiom section, and a mention of a 1400s fertility ritual where boys ran naked through the fields as girls hiked up their skirts and showed their bottoms (in the celebrations section).
*WARNING: This book contains nudity- both male and female. The nudity is depicted via 3-D style illustrations and does show detail, although in a scientific type of style. You will have to decide if this is appropriate for your students or not.
Note: This book contains: mentions of rape (without graphic details), sexual slavery (again, no graphic details), and there is also violence including the murder of a baby
Note: This book contains: nudity (natives in Papua – p. 54, p. 155, p. 287), a child in underwear (p. 155).
As you can see in the examples above, I try to list some potential concerns underneath each book cover. You can use those notes to help you choose which books are a fit for your family (or not).
ANY book or video may have items of particular or unanticipated concern. Usually we will note more specifically what those concerns are to help you make the decision of whether a book (or video) is appropriate for your children or not. That does not guarantee that we will “catch” everything or comment on everything. I may not mark something that *I* think is OK and you don’t. In addition, if I don’t mark something, it doesn’t necessarily mean I think it’s appropriate. 😉
We were once were contacted by a customer who was concerned about the following video (scheduled in one of our high school curriculums) showing some line-drawn cartoon nudity:
We didn’t dream there would be an issue with it, while someone else thought it was inappropriate for their teen. That difference of opinion is OK! Every family is different, and what’s OK for some may not be for others. It’s OK to have different ideas and approaches to life (and parenting). I don’t agree with some political ideas or parenting ideas, etc., but I’m respectful of others to have the RIGHT to think the way they want to (even if *I* think they are wrong, lol). 😉
As a parent, of course, you will have to be the judge and thoroughly preview all materials to make sure you feel comfortable with them.
Some of you may be appalled that we include certain books (or videos) in a particular curriculum. Some of you may think our curriculum isn’t Christian enough (even though most of our curricula is secular or neutral!!). 😉 Why do we schedule anything for a student that contains mature themes like sex, violence and other issues that some may not feel comfortable with?
Firstly, books are chosen for their main content. History contains topics that are tough to broach, like slavery, sexual content, rape, violence, genocide, child brides, and other difficult topics. We don’t shy away from truth and facts, especially at the high school level.
For science, there may be a book about a particular scientist or person in history that is included to give a real-life perspective of someone who loves science and his/her discoveries, etc. Particular substances may be discussed, or an author may share certain experiences in the course of a narrative.
There are videos and books I include that contain content I personally do NOT agree with, but I believe helps present a rounded view of a topic (specifically – some of the history videos comes to mind). Some topics we cover are opinion based, and I want students exposed to both sides when that is the case. Other materials may cover topics that are against my religion, but are factual. For example – that the Greeks felt very comfortable with homosexual relationships, and some of their stories about gods contained these relationships. That is a FACT. I don’t shy away from books that may mention that (for world history), but I include a note about it and offer other options for families who don’t want to include a book like that in their homeschools.
As parents, we (collectively) should take the above into account as we make decisions as to what our children can and can’t do, what they can or can’t watch, etc. in my opinion, measured amounts of freedom should be given out in direct relation to what our children can handle and what helps them to grow. As parents, we believed our goal was to help and guide our children to maturity so that the process of becoming an adult was less of a sudden and distinct line to cross over, but instead something that happened so gradually, and appropriately they wouldn’t even realize it had occurred. Let me give you an example:
When my husband turned 18, he was excited to crash into the world and get to do whatever it is that 18-year-olds do. He was an adult now! He could do adult things! It suddenly dawned on him that he was already functioning as an adult because his dad had done a good job of “gradually” letting go. There was no “sudden line to cross”!
I think the process of learning how to be an adult is similar to potty training or weaning. Taking the most common scenario: one day, your two-year-old is in diapers, and you decide it’s time to learn how to potty. It doesn’t, for MOST of us, happen that he suddenly stays dry and has no accidents on the first day. It’s a gradual process. It is not often a parent can point to the exact day when junior has stayed dry and continues to stay dry “forever”. It just sort of “happens”.
I endeavor to include books that encourage a love for the topic(s) being studied and that include facts or experiences necessary to convey truthful information in an interesting way. If someone wants a more controlled curriculum without a multiplicity of diverse resources and literature that may contain worldly material, then Guest Hollow materials may not be a good fit. Even our Christian biology program (where we generally stay away from evolution as much as possible) features some videos that talk about evolution – because the rest of the content of the video was worthwhile. Concepts such as evolution are also something students will come across in the general culture at this point and time, even if they are disagreeable concepts in your household.
I believe we do our children a disservice by shielding them completely from the world. That doesn’t mean I don’t think we should protect and shelter our children. Rather, I think that as parents, it’s our job to protect them and too few are doing it “nowadays”. I do think, however, that understanding the concept that the world is not all about fuzzy bunnies and lollipops is important, so that children can be prepared with the tools they need for assaults upon their character, their spiritual lives, and just so that they have a true understanding of life and reality.
Every child matures at a different rate and has a different personality. Some children may be deeply disturbed to hear certain things, and others may not be fazed in the slightest. Some others may wish to emulate wrongdoing.
In my belief, as soon as many “over sheltered” children are out of their parent’s household, they find themselves suddenly thrust into the world without having the prior chance to flex their wings. They try to fly….and fall. These young people are not prepared for the smorgasbord of life and what the world offers. They were told and were taught to choose “healthy foods” from the table of life, but were never shown what to avoid. They also weren’t given practice in turning down some of the bad things or even understanding that some of those things exist until they were out of the home. That’s one of the reasons why, in my opinion, you hear of children, including Christian children, going a little “nuts” once they leave home and go to college (or whatever it is they are doing). Ever hear of the “preacher’s kid” stereotype?
This doesn’t mean I believe in allowing kids to run wild and get into situations they aren’t ready to handle. I do believe though in allowing them the opportunity to be tempted, within reason and in accordance with their own personalities, abilities, and level of spiritual growth. One child may be fine going off to the movies by himself. For another, it might spell disaster. You as a parent will know your child the best and know what level of freedom and “testing” is or is not appropriate.
So how does this relate to the books I’ve chosen? When we were raising our kids, I wanted them to be exposed, on MY terms, to the great big world out there. I wanted them to know of some things that are going on (or have happened) so that:
1. They could protect themselves when we were not around to protect them. (If you are not aware of the dangers that exist, how can you prepare for them? I don’t just mean physical things. I’m also talking about mental and spiritual aspects of our lives.)
2. They could learn compassion and understanding for some things others have had to suffer.
3. They were living in reality. That didn’t mean they needed to learn about every filthy detail (or even ANY info on some subjects). That just meant they needed to understand what we’re all up against.
4. We could discuss things in detail together, as a family. I wanted to be able to allow books to spark some very interesting conversations where they could pick apart adult issues with a mature adult’s perspective, supervision and wisdom right at hand. This was teaching time and time for flexing their wings, so to speak.
5. So they could be grateful and appreciative of the many blessings they had in their lives.
6. So they would know potential results of what happens in people’s lives when they reject specific teachings of character, God’s word, morality, the law, etc.
7. So they could know what needs to be changed or improved in this world, allowing them to get involved in helping to precipitate that change.
To be sure, there were things I didn’t want my kids to see or know about or that made me feel uncomfortable, but my job was to prepare them for the real world, and, in my opinion, the real world is an ugly place. As a Christian, it’s my belief that we are to abstain from some things, and I don’t think God shies away from showing reality or having humans be aware of what’s going on. The Bible is full of frank discussions/stories/lessons about things like prostitutes, sex, violence, and even the killing of infants:
1 Samuel 15:2-3 New King James Version
Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. 3 Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’ ”
How many Christians would censor the above if they didn’t realize it was directly from the Bible? Having said that, I think it’s perfectly fine to NOT read that to your grade schooler. But a high schooler….I’m ok with that.
There are subjects that are challenging to address. I believe high schoolers need to be prepared to handle them. They are going to run into situations and subjects that are MUCH worse as soon as they leave your home. To be honest, most students already have encountered and/or experienced things of which their parents are probably not even aware.
So…to wrap it up, yes, we are Christians. Yes, we believe in good parenting and keeping things away from children (and even ourselves) that may not be appropriate. We recognize that everyone’s thoughts about what is and isn’t appropriate will vary. We may include books and materials that some may find objectionable because we believe the material, taken as a whole, in a particular book or video, is worthwhile despite what some might consider questionable content.
Having said that, if you run into material you think we should have included a note about, you are encouraged to let us know. We are always happy to clarify things better to help everyone make the best decision for their family (and we may add notes or make changes at our discretion). 🙂 We love our customers, even those we may not agree with, and those who don’t necessarily agree with us.
I hope this post helps our customers understand where we are coming from when we include particular resources.
What are YOUR thoughts about censoring what your children read or watch? What do you base your decisions on? Please consider leaving a comment and sharing your thoughts on this sensitive topic (even if you think differently from us).