How Should a Homeschool Mom Teach Middle-School Evolution?

I am a homeschool mom - planning to teach middle school life science next year. What textbooks or resources would you recommend to help a middle schooler understand evolution. I don’t want to have to get my PhD in biology to be able to know I am giving her an accurate, up to date understanding. The ID criticisms of textbooks in Icons of Evolution made it more confusing. Are those reasonable criticisms? It seems like while scientists may have moved on from where Darwin started, most textbooks haven’t. Thanks in advance!

These are good questions.

There are several educators here, and they can point out some good resources. In general, I would start with a secular biology textbook. I also recommend lesson plans from TIES: Teacher Materials | Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science. In today’s day and age, I also recommend pointing your kids to free simulations on line too.

Do textbooks have errors? Yes. They certainly do, and they are certainly out of date. But that doesn’t matter so much. The way biology works is that there are rules, but there are also exceptions to the rules. The way biology educations works is that we teach kids the history and highly simplified (i.e. missing important information) models, and slowly introduce them to the complexity and exceptions over time. Prepare you kids by telling them this up front. The textbooks don’t give the whole story. They don’t discuss how it fits with theology. They don’t explain all the complexities. It is highly simplified, but pointing them in the right direction.

Does Icons of Evolution identify any real errors? Textbooks are a moving target. Unless there are yearly updates to the Wells’ book, I’m not sure you should have any confidence that any of the quotes have relevance to books your kids will read. I do believe that at least a few of his examples were correct at the time. For example, if I recall, it does seem that some of the textbooks were presenting some misleading images of embryology. But keep in mind that textbooks are intentionally simplifying, and it may not currently be an issue.

I also recommend you discuss with your kids how it fits with their faith.

  1. Point them to Jesus, not anti-evolutionism, as a foundation of a confident faith. https://peacefulscience.org/swamidass-confident-fatih.pdf

  2. Introduce them to the diversity of the Church on origins, including how different people fit evolution and theology together.

  3. Remind them that evolution is not the whole story, and scientists don’t even claim it is. So even if it is true, it does not explain everything.

  4. Encourage them to follow Proverbs 4:7, to seek understanding first, before feeling they have to decide what they believe about this. Even if they (or your) become certain evolution is false, there is value in understanding it. If they don’t understand it, they don’t have any hope critiquing it any ways!

  5. If you enjoy science yourself, considering learning some more. Perhaps with Friend of Science, Friend of Faith: Listening to God in His Works and Word: Davidson, Gregg: 9780825445415: Amazon.com: Books by @davidson or the GAE by @swamidass. Teach them the things you get excited about too.

Finally, come here and ask your questions. We are here to help you any way we can.

11 Likes

UC Berkeley has a site focused on basic education in evolution. It might be worth checking out.

https://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/teach/index.php

6 Likes

Excellent reference site, I’ve used it quite a bit personally.

@swamidass - where did the original question come from? This is a very real concern for parents that have been forced into teaching roles they have never had to consider before.

2 Likes

5 posts were split to a new topic: The BioLogos Homeschool Curriculumn

From the website form. I often post questions from there here.

1 Like

I used CK-12 Life Science for Middle School (ck-12.org - free online textbooks with embedded videos) this past year with 5th and 7th graders. I also tested a few Biologos Integrate units, which were mainly needed because my children attend a church that teaches YEC very strongly. I often read about science and faith myself, so I’m able to talk to my kids about interpreting Genesis 1-11. Some books I’ve found helpful, besides GAE ;), would include the Lost World series from John Walton, Friend of Science, Friend of Faith by Gregg Davidson, A Worldview Approach to Science and Scripture by Carol Hill. The Davidson book is probably the easiest read of all of those.

4 Likes

Thank you! I was the original question asker. I appreciate the book recommendations. CK-12 is what I am planning to use, also with a 5th and 7th grader!

2 Likes

Thank you for such a great and quick response to my question. My husband is a physics professor and he has found this description of the scientific process helpful when training students to work in his lab. It is a part of what we want our kids to understand about science. I’m curious if maybe some of the things they identify in “Icons of Evolution” are actually part of the path but not the points A or B in the story.

We’ve used Hewitt’s Integrated middle school text for physics (which is excellent). We moved away from it for chemistry (used the curriculum put out by the American Chemical Society). The Hewitt text has a biology section written by a biologist but the version we have feels outdated. The link you included looks like exactly what I was hoping to find!

The other resource I’ve really appreciated is the Novare textbooks (we have Earth Science and Physics). The way they describe the scientific process as mental model building is really helpful. It’s describes the process my husband goes through much more accurately than the “scientific method” that is always presented in kids textbooks/science fair activities. It also seems to fit more with what I’ve heard you say about evolution in some of your talk/debates. Unfortunately, their middle school level biology text isn’t expected to come out until after we need it.

For me, (grew up around mostly YEC, enjoys engineering and physics but who took one biology class in high school), it’s hard to know who to trust. Books like Icons of Evolution, cause me to distrust biology text books. Also, the rhetoric from certain atheists makes me distrustful, so I really appreciate your voice in the conversation!

3 Likes