C.S. Lewis’s Stepson at the Texas Homeschool Convention

Me and Douglas Gresham, C.S. Lewis’s stepson. The cross he is wearing was made by his daughter, a professional jeweler. It has Aslan at the center of the cross.

I travel to a lot of different places and meet a lot of different people. I also hear a lot of different speakers. After a while, most of those experiences become a blur in my mind. However, a few stand out as truly extraordinary, and last weekend was one of those. I spoke at the Texas Homeschool Convention, and while I was there, I got a chance to meet with Douglas Gresham, a man I had corresponded with a few years ago and interviewed a few weeks ago. We had a lovely lunch, over which Mr. Gresham shared some of his memories of C.S. Lewis, who he refers to as “Jack.”

As I listened to Mr. Gresham’s stories, I was struck by Dr. Lewis’s humor. This is not something I had noticed by reading his books and essays, and it is not something I recall any biographer discussing. Nevertheless, nearly every tale I heard was either charmingly witty or downright hilarious. For example, Mr. Gresham was discussing a time at the dinner table where his mother, Joy, asked C.S. Lewis about a task that she had reminded him of but was afraid he had forgotten. He said:

My mother asked, “Jack, did you take care of that matter?” Jack replied, “Yes, of course I did. What do you take me for, a fool?” She replied, “No, I took you for better or for worse.”

I also learned that Mr. Gresham was responsible for a bumper sticker that was popular a while ago. As I mentioned in my previous article, Mr. Gresham has become an advocate for homeschooling. Apparently, someone was interviewing him about education, and in his typical witty way, Mr. Gresham said:

Schools are for fish.

Later on, the interviewer contacted him and asked for his permission to turn that phrase into a bumper sticker. I remember seeing a couple of them at past homeschool conventions.

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Observations about Second-Generation Homeschoolers

One of several second-generation homeschoolers I have met this year.

This is “convention season” for homeschoolers across the United States, so I have been traveling to several different homeschool conventions, giving talks and speaking individually with lots of homeschooling parents. In some ways, these conventions never change. Many of the talks that I give are on the same topics that I spoke about at homeschooling conventions more than 20 years ago: how to “teach” science at home, why it is best for most students to be homeschooled through high school, and the fact that homeschooling produces graduates who are, on average, significantly better university students. Obviously, the details of the talks change every few years, but the basic points do not.

In the same way, many of the questions I get from homeschoolers are the same year after year and convention after convention. My son is only in 7th grade but is about to start Algebra 1. Should he really take high school biology? (In general, the answer is “yes,” but it depends on the student’s ability to work independently and how he reacts to academic rigor.) If he does take biology in 7th grade, can it be included on the high school transcript? (Once again, the answer is “yes.” See this article for more details.) My daughter is very talented in ballet and wants to pursue it as a career, but it requires a lot of rehearsal time. What should I do? (If a professional says that she has real potential, then you should scale back her other academic courses so that she can pursue her talents. Don’t neglect her education; just pare it down to the basic essentials so that she can have more time to hone her craft).

At the same time, however, each year brings a few changes. Some of the conventions that used to be large and well-attended are either very small or nonexistent. Other conventions that didn’t exist many years ago are now large and well-attended. Lots of new curricula are available, giving homeschoolers a wealth of choices for how to meet their children’s educational needs. The people you see at homeschooling conventions are also becoming more and more diverse every year.

This year, I noticed a new difference. Most likely, the difference has been slowly growing over a period of many years, but after speaking at the California Homeschool Convention this past weekend, it struck me that this year, I have interacted with a lot of second-generation homeschoolers (homeschool graduates who are now homeschooling their own children).

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Can Courses Taken in Junior High Be Included on a High School Transcript?

Me and Savannah, a scientist in the making!
Me and Savannah, a scientist in the making!

I just got back from Ontario, California, where I spoke at the California Homeschool Convention. I gave a total of five talks over the three-day conference, and I had the chance to speak with lots of homeschooled students and their parents. Several wonderful things happened at the conference, but the highlight for me is pictured above.

On Friday, a young lady named Savannah came up to my publisher’s booth and asked if I was Dr. Wile. I said yes, and she proceeded to tell me that she loved my biology textbook and planned to major in biology at university. I tried to express how much that meant to me, and then she hesitantly asked if I would sign her copy of my book. I said, “Of course!” She didn’t have it with her, but she promised to bring it the next day. Late into the convention on Saturday, she returned with her book, and when she handed it to me, she said, “This is my favorite book in the entire world!”

I had no idea what to say to that. While a lot of students tell me that they love my textbooks, and many of them have also said that my textbooks have inspired them to study science at university, I have never had anyone tell me that one of my books is their favorite book in the entire world! I have lots of favorite books, and none of them are science-related! Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of science-related books that I really love, but I wouldn’t list any of them as my favorites. When I think of my favorite books*, I think of fictional works like The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (my all-time favorite series), The Lord of the Rings, and Armageddon’s Children. Not a single science-related book comes to mind. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed by Savannah’s words.

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No, Young-Earth Creationism Isn’t a “New” Idea

One of the books that John Murray wrote on the subject of geology.
One of the books that John Murray (a 19th-century young-earth creationist) wrote on the subject of geology.
I spent this past weekend in Naperville, Illinois, speaking at the Illinois Christian Home Educators convention. It is a joy to do that convention, because not only are the attendees wonderful, the convention treats its speakers incredibly well. I gave a total of eight talks over three days, which is more than I do at most conferences. However, it was well worth it! As is always the case, I took a lot of questions from the audiences of those talks, but in this post, I want to focus on a question I got from someone while I was at my publisher‘s booth.

A homeschooling father told me that he was taking my advice and reading the works of people with whom he disagreed. I commended him for doing that and said that I wish more people would. He then asked about a statement he read in a Biologos article. He didn’t quote the statement, but for the sake of my readers, I will:

Young-earth creationism is relatively new and as recently as a century ago even fundamentalist Christians saw little reason to reject evolution.

I told him that I had read a statement like that at least once before, but I knew that it was utterly false, so I really didn’t pay much attention to it. In addition, I assumed that since the statement is so easily refuted, it must not be very common. However, he said that he had read it in more than one place. Sure enough, when I later did some surfing, I found essentially the same statement at an old-earth creationist website as well.

Since there are at least two sources that make this claim, I thought I would write an article that shows how utterly false it is.

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There is Hope

Three homeschool graduates who are planning to study chemistry at the university level.
Three homeschool graduates who are planning to study chemistry at the university level.

On Saturday, I had the honor of addressing homeschool graduates at the 23rd annual Indiana Foundation for Homeschooling Statewide Graduation Ceremony. It was an excellent ceremony with great music, wonderful speeches from two of the graduates, and plenty of tradition. For me, however, it was more than that. Nowadays, it is easy to be pessimistic about the future of our nation (and the world in general). This graduation ceremony helped remind me that there is hope, and it rests squarely on the shoulders of graduates like those at the ceremony.

There were a total of 80 students who took part in the ceremony, and some of them did something in addition to walking across stage and getting their diploma. One graduate played a (very difficult) violin piece as a prelude to set the mood. The color guard was composed of graduates, and three other graduates led the audience in singing the National Anthem. Two of the graduates gave inspiring speeches, each with a different message. One graduate sang a solo, and another played an impressive piano solo. I gave a commencement address that is similar to one I have given before, and its message is very important to me.

While all of these activities made for an excellent ceremony, they weren’t what inspired my hope for this nation (and the world as a whole). That came from getting to know many of the graduates. A lot of homeschool graduations have only a handful of graduates, since they service a small region instead of an entire state. As a result, you can learn a lot about each individual graduate. Since there were so many graduates at this ceremony, that wasn’t possible. Nevertheless, when each graduate walked across the stage, the screen showed his or her name and whatever information that the graduate wanted to share with the audience.

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Can a Homeschooled Child Take an Extra Year of High School?

A group of high school graduates (click for credit)
A group of high school graduates (click for credit)

This past weekend, I spoke at the Alberta Home Education Convention in Canada. As far as I know, it is the largest home education convention in Canada, and I think I have spoken there only once before, way back in the year 2000. It was really wonderful to go back. I met several parents who told me they remembered me from 17 years ago, and that I encouraged them to continue on in their homeschool journey. Their children are now in high school, at university, or in the real world, and they are very happy with their decision to continue homeschooling.

One of the kind souls who drove me around actually told me his son’s story, which is worth retelling here. He graduated homeschool many years ago and wanted to attend a major Canadian university. At that time, the university did not accept homeschool applicants. However, the student’s family knew someone on the inside, and that person was able to convince the university to accept him. At first, the university did not allow him to take any courses related to his desired major, because the administrators thought that homeschooled students “just played with Play-Doh all day.” As is generally the case, this homeschool graduate excelled, and the university quickly changed its tune. After he graduated with a 4.0 GPA and a pile of honors, the university asked him to help them write their admissions policy for homeschooled students.

I spoke several times at the convention, and the audiences were very appreciative. I always try to leave time at the end of my talks for questions from the audience, and I succeeded for every talk except one. Many of the questions related to very specific cases, but I got one question that I think could apply to everyone, so I decided to discuss it here. At the end of one of my talks, I was asked whether or not a homeschooled student could take a fifth year of high school. The mother thought that for one of her children, an extra year of high school would do a lot of good, but she was concerned that it might look odd to a university.

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More on the Flat Earth

The logo of the 2013 Flat Earth Society (click for credit)
The logo of the 2013 Flat Earth Society
(click for credit)
I have written about the concept of a flat earth several times before (here, here, here, and here). Since the time of Aristotle (and probably before), most philosophers understood that the earth is a sphere. In fact, Eratosthenes was able to measure the circumference of the earth’s sphere around 200 BC. Thus, the idea that most ancient scholars thought the earth is flat is a complete fabrication. Indeed, the idea that people thought Columbus would sail off the edge of the world originated in works of fiction, not works of history. Nevertheless, from time to time, I encounter a modern person who believes that the earth is flat or knows someone who does. Such was the case this past weekend when I attended the Indiana Association of Home Educators annual convention.

I love attending that convention. Not only is it close to home, but the organization that runs it is incredible, and the speakers they invite are usually quite wonderful. I don’t always get to attend, because I am often asked to speak at a different convention that same weekend. However, this year, I had no previous commitments, so I went to the convention to sit at my publisher’s booth and give a brief talk about my new award-winning elementary science series. At the end of my talk, a homeschooling mother asked to speak with me about the fact that some people in her family were beginning to believe that the earth is flat. She asked what she could do help debunk that notion.

I talked with her for a while and gave her a couple of resources, and I also gave her my e-mail address in the hopes that her family members would send me any questions they had on the issue. However, as I started thinking about our talk, I decided it would be best to produce a page where I could gather some of the resources that clearly show the earth is not flat. It’s rather ironic that an idea which could be easily refuted more than 2,000 years ago still requires refuting today. Nevertheless, I am happy to do my part.

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The Future of Creation Science is Bright

Dr. John Sanford (right) and me (left) at the Creation Science Fellowship Meeting in Costa Mesa, California.
Dr. John Sanford (right) and me (left) at the Creation Science Fellowship Meeting in Costa Mesa, California.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to walk among giants…well…at least figuratively speaking. I got to participate in panel discussion with Dr. Steve Austin, Dr. John Baumgardner, and Dr. John Sanford. Anyone who has spent much time researching the origins issue will recognize at least one of these individuals, as they are all excellent scientists who write and do research from a creationist perspective. I didn’t think I belonged on the panel, since I consider them all to be much more accomplished and talented scientists than me, but the people at the Creation Science Fellowship in Costa Mesa, California seemed to think I could contribute to the discussion, so I was included.

While the panel discussion was well attended and very productive (I will discuss it a bit in a moment), the most exciting aspect of the trip for me was meeting Dr. Sanford. He is an incredibly gifted geneticist. For example, he co-invented the “gene gun,” a device that can introduce DNA from one organism into a completely different species of organism. He has also done some excellent creationist research (see here and here, for example) and has written what I consider to be the best book about genetics and evolution, Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of The Genome. I have discussed parts of it in previous posts (see here and here).

I was also thrilled to hear about an organization he is leading, which is called Logos Research Associates. It is a group of scientists who are committed to doing original, cutting-edge scientific research from a creationist perspective. Their current projects investigate issues in oceanography, genetics, geophysics, and geology. The more I discussed his organization and its projects, the more excited I became. The projects are incredibly interesting, and the way they are addressing the scientific issues involved is spot-on. He told me about a couple of papers that are in the process of being finalized right now, and once they are published, you can bet that I will write about them.

Scientists like Dr. Sanford and organizations like Logos Research Associates make me think that the future of creation science is very bright.

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The Interesting Story of Galileo’s Tomb

Galileo's tomb in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence, Italy (click for larger image)
Galileo’s tomb in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence, Italy (click for larger image)
My wife and I are currently in Italy, and I can’t express what it means to actually see some of the things I have been writing about. In one of my elementary science books, Science in the Scientific Revolution, I spend 8 lessons discussing Galileo Galilei, who lived from 1564 to 1642. He was the greatest natural philosopher (scientist) of his day, and he set the stage for Sir Isaac Newton, who would revolutionize the study of physics forever.

While he aided our understanding of many aspect of Creation, he is best known for his contributions to astronomy. Based on a friend’s description of a Danish “spyglass,” Galileo made a telescope and used it in his study of the heavens. He discovered sunspots, the four largest moons of Jupiter, mountains and valleys on the moon, and most importantly, the phases of Venus. The moons of Jupiter as well as the phases of Venus supported the idea championed by Copernicus – that the earth orbited the sun, which sat at the center of the universe.

In an effort to communicate these things to other natural philosophers, he wrote a book entitled Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. Even though it was accepted by two different Roman Catholic censors (one in Rome and one in Florence), it was eventually used by certain members of the Roman Catholic church to put him on trial. The ruling based on the trial declared that Galileo was:

…vehemently suspected of heresy, namely, of having believed and held the doctrine – which is false and contrary to the sacred and divine Scriptures – that the Sun is the center of the world and does not move from east to west and that the Earth moves and is not the center of the world…

As punishment, he was placed under house arrest for the remainder of his life.

(If you want a more detailed discussion of this saga, I have one here.)

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