Every curriculum has an underlying set of principles that emerge from the author’s worldview. Before you start using a curriculum it is important to understand that worldview. So what is the Layers of Learning philosophy?
Enlightenment is the Goal
The reason people study history, geography, science, and art (the Layers of Learning subjects) is to become more enlightened. In other words, we learn so we can understand ourselves and our world. The goal is to be able to enjoy the world more than we could in ignorance. As we wrote Layers of Learning we kept that in mind. This is not a spoon-fed style of learning. You can’t read a passage, fill in the blanks on a test, and get an A.
Layers of Learning asks students to do these steps:
- Read books by authors who care about their subject matter, absorbing ideas and opinions from many sources.
- Create projects that require thinking and creativity from the student while discussing ideas with a mentor.
- Write about your own ideas and present them to an audience.
Throughout the curriculum we ask questions that are intended to make the student think. As often as possible, use these questions or others that occur to you to spark discussions with your children. This is how they will form their own worldview.
We, the authors, aren’t invested in making sure your kids believe what we believe. Instead we want children to learn to intelligently come to their own conclusions with you as a guide. That’s enlightenment.
Freedom to Interpret the World
We also believe that it is fundamentally the right of parents to teach children their own values and beliefs. So we try not to interject our opinions, especially into divisive topics like evolution, religion, the environment, and politics. That doesn’t mean these topics aren’t raised in Layers of Learning, it just means we don’t tell you what to believe about them.
This is weird in the education world.
Normally you buy curriculum that aligns as closely as possible with your own world view.
But Layers of Learning works with any worldview. We can do this because we don’t provide you with information to teach your kids. And we don’t tell you how to interpret what you find. Instead we provide a rich framework and you gather and decipher the information on your own.
It’s a completely different way of learning.
Secular or Religious?
Layers of Learning isn’t really secular or religious. When people say secular they usually mean a slant toward evolution, atheism, and socialism. When people say religious they usually mean a slant towards Christianity, often with Bible verses and moral lessons sprinkled throughout.
Instead Layers of Learning is objective and very open to adapting toward any philosophy you may have.
Information Taught to Your Kids Is Chosen by You
In the library list for every topic we list the best books we could find on the subject. Some of those books are religious, some are secular, some take evolution for granted, some talk about the religious lives of historical people. They are all across the board.
We chose books that are
- Informative on the topic
- Well written for the appropriate age group
- Appealingly illustrated (in books with illustrations)
- Easily available for most people
- Not terribly expensive
If a book has a strong slant toward a particular philosophy we mention that in the description of the book in the library list in each unit.
Besides, to complete the curriculum you don’t have to read the books from our library lists. You can find your own titles that you prefer whenever you like.
It’s up to you to choose which books you actually read. You get your information from these books, not from Layers of Learning. So if you want your homeschool to be Protestant Christian you can choose books that support that philosophy. If you want your homeschool to be secular then choose books that fit a secular worldview.
But if you really want your kids to learn to make informative choices and be compassionate you’ll pick books from your own philosophy as well as those that oppose your beliefs and use the opportunity to teach your kids how to respectfully analyze and understand other people and their ideas.
Factual Language for Science
The language we chose to use in the science sections is deliberately factual rather than creationist or evolutionist.
We will say something like
The turtle has a hard shell that protects it from predators.
We will not say: “The turtle’s shell was created to protect it from predators” or “The turtle’s shell evolved to protect it from predators.”
Religion is Treated Historically or Socially
We approach all religions and philosophies from a social or historical perspective. We have complete guides on Christianity and Islam because both religions have been so impactful to the history of the world. Christianity and Islam are treated as historical topics. But we also touch heavily on Zoroastrianism, humanism, Marxism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Shinto, and many other philosophies whenever these things crop up in history or geography.
When we talk about Gandhi we mention the philosophical beliefs that made him do what he did and say what he said.
But we don’t tell you whether we personally agree with Gandhi or his beliefs.
Instead we ask questions that help you think more deeply about how you align or differ from Gandhi’s philosophies and practices. You discuss these ideas with your children and you develop deeply rooted and well thought out worldviews all on your own.
We are human, biased authors
Even though we’re consciously trying to keep an objective tone there are some biases that we know we have.
We chose western topics, presented in western ways
The topics we choose, especially in the history and geography sections, are skewed to a western, and particularly an American, world view.
Partly this is unavoidable because we are human beings who have been immersed in our own culture from birth, making it difficult to be truly objective.
Partly this is deliberate because we wrote for a western audience and the things that shape your own culture are the most vital for anyone to understand. We have to examine our roots to understand ourselves. So we spend an entire arts unit on Shakespeare, but not on Confucius.
We’re fans of human freedom
The other glaring bias we have is toward political and personal freedom. We’re not fans of any political or economic or social systems that attempt to destroy the free will of human beings.
We’re just not.
We don’t like totalitarianism or racism or terrorism, no matter how right the cause, or book burning or bossing other people and telling them what to believe.
We Should All Be Happy
When we started writing this curriculum back in 2008 we picked out a little couplet by Robert Louis Stevenson that serves as our mission statement. It goes like this:
The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.-Robert Louis Stevenson
We hope that using Layers of Learning to discover all sorts of interesting things about this world will make you happy. It has certainly made us happy.
Do you think the Layers of Learning philosophy will work with your family’s personal beliefs?
Tell us what you think in the comments below. Or if you have questions about the Layers of Learning philosophy or how it can support your world view, ask in the comments.
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